Why Google and Amazon’s Moves Against Flash Player May Not Cover All the Security Holes

September 1, 2015 @ 4:42 PM
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2 min read

September marks the beginning of back-to-school season, but for businesses and IT security professionals, this year may be remembered for its education in how the industry came together to fend off threats from Adobe Flash Player.

Among the many companies uniting against the problem-riddled multimedia format, Google is expected to pause ads using Flash Player by default in its Chrome browser on Tuesday, while Amazon will stop running ads based on the technology in its network. Security Intelligence reported that these companies have been joined by Apple and Mozilla, which have already moved to protect vulnerable computer users.

The next phase may involve corporate IT departments limiting or prohibiting use of Flash by employees. CSO Online’s security experts suggest the technology is becoming better known as a vehicle for distributing malware than it is for video content. Many people add to the problem by not updating to the latest version of the product, leaving them ripe for exploits, but it’s also become a huge target in the online ad space, where cybercriminals use it as part of malvertising campaigns.

It’s important to note that not all moves against Flash Player offer the same level of protection. As pointed out on Naked Security, Google still permits the technology to work; they’re just disabling its autoplay functionality. Like Facebook, ensuring ads look good is emphasized over avoiding hacker activity. That’s all the more reason for CISOs and their teams to primarily focus on the best safeguards for their users rather than relying on browser-makers or social media services to minimize the risks.

While many firms seem poised to position HTML5 as the safer alternative to Flash Player, InfoWorld suggests the technology has its own security weaknesses, including the ability for hackers to conduct cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, SQL injections, cross-site request forgeries and buffer overflows where code could be injected (otherwise known as canvas image-rendering exploits). Cybercriminals may be able to see more about the storage and location data of a device via HTML5, as well.

Almost everyone uses browser technologies; therefore, they will continue to be an avenue for cybercriminals to pursue. It’s up to enterprises to focus on security, not just making changes to allow faster load times and better performance for online ads.

Shane Schick
Writer & Editor
Shane Schick is a contributor for SecurityIntelligence.