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Q & A: Should I update my flash player?

George F. W. wrote:

Hi Steve,
When I checked secunia, they said my current version of adobe flash player was out of date. When I checked it in the "remove programs" part of control panel, it said that it was an "active X" program. I seem to remember that this type of program is not good i.e. a type of spyware. Should I remove it or update it?

George You are mostly right about active X. It is a technology Microsoft developed that is strategically flawed. It allows websites to run software on your computer and that software can access hundreds of libraries in Windows. The result is that a flaw in any of those libraries can create a vulnerability. However, version 7 of IE is better at controlling it. One of the reasons to use Firefox is that it does not use that technology at all.

However, the technology and available libraries of code, make it easier to write some software which websites may wish to use. So, for example, Netflix let's you play some movies directly off the Net instead of having them mailed to you. It uses a player in IE using an Active X control to manage the feed and control the digital rights so you can't make a copy of the movie you are watching. Therefore, I need to watch those movies from IE, not Firefox. Others, like Multiple Listing Service (getting real estate comparables), use it because they are too incompetent to do it right and probably used a Microsoft database program to generate the procedures to manage their database.

Since Secunia Inspector is telling you that version is insecure, You need to either remove it or update it. Remember, you need to either update it or remove it even if you don't use Internet Exposer, because many programs could use the IE engine, as part of their own software. They use it to display help information and numerous other tasks. One of those tasks could require Flash. While you think you are installing Quickbooks, you are additionally running an IE engine and Flash as part of the installation process. That Flash presentation is showing you how smart you were to choose Quickbooks and how much better your life will be from now on.

However, uninstalling isn't always easy, in fact their website says, "Due to recent enhancements to the Adobe Flash Player installers, you can now remove the player only by using the Adobe Flash Player uninstaller. " - And I can tell you, I've often struggled to get it out.

Here's the link to their un-installer. Note that it will uninstall all their flash players, including the plugin for Firefox. Because of that, if you use it and want to use flash in Firefox, you'll need to re-install the flash player in Firefox.

The easiest way to update it is to go to Secunia in IE and follow the link to update your insecure Flash Player. Adobe looks and sees what browser you are using to update flash and will only let you update for that browser, so you can't get the IE flash update using Firefox. To update the Firefox version, go to Secunia Inspector in Firefox and follow the upgrade links.

Date: May 2008

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