The Great Debate: What Should We Do About the Flash Problem?


By Franklyn Jones
CMO at Spikes Security

FranklynJonesSince presidential candidate debates are all the rage these days, it might be cool to ask all the candidates another politically charged question: “What is your policy regarding the use of Flash content in the web browsers of American citizens?” I have no idea how Donald Trump would respond to that. If you think you know, please feel free to submit your comments below.

Anyway, like Trump, Flash has been getting a lot of media coverage in recent months – and none of it has been good. Facebook has proclaimed “death to Flash.” Google is now automatically disabling Flash ads in Chrome. Mozilla is blocking all Flash content in Firefox. And, best of all, we now have a formal political movement to “rid the world of Flash.”

So what exactly is the problem with Flash? The first problem is obvious and well documented. It’s an inherently insecure application integrated into inherently insecure web browsers (i.e., any browser you use). The result is a massive Flash attack surface loaded with vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited by intelligent cyber criminals. To their credit, Adobe has long recognized the problem and continually provides patches and updates to fix known vulnerabilities.

The other problem with Flash is that it can be a memory hog – a big one. In some cases, it can consume 2GB of memory. With many PCs, that would bring system performance to a halt and pretty much render the computer completely ineffective as a business productivity tool.

But the reality is that it will take a long time for Flash to become a discarded relic. Remember mainframes and how they were going to be made obsolete by PCs and servers? Well, apparently IBM never got that memo because they’re still rolling out new mainframes and making millions in the process. Likewise, Flash players are still installed on most PCs, and thousands of web sites are still serving up Flash content. Not even Trump could fix this problem.

OK, now the good news. We can help your business effectively eliminate Flash security problems – and prevent Flash from consuming excessive resources on your employees’ PCs.

We’ve achieved both objectives through our innovative Isla Web Malware Isolation System, which renders all web content (including Flash) on a dedicated appliance deployed in your DMZ. The Isla solution then continuously transforms all web content (again, including Flash) and delivers it in a benign, malware-free format to devices inside your secure network. This eliminates the security problem because the original Flash content never enters your network.

In terms of performance optimization, you also have the option to disable all Flash content, so that it’s never even rendered on the external Isla appliance, which means it never consumes resources on the appliance or on internal endpoint devices. If, however, an employee visits a site where particular Flash content must be viewed to improve productivity or user experience, the user can simply click on that object and it will be rendered on the appliance. Minimizing Flash processing on the appliance and reducing irrelevant multimedia content on the endpoint both help improve overall system performance and user experience, while keeping your business safe from all Flash exploits.

Franklyn Jones is CMO of Spikes Security (www.spikes.com). Franklyn has been providing marketing leadership for innovative start-ups and established market leaders for more than 20 years. His experience in network security includes VP of Marketing at Bromium (end point security) and nearly five years at Palo Alto Networks (next-generation firewalls).