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Adobe and HTML 5: Safer than Flash mobile development?

What are the security ramifications of Adobe’s decision to end mobile Flash development and focus on HTML 5 instead? Is it a win for security? Should it affect enterprise device usage decisions going forward?

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Enterprise device decisions have largely not been based on Flash support, given the general weakness of Flash support for mobile platforms, so the end of Flash mobile development seems unlikely to change many decisions.

Given the improvements in HTML5 and Flash’s history of insecurity, some enterprises also took into account the likelihood of mobile Flash support ceasing when deciding whether to provide Flash support for mobile devices. For an enterprise that decided on a platform due to Flash support, and will continue to require Flash for its mobile environments to support mission-critical applications, Adobe has stated it will support “existing device configurations” with critical bug fixes and security updates. This continued support might not result in mobile devices receiving updates though, as some mobile device updates are dependent on the carriers to push the update. Some users that manually installed the Flash Player might be able to install the updates or, if their devices support it, have the updates auto-installed.

The security ramifications of Adobe’s decision to end mobile Flash development are minor. From a security perspective, a positive aspect of the decision is that one less application needs to be installed, managed and secured on mobile devices. The security research that would have gone into analyzing mobile Flash will probably transition into expanding the existing research on mobile Web browsers. Mobile Web browsers have already been under close scrutiny, so the increased research probably won’t yield a significant number of new mobile Web browser vulnerabilities. Some research might transition to other mobile applications and lead to improved security in the other applications. The combination of Adobe and HTML 5 certainly bears watching going forward.

This was first published in May 2012

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