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Adobe Flash alternatives: The best way to avoid Adobe Flash malware?

It's no secret that Adobe Flash is plagued with malware, so, do enterprises really need it? In this expert response, Nick Lewis discusses how you can weigh the importance of functionality and security when it comes to Flash.

Adobe Flash seems to be vulnerable to an endless string of malware. Are there any alternatives to using Adobe Flash in the enterprise that can maintain functionality without opening us up to compromise?
Much has been made of the plethora of malware targeting Adobe Flash, as well as some privacy concerns about the application that have been expressed recently. Adobe Flash malware also has the ability to be cross-platform -- infecting everything from desktops to smartphones and anything else that runs Flash -- but this would still require someone directly targeting the operating system to be able to fully take over the computer.

There are Adobe Flash alternatives , as there are alternatives for reading PDF files with applications other than Adobe Reader, but there are downsides. Enterprises will need to compare the effort and associated overhead involved in transitioning to an alternative Flash player to the overhead involved in securing desktops and ensuring Flash-based malware doesn't affect key systems.

From an application development standpoint , there are a couple alternatives to Flash, such as HTML5, Adobe AIR, Microsoft Silverlight and Java applets; there is also a stalled open source project called UIRA that was being developed as a Flash replacement. While there have been potential security threats in HTML5, it may be a better long-term option than Flash, since its technology will be included directly in the browser and the security will be evaluated along with the browser. One of the benefits of Flash, however, is that its security threats are better known than the threats to its competitors, therefore making its vulnerabilities more likely to be patched in a timely manner.

In any case, enterprises will need to understand how Flash is used in their environments prior to implementing an alternative, both by end users and in application and website development, since Flash has become more than just a basic way to display a multimedia webpage and has evolved to support full Flash-based applications.

This was last published in September 2010

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