Adobe Flash in Biochemistry

UW-Biochem IT is altering the way Adobe Flash is installed and managed on departmental computers.  This page is intended to help explain how Adobe Flash was deployed in the past, why a change is being made, what the changes are, and how this affects you.  As always, if you have questions or concerns, please open a ticket on the Job Board.


History | Why Change? | What's Changing? | What Do I Need to Do? | Personal Computers


History

In the past Adobe Flash was one of the predominant ways websites displayed various content such as videos, ads, interactive content, etc.  Even the old Biochemistry website had one page with an Adobe Flash element.  Because so much online content relied on having the Adobe Flash Player installed Biochemistry IT installed the necessary flash plugins by default on all computers.

As web standards have improved over the years most websites have reduced their reliance on Flash.  The explosion of smartphones and mobile devices, which don't support Flash, has also driven most websites to reduce their reliance on Flash and other similar technologies.

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Why Change?

Adobe Flash has been a major source of security risks over the years.  It is one of the most actively exploited pieces of software commonly found on computers and also routinely found to have new security problems that are already being actively used on the web.  In the month of July alone, at least three critical security flaws have been found that were actively in use to compromise computers.  In July, February, twice in January, December and November Adobe has shipped emergency patches to resolve issues that were being actively exploited before Adobe even knew about the bugs.  These patches were above and beyond their normal scheduled monthly updates.

Both Firefox and Chrome recently took the extraordinary measure of blocking ALL versions of Flash from running in their web browsers until Adobe released an update to fix two emergency issues.  This prevented all users of two of the most popular web browsers from using Flash without actively overriding the security protections.

Due to all of the ongoing security issues most security experts have been suggesting uninstalling or limiting Adobe Flash from running when ever possible.

Adobe Flash Player Security Bulletins and Advisories

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What's Changing?

As mentioned in the "History", Biochemistry IT previously installed Adobe Flash by default on all managed computers and relied on our update/management servers to push the latest versions of the software as they were released.  This system typically ensured 80-90% of computers were quickly updated to the latest versions of Flash.  With the implementation of this change, Biochemistry IT will use the update/management servers to uninstall Flash from all managed computers.  At the same time, the update/management servers will begin to publish "Offers" that will allow any user to install the various versions of Adobe Flash that are appropriate for their computer at any time by simply accepting the "Offer".

The automated uninstall tool will continue to run for at least a few months to ensure old copies are removed from all of the departmental computers.  There is a special flag built into the "Offer" install that will prevent the uninstall tool from removing any version of flash installed by accepting the "Offer".  After the automated uninstall process is complete users will also be able to download Adobe Flash directly from Adobe and install it manually.

The update/management servers will still be used to push updates to Adobe Flash for those computers that continue to have it installed to maintain compliance with UW Policies and prevent security risks from old versions.

Biochemistry IT will also no longer install Adobe Flash by default on computers when they are purchased or redeployed.  The same "Offer" will be available on these computers and will allow any user to choose to install Flash if it is needed.

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What Do I Need to Do?

If you don't need Flash, nothing! If you are using Windows 8 with Internet Explorer or Google Chrome, you don't need to do anything, Flash is built into these browsers and updated automatically each time you open the browser.

If you do need Flash just follow the steps for your operating system and browser. 

Please be sure you really need Flash before installing it.  In many cases you'll actually get faster web browsing by not having flash is it will eliminate many of the slow loading banner ads.

Mac OS | Windows - Internet Explorer | Windows - Firefox

Mac OS

  1. If Flash isn't currently installed on the computer there should be a blue 'b' icon or a red 'W' in the menu bar that you can click.  When you click that icon it should open the IBM Endpoint Manager Support Center.
  2. Make sure the Offers tab is selected.
  3. Select the Adobe Flash Player Install offer and read through the description information.
  4. If you still want to install Flash click the Accept button.

Windows - Internet Explorer

  1. If Flash isn't currently installed on the computer there should be a red 'W' icon in the task bar (on the lower right of your Start Bar). You may have to click the small arrow to show all of the icons before you see it.
  2. When you click that icon it should open the IBM Endpoint Manager Support Center.
  3. Make sure the Offers tab is selected.
  4. Select the Adobe Flash Player Install for Internet Explorer offer and read through the description information.
  5. If you still want to install Flash click the Accept button.

Windows - Firefox

  1. If Flash isn't currently installed on the computer there should be a red 'W' icon in the task bar (on the lower right of your Start Bar). You may have to click the small arrow to show all of the icons before you see it.
  2. When you click that icon it should open the IBM Endpoint Manager Support Center.
  3. Make sure the Offers tab is selected.
  4. Select the Adobe Flash Player Install for Plugin-based Browsers offer and read through the description information.
  5. If you still want to install Flash click the Accept button.

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Personal Computers

There is no requirement that you do anything on your personal computer other than ensure the software is up-to-date and you are running antivirus (both are required by UW Policy).  However, we do recommend considering uninstalling Adobe Flash and Oracle Java if possible.  Please see the Adobe Uninstall Flash Player pages (Mac | Windows) for detailed instructions on removing Flash.

Biochem IT strongly encourages Windows users to install Secunia PSI on their personal computers (http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/personal/).  This software will notify you of any security updates you need to install and in most cases will even install them for you.

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