Disadvantages of Flash

In order to achieve more privacy for our users, we need to put the spotlight on the outdated technology of the Adobe Flash Plugin and the risks that it can cause. Check it out - this is important!

The impact of Flash

The internet is riddled with risks inherent to some technologies that are involved and widely used today. Take YouTube for example. If you are a user of the net you probably watch videos there. If you do that, you are likely to use the Adobe Flash Plugin in your browser in order to watch them. This plugin, like many others that evolved to be used on the internet (Real Player, QuickTime, Silverlight, Java and so on) can slightly sabotage our effort to secure and anonymise your web traffic and surfing. That’s why big players like YouTube started offering HTML5 - which is the cool new kid in town.

The above mentioned plugins are full of holes and able to create so called “super cookies” which are difficult to delete and could survive for years on your computer! It is one thing to mask your identity online but while those cookies are active, it is impossible for the user to become wholly anonymous. We always work on a thin line between usability, effort and benefit here.

What is Flash used for?

Adobe Flash is a freeware for viewing multimedia, executing rich internet applications, and streaming video and audio content created on the Adobe Flash platform. It raises a serious dilemma. Since some technically outdated websites display rich media in Flash format, it is sometimes hard to avoid using it. Like already said it creates a special kind of cookie - a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user's web browser while surfing. Although cookies cannot carry viruses or install malware on the host computer, tracking cookies and especially third-party tracking cookies are commonly used as a way to compile long-term records of individuals' browsing histories.

Having said this, the majority of websites will not use this kind of function upon being accessed. In most cases, since sensitive data is not being sent through Flash, our users can continue to enjoy the advantages we offer. The problem can occur in exceptional cases since Flash tends to act like an independent program in the architecture of your browser, following its own rules. For example it will not always obey the proxy settings dictated by the actual program. It operates as if it is a master in someone else’s house, having the theoretical ability to access data that could be uncovered - such as your IP address.

To do this, it needs specialized programming that is not used in common website architecture and is also a known issue. Since regular Flash plugin traffic is tunneled through our secure and encrypted network, you should not worry too much. It is an obsolete technology being phased out gradually by HTML5 due to it’s many advantages. So this theoretical unpleasant side effect will simply disappear over time - which is easy to say knowing that on mobile phones it is already history.

Protect Yourself

But what to do in the meantime? IP leaks have to be handled with care. We are very aware that you - in order to browse securely and anonymously - don’t want your IP revealed in any way. Even if you try to avoid this side effect of Flash by using a full VPN solution, you risk compromising your privacy on a much larger scale, since they are vulnerable to even bigger problems like systemwide DNS leaks (which don’t occur with ZenMate at all).

To solve this Adobe would require to completely redesign the architecture of Flash and in fact, that’s exactly what’s happening – Adobe itself is heavily investing in state of the art technology, while the old flash architecture is being abolished from smart phones and tablets alike.

Until this happens, not all is lost in the realm of IP hiding. There is a very simple solution to stop Flash bossing you around in your browser. Use ZenMate in combination with a smart little plugin called Flashcontrol. It’s not only a simple, elegant way to stop your real IP from being exploited in those rare cases, it’s also a way to prevent potential security threats caused by the Flash Player as a whole.

What to do exactly?

The process is very simple. Just go to the chrome webstore and install Flashcontrol. After installing it will work smoothly together with your ZenMate to automatically block Flash allowing you to selectively unblock what you want. You get full control over Flash and can check everything as it happens.

It’s a simple solution for a very old technology that is known to potentially cause security threats. Until these old technologies are replaced, we feel extremely obligated to help you achieve the best protection possible. This little help will return you safely to secure and private surfing. Since everyone needs to make sure that his or her privacy in the web is protected as well as possible everybody should know how to prevent potential risks.

Please feel free to share this post so that everyone can benefit from it! With your help we can make things better!