Monday, July 20, 2015

Time to remove Adobe Flash

Adobe Flash has lead a moderately good life, but with security flaws, and because Adobe keeps tries to install malware with each Flash update (see Keyliner article: Adobe installs Aggressive McAffee Security Scan Plus), it is time to disable then un-install this product.

Will you miss Flash?  Probably not.  Most of the sites still using Flash are using it for advertising. Some web-games may use flash, often driving in-app purchases.  Finally, I have seen news video clips that still use flash.  Better sites have changed to HTML5, mostly to accommodate Apple. 

Important Update:  As of 2016.11, removing or disabling Flash will cause problems with airline ticketing sites, with some banking sites, and I noticed problems using Pandora.   This was enough of a nuisance, that I had to undo these changes on my computers.



Follow these steps to disable Flash, then once satisfied, uninstall the program.  While disabled, if you find it is needed, it is only a click away to re-enable.  These steps were written for Microsoft Windows.

Disable Flash in Internet Explorer

Do this step, even if IE is not your default browser.


1.  Launch IE.  Open the top-line menu (File, Edit, View...) by pressing ALT, or by other-mouse-clicking just below the URL line and selecting "[x] Menu Bar"

2.  Select Top-menu "Tools", "Manage Add-ons"

3.  In Tools and Extensions, other-mouse-click "Shockwave Flash Object", choose "Disable"

4.  Click bottom "Close"

If you do not see Shockwave flash, you may be running IE11 and the Flash Player may not be installed.  Microsoft is calling this product "Shockwave Flash" -- this is the Flash Player, even though Adobe has another product called Shockwave.


Disable Flash in Mozilla Firefox

1.  Open the top-line menu (File, Edit, View..) by pressing ALT, or by other-mouse clicking a grey area next to the URL tabs and selecting [x] Menu Bar

2.  Select top-menu "Tools", "Add-ons"

3.  In the left-nav, select "Plugins"

4.  Locate the Shockwave Flash plugin.  Click the far-right button, changing from Always Ask (or Ask) to "Never Ask".

5.  Close the add-on manager tab to save the changes


Disable Flash in Google Chrome

1.  Launch Google Chrome.  In the URL, type chrome://plugins/  and press Enter.

2.  Locate Adobe Flash Player

3.  Click Disable

4.  Close the Tab


Testing
Open this site:
http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about

If the top-section shows an animation, flash is still active.  If the area is blank, it has been disabled.  Ideally, test in each of your browsers.

If Flash is set to auto-update, it may re-enable the features.  I have not tested this thought.


Permanently Uninstalling Adobe Flash

For Windows 10:
Flash cannot be uninstalled (at least not through the control panel's Add-Remove).  Do the following to cripple it:
A.  In Control Panel, Flash, see the first [Storage] tab.
B.  Select "Block all sites from storing information on this computer
C.  click button "Delete All"

If you are more adventurous, continue with these steps.  However, be aware this leaves flash in a zombie state and future Windows updates Flash updates will have problems -- but it still helps cripple the product.

D.  On the Windows Start Menu, Search for COMMAND (a DOS Prompt).  Other-mouse-click and choose "Run as Administrator"

E.  Type this command:  CD \Windows\System32\Macromed\Flash

F.  Type this command:  Regsvr32 /u Flash.ocx

G.  Ideally, you would also unregister "FlashUtil_ActiveX.dll" and you would rename "FlashUtil_ActiveX.exe" to some other name, but you will find you do not have rights and no amount of 'rights-granting' will give you enough power to completely kill this program.


For Windows 8 and older:
once your testing is complete, remove Adobe Flash Player with these steps:

A.  Download the Uninstaller from Adobe.com

http://download.macromedia.com/get/flashplayer/current/support/uninstall_flash_player.exe

Save to a known location, such as your desktop.

Note, it is not recommended using the Control Panel 'Programs and Features'.

B.  Close all Browsers (IE, Firefox, chrome, etc.). 
C.  Close other programs, such as Yahoo Instant Messenger and any games that might use Flash.

D.  Using Windows File Explorer, locate the downloaded un-installer.  Launch the program and follow the prompts.

Next, follow these optional steps:

E.  Using Windows File Explorer, tunnel to these locations and delete all files and folders at these locations:

C:\Windows\System32\Macromed\Flash
C:\Windows\SysWow64\Macromed\Flash

F:  Using Windows File Explorer, type this address in the URL\file-line at the top of the screen:

%appdata%\Adobe\Flash Player  (note percents)
%appdata%\Macromedia\Flash Player  (note percents)

Delete all files and folders within these locations.

Source for this information was Adobe.com
https://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/uninstall-flash-player-windows.html

G.  Reboot


Recommended Next Steps

Consider removing Acrobat Reader / Acrobat Reader DC.  Acrobat Reader has become a pig.  It is big, complex and cumbersome and it too has had more than its share of security problems.  With all of its features, most of which you never use, it also loads slowly.

Adding further insult, Adobe Reader keeps trying to install McAfee's advertising program "McAfee Security Scan plus", which I consider to be malware (see Keyliner article: http://keyliner.blogspot.com/2012/06/aggressive-mcafee-security-scan-plus.html).  Because of this, I never allowed the program to auto-update.

A simpler program, "Foxit Reader" is a free PDF reader and it perfectly replaces Adobe's Reader. 

1.  Using the Control Panel's "Programs and Features", uninstall Adobe Acrobat Reader or Adobe Acrobat Reader DC.

optionally, use this recommended de-installer from Adobe.com.  Be sure to pick the correct version.  As of 2015.07, you probably want version "10.x and later"

http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/acrobatcleaner.html


2.  Download and install the Foxit Reader:

https://www.foxitsoftware.com/products/pdf-reader


As an aside, Adobe released the PDF format to the public domain and there are many other players in the PDF market.  I have been very comfortable with this change.  It displays all of my PDF's without issue.

It may seem I am on an anti-Adobe crusade with this article.  I am not.  It is just that Flash has become dangerous and Acrobat Reader has become unwieldy.

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