More Ails for Adobe's Flash

Flash is under attack again. Only this time, neither Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) nor Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) play the role of assailant. Hackers are this week's miscreants.

Adobe Systems (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) this week warned of a vulnerability in the latest edition of Flash that could allow a hacker to take control a PC. In an advisory, the company said it had received reports of hackers targeting some Windows systems by inserting corrupted Flash files into Word documents sent via email.

For its part, Adobe says that the vulnerability doesn't involve Acrobat Reader or PDF files -- a popular target, according to security researchers -- an initial update covering Flash Player for Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris will arrive by the end of the week. Additional updates for Adobe Acrobat and Reader are expected by April 25, with all remaining items available in the quarterly upgrade released on June 14.

Good for Adobe for addressing the issue. But for users, these sorts of emergency updates have become common. Adobe patched a similar flaw in  Flash Player, Reader, and Acrobat three weeks ago after learning of hackers using Flash files embedded in Excel and sent via email to distribute malicious code.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has long criticized Flash for lax security and hogging compute resources and Google has thrown much of its streaming support behind its own WebM standard for video encoding. Even worse, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) has joined both of its primary competitors in committing to HTML5 over the long term.

In other words, Flash is losing allies. You know what? As a user, I don't care. Sure, I sometimes miss it on the iPhone, but its lack of Flash support doesn't prevent me from craving Apple's iPad.

Frankly, that's what bothers me most about Adobe as an investor. Its troubles aren't the cause for freakout that a break in the iOS would be. Users don’t appear to see this as a hair-on-fire problem.

So thanks for the update, Adobe. But let's not make a huge deal out of this. Your online software, while important, just doesn't matter as much as it used to.

Do you agree? Disagree? Tell us what you think about Flash and its alternatives, as well as the companies best positioned to offer security in an insecure digital world using the comments box below. You can also rate Adobe in Motley Fool CAPS.

The Motley Fool recently introduced a free My Watchlist feature that allows users to stay ahead of the curve and receive up to date news on companies like Adobe, or any of its competitors. To get up-to-date company news and analysis, add Adobe to your watchlist.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article had incorrect information about the timing of the update Adobe is releasing to fix the security issue. The Fool regrets the error. 

Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Adobe and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Motley Fool Options has recommended members create a bull call spread position in Apple and diagonal call positions in Adobe and Microsoft. Motley Fool Alpha LLC owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft and has written Apple puts. The Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy kills bugs, dead.


Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2011, at 3:59 PM, djsantamonicacal wrote:

    In the technology world, the only thing worse than not being great is not being important. For example, Apple, great and important. Microsoft, not great, but important. In just a few years, Adobe has managed to go from being both to being neither. And that's what's called "moving in the wrong direction."

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2011, at 4:08 PM, daveshouston wrote:

    You're right about the iPad. I've been using one of the new iPad 2's for the last couple days and it's just a great gadget. What a treat to shoot video using that big screen for a view finder. And some of the Apps they're coming out with now are just amazing. Garage Band is perhaps the best example.

    Despite all the groaning and gnashing of teeth, Flash is first and foremost a conveyance for delivering video advertisements. Many web pages are infected with those little boogers. They use resources and drain batteries. Don't think I've ever clicked on one of them so that makes them a pure nuisance. I don't miss Flash on the iPad.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2011, at 4:40 PM, marv08 wrote:

    It is actually quite easy to determine. All iOS devices have user satisfaction ratings clearly over 90% on the positive side. And there are almost 200 million iOS devices in the wild. They are bought (mainly) by people with good education, sufficient income and the willingness to pay for apps and content. Network usage data frequently shows that iOS users are heavy Web users. All this Flash crap out there is never reaching this audience.

    And it gets better: all new Mac computers ship without Flash being installed by default. My new MacBook Pro came without the Flash Player installed, and so far, I did not bother to install it. Web surfing is faster, there is less annoying blinking and "flashing" going on, the fans stay quiet, the battery lasts longer, and I do not miss a thing (all my favorite sites support HTML5 by now). Streaming video using HTML5/H.264 is faster, performs more efficient buffering and crashes far less often.

    Adobe should (and there are signs they do) concentrate on authoring tools for the future, not the past. Flash for video was a crutch (needed because there was no standard for video in browsers), but we can walk freely now.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2011, at 4:51 PM, Davidovich wrote:

    I'm a Mac user and I have turned off Flash with Click to Flash -- I can activate any Flash window with one click. It gives me the flexibility to use Flash when I want but not have it constantly interrupt me with aggravating ads. Adobe needs to talk with customers about their experiences with Flash --they have started to lose me because they empowered such awful ads. I don't want to underwrite their profits at my expense with wasted time and annoyance. That's as important as security. This will continue to cost them as HTML 5 is rolled out and becomes a popular alternative, and they are behind the 8 ball.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2011, at 6:36 PM, Henry3Dogg wrote:

    These major security issues, and the ability to take over your machine is about as major as it comes, seem to be a regular feature with Flash.

    And a fix in June pretty much sums up how much Adobe really cares.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2011, at 7:28 PM, WiebkeLips wrote:

    Please note that you incorrectly reported the patch schedule. The product update timing is as follows:

    - We expect to make available an update for Flash Player for Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Solaris on Friday, April 15.

    - We expect to make available an update for Adobe Acrobat X (10.0.2) and earlier 10.x and 9.x versions for Windows and Macintosh, Adobe Reader X (10.0.1) for Macintosh, and Adobe Reader 9.x versions for Windows and Macintosh no later than the week of April 25, 2011.

    The only product/version that will be updated as part of the next quarterly update is Adobe Reader X for Windows because Adobe Reader X Protected Mode (aka sandboxing) would prevent an exploit of this kind from executing in the product.

    Thanks in advance for updating your story accordingly.

    Wiebke Lips

    Senior Manager, Corporate Communications

    Adobe Systems Incorporated

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2011, at 8:15 PM, stan8331 wrote:

    Adobe is a company desperately focused on trying to hang onto the advantages it had in the past, rather than innovating for the future.

    Think Blockbuster...

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2011, at 12:49 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @WiebkeLips,

    Thanks for posting the schedule, which wasn't in the advisory at the time this story was filed. For anyone curious, you can find the original here:

    http://blogs.adobe.com/psirt/2011/04/security-advisory-for-a...

    We've amended the text to include the additional information you've provided.

    Thanks again and Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

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