Most of us out here in the real world have stopped using Flash, but government agencies seem to operate in a different layer of spacetime where things move excruciatingly slowly. US Senator Ron Wyden (a Democrat from Oregon) has asked several government agencies to get working on a plan to remove Adobe Flash from government systems before it’s too late.
There was a time not many years ago when the web ran largely on Flash. You needed to deal with animated web page elements even for simple tasks like checking a restaurant’s menu or looking up airfare. The lack of Flash support on the iPhone was cited as a serious shortcoming, one that Adobe tried to exploit by partnering with Google on Flash for Android. That crashed and burned because Flash is just too clunky to run well on mobile devices.
Adobe has taken the hint and plans to end all support for its once dominant web toolkit by the end of 2020. Flash will still exist in pockets around the web after that, but Ron Wyden wants to make sure the US government isn’t one of those places.
Wyden sent his request to the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He asks for three actions to save the government from Flash. First off, Wyden wants all government agencies to stop deploying new Flash content within 60 days. Existing Flash elements should also be replaced by August 1, 2019 at the latest. Finally, Wyden wants agencies to make sure Flash is removed from all workstations and laptops by that same date.
Flash has been a source of many security holes over the years, and that will probably continue right up to the end of support in 2020. After that, there will be no further support from Adobe. Any remaining security holes will remain unpatched. If we’re being honest, Flash is also just a bad experience for many reasons. It had its place years ago, but now there are better ways to create immersive web elements. Flash is slow, and it interferes with accessibility services like screen readers.
If no one takes action to kill Flash, it will likely remain active in government for years to come. After all, Windows XP is still in use at some agencies with expensive custom support contracts from Microsoft. You can read Wyden’s full letter to the aforementioned agencies right here.
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