Flash is very cool for Internet multimedia content delivery. Video! Music! Games! Interactive content!
Flash is madness for security and tech support.
This post talks about how to find out if Flash and Shockwave are installed, what version is installed, how to check functionality, where to download the latest versions, why keeping Adobe products up to date is important for security and Flash cookies.
Although I’m mainly interested in Flash here, the name Shockwave is inextricably tangled in. A brief history: Adobe released Shockwave as a web and CD multimedia tool in 1995. Adobe released Flash as a web multimedia tool a year later. Although they are separate products, Adobe called Flash “Shockwave Flash.” So you’ll see Flash called “Shockwave Flash.” And more confusing, you’ll see it called Plugin, Player, ActiveX and Object.
Shockwave is a product you may or may not need, it seems to be used mostly for online games. If you don’t need it, uninstall it for security reasons.
Speaking of security, keep all your programs updated. Lately Adobe products have become a big target for hackers. So keep your Adobe Flash, Acrobat and Shockwave up to date.
How to see if Flash and Shockwave are installed and what versions are installed
To see if Flash and Shockwave are installed in Windows, go to Control Panel, Add or Remove Programs. Flash shows up as “Adobe Flash Player x Plugin” for Mozilla and “Adobe Flash Player x ActiveX” for Internet Explorer. Shockwave shows up as “Adobe Shockwave Player x.” Note x is the version.
To see if Flash and Shockwave are installed in Firefox browser, go to Tools, Add-ons, Plugins tab. Flash shows up as “Shockwave Flash x” and Shockwave shows up as “Shockwave for Director x.” Note x is the version.
To see if Flash and Shockwave are installed in Internet Explorer browser, go to Tools, Internet Options, Programs tab, Manage add-ons button, Show: All add-ons, scroll down to “Adobe Systems Incorporated.” Flash shows up as “Shockwave Flash Object.” Shockwave shows up as “Shockwave ActiveX Control.” Note that the versions are listed in the Version column.
How to check Flash and Shockwave functionality, versions, and download the latest versions
If Flash and/or Shockwave are broken, uninstall and reinstall. Here are Adobe’s uninstallers: adobe.com/shockwave/download/alternates/
Checking for updates is probably enabled already, but you can check that, see Flash cookies settings below.
For security, keep Flash and all your software up to date
For security, keep all your programs up to date and uninstall or block programs that you don’t use.
When you see a message to update Flash, Acrobat, Windows, any software that you use, do it.
Uninstall or disable programs in the browser that you do not use.
Adobe products, particularly Acrobat, have been a popular hacker attack target lately, as discussed on Security Now!
Flash has it’s own cookies, separate from browser cookies. These are stored unknown to most users. They may be a privacy risk.
There are 2 ways to access and manage Flash cookies-
1) Go to this web page: http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager07.html
2) Right click on a Flash object and click Global Settings…
You’ll be presented with a tabbed “Website Storage Settings Panel” where you can delete Flash cookies and manage settings.
On the Advanced tab, please ensure that the radio button “Check for updates automatically (recommended)” is selected. For privacy, on the Storage tab you can click the “Delete All…” button and select the radio button “Block all sites from storing information on this computer.”
Here is a useful web page about Flash and Shockwave: shockwave.com/help/faq_flashplayer.jsp
A good program to monitor and keep all your software up-to-date is the free Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/personal/
A suggestion – a plea – to programmers and software companies, please keep it simple, name your programs consistently and simply for us – Flash. Shockwave.
Be careful out there on the Internet, the wild west.
Version 2.0, updated July 11, 2011