Adobe has corralled Flash Player in OS X Mavericks, sandboxing the much-maligned plugin in Safari on Apple’s latest Mac operating system so as to minimize its potential to allow through malware. The move – which follows Adobe sandboxing its plugins when used in Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox – follows Apple’s increasing moves to keep Flash at arm’s length, including forcibly blocking Flash Player in Safari after security issues were spotted.
Sandboxing effectively limits the potential for an application or plugin to communicate or affect the rest of the system, creating a contained environment within which it runs and controlling what other processes it can communicate with. The result is greater protection than when software is allowed unfettered access across the board.
That’s particularly useful when it comes to Flash Player, which has something of a reputation for being targeted by malware and virus distributors.
“For the technically minded, this means that there is a specific com.macromedia.Flash Player.plugin.sb file defining the security permissions for Flash Player when it runs within the sandboxed plugin process. As you might expect, Flash Player’s capabilities to read and write files will be limited to only those locations it needs to function properly. The sandbox also limits Flash Player’s local connections to device resources and inter-process communication (IPC) channels. Finally, the sandbox limits Flash Player’s networking privileges to prevent unnecessary connection capabilities” Adobe
Although the update to Flash Player only benefits those running Safari on OS X Mavericks, Apple’s latest version of its Mac platform, there’s still hope for users of older versions. The Cupertino firm’s recent decision to make upgrades to Mavericks free of charge for anybody running Snow Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion – effectively covering machines dating from as far back as 2007 – should bring the majority of Mac hardware up to date with this protected version.
Apple’s attitude toward Flash has always been wary, not least with the company’s much-publicized refusal to allow it on iOS. Instead, Apple has pushed HTML5 as the way to go, something Adobe challenged initially but, over time, conceded to, even opting to end Flash Player development for other mobile platforms like Android.