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#32004 - 12/03/14 08:34 PM Security besides viruses and malware
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
Viruses and malware are so rarely a problem on the Mac that I've never felt the need to use a program for them. I believe I'm in the mainstream. I used Sophos briefly, only to change my mind because I thought I was overreacting to recent events and because it put a drag on my system.

But are there other security problems that you think I, as an individual user with only my data to protect, should watch out for? Should I do more than I'm doing, which is not much? I see "security suites" which offer more options. I read about constant security holes in Firefox and Flash. Skype is frowned on ever since Microsoft bought it. I read about programs "phoning home." Web sites seem to be getting more intrusive. A few times over the years I found bogus charges on my credit card due to Amazon breakins. Cybercrimes fill the headlines. Desktops seem to be becoming more like closed-system mobile devices. Google. Need I say more? Little Snitch gets mentioned more than it used to—is that something I should consider?

Put simply, there are more security scares on the Mac than before, but I want to separate the paranoia from legitimate precautions. I own the Mac Security Bible (now long in the tooth), but I thought I would ask people here about their real world experience.

Are there ways for a person to get into my computer from the outside? I use a wireless router, password protected of course. I have my firewall turned on. That's about it. I always update Firefox and Flash.

I worked for a newspaper many years ago and I do have enemies, or at least I know a few people who like to stalk and play pranks of a destructive, antisocial kind. You probably would not be surprised at the kind of people journalism attracts.

For years, maybe decades, I've heard people worry about privacy. But after working for a newspaper, I think people should stop worrying—because it doesn't exist and hasn't for some time.


Edited by deniro (12/03/14 08:41 PM)
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#32010 - 12/04/14 10:08 AM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: deniro]
joemikeb Online
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Hopefully Tacit will chime in on this thread, but here is my two cents.

Originally Posted By: deniro
Viruses and malware are so rarely a problem on the Mac that I've never felt the need to use a program for them. I believe I'm in the mainstream. I used Sophos briefly, only to change my mind because I thought I was overreacting to recent events and because it put a drag on my system.

The last time I heard although Apple offers some free or low cast AV options through the App Store they have pretty much dropped their recommendation that users should run AV software, for the very reason you indicated. On the other hand they have added lots of additional security features in Yosemite many of which are designed to protect users from themselves.

Originally Posted By: deniro
But are there other security problems that you think I, as an individual user with only my data to protect, should watch out for? Should I do more than I'm doing, which is not much? I see "security suites" which offer more options. I read about constant security holes in Firefox and Flash. Skype is frowned on ever since Microsoft bought it. I read about programs "phoning home." Web sites seem to be getting more intrusive. A few times over the years I found bogus charges on my credit card due to Amazon breakins. Cybercrimes fill the headlines. Desktops seem to be becoming more like closed-system mobile devices. Google. Need I say more? Little Snitch gets mentioned more than it used to—is that something I should consider?

If you look carefully at the added features of Security Suites many of them duplicate features built into OS X. There are apps that do "phone home" as a part of their normal operation. Many apps these days synch with their particular version of the cloud or even iCloud which means your data is exposed on their cloud and you have no idea how secure they are or not. If I am putting data in anybody's cloud I want it to be encrypted which is also a feature of many apps. Most of the "phoning home" is through tracking cookies in your browser. I use the paid Cookie Stumbler to clean out any tracking cookies that get installed and Ad Blocker Plus a donation -ware Safari extension to block the ones that do get installed from phoning home, Ghostery to add an additional layer of hiding my network activity, and Trusteer Endpoint Protection that works with my bank and some other financial sites. (I just wish I had Ad Block Plus, Cookie Stumbler, and Trusteer on my iPhone and iPad, but hopefully the individual apps have sufficient built in protection.) My bogus credit card charges have all been due to security failures at the merchant's site and only they can protect me from that. Whenever possible I use PayPal or ApplePay for on-line transactions as an additional layer of protection, but everyone is vulnerable to security breaches at the merchant's site. mad

Originally Posted By: deniro
Put simply, there are more security scares on the Mac than before, but I want to separate the paranoia from legitimate precautions. I own the Mac Security Bible (now long in the tooth), but I thought I would ask people here about their real world experience.

Probably there are more security alerts on the Mac these days, but security scares on the Mac aren't a pimple on the mountain of security issues on PCs. The internet world is becoming more dangerous. But most Mac exploits are Trojans that depend on uninformed users or venial users who try to get something for nothing. Not an hour ago I received a telephone call informing me that critical Microsoft security patches were not getting through to my computer and if I would allow them online access to my computer they would make "adjustments" to assure the patches got through. (My reply was a terse two syllable name for male bovine droppings.) Unfortunately too many users will bite on this or on popup Windows claiming "Problems have been found in your Mac" and offering to install software to rectify the condition.

Originally Posted By: deniro
Are there ways for a person to get into my computer from the outside? I use a wireless router, password protected of course. I have my firewall turned on. That's about it. I always update Firefox and Flash.

If the security procedures are invented by human beings, given enough time and money (and the malware developers apparently have an almost limitless supply of both) they can be penetrated. But the potential for reward has to be great enough to justify the expenditure. Personally I do not use Firefox and have the security settings for Flash screwed down as tight as they will go. I have some applications that require the Java Runtime Environment, which is not where the Java vulnerabilities have been exploited, rather it was in Java Applets, but I have Java Applets turned off in the Safari settings.

Originally Posted By: deniro
For years, maybe decades, I've heard people worry about privacy. But after working for a newspaper, I think people should stop worrying—because it doesn't exist and hasn't for some time.

Sadly enough I think you are correct, but I continue to take whatever reasonable precautions I can so at least I am not handing out my private information on a silver platter. A few months ago I deactivated my Facebook account for that very reason.
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#32012 - 12/04/14 12:57 PM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: joemikeb]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
Thanks for your rapid, thorough reply.

Quote:
I use the paid Cookie Stumbler to clean out any tracking cookies that get installed and Ad Blocker Plus a donation -ware Safari extension to block the ones that do get installed from phoning home, Ghostery to add an additional layer of hiding my network activity


Why Cookie Stumbler? Firefox has a cookie handler but I never use it because there are many sites I use that need cookies enabled. I guess I'm too lazy to list them in Firefox's list.

Why Ghostery?

Why Safari? Firefox seems to me better in so many ways.

I don't trust the cloud and won't ever use it.

What do you know about Little Snitch?


Edited by deniro (12/04/14 01:00 PM)
_________________________
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Using Apple computers since 1980

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#32022 - 12/06/14 08:29 AM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: deniro]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Originally Posted By: deniro
Why Cookie Stumbler?
Why Ghostery?
Why Safari? Firefox seems to me better in so many ways.
What do you know about Little Snitch?

This answer is out of necessity rather brief and somewhat simplified in order to convey the general idea. It relies on links to outside sources to provide information that would be too much to cover here.

When you 'surf the web', what you really 'do' is interact with web servers. That interaction is, as the name suggests, two-way: you ask, they answer. But underneath this data exchange activity, there's also another one: the web servers ask you(r browser) questions, and your browser answers them. This tells web servers what you're doing online, where you've been, what you've been looking at, what your computer and browser specs are, and so on and so forth. Some of this is needed for the web to work properly, like serving the data you requested in a format your device can digest. Other data exclusively serve the server's purpose, and provide your personal information for commercial (and other) use as it sees fit.

Servers use cookies (placed on your computer) and web-based trackers to do this. In principle everything you do on your computer* is fair game, UNLESS you block that conversation from covering areas you want to keep private. Cookie Stumbler (for cookies) and Ghostery (for advertising, analytic and privacy trackers, beacons and widgets, etc) are utilities that allow you do just that, albeit with certain limitations. In effect, they stop those cookies and trackers from communicating with their Home base. Note that some cookies and trackers are required to display certain web pages properly or at all.

Little Snitch is a utility that monitors and controls all outgoing communications from your computer to the internet, and allows only those you authorize. Given the increasing amount of outgoing traffic web surfing generates, that authorization process can at times become quite a chore, but it at least gives you back some control of exactly what info leaves your computer to certain outside servers. You can see Little Snitch as the counterpart of your firewall, which controls incoming traffic.
While you can use LS to control cookie and tracker traffic, using specialized utilities for that purpose is easier and more effective. Sometimes certain data channels carry both 'good' and 'bad' traffic, and dealing with the 'phone' works better than cutting the line. But there's also potentially troublesome traffic that is beyond the purview of cookies and trackers. LS can warn you about that and give you the opportunity to deal with it the way you see fit.

Your choice of web browser (obviously) depends on your preference. If you like Firefox better than Safari, that's fine. When a particular browser interferes with your web habits, you adapt or change browser. This could be because of browser vulnerabilities that jeopardize your security. It's important therefore to keep abreast of browser and general security developments, and apply updates to take advantage of the latest fixes and improvements.

*) Some of that 'everything' requires access that was never intended by the web user, and may cross into the world of malware. Read: specialized 'bugs'.
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#32023 - 12/06/14 09:03 AM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: deniro]
joemikeb Online
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: deniro
Why Cookie Stumbler? Firefox has a cookie handler but I never use it because there are many sites I use that need cookies enabled. I guess I'm too lazy to list them in Firefox's list.

Cookie handlers, and there are several, invariably involve a high "training and maintenance load". I have not used the one in Firefox, because I seldom — if ever — use Firefox. Cookie Stumbler provides a lot of information on each cookie to help the user determine whether to keep or delete the particular cookie. There are some cookies that "phone home" but I choose to keep because they provide additional information such as logon data that improves my online experience.

Originally Posted By: deniro
Why Ghostery?

It is there, it is free, and it provides an extra layer of hiding from nosy web sites. Ghostery and Ad Blocker Plus do overlap but sometimes Ghostery will block a "phone home" that Ad Blocker Plus will miss and vice-versa. If I had to choose one or the other, Ad Blocker Plus would be my clear choice because it offers the highest level of customization.

Originally Posted By: deniro
Why Safari? Firefox seems to me better in so many ways.

Some people won't drive anything but a Ford and others eschew any vehicle without Chevrolet in its name. By the same token, some people like Firefox and others like Safari. I drive a Volkswagen and use Safari. It is all a matter of personal taste. Firefox used to be my fallback browser when Safari choked on a site, but now I use Chrome as a fallback and it has handled one or two sites Firefox choked on, although to the best of my memory I have not had to resort to Chrome since Safari 8.

Originally Posted By: deniro
I don't trust the cloud and won't ever use it.

On the other hand I find the cloud invaluable in keeping my Macs, iPhone, and iPod synchronized including site logon ids and passwords. Almost all of my tunes, movies, TV episodes, audio books, iBooks, and photos are also stored in the cloud so they too are available on all my devices. With the exception of photos and data the vast bulk of that data does not count against my iCloud storage allotment and instead is stored in Apples iTunes library. Any data that does go on the cloud however is encrypted.

Originally Posted By: deniro
What do you know about Little Snitch?

Your question prompted me to break down and try Little Snitch. At the moment it is driving me crazy. One HTML email prompted 8 — count 'em — eight Little Snitch requests for permission to access specific URLs from specific ports, from any port, always or just for this logon session. There is no doubt this offers a lot of hiding and information, but personally investigating each access over each port from each URL from each message could end up taking hours to read a single email message — even one I want to read. I am confident this is part of the "training curve" and will eventually get better, but how long will I be willing to put up with this before I write off my $35 license fee and turn the #$%&# thing off is an open question. But that is just my opinion after a short experience and time will tell.


Edited by joemikeb (12/06/14 09:06 AM)
Edit Reason: sometimes spellcheck works and sometimes not
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#32024 - 12/06/14 11:38 AM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: joemikeb]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
alternaut, thank you for your thorough response. I use Ad Blocker Plus. I was familiar with much of what you said re: how the internet works, what cookies do, and what Little Snitch does. I was perhaps more interested in what you use on your system, and what others here use.

Quote:
While you can use LS to control cookie and tracker traffic, using specialized utilities for that purpose is easier and more effective


You mean Ad Blocker Plus or something else? Something in addition?

joemikeb, thank you also. Yes, my hesitancy about some of these security measures is exactly that it would take me a long time to personalize the program for each site. I use a lot sites where I want cookies and perhaps other things like Flash enabled, but I don't feeling like spending so much time going through them one at a time. I have a lot of bookmarks, so many that there are difficult to manage. And I certainly don't want to pay a yearly fee for a security suite that I may not even need.

Do you use Ad Blocker Plus and Ghostery, or just one of them?

Even with Ad Block Plus, I sometimes worry that blocking an ad will block some other part of the site that I want to use, which happened on imdb. I found the damage difficult to undo.

I remain befuddled by the attraction of Chrome. I hate it. I don't think my response is wholly subjective.


Edited by deniro (12/06/14 11:44 AM)
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iMac 21.5", Mid 2011
2.8 GHz Intel Core i7, 24 GB
AMD Radeon HD 6770M
Using Apple computers since 1980

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#32025 - 12/06/14 11:46 AM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: deniro]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
I'm surprised at the number of people online who say they deleted Flash for security reasons. I love YouTube. I know a little bit about HTML5, mainly that it exists, but isn't it impossible to watch YouTube without Flash?
_________________________
OS X 10.11.6
iMac 21.5", Mid 2011
2.8 GHz Intel Core i7, 24 GB
AMD Radeon HD 6770M
Using Apple computers since 1980

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#32026 - 12/06/14 12:54 PM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: deniro]
joemikeb Online
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: deniro
I'm surprised at the number of people online who say they deleted Flash for security reasons. I love YouTube. I know a little bit about HTML5, mainly that it exists, but isn't it impossible to watch YouTube without Flash?

It is NOT impossible to watch youtube without Flash. I do it on my iPad and iPhone all the time and there is no Flash for iOS devices. There may still be some legacy youtube videos that are Flash only but most are now available in both formats. Apple has eschewed Flash technology on IOS for reasons even Adobe admits are sound, and even Microsoft has recognized HTML 5 as the technology of choice in spite of the fact they do not control the standard.
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#32027 - 12/06/14 02:31 PM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: joemikeb]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
Wow, I didn't know that. I'll give it a try. cool


Edited by deniro (12/06/14 02:32 PM)
_________________________
OS X 10.11.6
iMac 21.5", Mid 2011
2.8 GHz Intel Core i7, 24 GB
AMD Radeon HD 6770M
Using Apple computers since 1980

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#32028 - 12/06/14 02:43 PM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: deniro]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Originally Posted By: deniro
I was perhaps more interested in what you use on your system, and what others here use.

Quote:
While you can use LS to control cookie and tracker traffic, using specialized utilities for that purpose is easier and more effective

You mean Ad Blocker Plus or something else? Something in addition?

As the core of my privacy/security extensions I use Ghostery and Click-To-Flash/Click-To-Plugin. Ghostery is set to block 1952 out of 1963 trackers, including all advertising and analytics trackers, plus all beacons; I allow 9 widgets and 2 privacy trackers. Beyond that I allow some trackers on certain web pages, when their blocking interferes with page display or functionality (notably Omniture Adobe Analytics).

With CTP and CTF I block PDFs and Flash items on web pages, but can run them with a click if needed. In addition to the security effect, this helps older Macs deal with slowing-things-down-cruft, and my brain from having to deal with it. CTF blocks all Flash based ads and similar fluff. As with Ghostery, I whitelist some web sites or pages that require certain functionality. I like the way these extensions work and how they can be customized.

AdBlock and JavaScript Blocker are also in the mix, but I have to say that I don't see all that much difference once the required settings are entered (over time during regular use). That's probably due to my surfing habits; it doesn't mean they don't work or help: they do, and transparently so.

Another mainstay in my arsenal is Little Snitch. I also run Cookie Stumbler, but I let my subscription lapse, so its library is no longer current.

With the 'specialized utilities' in the quote above I meant Cookie Stumbler and Ghostery or similar utilities.
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#32035 - 12/08/14 06:31 AM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: alternaut]
Virtual1 Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Iowa
I've had fairly extensive exposure to machines likely to be affected by malware, working at an apple authorized service center. During its heyday, I saw a total of about a dozen "DNS changer" malware, all of which were installed by the user by link-baiting on a promise of a porn video, and "download and install this codec to view".

Those were classified as 'trojan' type malware, being something they were not. Their function was to install a root cronjob that would run once a minute to insure that two russian DNS servers were your primary DNS servers for your active network interface. They were probably there to inject banners for click fraud. (malware nowadays is all about the money, no one's doing it for sport anymore)

Inevitably the machines were brought in for intolerably slow web browsing. The DNS servers in russia were insufficient for the load, and routinely took 5-10 seconds per lookup, and the average banner-littered page usually has at least a half a dozen lookups to be made.

I encountered and dissected this one several days before it really hit the news. I was able to track down the installer, and it was quite interesting that it used self-modifying decode-on-the-fly code, written in shell script. For obfuscation purposes though, it was essentially worthless, adding about 10 minutes to my time. Beyond that it lacked any sophistication whatsoever. I suppose you could say I was a bit disappointed.

Apparently it was quite the headache where I work now when it hit. The pc tech wasn't equipped to handle malware on the macs, and ended up reimaging them. ("swat a fly with a brick") So I guess it's a matter of perspective. I prefer "sudo crontab -r -u root" wink

The only other significant malware I've ran across was MacDefender. (and its many variant names) Again, not a virus or worm, just another trojan malware. This time it was the "scareware" variety. Sort of like MacKeeper, but with ZERO actual antivirus functionality, and just a timed big nasty scary warning that would pop up continuously after a week or so of being installed, forwarding you to their call center to purchase "the full version" that could "fix the problem". (that they caused)

I have yet to encounter or even read about an actual VIRUS or WORM for the mac in the wild. All they seem to have are trojans. So color me unimpressed. Apple has done a good job of nipping them in the bud. GateKeeper snuffed out MacDefender within a few days, and I think was a really good "exercise" for Apple, to get their feet wet and give GateKeeper a good shakedown. There were numerous updates for it released over the course of the MacDefender debute.

Viruses and worms are still very much a threat in the Windows world. I'm told that last year a teacher downloaded an infected file that got past the AV software and managed to get every PC in their building infected. (fortunately it didn't leave the subnet, and each building is on its own) Every machine in the building had to be reimaged.
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#32050 - 12/08/14 02:49 PM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: Virtual1]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
Originally Posted By: Virtual1
I encountered and dissected this one several days before it really hit the news. I was able to track down the installer, and it was quite interesting that it used self-modifying decode-on-the-fly code, written in shell script. For obfuscation purposes though, it was essentially worthless, adding about 10 minutes to my time. Beyond that it lacked any sophistication whatsoever. I suppose you could say I was a bit disappointed.


Yep. I am intimately acquainted with DNSchanger; I helped send its creators to jail. smile

DNSchanger was the Eastern European Zlob gang's ttempt at dabbling in Mac malware. It was modeled after the Windows malware commonly known as W/32/Zlob, a similar DNS-changing malware package. It reset the Windows machine to point to hostile DNS servers in Russia, and like the Mac version, it was never terribly sophisticated. It didn't have to be.

There's more to intercepting DNS requests than just showing populs for click fraud, though that's one common moneymaking scheme the Zlob gang used. They would also reroute requests for legitimate Web sites to porn sites where they had signed up for affiliate accounts, and in some cases would redirect traffic either to other malware sites or to fake antivirus sites.
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#32052 - 12/09/14 06:10 AM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: deniro]
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
I would think that the major security risks would involve those apps (for mobile devices) which are essentially sending your info back and forth to who knows where at all times.
At least with self-contained programs which reside on your computer and don't communicate with anybody unless you choose for them to do so, there's relatively strong security that your secrets aren't being passed around in shady places.

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#32054 - 12/09/14 08:51 AM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: grelber]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Originally Posted By: grelber
... self-contained programs which reside on your computer [...] don't communicate with anybody unless you choose for them to do so ...

If you don't already know, you'd be well advised to realize that this communication choice may already be made by simply loading a program, as Little Snitch would show. A lot of apps have all kinds of web conversations behind the scenes, before you even start using them.
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#32055 - 12/09/14 11:44 AM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: alternaut]
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
They can't have conversations behind the scenes if you're not connected to the Internet.
Mobile apps, by definition (it seems to me), are always "online" — which is why I don't buy into mobile devices.

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#32057 - 12/09/14 01:38 PM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: grelber]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Originally Posted By: grelber
They can't have conversations behind the scenes if you're not connected to the Internet.

Well, there goes the neighborhood! shocked Can't argue with that one... grin
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#32062 - 12/10/14 04:50 AM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: alternaut]
Virtual1 Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Iowa
Originally Posted By: alternaut
Originally Posted By: grelber
They can't have conversations behind the scenes if you're not connected to the Internet.

Well, there goes the neighborhood! shocked Can't argue with that one... grin


Not surprisingly, that's becoming less and less of an option. You get games that don't have a multiplayer mode but require an internet connection to launch, software that will deactivate itself if left offline for more than a few weeks, and THEN there's all the stuff that has user-driven need for connectivity in the first place.

It's only going to run further down the path as the years pass. As it is right now, kids "can't live without the internet".

[img]http://globalisk.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/TVPeople.jpg[/img]

(is the img tag broken?)
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#32063 - 12/10/14 06:23 AM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: Virtual1]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Originally Posted By: Virtual1

I don't think it's broken, but rather ignored. It always was in FTMF, but I'm not entirely sure it's because of a setting. At least the URL is recognized and clickable. FWIW, this started in the final years of MFIF.
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#32955 - 02/06/15 10:44 AM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: alternaut]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
I've been reading more hostility toward Flash, but I've found that as a practical matter I need Flash.

If I try to watch a video in HTML5, the video is choppy and unwatchable. I have a slow DSL connection compared to everyone else, I guess. Sometimes, moreover, Flash is needed for other functions on a site.

Therefore, I ignore the assertion that one can do without Flash, an assertion I have been reading a lot lately on Macintouch.

I mentioned this subject to my sister, who uses an iPad and about which I know nothing. Does anyone know if Flash is used on the iPad? And if not, why do her videos run smoothly if they are using HTML5 when they don't on my imac?
_________________________
OS X 10.11.6
iMac 21.5", Mid 2011
2.8 GHz Intel Core i7, 24 GB
AMD Radeon HD 6770M
Using Apple computers since 1980

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#32959 - 02/06/15 12:20 PM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: deniro]
joemikeb Online
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Neither Adobe or Apple support Flash on any iOS device. Adobe has admitted Flash does not "play nice" with gestures on smart phones and tablets and it is questionable whether they will continue development for the desktop environment.

The only explanation I can come up with to account for the smoother operation is the default buffer size on iOS as opposed to OS X. confused
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#32966 - 02/06/15 03:59 PM Re: Security besides viruses and malware [Re: joemikeb]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
Thanks.
_________________________
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iMac 21.5", Mid 2011
2.8 GHz Intel Core i7, 24 GB
AMD Radeon HD 6770M
Using Apple computers since 1980

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Moderator:  alternaut, dianne, dkmarsh