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posted by martyb on Friday February 05 2021, @01:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the Resurrections dept.

South African Government Releases Its Own Browser Just To Re-Enable Flash Support | Zdnet:

For some people, it's apparently easier to manage your own browser than port some web forms from Flash to HTML.

The South African Revenue Service [(SARS)] has released this week its own custom web browser for the sole purpose of re-enabling Adobe Flash Player support, rather than port its existing website from using Flash to HTML-based web forms.

Flash Player reached its official end of life (EOL) on Dec. 31, 2020, when Adobe officially stopped supporting the software.

To prevent the app from continuing to be used in the real-world to the detriment of users and their security, Adobe also began blocking Flash content from playing inside the app starting January 12, with the help of a time-bomb mechanism.

As Adobe hoped, this last step worked as intended and prevented companies from continuing using the software, forcing many to update systems and remove the app.

As SARS tweeted on January 12, the agency was impacted by the time-bomb mechanism, and starting that day, the agency was unable to receive any tax filings via its web portal, where the upload forms were designed as Flash widgets.

[...] But despite having a three and a half years heads-up, SARS did not choose to port its Flash widgets to basic HTML & JS forms, a process that any web developer would describe as trivial.

Instead, the South African government agency decided to take one of the most mind-blowing decisions in the history of bad IT decisions and release its own web browser.

[...] As Chris Peterson, a software engineer at Mozilla, pointed out, the SARS browser only lets users access the official SARS website, which somewhat reduces the risk of users getting their systems infected via Flash exploits while navigating the web.

But as others have also pointed out, this does nothing for accessibility, as the browser is only available for Windows users and not for other operating systems such as macOS, Linux, and mobile users, all of which are still unable to file taxes.


Original Submission

Related Stories

When Adobe Stopped Flash Content from Running it Also Stopped a Chinese Railroad 13 comments

When Adobe Stopped Flash Content From Running It Also Stopped A Chinese Railroad:

Adobe's Flash, the web browser plug-in that powered so very many crappy games, confusing interfaces, and animated icons of the early web like Homestar Runner is now finally gone, after a long, slow, protracted death. For most of us, this just means that some goofy webgame you searched for out of misplaced nostalgia will no longer run. For a select few in China, though, the death of Flash meant being late to work, because the city of Dalian in northern China was running their railroad system on it.Yes, a railroad, run on Flash, the same thing used to run "free online casinos" and knockoff Breakout games in mortgage re-fi ads.

[...] So, when Adobe finally killed Flash-based content from running, this Tuesday Dalian's railroad network found itself ground to a halt for 20 hours.

The railroad's technicians did get everything back up and running, but the way they did this is fascinating, too. They didn't switch the rail management system to some other, more modern codebase or software installation; instead, they installed a pirated version of Flash that was still operational. The knockoff version seems to be known as "Ghost Version."

This, along with installing an older version of the Flash player to work with the knockoff Flash server setup, "solved" the problem, and the railroad was back up and running.

(Emphasis preserved from original.)

Has anything like this ever happened where you work or worked?

Also at: Ars Technica; official's account (in Chinese).

Related/Previously:
Flash is Back in South Africa.


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @03:15PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @03:15PM (#1109317)

    You can download the flash player debugger and run swf file from it.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @05:13PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @05:13PM (#1109351)

      You can actually directly still download flash , they just removed the link. It is pretty easy to get working again actually.

      https://download.macromedia.com/get/flashplayer/pdc/32.0.0.465/install_flash_player_32_plugin.msi [macromedia.com]

      set
      EOLUninstallDisable = 1
      EnableAllowList=1

    • (Score: 2) by Dr Spin on Friday February 05 2021, @09:23PM (1 child)

      by Dr Spin (5239) on Friday February 05 2021, @09:23PM (#1109421)

      I am hoping to have a vaccine against this tomorrow.

      --
      Warning: Opening your mouth may invalidate your brain!
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06 2021, @12:54PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06 2021, @12:54PM (#1109608)

        They made a vaccine against stupidity? THE HUMAN RACE IS SAVED!

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Runaway1956 on Friday February 05 2021, @03:18PM

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 05 2021, @03:18PM (#1109319) Journal

    Reading TFS, I naturally wondered which browser they chose to use. IE5 would be fitting, I think.

    Released on Monday on the agency's official website, the new SARS eFiling Browser is a stripped-down version of the Chromium browser

    I like the part that it only works on Windows. Yes, IE5 would have been far more fitting!

    --
    ‘Never trust a man whose uncle was eaten by cannibals’
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by looorg on Friday February 05 2021, @03:47PM (5 children)

    by looorg (578) on Friday February 05 2021, @03:47PM (#1109325)

    Wasn't there a news in sub queue or if it actually made it on to the main page about some train company in China that had the same issue. They built their system in Flash and now all of a sudden it just stopped working.

    That said it's an interesting solution, but a horrible solution. Still it works. The question is for how long. As it stands now I guess why would they ever need to change, after all they now have a stand alone solution to their problem. No need to spend money updating their system that "works".

    I do wonder how secure their locked down application is tho, as it is said it should only connect to their website etc and not be able to be used for general surfing etc. I wonder when someone will break in or break down that communication. I wouldn't be surprised to see some other creative usage and solutions to work around this. Flash wasn't exactly know for being a secure product. Does it even support any current forms of secure communications and encryption?

    After all now they (evil haxxors) know all people in South Africa that needs to reach the taxman (or SARS -- that have got to be a very unfortunate abbreviation) are going to manage said communication using a dubiously secure browser communicating with an app writing in a language that isn't even supported by it's creator anymore and even when it was it was just filled with one horrible security hole after another. Are they going for some serious security thru obscurity here? As it stands now it should just scream potential security threat.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Friday February 05 2021, @04:28PM (1 child)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 05 2021, @04:28PM (#1109337) Journal

      Another of these outlier cases that made headlines over the past week was the case of the local train station in the Chinese city of Dalian. Initial reports claimed that the rail station had to stop all rail traffic after its internal systems, built around Flash, stopped working.

      This turned out to be false, and later reports from Chinese media clarified that railway traffic never stopped in Dalian because of the Flash EOL. However, the reports also admitted that there's some truth in the original report and that, indeed, some internal traffic statistics system had stopped working at the rail station on Jan. 12, when Adobe blocked Flash content from working.

      That system was eventually upgraded to a Flash Player version that Adobe offers inside China only, which does not contain the January 12 time-bomb mechanism, allowing the system to continue working beyond the Flash EOL.

      --
      ‘Never trust a man whose uncle was eaten by cannibals’
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06 2021, @01:26PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06 2021, @01:26PM (#1109617)

        There are browser forks now that only run flash. They are not usable for normal web pages, and should only be used to load internal applications that have not been ported. Like SAP.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @04:43PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @04:43PM (#1109340)

      "I do wonder how secure their locked down application is tho"

      If history is any indication of the future security is only ever an afterthought and only after something bad already happens.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @04:49PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @04:49PM (#1109344)

        I fail to see how this is any worse than writing it to use the modern bloated and also insecure standards.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by sjames on Friday February 05 2021, @08:58PM

      by sjames (2882) on Friday February 05 2021, @08:58PM (#1109413) Journal

      And of course, in general legislatures love to make little changes to the tax code, so the forms will need periodic revisions. Every year, the last person who knew how to work with flash gets a year older and even less interested in ever working with flash again. Sooner or later they will find themselves looking for a "Cobalt" programmer who also knows "Jakarta" and flash and they'll wonder why nobody under 70 even bothers to apply and they all want more salary than the rest of the IT department combined.

  • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @05:23PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @05:23PM (#1109356)

    Make Africa Great Again! Flash is just the first step. Then they'll bring back... uhh... oh... nevermind.

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by maxwell demon on Friday February 05 2021, @09:08PM (1 child)

      by maxwell demon (1608) on Friday February 05 2021, @09:08PM (#1109420) Journal

      The blink tag?

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Saturday February 06 2021, @12:21AM

        by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Saturday February 06 2021, @12:21AM (#1109460) Journal

        The GeoCities Cloud in all its glory.

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @05:42PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @05:42PM (#1109360)

    Would be reason enough to change. And if not web-based why use Flash in the first place?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @08:23PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @08:23PM (#1109398)

      The system was maybe built in the early 1990's, when using Flash was "the in thing". Since then, ALL the dev team have emigrated to safer countries and the mandated Empowerment appointees left behind have never bothered to update / rewirite. Almost a safe bet that they hired in some expen$ive con$ultant$ who patched it up over the weekend.

      • (Score: 2) by MostCynical on Friday February 05 2021, @08:54PM

        by MostCynical (2589) on Friday February 05 2021, @08:54PM (#1109409) Journal

        they were only expensive if they got paid, or if "we won't send you (back?) to that prison" qualifies as expensive.

        --
        "I guess once you start doubting, there's no end to it." -Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
      • (Score: 2) by NateMich on Saturday February 06 2021, @12:44AM

        by NateMich (6662) on Saturday February 06 2021, @12:44AM (#1109464)

        in the early 1990's, when using Flash was "the in thing".

        You remember things differently than I do. By differently, I mean about a decade off.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @05:45PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @05:45PM (#1109361)

    Is this South African variant of flash more contagious and/or deadly than the original?

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Thexalon on Friday February 05 2021, @07:15PM (4 children)

    by Thexalon (636) on Friday February 05 2021, @07:15PM (#1109384)

    Flash was used enough that people will keep running it, even when they shouldn't, even when its creator is trying to kill it off, because the risks of running it seem imaginary while the the cost of replacing Flash-based tech is real.

    It's not the first such challenge I've encountered over the years: Fairly recently, I encountered a Java applet in the wild, which took some doing to get working properly. And I've occasionally encountered networking devices and such I had to manage over telnet even when ssh had been long-established tech.

    --
    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @07:22PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @07:22PM (#1109388)

      The difference is that Flash worked. Java applets seldom worked well.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 07 2021, @12:47PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 07 2021, @12:47PM (#1109928)

        Sure they did, so long as you had the correct version of java, and heaven help you if you updated and the applet required an older version - SOL my friend, and the correct security settings on the correct system and of course the correct browser settings to load and use the applet. Easy.

    • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06 2021, @12:48PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06 2021, @12:48PM (#1109605)

      Flash was used enough that people will keep running it

      Nope. Big tech can decide to squash Flash and any other net technology the moment it not longer suits their interests.

      I detest Flash as much as anyone, but that doesn't make it OK for tech companies to deliberately break or shutdown other people's programs.

    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Saturday February 06 2021, @08:22PM

      by VLM (445) on Saturday February 06 2021, @08:22PM (#1109766)

      VMware just got around to releasing a version of their web gui that works completely without flash.

      Honestly I think they waited until the last minute to milk out maximal delicious license fees everyone's gotta go 7.0 right now rather than sitting around the 6 series. At some point in the 6 series, the HTML user interface was mostly usable.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @10:02PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05 2021, @10:02PM (#1109430)

    Nigerian prince needs flash to keep his revenue cashing in.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06 2021, @04:40AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06 2021, @04:40AM (#1109511)
    That is, especially today, a singularly unfortunate acronym. I'd think that by now they'd have tried to change their official name to something like "South African Internal Revenue Bureau" that has an initialism with less frightful collisions.
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