WHERE CAN I GO ON MY MAC TO DISABLE/TRASH THE FILES MAKING THIS HAPPEN?
I received a notice that Flash needed to be updated.
I clicked on it...
Immediately, Safari opened (I'm on a Mac), and MULTIPLE WINDOWS OPENED AND CLOSED in quick fashion.
Then this message opened (I did not click on Start Repair):
This opened a few minutes later:
And as I was typing this note (24 hours later), this popped up:
How many more pop up ads will there be?
Did Adobe do this or is it a "scam?"
This is scam, including the message that your flash needs updating.
This doesn't have anything to do with Flash Player, but it sounds like you might have some malware installed on your computer.
Because Flash Player is installed on billions of computers, it's a common target for impersonation for people distributing malware. Everyone has it, they're used to getting updates for it, so it might be easy to miss if you're not paying attention. It's definitely easier than getting someone to download and install something they've never heard of.
As an industry, we've done a pretty good job of defending against technical attacks that allow bad guys to install software without your authorization. In 2018, it's really difficult to do (assuming you're running a modern operating system and not something from 2005, in which case, you should get on that).
The result is that human factors are now the path of least resistance. It's easier to trick you into installing something on behalf of the attacker, vs. figuring out how to defeat all of the security stuff required to do it without your express permission.
In general, you're better off setting everything to update automatically. You can then go through life assuming that any update notifications you get are bogus. This is actually what we strongly recommend, and it generally applies to anything tasked with handing untrusted communication (the operating system, your web browser, flash player, etc.). The inconvenience of something functional breaking because of an update pales in comparison to the pain of recovering from identity theft.
Here are a few guidelines that will minimize your risk of getting tricked into installing malware:
- Wherever possible, use your operating system's App Store for downloading and updating software
- When software you want (like Flash Player) isn't available from the App Store for your operating system, always navigate directly to the vendor's website. If you need to search for the download, that's cool -- but avoid "download" sites, and find the vendor's actual download link
- Never download stuff from a link in an email or update dialog. Type it in. It's easy to disguise fake URLs in links using internationalized characters and things (e is not the same as è, but it might be really easy to miss if you're not looking closely). If it's a link from a URL shortener
service like tinyurl.com/abcde or bit.ly/abcde, you don't know what the end result is going to be, and you're probably wise to just head to Google to find what you need instead.
- When the software offers automatic updates, just turn them on and stop worrying about maintaining all the moving parts running on your computer. The threat landscape is so much different than it was 10-15 years ago. Enable updates so that you're getting critical patches as soon as they become available. Be confident that any subsequent update notifications are probably fake, and act accordingly (either ignore them, or consult the vendor for guidance before doing anything).
For Flash Player specifically:
Always download Flash Player from here: https://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/
When you install, choose the default option of "Allow Adobe to Install Updates (recommended)", and we'll keep it updated for you.
Google Chrome ships Flash Player as a built-in component, and keeps it updated automatically. There's nothing separate to download, install or configure.
Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer on Windows 8 and higher also include Flash Player as a built-in component of their browser, and updates are handled automatically through Windows Update. Again, as long as Windows Update is enabled, there's nothing to download or configure.
Also, you've now got a malware infection on your machine that you need to deal with.
There's a large universe of unknown unknowns, but the malware guys at this point are generally professionals. They test against the popular antivirus and cleanup tools. You have to make a call about whether you want to just salt the earth, wipe the computer and start from scratch, or find a cleanup tool (or a professional with cleanup tools) to help you out. The big caveat there is that you're putting a lot of faith into the tools that you use. This sort of requires a gut-check on your part about what your risk tolerance and confidence level is. It also depends on what you do with the computer (health care, banking, etc.). Good malware is going to first establish a foothold, but the second order of business would be to ensure resilience. Without an exhaustive (and expensive) forensic analysis, there are no guarantees that you've eradicated everything that was installed.
If it were me, I'd probably back up all of the critical data on the machine and then burn the whole thing down and start from scratch (e.g. format the hard disk, reinstall the operating system and applications from pristine sources, install a reputable antivirus utility, scan my backups and then restore them.
It's quite possible that a malware infection is already logging your keystrokes and sending them home. On a known-good machine, I'd go buy a password manager like LastPass/OnePass/KeyPass/etc. and set about ensuring that I have unique, strong passwords for each of the important online services that I use (including any email services that could be used to reset those passwords), and set up two-factor authentication wherever it's offered, so that an attacker needs both your phone and your password in order to log into your accounts.