News was released this week regarding a potentially serious flaw present in Internet Explorer which potentially allows a hacker to gain control of a computer that has visited a website infected with malicious code.The scary thing about this particular bug is that the user doesn’t need to download or click anything to become infected as simply visiting an infected website is sufficient.
In all reality the chance of the average user becoming infected is extremely remote but the official line by security experts is that until Microsoft have issued a patch that users should either up their security settings from within Internet Explorer or switch to an alternative browser such as Firefox or Opera.
Most people that read my column know that they should either run a half decent browser such as Firefox or if they insist on using Internet Explorer that they should keep Windows updated at all times.Whilst there is no fix for this particular bug, by keeping your Browser and Operating System up to date you are limiting your chances of running in to problems.
Something that is often overlooked by so many, however, is ensuring that all other applications on your computer are kept up to date as it isn’t just browsers that are affected by security issues.Making a list of all the software on your computer and then individually checking the manufacturer’s website for updates would be quite a laborious and time consuming process which is where my recommendation for this week comes in.Secunia PSI is a piece of software which has just come out of Beta testing that is designed to alleviate such problems by checking the majority of the applications currently installed on your computer for known security vulnerabilities.
There are two versions of this application available, one that runs online and one that you download and install; both are available from http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/.Personally I would recommend downloading the application rather than the online test as the 500kb file will scan a greater number of programs than the online version.
Once the scans have completed, Secunia will list any out of date affected software and give you a vulnerability rating along with a link to obtain the latest version of the application if there is one available.You can view details about each individual threat and to be honest the results can be quite startling; although my laptop managed an initial security score of 92% there were several potentially serious problems that it discovered.One rather obscure bug in my PDF reader (Foxit PDF) could have potentially given a hacker full access to my computer.
I think there is a stage where paranoia can kick in and users can be over cautious but a certain level of precaution should always be taken.Even if you are not worried about the potential security implications of running out of date software, Secunia offers a quick and easy way to ensure that you are running the most up to date and hopefully feature rich versions of all your favourite programs.
About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.