Popular guest writer Mark Schneider looks at how to increase system security by focusing on core applications.
Computing on the Windows platform today can be very rewarding. The problem with Windows applications is, as Microsoft has made improvements in patching security holes in Windows, the Black Hat hackers have begun to focus on third party applications to exploit the Windows platform.
Recent highly publicized exploits on the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader, have been just the tip of the iceberg. According to Secunia, creators of PSI a security tool which scans your PC for out of date software, half their users had 66 or more programs on their PC’s.
Once all the programs and required patches were tabulated, it totaled over “75 patch incidents annually”, per average PC. That averages out to a patch every 4.9 days.” (Source InfoWorld Security Central)
This state of affairs obviously puts the average user at risk. Most people do well just to keep their Windows OS patched, much less check more than once a week for patches to their other applications.
This leads to the crux of my point, keep it simple. Don’t download every application you see, or hear about. Pick a core of useful applications that allow you to use your computer in the way you need to, and stop!
Your computer is a serious tool that can be very useful, so treat it seriously. You can still have fun with your computer, but you don’t need 5 different media players - choose one, and stick with it. If you find one you prefer uninstall the old one first.
Many people use old out of date programs because they don’t like the “feature creep” of newer applications. This is a mistake; keep what programs you have up to date. This is especially true with PDF readers, browsers, email clients, and media players. Keeping your flash player up to date is extremely important. Adobe Flash is a major exploit vector, and I frequently run with it disabled.
Trying new applications can be fun and rewarding but, the best way to try new applications is in a virtual machine. Using a program like Virtual Box from Oracle Systems, is a great way to safely try new applications without committing yourself to a new program, or loading your Hard Drive with a ton of unnecessary applications that need to be constantly updated.
Finally, run Secunia’s free PSI. It will help you keep your applications up to date, and add another layer of security to your computer.
This is a guest post by Mark Schneider of the Techwalker Blog, who brings a background as a high level techie, to the blogging world.
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