Tag Archives: Internet Safety

Avoid Accidents On The Internet Highway By Patching Your OS AND Applications

This morning, I read Ed Bott’s latest (Bott is a favorite of mine) – If your PC picks up a virus, whose fault is it? Here’s a summary –

Want to avoid being attacked by viruses and other malware? Two recent studies reveal the secret: regular patching. A fully patched system with a firewall enabled offers almost complete protection against drive-by attacks and outside intruders.

While reading through Bott’s  article, I was certainly put in mind of Yogi Berra’s often quoted “This is like deja vu all over again.” Current Internet security, and the best practices associated with it, really is “deja vu all over again” – and over, and over, and over. The fundamentals haven’t changed. Common sense is as much in vogue now, as it ever was.

In his article (which is worth a read), Bott relies on two recently released studies to bolster his point, that staying safe online, begins with “regular patching …….. the single most important element in any security program”.

Since the underlying theme is something I hammer on here, on a regular basis, it goes without saying that I agree with Bott, and the data generated in the studies. With that in mind, I’m reposting an article which I wrote in July 2010 – If You Get A Malware Infection Who’s Fault Is It Really? – which underscores the importance of patching not only the operating system, but the often neglected patching of installed applications.

If You Get A Malware Infection Who’s Fault Is It Really?

imageThe security industry, especially security analysts, and for that matter, computer users at large, love to dump on Microsoft when they get a malware infection. If only Microsoft got their act together, the theory goes, and hardened Windows more appropriately, we wouldn’t have to deal with this nonsense.

But, what if it isn’t entirely Microsoft’s fault? What if it’s really a shared responsibility split between Microsoft, third party software developers, and the user?

From time to time, I’m accused of being “too frank”; usually on those occasions when diplomacy needs to be put aside, so that realities can be dealt with. For example, I’ve left myself open to criticism, in some quarters, by stating on more than one occasion –

It has been my experience, that when a malware infection occurs, it’s generally safe to say, the user is, more often than not, responsible for their own misfortune.

Computer users, by and large, are lackadaisical in securing their computers against threats to their Internet safety and security.

Strong statements I’ll admit, but if you consider the following, which I have repeated over and over, you’ll understand why I feel comfortable making this statement.

Not all users make use of Microsoft’s Windows Update so that they are current with operating system critical updates, and security fixes. More to the point, few users have given consideration to the vulnerabilities that exist in third party productivity applications and utilities.

Unless you monitor your system for insecure and unpatched software installations, you have left a huge gap in your defenses – it’s just plain common sense.

The just released Secunia Half Year Report – 2010, shows “an alarming development in 3rd party program vulnerabilities, representing an increasing threat to both users and business, which, however, continues to be greatly ignored”, supports my view that security is a shared responsible, and blaming Microsoft simply ignores the reality.

The report goes on to conclude, “users and businesses still perceive the operating system and Microsoft products to be the primary attack vector, largely ignoring 3rd party programs, and finding the actions to secure these too complex and time-consuming. Ultimately this leads to incomplete patch levels of the 3rd party programs, representing rewarding and effective targets for criminals.”

Key highlights of the Secunia Half Year Report 2010:

Since 2005, no significant up-, or downward trend in the total number of vulnerabilities in the more than 29,000 products covered by Secunia Vulnerability Intelligence was observed.

A group of ten vendors, including Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, IBM, Adobe, and Cisco, account on average for 38 percent of all vulnerabilities disclosed per year.

In the two years from 2007 to 2009, the number of vulnerabilities affecting a typical end-user PC almost doubled from 220 to 420, and based on the data of the first six months of 2010, the number is expected to almost double again in 2010, to 760.

During the first six months of 2010, 380 vulnerabilities or 89% of the figures for all of 2009 has already been reached.

A typical end-user PC with 50 programs installed had 3.5 times more vulnerabilities in the 24 3rd party programs installed than in the 26 Microsoft programs installed. It is expected that this ratio will increase to 4.4 in 2010.

The full report (PDF), is available here.

Each week, I receive the Qualys Vulnerability Report, and I never fail to be astonished by the huge number of application vulnerabilities listed in this report. I’ve always felt, that the software industry should thank their “lucky stars”, that this report is not particularly well known outside the professional IT security community. It’s that scary.

There is a solution to this quandary however – the Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI).

PSI constantly monitors your system for insecure software installations, notifies you when an insecure application is installed, and even provides you with detailed instructions for updating the application when available.


ZD Net, one of my favorite web sites has stated “Secunia Personal Software Inspector, quite possibly the most useful and important free application you can have running on your Windows machine”. In my view, this is not an overstatement.

Installing this small free application will definitely assist you in identifying possible security leaks; give it a try.


Quick facts:

The Secunia PSI is free for private use.

Downloaded over 800,000 times

Allows you to secure your PC – Patch your applications – Be proactive

Scans for Insecure and End-of-Life applications

Verifies that all Microsoft patches are applied

Tracks your patch-performance week by week

Direct and easy access to security patches.

Detects more than 300,000 unique application versions

Provides a detailed report of missing security related updates

Provides a tabbed report which indicates programs that are no longer supported – programs with all known patches – insecure programs, etc.

Provides a Toolbox offering a set of links which helps you assess a problem and how you can resolve it.

System Requirements: Windows 2000, XP 32/64bit, Vista 32/64bit, and Win 7 32/64bit.

Download at: Secunia

Bonus: Do it in the Cloud – The Secunia Online Software Inspector, (OSI), is a fast way to scan your PC for the most common programs and vulnerabilities; checking if your PC has a minimum security baseline against known patched vulnerabilities.

System Requirements: Windows 2000, XP 32/64bit, Vista 32/64bit, and Win 7 32/64bit.

Link: Secunia Online Software Inspector

As an added bonus for users, Secunia provides a forum where PSI users can discuss patching, product updates, exploits, the PSI, and anything else security-related.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Application Vulnerabilities, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Freeware, Malware Protection, Secunia, Software, System Security, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Surf Safely This Summer – PandaLabs’ Safe Summer Web Guide

PandaLabs’ Safe Summer Web Guide

pandasecurity_logo Courtesy of Panda Security.

Although most of us like to relax during the summer, computer security is one area in which you should always keep your guard up. Remember, cyber-crooks don’t take holidays.

The summer period often sees people using computers for more leisure-oriented activities than during the rest of the year. The use of services such as chats, online games, software downloads or online stores increases as users have more time on their hands. Children also tend to spend more time in front of the computer during the summer.

Cyber-crooks, however, will try to take advantage of all of this to target new victims. Here is a series of recommendations to help you keep your computer protected this summer:

Pay close attention to your email, as this is a frequently used channel for spreading threats, as well as phishing attacks and other scams distributed in spam. Typically at this time of year, waves of spam emerge offering unrealistically cheap holidays. These messages either surreptitiously ask users to reveal confidential data or prompt them to download information, which is really an infected file. So, needless to say, you should ignore all emails from unknown senders.

Promptly install the latest security patches for your applications. Cyber-crooks frequently launch attacks that exploit security holes in commonly-used programs. Developers are continually making security patches available to resolve the problems detected. If your application doesn’t notify you that these updates are available, you should enter the product’s official page occasionally to check whether any patches need to be installed. It is therefore a good idea to update applications on your computer just before you go on vacation and also when you come back.

Don’t download programs from dubious Internet sites – they could be infected. The summer period also tends to see a rise in the number of downloads people make. Yet it is important to take special care with what you download from the Internet. In particular, you should scan all downloads before running them, as much malware is distributed under the guise of files such as films, series etc. to trick users.

Take care with information you enter on social networks. Make sure you don’t publish details like the day you’ll be going on holiday, especially if details of your address are available on the same social network. – Leave your router switched off. This will prevent other users connecting to your network -possibly with malicious aims- in your absence. For example, someone could connect to your network and download malicious code which could remain on the network until you start your computer and consequently infect it.

Take precautions if you use shared computers. Many of us go to cybercafes when on holiday to read emails, chat with friends, stay in touch on social networks, etc. In this case, you should take a few precautions. Firstly, don’t enable any option that saves passwords on the local computer when you are logging into accounts from public computers. This would obviously allow the next user of the computer to access any of your accounts. Also, make sure the computer you use is not infected. At the first suspicious sign (pop-ups, malfunction…), stop using the computer. Finally, never use shared computers for bank transfers.

Use parental control programs. During the summer vacations, children will no doubt be using the computer more than usual. That’s why it is as important as ever to instruct them on how to use the Internet safely. It’s a good idea to set timetables for using the Internet, keep an eye on them when they are browsing and prevent them from accessing certain pages or content that could be unsuitable for them. Given that parents will not always be around to monitor how children use the Web, it is advisable to install a parental control program, a tool that will help establish which Web pages your children can see, and which they can’t, etc.

Make sure your computer has an up-to-date and active antivirus solution installed. There are free antivirus programs available from the Web, such as Panda Cloud Antivirus.

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Filed under Child Safety Internet, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Free Security Programs, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Online Spyware/Virus Scanners, Panda Security, PandaLabs, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, Windows Tips and Tools