Security's Everyman

Security's Everyman

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Keeping your system updated

I was looking at the latest issue of the SANS @Risk newsletter and it mentioned something that we need to keep in mind. I know that it's not something that I do regularly but I really need to do.

The four most critical vulnerabilities this week touch just about every
Windows user: Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Word, even Kodak Image
Viewer.

The Kodak threat highlights a useful, but unpleasant fact. Microsoft
patched this product because it was distributed with Windows, but most
of the other products you add to your computer are not patched
automatically. Many vendors expect you to check with their web site to
learn about flaws that need patching. The criminals know that - hence
the new wave of attacks against applications.
All of us have software on our systems that requires us to manually check for updates. This brings up several questions that we must answer.
  1. What software is on our systems? Do you know?
    Make a list of all the applications that are on your system.
  2. How often do you check for updates manually?
    Bookmark the support page for each and check it regularly. Set a calendar reminder to ping you monthly.
  3. Do you use all the applications on your system?
    Uninstall all apps that you don't need or use.
  4. Where did you get your software from?
    Shareware/Freeware are great, but make sure you know and can really trust the source. The bad guys are putting our free software that looks really cool but packs a punch when it comes to owning your system.
  5. Did it come preinstalled on your system?
    Lots of the software that comes preinstalled on your system are trial versions that only work at partial functionality or expire after a period of time. If you are not going to pay the license fee to make it a full version then uninstall it. Even dormant software can be exploited.
OK, I know that for most of you this is common sense and you are already doing much of this, but I just wanted to put it out there that all software is a potential vulnerability and we need to pay attention to the little things.

1 comment:

cutaway said...

Which is why I wrote my post on The Next Phase of Patching. There needs to be a better way to control this and I think Microsoft could step up and provide a good interface software developers could hook into for a more organized way to notify the users of security and other updates to third party software and drivers.

We cannot honestly ask the end-users to keep up with everything separately. The threat sources, however, are counting on, and even reveling in, our unwillingness to cooperate together on this front. Let's prove them wrong.

Go forth and do good things,
Don

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