Staying Secure

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Firewalls, AntiVirus and AntiSpyware programs are an essential part of keeping secure but they have their limitations and cannot stop all types of attacks, especially those exploiting known security weaknesses and vulnerabilities in other programs like Internet Explorer.

A Firewall stops unauthorised access to computers and can prevent unauthorised programs from accessing the internet, but IF a program is allowed to access the internet that has unpatched vulnerabilities, then the computer can be at risk. If a vulnerable program was exploited then the AntiVirus/AntiSpyware programs should halt the automatic installation of most “known” malicious software, however not all attacks can be prevented, especially if the user mistakenly installs certain programs, plugins or controls.
Ensuring you have the latest software installed on your computer can be a tedious and troublesome task but there are ways to speed up and automate theses processes. Users should ensure they have the latest Microsoft Updates which is different from the standard Windows update in that it will update the majority of Microsoft products (including Office) in one go.

Checking for updates for the other software on your computer has been made significantly easier with the release of two software scanning tools from Secunia which are free for home.

This scanner requires that you already have Java installed on your computer and will scan a “limited” amount of common software on your computer for known security problems.

The SANS institute releases an annual report highlighting the “Top 20 Security Risks”, which may also be of interest:

Ensuring software is up to date is an important step in staying secure but it will still not prevent exploits in programs for which a patch or update has not been released. Internet Explorer (for example) was vulnerable to exploits for 284 days in 2006, leaving users exposed to potential attacks. Other easily forgotten, but very common software, like Macromedia/Adobe Flash, Adobe Acrobat and QuickTime tend to average around 3 full system access exploits a year.

Many users have experienced less incidences of browser exploits using the free Mozilla Firefox as an alternative to Internet Explorer. Firefox, like Internet Explorer, has its share of security flaws but their patch release time is extremely fast and averaging 1-3 days, unlike Internet Explorer which has been known to take several weeks before a patch is released. None the less, users of alternate browser like Firefox still need to ensure that the plugins for their browser like Flash, Acrobat, QuickTime are always kept up to date.

The time between the discovery of security weaknesses in programs and the release of a patch to fix the problem is serious concern. This time can vary from several days to several months. This is where the new ZoneAlarm ForceField steps in. ZoneAlarm ForceField is a security product designed specifically to protect you while you bank, shop, or surf dangerous areas of the Internet online. It does this by creating a virtual "bubble" around your surfing session, protecting your PC from fraudulent websites, Phishing scams, Spyware websites, and dangerous downloads. ZoneAlarm ForceField also ensures that Spyware that may already be on your PC cannot steal your information while you bank and shop. And it cleans the PC after a Web browsing session to prevent your personal information from being left behind.

If you would like to find out more information about ZoneAlarm ForceField please visit

By Liam T
Secure Tec Support

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