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Security focus: Protect your PC Part II

Today’s focus will cover the more ambiguous attacks created by out-of-date software, improper security parameters, and persistent hackers.


In our last blog post, we covered the most common security issues posed by malicious software and attacks. The common thread that connects each of the first three attacks is that pc users must be unaware of their existence and uneducated in their approach. The three attacks covered today are the same.

The following three security pitfalls are somewhat different from the first examples, in that recognizing the vulnerabilities requires more than mere attentiveness on the part of the pc user. These attacks take advantage of flaws in software that are not as easily recognized as a misspelled URL or a missing security certificate.

Inadvertent infections

Much like the previous example of fake updates and misleading product changes, drive-by infections are designed to exploit pc security vulnerabilities created by existing programs that have yet to be updated to current versions.

The simplest way to avoid issues created by older versions of useful software is to regularly check for updates and revisions. Many programs will automatically report potential and waiting updates for the software installed on your pc. However, these automated updates can require user input to trigger the installation. In all cases, you should regularly check important software for updates along with Windows Update.

In recent years, with the danger of out-of-date software becoming more apparent, stand-alone programs and anti-virus makers began to provide program update options. Secunia PSI is a stand-alone program that provides the ability to automate updates for programs not covered by Windows Update. On the anti-virus side, AVAST! provides the ability to track, update, and install critical updates from the most vulnerability-prone programs.

The main key to preventing drive-by infection by malicious software is to stay vigilant and keep all of your system files and programs up-to-date.

Zero-day threats

Zero-day attacks target newly found, exploitable vulnerabilities in software and system files in order to attack your pc.

Vigilance and awareness will only help so much in the face of a zero-day attack. The most that a user can hope to do in order to mitigate damage caused by a zero-day will be to keep an eye out for tech announcements from software developers and adjusting security settings in and on your pc to their highest levels.

An option for some protection against cutting-edge malware attacks is Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free. The program was designed to identify zero-day attacks, but will not protect from more common or everyday known malware. You would use this program in concert with other existing anti-virus and anti-malware programs.


A less common threat to consider is a direct attack by hackers using port-sniffers.

The reason that this particular threat is less common is due to how simply the attack can be thwarted by using a firewall. Even the included Windows Firewall tool is more than enough to dissuade and deny all but the most persistent hackers.

One significant benefit to including a more robust firewall on your pc is the ability of some firewalls to detect suspicious outbound data traffic, which can be a sign of a malware infection. Not all firewalls provide this particular function, so shop around before deciding.

Protect your PC

Knowing what threats exist to your pc is the first step in providing the best security for your pc. However, there are steps you can take to increase your system's protection.

First, consider adjusting the strength of your passwords. We cover three keys features to a more secure password.

If you are traveling with a laptop, be sure to lock it down for the trip. Here are several ways to make sure you secure your laptop properly.

When you decide to delete important files, make sure you really delete the file. We cover ways to securely wipe important files and drives here.

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