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You may have heard recently about a major security vulnerability that was found in the Internet Explorer browser, specifically for those using it on the Windows XP operating system. This issue has since been addressed by Microsoft, but we thought we would provide you a more detailed understanding of what a vulnerability is and share some tips to protect your computer against them.
What is a software vulnerability?
A software vulnerability is a flaw in an application that can be used in a certain manner by hackers to perform an unwanted action. You may also have heard of vulnerabilities being referred to as security bugs. These bugs are typically fixed by the software vendor in a short period of time after the vulnerability is made public by updating the affected software. Almost all software is vulnerable at one time or another.
How are vulnerabilities exploited by hackers?
Hackers write software that takes advantage of the vulnerability making the application perform in an unwanted manner. The hacker can deliver the malicious software to the victim by a number of mechanisms. This is typically done by sending the victim an email that appears to be legitimate, but actually contains a link to an infected site. If the victim clicks the malicious link in the email, their machine could become infected due to the vulnerable software on their machine. Hackers are constantly discovering and writing exploits for vulnerable software in an attempt to make money, gain notoriety, and steal confidential information.
Programs with Frequent Vulnerabilities
Java and Adobe exploits make up a large percentage of the total exploits available to hackers. Java runs on approximately 3 billion machines worldwide. That’s a large attack footprint. Java usually runs in the background and helps many applications function. Adobe makes various products like Reader, Flash, Photoshop, Adobe AIR, and etc. Most people have these programs installed on their machines. Historically, these two companies release urgent security updates every few weeks.
Tips to Remember
Two of the most important tips to remember when it comes to securing your computer are to:
It’s best to think of the security of your information in terms of layers. Updating all your software is the first security layer. Using an updated antivirus is the second layer of protection against an exploit. Employing this dual layered strategy will greatly reduce your risk to potential vulnerabilities.
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