Microsoft Corp. today issued three bundles of updates fixing at least 11 security vulnerabilities in its software, mainly flaws in Microsoft Office products. But the company did nothing today to protect customers against a critical flaw built into in all versions of the Internet Explorer Web browser that is now being exploited by at least one common, automated hacker toolkit.
Most computer users understand the concept of security flaws in common desktop software such as media players and instant message clients, but those same users often are surprised to learn that the very software tools attackers use to break into networks and computers typically are riddled with their own hidden security holes. Indeed, bugs that reside in attack software of the sort sold to criminals are extremely valuable to law enforcement officials and so-called “white hat” hackers, who can leverage these weaknesses to spy on the attackers or interfere with their day-to-day operations.
I am often asked to recommend security software, but I think it’s important to bear in mind that staying secure is just as often about removing little-used software that increases your exposure to online threats. At the very top of my nix-it-now list is Java, a powerful application that most users have on their systems but that probably few actually need.