Security Patching Your Anti-Virus Software

By now just about everyone knows that one must continually apply patches to the operating system software to close vulnerabilities to attacks from the outside world. In the Microsoft world, that means applying security patches to your Office application suite and your Internet Explorer browser as well. But checking for security patches for other applications just doesn’t hit the radar screen of most users, let alone many IT managers. And that may be a problem that leads to serious issues for your firm.

A recent article in C-Net News entitled “New ‘botworm’ exploits Symantec flaw” explains how a known security hole in Symantec’s antivirus tools allows a new worm, which Symantec calls “Sagevo“, to scan for and identify computers running the vulnerable Symantec software, and then break in. The computer is then used as a zombie in a botnet, for the purpose of spreading spam, stealing confidential information, and who knows what else. One Sagevo server alone has already been tracked pushing malicious data out to more than 60,000 innocent systems, according to security company eEye Digital Security. We’re talking about people and companies like you and me, mine and yours, having our computers enslaved without us even knowing it. All because of a security flaw in our anti-virus software which we have not patched.

Ok, just to make sure we’re clear. We’re not talking about downloading the latest virus definitions. This is not a virus. It’s a software vulnerability which creates a back door opening in the software application, through which a worm can enter. We’re talking about the application software itself which needs to be updated. This is not happening automatically. You have to pay attention to alerts and download and install the patch yourself. And in some cases, depending on how your software was set up, you may have to even manually check for available updates just to know whether there are any.

I know, it’s kind of ironic that ones anti-virus software can be a point of vulnerability. But in point of fact any software on your system, no matter what it’s functionality, can be a point of vulnerability. And some of the software designers are not too forthcoming about identified vulnerabilities. So you have to periodically and regularly check for available updates, or identified problems.

It’s a sign of the times that the economic motives for successful exploitation of software vulnerabilities has justified use of considerable highly-sophisticated programming talent to explore all sorts of software for vulnerabilities through which a payload can be delivered. And the better the tools for identifying and eradicating spyware and scumware, the harder those nefarious programmers will work to evade detection through new and innovative programming.

So be sure to monitor all of your software for updates. And apply security patches regularly.

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