Protect Your Computer Against Zero-Day Vulnerabilities

With Microsoft’s recent announcement of a new zero-day vulnerability in Internet Explorer, I thought it might be a good idea to post a few simple tips on how to protect your computer from becoming infected with malware as a result of this new vulnerability.

A zero-day vulnerability is a security hole in an application that was announced publicly, before the vendor had a chance to fix it.  Many security researchers practice responsible disclosure, sending vulnerability details to vendors so that vendors have time to patch the application.  Unfortunately, this information sometimes makes it into the wrong hands before those patches can be developed.

Microsoft is working on a fix for this specific vulnerability.  In the meantime, though, the vulnerability allows malicious software to run on your computer without your permission.  Your computer could get infected just by visiting a webpage that designed to take advantage of this vulnerability.

The good news is that you can protect your computer by following a few simple steps:

  1. Always run antivirus software.  If a webpage does try to install malware on your machine, antivirus software will delete the malware before it can do any damage.
  2. Always keep your computer fully patched.  While this won’t *technically* protect you against zero-days, this step will protect your computer from other known vulnerabilities. However, configuring your computer to automatically download patches daily will ensure that your computer is patched against this new vulnerability as soon as Microsoft makes that patch available.
  3. Use a different web browser.  Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari… there are a number of alternatives to Internet Explorer.  Chrome will even go so far as to warn you when it thinks a site might be infected with malware before you visit the site.

[You can check out my Ounce of Prevention post for details on how to perform each of these steps, along with recommendations for free software to help keep your computer secure.]

These three steps are INCREDIBLY simple and EXTREMELY effective.  The best part is that you only have to follow them once, setting them on autopilot, and they do all the work for you from that point on.

Stay safe!




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