Use care concerning all software you install on your computer. Just as some “anti-virus software” is malicious, other types of software can be malicious too. Many things that seem too good to be true actually are. Many companies limit the software applications their employees can install, thus reducing risk.

Opening email attachments, Instant Messaging attachments, using file sharing programs, and using untrustworthy flash drives can also lead to the installation of unacceptable software. Also, following links from an email can lead you to unintentionally download malicious computer code to your computer.

Recently additional vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 6 have been revealed. Internet Explorer 6 is a fairly old browser that is not thought to be as secure as the more recent Internet Explorer versions 7 or 8. In a specific recent attack a user receives an email asking the user to navigate to a specific web page. Going to the website downloads code to the users computer. This code in turn takes advantage of the vulnerability in Internet Explorer 6. Upgrading to Internet Explorer 7 or 8 or using another internet browser such as Firefox is likely a good idea.

Remember the cat and mouse game analogy referred to in the discussion of anti-virus software? Here is another application for this analogy. Companies create software, hackers find weaknesses to exploit, software companies fix the weaknesses, hackers find other weaknesses or new weaknesses, etc., etc.

No software is perfect. Every piece of software has potential security holes, incompatibility, and performance problems. Often software companies find errors before releasing their software but issues can slip through the cracks. Also, software that worked fine initially may not play nicely with other newer software or hardware. To address these issues computer companies release patches to their software to address these problems or to improve their product.

Even more importantly, there are people that dedicate themselves to mayhem and data theft. They search high and low for chinks in the armor of computer systems. When they find holes they often give or sell their mischievous ideas to others. Responsible companies learn of these exploits and revise their software to restore protection through the release of patches.

In the past Microsoft issued patches at various times. The lack of a predictable schedule made it difficult, especially for companies, to plan. Now most Microsoft patches are issued on Patch Tuesday which is on the second Tuesday of each month. Very time critical issues are still released as needed. Today, 8/9/10, is Patch Tuesday for this month.

Here is a list of suggestions concerning software updates:

  1. Backup / Rollback – An effective backup and rollback system can allow you to recover a seriously damaged system either though vulnerability in the software or in the unlikely event an update had an adverse effect.
  2. Use Supported Software – Software manufactures don’t normally support their software forever. We suggest that you only use supported software. Windows XP SP2 for example is no longer supported.
  3. Test First – Prior to implementing patches first try the patch on a representative server or workstation to assure there are no problems. Large companies do this and smaller companies can too.
  4. Apply Soon – Applying security patches soon after they are released means that you have the benefit of the latest protection available.

If you think that software is mature enough to require few patches, the fact that Microsoft has indicated that it will release a record number of security updates (14) and patch a record-tying number (34) of potential weaknesses in Windows, Internet Explorer, Office, and Silverlight should make us think again.

Over time there may be numerous patches as well as larger enhancements that Microsoft would like to provide its software. These are usually offered through a Service Pack (SP). As of 8/9/10 Microsoft has released SP3 for Windows XP, SP2 for Windows Vista and has not has not yet publicly released its first Service Pack for Windows 7. The Windows Server operating system and Microsoft Office are examples of other software also subject to Service Pack updates.

Some software is no longer supported and hence will not receive patches. This is potentially very dangerous, as there are significant security implications. Make sure your software is still supported. While Windows XP SP3 is still supported, Windows XP SP2 and earlier for example are no longer supported. Many people still use Windows XP SP2.

Microsoft is not the only software publisher that releases software fixes. Some others like Apple, Adobe, and Intuit also release updates. Also, hardware sometimes requires firmware updates too, such as Dell computers, smart phones, and other electronic devices. Firmware is the software that is built into many electronic devices.

Some people install every piece of software that will fit on their computer. It may be smarter to install only the titles that most benefit the business and that can be properly maintained. Consider uninstalling unnecessary  software. Check to be sure software that is installed is up to date or upgrade to a newer still supported edition.

Remember to only install software that you trust, which is from a reliable source, and keep it up to date.

By following these recommendations your computers should be more secure, reliable, and effective for your business success.