Internet Explorer’s Latest Security Threat—What You Need to Know

On April 26, the cyberthreat protection company FireEye announced the discovery of a troubling new security vulnerability in Internet Explorer® versions 6 through 11. Microsoft® worked fastidiously to patch the hole, which was known as the IE Zero-Day Flaw. On May 1, the patch, MS13-021, fixed the vulnerability on all supported editions of Windows®. Microsoft also extended the fix to include Windows XP.

Recommendations across the web, in the media and even from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called for IE users to switch to a different Internet browser. The announcement about the vulnerability came on the heels of the so-called “XPocalypse,” a term coined to describe the Microsoft decision to discontinue support for the Windows XP operating system on April 8th. The IE Zero-Day Flaw expanded the number of users advised to cease using Internet Explorer: not just the millions of people currently using IE on Windows XP but also a full one-quarter of the overall browser market.

Be Careful How You Browse

Microsoft’s relatively speedy repair work notwithstanding, security flaws can emerge at any time and highlight the need for ongoing threat protection. FireEye had noted that Internet Explorer users should disable the Adobe Flash browser plug-in, as the exploit found its way in through that particularly vulnerable plug-in. Many users have migrated to Chrome or Firefox as a result of the threat; to see how to set a new default browser, click here.

And if Windows XP users decide to continue with Internet Explorer, both Flash and Java browser plug-ins must be disabled since these components will be left vulnerable to threats going forward. To learn how to easily disable the Java plug-in using System Mechanic view this tutorial video.

How Viruses Attack

Malware, whether in the form of a virus, Trojan, worm or other type of malicious software, infiltrates a PC through vulnerabilities in the operating system or programs closely associated with it. The issues that compromise your computer’s safety, then, are really twofold: the security vulnerability through which malware gets in, and the malware itself. As was the case with the Zero-Day Flaw, the two are often coupled together.

Because at any given time new security vulnerabilities can be discovered in an OS, and because patches can take days to deploy, it’s essential to install any available Windows updates immediately. The longer your PC is left vulnerable, the more open you are to attack. Even then, Windows updates may not be enough.

Enter Antivirus Solutions

Once a virus gets past a security vulnerability, there’s no telling the damage it can do if it’s not discovered and contained. And though Microsoft’s own installed Security Essentials provides some threat-monitoring capability, other security solutions that employ both proactive and reactive detection strategies can be more effective.

A reactive strategy detects viruses using published malware signature detection. It is exact, and streamlines the cleanup process, but because there is such a huge volume of malware floating around the Internet today, exclusive signature-based solutions are not enough.

A proactive malware detection strategy is the second line of defense. It uses sophisticated behavior-monitoring techniques known as heuristics to build a general sense of whether a given file or group of files intends to harm your computer. It can even stop an attack before a patch is written and deployed.

The most sophisticated and effective antivirus solutions use these two techniques together to identify, quarantine and destroy malicious software as swiftly and accurately as possible.

In addition to award-winning PC performance and response-tuning technology, System Mechanic Pro contains System Shield, an anti-malware solution which not only deploys both reactive and proactive detection strategies, but is regularly and automatically updated with the latest threat definitions for maintaining an ever-expanding roster of both specific malware signatures and suspicious behaviors to help keep your PC secure.

Threats Are Ongoing—So Should Protection Be

As we have seen in the past week, new vulnerabilities will continue to pop up without warning and the more up-to-date and comprehensive your security solution is, the more protected you’ll be. Protecting yourself both reactively and proactively with a strong antivirus solution, along with keeping abreast of important system and driver updates, will help give you the solid, secure foundation you need to protect your machine beyond the Zero-Day Flaw. For additional tips on how to not only protect but also optimize your PC for maximum speed and performance, click here.

iolo UptoSpeed

UpToSpeed™ is iolo's ongoing article series written by PC experts for everyday computer users. Each article is packed with easy tips and practical advice on the latest issues affecting computers to help you get the most out of your PC.

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Internet Explorer’s Latest Security Threat—What You Need to Know