One of the cardinal rules for computer security is keeping your operating system and programs up to date. Up-to-date software has fewer security holes for hackers and viruses to attack.
Now, you might have heard security experts, including Kim, giving that advice for years and it's just become background noise. However, today you're getting a fresh reminder courtesy of the last people you'd expect: hackers.
Specifically I'm talking about the latest version of the Kovter Trojan. This virus sneaks in through security holes in browser plug-ins like Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Java and Silverlight.
Once it downloads, Kovter hijacks your computer and racks up thousands of phony clicks on online ads. That doesn't make it especially dangerous to you, but if it can sneak on to your system, it's a good bet something more dangerous can get in as well. Or at least that used to be the case.
The latest version of Kovter has an added twist that's causing security experts to raise their eyebrows. After it installs, one of the first things the new version does is update your Flash plug-in.
Why would it do that? The latest version of Flash has fewer security holes, which means competing viruses will have a harder time installing. It's like a burglar climbing in an open window, shutting the window and then installing a home security system to keep out other burglars.
This isn't the first time a virus has done this kind of thing. A number of years ago, there were some viruses that had built-in anti-virus software. They'd actually clean other viruses out of your system, and keep protecting it after, so they could have full control.
That kind of thing isn't done much anymore. Virus-writing hackers are in the business of selling multiple types of viruses to other hackers. It's bad business to be selling a product that makes your other wares less effective.
So, what's the takeaway from the Kovter story? Keep your programs up to date, especially Flash. Even hackers think updating Flash is the best way to block other viruses.
Of course, you might not need Flash in your browser at all. Find out whether going Flash-free is the right choice for you.
Finally, if you aren't signed up for the Komando daily email newsletters, you should be. When new updates for Flash and other critical programs appear, we let you know right away so you can stay safe.