A few weeks ago I was reminded that it still isn’t common knowledge that antivirus software will not protect your computer from all threats. A conversation with a family member that works for a small business revealed that their “IT Guy” thinks Windows Updates aren’t necessary, yet he continues to install antivirus software on workstations religiously. Unfortunately, that could not be further from the truth. Keeping your Windows machine properly patched is, in my opinion, more important than having antivirus software. Attackers are known for using worms that attack the vulnerabilities of a Windows machine from the outside without user interaction. The conficker worm is just the latest example of how improperly patched Windows machines can be compromised remotely and completely outside of the protection of antivirus.
Think that your firewall or router is protecting you from attacks like this? Think again. Once one compromised machine is on the network, all bets are off. Infected machines can be used by attackers to completely circumvent the firewall and infect any other vulnerable machines on the network. Mobile devices that roam from network to network can make matters worse by being the carriers of these infections, much like influenza is spread by humans. Worms like Conficker waste no time gathering personal data, logging keystrokes, and propagating to other systems. In Conficker’s case, the infection spread incredibly fast. In January, the infection count jumped from 2.4 million to 9 million Windows machines in just four days.
Clearly, there are a significant number of users with a false sense of security. It is estimated that 30 percent of the Windows machines connected to the internet are unpatched. I’m guessing that a lot of the same users that aren’t updating Windows believe their system is secure because they have installed antivirus software. This is just one of the many myths that many computer users believe today.
Please spread the word to your friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances that Windows Updates ARE EXTREMELY important to the health of their PC and that Windows Updates, firewalls, and antivirus applications by themselves are not an all-inclusive solution to computer security. Instead, all of these security tools should be used in order to effectively protect a computer.