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Patches and Updates

Without a doubt, one of the easiest and most prudent steps to take to secure your computer is to make sure it is up-to-date with its patches. Your best protection is to remain current with patches and updates. The vast majority of hacks and security vulnerabilities can be easily prevented if the operating system is kept up-to-date with the latest patches and upgrades. The customary method for releasing vulnerability information is to first notify the software manufacturer and allow them time to create a patch or fix. The vulnerability is usually made public when the manufacturer has a patch or fix available. Therefore, by merely applying patches and fixes as soon as they become available, one can remain relatively secure.

Microsoft and other vendors release patches, but it is up to you to download them. You can use Microsoft Windows Update (http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com) or visit the Microsoft Security Web page (http://www.microsoft.com/security). Windows Update, shown in Figure 10.10, is a Web site that helps you determine the upgrade state of your computer. It analyzes your machine and informs you if you are missing any patches or upgrades. After you select your desired upgrades or fixes and reboot, your machine becomes up-to-date. The packages are categorized as Critical Updates, Recommended Updates, Device Drivers, and Picks of the Month. Obviously, the Critical Updates should always be applied because they usually contain security updates.


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