Patching your antivirus software

This tip originally appeared on SearchWindowsSecurity.com, a sister site of SearchSMB.com.

One of the best-known threats to desktop and personal computers is the computer virus. Viruses -- and their malware cousins, worms and

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Trojans -- are ubiquitous threats to anyone using a computer. It makes sense then that antivirus software is probably the most commonly used security application on desktop and personal computers.

What happens, though, if the antivirus software itself is flawed? What if the very virus or worm that your antivirus software is supposed to defend against is actually targeting a flaw in the antivirus software to circumvent your security efforts? Obviously, that would be a problem.

The major antivirus vendors, including Computer Associates, McAfee, Sophos, Symantec and Trend Micro, have all been impacted by flaws or vulnerabilities in their applications. Flaws in their applications could allow malicious code to bypass the antivirus scanning in some way or cause a denial-of-service condition for the program. To ensure that your computer remains protected, you have to make sure your antivirus software remains patched and fully functional.

You can follow vulnerability announcements from third-party sources such as Secunia (www.secunia.com) or Bugtraq (www.securityfocus.com/vulnerabilities), or you can use announcement and notification services from the vendor of your antivirus software. Below are links you can use to find out more about staying informed about security concerns and patch releases for the major antivirus vendors:

In smaller organizations, you can simply set up user software to automatically download updates from the vendor sites. Larger organizations may use enterprise management software such as Trend Micro's OfficeScan server or McAfee's ePolicy Orchestrator that allows administrators to test and configure updates prior to deploying them down to users.

About the author: Tony Bradley is a consultant and writer with a focus on network security, antivirus and incident response. He is the About.com Guide for Internet / Network Security, providing a broad range of information security tips, advice, reviews and information. Tony also contributes frequently to other industry publications. For a complete list of his freelance contributions, you can visit Essential Computer Security.

This was first published in November 2005

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