November 14, 2012, 11:17 AM — Welcome to a harsh reality: Relying on an ostensibly comprehensive antivirus suite just doesn't cut it in 2012.
Antivirus software is crucial for combating viruses, malware, and hackers, but simply installing an antivirus program is rarely enough. You should also use strong passwords; keep your system, applications, and browser plug-ins up-to-date; and make sure your firewall is doing its job by blocking all intrusions. Following these extra safeguards can reduce the chances of your PC becoming a Petri dish full of digital contagions.
Luckily, a number of tools and services can simplify all the extra security precautions that modern PCs require. They go above and beyond what's offered in antivirus suites, performing security audits of vulnerabilities that the big-name software packages miss. Here are five to check out.
Qualys Browser Check
An outdated browser or plug-in can serve as a security hole for hackers and malware authors to exploit, so youll want to keep your web software up-to-date. Qualys Browser Check is a free service that scans your Web browser to determine if youre running outdated or insecure versions of some popular plug-ins or add-ons, including Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Java, and Windows Media Player.
You can run a quick scan from your browser in Windows, Mac, or Linux. You don't even have to download any softwareQualys runs completely within your browser. Supported browsers include Internet Explorer (IE), Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, Opera, and Camino. Once Qualys Browser Check completes its scan, it lists which plug-ins it scanned, and indicates whether youre running insecure versions of any of your plug-ins, and if any updates are available. The scan also provides links to where you can download the newest plug-in version, so you dont have to hunt around for it.
Alternatively, you can run a full scan after downloading and installing the Qualys BrowserCheck plug-in, which supports IE, Firefox, and Chrome on Windowsthere's no Mac or Linux support for the full scan. This full scan can check all supported browsers you have installed, not just the browser you used to run the scan. And the full scan can also detect other system vulnerabilities as well, such as no automatic Windows Updates or Windows Firewall running, or out-of-date or disabled antivirus software.
Once Qualys Browser Check finishes doing its thing, youll see a list of scanned plug-ins for your current browser, and icons to view the results for each of your other browsers. And if you choose to do system checks, you'll see a tab showing its results as well.