firefox Lots of people have installed Firefox to do their Internet browsing. Sometimes, out of curiosity, I ask people why they use it instead of Internet Explorer. There are people who can give an articulate, well-reasoned answer to that question, although as it happens I haven’t met any of them yet. (“My brother knows somebody who said it was cool.”) But that’s fine – it’s a lovely Internet browser.

If you install a program on your computer, you assume responsibility for keeping it up to date. That is particularly true of your Internet browser, since the bad guys are primarily using rigged web pages to attack your computer and install malware. If your browser is not kept up to date, your chances of picking up spyware or a root kit go way up.

The Firefox team issued version 3.5 at the end of June, then issued version 3.5.1 a couple of weeks later for a “gaping hole” that “puts millions of Firefox users at risk of remote code execution attacks.”

googlechrome If you’ve installed Google’s Chrome browser, then you had better be using version, which addresses a couple of serious security issues. One of them would allow a malicious program to run if you simply browse to a booby-trapped Web page.

I don’t mention this to be critical. Similar patches are a regular fact of life for Windows and Apple operating systems, for Internet Explorer and Safari, for Acrobat and Quicktime and Flash and Java and Quicken and every other program on your computer that touches the Internet. Firefox and Chrome have serious security teams working to keep them safe and up to date, and both have built-in update mechanisms. It’s up to you to understand how security updates are delivered for your programs and make sure you don’t get caught by something that could have been prevented. Be careful out there!

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