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Dangers of ActiveX and How to Disable It

Friday, February 3rd, 2006

If you are concerned with the security of your computer, then it’s time to be very concerned about ActiveX. Hacker attacks begin in lots of different ways, but all the most vulnerable places in your computer can be infected when a hacker manipulates ActiveX.

What is ActiveX?

ActiveX is a technology developed by Microsoft to enable websites to run Windows programs over the internet and make the whole experience more interactive. In the early days, the internet was built to be like a museum. You could view things, but there was no interaction between you and what you were looking at.

ActiveX and other technologies like it have changed all that. With ActiveX, a website can be interactive and allow you to use tools such as online mortgage calculators or online expense tracking tools. This technology has made the Internet much more exciting and robust, but unfortunately, in the wrong hands, ActiveX technology is easily exploitable.

Why is ActiveX Dangerous?

ActiveX controls are little pieces of code placed in web pages that download Windows compatible programs onto your computer. While some ActiveX controls download useful programs (like the mortgage calculator), hackers can also use ActiveX controls to turn your computer against you.

In the wrong hands, hackers can use malicious ActiveX controls to infect your email, sending viruses, Trojans and worms to every person whose email address you have.

Or an ActiveX control can be used to “dial-up” inappropriate websites that charge per minute and run up huge bills.

Or even worse, a hacker could use an ActiveX control to turn your computer into a “zombie”. Hackers accumulate huge armies of zombie computers and then use them to launch DOS (Denial of Service) attacks on large corporate or even government networks. Attacks of this nature are strong enough to shut down entire networks and bring corporations to a stand still. In the past, these attacks have been aimed at entities like Cisco Systems, CNN, the FBI and even NASA. Your computer could be part of it and you wouldn’t even know.

And once an ActiveX control is installed on your computer, it is always available to your browser, even without any interaction from you. An installed ActiveX control has every capability within your PC that you do (and sometimes more). So, from a hacker’s standpoint, anything goes once a malicious ActiveX control is installed.

How Can You Keep Yourself Safe?

ActiveX can be just as useful as it can be destructive, so it doesn’t really make sense to block it completely. With its latest service pack (SP2) release, Microsoft added some Internet Explorer features that check the electronic signature of ActiveX controls and then prompts you every time an unsigned control is trying to download onto your computer. But do you really want to be hassled with prompts and message boxes in your internet sessions?

With Secure IE Web Browser Security, you can let the Secure IE Security Manager take care of everything while you surf the internet hassle free. The Secure IE Security Manager will allow ActiveX controls for websites you trust and block controls from websites you don’t.

Secure IE also has the Secure IE Browser Shield that proactively filters out prohibited ActiveX controls that you may not know about. With the Secure IE Browser Security, you can cruise the Internet with confidence and leave the management of your PC security to us.

For more information, see Secure IE Browser Security.

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