If you use either the Windows Vista or Windows 7 operating systems, you'll want to pay attention to the latest critical update released by Microsoft. Also, users of the Cocoon browser add-on get some very good news today. Keep reading for the full stories.
First, let's take a look at the Microsoft issue. As is traditional, the patches came out on Tuesday, and one of them plugs a critical hole concerning Bluetooth in Windows 7 and Vista. This highly important patch is MS11-053. Without the patch, a computer is vulnerable to being taken over by a hacker sending malicious Bluetooth wireless packets.
In all, Microsoft released four security bulletins. They fix 21 additional issues, all of them less serious than the one described above, that affect all supported versions of Windows and Visio 2003. It's worth noting, though, that even the critical issues fixed by MS11-053 would be difficult for a hacker to exploit. Jerry Bryant, group manager for security response at Microsoft, noted that Bluetooth on a targeted device would have to be discoverable for this exploit to work, and that is not the default setting. There are enough other factors preventing such an attack from working, in fact, that Bryant said “It's a serious issue but I don't think it will be something we see active exploits on in the near future."
Marcus Carey, security researcher at Rapid7, disagreed. He seemed to think that enough people regularly rely on Bluetooth-enabled devices, or have Bluetooth set to "on" without realizing it, that such hack attacks could become a serious issue without the patch. "This should concern users who have internal Bluetooth devices or people that use after-market Bluetooth headphones, mouses, keyboards, and printers through USB," he said. "The problem with Bluetooth is that often people have their Bluetooth devices activated and are totally unaware that they are transmitting."
Microsoft also updated their Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool, and offered certain non-security-related updates. You can find more information from Microsoft's Security Bulletin Summary for July 2011 (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms11-jul.mspx).
For more on this story, visit: http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-20078836-245/microsoft-issues-critical-patch-for-windows-7-vista-users/.
Cocoon Add-on Now Free
Meanwhile, if you haven't heard of Cocoon and you're very cautious about your security when you browse online, you might want to check it out – and now is a perfect time. Cocoon is a browser add-on that sends the entire Internet through a proxy before it reaches you. This unusual service afforded users a high degree of privacy in their browsing. Another thing that set Cocoon apart from other add-ons was that it charged for its services – until now.
Temporarily, at least, users will be able to enjoy Cocoon's benefits for free. How exactly does it work? Appearing as a toolbar in Firefox, when Cocoon is active, any interactions between your computer and the Internet happen over protected SSL connections to Cocoon's servers. These servers boast extremely tight security. They use Security-Enhanced Linux, which was developed by the U.S. National Security Agency. Those who want to keep their browsing sessions as secure and private as possible will appreciate Cocoon's service.
The number of people using Cocoon is small when compared with other browser add-ons, though it has been installed more than 10,000 times. Cocoon's makers, Virtual World Computing, decided to make the add-on free for a number of reasons, but its rate of adoption was a major consideration. “We wanted to grow Cocoon and improve it,” noted Kris Washburn, vice president of marketing for Virtual World Computing.
While Cocoon has been around only since the beginning of this year, Cocoon CEO and co-founder Jeff Bermant wants to see significantly more users get on board. “We want to improve the whole user experience,” he said in an interview with CNET.
So how exactly will Virtual World Computing continue to make money from Cocoon? "We're considering premium features down the road, and an enterprise model," Bermant explained. Even so, he was quick to assure CNET that free users would always have their privacy; there will be "no tracking of any users online within Cocoon."
Bermant said that his company is looking at a number of ways to improve Cocoon. Right now, the service offers web proxy and an on-demand feature that allows for quick email anonymization. The next step is protecting downloads. The service currently blocks unwanted downloads, but Bermant observed that "The reality is that people still want to download things. So, we will be introducing in the near future antivirus scanning of downloads." The antivirus scanning will be provided by a third party whom Bemant declined to name.
What about Cocoon for platforms other than Firefox? The company has been working on a version for Internet Explorer for several months now, and it should be available “soon.” Users of the Android edition of Firefox will have to wait a little longer before they can enjoy Cocoon's online privacy service.
For more on this topic, visit: http://download.cnet.com/8301-2007_4-20078611-12/web-proxy-add-on-cocoon-goes-free/.
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