Risk
8/4/2009
03:30 PM
Keith Ferrell
Keith Ferrell
Commentary
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Turn Off Auto-Updates Before Hitting the Road

The convenience of automatic software updates can create major problems if apps are updated via unsecured public Wi-Fi connections. Hotspots make great hijack spots, and as a result, your mobile employees need to make some adjustments in their update settings.

The convenience of automatic software updates can create major problems if apps are updated via unsecured public Wi-Fi connections. Hotspots make great hijack spots, and as a result, your mobile employees need to make some adjustments in their update settings.One more rule for mobile employees:

Disable automatic software updates when you're on the road.

The reason? According to a presentation at last week's DefCon 17 hacker conference, some apps' auto-update processes can be hijacked by malware, and the hijacking is made all the easier when the user is connected through an already insecure public net.

We've talked here before about the dangers of using public access points for business purposes, but this latest concern is a little different.

The primary difference is that your mobile employees may not be aware that the auto-update process is taking place. According to the Radware researchers who made the DefCon presentation, update hijacks return malware to the update requesting program, bypassing the user altogether. (The fact that the user doesn't have to be involved in the update is, after all, the main appeal of auto-updates.)

The problem is that while some companies -- Microsoft, most notably -- include authentication procedures as part of their auto-updates, most do not.

The researchers implied that the number of vulnerable auto-updaters may be in the hundreds. They specifically named Alcohol 120, Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) PDF Reader, GOM Player, Hex Workshop, iMesh, and Skype as update hijacking candidates.

Time to spread the word to your mobile employees that they need to review the array of apps on their machines and disable auto-updates any time they take those machines into the wild open access spaces.

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