Perhaps the most important fact to remember about your security online is that it's a never-ending battle. Phishers are devising new tricks on the hour, and new strains of computer viruses and spyware appear daily. In addition to keeping your software tools up-to-date, it's critical that you keep yourself up-to-date with new developments in the world of security so you know what kinds of new scams to look out for.
You need to keep your antivirus and antispyware software current. However, it's also important that you keep your version of Firefox up-to-date as well, because the Mozilla Foundation will release security patches from time to time. Firefox automatically checks for updates once a day. If any are available, it downloads and installs them and notifies you upon completion, providing that the update is compatible with your extensions and themes. Virtually all critical updates (such as those that fix security flaws) are compatible, but major Firefox updates (such as from version 1.5 to 2.0) might be incompatible.
If you're using an extension or theme that is incompatible with the updated version, Firefox presents a list of the incompatible extensions and themes and asks you to confirm the update. Click the Show List button to see the list of incompatibilities. If you proceed with the update, Firefox automatically disables the incompatible extensions and themes until their authors release compatible versions. When compatible versions are released, Firefox discovers and installs them the next time it checks for updates, and then Firefox re-enables the extension or theme. That's because the update feature checks for updates not just to Firefox itself, but also to your installed extensions, themes, and Search Box engines.
If you don't like the automatic update features, you can disable them and check for updates manually. Even if you leave automatic updating on, you can still check for updates manually at any time. I discuss these options in the following two sections.
You can disable automatic update checking or installation by following the steps in this section. If you don't like the idea of anything being installed without your permission, it's all right to disable automatic installation. However, I don't recommend disabling automatic checking because then you won't be notified when important updates are available.
To disable automatic update checking or installation, follow these steps:
Click the Advanced icon at the top of the window.
Click the Update tab.
Do one of the following:
To disable automatic update checking, deselect the desired update types. For example, to disable automatic checking for updates to your installed themes and extensions, deselect the Installed Extensions & Themes check box.
To disable automatic update installation, under When Updates to Firefox are Found, select Ask Me What I Want to Do.
If you decide to disable automatic update checking, or if you want to check for updates more frequently than the Firefox once-a-day check, you can check for Firefox updates manually at any time by following these steps:
If an update is available, the Update Wizard appears and walks you through the update process, as shown in Figure 15-10. Otherwise, Firefox tells you that no updates are available. If no updates are available, click Finish and skip the remaining steps.
Figure 15-10: If you choose to install updates manually, the Update Wizard walks you through the process.
Read about the available updates and decide whether you want to install them.
If an update is incompatible with one or more of your installed extensions or themes, Firefox warns you and offers a list of the incompatible extensions and themes, which you can access by clicking the Show List button. If you decide to proceed with the update, Firefox automatically disables the incompatible extensions and themes until their authors release updated versions. You can discover and install these updated versions by repeating these steps, or you can wait until Firefox automatically discovers and installs them, provided you have not disabled the automatic update features (as I discuss in the earlier section, "Disabling automatic update checking or installation").
To install the updates, click Download & Install Now.
Firefox displays a progress meter indicating the progress of the update.
Click Finish to close the Update Wizard.
When the update finishes, you might need to restart Firefox.
Hundreds of new security exploits and attacks have been discovered between the time this book was published and the time you're reading it now. It's critical that you monitor the latest developments so you know how to protect yourself against new tricks. Plenty of online resources update daily. Here are a few of the top dogs of security:
Microsoft Security Home Page: Offers one-click access to the latest Windows updates, new tips for protecting your computer, and the ongoing blog of the Microsoft Security Response Team.
CERT Coordination Center: Run by the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, CERT is one of the world's most renowned security response teams, and for good reason: It was also the first. At its Web site, the team posts information about critical security flaws in a wide array of software.
US-CERT: The United States Computer Emergency Response Team was formed in 2003 to protect the United States Internet infrastructure against emerging attacks. Its Web site maintains a list of flaws in popular software and is updated daily.
Anti-Phishing Working Group: The APWG is a global task force of industry leaders and law enforcement officials working to combat phishing. Its Web site offers a wealth of information about the plague and how you can defend against it.