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FAQ Article: How can I stay up to date with security news?

Keeping yourself up to date with security news is critical these days as new vulnerabilities are being discovered each day (and often being irresponsible disclosed, giving the software vendor no time to release a patch before the vulnerability information is in the hands of the evil hax0rs).

Lets use the recent FireFox vulnerabilities as an example (FireFox is a very nice/popular web browser). A few days ago, a 0-day vulnerability emerged in FireFox 1.0.3 (the latest release at the time). A 0-day vulnerability is a security flaw that the associated software or hardware vendor is either not aware of or is currently working on a fix, and no patch or product update is publicly available to protect against the exploitation of it.

0-day vulnerabilities are bad news for the users of the software that is affected - because it means that information (and often proof-of-concept code) is in the hands of the bad guys, and there is no patch that you can apply to your system to make yourself safe!

You might be saying - ok, well in this case all I do is stop using the software until a patch is released. That is a perfectly valid idea, but my question to you is - if you don't stay up to date with security would you know a 0-day vulnerability had been reported? How would you know that your fully-patched software was no longer safe to be using?

Being fully patched and making sure you update your software when updates are available, isn't enough these days. You need to keep up to date with security news/events in order to be as secure as possible. The difficulty is that you need to keep track of multiple security sites in order to make sure you are up to date. Sometimes SecurityFocus is the first to report a new vulnerability, sometimes Secunia, sometimes Help Net Security etc etc - so to be sure you get the latest news as soon as possible, you will need to keep track of all the main security sites.

In addition to this, you should also visit vendor websites and check for patches + news (for example, if you run phpBB forum script on your server, you should visit regularly to check for new updates).

So how do you easily keep track of news from all the leading security sites and vendors, without wasting time browsing all their sites every 5 minutes? The answer is - RSS !

RSS is a format for syndicating news and the content of news-like sites, including major news sites like Wired, news-oriented community sites like Slashdot, and personal weblogs. But it's not just for news.

Pretty much anything that can be broken down into discrete items can be syndicated via RSS: the "recent changes" page of a wiki, a changelog of CVS checkins, even the revision history of a book. Once information about each item is in RSS format, an RSS-aware program can check the feed for changes and react to the changes in an appropriate way.

RSS-aware programs called news aggregators are popular in the weblogging community. Many weblogs make content available in RSS. A news aggregator can help you keep up with all your favorite weblogs by checking their RSS feeds and displaying new items from each of them.

Wang Products has an RSS feed which you can use to keep up to date with all our latest news/faqs/software/music releases. When you open the feed in your web browser, it will probably look very strange! It's essentially XML.

Don't worry if you don't understand the format of RSS - all you need to do is get yourself a good RSS reader program, and it will do all the work for you + display the data in a much nicer email/news style format. A good RSS aggregator program will be able to grab any RSS feeds that you give it (at any interval you specify) and alert you when new items appear on the feed.

In my humble opinion, RSS feeds are the best way to stay up to date with security news. All you need to do is add your favourite security sites RSS feeds to your RSS reader, and you will then be alerted of any new vulnerabilities that are reported on ANY of the sites :)

There are a number of great RSS aggregator programs out there - but my favourites are:

  • Feedreader - A lightweight open-source aggregator that supports all major RSS formats. It is simple, lightweight, and free! It works under Windows 95 and later versions.

  • Liferea - Liferea is an abbreviation for Linux Feed Reader. It is a news aggregator for online news feeds. It supports a number of different feed formats including RSS/RDF, CDF, Atom, OCS, and OPML.

  • AmphetaDesk - AmphetaDesk is a free, cross platform, open-sourced, syndicated news aggregator - it obediently sits on your desktop, downloads the latest news that interests you, and displays them in a quick and easy to use (and customizable!) webpage.

My personal choice would be Feedreader for Windows, and Liferea for Linux. Feedreader is the best in my opinion because it has a nice interface, good features, and sits in your system tray (only bothering you when it has new feed items to show you).

However, the best feature of Feedreader is the "filters". It allows you to create filters which highlight certain feed items in a particular colour if they contain keywords. Why is this useful? well - say you use Firefox as your main web browser - you could create a filter to make it so that any security feed which mentions the word "firefox" gets highlighted in red - so it stands out :)

All I can say is - try some RSS programs out for yourself, and you will see how useful they are for keeping up to date with security (and any type of) news.

You can find many feeds already available to you on our security page. Here are the feeds I would recommend adding to your RSS reader (you should also add feeds from the vendors of software that you use):

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