(This column appears in the January 06 issue of PC Advisor)

How quickly malware writers can take advantage of newly disclosed holes was dramatically illustrated this summer when Zotob, Botzori and other worms came out within a week or more of Microsoft's posting of a patch intended to block such attacks.

These particularly sneaky little slitherers planted bots - programs which can turn your PC into a ‘zombie', forcing it to participate in mass net attacks such as DoS (denial-of-service) assaults or spam broadcasts.

Worm writers took advantage of a bug in Plug and Play. You don't even have to click anything to become infected. The worm sends a network message that enters your PC unbidden over the internet. It causes the system to crash in such a way that an attacker's program can then gain access to your PC - and even your home network. Anything that you can do, it can do.

Because such a widespread attack had not occurred for a long time, it was easy to become lax about installing security patches as they became available. But Zotob and its many variants may have done us all a backhanded favour by demonstrating that we're still vulnerable if we fall behind, even by a day or two.