Microsoft is not just the developer Windows, Microsoft Office, etc. What many average PC users miss is that MS provides a host of free security tools that can keep hackers and cyber-criminals at bay.
One free tool that they recently released is Attack Surface Analyzer. Out of beta a few months ago, this fully developed and constantly updated application can take your PC security a notch or two above.
Attack Surface Analyzer – Who Should Use It
To be honest, judging the looks and functionality of this program, it’s clear that Attack Surface Analyzer is intended for software developers and IT administrators. However, everyone, from moderately advanced PC users to average end-users, can benefit from it.
By the way, should you get the message “You are attempting to install Attack Surface Analyzer on a system without .NET 4 or above” when installing Attack Surface Analyzer, just cancel the installation for the time being. Install the Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5, restart your computer, and re-initiate the installation procedure.
Step 1: After installing Attack Surface Analyzer, you will be presented with a window with some notes along with the options “Run New Scan” and “Generate Standard Attack Surface Report.”
Here, you can select “Run New Scan” to check the health of your system before installing another program. Should you pick this option, you will be prompted to select the directory where the report will be saved. Ideally, you should leave it in default. Otherwise, the tool might save the report and archive with an incorrect file extension.
Take note of the filename of the archive. Then click on “Run Scan.” On the following page “Collecting Data” you will see which areas that Attack Surface Analyzer is scanning. Once each entry is marked “Complete”, you will receive the message “Scan Complete”. Just close Attack Surface Analyzer for now.
Step 2: Install the new program/application that you want to use. Launch it, and then close it.
Step 3: Start Attack Surface Analyzer again. Like before, select “Run New Scan” to check your system’s health and save reports about its current system state.
Step 4: This time, however, you should enable the option “Generate Standard Attack Surface Report”. On the “Baseline Cab” pull-down menu, select the Archive, which you created in step 1, and select the “Cab” from step 3.
Under “Report Filename”, you can customize the filename that Attack Surface Analyzer will produce. Next, click on “Generate”.
Step 5: After Attack Surface Analyzer is done with the scan, it will look up the archives (“Cabs”) you created in Step 1 and 3. They are compared with each other, and the result is an extensive report.
Pull up that report, and you want to pay attention to the “Security Issues” field. This lists possible security issues related to the program you just installed. In the “Attack Surface” section, you will find security-related changes made to the system after the installation routine.
The report may sound “Greek” to not-too-advanced end-users. But Microsoft has compiled an extensive user manual and has a forum where you can get more help.