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ActiveX : Definitions and Functions

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What ActiveX Does And Why You Need It

What is ActiveX?

ActiveX is a technology based on Microsoft’s Component Object Model (COM) architecture that is primarily used by software programmers to create object oriented software components that can be used across multiple applications.

ActiveX controls are based on this ActiveX technology and are used by Web developers to create ActiveX components that are used to incorporate various interactions in Internet Explorer web pages.

For instance, by using ActiveX controls, you can incorporate functionalities that enable you to play online music, display animations, and open PDF and Word documents.

The main reason ActiveX controls are so popular is that the technology provides developers with ready-to-use components to incorporate similar functionalities in their web pages and applications.

What Causes ActiveX Problems?

Security is the most critical issue associated with ActiveX technology.

This is because the technology was originally developed by Microsoft for single user-single computer use and was incorporated in applications by using the Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) technology.

However, later on the technology was extended and people started distributing ActiveX components over the Internet without giving any attention to security.

This is the reason why every time you download and install an ActiveX control on your computer, the control has rights to your system that are equal to the rights of the currently logged on user.

Therefore, if by mistake you download a malicious ActiveX control, the person or hacker who has developed the control will have the capability of causing the same amount of damage to your PC and network as the currently logged user.

How to Prevent Malicious ActiveX Attacks

Not much can be done to fix these security flaws because they are inherent in the basic architecture of the ActiveX technology.

However, over the years Microsoft has introduced several precautionary rules and regulations to control the spread of malicious ActiveX controls — for instance, ActiveX control developers need to get their components signed to inform users about who published the code and confirm whether the code they are downloading has been tampered with or not after it was signed.

Microsoft has also hyped up the security features in Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista operating system and Internet Explorer 7 web browser.

However, these security measures are often not enough and most of the time, you have to take certain preventive measures yourself to prevent malicious ActiveX attacks. For instance, you must:

  • Enhance the security of your Internet Explorer and Email program to prevent them from running ActiveX controls without your consent or stop them from running controls from certain websites.
  • Implement a firewall to prevent malicious codes from gaining access to your PC and your network.
  • Keep your antivirus and antispyware programs updated with latest definitions and run regular scans to prevent, detect, and remove malware infestations.

Other than the above security vulnerabilities, you may also receive ActiveX errors, when the components you download are not installed correctly on your system or there is some other problem such as a damaged registry or an incorrectly registered DLL.

For example, one of the most common ActiveX errors that users encounter is Active X runtime error 429.

The ActiveX error 429 occurs when the ActiveX component you are trying to download is unable to create an object on your PC.

You may fix this error by downloading and installing Microsoft Script Runtime from the Microsoft Windows Script components.

If this does not fix the error, the problem must be due to a damaged registry.

To fix registry problems, you may use a reliable registry cleaner tool to scan and remove any unwanted information from the registry and remove or repair any damaged or erroneous entries within it.

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