As the creators of Malware continue to push the bar and find new methods of infecting your computer, the “good guys” keep coming up with ways to defend you. Today’s modern processors are coming with built-in security features that help protect you from several threats. The creator of GRC.com, Steve Gibson, has created a freeware utility called SecureAble that will test your processor for three key security features – 64 bit, DEP, and virtualization.
64 bit: Not only do 64 bit processors allow you to access more than 4GB of RAM, they can also prevent Malware from infecting your system as well. To take advantage of 64 bit processing, you must be running a 64 bit version of Windows XP or Windows Vista (or linux). The 64 bit version of those operating systems prevent unsigned and potentially malicious drivers from being installed on your system.
DEP: A lot of malware can infect your system just by having you view a malicious website or open an evil email message. DEP, which stands for Data Execution Prevention, prevents most malware from automatically infecting your system without your knowledge.
Virtualization: Virtualization allows you to run an operating system within another one. For example, you could run Windows XP as though it were an application in Windows Vista. If you were to access the web through the XP system, the Vista host machine would be immune to any hacking attempts. Modern 64 bit computer chips have virtualization built into the hardware.
Currently, DEP is probably the most important feature. Virtualization and 64 bit are still being developed for personal home use. If your processor doesn’t support DEP, you may want to consider upgrading your PC. I should mention, though, that running DEP can cause stability issues for certain programs that rely on stack execution. But it’s a good idea to have it running just to prevent Windows services and other applications from being attacked.