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What Are the Risks of Installing ActiveX Controls?

written by: •edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 11/17/2010

In the first part of this article series, I talked about what ActiveX controls were. Now I'll discuss the potential risks involved with installing ActiveX controls and how to know if a website is safe.

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    Installing ActiveX Controls - The Risks

    Like anything you download onto your computer, you should be cautious about where it comes from. Because ActiveX components are just like any other program, there is the risk of people abusing these controls when programming them.

    As I mentioned in part 1, whether you always install ActiveX controls or never install them, it will be to your disadvantage if you always perform the same action.

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    Some issues you could encounter if...

    You never install ActiveX controls, you could be unable to:

    • Perform certain tasks on websites
    • Views PDF files within your browser
    • Perform computer maintenance tasks, such as system configurations or online virus scans
    • View Flash animation
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    You always install ActiveX controls:

    • Personal information can be stolen
    • Browsing habits can be collected
    • Your computer can quit working properly
    • Unwanted programs may be installed on your computer (viruses, spyware, annoying pop-ups, to name a few)

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    How do you know if a website is safe?

    Once you’ve established an understanding of what ActiveX controls are, and the pros and cons to installing them, how do you know if a website is safe or if you should install the ActiveX controls?

    You should view ActiveX controls just like anything else you download from the Internet or install onto your computer. Is it coming from a website you trust or one that is well known? If in doubt, don’t bother. It's better to be safe than sorry.

    Taken directly from Windows Help & Support:

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    A website might not be trustworthy if:

    • The site is referred to you through an e mail message from someone you don't know.
    • The site offers objectionable content, such as pornography or illegal materials.
    • The site makes offers that seem too good to be true, indicating a possible scam or the sale of illegal or pirated products.
    • You are lured to the site by a bait and switch scheme, in which the product or service is not what you were expecting.
    • You are asked for a credit card as a verification of identity or for personal information that does not seem necessary.
    • You are asked to provide a credit card number without proof that the transaction is secure.

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    Also note that a website should include information on what the ActiveX control is for. If this info is not included, be cautious.

    Continuing on to the last part of this series, you'll learn how to enable and disable ActiveX controls.

ActiveX Controls

What are ActiveX controls? Are they safe to install? How do you disable or enable ActiveX controls? How do you know if a website is safe? Find answers to these questions and more by reading this Computer Security article series.
  1. What Are ActiveX Controls?
  2. What Are the Risks of Installing ActiveX Controls?
  3. How to Enable, Disable & Remove ActiveX Controls