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How to Deal with Common ActiveX Issues

Author:  James Ricketts
Date:  2007.09.17
Topic:  Software
Provider:  TechwareLabs
Manufacturer:  TechwareLabs

How to Deal with Common ActiveX Issues

What are Active X Controls?

Active X controls are reusable software modules based on Microsoft’s ActiveX technology. They are used by developers to incorporate unique functionalities, such as pop-up menus, animations, and other interactivities in their applications and web pages. 

ActiveX controls are embedded within various software applications by using Microsoft’s Object Linking and Embedded (OLE) technology. OLE enables sharing of formats and information across multiple applications.

The versatility and ease-of-use has made ActiveX controls a preferred technology for Web developers. Today, ActiveX controls are used to develop highly interactive Web pages. For instance, ActiveX controls enable developers to create pages that can run Flash animations, play online music, display PDF documents, and many more other interactivities.


Security Threats Associated with ActiveX Controls:

The OLE technology that is used to link or embed ActiveX objects within applications is one of the main causes of ActiveX security problems. OLE was initially developed by Microsoft to enable sharing of components on a single computer used by a single user. Due to this, the security aspect of the technology was not given much weight at that time. However, when the same technology developed for single-user use was distributed over the Internet, OLE became a major security concern for the ActiveX technology. This is because when you download and install and ActiveX control on your system, then the control has the same rights over your system as the user who is currently logged on. So, a person with malicious intents can use the ActiveX control to cause damage not only your computer, but also to your network.

Dealing with ActiveX Issues:

Because most of the ActiveX security concerns are due to flaw in its core architecture, not much can be done to prevent them. Some of the precautionary measures taken by Microsoft to prevent Active X problems are:

  • Developed an ActiveX Controls registration system to help Web browsers to check the control for their authenticity before downloading.
  • Improved the security features in Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Internet Explorer 7.

Even if you are a vigilant user, there are a few extra measures you can take to keep your PC free from malicious ActiveX controls:

  • Modify the security settings of your Web browser and E-mail program to prevent the download of unauthorized ActiveX controls.
  • Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs updated and regularly scan your system with them to ensure that your PC is free of malicious programs.
  • Implement a firewall to block malicious intrusion by dubious ActiveX controls.
  • Download and install a reliable registry cleaner utility from the Internet, and use this utility to keep your system registry free from invalid entries added by malicious ActiveX controls and remove ActiveX errors.


ActiveX controls are a boon for developers because these controls provide them with ready-to-use components to develop their products. However, security lapses in the basic architecture of these controls, makes them a bane for many users. Vigilance and proper preventive measures are the best way to keep your PC free from malicious ActiveX controls and ActiveX errors. You must be careful about the freeware and shareware programs you download on your system, do not open e-mail attachments you are not sure off, and avoid visiting dubious websites. Keep your PC updated with latest security releases and patches and regularly run antivirus scans to remove malicious programs from your PC. Also, you may opt for reliable registry cleaner software to keep your system registry free from malicious ActiveX entries.

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