Here we go again: There's a new round of nasty viruses floating around the Web--and into many e-mail in-boxes. The killer is that some of them are brilliantly designed, so much so that you could be duped into infecting yourself.
Well, actually not you; and no, I'm not being snide. My hunch is the majority of the people reading my newsletter are smart and reasonably well protected. That's primarily because you do the right things: You update your antivirus program, guard against e-mail attachments, and keep yourself aware by reading PC World and other magazines.
Despite all these accolades, I'm going to spend some time this week and next telling you about the latest threats and revealing more of my tricks to help you avoid spending a day untangling a virus mess.
Important Windows Patch News
But first, you need to know that Microsoft announced a serious Windows "remote code execution" vulnerability that affects everyone running NT, 2000, XP, and 2003 Server. Read about it in "Microsoft Plugs 'Critical' Windows Hole." Microsoft's site provides information to help you understand the three updates and figure out which ones you need. The two that most users need are Security Update 832894 and Security Update 828028.
Some of you may feel a little apprehensive when the site asks which of a seemingly half dozen versions of Windows you have installed on your PC. (Most XP users should download "Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack.") Here's how to find out for sure: Click Start, Run, type winver into the field, and click OK. Easy, eh?
If you want to bypass all this, just go to the Windows Update site--it'll scan your system, advise you of the necessary updates, and do the installation.
And listen, on the off chance you have any trouble installing the patch, Microsoft is offering free tech support. Contact Microsoft Product Support Services at 866/PCSAFETY (that's 866/727-2338).
Dig This: To boost sagging sales, Microsoft has started selling ad space on its Blue Screen of Death.
Novarg, and Mimail.R, and Mydoom, Oh My
And now you need to get up to speed on the latest virus threats.
I recommend you start with "How to Kill the Worm," a comprehensive piece by PC World Senior Editor Peggy Watt. You'll learn which worm is which, get insight into how they do their dastardly deeds, and find out where to go for removal tools.
Now let's get to specifics: You'll want to know about Mydoom, for sure, so be sure to read "Mydoom Takes Down SCO Site" and "Mydoom Attack Continues." Then read a report on what the Mimail virus has been up to lately: It's been very busy, masquerading as a message from PayPal. Lincoln Spector has some advice on handling the e-mail in "New Virus Appears as PayPal Scam."
Dig This: Many years ago a whale landed on a beach in Oregon and went to whale heaven. Apparently the authorities didn't have much experience removing dead whales, so they decided to, well, blow it up. Man, the blubber did fly.
Wanted, Virus Writers
Bounties and rewards are the latest in an industry attempt to cut off virus and Trojan-horse writers at the knees. The biggest kid on the block, Microsoft, is offering a $250,000 reward for helping to identify the jerk who wrote the Mydoom-B worm. I understand Bill will also send a team of Microsofties to fine-tune your version of Windows.
Microsoft's motivation to offer a reward for the Mydoom writer may be that the worm has specific targets. In addition to attacking the Unix vendor SCO Group, Mydoom tried nailing Microsoft itself; see "Mydoom Variant Targets Microsoft."
Unfortunately, even with rewards and bounties, and Windows XP Service Pack 2 in the wings, the news for the rest of the year isn't so good. We're bound to see more annoying viruses and worms. For some predictions of what's to come, read "Viruses, Worms Will Worsen in 2004"--and make sure to upgrade your antivirus program.
Quick Windows News: If you're still stubbornly using Windows 98, your luck just got better. You have until 2006 to use it and expect support from the Redmond Empire. Read "Microsoft Extends Win 98 Support" for details.
Dig This: The Vodafone site may be commercial, but its Flash animations are really cool, enough so that you'll easily kill a half hour poking around. My favorite? Scroll over Quick Launch, then select Entertaining. My second favorite is Working, also in the Quick Launch list.