Have you received your virus-infected e-mail yet today? I don't know what's up, but in the last week I've received dozens of e-mails with a virus infected attachment or a link to a backdoor Trojan horse. There are three variations and all have one thing in mind--luring me into getting zapped with a nasty payload.
The first has a link to an authentic-looking CNN alert. Click the link (no, don't!--I was speaking metaphorically) and you'll land on a malware-hosting site that attempts to download a malicious executable onto your PC. Read "Fake CNN Alert Still Spreading Malware" for details.
I've also received a smattering of e-mails created by clueless cretins, dopes who haven't taken the time to run a spell checker on their even dopier messages. One tells me my FedEx package hasn't been delivered and asks me to click on the attached zipped Trojan horse to print the invoice. What caught my eye was the tracking number in the subject line, and I worry that some of you might not pay attention to the message and click the link.
But the most malevolent of the bunch has a "click to watch the video" link that purportedly leads to MSNBC's site, but actually sweeps you to a malware site that insists you need to update Flash in order to watch the video. Too many people probably do need to update their Flash applet, so this fool thing is a real temptation. But click "adobe_flash.exe" and you'll get nailed by the EncPk-DA Trojan. You can get a full explanation of the depth and breadth of this exploit in "Fake News Bulletin Spreads Malware."
Protect Yourself With These Security Freebies
Worried about malware? You should be, even though you know the drill. Heck, you've heard it dozens of times: Don't click on links in e-mail; if you're told your PayPal or Amazon.com (or whatever) account needs attention, go to the site directly by typing the site's legitimate URL into your browser. If an e-mail suggests you open an attachment, use your intuitive skills and common sense, and run like hell.
One tool too few people know about is SpywareBlaster, an application that blocks over 10,000 malware sites and tracking cookies while you're browsing. Read more about SpywareBlaster in "Ten Tools to Make Windows Shine."
Quick Aside: We have a whole section of PC World.com dedicated to security issues. Check it out.
Free Tech Support From Microsoft?
Recently lots of Windows XP users have been seeing Service Pack 3 offered when they click the Windows Update icon. But be careful: Not everyone who upgraded when it was first offered had a good experience. (Read "XP SP3's Aches, Pains, and User Complaints" for details.)
I installed SP3 on my wife's PC last week. The upgrade gleefully removed all traces of the network adapter, so I couldn't get online. I spent half a day trying to make it work. I finally threw in the towel and uninstalled SP3.
If the upgrade gives you grief, too, you can uninstall it like you'd do with any program. However, don't bother with XP's Add/Remove programs: Use Revo Uninstaller instead, a free and much better tool.
If you upgrade and things don't work as expected, you have another option. You can get free support from Microsoft. It's true, Microsoft offers free upgrade support--by phone, e-mail, or chat--for many of its products. But no surprise, finding the support sites isn't easy (and especially difficult if you can't get online) so here's a list of the phone numbers and other details.
Windows Vista Small Business: 866/613-0270. Vista Small Business Assurance is available for free to all small businesses purchasing a new PC with Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate from July 1 to September 30.
Windows Vista Service Pack 1: 866/234-6020. Free unlimited installation and compatibility support is available for Windows Vista, but only for Service Pack 1. This support for SP1 is valid until March 18, 2009. Availability of chat or e-mail support differs depending on your geographic location. For customers residing in North America or Canada, chat and e-mail support is also available.
Windows XP Service Pack 3: 866/234-6020. Free unlimited installation and compatibility support is available for Windows XP Service Pack 3. This support for SP3 is valid until April 14, 2009.
Internet Explorer 7: 866/234-6020. Support for Internet Explorer 7 installation and set-up is available based on your locale. Customers must be running Windows XP or Windows Vista in a nondomain environment.
This Week's Roundup of Time Wasters
Everyone, including me, spent too much time watching the Olympics. Now that they're over, I know you're itching for more--so here are some Sports Illustrated photos of the 100-meter butterfly finish. [Thanks, Tom L.] And don't miss some great images that you won't see on NBC.
Turn off the sound so you can bypass the sappy music, and enjoy a romp by a pair of baby moose and their mom.
Are you worried a terrorist might smash an airplane into a nuclear power plant? This apparently is an Air Force engineering test of a concrete barrier built to surround a nuclear reactor dome. The F-4 Phantom is attached to a sled (so it won't take off), pumped up to 500 mph, and slammed into the wall. Wow!
I know how much you like to waste time and feel like you're learning something. So try out one of the 11 physics games on Fantastic Contraption. [Thanks, Pete.]
Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of "PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer," available from Amazon.com. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.