Boy Computers Reports - Archives
Current EBC Reports are here.
08-27-02 - Windows security issues;
09-04-02 - Virus reminder; Windows
XP Service Pack 1; browser trick
09-09-02 - Windows XP security flaw
09-23-02 - Viruses and hoaxes
10-03-02 - Security reminder; virus
news; useful newsletters
10-16-02 - Internet Explorer security
flaw; Windows XP security flaw; alternate browsers
10-19-02 - Browser pop-up ads; how
to use Ad-aware; killing pop-ups
10-20-02 - Bogus Ad-aware information
10-25-02 - Windows (and other)
Updates; beware of e-greeting cards; make your own TeleZapper
11-07-02 - New worm; alternate email
12-09-02 - Making address labels;
12-14-02 - New Windows vulnerabilities
12-22-02 - Windows XP security flaw;
OE 6 & attachments; support lifecycle; web amusements
Back to top
01-02-03 - Ad-aware information; update reminder
01-16-03 - Nasty Lirva worm
01-20-03 - APC product recall; computer
02-12-03 - Reminder, Ad-aware 6.0, backup, spam
02-23-03 - Update on Ad-aware; patches and
upgrades; Bulwer-Lytton Contest
03-18-03 - Domain Names & websites; virus
and vulnerability warning
03-30-03 - Online music sites; spam
04-21-03 - Update reminder, backing up,
05-19-03 - Email warning; kid safety on the
05-22-03 - Quick virus warning; file extensions
07-09-03 - Update reminder, scam warning,
08-12-03 - Windows DCOM RPC Interface Buffer
08-27-03 - Postmaster bounces for email you
09-10-03 - More Microsoft vulnerabilities;
what's a person to do?
10-06-03 - New cumulative Internet Explorer
patch; why MS os's are vulnerable
10-16-03 - Microsoft security patches; iTunes
for Windows; Google
10-30-03 - Updated Microsoft security patches;
html in email
11-18-03 - Phishing and virus alert; Windows
12-12-03 - Phishing continued; shopping spots
01-13-04 - Windows 98 life extended;
01-28-04 - W32/Mydoom
02-02-04 - Microsoft February updates; foil
02-26-04 - Warning about Win Antivirus 2004
03-23-04 - Witty worm, Phatbot worm
05-01-04 - W32.Sasser, W32.Gaobot, legal music
05-07-04 - Sasser update
05-14-04 - Symantec vulnerabilities; May updates
05-29-04 - Passwords, end run around spyware
06-26-04 - New vulnerability in IE; HP recalls
08-01-04 - Patch for Download.Ject vulnerability
08-07-04 - Windows XP Service Pack 2
09-14-04 - Windows XP Service Pack 2 - further
09-19-04 - Arrrr, Matey! and general updating
09-25-04 - Updates for JPEG vulnerability
10-31-04 - Betrayalware; malware removal
01-01-05 - Happy New Year; Security comments
01-16-05 - Security updates support; antivirus
programs support; MS AntiSpyware Tool
01-24-05 - NT 4.0 Server End of Life; Service
Pack level; Recovery cd's
02-10-05 - Microsoft Patches; browser
vulnerabilities; Symantec vulnerabilities
02-27-05 - Program updates; email scam; beta
software; XP's System Restore
03-20-05 - LimeWire vulnerability; Anti-Phishing
consortium; MSN Messenger worm; Darwin Awards
04-28-05 - Firefox vulnerabilities; April
Windows Updates; transferring data from old computer to new one
05-02-05 - Instant Messaging viruses
05-14-05 - Firefox and iTunes vulnerabilities;
how you got the spyware
06-02-05 - MTOB worm; new Spybot and Ad-aware;
07-10-05 - MS and Claria; London Bombing Trojan;
IE vulnerability; more on getting malware
07-13-05 - New version of Firefox; Microsoft-Claria deal is dead; Patch Tuesday; Apple updates to Tiger
08-12-05 - Serious identity theft ring; Patch
Tuesday, Bulwer-Lytton awards
09-11-05 - No Microsoft Windows security
updates this month; vulnerability in Firefox/Mozilla; sleazy spyware;
Talk Like A Pirate Day
09-20-05 - Malware that spoofs Google; Opera
browser is now free; Microsoft Shared Computer Tookit; buying a new
10-12-05 - Patch Tuesday; fake Google Toolbar;
11-02-05 - Computer disaster planning
11-30-05 - New Firefox; IRS phish; Sober worm;
Sony DRM mess
12-02-05 - Critical Internet Explorer
12-08-05 - Evil screensavers; email management
Back to top
200601-02-06 - Windows
MetaFile (WMF) vulnerability - severe
01-26-06 - New Thunderbird; End of Life for
01-30-06 - Winamp vulnerability; Kama
02-01-06 - Online music sites; Safer surfing with
03-27-06 - IE vulnerabilities; Smitfraud
variants; Starforce DRM issues; free stuff from Microsoft
04-28-06 - Update about the Windows Update
KB908531; Common computer mistakes made by small business owners
05-27-06 - Vulnerabilitiy in Symantec AV; vulnerability in MS Word;
privacy breach at Veterans Affairs; Java update; Yahoo IM worm
06-13-06 - Yahoo webmail vulnerability; Windows Vista beta; passwords and other important things
06-15-06 - Microsoft End of Life information; Patch Tuesday
07-12-06 - Patch Tuesday; Image Shack warning; Microsoft End of Support reminder; computers and heat
08-09-06 - Google antiphishing; Patch Tuesday; RIAA tactics
09-16-06 - Wireless networking; MS Office updates; September 19th
10-12-06 - Spam scam; Eudora; Patch Tuesday; IE7
11-01-06 - IE7; Firefox 2.0; Windows Defender
11-03-06 - Vista - should you upgrade; Linux offer; online music store
12-11-06 - Various program updates; MS Word vulnerabilities; Patch Tuesday; Seasonal warning; good Internet safety site
01-02-07 - More on Vista; New Year's Resolutions; Happy New Year
01-03-07 - New F-Prot AV; Avast! AV; bug in QuickTime; 2006 Darwin Award; some websites I like
01-22-07 - Outlook and new Daylight Savings Time rules; more on Vista; buying a new computer
02-15-07 - Update on Daylight Savings Time
patches; Vista Grand Openings; Vista and antivirus programs; Vista
on new machines; Book review (learning Vista)
03-22-07 - Various program updates; more Vista links
04-03-07 - Patch for Windows Animated Cursor vulnerability
04-24-07 - Staying safe
online; Scammers exploit tragedy; Spring
cleaning; Thunderbird 2.0; Dell continues to offer XP as an
05-08-07 - Changes in Microsoft
email; Old-style worm spreading through usb thumbdrives; Save
your MS Office settings and other great tips from Lifehacker; Live
05-29-07 - Warning about false Microsoft email;
Apple OS X security udpates; Apple-related security
issue; Parental Control software (Windows)
07-11-07 - Patch Tuesday; useful Microsoft websites; buying a laptop for school
07-21-07 - Various security warnings; Windows Home Server
09-13-07 - Firefox extensions; Picasa Web Albums; Best Buy is Evil; Talk Like A Pirate Day
10-12-07 - eBay Desktop; Storm worm; Zlob trojan and codecs
10-24-07 - Online safety and security; Adobe Reader and Acrobat malware exploit
11-03-07 - The Consumerist's Ultimate Guide; IRS
warns of email scam; more on malware from codecs; "Really
Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"
12-16-07 - Fun things for Christmas
Back to top
- As you probably know, I live and breathe tech information. The
rest of you have Real Lives, and sensibly pay little attention to the
latest computer-related news. However, occasionally things come
up that I think would be of use or interest to my clients. I've
spoken to some of you and have found that quite a few people wouldn't
mind getting an email from me every once in a while alerting them to
security fixes, small tips/tricks, etc. So I thought I'd try
doing something along those lines. Now, I hate spam. I
think that spammers should have horrible, terrible, torturing things
done to them. And then they should be killed. So if you
don't want to get any of these Elephant Boy Reports, please email me
and I'll immediately take you off the list. Conversely, if you
know someone who might be interested, have them email me and I'll add
them. All that said, here's the first bit of information:
In the last week or so there have
been quite a number of
security-related issues with Microsoft Internet Explorer (your browser,
the software that enables you to view the web graphically).
Even if you don't use IE directly, it is tightly integrated into the
Microsoft Windows operating system (Windows 98, ME, and Windows
XP). There's no need to panic, but you should update your system
as soon as possible. This is easily and painlessly done.
Updating requires that you are connected to the Internet, so if
you use a dial-up connection, log on. Cable and DSL users are
already online. Somewhere in your Start menu, usually at the top,
is an entry for Windows Update. Left-click it. (You can
also find Windows Update from within Internet Explorer under the Tools
menu.) This will bring you to Microsoft's Welcome To Windows
Update site. Click on the Product Updates link. You'll get
notice that Microsoft is checking your computer to see what updates you
need. (You may need to click "I Agree" in a pop-up window first if you
haven't done this before, and that's OK - do it.) Windows XP
users get a slightly different message ("scanning for updates"), but
process is the same.
You'll then get a webpage showing
all the critical updates available
for your system. You can click "Show Installed Updates" if you
want to see more clearly what you need. Be sure all the
critical/security updates are checked and click the "Download"
button. Just follow the directions. The updates will
be downloaded and automagically installed on your computer.
You will probably need to reboot (restart) the computer. You
should check for Windows updates on a regular basis to keep your
operating system up to date.
- Just a note to remind you
all to be
sure your antivirus definitions are
up to date. Most of you will have this set to update
automatically. In the past week, I've removed the W32Klez virus
from four people's computers. This nasty piece of malware
continues to be Number One world-wide. Remember, Don't Panic
- just keep your antivirus running and don't open attachments.
And for those of you who like to Live On The Edge and open absolutely
everything (you know who you are), at least scan suspicious-looking
email first, OK?
**Windows XP Service Pack 1**
Microsoft is releasing the first
Service Pack for Windows XP (SP1),
available for download on September 9th. It will include all
the security fixes to date, as well as other enhancements.
You'll undoubtedly be able to get it at Windows Update, and if you
have a slow Internet connection (dial-up), can order the CD from
Microsoft for $10. Windows Update will be the easiest way to
install it, but if a) your connection is too slow; or b) you don't
want to deal with it, I'll be downloading it and burning it to a
CD. If you want me to install it for you I can, or if you'd like
me to burn a copy for you I will. If you come here with your
own CD-R blank, I won't charge for the burning (unless you want to
schedule something extra like training time, of course).
Naturally, if I come to your house I have to charge. My son
needs new glasses. ;-)
It is always good to apply Service
Packs, but it isn't anything you
have to rush to get, either. Microsoft's download servers will be
very busy on Sept. 9 and for the next few days afterwards, so it might
be hard to get in. Not to worry, it can wait until the traffic
If you are using Internet Explorer
as your browser (the program used to
view the Internet), to quickly enter the name of a site whose address
starts with "www." and ends with ".com", type just the middle part in
the Address Bar and hold down Control as you press Enter. IE will
fill in the "www." and the ".com" for you and take you there.
Example: To enter "www.elephantboycomputers.com", just type
"elephantboycomputers" in the Address Bar and then press Control +
- A major security flaw has been uncovered in Windows XP. IF
YOU DO NOT USE WINDOWS XP, THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO YOU.
Windows XP SP1 (Service Pack 1) is available through the Windows Update
site now. You can choose the Express Install, which will
examine your system and only
download and install the fixes you
need. Otherwise, it is a
133MB download for the whole enchilada.
SP1 will patch this new major
security flaw (along with a lot of
other fixes). However, if you cannot get through to the Windows
Update site (it will be busy) or have a dial-up connection, IMMEDIATELY
DO THE FOLLOWING TO PROTECT YOUR SYSTEM:
Do a search for the file
"uplddrvinfo.htm". It should be in
your C:\Windows\PCHealth\Helpctr\System\DFS. The easiest way to
get it is to do a search for "uplddrvinfo.htm" (enter the file name
without the quote marks, obviously). When you have found the
right-click on it and choose "Rename". Change the file extension
(the three letters after the ".") to uplddrvinfo.old or .bil or .xxx,
whatever three letters you like. I think it would be better to
not use ".old" but some other odd combination of letters. DO THIS
Then apply SP1.
YOU DO NOT HAVE WINDOWS
XP, THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO
YOU. Those of you
running Windows 95, 98, or ME still
should go to Windows Update and apply all necessary security fixes
because it isn't like you're running a secure operating system and
1. Viruses and hoaxes
I just got two emails and a phone
call regarding a well-known virus
hoax (jdbgmgr.exe, if you're interested), so I thought I'd remind you
all about some great sources of information for all things related to
viruses, hoaxes, email jokes, etc.: http://www.sarc.com/
Symantec Antivirus Research Center - excellent searchable database of
viruses, hoaxes, and jokes. The first place I look for virus
information. A good
antidote to virus/hoax scares.
1. Security reminder
2. Virus news
3. Useful Newsletters
1. Be sure to update your operating
systems by going to Windows
Update. There have been some new vulnerabilities reported this
week which affect all versions of Microsoft operating systems.
Frankly, if I sent you a report about every security bulletin from
Microsoft, most of you would go hide in the closet, which isn't
necessary (at least regarding your computing life - I don't know
about the rest of your activities!). Of course, some of you
would stand up and roar, "Bring it on!!! and you know who you are,
but that isn't sensible either, Tony ;-). If you actually want
more technical information about Microsoft, including security, the
best place to start is at:
You can sign up for security
bulletins there if you're
interested. Or you can just wait for Elephant Boy Computers to
send you an alert when necessary.
2. In virus news this week, the
ever popular W32.Klez has been pushed
out of First Place by a new version of the old favorite,
W32.Bugbear. Bugbear is a mass-mailing worm with keystroke
logging (to capture passwords) and backdoor capabilities. It
will attempt to stop antivirus and firewall programs. It
will come as an email attachment. If you have been to Windows
Update and updated the operating system and are running a good
antivirus with updated definitions, you are protected against
Bugbear. Of course, you should always practice Safe Computing and
not open email attachments. For more information about Bugbear, you can
look at this page at Symantec's website:
3. Some of you want to know more
about computers and technology.
The rest of you are excused now, and can go play. One great
resource is Fred Langa's LangaList. This is an email newsletter
sent out twice a week, packed with tips, information, and humor.
There are two versions of the LangaList, a free one and a
subscription one. I've been a LangaList subscriber for
years. Go to http://www.langa.com/
for more information. On the lighter side, another email
newsletter that is always interesting is Mike's List, from Mike
Elgan. Mike includes technology-related news, but his focus
is more on things like "Proof You Can Buy Anything On The Web" and
"Mystery Pic O' The Week". To check it out, go to http://www.mikeslist.com/ .
1. Internet Explorer versions 5.5
and higher security flaw
2. Windows XP security flaw
3. Alternate browser information
1. Another IE 5.5/6.0 security flaw
has been uncovered. Here
is the information and fix, taken from The ScreenSavers website at http://www.techtv.com/screensavers
"A security hole has been found in
Windows Internet Explorer that
allows attackers to execute scripts on a user. The vulnerability
when visiting websites that use the <frame> and <iframe>
HTML tags. To fix the hole, follow these steps in Internet Explorer:
In Internet Explorer, open Internet
Click on the Security tab.
Click on the Custom Level button.
In the Settings window, scroll down
until you find, "Navigate
sub-frames across different domains."
Select either Prompt or Disable."
2. This is for Windows XP/Windows
2000 users only. There is a
security hole in the Messenger service. This service does not
have anything to do with MSN Messenger, but rather is designed for
corporate environments where the IT Administrator might need to send a
message to all computers on the network, such as announcing a shutdown
for example. Home users do not need this service, nor do business
people not using this feature. To fix this hole, turn off the Messenger
service by going to:
Panel>Administrative Tools>Services. Under
"Name", you will see the Messenger service. It is probably set to
start automatically. Double-click on the Messenger service entry,
which will give you its Properties box. Click the Stop
button. Just above the Stop button, you will see a drop-down box
for Startup Type. Click on the little down arrow and change the
Startup Type to Disabled. Click Apply and OK, and close out
3. Your browser is the program that
allows you to "see" the Internet
graphically. Internet Explorer is the Microsoft browser that
comes built into Windows. For those of you who are *not* using
proprietary Internet software like AOL, you can try other browsers just
for fun. One of the best commercial browsers is Opera.
Opera comes in an ad-supported version for free, or no ads for
$39. I personally think Netscape is dreadful, but that is
another free browser. In the free browser category, Mozilla is
terrific. Each of these browsers has its advantages and
disadvantages. If you want to check them out, here are urls:
(click on Browser Central under Tools)
For more information about all the
different browsers out there (and
there are tons of them), check out http://browsers.evolt.org/
just for fun.
1. Browser pop-up ads
a. How to use
b. Killing pop-ups
I had a request to cover ways to
get rid of those dreadful pop-up ads
(or pop-under, which can be even worse since you don't see them until
you close out of the browser) you get in your browser while surfing the
Internet. The first thing you should do is be sure your computer
is free of spyware (I'm assuming that you are all running a recent
antivirus program with updated definitions and that you know your
computer is clean). Rather than waste bandwidth with a long
explanation of spyware in this email, I'll direct you to the Spyware
section of this website here.
a. The best way to clean up your
system is to use Ad-aware by
Lavasoft. Ad-aware searches your computer for adware/spyware and gets
rid of it for you. Here's the url: http://www.lavasoftusa.com/
. You should definitely read the FAQ and other information there,
but here's a simple explanation of how to use Ad-aware. First,
download Ad-aware. Second, download Refupdate (from the same
place). Ad-aware works on the same principle as antivirus
software, by using definitions to teach the main program about new
forms of spyware. It uses a "referencefile" to do this.
After you've downloaded and installed both Ad-aware and Refupdate,
start Refupdate. It will give you a drop-down choice of
servers. Choose one (or stick with the default), and click the
"Connect" button. Refupdate will check for a new referencefile,
download it, and install it for you. If there isn't one, it will
tell you. Exit Refupdate.
Start Ad-aware and put a check mark
in all the drives except A:\
(the floppy) to be scanned. Click the Scan button. Ad-aware
will scan your computer - it may take a while depending on how much
stuff you have on your drives. When done, it will tell
you. You can then look at all the spyware it has found.
Put check marks in all the boxes and click "Clean". You have
the option to back up the files marked for removal if you are
unsure. Ad-aware will get rid of all that nasty stuff, and then
you can close the program. The Ad-aware wizard is pretty easy
to follow. Ad-aware and Refupdate are free.
b. OK, now that you've gotten rid
of any spyware, you can address
killing pop-up ads. You'll either need to run third-party
(means it isn't built into Internet Explorer) or use a different
browser. Note that if you are using AOL, I have no idea if any of
the third-party software will work for you since AOL plays by its
own rules, and if your AOL access is by dial-up modem (not Bring
Your Own Access Broadband), I don't think you can use a different
browser. All I can say is that you can try it and see if it
1. POW! is one of the oldest
programs to kill pop-ups. You have to
train it, although it isn't hard to use. POW! is free. Get
it here: http://www.analogx.com/contents/download/network/pow.htm
2. Pop-Up Stopper has also been
around for quite a while. It
has a free version and a more full-featured version, along with other
programs of that type. Here is their site:
3. WebWasher is a free (for
personal use) browser add-on.
WebWasher also makes more comprehensive commercial software for
companies. Here's the url:
4. For those of you who don't mind
doing a bit of tweaking (and you
can always call Elephant Boy Computers if you break something
>heehee<), there is Proxomitron. Here is their website:
One thing to note: programs
like Proxomitron run as a proxy
server on your machine. In other words, they sit between your web
browser and the Internet to act as a filter. Some pages like
online banking sites won't work well with a proxy. If you find you
like Proxomitron (or others) but run into problems on some sites,
turning off the filtering software may be necessary for those
sites. As in all cases, be sure to read Help files and FAQ's
(Frequently Asked Questions) about any software you install.
If all that is too much trouble,
you can always use a browser like
Opera or Mozilla instead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Both
Opera and Mozilla enable you to quickly set a preference of not
permitting unsolicited new web pages to open. For instance, I
use Opera for most of my web surfing and one of my favorite
wallpaper sites (http://www.wallpapershq.com/accueil.php
if you're interested) has intrusive pop-up ads on every page (well,
have to pay for the website somehow). When I go there, I go to
File>Quick Preferences> and check "Refuse Pop-Up Windows".
When I'm done and want the ability to open new windows from within a
website again, I just go to the same place and check "Accept Pop-Up
Windows". Very easy. I believe Mozilla offers something
along the same lines. Opera has a free ad-supported version and a
registered version for $39. Here is the url: http://www.opera.com/ . Mozilla
is free and you can check it out here: http://www.mozilla.org/
Sorry for sending another report so
soon, but I got some relevant news
from the Lockergnome Tech Report when I opened my email this morning.
"Bogus Ad-aware Circulating
"Lavasoft has posted an
announcement to their forums warning of a
possible trojan application being hawked as a valid download of
a popular spyware removal tool. Information is still being gathered
about the fake, but the download file is named aware.exe or perhaps
other variations. Lavasoft has posted a list of authorized mirror
sites from which you should be obtaining AdAware."
Here is the url with the exact
And here is the information from
It has come to our attention that
there may be a new virus and/or
Trojan masquerading as a legitimate Ad-aware download. This file or
software is called aware.exe or some variation of this. We have also
been informed that there may be someone out there who is actively
using pop ups that seem as though they are from LavaSoft. Please be
sure to only download our products from the official mirror sites
listed on our downloads page: http://www.lavasoft.de/downloads.html
This includes ONLY the following
In the interim, we are aggressively
investigating these reports and are
looking at every example of them we can locate. If you suspect that you
have been infected with a virus of this name or are experiencing pop
that look as though they came from LavaSoft or seem to advertise any of
our products, please contact a Moderator or Administrator immediately
and we will investigate this. You can also send information to the
following address: firstname.lastname@example.org "
So if you got Ad-aware from a site
listed on their webpages, you're
fine. As always, download from known reputable sources, run a
current antivirus program, and keep those virus definitions up to
date. Back to our regularly scheduled Sunday morning.
1. Windows (and other) Updates
2. Beware of e-greeting cards
3. Make your own TeleZapper
1. Updates - We've had quite a few
new people join this mailing list,
so I thought I'd repeat the information about how to use Windows Update
from the very first EBC Report back in August. For those of you
who have been getting the Report for awhile, perhaps it can be a
refresher, or you can just skip this bit.
It is vitally important that you
keep your operating system and main
applications up to date so you have all pertinent security
patches. An easy way to keep Windows operating systems current is
to use Microsoft's Windows Update. Here's how you do it:
Updating requires that you are connected to the Internet, so if
you use a dial-up connection, log on. Cable and DSL users are
already online. Somewhere in your Start menu, usually at the
top, is an entry for Windows Update. Left-click it. (You
can also find Windows Update from within Internet Explorer under the
Tools menu.) This will bring you to Microsoft's Welcome To
Update site. Click on the Product Updates link. You'll get
notice that Microsoft is checking your computer to see what updates you
need. (You may need to click "I Agree" in a pop-up window first if you
haven't done this before, and that's OK - do it.) Windows XP
get a slightly different message ("scanning for updates"), but the
process is the same.
You'll then get a webpage showing
all the critical updates available
for your system. You can click "Show Installed Updates" if you
want to see more clearly what you need. Be sure all the
critical/security updates are checked and click the "Download"
button. Just follow the directions. The updates will
be downloaded and automagically installed on your computer.
You will probably need to reboot (restart) the computer.
You can also download security
patches for Internet Explorer (your
browser) and for Microsoft Office. Here is the url for Internet
Explorer downloads (there is no automatic scanning): http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/downloads/default.asp
. Pay particular attention to the Critical Updates, because these
are the most important. If you are unsure what version of IE you
have, click on Help>About and you will see the version number.
For Microsoft Office, go to http://office.microsoft.com/productupdates/
and at the top you will see a section called "Check for Office
Updates". Click the "Go" button next to "Scan my computer to find
Office updates I need". Just like the Windows Update site,
you can choose what you'd like to download.
For other programs that are
important to you (by Microsoft or by
other companies), go to their websites and look around for information
about patches and/or upgrades. "Support" is usually a good place
to start looking.
2. For those of you who like to
send those e-greeting cards, be sure
that you are doing this from a reputable site. I personally
include e-greeting cards in the category of "things that get an
automatic Delete" along with never opening attachments, but a lot of
people like them. Here are links to two stories posted on
The Register by the very talented people at Security Focus.
If you send (or receive) e-greeting cards, you should definitely
3. I read this bit in the current
issue of Wired Magazine and thought
some of you more adventurous types would enjoy it. Apparently you
can make your own TeleZapper, which is a device that you buy to attach
to your phone to fool telemarketers. Right up front, you should
know that I have not tried either the "real" TeleZapper or the digital
one detailed below, so YMMV ("Your Mileage May Vary") and yer takes
yer chances, although I don't see how it could hurt anything to
try. But anyway, according to Wired (I've paraphrased their
instructions), here's how to do it:
a. The TeleZapper fools
telemarketers' auto-dialing equipment by
emitting the ascending 3-note special-information tone you hear before,
"We're sorry, the number you have reached has been
disconnected." You can download this tone from the Web.
Do a Google search for "sit.wav" to find one of these audio files.
b. Open sit.wav in an audio-editing
program like Microsoft Sound
Recorder. Edit out the second and third notes. Save the .wav
c. Play that one note on your
computer and record it as the first
sound on your answering machine's outgoing message. Follow with a
clever greeting explaining to puzzled friends what you're doing.
d. According to Wired,
telemarketers will get the "zapping" tone and
take you off their lists.
1. New Worm Sighted
2. Alternate Email Clients
1. A new mass-mailing worm has
appeared and is struggling to take
away the top honors from W32.Klez and BugBear. It is known as
W32.Brid, but has aliases of W32/Braid-A and Win32.Braid.A, among
others. It comes as an attachment in an email called
"Readme.exe". Like so many other worms, it has its own smtp
engine so it can send out emails when you are online even if you
don't open your own email client. It will send itself to
everyone in your addressbook. You are not at risk if 1) you are listening
to the Elephant Boy telling you not
to open email
attachments; 2) you are running a current antivirus program with updated
virus definitions; 3) you have gone to Windows Update and Internet
Explorer Update and applied all security patches. You can
learn more about W32.Brid at this url:
2. Your email client is the program
you use to get your email.
Most people running a Windows operating system use either Outlook
Express or Outlook. Outlook Express comes with Windows and is a
basic email and newsreader (I'll cover newsgroups and newsreaders
in another report). Outlook is part of Microsoft Office,
which may have come preinstalled on your computer if you bought it
from a major manufacturer like Dell or HP. Microsoft Office is
not part of the operating system, but is a separate program.
If you use AOL, you use AOL's
proprietary online email reader.
Here, we'll take a quick detour to talk about the difference between
online email clients and offline clients. Those of you who
already know this can just skip this bit. ;-) When I send this
email to you, it goes to your mailbox, which lives on one of your
Internet Service Provider's ("ISP") computers (called a
"server"). When you want to get mail, you either log on to your
ISP and read the mail online (like with AOL, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, or
the Earthlink email client) OR
you download the mail
using an email program like Outlook Express ("OE") or Outlook.
If you are reading the mail online, unless you save the
email, it doesn't come and live on your
stays on the ISP's server until you delete it (or they empty your
mailbox after some specified amount of time). This means that you
can log in from any computer anywhere with an Internet connection and
read your mail. If you download
the mail with OE or
Outlook, it now lives on your
computer and is gone from
the server. Most regular ISP's, like Earthlink, AT&T Global,
Compuserve, etc., have a place to log in and read your mail online,
which is convenient for when you're not home. The advantage to
using an email client to download your email is if a) you're using
dial-up and don't want to stay online to read mail; b) you can apply
spam/content filters to email that are available in the email client;
c) you can use whatever email client you like.*
*Unless you use AOL exclusively, in
which case you might as well skip
the next bit about other email clients because you can't use another
email program to get your mail. Sorry.
Why use another email
program? 1) Malware writers know that
most home/small office computer users run Windows and therefore are
probably using OE or Outlook to get mail and often target those
particular email clients. A different email program might have
less vulnerabilities to certain viruses/worms. This DOES
NOT MEAN YOU CAN GET CARELESS AND OPEN ATTACHMENTS IN OTHER EMAIL
PROGRAMS BECAUSE YOU ARE STILL RUNNING A WINDOWS OPERATING SYSTEM.
2) A different email program might have capabilities that you
particularly like. 3) Just for fun.
Fred Langa just did an article on
other email programs. You
can find it here: http://www.informationweek.com/LP/columnists/langa/2001/04.htm
The Mozilla browser also has an
If you decide to try another email
program, you don't have to
uninstall OE or Outlook. You can have more than one email program
on your computer at the same time. Just download and install the
new one. In order to set up the new program, you'll need to know two
pieces of information:
1. Address of your ISP's incoming
mail server, usually something like
2. Address of your ISP's outgoing
mail server, usually something like
Your email address stays the same,
of course. That doesn't
change because you are using a different email program - the email is
still living on your ISP's server; you're just using a different
piece of software to get it. You can get the pop and smtp
addresses from somewhere in your ISP's webpages or look at the
account settings in OE or Outlook and copy them down.
1. Making address labels
2. Newsgroups - what are they?
1. My brother saw my return address
labels (they have the ever-cute
picture of The Elephant Boy on them with my address) and wanted to know
how to do it. He also thought The List might be interested, so
here you go:
You can easily add Avery label
extensions to Microsoft Word, as well
as a Wizard to help you create simple labels. If that is enough for
go to http://www.avery.com/us/software/index.jsp
and download the Avery Wizard (free). There are also free
templates and clip art for download. If you want to be a little
fancier, then get the Avery DesignPro program from the same
page. I believe Avery used to charge for this, but it is
now free and very easy to use. When you install
DesignPro, there is a point where
the installation program cautions
you that you have to have a database for certain functions. Truthfully,
I'm not sure what they mean and it hasn't caused me any problems.
Just click "OK" (or "yes", whichever it is) and continue.
Once DesignPro is installed, check
out its Help file for instructions.
It is very easy and
I created Elephant Boy and home
return address labels within minutes. The nice thing about the
DesignPro program is that you create a Master label, and then can add
however many variations of that label you want. For instance, I
put the Elephant Boy's picture and my address on the Master label,
leaving the first line blank. Then I created two sub-labels -
one with my name in the first line for personal labels and one with
Elephant Boy Computers there instead for business labels.
DesignPro may even have more capabilities that I didn't explore because
I just wanted to get the job at hand done quickly. Have fun!
2. Newsgroups - Some of you may
have heard the terms "newsgroups"
and/or "Usenet" and wondered what they mean. As you probably
the World Wide Web (www.) is not the entire Internet. There are
email and other servers, and there is Usenet. Basically, there are
thousands of newsgroups where people post text messages (although
there are newsgroups dedicated to posting binary files) regarding a
particular area of interest. Although Usenet has been around for
really long time, it is a thriving area of the Internet. Rather
than take up your time here in this email with all the details, I
suggest you go to:
for a comprehensive discussion of what Usenet is and How You Do
It. You can look into various newsgroups that might interest you
by using Google Groups' web-based interface. If you decide
you'd like to really get into Usenet deeper, you'll be far better
off using a dedicated newsreader. I know you are all using
Microsoft operating systems, so you already have a newsreader
built in - Outlook Express. OE isn't generally considered a
very good newsreader by
Usenet veterans, and there are
alternatives. Netscape Communicator (http://channels.netscape.com/ns/browsers/default.jsp)
includes a newsreader, as does the Mozilla browser (http://www.mozilla.org/). Another
good free newsreader is Gravity. Gravity is old and is no longer
supported, but it does the job admirably. It can be a bit hard to
find, but I found it here, along with some good information on how
to use it: http://cws.internet.com/news-gravity.html
Another popular Windows newsreader
is Forte's Agent. Agent is
$29, I believe, but there is a free version. Here is a link to
Forte's home page:
Although there are free news
servers on the Internet, generally your
ISP will provide free access to newsgroup servers as part of your
Internet service. You should go to your ISP's webpage for
instructions on how to set up a newsreader for their newsserver.
Some companies, such as Microsoft, provide their own news servers.
You should be aware that Usenet is
often extremely "wild and wooly"
and most newsgroups are not moderated. So if your sensibilities
are tender, be warned up front. Like any society, Usenet has
behavioral conventions. The best way to participate in a
newsgroup is to subscribe, read the group for quite a while, read
its FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions, which are normally posted in
each group on a regular basis), and get a generally sense of the
culture of the group before posting. This is called "lurking"
and is a sensible thing to do. A great compendium of links
about Usenet is here: http://www.faqs.org/usenet/index.html
Basically, if you don't want to be
1. Don't top post
2. Quote sensibly
3. Don't attach binary files in
4. Set your line wrap to 72
5. Don't use html to post - plain
text is what is needed
6. Read the FAQ's.
In case you're interested, here are
the newsgroups to which I
(from my ISP's newsserver)
(from Microsoft -
1. New Windows vulnerabilities
Paul Thurrott (one of the
best sources for Windows information),
had this to say in today's WinInfo Update Newsletter (since I couldn't
have said it better, I'm quoting him directly):
"MICROSOFT VULNERABILITY OF THE WEEK
So many Microsoft
security vulnerabilities pass by me
each week that I hardly pay attention anymore, but a series of
vulnerabilities this week, including a particularly virulent one based
on the company's Java Virtual Machine (JVM), is worth noting. You're
already protected if you're using Auto Update (and you ARE using Auto
Update, right?) but the JVM vulnerability affects all Windows
versions since Windows 98 and could let hackers infiltrate a PC and
take it over. Microsoft says that no users have been compromised to
date, but we know this sort of thing is only fun until someone gets
hurt. Head on over to Windows Update and grab the latest critical
updates if you aren't sure whether you're already protected."
If you're interested in subscribing
to WinInfo Update, go to http://www.winnetmag.net/ and
click on WinInfo News. It's listed under Resources. There
are lots of other excellent resources on the Windows & .Net
Magazine site, too.
1. Major security flaw in
2. Outlook Express 6 doesn't
allow you to open attachments
3. End of the line for
Windows 3xx, Windows 95, and NT 3.5x
4. Web amusements - online
1. A few days ago, Microsoft
issued a report regarding a major
security flaw in Windows XP. Earlier operating systems (Windows
and ME) are not affected. Briefly, the vulnerability is in the
Windows shell - the part of the operating system that not only provides
your familiar Windows Desktop, but also creates your working
environment. An attacker could host a specially created .mp3 or
.wma file on a website; if the user hovered his mouse over the icon
for the file or opened the shared folder where the file was stored,
the vulnerable code could be invoked. The .mp3 files are
popular music formats, and .wma files are played on the Windows Media
Player. Microsoft considers this a critical flaw. You can
find the technical explanation on Microsoft's Tech Web
A patch is available through
Windows Update, and if you are keeping
your system updated regularly, then you are protected. It seems
like there are security announcements for Windows every day, but
because so many of you have teenagers who love to download music, I
thought this one was worth a "heads up".
2. Even though the Elephant Boy has
constantly warned you of the
dangers of opening attachments, (Don't Do It!) some of you feel you
or like playing with fire. By default and as a security precaution to
avoid saving a virus to your computer, OE 6 doesn't let you save
files locally. To enable file saving within OE, perform the following
a. Start Outlook
b. From the
Tools menu, select Options.
c. Select the
d. Clear the "Do
not allow attachments to be saved
or opened that could potentially be a virus" check box, then click OK.
3. It's now official - as of
December 31, 2002, all Windows 3.xx,
Windows 95, and NT 3.5xx operating systems have come to the end of
their supported life cycle. This doesn't mean that if you are
still running one of these older systems that they will go *poof*
and disappear on January 1st, but it does mean that there will be no
official support (which includes patches) for them from
Microsoft. Here is the link to Microsoft's support lifecycle
They're dead, Jim.
Back to top
EBC Current Reports
1. New Ad-aware information
2. Update reminder
1. There is some updated
information for those of you who are using
Ad-aware from Lavasoft to rid your computer of spyware. Although
Ad-aware has been recommended for a long time, the current version
(5.83) is no longer being updated. Lavasoft has stated that they
are doing a complete rewrite of the program, and will make it
available to paying customers in January, with the free version
available sometime in February. The general consensus among
security folk is that you'd do best to uninstall Ad-aware, and I'm
going to concur. Remember, you do this from within the Control
panel applet Add/Remove Programs.
From everything I've seen, Spybot
S&D is the best choice to remove
spyware/scumware. You can get it from their website here: http://security.kolla.de/ .
A great resource for information
about spyware is the SpywareInfo
website here: http://www.spywareinfo.com/
. They put out a weekly email report which is extremely useful.
2. Since it is a new year, I'm
going to remind you all to keep your
systems safe and up-to-date by:
a. Going to Windows Update
for operating system patches
b. Getting updates for
Internet Explorer and Outlook Express
c. Be sure you have a current
antivirus program and keep its
virus definitions up-to-date.
1. Nasty new worm - Lirva
I've been very busy lately (hurray
- the children can eat!), mostly
with disinfecting and repairing computers that have contracted viruses,
worms, Trojan horses, and various kinds of malware. The latest
beauty making the rounds is the Lirva worm, named after the pop singer
Avril Lavigne. The worm infects users of Microsoft
Outlook. It can disable antivirus and firewall software, and
overwrite (this means "seriously ruin" in non-technical language)
Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, leaving the file sizes at
0 kb. This means those files are unrecoverable, so the victim had
better have clean backups.
Lirva spreads through the KaZaA
file sharing network, Internet Relay
Chat (IRC), Instant Messenging programs, and email. Once
Lirva sends a copy of itself to everyone in the user's address book,
using its own email server. Lirva also collects address
information from other files on the user's system. Lirva also
collects passwords from the infected system and emails them to an
address presumed to be located in Russia. On the 7th, 11th, and 24th
day of each month, Lirva automatically opens a Web browser on
infected machines to Ms. Lavigne's website.
The worm can arrive with various
subjects, message body content, and
file attachments, including one that pretends to be a message from
Network Associates (the makers of McAfee Antivirus) regarding a
security problem with Microsoft IIS. You should know that Microsoft
never distributes its security patches through email to end users,
and Network Associates doesn't email Microsoft patches either.
a. Be sure you have a current
antivirus program installed.
b. Be sure that program's virus
definitions are kept updated.
c. Be sure you are backing up your
data on a regular basis.
1. APC product recall
2. Computer cleanliness
1. I know some of you are using an
Uninterruptable Power Supply.
American Power Conversion (APC) has recalled some 2.1 million units
produced under the Back-UPS CS line, specifically the CS 350 and CS 500
models in both 120-volt and 230-volt varieties. Eight units have
been reported to seriously overheat. Symptoms included a
melted outer casing and probable failure of the units. Compare
the first six characters of your UPS's serial number to see if your
model qualifies for replacement:
Units with an "R" at the end of the
serial number are not included in
the recall. Here is a link to the article on the manufacturer's
If you don't know what I'm talking
about, you don't have a UPS and
shouldn't worry about it!
2. In all our talk about keeping
our computers fit and happy, I've
neglected to mention one very important factor - cleanliness. It
is a truism that a computer's most dangerous enemies are dirt and
heat. We often talk about heat-related problems and that is why
there are fans inside a computer case. The processor, RAM, and
video card (especially modern ones) are the biggest producers of heat
and that heat has to be dissipated so components don't suffer.
However, dirt is a culprit in hardware failures, too. Computers
attract dust, no matter how good a housekeeper you are. Dust can
form a blanket over fan openings, keeping heat inside. Dirt can
damage delicate electronic components, and/or prevent them from making
proper contact with the motherboard (the main circuit board that
everything inside your computer plugs into). I've been in some
very dirty environments, and when I've opened the computer cases
have found literally drifts of dirt inside. Not good!
Keep your computers in a clean
environment. Don't smoke around
them. I don't allow eating in my computer room because sooner or
later someone is going to spill soda where it shouldn't go. Don't
let your cats sleep on the monitors. I'm guilty of letting my cats
into the computer room because I love to do my morning surfing with
Sonny the 16-lb. tabbycat on my lap, but it definitely adds to the
cat hair buildup. Look at your computers, particular the back
parts. Is there a lot of dust on the case fan? The best
way to clean a computer is to unplug everything, open the case, and
*carefully* blow away the grime using a can of compressed air. I
usually take a computer outside to do this. Using a vacuum
cleaner is not a good idea, because vacuums can create static
electricity, which can be fatal to computer components. For this
reason, using those fluffy dusters that use static to attract dust is
not a good idea. I have used one around the monitors, printers,
and keyboards, but keep it away from the computers themselves.
2. Ad-Aware 6.0
3. Back-up refresher
4. Spam tip
1. This is a reminder for all of
you to update your operating systems
by going to Windows Update. There have been quite a few new
vulnerabilities found in Internet Explorer and Windows operating
for which Microsoft has issued patches. Remember, you can get to
Windows Update from a shortcut on the top of your Start menu or from
within Internet Explorer (Tools>Windows Update). Those of you
running Windows XP will have been prompted by the automatic Windows
Updater, which appears as a small blue globe in your system tray. Also,
don't forget to update your virus definitions by running Live Update
the equivalent for your specific software) from within your antivirus
program. In most cases, automatic updating should be turned on, but it
doesn't hurt to check it manually.
2. Lavasoft's new version of
Ad-Aware - 6.0 - is now out. There is a
free version and a paid version. I haven't tried it yet, but
reviews indicate that Spybot Search & Destroy still finds and
removes more instances of spyware/adware than Ad-Aware. However,
Spybot does have a "geekier" interface and may be more difficult to
use. You can download them both and use them both for complete
coverage if you like. I plan to use both on my Windows boxen since I
have a "belt-and-suspenders" attitude about computer security.
Download these programs here:
3. Back up your data! The best way
is to burn your data on a CD-R disk.
Remember, you do not need to copy programs which you can reinstall from
the original CD's. You want to save your data - things *you* have
created like documents, spreadsheets, financial information. I
recommend saving files in one place - the My Documents folder is an
excellent choice - so backup is quick and easy. To keep things neat,
can make new folders in My Documents and name them something useful
(eg.,Schoolwork; Church; Recipes; Great American Novel, Plans For World
Domination, etc.), just as if you were labelling file folders in a
Microsoft programs like Office and
Money use the My Documents folder as
the default saving location. Other programs, such as Quicken or
QuickBooks, may not. You need to explore these other programs and know
where your data is being saved. If you use industry-specific software
in your business, you should call their tech support and find out
what part of their program needs to be backed up. You can also save
your Internet Explorer Favorites (bookmarks in Netscape) from within
your browser by exporting them and saving in My Documents. Save
programs you've downloaded from the Internet by keeping the installer.
On a regular schedule, back up
everything you've saved by burning to a
CD-R disk, copying to a Zip disk, or (worst choice but better than
nothing) to a floppy disk. After you've made your backup, you can
delete the downloaded program installers and any documents you don't
need from your hard drive. I wouldn't get rid of any vital files
(like financial ones) just in case the backup isn't good. It's a
smart idea to test your backup regularly, too. Keep your backup in a
safe place, not sitting next to your computer! Especially, don't
store floppy disks next to a monitor. Monitors have a magnetic field
and data is stored on floppies on magnetic tape, just like the old tape
cassettes. Leaving floppies next to a monitor will destroy the
data and make blank disks unusable.
If you don't know how to backup or
need help, call Elephant Boy
Computers for some training. You will not be happy if your hard drive
dies or a virus destroys Windows and all your important files are
4. The Register has an interesting
article this morning about how
spammers are inserting tracking codes into their email messages and how
to deal with this. Basically, don't open spam but simply delete
it. Spammers should die horribly! Read the article here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/55/29289.html
1. Update on Ad-aware,
2. Patches and updates
3. Bulwer-Lytton 2002 Contest
1. The latest SpywareInfo
newsletter has additional information about
the new version of Ad-aware. As you know, Elephant Boy Computers
recommended that you uninstall any version of Ad-aware that was lower
than 6.0. According to SpywareInfo, the new Ad-aware 6.0 Build 160
still had problems removing NewDotNet, CommonName Toolbar, and
Webhancer. Reportedly, these issues have been fixed in Ad-aware 6.0
Build 162. If you are using Ad-aware 6.0, you can find the Build number
by starting Ad-aware and looking at the very lower right-hand corner of
its interface. Mine says "Ad-aware 6 Personal, Build 162". If you are
using Ad-aware 6.0, be sure to update. Do this from within Ad-aware by
clicking on "Check for updates now" in the lower right-hand corner of
the interface above the "Start" button. SpywareInfo also has a
very good article about the NewDotNet software often found on systems.
SpywareInfo is an excellent source of information about spyware/adware
and privacy rights. The website is here: http://www.spywareinfo.com/newsletter/archives/feb-2003/22.php
2. You know that you should
regularly visit Windows Update to get
patches for your operating system and Internet Explorer, but you should
also check for patches on other software you use. Patches and updates
fix problems with programs such as security vulnerabilities and/or
hardware issues, and sometimes provide new features. Patches and
updates are free. Upgrades are more extensive and give a "new
and improved" product. Depending on the software manufacturer, upgrades
may or may not be free. Usually you will have to pay for a new version,
although there may be an upgrade discount. In most software for
you can see the version of a program by going to its Help menu and
Games in particular get patches
almost as soon as they are released. It
is very expensive to develop a new game, and the publishers regularly
push the product out the door before it is really "cooked" in order to
get to market. Also, to be fair, there are so many possible
of hardware and software on Windows systems that, even with extensive
beta testing, the game manufacturers cannot anticipate everything that
might go wrong with their program on every computer. Whenever you get a
new program, you should always go to the manufacturer's website and
check for updates and patches. This includes drivers for hardware you
might buy, too. The cd-rom that you get in the box was usually made
months before you bought that new sound card or program. Almost
every patch and/or update will have a "readme" file with important
information about it. Read it!
3. The Bulwer-Lytton 2002 Contest
winners have been announced. For
those of you who don't know, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton was the author
who wrote the immortal book, "Paul Clifford" (1830). It is generally
agreed that this book has the worst opening sentence of all time:
"It was a dark and stormy night;
the rain fell in torrents-- except at
occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind
which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies),
rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame
of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
Contestants submit a sentence in
the same vein. Those of you with a
literary sense of humor can find the website here:
1. Domain Names, Websites - How
2. Virus Warning/New Vulnerabilities
1. It occurred to me that some of
you might be interested in knowing
about how to get domain names and websites. For those of you who
couldn't care less, skip this part!
There is a great non-technical
explanation of the Domain Name System
by InternNIC, the Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers, on their website. Here's an excerpt, but if you want to know
more, go here: http://www.internic.net/faqs/authoritative-dns.html
"What is the
Domain Name System?
"The Domain Name System (DNS)
helps users to find their
way around the Internet. Every computer on the Internet has a unique
address just like a telephone number which is a rather
string of numbers. It is called its "IP
address" (IP stands for
"Internet Protocol"). But it is hard to remember everyone's IP
address. The DNS makes it easier by allowing a familiar string of
letters (the "domain name") to be used instead of the arcane IP
So instead of typing 220.127.116.11, you can type www.icann.org. It is a
"mnemonic" device that makes addresses easier to remember.
"Translating the name into the IP
address is called "resolving the
domain name." The goal of the DNS is for any Internet user any place in
the world to reach a specific website IP address by entering its domain
name. Domain names are also used for reaching e-mail addresses and for
other Internet applications."
There's a lot more, but you can
check it out yourself. Your Internet
Service Provider probably offers you space on one of their computers to
make a Homepage website. Because you are using their
domain (like "aol.com"), your address will be something like
"www.aol.com/~myusername/homepage.htm". But you can have your own
domain. Here's an analogy that I think will help make the whole process
clear: think about getting a domain name and setting up a website
as if you were starting a business. I'll use my domain,
"elephantboycomputers.com", as an example. You register a domain name
with an company that is accredited by ICANN.
There are quite a few and rates vary. This action is like when you form
a company and file papers
with State and Local governments so you are "official" and your name is
unique (for instance, you can't call yourself "Macy's" because that's
already taken). I have my domains registered with my hosting company, HostingMatters, which is an
excellent hosting service.
OK, so now I own
"elephantboycomputers.com". What do I want to do with
it? I need a public presence, or it's like being in business without a
storefront. No one knows you exist. So you find a company that will
a website for you. This is like renting a storefront, and HostingMatters is my
The DNS for my site is set to Hosting Matters' servers so when you type
into your web browser, you'll be able to find my website.
Now I have to fill my "store" with
something, so I create webpages and
save them as files on my hard drive. Because I'm not a website
I use a simple program to make the webpages - Mozilla Composer. Now I
copy the files to the folder HostingMatters has for me on their
by uploading them. And that's all there is to it! Well, not really, but
this gives you an idea of what's involved in getting your own domain
2. Over the last few weeks, people
have been getting bitten by an email
with a virus attachment that is masquerading as a security update from
Microsoft. Microsoft never
sends out patches in
email. There have been
new vulnerabilities found in
various Windows operating systems (most recently one for Windows 2000).
You should patch your operating system by going to Windows Update. And
you know not to open attachments. But I
just thought I'd
warn you about this latest trick by the bad guys. Remember, for virus
and hoax information go to www.sarc.com
1. Online music sites
1. I've had a lot of clients
needing major clean-up of their
machines lately, mostly due to viruses and/or spyware-adware
infestations. In most of those cases, KaZaA Media Desktop, WinMX, or
some other kind of file-sharing software was installed. Now, all of you
have heard my standard "don't do this" lecture; if you haven't or
strangely want to experience it again, just go to the spyware and file-swapping sections.
I thought I'd do a bit of research
on how to download music legally. Of
course, if the artist has his/her own website and offers songs for
download that's one way, but going to multiple websites for all the
music you'd want to get would be tiresome. There are online music
subscription services which might be a good way to go. CAVEAT AND DISCLOSURE: I don't
use any of these and I can't vouch for them one way or the other.
have to do your own research. That would include
reading the website's FAQ's
(Frequently Asked Questions), Privacy
Policy, and ALL the fine print.
can check out if the website in question has been rated by other users
at sites like: www.rateitall.com
and www.epinions.com and/or just
do some research by talking to friends, reading reviews, search the web
with Google, etc. Using Google, I entered the search term: "music
subscription site reviews" and came up with these articles which might
That said, here are links to some
online music subscription services,
listed in no particular order:
As of 1/14/04, I believe eMusic is no more. However, iTunes and Rhapsody are the biggest players in
the online music market right now.
2. I have a small section on junk
mail - spam - on the website here:
but I'd just like to remind you to NEVER
RESPOND TO SPAMMERS.
Many spam mails include a link for you
to click on to "unsubscribe" to future mailings. THIS IS A LIE. When you click on that
link, all you've done is to confirm to the spammer that he/she has a
live email address and you'll get more spam, not less. DON'T EVER BUY
ANYTHING FROM A SPAMMER.
Here are some interesting links in addition to the ones on my website:
(this is an article from WiredNews about what happens when you buy from
or otherwise contact spammers)
1. Windows Update reminder
2. Backing up
3. Messenger spam problem
1. This is a reminder for you all
to visit the Windows
Update site to get patches for
your operating system. There
have been quite a few Windows vulnerabilities alerts over the past week
or so (how strange and unusual - NOT!).
If you need a refresher on how to use Windows
Update, here is a link to a
previous EBC Report with details.
2. I've got information about backing up
in another section on this website and also in a previous EBC Report.
However, I recently had a call from
someone who wanted to know of a
backup solution that would require no work from him. While there are
many backup programs that run in the background ONCE
THEY ARE PROPERLY SET UP,
there is no Computer Brownie who will
all your data and back it up to a CD-R or tape without any user input.
With a tape backup system, SOMEONE
still has to put in a fresh tape and verify the backup. If backing up
CD-R's, an actual human has to put in a disk and start the burning
For most home users, simply backing
up the data files in My Documents might be enough, but
sit down and think about what you would miss if all your stuff was gone
tomorrow. Browser favorites/bookmarks? Outlook contacts, calendar, and
email files? Outlook Express addressbook? Quicken or QuickBooks data?
Cards you've created in a greeting card program? You get the drift. If
you have a business and don't have the time or inclination to do
backups, then designate one of your employees to do this, or hire an
in-house IT person. Remember, only someone intimately familiar with
business will know what programs your company uses and how to back up
the data created.
If you want a program that will run
in the background and copy files to
a specified folder, I highly recommend SecondCopy.
This program is very flexible and can be configured to do simple or
complex backups as you prefer. I've used it for home computing backups
and yet its feature set is rich enough to be used to back up
server/client configurations. SecondCopy
is shareware, which means you can "try before you buy". It is very
reasonably priced at $29.95, especially considering that major backup
programs from companies like Veritas
can cost anywhere
$75 to $800 on up. Of course, if you need extremely fault-tolerant
server backups for your business, you will want a heavy-duty backup
system. However, in that case you have your own IT Department and
reading this newsletter!
3. Windows 2000 and
Windows XP users
(Win9x and ME are not affected) have been experiencing a new kind of
spam. When connected to the Internet (like with an always-on connection
such as cable), but not necessarily browsing, ads will suddenly pop up
on the desktop. Spammers discovered they can take advantage of the Messenger service to send ads. The Messenger service has nothing to do
instant messaging client; rather it is there so that a Systems
Administrator in a large network can send a message to everyone
connected, perhaps to tell everyone to shut down now or let them know
something important about system performance. If you aren't doing this
(and it is unlikely that anyone reading this Report
is), you don't need to have this service running. To disable it, go to
your Control Panel and open the Administrative Tools applet. Then
double-click on Services. This will open the Services (Local) window.
Scroll down to Messenger and double-click it to get the Messenger
properties. On the General tab, you'll see the Service Status. If it is
started, click Stop. Then change the Startup type to Disabled by using
the drop-down arrow to the right. Click Apply and OK. You should also
think about getting a firewall. Sygate
makes a good one
that is free for personal use.
An excellent place to learn about
Windows 2000 and Windows XP services
1. Warning - new email spoof
- caution regarding patches
2. Kid safety on the Internet
1. This is just a reminder
that no legitimate company will send
you an email with an attachment purporting to fix their product.
email trick has surfaced wherein the email
come from Microsoft with a patch* but the patch is really the Palyh
virus. Here is a quote from The Register's
article this morning:
"Windows users everywhere are
urged to update their anti-virus
definitions following the discovery of a new worm, which poses as one
a series of odd messages from Microsoft.
"The pest is an email and
network attack worm that includes a
downloaded Trojan horse component, according to a preliminary analysis
of the virus by security outfit iDefense. After a computer is infected
with the worm it attempts to create copies of itself in remotely shared
startup locations on a network.
"The virus also attempts to
update itself by linking to a Web
site. Hopefully this avenue of mischief will soon be closed.
"The virus normally arrives
via email with one of the following
subject names: Re: My application, Re: Movie, Cool screensaver,
Screensavers, Re: My details, Your password, Re: Approved (Red.
3394-65467), Approved (Ref. 38446-263), Your details.
"Within this emails is an
infectious attachment of filetype .pif,
.pi or .uue. Again selection of these filetypes is random. Double click
of the attachment and you get infected, natch. Palyh scans files (with
.dbx, .eml, .htm, .html, .txt, and .wab) for fresh prospects for
As always, your best defense
is 1) always run a current antivirus
program and be sure its virus definitions are up-to-date; 2) never open
email attachments; 3) if you must open an attachment, scan it first
your antivirus program; 4) when in doubt, check the antivirus
information sites for where to look.
*A patch is a small (usually)
program that will correct problems
and/or add enhancements to an application such as an operating system,
game, or other software.
2. I had a question from one
of my favorite clients as to how he
can insure a kid-friendly Internet experience for his grandchild. The
solution is three-part: 1) adult supervision and oversight; 2) discuss
Internet safety with your child if the child is old enough; 3) keep the
computer in a public room (not the child's bedroom). That said,
there are software strategies such as filtering programs or modified
browsers. Notice that I say "strategies" and not "solutions". No
filtering program is perfect, each has its own quirks and can cause its
own problems, and an older computer-savvy child can probably get around
The best-known filtering
programs are CyberPatrol
Norton Internet Security suite also has a Parental Controls
feature, along with its antivirus program and firewall.
Explorer also has a Content Advisor function. Go to
Tools>Internet Options>Content (Enable and Settings). Be careful
here, though - enabling Content Advisor can cause problems in getting
sites you want and if you forget the password, you'll need to call Elephant
All of these programs require
you to set them up, so you will
need to read the manual and help files. Caveat - I have never used any
of these programs so I can't give more details on them. I did set up
Norton Internet Security for a client and he found that he had trouble
getting to sites he needed, but that was a while ago. In any case,
relying solely on filtering programs will give you a false sense of
still need the 3-part solution.
thing to do if you are running Windows XP is to make a Limited User
Account for the child. The
child will not be able to install
programs and otherwise mess up your computer. This is actually good
security practice for everyone - make yourself a Limited User Account
and use that to surf around instead of running as Administrator.
Unfortunately, in the Microsoft world it is difficult to do many
day-to-day tasks if you are not
Administrator and many Windows
programs will not run under a Limited account since they were not
designed for a true multi-user operating system. Still, this is
something that will work for a younger child.
Another idea is to run a modified
just for the child. Earthlink
service which is an inexpensive add-on to your
monthly bill. For those of you who don't use Earthlink as your
ISP, you can use SurfMonkey's service
Here are some links to a few
I'm sure MSN, Earthlink, and
AOL all have sites for kids, too.
1. Quick virus warning
2. File extensions (related to 1.
1. A few days ago I sent out
Computers Report warning you
messages purporting to come
from Microsoft with an attachment of
a supposed patch - which is really a virus. Another similar, but more
insidious email is making the rounds. This one comes with the subject
"Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender" with a From address of
MAILER-DAEMON@yahoo.com . Attached is a file called "error.hta", which
is an executable
is a link to an earlier iteration of it -
Downloader-BO.dr - at McAfee's site: http://vil.nai.com/vil/content/v_99806.htm
. Usually returned mail does not come with an attachment, but will
include the bounced message inline.
If you're using a current
antivirus with updated definitions,
you're covered, but you should still not open attachments or at the
least, be cautious and scan them first. Also, in order to protect
yourself by being aware of the nature of an attachment, see 2. below.
extensions are the three
letters after the dot in a Windows file
name - like "myletter.doc" or "winword.exe". Windows uses the file
extension to know what program is associated with the file and thereby
what to use to open the file. Certain files are executable,
meaning they are programs or scripts and will do something
active on your computer. All Windows operating systems when freshly
installed default to hiding known file extensions. So when you look at
files on your hard drive, you may not see the dot and the three letters
after most files. Virus writers know this and take advantage of this
fact. You should turn
on viewing file extensions.
Under Windows 9x, double-click My
Computer and then go to View>Folder Options. Click on the View tab
the top, and in the first section find "Hide file extensions for known
file types". Uncheck the box, then click Apply and OK. Windows XP users
will find Folder Options as a separate applet in Control Panel. For a
good list of file extensions, go to Whatis.com
and look up the extension in question. When
in doubt, don't
open the attachment!
1. Update reminder
2. Scams and hijackings
3. Register to disallow
telemarketing (a little off-topic)
1. It's been a while since the last
EBC Report. I'm assuming you are
all having a lovely summer and remembering to visit
on a regular basis. There have been the usual Windows vulnerabilities
and the usual patches issued by Microsoft. I don't send you an email
every time a Windows security hole is discovered because then you'd be
getting an email from me nearly every day. Keep your computer (and your
data) safe by keeping your operating system, antivirus software
and other important programs updated.
been a rash of scams trying
to lure people into entering their
financial information, passwords, etc. into forms on supposedly
legitimate web pages. One of the latest scams - potentially very
dangerous - is aimed
at Paypal users. Here's the
link on SpywareInfo's
website to the information:
is an extremely useful site. Their weekly newsletter is free (although
you can donate if you're
feeling generous) and absolutely a goldmine of information about
spyware, spam, and similar scams. I highly recommend it.
3. This is off-topic for a
computer-related email, but may be of
interest to you. There is now a Federal law that has created a national
call" list and which will
require telemarketers to check before
calling you. There was something similar for California, but the State
has joined with the Federal government to consolidate both lists. You
can sign up for
the National Do Not Call Registry here: http://donotcall.gov/
1. Windows DCOM RPC Interface
Buffer Overrun Vulnerability
1. Last month Microsoft
issued a warning about a vulnerability that would affect Windows 2000,
NT, and XP systems that would allow an attacker to run code on a
compromised machine. They
issued a patch
for the problem which could be downloaded from various sites, as well
applied via Windows Update.
Here is a link to a Microsoft
about the vulnerability:
As fully expected by the tech
community, a worm exploiting this
vulnerability is now rapidly making the rounds. Out of the 1,000 new
posts in the microsoft.public.windowsxp.general newsgroup yesterday,
approximately 700+ of them referred to problems with the RPC
Here is a link to the Symantec page
regarding the W32.Blaster.Worm:
running Win9x and ME are not affected.
problems like this is simple:
a) Take advantage of XP's
feature. If you are on a dial-up Internet connection, be sure to visit
on a regular basis. Download
and apply critical security patches.
b) Have a current
antivirus program installed and be sure the virus definitions are kept
antivirus programs will check for updates
automatically, but you need to be sure your particular program is doing
firewall, especially if you
have a broadband connection to the
Internet. There are many firewall programs available, with two of the
best ones (ZoneAlarm
having free versions. XP
comes with a
built-in firewall. It isn't
a particularly good one, but it is
better than nothing.
email attachments. If you
must open an attachment, scan
it with your
antivirus software first and know that you are still taking a risk.
Be sure you back up important data regularly so if disaster strikes,
you can (relatively) quickly restore your files if you do get an
But you knew all that, right? ;-)
1. Postmaster bounces for email you
1. I've had at least 3 clients ask
me why they are receiving notices
from Postmasters about bounced emails they didn't send. This is because
of the Sobig.f
virus epidemic. Here's a
brief explanation of what
a. Someone you know (we'll call him
"Bill") opens an attachment
infected with Sobig (or another virus du jour) which burrows itself in
b. The virus sends emails with
copies of itself attached to everyone in
Bill's addressbook. You're his friend, so your address is on Bill's
c. The virus also "spoofs" the
return address of many of the emails it
sends in order to foil virus hunters, using addresses it finds in
addressbook as the return address instead of his. Since you are in
Bill's addressbook, sometimes the return address will be yours.
d. Clueless ISP's start refusing
and bouncing emails with infected
attachments in an attempt to stem the tide of viral emails. Of course,
the bounced emails only add to the amount of email being sent because
the virus. The ISP bounces the mail back to where it thinks it
originated based on the spoofed return address. So even though your
computer didn't send that email out, you get the "return to sender"
So just delete those emails
immediately, keep your antivirus program
current, apply all security patches from Windows Update, and don't open
attachments. And if you think it's time to consider running a less
virus-prone email client and/or a more secure operating system like
Linux, call Elephant
Boy Computers for more
1. More Microsoft vulnerabilities,
problems with patches
2. What's a person to do? (see #1
2a. More of what's a person to do
(because of #1 above)
1. The last two weeks brought us
vulnerabilities in all Microsoft Office products, and this week
operating system holes. I
say "around" because truthfully, who
can keep accurate count of all Microsoft's holes? Not me. Also,
apparently a recent
patch for Internet Explorer isn't effective and opens a
and horrible hole.
running a Microsoft operating system needs to go to the Windows Update site
and apply all critical security patches. Windows XP
allows you to set Automatic Updates
(see the Automatic Updates tab in the System applet in Control Panel).
highly suggest you do this. Those of you who don't use Windows XP
make weekly visits to Windows Update part of your regular schedule.
Boy Computers occasionally
will send out reminders (like the
Report you're reading), you are responsible for keeping your own
patched and safe.
In addition to Windows Update for
their operating systems, Microsoft
Office Products Update which
will scan your system and see what
updates your installation of Office needs. Open Word and go to the Help
menu. You'll find an entry for "Office on the Web". Click on it to be
taken to the Office website (obviously you'll need to be on line
Here's a link to Microsoft's
front page which has loads of useful information: http://www.microsoft.com/
If you feel you need an email
reminder for updates, you can subscribe
Microsoft's free security alert newsletter here: http://www.microsoft.com/security/security_bulletins/decision.asp
Here's a link to where you can sign
up for free
2a. Aside from keeping your
operating system and applications patched,
running a good antivirus (also kept up-to-date), not opening
(or being extremely cautious if you must), and scanning to remove
spyware regularly, if you're going to use a Microsoft
operating system, Internet Explorer
browser, and Outlook Express and/or Outlook for email, you're pretty
much stuck with being at risk from viruses and other malware. As I've
said in other Elephant
Boy Computers Reports, you
can use a different browser like
Mozilla or Opera. You can use an alternate email client like the ones
that come with Mozilla and Opera (Mozilla also has standalone browser
and email components) or Eudora Mail. You will still have some risk,
it will be lessened.
You might even think about not using a Microsoft
operating system. I
use Linux, and my
friend The Mac King swears by Apple's OSX. A lot depends on what
you want to do with your computer. My own personal opinion (and this is
my newsletter, so
what you get!) is that Windows is a toy operating system best suited
playing games, and people with serious computing needs should use
Unix, FreeBSD, or OSX. That aside, if you choose Microsoft, you need to
practice safe computing.
1. New cumulative Internet Explorer
2. Why Microsoft operating systems
are so vulnerable compared to Linux
and Mac OSX
has issued another cumulative security patch for basically every
Explorer that has ever
existed. Everyone should go to Windows
and apply any security patches that show up as needed for your system.
Because Internet Explorer (your browser) is so integrated into the
operating system, security
vulnerabilities in this software are serious and need to be addressed
2. There has been a lot of
information in the regular press (as opposed
to the technical press which has known about this forever) about the
problem of security and viruses relating to Microsoft operating
has an excellent article from Security
Focus that clearly
explains why Windows is inherently more
than Linux and Mac OSX. The link is here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/56/33226.html
If you want to stay with a
Microsoft operating system, then you really
using a different browser and email program. Mozilla
is very nice and is free. Elephant
Computers can set it up for
you if you need help. And there's always
Linux. Let us know if you'd
like to try it!
1. Five new Microsoft
critical security patches and a rollup for
2. iTunes for Windows
3. Searching with Google
1. Good news, everyone! Five
Microsoft patches to apply!
Hurry over to Windows
For those of you using Windows
there is a handy all-in-one security
Or just go to the Microsoft
Center Home, where it
appears in the list of top five most
popular downloads here:
2. Lots of my clients have asked
about good sites where they can download
legally. Until recently,
eMusic.com was considered one of the
best sites for PC's. Now eMusic.com has been bought out and is no
offering unlimited downloads, which makes it unattractive all around. Look
for eMusic to
tank real soon.
update - eMusic has tanked.
It is almost universally agreed
that Apple's iTunes music
store is the best place
to download music. Since its
it has left PC-oriented music download sites in the dust.
only people running Macs could use the service because the iTunes
software would not work on Windows. Now, there really is good news for
everyone - Apple
has ported iTunes to Windows.
Why worry that the RIAA Gestapo is going to come knocking
at your door when you can legally get your music fix with the very cool
and easy to use iTunes. Check it out.
3. Everyone knows that Google is
engine. Using Google has
become so much a part of our lives that
born: "to google". Want to
know the lifespan of the blue whale? Google
However, there are many refinements
to the art of using Google. There
about it, "Google
Hacks" by Tara Calishain and
Rael Dornfest. And here
is a useful article with tips
for using Google from PC Magazine
(oddly enough, it is dated October 28, 2003 which has caused me to look
at the date I've got showing on my computer twice - nope, it's still
October 16th in my world. Should I worry?)
1. Updates to 5 Microsoft patches
2. Outlook Express stationery and
1. Good news everyone! More Windows
vulnerabilities! Actually, Microsoft
updated five earlier patches,
so go to Windows Update as soon as
possible to get the new ones. A good explanation of the patches is here:
2. There has been a rash (and I use
that word on purpose) of people
asking about using Outlook
stationery and fancy fonts
in their email lately. The short
answer is, "Don't do it". The longer answer is that stationery is
created by using html. Html is
the programming language used in making webpages. Sending html email
instead of plain
text (ASCII) is not
desirable. First, an html email
message will be much larger than a plain text message and that
a burden for people who have dial-up Internet connections. Second, because html is
code, it can carry a virus.
Third, if you send a "beautiful"
message created in Outlook Express to someone who doesn't use OE or
even a Microsoft operating system (Linux, Mac, Unix), it will not look the
way it does to you to the person who gets it. The same thing
applies to the fancy fonts. If you use a special fancy font to create
your message, the recipient must have that exact same font on their
system also. Probably they won't and their system will just use
something plain instead. Here is a link to an excellent explanation of
email basics, very well done, clear and simple but complete:
1. Phishing and virus alert
2. Windows Update reminder
1. There have been several
to steal credit card information lately. Over the last
few months, people have received emails purporting to be from
legitimate companies such as PayPal,
Citibank. The emails can
look quite official, although many
contain spelling and grammatical errors. The recipient is told that
they need to update their records or something like that and directed
to click on a link to the "company" website. This
type of scam is
called "phishing". In some
cases, the website is a clever fake
and not the legitimate company site at all. In
Citibank scam, the website
truly belongs to Citibank but a popup
window for the victim to enter their account information goes to the
Bad Guys. Here is a very detailed and interesting account of the
Citibank scheme from SecurityFocus:
phishing scheme has surfaced,
this time with PayPal as the
legitimate company bait and a as an attachment to an email with a
subject line of "IMPORTANT" and an viral
worm as part
of the package. Mimail-J arrives as an attachment named either
www.paypal.com.pif or infoupdate.exe. There is a good
explanation of this latest threat at The
Of course, I'm sure that none of
EBC's clients are stupid enough to 1)
open attachments; 2) run an executable attachment; and 3) not
have a current (post-2002 version with updated definitions) antivirus
program. However, Better Safe Than Sorry, eh?
Update reminder, everyone.
If I sent an email to you every time
there was another patch available for another Windows vulnerability,
you'd be getting too many emails from me. The
hates to be intrusive. As you all know, Windows XP includes an
automatic update feature that periodically checks the Windows Update
site for new security patches. However, lots of people are still
running Windows 98 and ME machines, and those people need to manually
go to the Windows Update site. If you've unaccountably forgotten how to
use Windows Update, refer to the very first EBC Report
sent way back in August, 2002.
Also, remember that you
need to update
your Microsoft Office software, too. There have been some nasty
vulnerabilities in Office programs lately. The easiest way to do this
is to open an Office program like Word and go to the Help menu. You'll
see an entry
for "Office on the Web".
Click on it and you'll get taken to the
There is a link to "Check For
at the upper right, which will bring you to the Downloads
page where you can "Check For Updates" again. This will scan your
computer for what you need, just like Windows Update does. Here is the
URL for the Microsoft Office home page:
Remember, with both Windows Update
and Office Update, you
need to check
multiple times until you get
the message that there are no more
critical patches for your system. For instance, if you don't have SR1
installed, the Office Update won't show that you need to download SR2
or any of the other more recent patches.
1. Phishing continued
2. Shopping spots
1. Heads up, everyone! In last month's EBC
Report, I wrote about
the scam called "phishing".
vulnerability in Microsoft's Internet Explorer allows phishing
scammers to trick people by disguising the true location of a webpage
in the addressbar. The security firm Secunia
has an explanation of the vulnerability here: http://www.secunia.com/advisories/10395
I know that all of the EBC
readers are clever, but just remember
reputable firm (eBay,
PayPal, your bank, your ISP) will ask for
your username, password, credit card number, Social Security number,
mother's maiden name, waist size, etc. in an email.
Microsoft has not
announced whether they will release a patch
for this latest vulnerability or not. They are very proud that there
were no patches for the month of December (they've gone to a monthly
patch issuance scheme). Good for them - unfortunately that doesn't mean
no holes to patch in December. Mozilla
a great browser! :-)
2. Although the Elephant
has an obsessive-compulsive personality and therefore all the Christmas
shopping is done,
some of you may still be looking for last-minute presents. It's not too
late to squeak in an order from some online merchants so you can miss
being trampled at Target. Here are some of our favorite shopping spots:
for your favorite geek (hint, hint)
more geeky toys
NY Public Library Gift Shop
Things From Another World
RIAA Radar for those of us boycotting RIAA member-produced albums
for the ninja in your life
wonderful fun things from Japan (some adult content, but clearly set up
so you don't have to go there)
Search tool for shopping from Google
And of course, where to track your UPS shipment!
From all of us here at Elephant
Computers (me and thousands
of imaginary minions), have
Holiday Of Your Choice and a Happy New Year!
Back to top
1. Microsoft extends Windows 98 support
2. Happy New Year - another great Windows virus
1. Although Microsoft's
official support for Windows 98 was supposed to
end on January 15th of this year, the company made the surprise
announcement that they would extend the older operating system's
end-of-life date to June 30, 2006.
Users will be able to receive paid
phone support (from Microsoft) and critical security updates until
then. Apparently Microsoft realized that not enough of its
had switched to Windows XP (or even Windows 2000). This is good
because there are many computers in service that do not have hefty
enough hardware to successfully run Windows XP but that do quite well
with the less demanding Windows 98. Although Microsoft would like
everyone to be on a constant upgrade cycle, in reality if your older
computer running Win98 meets your needs, then there is no reason to
of Windows 98 should just remember to visit Windows
Update on a regular basis to get security patches for their machines.
You must do this manually because there is no automatic update feature
in Win98. Remember, once you are connected to the Internet, get
Windows Update either from the top of your Start Menu or from the Tools
menu in Internet Explorer.
2. Although there are new viruses every day, Trojan.Xombe
particularly tricksy because it arrives as an attachment (remember how
we told you not to open that?) in an email purporting to be a
alert from Microsoft. You can read Symantec's
write-up on Xombe
legitimate companies like Microsoft, Symantec (Norton
Antivirus), Mcafee, etc. never send out security patches as attachments
in emails. Simply delete the evil email and always have a
older than 2002) antivirus installed using updated definitions.
Back to top
1. W32/Mydoom, W32.Novarg, Mimail_Worm
A new version of the Mimail worm is out in the wild causing a great
deal of damage. Don't be one of the ones caught by this! Here is
information from Trendmicro
(a well-known antivirus company) about the worm:
"A new variant of the MIMAIL worm
has been found in the wild. As of January 26, 2004 1:47 PM (US Pacific
has declared a yellow alert to control the spread of
known as W32/Mydoom@MM, Mydoom, Win32.Mydoom.A, W32.Novarg. This
mass-mailing worm selects from a list of e-mail subjects, message
bodies, and attachment file names. It can also
propagate using the Kazaa peer-to-peer file sharing network.
"It performs a denial of service (DoS) attack against the software
business site www.sco.com. It attacks the site if the system date is
February 1, 2004 or later. It ceases attacking the site and running
most of its routines on February 12, 2004. It runs on Windows
98, ME, NT, 2000 and XP. It sends e-mail with the following
"Subject (any of the following):
Mail Transaction Failed
Mail Delivery System
"Message Body (any of the following):
The message contains Unicode characters and has been
sent as a binary attachment.
The message cannot be represented in 7-bit ASCII
encoding and has been sent as a binary attachment.
Mail transaction failed. Partial message is
Attachment: <Random name>.zip"
(end of quote)
In addition to preparing the infected machine to perform the DoS on the
SCO website, the backdoor trojan
installed by the worm can download and execute arbitrary files from
unspecified locations on the Internet, including keystroke loggers.
Like many other viruses, this one can also
spoof email addresses, so if you start getting mail from people
you know with viral attachments, do not automatically assume they are
infected. Their email address may just be in an addressbook on someone
else's infected computer. So before you shoot them off an angry email,
stop to think. They may be infected, but they may not. If the mail is
from a good friend, it would be better to call them on the phone.
Otherwise you are just adding to the Internet traffic load.
safe computing. Do not open attachments. If you or your children
are using peer-to-peer sharing software like Kazaa, LimeWire, WinMX,
etc. then control yourselves for a while and abstain. Of course, only
Windows machines are vulnerable, but the huge numbers of these infected
machines will have a severe impact on everyone else as the Internet
becomes clogged with traffic generated by the worm. Most responsible
Internet Service Providers are stripping all attachments of the
following types: .exe, .scr, and .pif.
So if you are trying to send or receive an attachment of this type and
not getting it, this is probably why. Although you shouldn't be opening
attachments or encouraging others to do so, especially executable files
like that! Here's the link to Symantec's write-up:
Stay safe out there.
1. Microsoft February updates
2. Foil phishers
has issued updates for February. Those of you who do not have
automatic updates set (or who are using Windows 98 and don't have that
option), should be sure to visit Windows Update
and get the latest security patches.
2. Included in the above patches is an update to Internet Explorer
meant to help foil phishers. The patch may change
how certain websites work for you. Here is a link to the
Staying out of
phishers' nets is not hard if you use good common sense.
Remember, unless you've specifically subscribed to a security
newsletter, Microsoft and other legitimate companies such as antivirus
firms do not
send individual emails directing you to download patches. These companies never send attachments in
emails. If you receive an email requesting personal information
such as passwords, account numbers, credit card numbers, etc. from anyone, treat
it as highly suspicious. Real companies and banks don't do this. Email is not a
secure medium - sending an email is the digital equivalent of
sending a postcard; anyone can read the contents. Delete questionable
emails like that. Do not click on any links in them!
Stay safe by being smart.
Back to top
1. Warning about Win Antivirus 2004
up everyone. I was at a client's yesterday and they told me that
when their Norton
Antivirus 2003 subscription renewal notice opened and they opted
to renew, another
window opened and they actually sent their credit card
information ($39.95 worth, I believe) to this Win Antivirus 2004
company instead. So they got tricked into
downloading and installing Win Antivirus 2004 instead of
renewing their Norton. Win Antivirus promptly broke Norton and
insinuated itself into the operating system. It was very hard to remove.
Now, their computer was absolutely loaded with spyware. They had all
the biggies and some I hadn't even seen before, but which the normal
spyware removal tools (Spybot
Search & Destroy and Ad-aware)
caught. A quick Google on WinAntivirus 2004 - which I had never heard of before - brought me
to this interesting page:
where apparently another tech had the same experience with this scummy
program that I did.
So it looks like this piece of scumware floated on in with some other
spyware and just waited for Norton to request renewal. Pigs. I have
extremely uncharitable thoughts about creeps like this. The moral of the
story is that you should always be careful where you click, keep your
legitimate antivirus program updated, and removal spyware regularly.
Back to top
1. Witty worm wrecks computers
2. Visit Windows Update to protect against the Phatbot worm (and other
1. Just a quick heads-up for those of you running either BlackIce Firewall
(or other security software from Internet Security Systems). The Witty
Worm does not require you to open an attachment, but rather scans for
vulnerable systems and infects through an open port. The Worm is
extremely destructive. Users of BlackIce
should immediately 1) disable the firewall; 2) go to ISS's
website and download the patch. Here is a link to the ISS home
page, as well as links to other sites detailing the vulnerability:
This brings up the point that you should always be aware of the
software you have installed on your computer and periodically visit the
program manufacturer's website to check for updates.
2. You probably have read about the Phatbot worm
in the mainstream media lately. Of course, Phatbot is just one of the
many, many worms and viruses out there. Here is a link to Symantec's
The main point about Phatbot is that you are protected
against it if you have gone to Windows Update, downloaded and installed
all security patches. Those of you running XP probably have done
so because automatic updating is in place. Those of you still running
Windows 98 and ME (if automatic updating is not turned on in your ME
system) should immediately go to Windows Update.
Back to top
2. W32.Gaobot variants
3. Legal music downloads article
Worm - There's another MS-Blaster type of
worm spreading across the Internet by exploiting the LSASS
Buffer Overrun Vulnerability. If you have Windows 9x or ME, your
computer is not affected. If you have Windows
NT, 2000, XP, or any of the server operating systems, your computer is
vulnerable. Please immediately download and install the
critical update. Here is a link to the Microsoft Security
Bulletin, which includes download links:
Signs of infection are that you keep receiving the following error
1. "LSA Shell (Export Version) has encountered a problem and needs to
close. We are sorry for the inconvenience."
2. Your system reboots due to the LSASS.exe error ).
Here is a link to Symantec's
information about the Sasser worm:
To stop the shutdowns long enough to install the patch and scan with
your updated antivirus:
a. Click Start, click Run and type "shutdown -a" (without quotations),
then click OK.
b. Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete to bring up the Task Manager and terminate
the "avserve.exe" process, then delete the avserve.exe from C:\Windows
and restart your computer.
- We've been seeing quite a few infections by the many variants of the W32.Gaobot worm
lately. Go to the Symantec Antivirus
Research Center's front page for information about this, and
other latest threats.
This is just a reminder that you should have a
current (post-2002 version) antivirus program installed and be keeping
its definitions updated. All modern antivirus programs will
download and install virus definitions automatically, but in some cases
(dial-up, AOL dial-up, etc.) you will need to connect to the Internet
3. There is an interesting article on Cnet
about the state of legal music downloading since it is now a year since
opened its virtual doors. Here's the link to the article: http://news.com.com/2100-1027_3-5199227.html
The article includes a little chart comparing revenues between the
major competing companies, which is handy if you wanted to check out
music download services besides iTunes but weren't sure where to look.
Back to top
1. Update on Sasser
1. After spending the last week
fighting outbreaks of the Sasser
I thought it would be good to share some findings with you. If
you were one of the "lucky" ones to have gotten Sasser the very first
day it came out and then had your machine cleaned immediately, you are
probably in the clear. After the first few hours that Sasser was in the
wild, variants started appearing.
Additionally, it seems that once
Sasser is in a
computer, that machine is vulnerable to one of the many forms of the
Gaobot worm. Gaobot
was not picked up by either version of
AVG (free or subscription) until today, a rather dismal showing by
Grisoft. McAfee's Stinger tool still does not catch Gaobot, although
the full-featured antivirus does. The Sasser removal tools
offered by Microsoft and antivirus companies will not remove
Gaobot. Patching the operating system after the fact will not
remove Gaobot and will not protect you from that worm once Gaobot (or
any of its many variants) is on your computer.
you are not
using a full-featured antivirus such as Norton 2003 or 2004
(earlier versions are no longer recommended), McAfee Antivirus, eTrust, or the like, your
computer may still be infected.
If you are not using a true
stateful firewall like Sygate, eTrust
Firewall, or ZoneAlarm but are only using the
firewall that comes built-into Windows XP, you are not adequately
protected if your computer is still infected with a worm and/or trojan.
Some symptoms of viral infection
a. You cannot run Task Manager,
msconfig, regedit, or the cmd prompt,
or those programs appear for a second and then immediately disappear.
b. You cannot update any of your
virus definitions, get to online virus
scanning sites, or get to any antivirus software manufacturers'
websites. You may not be able to install an antivirus if you did not
have one on the computer already.
c. Your computer is still slow,
unresponsive, or otherwise just not
acting "right". If you do have a full firewall, it is constantly
asking you to permit Internet access to programs that you do not
computers harboring multiple viruses and worms is rather complicated
and requires more than simply running one or two antivirus tools.
The best solution is to take the computer to a professional for
repair. Of course Elephant
Computers would like your
business, but the most important thing
is to get an infected machine off the Internet, any local area
networks, and get it cleaned up.
Back to top
1. Critical vulnerability in Symantec firewall products
2. Microsoft updates - May
1. A critical
vulnerability has been found in the firewall of these Symantec products:
Symantec Norton Internet Security and Professional 2002, 2003,
Symantec Norton Personal Firewall 2002, 2003, 2004
Symantec Norton AntiSpam 2004
Symantec Client Firewall 5.01, 5.1.1
Symantec Client Security 1.0, 1.1, 2.0(SCF 7.1)
Here is the link to Symantec's write-up of the problem:
of these products should use Live Update immediately, which will patch
the program. As an aside, it would be smart to be running Live
Update more than once a week these days, since new viruses and
definitions for those viruses have been coming out daily.
2. It's that time again - Microsoft has issued
the May patches for their supported operating systems. If your
computer is not set to automatically visit Windows Update (as it should
be in Windows XP), then be sure to do this manually.
Back to top
1. A note about passwords
2. More about preventing spyware
1. There is a very good article in this morning's The Register
about the need to create good passwords and why. Here's a link to the
Of course, we're not really going to send a copy of the "letter" written by Scott
Granneman of SecurityFocus to
everyone we know because that would be Wrong And Irritating To All. But
you should read what Mr. Granneman has to say. Yes, even you over there
in the corner.
As an aside, I'd just like to remind you that you
do have a password originally assigned to you by your Internet
Service Provider (ISP) to get on line and to get your email. I can't
tell you how many people think they don't have one, so when Internet
access or their email has to be set up again for one reason or another,
they wind up having to talk to their ISP's tech support. We all know
how fun that is. What usually happens is that Internet access gets set
up when the user signs up with Earthlink or SBC/Yahoo, or whoever -
including setting a password for logging on to the service and possibly
a different one for email - and then years go by during which the
original password is forgotten. Maybe it was never written down or
maybe that tiny little scrap of paper that had all the important
information has disappeared. Probably your Significant Other threw it
Then the day comes when you get a new computer or Windows has to be
reinstalled and Elephant
Boy Computers personnel (that's just me, of course, but
"personnel" sounds so much more impressive) - anyway, the EBC Minion
turns to you cheerfully and says, "OK, what's your username and
password?" and you look at the Minion with hate and say, "I haven't got
one". When the Minion (me again!) says, "Yes you have" then you hate me
even more. So
- yes, you have got a username and password for your Internet access
and email; keep track of them.
2. The battle
against spyware goes on, and frankly it doesn't look like
Windows users are winning. I suppose I should be glad because all this
malware infecting your computers helps Elephant Boy
Computers personnel live in the Lap Of Luxury (hahahahah - that
is so Not Funny), but really Spyware is Evil.
However, I'm going to tell the children that they can't have those
shiny new shoes because all the EBC clients are going to be smart and
try a different browser!
Seriously, you can remove spyware on a regular basis and be really
careful where you click, but a good way to avoid popups and the like is
just to do an end run around them and use a different browser. For
those of you who weren't paying attention during the Previous Lesson, a
browser is the program that allows you to "see" the Internet. The browser that
comes built into Windows is Internet Explorer. There are other
browsers like Netscape
I haven't looked at Netscape in years because it really got awful.
Opera is quite good, but the free version has ads and the ad-free
version costs. However, if you try Opera and love it, the small price
to pay all those starving coders programming their little hearts out to
make you happy is worth it. Mozilla is wonderful and free and has lots
of very neat features, like tabbed browsing. Best of all, Mozilla has
excellent popup and cookie control. I believe that Opera has those
features, too - I'm just most familiar with Mozilla since that is what
I use both in Windows and in Linux.
Here are links to where you can download all three browsers to try them
out if you like. Or call us and the EBC Minion
(me again!) will come and install them for you.
Back to top
1. New vulnerability in Internet
2. HP recalls notebook RAM
1. From an article in The
Although I certainly wouldn't
panic, it would be really smart to:
Internet Explorer's security options as described in this
article by Mike Healan on SpywareInfo:
b) Use an alternate browser. My
preference is for
Mozilla. You can get the
latest version of Mozilla here:
2. HP recalls notebook RAM
From an article in The
"Hewlett Packard has said it will
replace memory in over a dozen series
of its notebook PCs, affecting almost a million users, because of a
design flaw. HP characterizes this as an "industry wide" design flaw
not restricted to one memory supplier. Other PC manufacturers will be
affected, said HP. Symptoms include more BSODs (Blue Screens of Death)
"The company says that it hasn't
received a complaint yet, but is
"pre-emptively" introducing a repair program. Owners will receive a kit
including a screwdriver, and after mailing in the current stick,
receive a replacement. The
include the Compaq Evo Notebook N610c, N610v, N620c, N800c, N800v,
N800w, N1000c, and N1000v; Compaq Presario 1500, 2800, x1000, and
x1200; and the HP Compaq nx7000 and HP Pavilion zt3000."
If you have an HP notebook
that is affected, here is a link to
HP's instructions: http://h30090.www3.hp.com/mmrp/
1. New Microsoft patch for
go to Windows Update to apply the new patch. Microsoft considers
this critical enough to issue the patch outside of their normal patch
cycle. Microsoft issues new patches on the second Tuesday of each month.
Those of you using the automatic
update feature of Windows XP, 2000,
and ME should make sure to install downloaded updates. People using
Windows 98 will have to manually go to the Windows Update site and scan
for updates. Close open programs such as Word or Internet Explorer and
disable your antivirus when installing.
1. Windows XP Service Pack 2
Service Pack 2 ("SP2") is finally finished. A Service Pack is a
collection of operating system patches and, in this case, improvements
bundled into one installation. Everyone
Windows XP should upgrade to SP2. If Windows XP is not your
operating system, this information does not apply to you.
Microsoft, SP2 should be available on Windows Update within the next
two weeks. If you have your
computer set to automatically
download updates, you will get it. In the meantime, here is some
further information to help you with this important upgrade:
available from Windows Update.
Choose Express Install. If you
are on dialup, you can order the CD for free or have Elephant
Computers install it for
you. Even using Express Install, SP2
will be very large.
computer must be 100% virus and spyware-free before you install SP2.
If you are unsure of whether your computer is clean, have Elephant
Computers take care of it.
your data to removable media
such as CD-R, DVD-R, or external
hard drives. If you don't know how to back up your data, Elephant
Computers is happy to teach
you, although we cannot take
responsibility for your data. Only you know what is important to you.
disable all antivirus software and firewalls. Have no other programs
running in the background.
This means close any programs you
have started, such as Outlook/Outlook Express, Office, etc. Obviously,
if you are getting SP2 from Windows Update, you cannot close your
browser and any Internet connection software.
Microsoft sites about SP2:
Main page for SP2 information:
Overview of changes:
Changes in Internet Explorer:
Changes in Outlook Express:
Changes in Windows Update:
SP2 FAQs (Frequently Asked
Where to order the CD:
1. Windows XP Service Pack 2 Report
(SP2) has been out for a while now. I have updated many
computers with little or no problems. The instances where we are seeing
problems are usually when the computer was not 100% virus and
spyware-free and when other normal precautions were not taken. As a
reminder, here are some preparatory steps you should do before
your data. This means
copying your files - not your programs -
to some sort of removable media, preferrably a cd-r or dvd-r. If you
use specialized software and you are not sure how to back up data
created in it, contact the program's tech support and find out. Go to
the program's website and look for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
or a support database. If some of your programs need to have data
exported to a file - like QuickBooks or Outlook for instance - know how
to do it and do it.
You should be backing up your data regularly anyway. With proper
preparation, your installation of SP2 will go smoothly, but you must
always be prepared for the worst.
sure your computer is 100% virus and spyware-free. This means
you need a full-featured antivirus program installed. The version
should be no earlier than 2003 and your virus definitions must be
up-to-date. Remove spyware with free tools such as Ad-aware and Spybot
Search & Destroy
to run antivirus and spyware scans in Safe Mode.
routine maintenance on your computer. Use Disk Cleanup
(Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Cleanup)
to get rid of all temporary and Temporary Internet Files. Go into Safe
Mode and run Defrag (Start>All Programs>Accessories>System
you have a computer made by an Original Equipment Manufacturer ("OEM")
like Dell, HP, Sony, Compaq, etc. go to the OEM's website and
look for instructions how to update those systems to SP2. There may be
proprietary drivers or software that needs to be patched before you install SP2.
Laptops in particular use proprietary drivers and software.
the programs you use on your computer. Go to their websites and
see if there are upgrades you will need to do to make the programs
compatible with SP2. For instance, Nero 6 needs several patches. If you
have any specialized hardware, including peripherals such as printers,
do the same thing. Go to the device manufacturer's website and search
for information about how their product interacts with SP2.
you know that your computer is clean and you have all necessary patches
on hand, preferably burned to cd-r. When you install SP2, shut
down all running programs and disable any antivirus. If your computer
is not behind a router firewall and you have an always-on broadband
connection, disconnect from the Internet by unplugging the ethernet
cable from your computer's network card. A
that is not protected by a firewall and goes on the Internet will get
infected by a virus in 20 minutes or less. That is the average infection time; it
can take as little as a few seconds.
Some people are suggesting that you
also disconnect all peripherals
such as printers, pda's, etc. I did not disconnect the local printers
on two XP machines here and had no problems, but it wouldn't hurt to be
proactive and do this anyway. This is a major operating system upgrade
and you want things to go as smoothly as possible.
Now you should be ready to install
Service Pack 2. Here are some links
to additional information to help you:
Main page for SP2 information: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sp2/default.mspx
Are You Ready for WinXP SP2?:
Feature list: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sp2/features.mspx
Overview of changes: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sp2/technologiesoverview.mspx
Changes in Internet Explorer: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/web/sp2_ie.mspx
Changes in Outlook Express: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/web/sp2_oe.mspx
Changes in Windows Update: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sp2/whatsnewforwu.mspx
SP2 How-to: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sp2/howto/default.mspx
Where to order the CD: http://www.microsoft.com/office/ork/xp/journ/Oxpsp2cd.html
Most computer and office supply
stores have SP2 cd's available also.
And some other useful sites:
-See SP2 forums
1. Arrrr, Matey!
2. Windows Update reminder
3. Antivirus subscriptions reminder
1. Lest we forget - today,
September 19th, is Talk
Like A Pirate
2. This is just a reminder: all of
you using older Windows operating
systems need to go
to Windows Update on a regular basis. New, severe
vulnerabilities have been discovered and there are patches for them.
Those of you with Windows XP with Automatic Updating turned on should
already be getting notices that updates are available and/or ready to
install. Don't forget to do this. If
you have already
applied Service Pack 2, this does not mean there will be no more
3. Remember, an
antivirus program is useless if the virus definitions are not updated.
Make sure the program version you are using is not earlier than 2003
and that your subscription is current. You are not protected if your
virus definitions have not been updated since 2002! Your antivirus
program should be updating the definitions at least once a day.
To find out the version,
subscription, and virus definitions
information, open the antivirus program and look at its status. The
information will be displayed differently depending on your program,
but it will
be there. Look for it and take action to update if needed.
1. Update for JPEG vulnerability
1. This is a quick reminder that
there is a rather serious
vulnerability in the way that Windows handles JPEG image files.
Naturally, there is now a toolkit for the bad guys to exploit the
vulnerability. Here is a link to an article at The
that describes the issue:
Even if you have Windows XP with
Service Pack 2 applied and automatic
updates enabled, you should go to Windows Update yourself. The easiest
way is to open Internet Explorer and use the Windows Update entry found
under the Tools menu. Anyone running an older Windows operating system
needs to manually update their computer at Windows Update.
On each of our XP systems here, all
of which have SP2, I had to go to
Windows Update, which scanned and then downloaded a tool to see if the
system was vulnerable to the GDI+ buffer overrun. Then I got a prompt
that the system was vulnerable because MS Office products are
installed, and following the "wizard" took me to the Office homepage.
There, I clicked on Check For Updates, which does the same thing for
Office as Windows Update does for the operating system. I was then
prompted to download and install the patches. You may need your Office
installation cd, so have it handy.
need to be proactive with your computers. Regularly check for updates
for your operating system and important programs.
2. Malware removal steps
- As most of you know, spyware
has become a
huge problem for Windows users.
At its most benign, spyware is
responsible for giving you all those horrible popups when you surf.
More evil spyware can hijack your homepage, change your hosts file so
you can't get to anti-spyware websites, and open your computer to all
sorts of pornography and trojan horse viruses. The situation has gotten
so bad that most
of us techs have started referring to spyware and the like as "malware".
If you need a refresher on what spyware is, here's a link to
information on my website and some other useful sites:
- Spybot Search & Destroy
look under "Security" for various forums
- The Parasite Fight
In their desperation to rid
themselves of these vile parasites, users
will download and install programs that they are trusting to remove the
which in reality put even more spyware on the system. We techs have
taken to calling these rogue programs "betrayalware".
Just today it has come to my
attention (thanks to the efforts of MS-MVP's
Knobloch and Eric L. Howes)
that a formerly trustworthy program,
Aluria, has apparently gone over to The Dark Side. Here is a link to
the discussion that took place on the BroadbandReports.com
forum (another great resource, by the way):
It provides a very clear
description of what Aluria has done and the
danger this poses for the anti-spyware industry and end users. It is
well worth taking the time to read through this. You
need to know how
to protect your computer and your data.
Here are some links to sites where
you can find good information about
what programs are really betrayalware:
- Eric L. Howes' fine work
malware removal steps:
1) Scan in Safe Mode with current
version (not earlier than 2003)
antivirus using updated definitions;
2) Remove spyware with Spybot
Search & Destroy and Ad-aware. These
programs are free, so use them both since they complement each other.
There is a new version of CWShredder from http://www.intermute.com/spysubtract/cwshredder_download.html.
would not install the other Intermute programs, however. Alternately,
there are CoolWebSearch malware removal steps at http://www.silentrunners.org/sr_cwsremoval.html.
A combination of HijackThis and About:Buster (http://www.majorgeeks.com) works
well in removing homepage hijackers. Always read the instructions
before running a spyware removal tool. Be sure to update these programs
before running, and it is a good idea to do virus/spyware scans in Safe
Mode. Make sure you are able to see all hidden files and extensions
(View tab in Folder Options);
3) If you are running Windows ME or
XP, you should disable/enable
System Restore because malware will be in the Restore Points. With ME,
you must disable System Restore completely. With XP, you can delete all
but the most recent (presumably clean) System Restore point from the
More Options section of Disk Cleanup (Run>cleanmgr).
4) Make sure you've visited Windows
Update and applied all security
patches. Do not install driver updates from Windows Update;
5) Run a firewall.
EBC Current Reports
1. Happy New Year!
2. Security and maintenance comments
1. Happy New Year everybody! I hope
you all had a wonderful (insert
name of holiday here) and that 2005 brings you much joy and good things.
2. I was going to write a summary
of all the things you should do to
keep your computers safe in 2005, but I see that Scott
written a perfect article for The Register
that does everything I wanted to and more. Here's the link:
In addition to Mr. Granneman's
excellent suggestions, here are a few
a. Keep your operating system
you have Windows
XP or ME, you should have Automatic Updates turned on. If you
are still running Windows 98 (not that
there's anything wrong with that!), make
sure you visit Windows Update on a regular basis.
b. You should also regularly
updates to other software you use by going to the product's
website and looking. Applications that are actively maintained will
often have security updates available for free. Examples are MS Office,
Adobe Reader, Java, alternate browsers (Mozilla, Firefox, Opera), and
alternate email clients (Eudora, Thunderbird).
computers well maintained,
physically and from within the
operating system. Heat and dust are the great enemies of computers.
When cleaning a computer, always have it unplugged (not just turned
off) and use compressed air to blow the dust out. Use short puffs of
the air rather than sustained ones to avoid creating moisture. Make
sure the insides are completely dry before turning the computer on
again! Electricity and moisture don't play nicely together. Don't touch
the delicate components inside, and if you must touch anything make
sure you've discharged any static electricity by grounding yourself
first. Static electricity shocks that don't bother us humans will fry
For Windows maintenance, refer to
section of this website.
a full-featured antivirus installed. Make sure it is a current
version, preferrably at least 2004 and that your virus
subscription is up-to-date.
Anyone running an antivirus from 2003 (or older) with a current
subscription should replace the program when the subscription expires.
a firewall. Windows XP comes
with a firewall, and the version in
Service Pack 2 is superior to the original one. However, the built-in
Windows Firewall is not as good as third-party firewalls. ZoneAlarm and Sygate make excellent firewalls and
the free personal versions they offer are all you need. If you run a
third-party firewall, disable XP's - you only want one software
Elephant Boy Computers is always happy to take care of your
silicon-based lifeforms, so don't hesitate to call for service.
1. Security updates support
timeline for Windows XP
1a. Support Life Cycle information
for Microsoft operating system
2. Support for Grisoft's AVG
3. Support for Computer Associates'
4. Microsoft's Windows AntiSpyware
Hot Fix support for XP RTM (Release to Manufacturing; i.e., no Service
Packs installed) from Windows Update ended on September 30, 2004.
To get continuing security updates from Windows Update, you will need
to apply at least Service Pack 1. Security fixes for XP (both Pro and
Home) with Service Pack 1 will be discontinued on September 17, 2006.
If you have no Service Packs applied, it would be far better to apply
Service Pack 2.
prepare your computer properly to install Service Pack 2 (SP2).
Difficulties arise when a) the computer is not 100% spyware and
virus-free; b) you have an OEM computer (HP, Sony, Compaq etc.) and
have not applied manufacturer-supplied patches; c) you have programs
installed that are incompatible with SP2 such as virtual drive software
like Alcohol 120%. Here are links to help you with SP2:
Are You Ready
for WinXP SP2?
Order XPSP2 cd
Service Center to Get SP2
SP2 links to
Elephant Boy Computers is happy to install SP2 for you. Just give us a
1a. For your convenience, here are
links showing Microsoft
AVG 6 free antivirus is ending February 15th. Everyone one using
AVG 6 should upgrade
to AVG 7.
people using Computer Associates EZ-AV should also check to see what
version they are running and upgrade to the newest version if applicable.
Here is a link to their website:
order to be effective your antivirus must be a current version (not
earlier than 2003) using updated definitions. This means that
your subscription must be up-to-date. I can't tell you how many
infected computers come in where the client is running the antivirus
software that came preinstalled on his/her computer years ago. In those
cases, the program was never upgraded and the subscription expired long
ago. Those computers are most definitely not
4. As you may know, Microsoft
recently purchased antispyware technology from Giant Software.
The program, now known as "Microsoft
AntiSpyware" (MAS) is
available for download. HOWEVER,
that this program is still in beta. In non-technical terms, that
means it isn't cooked yet. It
unwise to install beta software on production machines. If you
feel you would like to try MAS, make a System Restore point before
installing it. Older Microsoft operating systems - Windows 9x/ME - are
not supported. Here is a download link:
Information and support for MAS
Beta can be found through the following
These newsgroups can be accessed
via NNTP or HTTP. To access these
newsgroups using HTTP, please go to the following location:
To access these newsgroups using
NNTP, please use the following
information for your NNTP client (such as Microsoft Outlook Express):
- NNTP Server:
- Account name:
- Password: spyware
NOTE: No password will be required
via the HTTP link.
When removing spyware, more than
one antispyware program is required.
All tools should be current with updated reference files, and all scans
should be done in Safe Mode. Should your computer become infested,
remember that we
here at Elephant Boy Computers are extremely skilled at removing malware.
Simply call for an appointment.
1. Reminder that NT 4.0 has reached
its End of Life
2. How to tell what Service Pack
level you have
3. Recovery cd's on OEM machines,
1. In the last EBC Report, I wrote about the
End of Life timetables for various Microsoft products. This information
was posted by Microsoft for their NT
operating systems. If any of you are still using NT 4.0 Server at work,
it is time to think about upgrading to one of the many varieties of
Windows Server 2003. You will probably need to upgrade the hardware in
order to do this. Here is the Microsoft post:
"This update provides important
information about end of publicly
available support for Windows NT 4.0 Server and Windows NT 4.0 Terminal
"As Windows NT 4.0 is now out of
support, security fixes for Windows NT
4.0 Server and Terminal Server will no longer be produced after
January, 2005. Any security fixes that were in the process of being
fixed during December for Windows NT 4.0 Server and Terminal Server
will be available during the January, 2005 regular security update
release. However January represents the last month security fixes
will be available for Windows NT 4.0 Server, Windows NT 4.0 Terminal
Server and Windows NT 4.0 Workstation without
Customer Support Agreements in
"Custom Support Agreements for
Windows NT 4.0 line of products are
still available to customers that need them. Please contact your
Technical Account Manager or Account Manager is you are interested in
pursuing this option."
Just thought you should know.
2. I had a call from a client who,
after reading the last
EBC Report, wanted me to
for her. I asked her to please check to make sure she didn't already
have it, and sure enough she did. So for those of you who don't already
find your operating system and Service Pack level:
a. Find the My
Computer icon on the
desktop, right-click it and then left-click
b. Go to
Start>Settings>Control Panel and find the System
applet. Double-click it to open it. On the first tab - the General tab
- you will see your System information and Service Pack level. It will
say something like:
Microsoft Windows XP
Professional (or Home)
Service Pack 2 (if
no Service Packs are listed, you need to get updated!)
3. Once again, one of my good
clients has gotten bitten by HP's
HP does not care to spend the pennies to provide their customers with a
physical Recovery cd. Instead, there is a special recovery partition on
the hard drive. My client's hard drive died, so she naturally called HP
to replace it. I installed the new drive, and much to our surprise, HP
had shipped her a
completely blank hard drive without the recovery program. I
called HP tech support and was told, "Didn't she (the client) make
Recovery cd's?" Of course she hadn't; she hadn't even known she could.
Naturally she had to order the Recovery cd's so she would have an
operating system to install. HP
banged her for an
additional $25.00 to do this.
So this is a heads-up for all of
you with HP computers: some
of the recent
HP computers will allow you to create physical Recovery cd's. You
should definitely do this.
Refer to the manual that came with
your computer for how to do this. If you have one of the older models
that do not allow you to create the Recovery cd, it would make good
sense to call HP tech support and spend the $25.00 to have the disks on
hand. You don't want to have to get a new hard drive and pay
$100.00 for a retail copy of Windows XP.
To be fair, HP isn't the only OEM
that doesn't provide a physical cd.
My IBM laptop did not come with any physical media (boo! hiss!). Be
aware of what is included when you are buying a computer. An
Equipment Manufacturer) who is selling a computer with a preinstalled
Microsoft operating system legally must provide the customer with a way
to reinstall Windows. That
can take the form of:
1. Physical operating system cd's
(Dell is the only big OEM that still
does this as far as I know, and that's why I recommend them);
2. Physical Recovery cd's which
will take the system back to
3. Hidden or special partition on
the hard drive which will take the
system back to factory-condition.
you buy a
computer with a Microsoft operating system, you must have one of the
above ways of reinstalling Windows. In
all cases, you
will be provided with a Product Key. This is usually on a sticker on
the back or side of an OEM desktop case and on the bottom of a laptop.
Do not lose this key! You cannot reinstall Windows without it. If a
private party sells you a computer with Windows preinstalled, he must
give you the Product Key and operating system software or you have an
illegal copy of Windows.
2-10-05 - Contents:
1. Microsoft Patch Tuesday
2. Vulnerabilities in alternate browsers
3. Vulnerability in Symantec's products
1. This past
Tuesday was the Monthly Microsoft Patch day for their operating systems.
As always, people with Windows 2000 and XP should have Automatic
Updates set. People running Win9x/ME should go to Windows Update and
patch their systems. Windows Update might be slow because of heavy
demand, so if you have trouble getting through just try again later or
the next day. Don't forget to do it, though!
2. A rather
serious vulnerability in alternate browsers such as Mozilla, Firefox,
and Opera was recently discovered where an url could be spoofed
using international characters. Here is the write-up from
As far as I know, patches are being
written for Mozilla and Firefox although www.mozilla.org doesn't have
anything for download that I can see yet. Opera has said their
browser is not affected and does not plan to issue patches;
has been proved that their browser is susceptible.
In the meantime, users of those browsers should be careful and can
follow the workarounds outlined on Secunia's
website when going to sites that might be spoofing targets, like
PayPal, eBay, or online banks.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer is not vulnerable to this particular
spoofing exploit because it doesn't handle international
characters in a standard way, this isn't a reason to use IE. IE still has enough
holes in it that it should only be used for those sites where no other
browser will work, such as Windows Update. Friends don't let
friends use IE.
3. There is a
highly critical vulnerability in many Symantec products such as Norton
Antivirus and Symantec corporate security software. Here is the
write-up from Secunia:
Go to Symantec's website here:
or use Live
Update to patch any vulnerable Symantec software on your systems.
The lesson in
all this is that even if you are not an IT professional, you need to
know what software you have installed on your computer and occasionally
go to the manufacturer's website to check for product patches and
1. Program updates to plug vulnerabilities - Firefox and TrendMicro
2. New email scam purporting to be from FBI
3. Explanation of beta software
4. Windows XP System Restore
1. Just to let you know that Firefox has a new
version available for download to plug various security holes.
Firefox users should update. See the announcement
also announced that it has updates to close vulnerabilities in
many of its antivirus/security products. Here is information about the
vulnerability from SecurityFocus: http://www.securityfocus.com/bid/12643
This information is pretty technical, so if you don't care about the
details, just make sure you update your TrendMicro products.
2. We remind you fairly frequently that Microsoft never
sends out emails with attachments purporting to be a security
patch. If you forgot, consider yourself reminded again. A new twist on this
old favorite has arisen whereby the email will appear to come from the
FBI. The email tells the recipients that their Internet use has
been monitored by the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center and
they have accessed illegal web sites. The recipient is told to open the
attached "questionnaire" which of course contains a virus. Here's the
FBI press release: http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel05/022205.htm
3. As you probably know, spyware infestation is a huge problem for
Windows users. Microsoft
recently bought Giant Antispyware and has been busy fine-tuning
the program for Windows 2000 and XP (it will not run on Win9x/ME). The
application, known as Microsoft AntiSpyware
(you'd think with all those billions of dollars the company could come
up with a catchier name!), which is still in beta is available for free
download. I want to explain very clearly to all of you that beta software means
"software that isn't cooked yet". Application development goes
through a series of phases before it is ready for public consumption.
Roughly, they are:
a. Kicking around the idea before writing the code.
b. Alpha - a very "rough
draft" of the program.
c. Beta - a less "rough
draft" of the program. There may be several betas. A beta may be
offered to private beta testers or public beta testers. The purpose of
beta testing is to see what the program breaks when used on a wide
variety of computers. The beta testers report problems back to the
company so bugs can be fixed.
d. RC1 - Release Candidate 1
is after beta but before the program is absolutely finished. Again, the
program is being tested for bugs. There may be an RC2 if a lot of bugs
are still found in RC1.
e. RTM - Release to
Manufacturing is the finished product. If a serious bug is found when
the program is out in the real world - being used in "the wild" - or if
a vulnerability is found, the company will write patches.
Here's the thing to really remember - never install beta
software on a production machine. I can guarantee you there will
be tears before bedtime. I think MSAS will be quite a good product; it
looks promising. But I've seen it break Outlook's ability to get email,
disable the Windows Firewall, and various other showstoppers. I'll
definitely get MSAS for my Windows machines, but not until it's out of
4. I was at a client's the other day (hi, Phil!) and it came out that
he didn't know about XP's System Restore.
Maybe some of you also don't know about this useful XP tool. Windows ME
had a rudimentary System Restore whereby if you messed up your computer
but weren't really sure what you did wrong (maybe you left your
kindergartner alone with the computer), you could restore the system to
an earlier date when things worked. The ME version wasn't that reliable.
XP's System Restore is more sophisticated and implemented better. It
isn't perfect, but most of the time it does exactly what it should -
helps you unwind from a mistake and go back a few days. You can create
a Restore Point before installing a program and if things don't work
out, go back to that Restore Point. Doing a System
Restore is not a substitute for backing up your data.
To run System Restore, go to Start>All
Programs>Accessories>System Tools and click on System Restore. To
learn more about System Restore, start XP's Help &
Support and you will see the topic under "Pick A Task".
1. Vulnerability/patch for Limewire
2. New anti-phishing consortium
3. Nasty file-sharing/MSN Messenger
4. Darwin Awards
1. Although I strongly suggest not
using file-swapping programs, anyone
LimeWire should UPDATE YOUR CLIENT to 4.8.0 or above! There is a
new serious vulnerability in the program as follows:
Logo-image port vulnerability
(Affects versions 4.1.2 - 4.5.6,
inclusive). Magnet port vulnerability (Affects versions 3.9.6 - 4.6.0,
vulnerabilities allow anyone on the network to read any file on a
machine that is connected to the Gnutella network with the LimeWire
client. The first vulnerability can be exploited even if the host is
behind a firewall. A simple telnet client is sufficient to take
advantage of these vulnerabilities.
2. There is a new and interesting
consortium that has been formed to
fight phishing. "The
Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) is the global pan-industrial
and law enforcement association focused on eliminating the fraud and
identity theft that result from phishing, pharming and email spoofing
of all types." The group is sponsored by companies such as Microsoft,
Symantec to name just a few.
There is a lot of excellent
information at the site, including reports on the latest phishing
schemes and a way to report phishing attempts.
very nasty worm that spreads through file-sharing networks and MSN
Messenger. It immediately
breaks all antivirus software,
disables Administrative tools, and sends copies of itself to all your
MSN Messenger contacts. Here is information on the worm from Symantec
"Sky Devil" MSN Messenger/File
In order to protect yourself, make
current version antivirus -
not earlier than 2004* - installed
on your computer. Make sure that your subscription to the virus
definitions has not expired and that the virus definitions are
* If you have antivirus that is
version 2003 with a current
subscription, when the subscription runs out do not just renew the
subscription. Replace the older antivirus with a current version one.
Elephant Boy Computers can suggest a good replacement.
you aren't supposed to open attachments that come in email
unless you are absolutely sure you are expecting them and you have
antivirus protection in place. You
are also not
supposed to accept files via your instant messaging program.
Running a program you got from an instant messaging contact isn't any
different than running a program you get in an email attachment.
Practice Safe Hex
4. For those of you with a twisted
sense of humor (like me), we have a
Award to enjoy:
Darwin Awards celebrate those
individuals whose amazing acts of
stupidity have removed them from the gene pool.
1. Multiple vulnerabilities in
2. Microsoft April Windows Updates
3. Transferring data from an older
computer to a new one
1. If you are using the Firefox
browser, you should upgrade it to the latest version. Here is a brief
description of the vulnerability from Secunia:
"A vulnerability has been
discovered in Mozilla Firefox, which can be
exploited by malicious people to gain knowledge of potentially sensitive
information. The vulnerability is
caused due to an error in the
exploitation may disclose sensitive information in memory."
Read more here: http://secunia.com/advisories/14820/
Get the latest version of Firefox
your operating system is patched with April's security updates from
Windows Update. Those of you
running XP with Automatic Updates
turned on are already covered. If you have your system set to manually
update or you have a computer running an older supported operating
system (Windows 98/ME), go to Windows Update. Important things to
remember about updating Windows:
patches for Microsoft operating systems from anywhere except the
official Windows Update site.
Do not use non-Microsoft web
sources for updates.
updates that are being offered to you. With Automatic Updates,
you will be presented with a dialog box that gives you two choices:
Express Install and Custom Install. Always take the Custom Install to
be sure you are only installing security updates and the monthly
Malicious Software Removal Tool. Do
driver updates from Windows Updates.
never sends emails with attachments. If you receive an email
purporting to be from Microsoft with an attached "security patch",
delete it. The "patch" is a virus and the email is from The Bad Guys.
3. I am seeing a lot of clients
with older machines running Windows
98/ME who are ready to replace their computers with new ones running
Windows XP. The
question of how to transfer their data from the old computer to the new
one comes up a lot. There
are various ways to do this.
First, understand that except for
very old DOS programs (which may or
may not work with XP), you
cannot just copy
a program's folder from one
computer to another. Programs
need to be
installed on the new
system with data created in the program transferred. You install the
program from whatever installation media you have - either cd's or the
executable file if this is a program you downloaded from the Internet.
What you want to transfer (and what you should be backing up on a
regular basis) is your data;
i.e., your documents, pictures, music, Quicken or QuickBooks data,
addressbooks, emails you wish to save, your Great American Novel.
Remember, in order to open your
data on the new computer, you will need
to install the program in which you created the data (or a different
program that is capable of reading the data). In other words, if you
have documents that you created in Microsoft Word, you will need
Microsoft Word installed on the new computer or another word processor
that can read the MS Word file format such as Corel WordPerfect or
Settings Transfer Wizard (F.A.S.T.) - Windows XP has this
function which is supposed to do exactly what its name implies -
transfer your data and settings from programs like Outlook Express to
the new computer. Sometimes it works. Here is a very detailed and
excellent article about F.A.S.T. by
The article also briefly discusses the issue of transferring settings
from Outlook Express and links to MVP Tom Koch's OE
site for more information on that: http://aumha.org/win5/a/fast.htm
data onto removable media
and then paste it where desired on the
new computer. Removable media includes floppy disks (worst choice),
cd-r's or an USB thumb drive. Be aware that since floppies are rapidly
becoming obsolete, most new computers do not come with a floppy drive
as standard. You can buy a USB floppy drive in this case. If your old
computer doesn't have a cd burner, then the USB thumb drive will be
your best bet.
c. If the old computer doesn't
support USB, like Windows 95 or older
(could you still have an old Windows 3.1 computer around?!), then the
the old computer can be removed and slaved in the new computer
so that the data can be copied off from within Windows XP. If desired,
the old drive can be left as slave and formatted to be used as extra
1. Instant Messaging viruses
1. Although you may be
about not opening attachments in email, don't forget that good security
practices also apply to using Instant Messaging ("IM") software.
Some examples of IM programs are AOL Instant Messenger ("AIM"), MSN
Instant Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. You
can get a virus
through IM by accepting files or by clicking on a link that takes you
to a website that immediately downloads an infected file.
Accepting files in IM is just as risky as opening an email attachment.
If your antivirus is a current version (not earlier than 2004) and its
virus definitions are up-to-date, it should flag and block the infected
file immediately. But remember, your antivirus can only catch those
viruses which it already knows about - if the virus is a new one and no
virus definitions exist yet, your computer will be infected.
Here are some tips on using your IM
you have the latest version of your IM software. Go to the
program's home webpage and check for updates, then download and install
your Windows operating system is patched via Windows Update.
program's preferences to not
automatically download files. You
may decide to not allow any file transfers at all. Examine the options
carefully and then set up your IM software the way you feel is best for
you. Don't just accept the defaults without looking at what they are.
strong account password and
change it occasionally. Don't tell
anyone your password.
credit card numbers, Social Security Numbers, or any other vital
information over IM.
attachments or click on Web links sent by someone you don't know.
Be cautious even if the link is from someone you do
know. Just because your buddy thinks "this is a cool site" doesn't mean
cool or safe. You don't know where he heard about it. If you decide to
go to that site, hover over the link with your cursor before clicking
it to check whether the Web address seems legitimate. If you have any
doubts at all, don't go there!
files over IM unless you
have no other alternative, and never
send files containing information you want to keep private.
odd behavior from people contacting you over IM, just as you would in
person. If someone on your
allowed list is sending strange
messages, end your IM session and contact them over the phone or on
email. All IM programs have the ability to block certain people and to
provide you some protection from contact from strangers. Again, look at
the program's options/preferences.
your antivirus is a recent version and your subscription is current.
don't use IM, if
your children are older than toddlers they
openly with your children about IM. Teach them how to stay safe just
like you taught them not to talk to strangers in Real Life(tm). Share
the information above with your children to help them practice "Safe
Hex" with IM and also:
your children about IM safety,
warning them specifically about
the dangers of talking with strangers over IM. Teach them the old
Internet adage - "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog".
your family's IM profiles do not contain personal information -
especially phone numbers, addresses, photos, or anything that could
connect your children with their IM identities. Make sure your
children's IM programs preferences are set for safety.
interest in your children's online life. Get to know their
online friends the same way you'd get to know their local friends. Be
aware of what your kids are doing and saying.
children's IM member names and the names of their online buddies.
There are ways of knowing exactly
what your children are doing on a
computer, but the best way is to have open communication with them.
1. Patch for new Firefox
2. Patch for new iTunes
3. How you got the spyware
critical vulnerabilities in the Firefox browser have come to
light. Here is an article by Robert Lemos of Security Focus: http://securityfocus.com/news/11155
All Firefox users should upgrade
the browser to the latest version: http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/
flaw that could allow a classic buffer overflow attack was discovered
in Apple's iTunes program.
Here is an article by John Leyden: http://securityfocus.com/news/11153
All iTunes users should update to
version 4.8: http://www.apple.com/itunes/
finished removing malware from a client's computer. Reasonably, she
asked, "How did we get this? I
thought we were being so
careful!" In her case, I was able to pinpoint a download by her son or
daughter from Smiley
Central, a known supplier of spyware along with their cutesy
icons. Spyware "vendors" definitely target children. There have been
articles about this in the popular press - here's one from MSNBC News: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7735192/
quotes Ben Edelman, a highly-respected member of the anti-spyware
forces. If you really want
to have your eyes opened to the
miserable state of things in our War Against Malware, spend some time
on Mr. Edelman's site: http://www.benedelman.org/
You will be amazed and appalled. It
will also help you stay safe by
knowing some of the dirty tricks the Bad Guys will try to play on you.
1. MYTOB worm (and others) use
2. New versions of Spybot Search
& Destroy (1.4) and Ad-aware (1.06)
3. Very interesting article
SpywareInfo article today
new worm out that uses social engineering to get a user to run the
virus executable. Like many
other viruses, it comes as an
attachment to an email. Once the computer is infected, as is common
with these types of worms the virus will use its own email engine to
send messages with an attached copy of itself to all email addresses on
the hard drive. There are always new viruses, but the main reason I
wanted to write you about this is the social engineering aspect. "Social
means in effect tricking the victim into doing something harmful
to them - in this case opening the attachment and running the infected
executable. Here is a link to Symantec's writeup on this
If you scroll down, you will see
that the virus comes attached to an
email saying something about your email account having a problem. The
email looks and sounds "official" and a busy or less-aware user might
become alarmed and fall for the trick. This technique of social
engineering is used a lot by The Bad Guys, and some of the recent (and
quite destructive) malware that is coming from Instant Messaging
programs uses it also. A "buddy" will send you (or your teenager!) a
link to something "cool". The victim will click on the link and
automatically download and execute something really nasty. Remember,
protect yourself by:
practice Safe Hex. Do not
open email attachments. Do not click
links or download a program from within an Instant Messaging program.
Do not be seduced by The Dark Side into clicking on those flashing
banners on websites.
a current version (not earlier than 2004 and with an active virus
definition subscription) antivirus program installed. Remember
that you still need to practice Safe Hex because if you run an infected
executable for which a virus definition has not yet been written, your
computer will be infected.
messages purporting to be from "official" sources such as Microsoft,
your bank, and your Internet Service Provider. Remember that
those companies will never send you an email with an attachment or ask
for your password and/or other personal information in an email.
new versions of Spybot Search & Destroy and Ad-aware ready.
You should uninstall previous versions of Spybot before installing the
new version. If you have customized your version of Spybot by using
Internet Explorer protection, Hosts protection, and/or TeaTimer turn
off those features before uninstalling. Then use Add/Remove Programs to
uninstall the program. Afterwards you may need to delete the Spybot
folder in Program Files. Then you are ready to install the new version
The Ad-aware installation will
automatically uninstall the older
2nd edition of the SpywareInfo newsletter is particularly interesting. Mike
Healan (the author) describes what can happen when the user clicks
"Yes" and allows one
ActiveX Control to install from a dodgy website. Mike goes through what
he had to do to clean up his computer, and this will give you some idea
of what I do for my clients. It takes less time for me and I'm more
efficient than Mike was in this instance because I do this kind of work
all the time, but if Elephant Boy (or any other tech) has cleaned up
your machine you will now get a taste of what we have to do. I don't
charge $70/hour like the techs in Mike's area, though. Hmmm.... ;-)
1. Microsoft reportedly in
talks to buy Claria and the resultant fuss
2. London Bombing Trojan
3. Warning over unpatched IE bug
4. Reminder about free viewers,
pr0n sites and betrayalware - how to tell how you got the crud
1. The big news in
antispyware-warrior circles is that Microsoft is reportedly in talks
to purchase Claria, the company responsible for the infamous Gator and for suing antispyware
sites for saying that Gator is spyware. No one is really sure why
Microsoft would want to do this, but it has been noticed that the beta MS
Antispyware tool ("MSAS") has downgraded Claria/Gator infestations to
"ignore". Here is an article by the always-excellent Benjamin Edelman
and another from the sometimes
inflammatory but always-interesting The Register:
I don't recommend
putting beta software on production computers. "Beta" means software that isn't finished yet
and is still in the bug-checking phase. Even though Microsoft has offered
MSAS as a free download (and it looked like a promising antispyware
tool), I don't put it on my customer's
machines. Downgrading the Claria threat (which is not a rumor - this has really been done) makes this
tool suspect in my mind. It will be interesting to see how this whole
thing plays out, but if MS really does buy Claria the value of MSAS is
questionable. Companies producing antispyware software have to be very
careful about their ethics and connections; it's the old "fox in the
2. As an illustration
of just how low some people can go, there is a virus-laden
email circulating purporting to be about the tragic bombings in London.
The email poses as a CNN newsletter with an attached "news video". Of course the attachment is
nothing of the sort but is rather a trojan horse that will turn the victim's
computer into a spam-spewing zombie.
Here's an article about this:
Remember, I've always told you not to open
attachments that come in email unless
you are absolutely sure it is something you've requested from the sender. Even then, you take a
your antivirus software
updated and be wise about what you allow to run on your computer.
3. Here's another entry
in the "friends don't let friends use Internet Explorer"
would expect Microsoft to patch this IE vulnerability soon (the next
series of Windows Update patches is scheduled for this coming Tuesday, July 12), but it
would be wise to use a different browser instead. We use Firefox and Mozilla on the Windows
machines here. Using an alternate browser doesn't make you bullet-proof -
other browsers can have their own vulnerabilities and you have to
check for updates on their home sites regularly. However, I still
believe Internet Explorer is not a Good Choice and should only be used if a
website you absolutely need to visit only works with IE (stupid
webmasters, but it happens). Remember, those
of you not running Windows XP, Windows 2000, or Windows ME (or if
Automatic Updates are not on) should regularly visit the Windows Update
site for patches and manually update.
4. I recently cleaned
up a client's machine that was badly infested with the Aurora-Nail
malware (and other crud). My client was beside herself because we had just gone through an
intensive cleaning a few months ago. She only visits "good" websites, uses
Firefox instead of IE, and has current antivirus software. "How did
this happen?" she wailed. Well, it was a lovely Sherlock Holmes exercise to
look at the browsing history in both Firefox and IE. There we found that
someone in her household had gone
to Google and searched for pr0n* sites. It was completely clear that the person then went to those sites
and downloaded a "free viewer" with which to view the movies offered.
Of course the "free viewer" came with a trojan horse and now the computer
was infested. The resultant crud
downloaded more crud, which downloaded more crud, and so on. The person now panicked and clicked on an ad
for SpySpotter to remove the malware.
SpySpotter is malware itself, and falls into the "betrayalware" category; i.e., it is one of those ugly
programs that pretends to be a malware-remover but is itself malware.
You can research rogue antispyware
on MVP Eric Howes' excellent site here:
You can look at your browser's
history like this:
In Internet Explorer,
you may have a History icon or on the menu bar go to View>Explorer Bar and click
History. To clear the History, go to Tools>Internet Options and on the
General tab you'll see a History section with a button to Clear History.
The default is to keep the History
links for 20 days. You can change this if you like.
to see the History on the menu bar go to View>Sidebar and click History. To clear the History, go
to Tools>Options and click on the Privacy icon on the left. There is a
Clear button, and the default is also to keep files for 20 days, which
you can change.
Of course, a computer-savvy surfer
will know about this and clean up after him/herself. There are still ways
to find out where someone has been surfing, but we'll leave that for
the computer forensics specialists.
Most young children and many teens will not know about clearing the History so it is a good
place to start looking if you suspect there is an issue you need to
*You will often seen "pr0n" used as
a substitute for "substitute the zero with the letter o and switch the
position of the letters r and o and you'll get the word. This is done
because many people have mail servers (particularly schools and
businesses) that will bounce emails with naughty words in them. So because I
want you to have this information,
we have to allow for that possibility in the email version of EBC
Back to top
1. New version of Firefox, watch
for updates to Thunderbird.
2. Microsoft-Claria deal is dead.
3. Patch Tuesday yesterday.
4. Apple updates to Tiger
Just a quick update for you all:
1. There is a new
version of the Firefox browser which takes care of some recently
discovered vulnerabilities. Here is a link:
If you use the
Thunderbird mail client, visit Mozilla.org
occasionally and check for updates to that program. None are
available as of this writing, but the T-bird coders are apparently
working on a new version.
As for the new
Firefox, if you use Roboform with the Firefox plug-in, you might want
to hold off on updating. There was a report that after updating
to Firefox 1.05, Roboform and then Foxfire crash on pages where
Roboform is active. Reverting to 1.04 solved the problem for the
person reporting the issue. Check on Roboform's website for news and
updates to their program.
2. Good news, everyone
- the Microsoft-Claria deal is dead. Apparently somebody
at Microsoft woke up and realized that buying Claria would not make for
a Happy Public Relations Event.
3. It was Patch Tuesday
yesterday, so if you need to manually visit Windows Update you
should. Patches were applied to all my Windows machines with no ill
effects. Remember, do a Custom Install and don't install drivers from
4. I know we usually ignore the Mac
users, but if
there are any of you who use Tiger, Apple has just released some updates
to their operating system.
Stay cool, stay safe, have fun.
Back to top
1. Very serious identity theft ring discovered
2. Patch Tuesday
3. On the lighter side, the results of the 2005 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction
Contest are in
1. Over the
last week, a very serious identify theft ring was discovered by the
researchers at Sunbelt. I hesitated to send out general
information about this because I didn't want to panic anyone, but you
really need to know about this. If your antivirus is a current version
and your subscription is up-to-date and you routinely run antispyware
software like Ad-aware and Spybot Search & Destroy, and use a
firewall you are probably just fine. So please don't
panic. The FBI is working with antispyware forces, and there is
of course no information about their investigation as yet. Here are
links about the identity theft exploit and how to tell if you are
infected with the malware that opens your computer to the Bad Guys.
2. This past
Tuesday (8/9) was Patch Tuesday for Microsoft operating systems.
As always, if you have Automatic Updates on you should have received
the patches. You should always install critical security patches from
Microsoft. If you have an obsolete operating system like Windows 98
which is no longer supported, you should still visit Windows Update to
see if there are any patches for Internet Explorer.
3. On the lighter side, the winners of the 2005 Bulwer-Lytton
Fiction Contest have been announced:
Stay safe, people.
Back to top
1. No Microsoft Windows security updates this month
2. Vulnerability in Firefox/Mozilla
3. Be careful out there - sleazy spyware
4. Sept. 19 - Talk Like A Pirate Day and more
1. Posted on
Microsoft TechNet: "No new security updates on September 13th as
part of the September monthly bulletin release cycle. This represents a
change in the information found in the Advance Notification on
Thursday, September 8, 2005. Late in the testing process, Microsoft
encountered a quality issue that necessitated the update to go through
additional testing and development before it is released. Microsoft is
committed to only releasing high quality updates that fix the issue(s)
in question, and therefore we feel it is in the best interest of our
customers to not release this update until it undergoes further testing.
"Microsoft will release an updated version of the Microsoft Windows
Malicious Software Removal Tool on Windows Update, Microsoft Update,
Windows Server Update Services and the Download Center."
This is a Good Thing. We don't want
them to release any patches until they are ready!
researchers have discovered an Internet Explorer-like vulnerability in
Firefox and Mozilla. You can read about it and see the
workaround here: http://www.mozilla.org/security
Firefox 1.5 is in Beta now. Remember, "beta" software is not finished
and is still in the bug-checking phase. Do not run beta
software on a production machine.
3. Sunbelt calls this
company's tactics the "sleazy install of the week". It is pretty bad. Do not be tempted to
click on the Sleazy Company's website link if you are running any
version of the Windows operating system!
Warrior's take on it: http://www.netrn.net/spywareblog/
- The following item is based on what I think is
amusing. If you know me then you know that although I am not a
politically correct person and have a quirky sense of humor, I do not
go out of my way to offend people. You have been warned.
How quickly a year goes by! September is half over already and we are
coming up to one of our favorite holidays, Talk Like A Pirate
TLAPD is on
Monday, September 19th and is the start of Holy Week for those of us
who are Pastafarians*.
entry here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster
and the original site that started it all here: http://venganza.org/index.htm
Back to top
1. New malware that spoofs Google.
2. The Opera browser is now completely free.
3. New Microsoft Shared Computer Tookit
4. Brief notes on what you should be looking for when you buy a new
writers have developed a worm that spoofs the behaviour of internet
search engine Google, varying the results displayed to suit the
requirements of hackers. Since the worm spreads via
file-sharing networks like Shareaza, this is just another good
reason to stay away from pirating (unless you plan to sacrifice your
PC). Here's the article from The Register:
2. Opera is an
interesting, well-made browser that has been around for a long
time. It used to be available in two versions - free and ad-supported.
Now Opera has dropped the for-pay version and the ads and is offering
it ad-free at no charge. I'm not sure how well this marketing strategy
will work for them, but if you would like to try a good alternate
browser, you can download Opera here:
Here's the article about it from The Register:
has developed a new tool to help limit access on Workgroup
computers. The Shared
Computer Toolkit might be useful for parents trying to control
their children's computers or for small businesses. It looks like
you'll need some amount of computer-savvyness to set it up although the
tool doesn't appear to be aimed at IT professionals. The Shared
Computer Toolkit is free for licensed users of Windows XP. Here's
Microsoft's webpage about it:
4. A lot of my
clients are in the position of having older machines that are starting
to fail. At this point with new computers so affordable, it
doesn't make sense to try and repair a Windows 98/ME machine if the
problems are with hardware. Here are some essentials you should look
for when you are considering buying a new computer:
a. Get a
minimum of 256MB of RAM (memory). Personally, I'd always go with 512MB
b. Make sure
the computer has a CD-RW drive (CD burner). If you have a lot of
music files and/or pictures, consider getting a DVD-RW instead since
DVD's hold much more data than CD's. Many of the big computer companies
like Dell are now offering a DVD-RW drive as an option.
every computer will come with an 80GB hard drive now. For people
moving up from Win98/ME, this will be fine. If you have a lot of music,
video and image files, then a larger drive will be better.
d. If you are
still using an old 15 or 17" CRT monitor, considering getting
a flat panel LCD instead. Often a flat panel will be offered as
a "deal", and they are really nice and easy on the eyes.
e. Examine the
software "bundle" that comes preinstalled. The Windows XP
operating system does not come with word processors and DVD video
players, etc. built in. When you buy a computer from a big company like
Dell or HP, they will provide some combination of preinstalled
software. Compare what the different companies are offering to help
decide what is the best deal for you.
to be aware of when purchasing a computer is what, if any, physical
media comes with it. A computer builder selling a machine with
Windows preinstalled has a legal obligation to Microsoft to provide the
buyer with a way of restoring the computer to factory-condition. The
computer builder can do this in one of three ways:
1) With a physical CD containing the operating system.
2) With a physical CD containing an image of the machine as it came
from the factory, called a "Restore" or "Recovery" disk.
3) With a Restore/Recovery image on a special partition on the hard
For future repair purposes, obviously having 1) above is preferable but
you don't always have a choice. Just be aware that if your computer
only has option 3), if the hard drive fails you will need to have an
operating system to reinstall. Most of the computers from big OEM's
(Original Equipment Manufacturers) now come with a way to create backup
physical media of the operating system. The end user has to make these
CD's so if you buy one of these computers, make sure you find out how
to do this and that you do it.
Back to top
1. Patch Tuesday for Microsoft operating systems
2. Fake Google Toolbar is malware
3. Tip - Recovering Windows
was Patch Tuesday for Microsoft operating systems from Windows Update.
Since there were no patches last month, there are quite a few this
month. A good
practice to follow when applying MS updates, especially when there are
so many of them, is to first set a Restore Point and then apply the
patches one at a time, testing after each patch installation. If
you are unsure whether a patch will negatively impact your Windows
installation, there is nothing to prevent you from setting multiple
Restore Points between patch installations. If a patch interferes with
your installed programs (there were some reports in the MS newsgroups
about a problem with MS ActiveSync after one of the patches), you can
uninstall it or use System Restore to go back to before you installed
individual patches in XP, don't use the Express Install but instead
choose "Custom". Now you can examine the patches and install
them one by one. Never install driver updates from Windows Update;
however, you definitely want security patches.
To set a
Start>Programs>Accessories>System Tools>System Restore
"Create a Restore Point"
System Restore is not available in Windows 98 or Windows 2000. Windows
ME and XP have the System Restore feature.
2. There is
currently a browser hijacker in circulation which installs a fake
Google Toolbar, hijacking the HOSTS file to redirect most Google
domains and placing a homepage hijacker in the Temporary Internet Files
folder, from which an Internet Explorer based search engine claims to
be powered by Google. The bundle also includes a rogue antispyware
tool, called "World Antispy". Here is a report on the malware by the
Some of the
installs are coming from instant messaging and IRC links. As
always, practicing "Safe Hex" means not clicking on links or running
programs received in your instant messaging/IRC program. SpywareGuide.com
has a lot of good information about malware and how to
If you didn't
practice Safe Hex
3. Over the
last few years, many computer manufacturers have stopped providing
physical operating system CD's or Restore Disks. Even Dell,
which used to be the exception to this cheapskate practice, no longer
provides the XP installation CD unless you specify physical media when
you order the machine. Many of the large OEM's (Dell, HP, Acer) allow
you to create a physical CD to restore your operating system. When you buy a new
computer, be aware of what process will be used should you need to
reinstall Windows and/or take it back to factory condition. At
some point there is a very good chance you will need to do this, so it
is a good idea to make the CD if your OEM has provided that ability.
If a computer
builder sells you a machine with a Microsoft operating system
installed, the builder has the legal obligation to provide a way for
you to restore the computer to factory condition. This
obligation can be fulfilled in any of these ways:
a. With a physical CD of the actual operating system;
b. with a "Recovery Disk" containing an image of the factory
c. with a Restore Image on a (sometimes hidden) partition on the hard
drive that is accessed by a specific key press at computer startup (F10
for HP's for example).
There are more details about what you will need if you have to
reinstall Windows at the bottom of this section on the website here.
Back to top
Here's a common scenario: you turn on your computer and hear a loud
clicking and/or grinding noise. Then you see an error message something
system not found" or "No boot device". This means your hard
drive has failed. Or you have a power outage that fries your computer
since you didn't have it plugged into an Uninterruptible Power Supply.
What do you do? How do you get back up and running with minimal loss of
data and time? If you are a home user, you may have precious pictures,
legal documents, or your Great American Novel stored on your computer.
If you are a business owner, your computer may be integral to your
livelihood. Computers are just machines and they break. Are you ready for
when this happens to you?
Here are some suggestions for computer disaster planning. You may think
of other things, too and you should
spend the time preparing for recovery. A professional (like Elephant
Boy Computers) can help you with planning and implementation, but only you know what is important to you.
Only you know your business
and what you need to have in order to continue. For business owners,
even if you delegate the day-to-day backups to a staff member, you
cannot allow yourself to be ignorant of the process. What if the staff
member doesn't do the job properly or leaves? The Boy Scout motto is a
good one, "Be
replacement - If your entire computer needs to be replaced (and
not just the hard drive), how will you quickly get another one? Can you
wait and order a good machine or do you need to run up to the local
BestBuy? What should you buy? Is your computer still under warranty?
What are the terms of the warranty? If you have an older computer,
start thinking about replacing it. If you have a newer computer, have
all the paperwork handy so you can call Dell (or whoever) and get a new
machine out immediately. If you have a business relationship with your
computer supplier (like Dell), you can get a new machine shipped out on
an emergency basis. Small business owners should know whether or not
you have this option.
B. Now you've
gotten the new computer (or new hard drive). If you just needed
a new hard drive, now you need to install the operating system
(Windows), all the programs you use, and restore your data from
backups. You did make backups,
system - Your operating system is the software that enables you
to run programs. Examples of Microsoft operating systems are:
1. DOS/Windows 3.1
2. Windows 95/98/ME
3. Windows 2000/XP
You must have the installation media to reinstall Windows. You must
have the product key. I addressed this in the last EBC Report. You can
read it on the website here:
Make sure you know where your operating system or Restore Disk CD is.
- Every piece of hardware in a computer has software that tells the
operating system how to use that hardware. That software is called a
"driver". If you have a soundcard but no drivers, Windows may know you
have a soundcard but you will not have any sound. If you bought a
computer from an OEM ("Original Equipment Manufacturer") like Dell or
HP, the computer will have come with driver CD's. If you bought a
computer from a local supplier, it will also have come with driver
CD's. Make sure you know where those CD's are.
- Programs are the software that enable you to do things. Examples of
1. Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Outlook, Access, PowerPoint)
3. Roxio or Nero to let you create CD/DVD's (burning software)
4. Specialized programs for your business
You must have CD's to install programs. You cannot copy the Microsoft
Office program folder (for instance) from C:\Windows\Program Files for
reinstallation purposes. Know where your installation CD's are.
or "niche" programs
1. Upgrade - If you use
specialized software, it would be wise to make sure you have a recent
version. Many people run into trouble because they use a database
designed for DOS which will not run on a modern operating system like
XP. If you replace your computer, the new one will come with
Microsoft's current operating system which is Windows XP. You will be
scrambling to find a new program that will meet your needs and then
have to figure out how to get your data from the old program into the
Another problem that can occur when using obsolete programs recently
happened to one of my clients; the programs she was using for her
business required activation after being installed, but the software
company no longer makes the programs. The activation servers had been
shut down long ago. How will you activate a program when the software
manufacturer is out of business or the program is no longer being
2. Many programs require a license
code and/or product key. Make sure you can find all the
3. Many industry-specific programs require a yearly support contract with the
software company. Make sure you have kept your support contract
current. Know how to contact the software manufacturer's tech support.
G. Backups -
Now you've got your new operating system, drivers, and programs
installed. Where's your data? Data is what you made with the programs,
1. Word documents or Excel spreadsheets
3. Client records
4. Mailing lists/contacts/calendar/emails
5. Niche software data
6. Browser Favorites/Bookmarks
The only way to
restore data is from backups you made. That data has to be put
onto the new hard drive either by copy/paste or by placing the data
where (and in a format) a program expects to find it. You need to think
about what programs you use and then learn about them. You need to know
how to reinstall the programs and where the programs keep the data so
you can do regular backups. You need to know how to restore the data.
Obviously, the backups cannot have been kept only on the computer. You
must have the data backed up somewhere external. Here is some general
information about backing up:
Understanding your programs is particularly important if you use
specialized software that has its own backup/restore method. If you don't know
how your niche software gets backed up, reinstalled, and your data
restored, you need to find out. Either read the manual or call
the software's tech support. Document your findings if necessary. A
tech like me coming into your home or office to do the restoration work
will most likely have no idea how to reinstall/restore your particular
H. User names
and passwords - You have a user name and password for your
Internet access and/or your email. Your main account name might not be
the same as the email address you regularly use. You may need a user
name and password for online banking and other websites. Have user
names and passwords written down somewhere safe. You will need them
I hope this information is useful to you. Remember, only you
are responsible for your disaster plan and backups. You might
have a tech like me come in to do backups, but you must be in charge. The tech
might forget or be busy or leave town. If you close your eyes and wave
your hands around and say, "I know nothing!" when the computer disaster
strikes - and the operative word is
"when" and not "if" - there will definitely be Tears Before
Bedtime. Trust me on this and Be Prepared.
Back to top
1. Firefox 1.5 available
2. Beware of fake IRS phishing email
3. Sober worm warning
4. Does anyone *not* know about the Evil Sony and its DRM?
1. For those
of you using the Firefox
alternate browser (most of you, I hope), there is a new version now
available. Get it from http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/
2. I'm sure
all of you are too smart to be caught by this phishing email
that pretends to be a refund notice from the IRS. Here's the article
about it from The Register: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/11/30/irs_phishing_scam/
3. The big
virus outbreak this past month was caused by variants of the
ever-popular Sober worm. Since all of you are practicing "Safe Hex" and
not opening email attachments I suppose we don't have to worry, but
here is an article about it anyway: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/11/30/november_virus_chart/
4. For those
of you who haven't been following the antics of Sony and its evil copy
protection software, here is a link with the explanation and
history of this fiasco: http://www.boingboing.net/2005/11/14/sony_anticustomer_te.html
Back to top
1. Warning re
Internet Explorer dangerous vulnerability
As you probably know, Microsoft's normal Windows Upgrade schedule is
that patches are issued on the first Tuesday of every month - "Patch
serious vulnerability in Internet Explorer (your browser) has been
reported that can cause a malicious website to download a trojan,
even on a fully-patched XP Service Pack 2 system. Microsoft considers
the vulnerability to be so critical that they are considering issuing a
patch before the next scheduled Patch Tuesday on December 13th. Here is
an article detailing the threat.
In my last EBC Report, I told you that a new version of the
Firefox browser is available. Although Firefox - like all
software - is not perfect, I strongly suggest that you use Firefox (or
another browser such as Opera) instead of Internet Explorer. I
installed the new version of Firefox on my Windows machines and the
upgrade went very smoothly. At this point, you
should only use Internet Explorer to go to a Microsoft website or only
if absolutely necessary (like if your online banking website is
so poorly coded it will only work with IE - in this case, complain to
your bank's webmaster).
Note the new home for Firefox and
Thunderbird (email client) - http://www.mozilla.com/
now free - http://www.opera.com/
Back to top
1. Evil Christmas screensavers and desktop wallpaper
2. How to lose data from Outlook and Outlook Express
1. Now that
Christmas is upon us, people often go looking for holiday
desktop pictures and screensavers. Please be very careful when you do
this, since many of the sites where these so-called "free" screensavers
and themes are hosted will also give
your computer a nasty case of spyware. Personally, I never use
screensavers. Screensavers were useful a long time ago (in
computer-years) when monitors would get burn-in; leave an image on the
screen for too long and a faint trace of it would remain on your
monitor. A screensaver provided a constantly moving image to prevent
the burn-in. Modern monitors don't have this problem, although I have
heard that some plasma screens are susceptible. So now screensavers are
really just toys. If you want a screensaver for privacy, you can always
choose a blank one.
However, if you
have your heart set on using screensavers, be aware that you need to be
particularly careful about what you install. A screensaver -
which will have the file extension *.scr - is actually a program. So if
the screensaver you've downloaded and run is a virus (and your
antivirus isn't up-to-date or up to par), your computer will get
you need to actually read any End User License Agreement ("EULA")
that appears when you install anything so you don't agree to install
spyware along with that Santa-Dancin' Screensaver. One of my favorite
clients got a quite ugly malware infestation recently when she
downloaded what she thought was a religious picture. She was most
outraged that the picture was of Jesus. My dears, the people who are
pushing this malware are Not Nice and don't care about things you
consider holy. They are scum.
So how do you get pretty things for your computer? Microsoft
has downloads of themes, games, and other great ideas. Start here and
look around: http://www.microsoft.com/athome/default.mspx
has lovely photographs you can use for desktop wallpaper. Look here: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/
has themes, wallpapers, etc. You don't have to use the WindowBlinds
theming application for many of them, either. You can also use Google Images Search,
but again - be careful where you go. I suggest doing your
searching with Firefox instead of Internet Explorer.
2. How many of
you have made loads of folders in your email program where you are now
keeping 5,000 emails? Those of you who don't do this can leave
now; the rest of you had better listen. One of these days, sooner
rather than later, you are going to have an unpleasant surprise. Both
Outlook and Outlook Express keep all the emails and other information
in databases. Databases are prone to corruption and OE is particularly
fragile in this regard. Here are two sites which discuss why keeping
all these emails in your email program are a recipe for disaster.
This first link is MS-MVP Tom Koch's
website about Outlook Express and it has everything you should
know about using OE: http://www.insideoe.com/
Here's an article by Tom written for one of Microsoft's
Communities websites that addresses this problem directly:
And here's another article he wrote covering the Top Ten Outlook
InsideOE.com is to OE, Slipstick.com is to Outlook. Also created
by MS-MVP's, Slipstick.com is the premier source for information about
Here's a direct link to the page which discusses message management and
how to keep Outlook healthy:
So what do you do instead? You make folders - usually in My Documents -
for all your different projects and save the emails and any attachments
in there instead. Then delete the emails from Outlook or Outlook
Express. Not only does this prevent OE/Outlook corruption, it will
facilitate backing up your data. You are backing up,
your precious data by saving it properly and backing up regularly.
Back to top
MetaFile (WMF) vulnerability
The old year ended and the new year began with one of the most
serious vulnerabilities in Windows operating systems ever. At
this writing, Microsoft has not issued a patch for the problem. If they
stick to their normal update schedule, we will not have an official
patch until January 9th at the earliest. This is not A Good Thing.
A temporary patch
has been created by Ilfak Guilfanov. Normally, I would never suggest
that you install a patch from anyone but Microsoft. Never, ever, ever.
But because of the seriousness of the vulnerability, I'm going to suggest
that you install Mr. Guilfanov's patch coupled with one other easy step.
Internet Storm Center has the best explanation of the vulnerability
with instructions on what to do and a link to the download.
I highly recommend you go to the SANS site and read the information
about the WMF vulnerability. To make things even easier for you, here
are paraphrased highlights and what you need to do:
VULNERABILITY DOES AND HOW YOU GET HURT BY IT:
The WMF vulnerability uses images (WMF images) to execute code. This
means it can run programs like trojans, which can download more
trojans. It will execute just by viewing the image on a webpage. In
most cases, you don't have click anything.
Internet Explorer will view the image and trigger the exploit without
warning. New versions of Firefox will prompt you before opening the
image. However, this offers little protection since most people will
consider images to be safe and say "yes".
The Bad Guys are already sending spam email with attachments carrying a
new version of the WMF exploit resulting in the installation of a
various trojans. This spam email may look like this:
Subject: Happy New Year
Message Body: picture of 2006
Attachment: HappyNewYear.jpg (actually a WMF file with a .JPG extension)
Email attachments, malicious web sites, and instant messaging are the
most likely sources as well as P2P (file-swapping) like with Kazaa,
OF WINDOWS OPERATING SYSTEMS ARE AFFECTED:
All. Windows 2000, Windows XP, (SP1 and SP2), Windows 2003. All are
affected to some extent. And to quote the good people at SANS:
"If you're still running on Win98/ME, this is a watershed moment: we
believe (untested) that your system is vulnerable and there will be no
patch from MS. Your mitigation options are very limited. You
really need to upgrade."
HOW TO PROTECT
1. Install the patch from
either the link on the SANS site above
or here is a direct download link (TinyURL'd):http://tinyurl.com/8stt5
Note that you will need to uninstall
the patch before you install an official Microsoft one. So you
need to pay attention during the next Windows Update. Set your
Automatic Updates (in Control Panel) to download updates automatically
but notify you before installing them. Then instead of taking the
"Express" install option for the updates, take the "Custom" install
option. Now you can see if there is a patch for the WMF vulnerability
and if there is, go to Add/Remove Programs and uninstall Mr.
Guilfanov's patch first.
2. Unregister the affected Windows
system file. Do this by:
Click Start, click Run, type "regsvr32 -u
%windir%\system32\shimgvw.dll" (without the quotation marks), and then
click OK. A dialog box appears to confirm that the un-registration
process has succeeded. Click OK to close the dialog box.
3. Make sure you have a current
version antivirus program installed with an active subscription and
that your virus definitions are up-to-the-minute. Most antivirus
companies have said their very latest definitions will catch trojans
coming from the WMF vulnerability, but new variants are being created
every day. Do not be complacent.
4. Don't open email attachments
unless you absolutely must and/or you are absolutely sure of the source
(not just "someone you know") and that the attachment is a crucial
piece of information you must have.
WHAT CAN YOU DO
IF YOU GET CAUGHT:
Per the SANS article:
"Not much :-(. It very much depends on the exact exploit you are hit
with. Most of them will download additional components. It can be very
hard, or even impossible, to find all the pieces. Microsoft offers free
support for issues like that at 866-727-2389 (866-PC-SAFETY)."
If you are a local client, you can call Elephant Boy Computers and we
will try to clean your machine. Make sure you have current backups of
all your important data because a format/clean-install of Windows may
Back to top
- "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament!],
`Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures,
will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to
apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a
question." -- Charles Babbage
1. New version of Thunderbird
2. End of the line for Win98/ME
1. For those
of you using Thunderbird as an email client, there is a new version
available now. Get it from http://www.mozilla.com/thunderbird/
For those of you not using Thunderbird as an email client, you may want
to give it a try. It has excellent Junk Mail filtering capabilities,
and like the Firefox
browser many people have written some extremely useful extensions for
it. Extensions are small code snippets that extend the functionality of
a program. To learn about and see some extensions for Firefox and
2. It is
finally the end of the line for Win98/ME. From my TechNet mailing
"Important Notice for Windows 98 and
Windows ME Users - On June 30, 2006, assisted support will end for
Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, and Windows Millennium Edition
(Windows Me) operating systems and their related components.
"After this date, Microsoft will no longer provide any incident support
options or security updates. Online support will be available through
the Microsoft Support Product Solution Center Web sites.
"Find additional information on the support lifecycle of Windows 98,
Windows 98 Second Edition, and Windows Me on the Help and Support Web
site. And you can find more information about Windows XP and migrating
to this platform at the Windows Resource Center."
Here are the links referenced in the TechNet notice above:
Announcement - http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2006/jan06/01-10Support.mspx
MS Support Product solution Center - http://support.microsoft.com/select/Default.aspx?target=hub
Win98/ME Support website - http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifean1
Installation/Migration from Resource Center - http://tinyurl.com/at9kx
What does this
mean to you if you're still running these older operating systems?
It means that if your computer is connected to the Internet at all - or
is connected to a network where there are other computers with Internet
access and file sharing is enabled - it's time to think about upgrading
to Windows XP. If your computer has no Internet access, then by all
means stay with Win98/ME. Your computer will not magically stop working
because Microsoft no longer provides support.
In most cases, a computer happily running Win98/ME will not upgrade
well to XP. Windows XP requires much beefier hardware than the older
operating systems and it is rarely cost-effective to try and upgrade an
old machine. With new computer prices relatively inexpensive, it is
almost always a better solution to just buy a new machine. Naturally, Elephant
Boy Computers will be pleased to help you with your decision.
3. We have a
new resource for fighting malware with StopBadware.org. From
their "About Us" page:
"StopBadware.org is a "Neighborhood Watch" campaign aimed at fighting
badware. We will seek to provide reliable, objective information about
downloadable applications in order to help consumers to make better
choices about what they download on to their computers. We aim to
become a central clearinghouse for research on badware and the bad
actors who spread it, and to become a focal point for developing
collaborative, community-minded approaches to stopping badware.
"Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society and
Oxford University's Oxford Internet Institute are leading this
initiative with the support of several prominent tech companies,
including Google, Lenovo, and Sun Microsystems. Consumer Reports
WebWatch is serving as an unpaid special advisor.
"John Palfrey, Executive Director of the Berkman Center and Harvard
Clinical Professor of Law, and Jonathan Zittrain, Harvard Law Visiting
Professor and Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford
University, are StopBadware.org co-directors. Supporting them are an
advisory board and working group made up of some of the top experts in
the field, including Internet pioneers Esther Dyson and Vint Cerf."
It will be interesting to see what they can do. http://www.stopbadware.org/
Back to top
- "A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going
somewhere." -- Groucho Marx
1. Winamp vulnerability
2. Kama Sutra/Blackworm
1. If you use
Winamp, please note that there is a vulnerability that has
already been exploited. Some security experts have already rated this
vulnerability as "critical". Here is information about the
vulnerability and the exploit:
It is expected that Nullsoft will issue a patch but in the meantime use
Winamp only at highly trusted sites or for offline media. Check with
Nullsoft for a patch and when available, download and install it - http://www.winamp.com/
2. Now, I
don't want to get all Chicken Little about this newish worm, but
I thought I'd mention it since the worm is quite destructive and the
payload is scheduled to be delivered in just a few days (February 3rd).
Naturally, all of you know that you need to have a current version (not
earlier than 2004) full-featured antivirus installed, with an active
subscription and updated virus definitions. If you don't - you know
what to do. Here are a few articles about the Kama Sutra worm.
Back to top
- "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." -- Frank
1. Online music - legal and available
2. Safer web surfing with SiteAdvisor
1. In my work
cleaning up people's computers, I find that a large majority of
the machines have become infected because their owners (or their
owners' kids) have been pirating music (Kazaa, Limewire, etc.). My
clients then ask me what they should use instead. Since I'm not a big
music listener/buyer, I've said either iTunes or Rhapsody. While those services are
excellent, they also have DRM restrictions. Also, what if you can't
find what you want on those sites? I've done a little research and have
come up with a couple of online companies which may be of interest:
Here's what the owner of Magnatune has to say:
"We're a record label. But we're not evil. We call it "try before you
buy." It's the shareware model applied to music. Listen to 427 complete
MP3 albums from musicians we work with (not 30 second snippets). We let
the music sell itself, because we think that's the best way to get you
excited by it. We pick the best submissions from independent musicians
so you don't have to. If you like what you hear, download an album for
as little as $5 (you pick the price), or buy a real CD, or license our
music for commercial use. And no copy protection (DRM), ever. Artists
keep half of every purchase. And unlike most record labels, they keep
all the rights to their music. No major label connections. We are not
They don't have a huge playlist, but what they do have looks
interesting. My only criticism of the site is that the instructions for
use and payment aren't completely clear immediately. Basically you
click on an artist you like, listen to the music, and if you want to
buy it click on the "Buy" button. You are then taken to a page where
you're given the choice to download the music or have a CD sent to you.
They take Visa, Mastercard, or Paypal.
Mindawn looks quite a bit bigger and slicker than Magnatune and has a
much larger catalog. Their Customer FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
covers who they are and how they do it very well - http://www.mindawn.com/customers.php
Mindawn seems to be aimed not only at those of us who hate DRM, but at
musically-savvy people who want to download great quality music.
Apparently you can browse and buy music from their main website, but to
hear the music you need to download a player. I can't imagine why
you would buy music unheard. From a quick perusal, I would say
that first downloading the Help file (in .pdf format so it will open
with Acrobat Reader) would be a good idea. You can right-click on the
Help file and Save As. I think that Mindawn is aimed at fairly
sophisticated users so I'm not sure your teens would do well
C. If you don't want to download music but just want to listen to some
tunes on your computer while you're working, there's always Internet radio.
Here are a few links I find interesting:
Radio DavidByrne.com - from the amazing creator of Talking Heads - http://davidbyrne.com/radio/index.php
BBC Radio 1 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/listen/index.shtml?hp_lhn
KEXP - http://kexp.org/home.asp?noflash=false
Public Radio Fan - hundreds of links to public radio stations around
the world - http://publicradiofan.com/
You can listen to the new "Venue Songs" from the fabulous They Might Be
Giants - http://www.tmbg.com/
Soma FM - listener-supported, commercial-free, underground/alternative
radio broadcasting - http://www.somafm.com/
WFMU from Jersey City - http://www.wfmu.org/ssaudionet.shtml
surfing with SiteAdvisor - I just heard about this
website/application to help make your surfing experiences safer and it
looks very interesting. Here's their homepage - http://www.siteadvisor.com/preview/
Since Ben Edelman - a most
highly-respected spyware researcher - is one of their technical
advisors, I think this is definitely worth a try. I'm going to download
the browser plugins for Internet Explorer and Firefox and you might
want to check this out for yourselves, too. The SiteAdvisor blog is
also extremely interesting - http://blog.siteadvisor.com/
Back to top
- "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from
magic." -- Arthur C. Clarke
1. Warning - Internet Explorer, etc. vulnerabilities
2. Warning - new variants of Smitfraud (Spyaxe, Spyfalcon, SpywareQuake)
3. Beware the DRM, the jaws that bite, the claws that catch! (Starforce)
4. Free stuff from Microsoft
1. There are
always vulnerabilities in operating systems and programs and you
are supposed to be practicing Safe Hex and keeping your
systems/programs patched. But just in case you've forgotten this, I
thought I'd remind you. There are some particularly nasty
vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer right now and there are exploits
to take advantage of this. This doesn't mean that alternate browsers
are bullet-proof, but using one instead of Internet Explorer is a good
idea. Remember, if you use an alternate browser to make sure you have
the latest version of it.
Also make sure you have the latest version of Java. Uninstall older
versions before installing the newest one.
And for your convenience, here are some links to help you stay safe:
- So How Did I Get Infected Anyway?
- The Parasite Fight
- MVP Harry Waldron - The Family PC - How to stay safe on the Internet
- Protect Your PC
- Home Computer Security
Another way to stay safe is to use an operating system other than
Windows. While Apple's OSX, Unix, and Linux have their own
vulnerabilities, they tend to give you safer surfing. If you'd like to
know more about using Linux, feel free to contact Elephant Boy
2. It seems
like almost every day there is a new variant of the Smitfraud malware.
To add to SpyAxe and SpyFalcon, we now have SpywareQuake. For more
information see information here, which includes the link to the
BleepingComputer.com removal steps:
I've mentioned it before, but MVP and security expert Eric Howes' site
is an invaluable resource to help you determine if a program is "rogue"
or not. It is well worth visiting Eric's site regularly to see what new
programs have been added to the list.
3. Beware the
DRM, the jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Late last year we
had the huge fiasco with some Sony music CD's installing copy
protection software on users' computers that caused all sorts of
You should know that this is not the only instance of software being
installed on users' computers that can have extremely adverse effects.
If you are a gamer or have gamers in your household, you should know
about the Starforce copy protection malware - and I use the term
"malware" on purpose. The Starforce software can seriously damage your
Windows installation and possibly the hardware itself. Here is a link
to a site explaining the issues and listing games that currently
include the Starforce program if you would like to boycott them. At the
very least, be aware of the issue.
While Elephant Boy Computers would never suggest that you do anything
illegal, the April issue of MaximumPC has some very interesting articles
about copying movies and music. The content is not on their website yet
since the magazine is still in stores. If this is a subject in which
you are interested, it would be well worth picking up a copy of the
4. Free stuff
from Microsoft - After taking some calls last week from people
looking for training on Microsoft Office programs (no, I don't do
this), it occurred to me that you may not realize how much free content
and help is available from Microsoft for their products. For instance,
there are many training sessions for Office programs on the MS Office
website. I learned how to do a mail merge for my Christmas card labels
using Excel and Word by watching a training movie.
While many people already know about Office clipart, there are also a
lot of templates which you can download and use. For instance, why
spend hours creating a personal budget template for Excel when someone
else has already created one?
Microsoft wants you to use their products and to use them successfully.
If you use Microsoft products, it is very much worthwhile to spend some
time exploring the excellent and vast resources the company provides
you. Start at their homepage: http://www.microsoft.com/
and go from there.
Back to top
- "You will remember, Watson, how the dreadful business of the
Abernetty family was first brought to my notice by the depth which the
parsley had sunk into the butter upon a hot day." -- Sherlock Holmes
1. Update about the Windows Update KB908531
2. Common computer mistakes made by small business owners
issued a reworked patch for the vulnerabilities covered in
KB908531 last Tuesday, April 25th. Windows Update took care of this for
you if your computer needed it. Based on reports, it looks like the new
patch took care of the problems caused with the first update. If you
weren't one of the many people affected by the first patch's problems,
don't worry about this!
mistakes made by small business owners - My client base consists
of home users and small business owners. Although my comments in this
section are aimed at small business owners, some of the information may
be useful for home users also. Here are some of the mistakes that small
business owners make that I see all the time, not in any particular
- Buying cheap equipment. Those $399 machines are aimed at the home
user who does light computing. They are not meant to be on 24/7 and act
as a "server". You might get lucky and get good use out of those
machines, but then again you might not. Most of the computers for the
home market are running Windows XP Home or Media Center Edition which
are not designed for business use.
- Buy quality business-class computers. It is preferable to have
workstations that are all the same make/model for ease of maintenance
and repair. If you want your workstations to run a Microsoft operating
system (as opposed to Linux), then it should be Windows XP Pro. Buy
business-class printers, preferably laser printers that are connected
to the network and not locally to a computer.
- Using a workstation computer as a server - known as a
"pseudo-server". Companies with more than 7 computers using a
pseudo-server, all running Microsoft operating systems, will start to
run into the inbound concurrent connections limitation. The
limitation is on inbound concurrent connections, not
or number of users. Each workstation can make more than one connection
to a machine acting as a server. Here is a link to Microsoft's
information about this: http://support.microsoft.com/?id=314882
Inbound concurrent connections limitations:
5 for XP Home
10 for XP Pro/Tablet/Media Center Edition
49 for SBS 2000
74 for SBS 2003
Unlimited for full Server operating systems
- Get a real server running a real server operating system. Server
computers also have hardware designed to handle the the job. Buy a
server that is powerful enough to meet your needs. If you must run
Windows programs on the server, you will need to buy a Microsoft server
operating system such as Small Business Server or Windows Server 2003.
If the server will only act as a file server, you can use Linux instead
- or even a Mac server.
With a server, you should set up a domain instead of keeping the
peer-to-peer Workgroup network structure. Among other advantages, a
domain permits centralized security, control, and maintenance.
- Lack of proper security and maintenance. The type of security needed
depends on your particular business, but here are some things that all
computers need to have:
version (not earlier than 2005) antivirus with an active
subscription and updated virus definitions.
2. A firewall - this can be a software firewall
running on each Workgroup or Domain member (and the server) and/or a
hardware firewall solution at the perimeter of your network.
system and major applications used kept patched and current with
Service Packs and updates.
procedures and company policies regarding computer use. Workstations running XP Pro can be
locked down to restrict user behavior with Group Policy, either locally
on each computer in a Workgroup or domain-wide from the server.
Employees should not use company workstations for private web surfing
and should not be able to install programs. This limits the ingress of
viruses and malware. Computers used for accounting, financial, or
privacy-sensitive data such as medical records should not be on the
same network as other workstations and, if at all possible, should not
have Internet access. Email use should be regulated since one of the
prime causes of virus infection is opening attachments in email.
User access to
computers should be restricted. Servers or computers with
crucial and/or sensitive data should not be accessible to all
employees. In some cases, these computers should be in a room that can
be locked. Your brother-in-law or your child should not be able to come
into your office and surf for pr0n or install games. If your business
requires visitors to attach a laptop to your network, you need
specialized security measures.
If you only have
one computer and work from home, you should not use this computer for
the family. Computers are relatively affordable now; buy a
computer for your family and do not allow them to use your business
machine. If you use the same Internet connection, do not share files
with the family computer. This will help keep your business computer
free from viruses and malware and protect your data.
If you are not
able to set up proper security yourself, hire a professional to do it
for you. If you don't know what you're doing, don't do the work
yourself. Don't rely on a friend or relative who "knows about
computers" either unless they are a computer professional and skilled
in this area of the industry. A programmer cousin may have no idea how
to set Group Policies.
- No formal backup system and disaster recovery strategy.
- Be aware of what data you have and where it is stored on your hard
drive. If it is not all in one location, use a backup program like
SecondCopy (www.centered.com) to
funnel backups of all data into one folder. Understand how and where
the programs you use store your data and how to restore it. I prefer
layered backups, with data being saved or copied to a second hard drive
(internal or external) every day and then being burned to CD/DVD
regularly and taken off-site or put in a fireproof cabinet or safe. Ask
yourself "If my computer died tomorrow, what would I need to get back
in business as soon as possible? What would I lose?". If you have a
server or a pseudo-server all data should be stored there; nothing
should be saved locally on the workstations. The backup procedure must
be quick and easy or you won't do it.
- Lack of organization.
- Someone in your company needs to know and be responsible for:
1. What programs
and operating systems you have installed and where the installation
media for them are. If the programs and operating systems
require product keys and licenses, they should be in one place where
they can be easily found.
2. Updating your
operating systems, antivirus program, and other important software.
I addressed this and other disaster-planning strategies in the Elephant Boy Computers Report of 11/2/05.
3. Knowing the
structure of your computer setup, usernames and passwords - how you connect to the Internet;
some details about the network and your server if you have one;
usernames/accounts and passwords for the computer, the Internet, and
email. A computer technician coming into your business to fix things
for the first time is not going to know any of this and time is money.
information necessary to get your business back up and running in a
minimum of time after a disaster should be written down and put
where you will remember it. Someone must be responsible for keeping the
Obviously if you are a busy professional with employees, you will not
be doing all this work yourself; however, you should assign the tasks
to one of your employees and you should occasionally check to make sure
these tasks are being done. If you just roll your eyes and wave your
hands around because you don't want to take the time to learn these
things, I can assure you that someday you will be sorry and there will
be Tears Before Bedtime.
Back to top
- Endless Loop: n., see Loop, Endless.
Loop, Endless: n., see Endless Loop.
1. Vulnerability in Corporate Symantec Antivirus
2. Vulnerability in Microsoft Word
3. Veterans Affairs warns of massive privacy breach
4. Sun Java update
5. New Yahoo Instant Messenger Worm poses as "Safety Browser"
1. A critical
vulnerability has been found in Symantec Corporate Antivirus
that would allow an attacker to execute code without user action. Here
are some articles about it:
The home products - called "Norton Antivirus" or "Norton Internet
Security" as opposed to the "Symantec" name do not have this
vulnerability. If any of you are using the Symantec Corporate product
at your business or if your company gave you a license to use on your
home machines, you should follow up on this.
vulnerability has been reported in Microsoft Word, which can be
exploited by malicious people to compromise a user's system. See this
link for details: http://secunia.com/advisories/20153/
The solution is to not open untrusted Office documents, which you
shouldn't be doing anyway. A trusted document would be one that you are
expecting and that is coming from a known-clean source. Remember, just
because you know the sender doesn't mean you should open attachments.
3. The U.S.
government warned on Monday (5/22) that a database containing sensitive
information about veterans and their families had been stolen,
after an employee violated policy and brought the data home. Here's an
in-depth article about the breach:
4. Sun has an
update for their Java program here: http://java.com/en/
Download it and before you install it, uninstall all older versions of
Java from Add/Remove Programs. You may have multiple entries for older
versions of Java; uninstall them all.
5. A new Yahoo
Instant Messenger Worm is making the rounds posing as a "Safety
Browser". Here's an article about it:
The way to stay safe is - as I'm sure you all know - by not clicking on
links and/or downloading programs sent in instant messages, no matter
Back to top
6-13-06 - Nature is by and large to be found out of doors, a location where, it cannot be argued, there are never enough comfortable chairs. -- Fran Leibowitz
1. Yahoo webmail vulnerability
2. Windows Vista beta now available to the public
3. Passwords and other important things to remember
1. There is a rather serious vulnerability in Yahoo's webmail, opening Windows users to infection by the JS-Yamanner worm. As of this writing, the service has not been patched yet. Windows users should be extremely cautious when using Yahoo Mail and block any emails from email@example.com. Here is some information about the issue:
2. The big news in Microsoft Land is that a beta of Vista, the upcoming Windows operating system, is now available to the public. For those of you who might be interested in trying it out, please be very sure you understand what "beta" means. A program goes through quite a few phases before it reaches you, starting with alpha releases - very rough beginnings. The next step is a beta release - the program is still unfinished and is in the bug-checking phase but is more usable than it was. After beta, the next step is RC1 - Release Candidate 1. If there are no bugs found in it, it will become the final version. There may be more than one alpha, beta, and Release Candidate version before the final "gold" version - the one that will be released to manufacturers for public consumption. And usually there are patches to the released program to fix the bugs that got away afterwards!
You should never run beta software on a production machine or on any machine which you are unwilling to wipe.
For more information about Vista, see http://www.microsoft.com/Windowsvista/
3. After speaking to the third person who forgot or didn't know their wireless router setup information, I thought it might be useful to remind you all about keeping a record of your passwords and other important computer-related information. Naturally, it would be smart to keep this record somewhere other than only on your computer! I created a simple spreadsheet for my own use and this method might work well for you. My spreadsheet has only four categories - Item, Identity, Password, Other Notes - but that is enough for my purposes. I keep a printout of it handy, making notes on it when I add or update passwords. Occasionally I update the actual file and print out the new version. Here are some things you will need to know when setting up a new
computer, reinstalling the operating system, adding a computer to your network, etc.:
a. Computer user accounts - account names and passwords
b. Product keys/license numbers for Windows operating systems and other software
c. Internet Service Provider - master account user name and password
d. Email - user name, password, and mail server settings
e. Website accounts (banks, shopping, forums, etc.) - user name, password, email you used when you set up the account with them
f. Router information (Linksys, D-Link, Netgear, etc.) - configuration login name and password
g. Wireless router - name of your wireless network (SSID) and the encryption key.
Back to top
6-15-06 - "He's dead, Jim!" -- Dr. Leonard McCoy
1. Microsoft End of Life information, Windows 98/ME and Service Pack 1
2. Patch Tuesday
1. There are two important End Of Life announcements from Microsoft.
A. The first is for the end of support for products with Service Pack 1 applied. For most of you, this means that if you have any version of Windows XP without Service Pack 2, you will need to upgrade to SP2 in order to get any more security updates. It is extremely important that you keep your operating system current with security patches.
Windows Service Pack 2 has been available since August, 2004. If you haven't applied it, you need to do so but not without proper preparation. See the end of this section of the EBC Report for links about preparing for SP2.
End of support for Microsoft's Service Pack 1 - http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifesupsps
Windows XP SP1 and SP1a support ends on October 10, 2006 - http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifean19
Microsoft Office XP transitions from Mainstream to Extended Support phase - http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifean21
Windows and SP EOL Links:
Are you still using Internet Explorer 5.5? The support for that version has ended: http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifean20
Some of the affected Microsoft products:
End of support (Oct 10, 2006 and July 10, 2006):
SP1 for Windows:
Windows Tablet PC Edition Service Pack 1
Windows XP Home Edition Service Pack 1
Windows XP Home Edition Service Pack 1a
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2002 Service Pack 1
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 Service Pack 1
Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1
Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1a
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition Service Pack 1
SP1 for Internet Explorer:
Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1 on Windows XP Home Edition
Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1 on Windows 98 (end of support for
this is on 11-Jul-2006)
Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1 on Windows 98 SE (end of support for
this is on 11-Jul-2006)
Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1 on Windows Millennium (end of support
for this is on 11-Jul-2006)
SP1 for Office:
Office Professional Edition 2003 Service Pack 1
Office Professional Enterprise Edition 2003 Service Pack 1
Office Small Business Edition 2003 Service Pack 1
Office Standard Edition 2003 Service Pack 1
Office Students and Teachers Edition 2003 Service Pack 1
Office Visio Professional 2003 Service Pack 1
Office Visio Standard 2003 Service Pack 1
Windows XP Service Pack 2 Preparation:
Are You Ready for WinXP SP2? - http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?pr=windowsxpsp2
Download full SP2 - http://tinyurl.com/5bobl
Order SP2 on CD from MS - http://tinyurl.com/6g675
Follow the Service Pack Installation Checklist - http://www3.telus.net/dandemar/spackins.htm
SP2 links to OEMs - http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sp2/oemlinks.mspx
http://aumha.net - See SP2 forums
http://www.kellys-korner-xp.com/xp_s.htm#sp2 - Windows SP2 Information, Guidelines and Troubleshooting
B. Support for Windows 98, 98SE and ME finally and irrevocably ends on July 11, 2006:
If you still have Windows 98, 98SE, and/or ME machines there are a few ways you can handle this.
a. Upgrade to a current version operating system. For Microsoft, this would be Windows XP Service Pack 2. Since XP has far more demanding system requirements than the older operating systems did, in most cases a computer happily running Win98x/ME will not be a great candidate for upgrading to XP. With the cost of a basic computer relatively low, a better choice is to simply buy a new computer.
b. If your circumstances permit, consider changing to a different operating system such as Linux.
c. If you do not want to upgrade the operating system and you use the older machine on the Internet, be extremely careful and practice "Safe Hex" rigorously. Some suggestions for doing this are:
i. Do not use Internet Explorer to surf; use Firefox instead.
ii. Make sure you have a current version antivirus installed (not earlier than 2005) and that its virus definitions are always updated. There are still a few antivirus programs that will run on Win9x/ME; many will not.
iii. Make sure you have a firewall installed. Again, not all firewalls will run on Win9x/ME; you will need to look around.
iv. If you have a broadband connection to the Internet (cable or DSL), buy a consumer-level router (Linksys, Netgear, etc.) even if you only have one computer. This will add protection.v. Be circumspect in where and how you surf. Here are some links about practicing "Safe Hex":
http://www.wilderssecurity.com/showthread.php?t=27971 - So How Did I Get Infected Anyway?
http://www.aumha.org/a/parasite.htm - The Parasite Fight
http://msmvps.com/blogs/harrywaldron/archive/2006/02/05/82584.aspx - MVP Harry Waldron - The Family PC - How to stay safe on the Internet
http://www.spywarewarrior.com/rogue_anti-spyware.htm - MVP Eric Howes on Rogue Antispyware Programs
2. This past Tuesday was Microsoft's monthly Patch Tuesday. A lot of critical vulnerabilities are addressed, so you should most certainly update.
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7-12-06 - "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." -- Groucho Marx
1. Microsoft Windows Update - Patch Tuesday reminder
2. Image Shack spyware warning
3. Microsoft End of Support reminder
4. Computers and Heat
1. Yesterday was Microsoft's monthly Patch Tuesday.
If you have Automatic Updates enabled, this will happen all by itself.
If you are doing this yourself, go to Windows Update. Users of Windows
98, ME, and XP with only Service Pack 1 are not covered (see Item #3 in
2. Many people use Image Shack
(and I'm purposely not giving a link to their site) for free image
hosting for use on web forums. A lot of teens do this in particular.
Image Shack is a popular site and has apparently added scumware to its
advertisers. Various people on a security list of which I'm a member
commented on the fact that when they clicked on a thumbnail hosted on
Image Shack, malware tried to install on their computers. Here are a
few links about the problem:
If you don't use image hosting,
this isn't anything to worry about. If you do - or your kids do - this
is just a heads up and a suggestion to use a different service.
PhotoBucket and IMGMonkey are good ones.
today [July 11, 2006], Microsoft no longer provides support for Windows
98, Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me), and Windows XP Service
Pack 1. Customers can access existing support documents through
the Microsoft Support Product Solution Center, but telephone and e-mail
support and security updates are not available."
If you are questioning why this is
so important, take a moment to review this month's Windows Updates and
what is covered. Many of the vulnerabilities allow an attacker to take
control of your machine. This would not be A Good Thing. To clarify,
Windows XP is still Microsoft's current operating system but in order
to get updates you will need to have Service Pack 2 installed.
If you're still not sure why
keeping your operating system current is important, read the last
paragraph of this article (quoted for your convenience):
"In related news, the BBC reports
on hi-tech crime gangs in Eastern Europe who specialise in making
viruses that target weaknesses in Windows 98. The concern is that these
gangs may up the ante and increase malware attacks now that security
updates for the software are discontinued."
4. Now that it is most definitely Summer, give some thought to your computer's staying cool, too.
Heat and dirt are great enemies of computers. If you've never cleaned
out your computer, it is probably time to do so. With the computer
unplugged, take off the case and and get rid of the dust bunnies. Use
compressed air to gently blow out the case. I usually do this outside
on the back porch. It can be very messy. Don't use a vacuum cleaner -
they can create static electricity which will kill computer components.
Try not to touch the components with your hands. Make sure all the fans
are clean and not covered in a blanket of dust. On very hot days, I
leave my desktop machines off and work from my laptop. It helps keep
the utility bill down since otherwise the air conditioning has to work
extra hard to deal with all the heat the computers put out in the
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8-9-06 - "...when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains,
however improbable, must be the truth." -- Sherlock Holmes
1. Google Antiphishing
2. MS Patch Tuesday
3. RIAA tactics
1. Google is working with StopBadware.org to warn people who click on links to known Evil Websites. This is A Good Thing. You can read about it here: http://www.stopbadware.org/
2. Yesterday was Microsoft's monthly Patch Tuesday.
I never set my Windows Updates to download and install automatically
since I prefer to see what is being installed and because it is a good
idea to temporarily disable your antivirus while installing Windows
Updates. However you do it, you should always install security updates
and never install driver updates from WU. It is wise to make a System
Restore point before installing updates. If you've forgotten how:
Start>Programs>Accessories>System Tools>System Restore
"Create a new restore point"
Name the restore point something useful like "before Windows Updates".
If you have problems with your computer immediately after applying an
update, Microsoft offers free tech support for issues arising from
Customers in the U.S. and Canada can receive technical support from
Microsoft Product Support Services. There is no charge for support
calls that are associated with security updates at (866) 834-8317.
Contact MS - http://support.microsoft.com/gp/contactuswindows?sd=win
3. RIAA tactics
- I have told you many times before that peer-to-peer (P2P)
file-sharing is dangerous because 1) it is one of the top ways to
infect your computer with viruses/malware; and 2) it leaves you open to
being sued by the Recording Industry Association of America ("RIAA").
Grant Robertson has written a very useful explanation of RIAA tactics
in layperson's terms on his blog. If you or anyone in your household is
doing file-sharing, I highly recommend that you read the article.
Here's the link: http://tinyurl.com/emchs
Since this is a blog, there are comments and they are interesting to read also.
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- I hate it when someone phones me up for help with some problem and I
ask them "what's on your screen?" and they say "blood." - Brian Briggs
1. Some wireless setup tips
2. Don't forget to check the Microsoft Office website for updates
3. International Talk Like A Pirate Day
1. Since almost everyone has broadband (cable/dsl) now and almost
everyone has more than one computer, wireless networking has become one
of the most popular technologies around. In general, it is very easy to
set up a wireless network by buying a consumer-level wireless router.
Some of the most recognizable brands are Linksys, Belkin, Netgear, and
Buffalo. I don't recommend D-Link products. You buy your router, bring
it home, pop the CD into your computer's drive and follow the wizard.
And here's where most people make their big mistake - they don't set up
wireless security. This is like leaving your front door open and
inviting people to come in and trash your house and steal your stuff.
Here are some simple things to do to increase security:
a. You need a user name and password to get into the router's
configuration screens. Change this from the default setting to
something else. Write it down!
b. The SSID is your wireless network's name. Do not leave it at the
default (like "Linksys"). Change it to something you will recognize
when you see it. Write it down! I suggest that people not use their
family name. Remember, wireless networks are visible to foreign
computers. That's the way wireless works - it's "in the air".
c. Use wireless encryption. This is like requiring a lock for your
front door. For most home users, WPA2-Personal is what you want to use.
All devices on your wireless network must support the encryption you
choose. If you have an older laptop with hardware that doesn't support
WPA, you must use the older and less secure WEP standard. It's better
than nothing. You will need to enter the encryption key into each
device that you want to connect to the wireless network. Write it down!
If you are in the Fresno area, Elephant Boy Computers is happy to come
and set up your wireless network and create a working file/printer
sharing network. But because I'm a generous and caring person, here are
some links if you want to DIY:
Wireless - Basic Configuration - http://www.ezlan.net/Wireless_Config.html
Wireless - Basic Security - http://www.ezlan.net/Wireless_Security.html
My New Wireless does not work - http://www.ezlan.net/wireless.html
Tom's Hardware Wireless Security FAQs
2. I'm sure I don't need to remind you all about using Windows Update
to keep your operating system patched. However, don't forget about
Microsoft Office if you have it installed. Either enable Microsoft
Updates (at the Windows Update homepage) or go to:
At the right side of the page, click on "Check for updates". This will
take you to another page where you get to click "Check for updates"
again. If you are prompted to install the ActiveX component, go ahead.
You'll then be shown the security updates for your Office programs.
I have heard of some people running Windows 2000 having difficulties
after changing from Windows Update to Microsoft Update, so I don't
recommend doing that if you are running that older operating system.
3. Another year, another wonderful September 19th - it's International
Talk Like A Pirate Day next Tuesday! Get pirattitude! Arrrrr, Matey!
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10-12-06 - Sattinger's Law: It works better if you plug it in.
1. Spam scam
2. Eudora goes open source
3. Patch Tuesday
4. Internet Explorer 7
1. There's a very clever phish email going around lately. Like all good
scams, it relies heavily on social engineering. You receive an email to
one of your legitimate addresses which appears to be from a large,
well-known company like BestBuy or Dell purporting to be a confirmation
of your credit card purchase of a Sony Vaio for $2,499. It has an
attachment supposedly of instructions, either zipped or as a .pdf file.
It looks very, very real and you are alarmed. If you opened that
attachment, your computer was infected with an extremely nasty rootkit
trojan. Since it was a new infector, your trusty antivirus made not a
The cleverness of this phish is that it looks so plausible; I know at
least 10 computer professionals (including me!) who have gotten this in
the last few days. Even those of us who most definitely know better
gave it a second look. Remember that antivirus programs work by
matching known viral/malware characteristics; if an infector is new,
your antivirus will not know about it and your machine will be
infected. This particular infector has been sent on to various
antivirus companies so they can include it in their virus definition
databases, but there will always be new infectors. So this is a good
warning - remember not to open attachments and not to rely only on your
antivirus for protection. Use good common sense.
2. Qualcomm, which among other unrelated items makes the Eudora email
program, has announced that it will stop selling the program and make
the ad-sponsored free versions stop showing ads. Qualcomm has opened
Eudora up to the Mozilla Project as open source, which means that it
will be free and probably improved. Some bits of the Eudora code will
undoubtedly wend their way into the Thunderbird email program, which
should be interesting and useful. I know that quite a few of you use
Eudora, so here is a link to the FAQ about this development: http://www.eudora.com/faq/
3. This is just a reminder that this past Tuesday was Microsoft's
"Patch Tuesday". Those of you who don't have Windows Updates set to
download and/or download and install automatically should pay a visit
to the Windows Update site. You most definitely do want to apply these
4. Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) is expected to be out of beta and
available for download later this month. Here are some links with
information about MS's new browser and some pointers about upgrading it.
http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/default.aspx (MS Developer Network blog)
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/default.mspx (IE7 homepage)
http://www.ie-vista.com/index.html (site by MVP Sandi Hardmeier, IE and OE specialist)
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/community/default.mspx (MS page for the IE7 community)
Here's what Sandi has to say about the IE7 delivery method:
"Some important notes... firstly, although IE7 will be offered via
Automatic Updates, Automatic Updates will first notify users when
Internet Explorer 7 is ready to install and then show a welcome screen
that presents key features and the choices to “Install,
“Don’t Install” or “Ask Me Later.” In
short, you won't be forced to install it, it won't be a silent install,
it won't be a hidden install."
Whenever you are installing a major piece of software, follow these best practices:
a. Make sure your data is backed up. You should be doing this
regularly, but most definitely before you install something major like
b. Read about the program first so you know what to expect. Learn how
to use it. The MS IE7 homepage and Sandi's site - as well as the
program's own Help file - are the best places to start. Take a look at
the Community site for even more excellent information.
c. Pay attention to any cautions and known installation issues and
don't just install blindly without proper preparation. Here's a direct
link to Sandi's Known Issues and suggestions for preparation:
It is best practice to not install beta software on production machines
or on any machine which you are unwilling to wipe. So I would most
definitely wait until IE7 final is out before installing the new
browser. IE7 is only available to people running XP Service Pack 2, XP
Pro 64-bit, Server 2003 SP1, and the 64-bit and Itanium versions of
Server 2003. It will be included in Vista.
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11-1-06 - Benford's Law of Controversy - Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.
1. More on IE7
2. Firefox 2.0
3. Windows Defender final
1. IE7 is due to be rolled out via Automatic Updates today. Per fellow MVP PA Bear (who knows all about IE7):
Required reading before installing IE7 (and I'd strongly urge anyone to
do so manually, not via Automatic Windows Updates, for best results):
Release Notes - http://msdn.microsoft.com/ie/releasenotes/default.aspx
MVP Sandi Hardmeier's notes on "IE7 Gold", including "Best Practices" Installation Tips <= Read This!
IEBlog : IE7 Installation and Anti-Malware Applications - http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2006/10/11/IE7-Installation-and-Anti_2D00_Malware-Applications.aspx
What's New in Internet Explorer 7 - http://msdn.microsoft.com/workshop/essentials/whatsnew/whatsnew_70_sdk.asp?frame=true
2. Firefox 2.0 is out and very nice it is indeed. Download and install
it; no need to uninstall the older version first. Get it from
3. Apparently Windows Defender is out of beta. I haven't been terribly
impressed, but if you are a WD user you should uninstall the beta
version and get the final. Windows Defender no longer supports Windows
2000 as it will be out of mainstream support in October 2006. Please
refer to the support lifecycle website for more information. Do some
reading here first:
Windows Defender newsgroup - Please post your queries to - http://tinyurl.com/9epfo
Please see the Release Notes to learn more about known issues with Windows Defender
Windows Defender Home Page - http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx
Product Information (Links: Overview, FAQ, License Terms/EULA, System Requirements, and Release Notes)
Support and Training - http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/support/default.mspx
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11-3-06 - All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. - Martin Buber
1. Microsoft Vista - should you upgrade?
2. Linux offer
3. New online music site
1. Microsoft has announced that their new operating system, Vista, will
be officially released to the big manufacturers on November 30th of
this year. Retail copies should be available in the stores by January
30, 2007. Since some people may be considering buying new computers for
Christmas, I thought this would be a good time to write about whether
to upgrade or not and to give you some things to consider before just
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/ - Microsoft Vista homepage
A-1. The computer itself
Most people will move to Vista when they buy a new computer. It is my
understanding that the major computer manufacturers - Dell, HP, Sony,
etc. - will be offering some sort of upgrade certificate if you
purchase a machine from them with XP preinstalled. If you are
considering a new computer before Vista comes preinstalled with the
idea of upgrading later, you should purchase one that will be able to
run Vista satisfactorily. Here are Microsoft's system requirements for
Vista. MS breaks this down into two categories: "Vista Capable" and
"Premium Ready". Here's a link to the "Get Ready" site - http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/default.mspx
According to this site, the "Vista Capable" machine will have at least:
A modern processor (at least 800MHz1).
512 MB of system memory.
A graphics processor that is DirectX 9 capable.
20 GB hard drive with 15 GB free space.
This is MS marketing-speak, people. This just means you might get Vista
to install on this system. Frankly, Vista will run like a dog with
these specs. Even XP would be slow on a machine like that. You also
will not get the Vista "look", which is called "Aero".
The "Premium Ready" computer will have at least:
1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor1.
1 GB of system memory.
Support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver, 128 MB of graphics
memory (minimum)2, Pixel Shader 2.0 and 32 bits per pixel.
40 GB of hard drive capacity with 15 GB free space.
Audio output capability.
Internet access capability.
Again, this is marketing-speak. You're really not going to want to run
Vista on a machine that is running at much less than a 2.5-3GHz
processor with a great big hard drive. I wouldn't put less than an 80GB
hard drive in a Vista box, and that would be the lower end. As for the
RAM, I consider 1GB to be the minimum. If buying a new machine, I'd put
in at least 2GB of RAM to start with.
If you have a machine that is currently running XP and doesn't meet my
recommended specs, I wouldn't bother upgrading. This is my personal
opinion and of course, your mileage may vary. However, I don't see the
point in taking a machine that is happily running XP and installing an
operating system that is outside the machine's design parameters. It's
cruel to our little silicon-based friends and you won't be pleased with
the performance. If you have a WinME or - the horror! - a Win98
machine, the only reasonable upgrade is to buy a new machine.
A-2. Hardware peripherals
This means printers, scanners, music players, joysticks, cameras, etc.
Every piece of hardware inside or outside that gets attached to a
computer has software - called a driver - that tells the operating
system how to use that hardware. Without the correct drivers written
for your particular operating system, the hardware won't work. While MS
certainly goes to great lengths to provide backwards compatibility, not
all hardware or software will work in Vista. The hardware manufacturers
need to write the drivers and submit them to Microsoft. If UMax didn't
write a Vista driver for your older scanner you will be out of luck, so
do your research ahead of time.
One thing you should definitely do is run the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor:
Vista is an entirely different operating system from XP. It was written
to be far more secure, and that means there are restrictions on program
behavior that did not exist in XP. Software developers have been aware
of this for a number of years now, but it is up to them to make sure
their programs work in Vista - not Microsoft. While Vista - like XP -
will have a "compatibility mode" for older software, not every older
program will run in Vista. For those of you using "niche software"
(industry-specific programs) in your businesses, it is extremely
important that you contact the software manufacturer to see what plans
they have to make their programs work in Vista. For instance, Intuit
has announced that Quickbooks 2006 (and older versions) will not run in
Vista. If you want to run Quickbooks in Vista, it will have to be
Quickbooks 2007. Do your homework first!
If you have an essential program that will definitely not work in
Vista, there are ways to deal with this. You can 1) not upgrade; 2)
keep a machine running the older operating system going just for this
program; 3) contact the software manufacturer for an upgrade - if they
have written one; 4) look into using virtualization under Vista.
Elephant Boy Computers is happy to explain options like virtualization
and help you test your program under Vista. Just give us a call.
C. Other things to consider
C-1. Patience is a virtue - Unless you are buying a new computer with
Vista preinstalled on it, it is always a good idea to delay upgrading
to at least 6 months after the new operating system has come out. This
will give time for the early adopters to discover all the bugs and
problem areas, Microsoft to issue patches and/or service packs, and
techs time to figure out how to fix things.
C-2. Cost - At this point, Microsoft is offering five different versions of Vista.
Here is a comparison chart created by MVP Tom Porterfield - http://support.teloep.org/vistaver.htm
At this writing, prices look to be around $200-$400 for full versions;
update versions around $100 less. Of course, if you buy Vista
preinstalled on a new computer it will be included in the
In conclusion, at this point you have these choices after Vista comes out:
1. Do nothing and stay with XP.
2. Upgrade your current machine to Vista if it meets system requirements.
3. Purchase a new computer with Vista preinstalled.
4. Move to a different operating system such as Linux or Apple's OSX.
After all, if you are going to learn a new operating system - and make
no mistake, that is what Vista will require - you might want to think
about choosing something other than Windows.
OSX is a beautiful operating system, but only runs on Apple computers.
Now that Apple is using Intel processors, you can dual-boot a Microsoft
Windows operating system with OSX or even run it in a virtual machine.
Elephant Boy Computers is considering purchasing an Apple laptop next
year and if we do, will support OSX.
Linux is a very stable and powerful operating system. See Item #2 of this Report below for more information about Linux.
Elephant Boy Computers will support Windows Vista, just as we do all other Microsoft operating systems.
2. Linux offer - The Linux operating system has been around since 1991.
Although Linux has the reputation of being difficult to use, this is no
longer true. I have used Linux for many years and it is my operating
system of choice. Naturally, Elephant Boy Computers supports Linux.
A great way to explore and play with Linux without touching your
Windows operating system is to boot with what is called a "live CD" -
an operating system that runs from CD or DVD. To get a good taste of
Linux, I suggest booting with Knoppix. If you decide to install Linux, Kubuntu or openSUSE
is a good choice. If you are in the Fresno area and would like to
experiment with Linux, you can come over and try it on one of my
machines. I will also show you how to set your computer to boot from
the CD/DVD drive and give you a Knoppix disk to take home. For free!
Just give me a call.
3. For those of you who have eclectic musical tastes, I have found an
excellent online music site that provides DRM-free music from all over
the world. It's called Calabash Music - http://calabashmusic.com/ and the songs are in .MP3 format so you can play them anywhere.
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12-11-06 - There's children throwing snowballs / instead of throwing heads / they're busy building toys / and absolutely no one's dead!
-- Jack Skellington, "The Nightmare Before Christmas"
1. Various program updates
2. Various MS Word vulnerabilities
3. Reminder that 12/12 is Patch Tuesday
4. Seasonal warning
5. Good Internet safety site
1. There are new versions of Adobe's Acrobat Reader and Sun's Java.
http://www.adobe.com/ - for Adobe Reader 8.0
http://java.sun.com/javase/downloads/index.jsp - for Java 6 (scroll down to about the middle of the page; you want the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) 6)
2. There are a couple of rather serious vulnerabilities in MS Word that
aren't slated to receive a patch tomorrow. Basically, this means you
need to be extra careful about opening *.doc attachments. But you are
already being extra careful about opening email attachments, aren't
you? ;-) Here's a link to an article about this at The Register:
3. Tomorrow - Tuesday, December 12th - is Microsoft's Patch Tuesday.
For those of you who don't have Automatic Updates set, please go to
Windows Update and take care of your operating system. You might want
to wait a day or two to let the MS servers calm down as they will be
experiencing heavy traffic tomorrow. Even if you have Automatic Updates
enabled, don't be surprised if you don't get the little yellow shield
right away. Because there are so many computers running supported
Microsoft operating systems the company stages updates to balance
As an aside, it is a good practice to set your Automatic Updates to
download automatically and then let you know when the updates are
ready. This gives you a chance to look at what is being offered. Just
click on the "Custom" choice instead of leaving it at the default
"Express". You always do want security updates but never driver updates.
4. We're in the full swing of the Christmas season. This means that
many computer users have a craving for holiday themes, screensavers,
and wallpaper. This also means that many people are in a generous mood,
either because charity is a mitzvah (blessing), the eggnog has given
them that Warm And Fuzzy Feeling, or because they want to make sure
they're on Santa's Nice List instead of the Naughty One. Whatever the
reason, scammers know this. Only download holiday decorations for your
computer from trusted sources and even then, scan anything you download
with your antivirus. Screensavers are particularly prone to being
infected because most people don't realize that a screensaver is a
program. If you receive requests for charity in emails, delete them. Of
course I'm not saying you shouldn't give to charity; just not to that
person who sent you an email detailing his/her woes.
5. Here's a relatively new website that is aimed at the "normal" computer user:
The site has some really useful resources and I highly recommend it.
Back to top
- Cheops' Law - Everything takes longer and costs more. Named for the
pyramid-builder, who presumably found it out the hard way.
1. More on Vista
2. New Year's Resolutions for you
3. Happy New Year
1. I've installed Vista RTM (Release To Manufacturing - means the final
version) on one of my machines (named "Merlin") and am doing a bloggish
thing on my experiences with Microsoft's newest operating system. I'll
try to update this regularly but since Vista is installed as a
dual-boot on my son's computer and he's still on his winter vacation, I
won't really be able to work with Vista intensively until he goes back
to school next week. For anyone who might be interested, here's the
As of this writing, there's only the one entry there. Yes, yes, I'm working on it. ;-)
Although Vista RTM won't be available to the general public (retail)
until the end of this month, many of you may be considering the upgrade
so I wanted to address that. I haven't changed my mind on upgrading
advice, which is basically don't do it yet. When changing to a new
operating system, you always must take two ("no, three my Lord") things
a. Driver availability
b. Program compatibility
a. Drivers - As I'm sure you know, all hardware in a computer must have
software which tells the operating system how to use that hardware.
This software is called a "driver". Without proper drivers, you might
have a physical sound card in the machine but no sound within the
operating system. Vista ships with 19,500 drivers provided to Microsoft
by the hardware manufacturers. This is far more than XP shipped with
and you would think it would be enough, but it isn't. One of the
difficulties in working with PC's as opposed to Mac's is that there are
thousands of different hardware components, in a zillion* different
Drivers come from the hardware manufacturers, not Microsoft. Vista has
far more stringent requirements for drivers than previous MS operating
systems did, which is A Good Thing. Many hardware manufacturers have
not written drivers yet for current hardware, have only beta drivers so
far (means "not fully cooked"), or will not be writing drivers for
Vista at all for older hardware. For instance, Merlin has a very common
- and not terribly old - Creative SB Audigy2 ZS sound card. Creative
only has beta drivers available and they will expire in 30 days. They
work OK, but I will need to uninstall them when they expire and get new
ones from Creative at that point. Hopefully they will work. Merlin also
has a lovely Logitech G5 gaming mouse which is current-generation
hardware.. Logitech has not yet written drivers for Vista, which means
that you can't configure the mouse properly. It works, but only with
the most basic functions because it is using the generic mouse driver
provided in Vista. Because of this, I can't get my son to even surf in
Vista - spoiled brat. He insists in booting into XP instead.
Some of the XP drivers for Merlin's hardware worked, and some didn't.
So it is still a crapshoot. If you plan to upgrade your existing XP
operating system with Vista, I believe the upgrade process will
automatically check for potential problems, including driver issues and
report back. An interesting fact is that you can no longer do a clean
install with an upgrade version of Vista as you could do with the
earlier operating systems. Upgrading XP with Vista requires you to
install from within the currently installed operating system. If you
have Win9x/ME, you will not be upgrading to Vista on that machine.
Don't even think about it.
So you must be sure that there will be drivers for all your hardware -
motherboard, sound, video, network adapters, joysticks, printers, mice,
*Obviously the exact number is estimated by me based on the "it's a
very very large number" theory where you just say "a zillion" and leave
it at that. But you get the idea.
b. Programs - You must take the time to research whether the programs
you depend upon will run in Vista. In some cases, you will need to
upgrade to the very latest version (which may not be out yet). An
example is QuickBooks, an accounting program made by Intuit and used by
millions. Intuit has announced that no version of QuickBooks prior to
QuickBooks 2007 will run properly (if at all) on Vista. On the other
hand, older programs may run just fine in Vista either natively or in
compatibility mode. The point is that you can't just jump into an
upgrade and then find out the hard way that the specific program on
which you depend won't run. There will be Tears Before Bedtime, or
worse. We'll go into options for running older software on Vista in
later Elephant Boy Computers Reports or you can always contact me
directly for specific help if you're a client.
c. Bugs - There is no perfect software. Even though Vista had a huge
beta testing program (and I was a beta tester) because of the zillions
(see note above) of hardware and software combinations possible in
PC's, many bugs won't surface until the operating system has been in
use "in the wild" for a while. Businesses should never
upgrade their operating systems without doing extensive research and
testing. A good rule-of-thumb for businesses is to wait until the first
Service Pack is released and even then, don't just throw a new
operating system onto your production machines. Always use a testbed
For people who bought a new computer this past Christmas from big OEM's
(Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) who offered an upgrade coupon - you'll be fine.
Presumably those OEM's will be providing drivers and any OEM-supplied
preinstalled software with the upgrade. Otherwise, for most end users
the smartest thing to do is to wait until computers are available from
the big OEM's with Vista preinstalled. That way you'll know the
hardware will Just Work. You will still need to research whether your
favorite/necessary programs will work, though.
Here are a few Vista links, to which I'll be adding as I collect them:
2. New Year's Resolutions for you to remember:
a. Back up your data
b. Keep your antivirus subscription current
c. Stay safe out there
3. Happy New Year - Finally, let me wish each one of you and your
families a very Happy New Year. All of us here at Elephant Boy
Computers (me and my thousands of imaginary minions) hope that 2007
brings you Wonderful Things.
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1-3-07 - If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank. -- Woody Allen
1. New F-Prot version for home users out.
2. Good antivirus - Avast!
3. Unpatched bug in Apple's QuickTime
4. The 2006 Darwin Award
5. A few interesting websites I like
Yes, yes, I know I wrote you only yesterday but Some Things Have Come Up.
1. For those of you who use F-Prot Antivirus, there is a new version
out for Windows 2000 and Windows XP - F-Prot 6. Older MS operating
systems are not supported by F-Prot 6. The new version is for home use
only; the corporate version is apparently still in beta. Current
subscribers can upgrade to the new version for free. Go to the download
site, log in with your Customer Number (you can find this in F-Prot's
Updater section), and continue to the Downloads section. You'll see two
choices - you want F-Prot 6. You will get a new Subscription Key -
write this down because you'll need it during the installation. It
the same as your old Customer Number. You can run the executable and it
will ask you if you want to uninstall the older version of F-Prot.
Click "yes" and follow instructions not
to restart your computer after the uninstallation. The installation of
the new version will commence. At the end of that, do restart your
I use F-Prot on my Windows machines (don't need antivirus on Linux,
hahahahah) so I downloaded the new version and have installed it on one
of my machines so far. I haven't played with it much, but here are my
a. The user interface is a definite improvement over the older version.
b. You can now exclude detections, which is a welcome addition for when
a scan finds a false-positive or detects something you want to keep and
know is safe.
c. The older version of F-Prot would not automatically update from
within a Limited User account (XP) without a registry hack. I don't
have any Limited User accounts on my machines so I'll need to set one
up to test if this has been fixed.
d. There is one thing which may be a deal-breaker as far as me
recommending F-Prot 6 to end users; the installation is apparently
hard-coded to default to C:\Program Files. For most end users this will
not be a problem since they either have only one hard drive and/or
their Windows installation is on the C:\ drive. However, it is
completely possible to have XP installed on a drive other than
C:\ and in fact two of my machines are configured that way.
According to F-Prot's site, if you want to install elsewhere you'll
need to do the install from the command line with switches. For end
users, doing that is Right Out.I will experiment with this and post the
results along with the Limited User account question in a later EBC
Here are the subscriber login and the upgrade instructions links:
2. Avast! is a very good antivirus for Windows made by Alwil. They have
a free version as well as a commercial version. The free version works
quite well. Avast! even installs and works on Vista, so that is what
I'm using there.
http://www.avast.com/eng/avast_4_home.html - Free Home version
http://www.avast.com/eng/avast_4_professional.html - Professional version
http://www.avast.com/eng/avast_4_professional2.html - Professional pricelist
http://www.avast.com/eng/av4_version_comp.html - Comparison between Free and Professional versions
Frankly, for most people the Free version is just fine and I recommend it.
3. There is a vulnerability in Apple's QuickTime 7x that as of this
writing has not been patched. The vulnerability affects both Windows
and Mac OS X and would allow a user's system to be compromised by
hackers. Stay away from questionable sites and watch your pr0n on some
other media player until Apple patches the program.
And now for something completely different...
4. Two Florida people have received the 2006 Darwin Award for
contributing to the "improvement of the human genome by accidentally
removing themselves from it". Read all about it here:
The main Darwin Awards site is here: http://darwinawards.com/ - don't go there unless you have a rather black sense of humor. You Have Been Warned.
5. I thought you might be interested in knowing about a few websites I
find amusing and/or useful. Please note that these are sites that I like and so reflect my own peculiar tastes.
NASFW - Not always safe for work. May have adult pictures and language. Definitely not for children.
NSFW - Not safe for work, ever. Actually, I don't go to any of those
types of sites but I thought you might like the definition. ;-)
FF - Family-Friendly. Safe for children and adults of all ages.
http://www.boingboing.net/ - One of the oldest "interesting things" sites around. In fact, its motto is "A Directory of Wonderful Things". NASFW
http://www.penny-arcade.com/ - A famous web comic aimed at gamers. NASFW
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page - Wikipedia is always interesting, not always accurate.
http://cuteoverload.com/ - Pictures of adorably cute animals. Awwwwww. FF
http://consumerist.com/ - NASFW
because of language, not pictures. A blog whose motto is "Where
Shoppers Bite Back". Very useful and interesting. Includes the Walmart
Nazi T-shirt watch, now in its 52nd day.
- FF but I don't think children would care for it. BiblioOdyssey is a
visual blog where the owner posts scans of rather wonderful images from
"Books, Illustrations, Science, History, Visual Materia Obscura,
Eclectic Bookart". Lovely stuff, but don't go there unless you have
http://xkcd.com/ - One of my favorite
web comics. NASFW because of language and subject matter. The drawings
are done with stick figures so you can't see any naughty bits, but
sometimes they are referred to. The comic is unabashedly for geeks and
math people, calling itself "a webcomic of romance,sarcasm, math, and
Well, that's enough for now. It's time for me to explore Vista some
more and later, brush the cats. My life is one of stunning interest and
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- Ce qui embellit le désert, dit le petit prince, c'est qu'il
cache un puits quelque part... ("What makes the desert beautiful," said
the little prince, "is that somewhere it hides a well.") -- Antoine de
Saint-Exupery, "Le Petit Prince"
1. Outlook users and the new Daylight Savings Time rules.
2. More on Vista
3. Buying a new computer (related to #2 above)
1. In August of 2005 the United States Congress passed the Energy
Policy Act. The Energy Policy Act changes the start and end dates of
daylight saving time (DST). When this law goes into effect in 2007, DST
will start three weeks earlier (March 11th, 2007) and end one week
later (November 4th, 2007) than what had traditionally occurred.
Those of you using Outlook 2000, Outlook 2002 (Office XP), or Outlook
2003 should download the Time Zone Data Update Tool from Microsoft.
Here's the MS article:
For most of you, the information about Exchange Server will not be
applicable, but the rest of the article will be and it is worth taking
the time to read it if you rely on Outlook for your email and
For more information about how to prepare for changes in daylight
saving time in 2007 for all affected Microsoft products, visit the
following Microsoft Web site:
2. I'm getting quite a few questions about Vista as we are
getting closer to its retail release date (1/30). I'd like to repeat my
Do not upgrade lightly. Run the Vista Upgrade Advisor and make sure
your computer meets/exceeds Vista system requirements. Vista will not
even install on a computer with less than 512MB of RAM. If you have a
computer that was designed for Windows 98/ME, it will not run Vista.
Buy a new machine.
I'm still suggesting that people who wish to buy a new computer soon
wait until Vista is available preinstalled. This will insure that all
OEM (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) drivers and preinstalled software will work.
If you must buy a new computer and get it with XP preinstalled, be
aware that in order to have the fancy Vista user interface (Aero)
you must have the right video card. Computers that are being sold
"Vista Capable" instead of "Vista Premium" mean that they can run Vista
but not the Aero interface. Most big OEM's like Dell and HP are
offering a "free express upgrade to Vista" on their machines that
currently come with XP preinstalled.
Make sure that all your important programs will run on Vista. This
means going to the program mftr.'s website and reading any information
available. Make sure that all your peripherals such as printers,
scanners, PDA's, etc. will work with Vista. If they will require new
drivers/software, you'll need to get this.
Be an informed consumer or you may have an unpleasant experience with Vista.
Like XP, Vista comes in more than one version. You can read about the
different versions at the link above. Most home users will want Vista
I've been working on learning Vista and there is some information at my website here:
You can read my Vista Diary, an informal bloggish page about my experiences with Vista, here:
There aren't a lot of entries right now since I've been working on
learning Apple's OS X on my new MacBook for the last week. See #3.
below for more about that.
And understand that you must be willing to learn a new operating
system. Much about Vista will be familiar to XP users, but much is
I do not suggest that businesses upgrade to Vista at this time. Wait at
least 6 months or until the first Service Pack comes out. Do your
research about any industry-specific software you use first.
3. Buying a new computer
a. General comments - The first thing to do when considering purchasing
a new computer is to ask yourself what you want to do on the machine.
If all you do (and will ever do) is email, word processing, and play
Solitaire you will want a different machine than one on which you will
do video editing, photo management, 3D gaming, creating music, etc. You
can buy a much less expensive machine for the first situation; you will
be unhappy if you want to do some of the latter items if you buy only a
As a general rule, except for some very basic PC's, you can upgrade the
memory, hard drive, optical drive, and video card later so if your
budget doesn't allow you to get the Desktop you really want, buy one
with a fast processor and leave the other components at the default.
Whether you buy a lower-end machine or not, I would not buy any
computer with less than 1GB of RAM and without a DVD burner.
Laptops are different since in most cases you can only add memory and a
bigger hard drive. I think you should buy the most machine you can
afford when you purchase a laptop. Always buy at least a 2-year
warranty and matching accidental insurance when you purchase a laptop.
Only buy a laptop from a well-known company which you believe will be
around for a long time. Since many parts on laptops are not
user-serviceable, your hardware tech support/repair will come from the
b. Should you buy a Mac? - I've had quite a few clients ask me this
lately, particularly since now that Apple is using an Intel processor
you can dual-boot the Mac OS X with Windows (or use Virtual Machine
As a new MacBook owner, I can tell you that the MacBook is truly
lovely. But there is no perfect hardware and there is no perfect
software. Here are a few things to ask yourself first:
1. What do you want to do on the machine? This will help you make the decision as to which Mac you buy.
2. Are the programs you need to use available in Mac versions? Do you
want to purchase them? If you have a lot of expensive PC programs such
as Photoshop and Microsoft Office, you would need to purchase new ones
for your Mac.
3. Will any peripherals you have (printers, PDA's, etc.) work on the
Mac? Remember, you must have drivers for all your hardware for whatever
operating system you are running. Are Mac drivers available?
4. Are you willing to learn a new operating system? OS X is very
user-friendly, but it isn't Windows. An excellent book for people
making the switch to OS X is "Switching to the Mac - Tiger Edition" by
David Pogue and Adam Goldstein. "Tiger" is the name of the current Mac
OS X version. A new version, "Leopard", is expected to be released
sometime this year. If you're not in a hurry, you may want to wait.
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2-15-07 - If you wait long enough, it will go away... after having done its damage. If it was bad, it will be back. - Anonymous
1. Update on Daylight Savings Time patches
2. Vista Grand Openings; Vista and antivirus programs
3. Vista on new machines - be prepared
4. Book review (learning Vista)
1. Microsoft has an updated Daylight Savings Time Help & Support Center:
Apparently the XP SP2 patch will be included in automatic Windows
Updates (and this past Tuesday 2/13 was February's Patch Tuesday). If
you don't have Windows Update at the automatic setting, go to the
Windows Update site. See the DST Help & Support Center for
instructions for older Microsoft operating systems and for XP
installations that are still pre-SP2.
For Outlook, use Office Update or download the patch directly from the
Microsoft Download Center. Since Daylight Savings Time is starting three
weeks earlier (and ending one week later), Microsoft suggests that you
double-check with all participants of scheduled meetings during that
time to make sure you are all on the same time. This is just good
common sense. There are bound to be people who haven't patched Outlook
and will think the meeting starts at 2:00 when it really starts at 3:00.
Here's Microsoft's Outlook page about DST:
2. As you probably know, Vista officially came out on January 30th.
Many MVPs ("Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals"*) were present at the
various "Grand Openings" at places like BestBuy and CompUSA. I was not
one of them, but several MVPs reported some disturbing behavior by
store employees at these openings. For example, one BestBuy had turned
off the User Account Control ("UAC") feature on all their demonstration
models which severely reduces Vista's security, were pushing Norton
Antivirus which does not yet work well with Vista, and were trying to
"3-hour setup service" which frankly is excessive to get Vista up and running.
If you do purchase a computer from one of these "big box stores",
please be aware of how the store has set up the computer. Be an informed
consumer. Ask questions. We (the MVPs) speculated that UAC was turned
off in order to make Vista look more like XP. Vista is not XP. Take the
time to learn about UAC and how it protects you from viruses, spyware,
and other damage to the operating system.
"What is User Account Control?" - MS Windows Help and How-to
Norton antivirus and security products are not recommended. Ever.
Neither are McAfee's offerings. Here is a list of antivirus programs
that are certified to be compatible with Vista now (the recommendations
and comments are mine of course):
Avast! - Recommended and works (am using this one on my Vista box)
CA Antivirus - Not recommended. Although I liked CA's antivirus
offerings a few years ago, they now seem slow to produce virus
definitions and their website, customer service, and tech support is
Kaspersky Anti-Virus - Recommended
McAfee (various products) - Not recommended and that's why I'm not
giving you the url. If you want it that badly, look it up yourself. ;-)
Norton (various products) - Not recommended; see McAfee comments.
Panda Antivirus - Not recommended; I've never been impressed with this
software and it has caused issues on some of my clients' machines.
TrendMicro - Maybe - I've never been a fan of their products on
consumer machines although their corporate software is reported to be
excellent. Might be worth trying.
Recommended antivirus programs that currently do not work with Vista:
Avira AntiVir (Vista support scheduled for April 2007)
F-Prot (unknown when support for Vista will be available)
Microsoft does have its own combination antivirus/antispyware program -
Windows Live OneCare. I cannot recommend OneCare since its antivirus
has one of the lowest catch rates in the industry. It may improve, but
I don't suggest gambling with your antivirus protection. Use a program
that is effective and has a proven track record. Microsoft's Windows
Defender antispyware program is part of Vista. It is way too early to
know if Vista will fulfill Microsoft's promises about its security or
whether it will still be vulnerable to malware. At this point, most
security and tech professionals are suggesting that Windows Defender
will be adequate for a resident antispyware program. You do not need to
buy a separate antispyware program. I do not recommend those
"all-in-one" security suites in any case since they are usually too
heavy on the system and not all components work equally well.
As for the setup service, you may want a tech to set up your new
computer. This is your choice. But you should not think it
is*necessary* with Vista, any more than it was *necessary* with Windows
XP. Yes, if you want the tech to physically set up the computer,
transfer data/settings from an old computer to a new one, install
printers, join Vista to an existing home network, get you on the
Internet, etc. - that could definitely take 3 hours, or even longer.
But if you handled these chores yourself just fine with XP there is no
reason to think you can't handle them with Vista.
*Microsoft Most Valuable Professional
3. You can no longer can buy consumer-level machines with XP. While
computer manufacturers like Dell are still offering XP on their business
machines, you should be making an effort to determine if any crucial
niche software your company uses will run on Vista. There's no rush or
need to panic; I'm just reminding you to be prepared.
4. O'Reilly is a very well-known and highly-respected publisher of
computer-related technical books. O'Reilly offered review copies of
various Vista and Office 2007 books to the MVPs. I read "Vista - The
Missing Manual - For Starters" and "Vista - The Missing Manual", both
by the marvelous David Pogue. Both books are great. The "For Starters"
series have less in-depth technical information than the regular
"Missing Manuals" but are still rich and meaty. Mr. Pogue writes
clearly, with great humor, and covers all the aspects of learning Vista
you will need and he does so in an extremely accessible way. Strongly
Back to top
- The computer allows you to make mistakes faster than any other
invention, with the possible exception of handguns and tequila. -- Mitch Ratcliffe
1. Various program updates
2. Some more Vista links
1. If you have these programs, you should update them if you haven't already:
a. Apple iTunes - http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/
iTunes has been updated to be more compatible with Vista. There are
still a few problems; Microsoft and Apple are reported to be working on
ironing out the last compatibility wrinkles.
b. Apple Quicktime (if you don't have or want iTunes) - http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/win.html
This update is particularly important if you or your children use
MySpace since malicious pages on MySpace have appeared which will take
advantage of the vulnerability in older versions of QuickTime to
install malware on your computer.
c. Firefox - http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/all.html
Please note that this update brings Firefox up to version 18.104.22.168 and
22.214.171.124. If you are still running a pre-Firefox 2 version, you need to
update. There will be no more updates to Firefox 1.5 after April 24th.
There is no reason to remain with Firefox 1.5; Firefox 2 is much
better. You don't need to uninstall the old one first; just download
the latest Firefox and run the installer.
d. OpenOffice - http://download.openoffice.org/2.1.0/index.html
e. Microsoft Office - Go here - http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/downloads/FX101321101033.aspx
Click on the link for Office Update at the top right corner of the page and follow the instructions that will appear.
Only click on the yellow button "Check for Microsoft Updates" if you
are using Microsoft Update instead of Windows Update. There are still
reports of problems with using Microsoft Update instead of Windows
Update so I continue to use the latter on my Windows machines. If you
have Vista, you can only use Microsoft Update.
Remember, keeping your applications patched is as important as patching your operating system.
2. I haven't gotten around to updating the portion of my website
concerned with Vista, but here are some useful links about the new
Homepage - http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/default.aspx
Upgrade planning - http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/upgradeinfo.mspx
MVP John Barnett - http://vistasupport.mvps.org/upgrading_to_windows_vista.htm
Comparison chart by MVP Tom Porterfield - http://support.teloep.org/vistaver.htm
Windows Vista Solution Center - http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx/windowsvista
Other helpful general sites -
MVP Kerry Brown's site - http://www.vistahelp.ca
Robert Firth - http://winvistainfo.org/default.aspx
MVP Jimmy Brush - http://www.jimmah.com/vista/
MVP Ramesh - http://www.winhelponline.com
Vista Tips & Tricks - http://www.windowsvistatnt.com/
And for those of you using Windows Mail (Vista's successor to Outlook Express) MVP Steve Cochran - http://www.oehelp.com/
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4-3-07 - If you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison' it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later. ~ Lewis Carroll
1. Patch for Windows Animated Cursor Handling vulnerability
1. Microsoft is expected to issue a patch today for the Windows
Animated Cursor Handling vulnerability. The patch is expected to be on
Windows Update today instead of in the normal patch release cycle next
Tuesday in order to cope with the widespread exploits that have
surfaced. Those of you who have Microsoft operating systems for which
there are no security patches (Windows 9x/ME/XP-without SP2) should be
particularly careful and follow the suggestions in the Microsoft
Security Advisory below.
Microsoft Security Advisory #935423 here has detailed information about the vulnerability and workarounds:
Here is another description of the vulnerability and some workarounds
from US-CERT (Unisted States Computer Emergency Readiness Team):
Microsoft Security Central - a site that is of interest to anyone concerned with their computer's security:
Microsoft Support Lifecycle:
4-24-07 - I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything. -- Steven Wright
1. Staying safe online
2. Scammers exploit tragedy
3. Spring cleaning
4. Thunderbird 2.0
5. Dell continues to offer XP as an option
1. Cnet.com has a great guide for keeping your kids safe online - http://www.cnet.com/2001-13384_1-0.html
Remember, it's important to teach your children how to be safe on the
Internet as well as in meatspace (the Real World). You don't do them
any favors by just saying "don't go there". They will
"go there", wherever "there" may be - MySpace, chat rooms, etc. So
prepare them instead; it will be good for you to know these things, too.
2. Whenever a tragedy occurs - Katrina, earthquakes, school shootings -
the Scum of the Earth are not far behind trying to separate you from
your money. Make sure your donations go where they belong and don't
make your computer vulnerable. Here's an article from The Register
about scammers exploiting the Virginia Tech tragedy:
3. It's Spring! Don't forget to including your computers in your Spring Cleaning:
4. Thunderbird 2.0 is now available. Upgrading is easy; just download the latest version from http://www.mozilla.com and install it. No need to uninstall the older version first.
5. Dell has announced that because of customer demand they will
continue to offer XP as a choice (instead of only Vista) on certain
consumer systems (business systems were still available with XP).
According to the Dell IdeaStorm website, consumers can buy these models
of Inspiron laptops and Dimension desktops with either XP Home or XP
Dell Inspiron: 1405, 1705, 1505, 1501
Dell Dimension: E520, E521
This is a Good Thing because Vista isn't really ready for Prime Time
yet. To be fair, this is not completely Microsoft's fault. Many
hardware companies - who must write drivers for their devices -
apparently were waiting until the commercial version of Vista was
released at the end of January. There is still a lot of hardware that
is not supported in Vista or the drivers are still in beta, buggy, etc.
Also, some major software companies have not been on the ball or have
definitely announced (like Intuit for Quickbooks and Adobe for
Photoshop) that older versions of their flagship software will simply
not be supported on Vista.
Before you upgrade to Vista, make very sure that all your hardware -
including peripherals like printers, webcams, cameras, etc. - is
supported in Vista. Make sure that all the important programs you use
will work under Vista. You do this by going to the websites for the
various hardware and software manufacturers and seeing what they say
about Vista compatibility.
Business owners who rely on niche software (industry-specific programs)
should contact tech support for those programs and find out what is
planned for Vista compatibility. Naturally, when Microsoft stops
selling XP entirely (probably by January, 2008) your current
installations of XP will not magically disappear. But you need to be
prepared for when you have to buy new computers and Vista will be your
only choice for a preinstalled Microsoft operating system (and possibly
no drivers available for XP).
Be an informed consumer and you will not have an unpleasant surprise and Tears Before Bedtime.
Back to top
- Hofstadter's Law - It [a task] always takes longer than you expect,
even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law. Named after Douglas
1. Changes in Microsoft email
2. Old-style worm spreading through usb thumbdrives
3. Save your MS Office settings and other great tips from Lifehacker
4. Live Earth News
1. Microsoft's Hotmail is officially dead. The company has announced
that Windows Live Mail will replace Hotmail, Outlook Express, Windows
Mail (Vista), and Windows Live Mail Desktop (which was in beta).
Apparently you can use the revamped Hotmail (now called Windows Live
Hotmail) with the downloadable Windows Live Mail client to be available
sometime in the near future.
Here are some articles about it:
And if all the "Windows Live" names are too confusing, there's always:
2. With usb thumbdrives (also called "memory sticks", "flash drives",
etc.) so commonly in use now, it was only a matter of time before virus
writers would see this as a new opportunity to infect computers. This
takes me back to The Old Days when viruses were passed on floppy disks.
So be cautious about plugging in a usb thumbdrive from someone else and
keep your antivirus updated.
3. There's an article on the always-excellent Lifehacker site about how
to save your MS Office settings for transfer to a new computer.
Lifehacker has lots of great tips to make your life easier, more
efficient, and fun.
4. And in other news, Spinal Tap will reunite to save the earth from
devastation as part of the Live Earth concerts scheduled for July 7th.
Read about it and see a short film here:
Back to top
5-29-07 - "I invented the piano key necktie! I invented it! What have you done, Derek? You've done nothing! NOTHIIIING!!!!" -- Mugatu
1. Warning about false Microsoft email
2. Apple OS X security udpates
3. Another Apple-related security issue - Photoshop CS3 installation disables the firewall
4. Parental Control software (Windows)
1. As I'm sure you all know, Microsoft does not send emails with
patches attached. However, a reminder never hurts. F-Secure has
received reports of a new malicious email purporting to be from
Microsoft. The "patch" is really a trojan.
Per F-Secure, "The sample contained in the link is now detected as
Backdoor:W32/VanBot.CA since 2007-05-28_05. Updates are always
good, but in this case, keep your virus definitions updated instead."
2. All operating systems have vulnerabilities, not just Microsoft ones.
If you or a loved one has a Mac, make sure you check for
security updates occasionally. Go to System
Preferences>Software Update. You can set the checking options there
3. During the installation of the newest version of Adobe CS3 on OS X,
the Version Cue component will disable the Mac OS X Firewall. Most
unfortunately, it doesn't enable it again after the installation is
finished. This is a rather nasty security vulnerability, particularly
if your Apple isn't behind a router. The fix is very simple - enable
the Firewall yourself from System Preferences. Shame, shame Adobe!
4. There is an interesting article about parental control software in
this month's issue of "Maximum PC". The article isn't on line yet (http://www.maximumpc.com)
but the upshot is that parental control software can be gotten around
by a reasonably bright and computer-savvy person. This is nothing new
but the interesting thing about the article was how the parental
control programs were circumvented. The magazine had three geeks of
varying ages try and bypass Net Nanny, PC Tattletale and Safe Eyes. All
were successful using different methods.
I'm not a fan of parental control software; I think the best parental
control is provided by parents who are watching and who take the time
to learn about their computers and teach their kids how to stay safe.
Keep the computer in a public room like the family room where you can
see what your little darlings are looking at. If the computer must be
in the child's room, make unannounced spot checks. When you catch them
looking at the naughty bits, use that as an teaching opportunity. Just
my two cents and yes, I do have children - two boys, 18 and 14 so been
there, done that.
However, if you really want to install parental control software I can suggest two things:
A. Naomi is a free Internet-filtering program recommended by my Brilliant Techie friend Don Olson.
B. The Parental Controls in Windows Vista are quite good and might be
effective for younger children. Of course, the disadvantage is that you
have to be running Vista. ;-)
Back to top
- "I'm delighted you have survived another night. May I add my own
congratulations to the roar of the world's approval? Thank you, sir."
-- Stephen Fry as Jeeves
1. Microsoft Patch Tuesday yesterday - 11 bugs fixed, 8 critical
2. Useful new Microsoft webpages
3. Laptops for the kids - school laptop programs
1. Yesterday was Patch Tuesday. You all know what to do. Two of the
patches are for Windows Server 2000 and Server 2003 so if you are a
small business owner, don't forget to update your server since these
2. In searching for the link to the Update Bulletin for you, I came across these Microsoft webpages that might be of interest.
http://www.microsoft.com/athome/default.mspx - Microsoft At Home
Aimed at home users with a lot of useful information links. In a
welcome departure from the usual Microsoft website design, this page
looks very well organized and clear.
http://www.microsoft.com/atwork/default.mspx - Microsoft At Work
This page focuses on work issues - MS Office tips, how to use your laptop in meetings, that sort of thing.
http://www.microsoft.com/protect/default.mspx - Security At Home
Security information and tips for the end user (you!). Again, the page
is very well done. There are tips about spyware, how to limit your
kids' time online, how to protect yourself.
Good job, Microsoft.
3. It's that time of year when parents are thinking about buying
laptops for their kids, either for a middle school laptop program or
for your older child to take to college. Before you buy a laptop, check
with the school and buy what the school suggests! Here's why:
a. Ease of repair - The reason the school IT Dept. wants you to buy a
laptop model on "the list" is because it can be imaged for quick
restoration. When setting up large numbers of computers, big companies
don't hand-install/configure hundreds or thousands of machines. One
computer is set up perfectly just the way the IT Dept. wants it. For a
school, this means installing all the school software programs and
printers, too. Then special software is used to create an image of the
hard drive. This image is applied to all the other computers with the
same hardware as the "master". This means that when your kid downloads
stuff s/he shouldn't and the laptop is completely messed up, the school
IT Dept. can reapply the image and have that laptop back to pristine
condition in just a few minutes instead of hours.
Note: You can do this with your own home or small business computers to
restore them to good condition quickly. Two examples of imaging
software are Acronis TrueImage and Norton Ghost. I prefer TrueImage.
Buy the imaging program and a usb external hard drive. The images will
be saved onto the external hard drive for quick restoration. TrueImage
can also do incremental backups. Backups are A Good Thing.
b. The laptop will need to connect to the school's network. The school
will have requirements regarding the operating system and method of
connecting. You need to meet these requirements.
c. Expense - See Item a. above. Restoring a laptop to clean condition
usually costs nothing if the IT Dept. can image it. If you need to take
it to a third-party repair shop (like mine), it will cost anywhere from
$120-$160 each time. Most kids, at least the ones in middle school,
need to have their laptop restored at least twice during the year. Even
if your little angel would never download something dodgy, other kids
in his/her class will and persuade other kids to "try this really cool
Some other things to consider when buying a laptop for a young person:
a. Sturdiness vs. weight - You want a nice solid laptop because these
machines will get a lot more wear than those carried by an adult. They
will be put in backpacks and thrown on the floor. So a delicate
ultra-light isn't a good choice. However, remember that the kids are
going to be carrying the laptops back and forth from school and to
classes so a huge 8 lb. machine will also not be a good idea.
b. Don't buy a very expensive laptop for a kid - I work with the
Brilliant Don Olson at St. Anthony's School and at the end of every
year we need to remove all the School's software from the outgoing 8th
grade students' machines. The first time I did this, I was horrified at
the condition of most of those laptops. People, they were thrashed. In fact, I came home and hugged my own kid and praised him for taking such great care of what, after all, is really my laptop.
c. Warranty - Definitely buy a warranty *and* the additional accidental
insurance. You should always do this for any laptop you buy, but trust
me that you will use that warranty on a kid's laptop more than once.
You should get at least 2-year coverage; 3-year coverage is best.
d. The gaming question - Boys want to play graphically-intense games
(there are heavy-duty girl gamers but they are rare) and they will push
you to buy them a fancy gaming laptop instead of the model the school
want you to get. Just say "no". Acceptable gaming laptops start at
around $4,000. Excellent gaming laptops start at around $6,000. Gaming
laptops are heavy, too. These are not suitable for your middle-school
child to take to school or for your college-bound young person to take
to classes. Go back to the very beginning of this article and read what
I wrote: "Buy what the school suggests". Repeat this like a mantra and
all will be well.
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- Clarke's Second Law - The only way of discovering the limits of the
possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. --
Arthur C. Clarke
1. Various security warnings - people who want iPhones targets; eGreeting cards again; ransomware
2. Windows Home Server
1-A. Botnet targets people who want iPhones.
According to this ArsTechnica article, there is a trojan going around
(Aifone.A) that redirects people trying to buy an iPhone from Apple's
website to a fake site. Needless to say, if the victims enter their
credit card information on the fake site it will go right to the
scammers. The trojan is run by end user action such as opening an email
attachment. You all are too smart to open attachments, right?
1-B. I previously warned you all about the flood of malware pretending
to be eGreeting cards. I just wanted to let you know that the flood has
apparently not abated. I see at least a dozen of these a day caught in
my spamtraps so Stay Vigilant!
1-C. The return of ransomware - Recently there were a few posts about
this in the MS newsgroups so I thought it might be widespread enough
(or getting there) to give you a warning. "Ransomware" is malware that,
when your computer gets infected with it, encrypts all your files so
your data is inaccessible. The malware comes with an extortion note
saying that the only way you can get your data files decrypted is to
send $300 to the criminals. There's an interesting article about the
newest ransomware in The Register, here:
One way the malware is being distributed is via a Monster.com phish.
Monster.com is a website for job-seekers (and actually not a good place
to find jobs, either). The file is sometimes called Jobseeker_tool.exe.
The major antivirus companies such as Kaspersky should have virus
definitions for this, so as always keep your antivirus updated and your
If you get infected, we might be able to get your data back but the
best thing to do is not get infected in the first place. Be careful,
stay safe, and always have good and current backups of your data.
http://www.viruslist.com/en/weblog (Blog maintained by Kaspersky analysts)
2. Windows Home Server goes RTM (Release to Manufacturing) - Windows
Home Server is an interesting new product from Microsoft. It will come
on a device that you'll buy and hook up to your home network. I didn't
participate in the beta test, but other MVPs I know did and they
thought it was promising. Basically, Windows Home Server will be a
device that will be a central place to back up all your data. There are
ways of doing this now, but Windows Home Server is aimed at end users -
home users - and therefore won't require a high degree of technical
expertise to set up and use. According to its homepage, we should start
seeing Windows Home Server devices in retail stores by the end of this
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9-13-07 - "If you say something stupid and no one is there to hear it, are you still an idiot?" -- Tycho Brahe, Penny Arcade
1. Firefox Add-ons
2. Picasa Web Albums
3. Best Buy continues being Evil
4. Talk Like A Pirate Day coming up
1. Most of you know that I recommend using Mozilla's Firefox as a
browser. Not only is it faster and generally safer than Internet
Explorer, it is also far more versatile because of the many extensions
that people have written for it. Extensions (also known as "add-ons")
provide additional functions for your browser. There are hundreds of
extensions for both the Firefox browser and the Thunderbird email
client. Some extensions are purely practical and some are just for fun.
Here are the main Add-ons pages for Firefox and Thunderbird:
Here are the add-ons I have installed in my Firefox:
Flashblock - https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/433
Forecast Fox - https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/398
FoxClocks - https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1117
TinyURL Creator - https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/126
AdBlock - https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/10
Clear Fields - https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/2408
Auto Copy - https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/383
In Thunderbird, I have several add-ons to add functionality such as:
Delete Junk Context Menu - https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/149
Signature Switch - https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/611
Don't be afraid to explore the world of extensions!
2. One of the nicest free image managers is Google's Picasa. Recently
the Picasa people have added the ability to set up a web account to
share your pictures, right from within Picasa itself. This is very easy
to do and free. So stop emailing those pictures to Aunt Sally and post
them to a Family Picture Album on the web instead! Note that doing this
will not be feasible if you are still using a dialup Internet
http://picasa.google.com/ (Picasa program)
http://tinyurl.com/2egaso (Picasa Web Albums)
3. Best Buy continues being Evil. "PCWorld" reports that Best Buy and
Circuit City salespersons push customers to buy unnecessary recovery
disks. I've also seen some posts about this disgusting practice in the
Microsoft newsgroups recently and one of my own clients nearly got
clipped. Luckily for her, she called me first.
There are a lot of you who purchase new computers from these stores and
you should be aware that all the extra "services" that they urge you to
buy are unnecessary, turning what may be a good deal on a computer to
one that is more expensive than if you purchased it elsewhere. So be an
educated consumer. If you have questions about buying a new computer,
you can always call Elephant Boy Computers for advice. Here's a link to
4. I can't believe another year has gone by already and Talk Like A
Pirate Day is almost upon us. Celebrate your piratey goodness (or
badness) with the rest of us believers on next Wednesday, September
19th. You don't need anything more than attitude and the ability to say
"Arrrgghh, Matey" but if you want to get some pirate accessories,
ThinkGeek is a great place to go. Unfortunately you can't loot, but
they do take credit cards. ;-)
Avast me hearties - yo ho!
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- "Just remember what old Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, the
poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah,
Jack Burton just looks that big old storm right in the eye and says,
Give me your best shot. I can take it.' " -- "Big Trouble in Little
1. eBay Desktop program
2. More on the Storm Worm(s)
3. Zlob trojans related to downloading codecs (long, but serious so please read)
1. eBay Desktop is a new application that interacts with the auction website. Here's an article about it on Lifehacker.com:
I don't use eBay but for those of you who do, this might be a good
program. I don't recommend installing the eBay toolbar* but the eBay
Desktop might work for you. Oddly enough, I couldn't find a link to it
on the main eBay site, but here's a direct link which I got from
Note that this program is still in beta and you should always be
careful when installing beta software. On XP and Vista, I'd
suggest making a System Restore point first.
*In general, stay away from installing third-party toolbars. They often
cause issues with Internet Explorer 7 and/or the Windows graphical user
2. The Storm Worm is still with us, in many variants. Infection can be
extremely difficult to remove so you should be aware of this threat.
Websense Security Labs has reported on a new version of the Storm
infection. You will get a spam email with a link to a website posting
as a free ecard site. No exploit is on the site itself. However, when
users click any of the URLs, they are prompted to download and run a
file called "SuperLaugh.exe." This file contains the Storm payload code.
Sample email subject line: View your Kitty Card now! (URL REMOVED)
There are many variants of the Storm attacks. A common characteristic
seems to be that the malicious email will have a subject line that
seems logical and is often tied to current events. For instance, now
that it is football season there are subjects referring to teams,
games, etc. As always, be extremely cautious about opening email
attachments and keep your antivirus program subscription current and
its definitions updated.
http://www.websense.com/securitylabs/blog/blog.php?BlogID=147 - Storm Worm Chronology
http://www.cyber-ta.org/pubs/StormWorm/ - fairly technical information but with more links
3. We've seen a lot of serious infections that are caused by users
downloading codecs in order to play multimedia files, usually videos.
Here is a very good explanation of "codec" from About.com. I quote the
information rather than just give you the link because About.com has
"'Codec' is a technical name for 'compression/decompression'. It also
stands for 'compressor/decompressor' and 'code/decode'. All of these
variations mean the same thing: a codec is a computer program that both
shrinks large movie files, and makes them playable on your computer.
Codec programs are required for your media player to play your
downloaded music and movies.
"Because video and music files are large, they become difficult to
transfer across the Internet quickly. To help speed up downloads,
mathematical 'codecs' were built to encode ('shrink') a signal for
transmission and then decode it for viewing or editing. Without codecs,
downloads would take three to five times longer than they do now.
"...there are hundreds of codecs being used on the Internet, and you
will need combinations that specifically play your files. There are
codecs for audio and video compression, for streaming media over the
Internet, videoconferencing, playing mp3's, speech, or screen capture.
To make matters more confusing, some people who share their files on
the Net choose to use very obscure codecs to shrink their files. This
makes it very frustrating for users who download these files, but do
not know which codecs to get to play these files. If you are a regular
downloader, you will probably need ten to twelve codecs to play your
music and movies."
The need to download codecs most often arises when people are using
peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P) such as Lime Wire, Shareaza,
eDonkey/eMule, WinMX, etc. Another reason is when people want to view
"adult" movies and you get a prompt from the website to install a
Codecs are licensed by their creators and most are not free. When you
have a legitimate music/video player - Windows Media Player, WinDVD,
Nero Showtime for example - that program comes with included codecs
paid for by the programs' creators so they are free for the end user.
As explained in the About.com information above, the problem comes
about when your player doesn't include the codecs necessary to view a
particular multimedia file. So then the search is on for a free codec
that will work and that's where the malware comes in. Most of the
malware picked up this way belongs to the Zlob trojan family and some
of it installs a rootkit* which makes the infected computer system
almost impossible to clean. In most cases, a Zlob infection picked up
by downloading dodgy codecs will require a clean install of Windows.
Here is a link from the excellent CounterSpy Research Center which
shows you how very nasty one of these Zlob codec-related infections can
How do you deal with this issue?
a. You know that using P2P is risky so.... ;-)
b. You know that viewing pr0n is risky so... ;-)
c. If you are a parent, you discuss #a and #b above with your kids and are vigilant about their computer use.
d. Download some alternative video players that may be able to play your files. Here is a list of various players with ratings:
e. Use a different operating system such as Linux. I don't know if
there are Zlob versions for Mac OS X so I'd be cautious in this
operating system, too.
f. And if you choose to be risky and are running a Microsoft operating
system, make sure your data is always backed up since you need to be
prepared for a clean install of Windows.
*Rootkits are very serious pieces of malware that run hidden services
on your computer, making them difficult and often impossible to remove.
Back to top
10-24-07 - The Dude abides. -- "The Big Lebowski"
1. Online Safety and Security
2. Adobe Reader/Acrobat exploit
1. Various bits of (hopefully) useful information about online safety and security:
A. From Carnegie Mellon University ("CMU"), we have MySecureCyberspace,
"A free educational resource created by Carnegie Mellon University to
empower you to secure your part of cyberspace". Sounds fancy, but they
have some really solid information geared toward you - the end user -
and not techies.
This is a large, informative site and well-worth spending some time on.
The parents among you will be interested in the many topics in the
Family Room such as "Keep Your Kids Safe from Online Predators" and
"Feeling Confident About Allowing Kids Online".
Check out some of the articles about Privacy Tools; an Encyclopedia of
risks, threats, and solutions; social engineering to trick victims into
giving out personal information; and how to keep your small
business/home office secure.
I give it 10 gold stars (and not just because my kid goes there!).
B. Linked from MySecureCyberspace, we have GetNetWise. "GetNetWise is a
public service brought to you by Internet industry corporations and
public interest organizations to help ensure that Internet users have
safe, constructive, and educational or entertaining online experiences.
The GetNetWise coalition wants Internet users to be just 'one click
away' from the resources they need to make informed decisions about
their and their family's use of the Internet. More information is
available. GetNetWise is a project of the Internet Education
GetNetWise has sections on "Keeping Children Safe Online", "Stopping
Unwanted E-Mail and Spam", "Protecting Your Computer From Hackers and
Viruses", and "Keeping Your Personal Info Private". It also has a
database of Internet filtering tools.
C. Although some of us are pretty grumpy about the fact that stores are
putting up Christmas decorations and it isn't even Halloween yet, it's
never too early to talk about safety while doing online shopping.
Here's an article about "Six Online Shopping Scams" from SmartMoney.com:
D. CMU has an online game to teach about how to identify phishing
sites. Even though this is a cute game, I recommend it even for
grownups. And you'll be helping the CMU researchers field-test
Anti-Phishing Phil. Researchers from the CMU Usable Privacy and
Security (CUPS) lab found that "people who spent 15 minutes playing the
Anti-Phishing Phil game were better able to identify fraudulent Web
sites than people who spent the same amount of time reading
anti-phishing tutorials or other online training materials. "
Information about the CUPS test and phishing:
Link to the Anti-Phishing Phil game:
2. New versions of Adobe Reader and Acrobat are now available for
download/install to patch a serious vulnerability. Now it is reported
that there is a nasty .pdf (the file format for which you need Adobe
Reader) malware exploit which takes advantage of the vulnerability
(like we're surprised!). Email boxes are being filled up with
malware-ridden .pdf attachments. If you open the attachment, your
computer will be infected with a trojan that will allow The Bad Guys to
control your computer.
So update your Adobe Reader and Acrobat (if you have it - Acrobat is
the rather expensive program by Adobe that allows you to create .pdf
files; most people will only have the free Reader installed).
Article by The Register explaining the exploit:
Link to the updated Adobe Reader:
Link to the patch for Acrobat:
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11-3-07 - Dreams are where messages start, not where they arrive. -- Randall Munroe
1. The Ultimate Consumerist Guide to Fighting Back
2. IRS warns of email scam, know if a charity is legitimate
3. More on malware from codecs
4. Off Topic - "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"
1. As Faithful Readers of EBC Reports ;-) you know that The Consumerist
is one of my favorite websites. It's a great online resource for a wide
range of consumer-related issues. They've just posted "The Ultimate
Consumerist Guide to Fighting Back" which gathers a ton of tips in one
Section 1: "I've been wronged! What do I do next?"
Section 2: The Consumerist Corporate Executive Directory
Section 3: Success Stories
Here's the link:
2. The IRS has issued a warning about a new email scam going around
posing as the IRS and soliciting donations for the California wildfire
"In an effort to appear legitimate, the bogus e-mails include text from
an actual speech about the wildfires by a member of the California
"The scam e-mail urges recipients to click on a link, which then opens
what appears to be the IRS Web site but which is, in fact, a fake. An
item on the phony Web site urges donations and includes a link that
opens a donation form which requests the recipient’s personal and
"The IRS also believes that clicking on the link downloads malware, or
malicious software, onto the recipient’s computer. The malware will
steal passwords and other account information it finds on the victim's
computer system and send them to the scamster."
As always, be extremely selective about contributing to charities. Here
are a few links to help weed out the real ones from the fakes:
http://ag.ca.gov/charities/faq.php - from the Office of the CA Attorney General
http://www.scambusters.org/charities.html - great resource for scam-related information
3. In the 10/12/07 EBC Report I told you how
malware gets into your computer if you install dodgy codecs. Alex
Eckelberry of Sunbelt has an excellent illustration of this on his blog
Scroll down to the 11/1 entry, "Bundle of mayhem: mmcodecs" for an
interesting read. Alex always has good security-related information in
his blog and earlier posts such as "Beware targeted fake complaint
emails" (10/29/07) are well worth reading also.
And if you want to know why these malware writers are so anxious to
infect your computers, read the well-written (accessible to non-geeks!)
three-part article "Who's Stealing Your Passwords? Global Hackers
Create a New Online Crime Economy" by Scott Berinato here:
4. This is really off-topic for a computer-related report but I was so
moved by Randy Pausch's Last Lecture (Words to Live By) and felt that
what he said was so important that I wanted to share it with you. Dr.
Pausch is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University with a long and
impressive list of technological and academic achievements. What Dr.
Pausch has to say is vitally important to parents, teachers, and human
beings in general. You can watch the lecture online if you have
broadband or read it. Although the Lecture lasts about 1-1/2 hours, Dr.
Pausch is an engaging speaker and if you possibly can watch it, that's
what I recommend. Here's the link:
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12-16-07 - Words to live by: "Don't genetically engineer crabs to be as big as men." -- Garth Marenghi
Fun things for Christmas
As we come to the end of the year and are in the holiday season, I
thought it would be nice to have a change from all the serious tech
talk and just give you some pleasant Christmas-related things.
1. Old-time radio Christmas plays - free, public domain MP3s - http://www.oldradiofun.com/main/?page_id=18
2. The Web is wonderful - How to wrap a present - http://www.wikihow.com/Wrap-a-Present
3. Some fun Christmas (and non-Christmas) desktop wallpapers - http://www.vladstudio.com/home/
You have to be very careful with "free" wallpaper and screensaver
sites. This one looks good and also has a lot of other nice
Christmas-related stuff - http://simplyxmas.wordpress.com/2007/12/13/desktop-wallpaper-bw-retro-christmas/
This is a very good (and absolutely reputable) site that has tons of
skins, themes, icons, and wallpapers to make your computer pretty for
the holidays - http://www.wincustomize.com
Caedes is a nice wallpaper site. Here's a link to their Christmas gallery:
And of course, there's Flickr. Here's a link to pictures tagged with
"Christmas". They have 1,840,614 photos in this category today!
I put up some Christmasy pictures on my website for you. Some of them
are large enough for desktop wallpaper; others are more for clipart.
Here's the link: http://www.elephantboycomputers.com/xmas.html
4. And here is a variety of useful tips from my favorite How-to site, Lifehacker.com:
Do-It-Yourself Christmas Cards Roundup
Pick the Greenest Christmas Tree
Build the Perfect Holiday Playlist in iTunes
Photo Tips for Christmas
How to Photograph Christmas Lights
There are plenty more - just go to http://lifehacker.com and use the search term "Christmas".
5. And of course, don't forget to track Santa's progress around the world from the NORAD website:
I hope you have a very Happy Holiday Season and that the New Year brings you much joy.
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