03 January 2006

Protect yourself

Word is out that computers running any of Microsoft's operating systems purchased since 1990 are vulnerable to a new kind of malicious attack.

The flaw, which allows hackers to infect computers using programs maliciously inserted into seemingly innocuous image files, was first discovered last week. But the potential for damaging attacks increased dramatically at the weekend after a group of computer hackers published the source code they used to exploit it. Unlike most attacks, which require victims to download or execute a suspect file, the new vulnerability makes it possible for users to infect their computers with spyware or a virus simply by viewing a web page, e-mail or instant message that contains a contaminated image.

It is believed that this could be the worst attack that Microsoft has ever faced. They have posted a security advisory on their web site, but claim that they will not have a patch ready to go until January 10 -- one WEEK from now!

Until they release their patch, I would encourage you to switch to Firefox for your web browsing. If you are not familiar with them, get familiar with them right now. Since I have switched to Firefox, my enjoyment of life on the web has increased significantly. No annoying pop-ups, tabbed browsing, and all of the spyware and mal code is generally written for Microsoft based products.

This will not solve all of your problems or security issues, but it will lessen them noticeably. You should still diligently inspect all incoming attachments, now to include picture files. Instant messaging programs, which are immensely popular with the younger generation of computer users are also at risk -- so, now what your kids are downloading (which you should be doing anyway, I suppose).

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