Microsoft Net Security Weird

I couldn’t resist

New Tech News World article: Microsoft and Pfizer Team Up Against Viagra Spammers

C’mon, what happened to the good old days of clever headlines?  How about:

“Unwanted advances from Viagra spammers turn off Microsoft and Pfizer”
“Microsoft and Pfizer work to hold down Viagra Spammers”

I’m sure you can do better than that, give me your best headline, click the comment link.

Related story: EarthLink, Microsoft, Pfizer File Barrage of Spam Suits

Security Web

Next on reality TV – Spammer Bounty Hunters

Okay, so perhaps they don’t have a show in the works, but I’d certainly TiVo it if they did.  Ah… the wonderful vision of underwear-clad spammers being dragged across their front lawns by big Texas bounty hunters… a happy thought.

Spammer bounties win some backing
WASHINGTON – The Federal Trade Commission yesterday gave limited endorsement to offering cash rewards to people who help track down e-mail spammers, suggesting that such bounties might work but in fewer circumstances than had been pushed by some anti-spam activists.

Visit MSNBC for the full article:

Net Security Software

Google, say it ain’t so!

Update: obligitory slashdot link

Wow, who’d have thought this would happen? 

And before any conspiracies start… no, Microsoft didn’t do it. 😛

The problem is a new worm on the loose is causing a distributed attack on search engines in it’s quest for new e-mail addresses to which it can send itself (my English teacher just rolled over in her grave).

Okay class… repeat after me: “I will update my anti-virus software once a week if not more often.” story…

Google, other engines hit by worm variant
By Richard Shim and Michael Kanellos
Staff Writer, CNET

update Major Internet search engines were crippled Monday morning by a variant of the MyDoom worm, rendering Google inaccessible to many users and slowing results from Yahoo.

The attack also affected smaller engines, including Alta Vista, a Yahoo subsidiary, and Lycos.

A Lycos representative said the company is aware of the problem and is working to block the performance obstacles. A Google representative said the company was working to figure out what was happening.


Microsoft Security

New security threat

Update: Patch for part of the problem:

On line news sources have picked up ISC’s warning of a new threat to IE users which could allow hackers to steal on line banking passwords.  The code exploits a combination of a hole in unpatched IIS web servers to install malicious pop ups and a hole in IE to install a program via that pop up. The installed program watches for connections to a specific set of banking sites and logs the username and password (yet another reason everyone should get a pop up blocker, I’m so glad XP SP2 comes with pop up blocking as part of its greatly enhanced security).

Unfortunately the articles don’t do anything to help users understand what they should do to protect themselves from this attack or even if there is anything they can do. The reason for this lack of info is there is little users can do to defend against this exploit, even for advanced users. This is very scary to users of any level.

So… what should users do?  Here are my suggestions (yeah, these are my suggestions, my employer hasn’t approved them etc.)

Users of Windows XP can protect themselves by upgrading to Windows XP service pack 2, RC2 (RC2 means “release candidate 2”, i.e. it’s not the final version). Early adopters may rejoice and the braver among you may jump on board. I’ve been running SP2 for a while now and my personal opinion is: RC2 is great, but just in case you should back up your stuff and choose the install option which allows you to remove it if you have second thoughts later on. Unfortunately SP2 RC2 is a “preview” and isn’t supported by us yet. 🙁

Users should also review the ISC list of targeted bank URLs (scroll down through the report to find the list). If users have visited any of those sites recently they should seriously consider changing their banking password. By the law of averages users who get frequent pop up advertisements are the most at risk (regardless of the type of site you visit).

For users of earlier versions of Windows or people who aren’t willing to install the unsupported RC2 release there isn’t a fix yet, but there will be a fix in a couple weeks (no date has been announced yet). To help protect users until the patch has been fully tested Microsoft is working with law enforcement to shut down all the sites known to be hosting the exploit.

On a related note, if you don’t update your system regularly, you really should.  I’ve set Windows to automatically update my machines every night at 3am if needed.  Some worry automatic updates will cause problems but here’s my anecdotal data: I’ve been running automated updates on my very non-standard PC (a dual processor, 500 MHz Celeron with additional hardware that hasn’t been approved for Windows 2000 much less XP) for as long as it’s been available – I have never had a problem caused by the automatic updates.  Besides, the problems created by not updating far outweigh the possible problems you might encounter with the automatic updates.  Also, the automatic updates don’t include hardware drivers in the vast majority of cases (and it’s the hardware driver updates that cause many upgrade problems people encounter).

Some more details from ZDNet: