Be Careful Out There!

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Holy guacamole, it’s been quite a week for security problems and fixes. I hope some of this information helps you navigate the minefield of online computing. If this is just too depressing, skip down to the Tips and Tricks section.

Important Windows Patch Issued
Microsoft issued a patch to correct a serious security flaw this week. If you have Windows set up for Automatic Updates, you will receive the patch that way. If you are doing manual updates, be sure to get this one as soon as you can. Get it right now! Get it right here!

The security flaw exploits vulnerability in Internet Explorer, Outlook, and possibly Outlook Express which could allow a computer to be infected with spyware/malware from a malicious website, and sometimes by simply opening an email with HTML in Outlook or possibly in Outlook Express. Please get the patch. And please also consider using another browser, like Firefox. If you want to know more, check out this FAQ --- Warning! High Geek Factor!

Greeting Card Warning
The security websites are buzzing with the news that this very same exploit is being seen in mass emails that inform the recipient that there’s a Yahoo! Greeting Card waiting for them. Even if you have a birthday, please be careful about visiting these websites. Apparently the site downloads a Browser Helper Object (http://rlis.com/columns/column55.htm) that grabs takes information you put into a website form and sends it to a third party.

Internet Worms on MSN Messenger
I wish I had some more cheerful news, but right now it’s all doom and gloom. Besides everything else, someone figured out how to defeat the defences that Microsoft introduced last spring by taking advantage of a foul-up. Microsoft blocked the transfer of any file with the extension .PIF because that was a file type notorious for hiding worms. Turns out the filters are case-sensitive, so files with the extension .pif get through just fine. Whoops!

But hold on a minute, people. No matter what instant messenger you are using, MSN, Yahoo!, AOL, AIM, or anything else: please take a minute before you click on “OK” to think about whether or not you want to download a file from someone you are talking to on a chat client! (You could say the same thing for links in email, come to think of it.)

Tips and Tricks
Enough of the dire warnings already. Here are two useful tips to close out this week’s column.

Do you know that you can easily switch between open applications without using your mouse to open and close windows, or move things around? One of my favourite keyboard shortcuts in windows is Alt+Tab. Here’s what I mean: Open up several applications and leave them open. What if your email is on top, but you need to see something in Firefox (or the dreaded Internet Explorer)? Right now I have OpenOffice, Thunderbird, Firefox, and Windows Media Player open. If I hold down the Alt key and press the Tab key, an icon for each application will display. Pressing the Tab key will select each application in turn. So I can easily copy a URL from my Firefox browser into this OpenOffice Text Document, and then add something to my play list in Media Player without ever minimizing a window or using my mouse.

If you want something even cooler, you can get the free Alt-Tab Replacement power toy from Microsoft. In addition to doing what Atl+Tab does, it gives you a graphical preview of each application. So if you have two documents open in Word or OpenOffice, you can see which one you’re switching to.

The second tip is for people who need (often) to move files between computers or even between folders on the same computer. Microsoft SyncToy is not for the faint of heart, but it will let you manage a few files or a whole big whack of files without dragging and dropping them between folders. If you never need to do this, don’t bother with this program. But if you need to synchronize files between computers, check it out here.

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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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