This isn’t a new trick but scammers still try it. An email is sent telling the story of a tragic accident that’s happened (e.g. a nuclear meltdown in some city). There’s a link to a website with photos. It seems interesting except you’re asked to download a plugin (or codec) to view the photos.
You don’t need any plugins or codecs to view photos. And more importantly, the story about a nuclear meltdown or whatever other large disaster they think of is most probably false.
Be very cautious of anything that asks you to download a plugin or codec. It’s almost always not worth the effort and it’s almost always malware of some sort.
As with every festive event Valentine’s Day brings a whole new wave of malware. Emails are already being sent around the internet carrying dangerous attachments. While the subject keeps changing, the more common attachments seen so far are:
- Greeting card.exe
Never open attachments that end with .exe. Unless you’ve specifically asked someone to send you a file with that exact name, it’s almost certainly malware. Delete it.
There are some programs that claim to test your computer for malware, then it will always tell you it found something bad. After that it either asks you for money to clean it or does some other misleading action.
Based on some security company’s research there are now 500 of these programs, including some for Mac as well as for Windows.
They look like serious programs, have interesting names, and are complete with websites. Below are some of the more recent ones:
- MacSweeper (written for the Mac)
Avoid all of these programs (don’t download or install them).
Unfortunately this is a growing trend with new products popping up all the time. Use a trusted antivirus package such as the kind that can be purchased from shops.
A recent survey by a security company called Secunia shows that only 5% of computers are fully patched. The other 95% are running insecure software.
It’s important to patch all of your software. This includes the operating system itself (e.g. Windows, Mac OS, Linux), your web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox), and all your applications. And of course in an office environment patches should be carried out by IT administrators (complete with backups).
This serves as a gentle reminder to our previous post on patching. Read Secunia’s article here.
A (new) flaw has been discovered in Windows that Microsoft regards as critical. And they’ve released a patch to fix it. If you’re computer(s) use the following then you need to install the patch now.
- Windows Vista
- Windows XP
- Windows Server 2003
That should cover pretty much everyone using Windows at home and at work, and both servers and PCs.
To apply the patch use Windows Update in Internet Explorer (in the Tools menu), or if your computer is set to automatically download and apply patches then it’ll be applied automatically overnight.
This one’s pretty serious so don’t delay. More information on Microsoft’s web site.
There’s an iPhone download available on the internet that is actually a trojan. After you install it, and when you try removing it, it seems to cause problems on the phone.
It’s called the iPhone firmware 1.1.3 prep tool, and people are being told it’s required before they can upgrade to version 1.1.3 of the iPhone. Do not install this application, just ignore it.
Update: it seems this utility was written by an 11 year old.
Another virus/worm has been spreading on MSN Messenger (also called Windows Live Messenger). It sends you a message with some text encouraging you to download some photos, then it sends you a file called:
This zip file contains the virus. Ignore any messages you get with a file with the above name.
The US Army has been upgrading their servers and workstations to Macs and are claiming they’re harder to hack (i.e. they’re more secure).
The primary reason they state is that fewer attacks are written for Macs than for Windows. This seems true for now.
One common weakness between all operating systems (Mac, Windows, Linux, etc) is the user. People can be tricked into clicking on things or carrying out other hazardous tasks no matter what computer they use (this is where security education comes in).
More details here.
It’s worthwhile pointing out that malware exists in every country and in every language. An exploit for a Japanese word processor called Ichitaro has been found.
When it’s used to open a .JTD file on Windows XP (with Service Pack 2 and running in Japanese) it’s possible for someone else to take control of the computer.
A patch was recently released by the manufacturer of Ichitaro, apply it from JustSystem’s web-site here.