Actrix Newsletter April 2004

This newsletter has been produced to help you get the most out of the Internet,
and to keep you, as an Actrix customer, informed of developments and services within the company.
Past newsletters may be viewed at
Newsletters are now archived by article at
Questions and comments about the newsletter can be e-mailed to
Other inquiries should be e-mailed to

Another Day, Another Dialler!

We're hearing a lot about surreptitiously installed Internet auto diallers these days. These are the little nasties that dial your computer up to some expensive 0900 number leaving you with massive phone bills at the end of the month. What are they? How do they get there? and what can be done to protect yourself from them?

What are they?

The diallers we're concerned about are called Internet diallers. They are programs often offered for download through some dubious links or webpages (e.g. pornography, astrology readings or gambling). Once downloaded, they attempt to automatically install themselves, taking advantage of the user's ignorance or inattention. Once installed, they set up a new modem connector that sets itself as the default, and therefore is used automatically each time you dial up. Instead of calling your Internet-Service-Provider for a connection to the Internet, you'll be connecting through a new service provider using an expensive 0900 number. Often, Internet diallers start up at the same time as the computer and automatically establishing a dial-up connection that lasts as long as the computer is powered up. The first time you might notice something is wrong is when you get your phone bill. And you'll notice in the worst possible way!

How does an Internet dialler install itself on a computer?

Generally, Internet diallers have to be actively downloaded and installed. The idea is that you are duped into doing this when you are offered a link that says one thing but really links to an executable (.exe) file. You click the link and your browser then pops up a box asking whether you agree to commence the download and installation process. It works in much the same way that customers are tricked into downloading and installing spyware.

In numerous cases users simply click YES without actually reading the warning in the pop-up box. As stated, the sneaky Internet diallers we are talking about are not usually found on reputable pages. One likely scenario is that someone in the house is surfing the web for dubious content. He or she is very much intrigued by a certain link that is on offer. In their eagerness to access whatever material has been purportedly offered (and because the precariousness of what they're doing means they don't have time to linger) they click Okay in the warning box that comes up without reading its contents. Lo and behold, after some whirring and buzzing on the hard drive, the computer disconnects and then redials the 0900 number, and does so every time the computer is switched on or the Internet is accessed. This happens until someone notices the phone bill and flips out!

The Actrix help desk gets a reasonably regular flow of calls regarding Internet diallers. When it is explained that they generally can't be installed without some co-operation (usually unknowing) from the user, our staff are often met with incredulity. "There's no one here that visits such sites!" Unfortunately, the overwhelming likelihood is that there is someone there who has or does. If you find an Internet dialler installed, think very carefully about who might have accessed the Internet when you weren't around. Chances are that person could use a few suggestions about thinking before they click. You may want to think about password protecting access to your PC.

Sometimes, Internet diallers are sent as attachments to e-mail and are not clearly or easily recognisable. The same principles apply. Your e-mail program will usually not let you open or install attachments without first asking you whether you're sure. If you have someone in your house who might click e-mail attachments uncritically, then the same suggested courses of action above are re-iterated.

I suppose, in fairness, that it should be mentioned that not all Internet diallers are malicious. They are commonly used to access web content or services where they are valued as safer or more anonymous alternatives to traditional payment methods such as credit cards. Some give very clear warnings about exactly what they are and do make an honest attempt to make sure the user knows what they are installing, often informing about exact charges and asking for verification of eligibility and intention on numerous occasions before they will run.

Improper Internet diallers, on the other hand will automatically attempt to install themselves without asking for permission. The user won't be warned about the Internet dialler's installation, nor about the costs of the 0900 number (unless they bother to read the entire lengthy, legalese warning in the user agreement). Another clue that you have a bad'un is when the Internet dialler's connection window only let's you choose between OK and DIAL.

I suppose the good news here is that you don't really have to worry too much about an Internet dialler being installed as long as:

  1. You're the only one using your computer;
  2. You read pop-up warning windows before doing anything and you don't click things you're unsure of;
  3. Your Browser security settings are properly set to default or higher.

Adjusting Your Internet Security Settings

Adjusting Your Internet Security settings is pretty easy in Windows, and I recommend you go in and make sure that you are at least set to medium level. You can do this by opening Internet Explorer, clicking Tools and then Internet Options. Click the Security tab in the box that pops up, and make sure the slider bar is set at least to Medium. This will make sure you are prompted before any potentially unsafe content is downloaded. It won't stop anyone clicking Okay to an Internet dialler offer, but at least it will mean one can't be downloaded and installed automatically. If you set your Security much higher than Medium, you'll start to find that Explorer becomes overly paranoid, and a lot of web pages will cease to work or load.

How to check whether you might have a nasty Internet dialler installed

1. Check your list under Dialup Networking or Network/Internet Connections (usually accessed via your Control Panel). Make sure there is no new connection installed and if there is that it is not the default dial-up connection.
2.Verify in the task bar whether there is a unknown program running or if there is a new icon installed on your desktop (i.e. a telephone icon). Another clue that a Internet dialler is present is when your browser's home page mysteriously changes (though lots of other nasty programs that aren't Internet diallers can also do that).

Getting rid of Internet diallers

If you have an unauthorised Internet dialler and you're lucky, you may be able to uninstall it yourself using Control Panel/Add Remove Programs. You probably shouldn't count on this though, as these sorts of programs are designed by unscrupulous people to prey on you, and they will resist being uninstalled.

Two programs we've featured before that may help you identify and get rid of Internet diallers (and other Spyware) are Ad-Aware and SpyBot.

Ad-Aware can be downloaded free here:

SpyBot (Search and Destroy) can be downloaded here: 

These two programs are principally designed to detect and remove Spyware, though they may also detect and remove malicious Internet diallers if they know about them.

I am not aware of any programs specifically designed to assist with removing Internet diallers, but if you've been hijacked by one, there will be some way to get rid of it. If you find yourself stuck with one you can't eliminate, let me know and we'll see if we can find a cure for you. 

Can calls through 0900 numbers be avoided?

It is possible to ask either Telecom or TelstraClear to block access to 0900 numbers from your line. It is also possible to purchase and download specialised programs which will protect your computer from suspicious installations, but none of these things are a substitute for common sense and normal precautions. Telephone companies don't tend to have a lot of sympathy when they are contacted about this particular problem, so if it happens to you, don't count on getting your bill waived. Our best advice is to be careful what you click while online, and mindful of who is using your computer to access the Internet.

More information can be found at the following sites:

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Readers' Forum

If you'd like to ask a question or request some help on any Actrix or Internet-related matter. Simply send me an e-mail with the word "forum" in the subject line. I'll try and answer your question by return e-mail, and will also post the answer here for the benefit of others who may have a similar question or problem. By the same token, if you read something here and think you may have something to suggest, please feel more than free. Please also note that questions and answers may turn up under the Helpful Tips section on the Actrix home page (

I'm really grateful to the Actrix Support Team, too, for their input here when some of the questions also have me a little stumped.

Jeremy writes: Hi; I run XP Home edition as an operating system. I haven't updated it for a long time and now I have to update 26Meg to be up to date. My problem is that this takes far too long on dial-up and invariably something goes wrong in the 4-6 hours it takes before I can download the service pack, and I have to start again.
I have a broadband connection at work on a different PC. Can I download the service pack from there, write it to a disk and then install it on my home PC? How can I do this?

Hi Jeremy, I am doubtful that this will work in the main. The reason would be that a typical download from a Windows Update site is customised for the machine in question. Whatever updates you downloaded would be for the operating system of the work machine and not the home one. Unless your work machine had exactly the same operating system, and then the same needs as your one at home, you couldn't be sure the downloads would be the same.

Microsoft has recognised your problem and is now issuing updates on CD. There's an article about this at I gave Microsoft a call, and it was pleased to be informed that New Zealand has now been added to the list of countries where the CD is available.

You can order it free at Microsoft will even pay for the postage!

Barbara asks: Hello there Rob, Are you able to tell me why some pictures come through to me okay and others do not? They just leave a square box with a small red cross in left hand corner. Many thanks.

Hi Barbara; Pictures come with e-mails in various ways. Sometimes they are just attachments to the e-mail. If they come this way, you should have no problem seeing them, or at least being able to open them.

The box with the "little red cross scenario" occurs when the code behind the e-mail is saying an image should be in that position, but the image can't be located for display. Your e-mail program does the best it can by displaying the size and position information it has for the image, but not the image itself.

Sometimes people insert an image into their e-mail. It looks fine to them, but behind the scenes, the code for the e-mail only has this information: <img src="c:\myfunnypics\funnypic.jpg"> This code means - "Display an image here that is located on my hard drive at c:\myfunnypics\funnypic.jpg." Unfortunately, when the e-mail arrives, the recipient doesn't have the image on their hard drive at the location c:\myfunnypics\funnypic.jpg. So all their e-mail program can do is display something that indicates an image should be there - the "little red cross scenario".

For this reason, it is best, when sending images inserted into an e-mail, to link them to a copy of the image somewhere on the web. That way, when the e-mail is downloaded to the recipient, the recipient's e-mail program can easily get the image and display it. It doesn't have to try and find the sender's hard drive (which of course it is not likely going to be able to do). When it can't find the image it's left with the "little red cross scenario". Normally, once the recipient's e-mail program has downloaded the image, it will remember it and continue to display it, even when the recipient is offline.

Sometimes, though, web pages change or become available, and then the recipient's e-mail program still can't find the image, and we get the same problem again.

If you're sending images, it is always best to send them as attachments. That way they come through with the e-mail itself and the whole problem is avoided.

Steve writes: Hi Rob, I was wanting to know your thoughts on SpywareGuard 2.2 as in if it is a worthwhile protection instrument to download. Can it be deleted if it becomes a nuisance? How secure is using Paypal Donate, and what would be an acceptable donation to the program developers? Your thoughts and advice would be gratefully appreciated.

Hi Steve, I hadn't heard of SpywareGuard before and I don't know anyone who's used it.   However, I did find a discussion forum at Maybe you could get some feeling for the program by reading about others' experiences. Other anti-Spyware programs we are familiar with include the following:

SpyBot (Search and Destroy): 

Yes, PayPal is a good way to donate. I use it frequently for overseas purchases. It is used by millions of people as a very convenient and generally safe way of doing things.

What an acceptable donation would be is a harder one. The SpywareGuard developers have decided to leave that over to you, so in that sense any amount is appropriate. I am sure they would appreciate any payment, as thousands of people will download and use the program and never pay them anything. Try the thing for a couple of weeks. Does it work well? Is it easy to use? If so, then the developers deserve to be rewarded.

I hesitate to say this, but my standard donationware payment for a program of this size (it's less than 2 Megs) would be $20US, but that's me and that's completely arbitrary. If you think it's worth paying more then please do.

John writes: Hi Rob, Sorry to bother you, but you may be able to help me. This month the link to the Actrix Newsletter show as a purple colour, whereas your other links are in the usual blue. Most importantly I cannot open the link to the Newsletter. I had the same trouble last month, but I think I managed to open it after an awful lot of trial and error. Needless to say I cannot now remember how I did it. Are you able to explain or help, please?

Steve Trayhorne from the Actrix Help Desk responds:

Hi John, The different colours of hyperlinks actually relate to your browsing history. When your Internet Explorer goes to a particular web page it records this in its history logs. This means the hyperlink will be a purple colour indicating you have already visited this address. Links to pages you have not visited will be in blue. This will be for both Outlook Express and Internet Explorer. If you clear the history (Internet Explorer\Tools\Internet Options\Clear History) the history logs are wiped and all links will show as blue until the web page has been visited.

Below are four possible solutions for you to try in order to access the Actrix newsletters.

  1. Right-click on the link and select copy shortcut; then open Internet Explorer and paste into the address bar. Then press enter or Go.
  2. Go to the Actrix web site at On the lefthand menu you will see Actrix Newsletters. Click this link and then select the month you wish to view. All of the Actrix newsletters are available from this link. You may find it interesting to look through some older issues.
  3. It is possible that you have security software on your computer restricting Outlook Express and not allowing it to open Internet Explorer. Check any security programs.
  4. Outlook Express won't respond to a Hyperlink. In Windows Explorer go to /Tools/Folder Options/File Types. Scroll down the list and highlight URL:MailTo Protocol. Click the Advanced and then the Edit buttons. Under Application used to perform action it should read: "C:\Program Files\Outlook Express\MSIMN.EXE" /mailurl:%1.

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CyberScan Statistics

Statistics for the Month of March 2004. These figures represent the number of e-mails scanned for those Actrix customers who use the CyberScan anti-Virus service. Figures are much higher than for last month reflecting marked increases, both an virus activity and in CyberScan customers.
E-mails scanned: 994,493
Viruses found: 58,208
Percentage of emails containing viruses:
Top 10 Found Viruses for March 2004
Netsky.D@mm 33,062
Netsky.B@mm 5,390
Netsky.C@mm 4,437
Netsky.P@mm 3,768
Worm.SomeFool.Gen-1 1,733
W95/Netsky.D@mm 1,537
Netsky.K@mm 1,079
W32/Swen.A@mm 1,021
MyDoom.A@mm 959
Worm.SomeFool.P 856

For more information about Actrix Anti-Spam/Anti-Virus products, click here:

Interesting Sites (Click the picture links to access the sites)

Please note: Actrix supplies links to these sites for your interest and possible use. We cannot endorse or take any responsibility for their contents.

Got a site you think would be neat to share with other readers? Let me know and receive a free Norrie the Nerd chocolate bar courtesy of Actrix!

Adorable Kitten Photos - Oh yes, there's no doubt that kittens are adorable. This site has hundreds of pictures of cute kittens jumping and posing and being cute. There don't seem to be any pictures of them peeing on the carpet or digging in your potplants, though. I thought it would also be good to include a cartoon here that shows what cats are really like in comparison to dogs.
Whitley Strieber's Unknown World - If the Internet is good for nothing else, it is a truly brilliant tool for wasting our time with weirdness. Whitley Strieber was the guy that put the familiar alien face with almond-shaped eyes into the public consciousness with his hit book Communion. He's still at it, with this web site which daily catalogues truly odd world events.
Aotearoa Enzed - This page summarises all sorts of information about New Zealand and would be ideal for pointing your overseas contacts to when they want to know about where you live. The impression I get from overseas contacts, especially in America and/or Europe, is that they're curious about Godzone and want to know whether it's as good here as they've heard. It has lots of information for those considering moving here. Light on decoration, but good in terms of content.
Calorie Burn Rate Calculator - This site surveys your lifestyle and feeds back how many calories you burn just in daily living. If you find the results depressing, the following site will sell you a replica of an ounce of fat along with some strategies for changing your thinking when it comes to fat:  
Old Superstitions - Just why should you bless someone when they sneeze? This site lists thousands of signs of good or bad luck and various other portents. Sometimes it provides origins of the particular belief. Did you know that the first spouse to fall asleep on the wedding night will be the first to die, or that dogs that howl on Christmas Eve will go mad by the end of the year? I think I had that happen to me once......
The History of Crop Circles - They're still at it, those durn pesky aliens. This site, put together by believers, provides us with a pictorial history of this intriguing phenomenon, from the earliest simple ones in 1972 to the complicated designs of today (looks like the aliens got better at making and designing them, or something). It's amazing what can be done with some rope, sticks of different lengths, some clever thinking, and a good knowledge of geometry.
Paper Toys - Here's something for the kids to do on a rainy day if the PlayStation is broken and the Internet is unavailable and there's nothing on TV and the video store is snowed in. They can be printed out in colour or in black and white.
Here's another one especially for Jules Verne fans:
The Museum of Bad Art - On a cool, windy August night, Scott Wilson, MOBA curator, came upon a discovery that would change his life and the future of his museum. "It was big, I just didn't know how big," said Wilson, recalling the moment. He ordered the car to stop, "Backup" he screamed. As he leapt from the car, the top-most painting blew from the pile. The one below was even worse! One,, eight... each one worse than the last. "What is it? Who did them?" called a voice from the car. "It's unknown," Scott replied. "It's Unknown."
A Few Staples
Here are a few sites that we've probably featured before. However, they're good and handy and I use them all the time. Quick tools and information are what the internet is all about.
Dictionary/Thesaurus -, Currency Converter -, Basic HTML -, Online Auctions -, NZ Auctions -, World Time Zones -, Free Legal Advice -, How Stuff Works -
Programmer or Serial Killer? - This site was suggested by Carolyn Bond. Can you tell a coder from a cannibal? You're presented with a series of 10 real photographs. You have to decide which is a killer and which is a computer language inventor. I only picked three out of ten correctly which is a concern as I do a lot of the hiring around here...
What's Special About This Number? - Everything you ever wanted to know about almost each and every number (up to 9999). Some interesting fact about each number is presented, and many of the facts are linked to more information elsewhere on the web. You may remember some of this stuff from school, (but I think I was away the day they did maths).
General Knowledge Quiz - I haven't heard it myself, but this page has been set up by Americans to prove that they're not as lacking in general knowledge (compared to those in other countries) as their reputations suggest. I have no comment on that. I just think it's fun to do quizzes. You state your country before you answer the questions. When finished you can see how averages for Americans stack up.

"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 to rightly apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question." - Charles Babbage (1791-1871) known to some as the "Father of Computing" for his contributions to the basic design of the computer through his "Analytical Engine".

Cyberspace News Snippets

New Zealand

NZ technology use jumps in worldwide index: High earning, well educated New Zealanders are the most likely to have a home internet connection, according to a new report by Statistics New Zealand. The" Digital Divide" report released yesterday found that the proportion of households connected to the internet increased with income levels. Click here for more.

High earners most likely to surf the net at home: Kiwis spend half as much time again on the telephone to people overseas as Australians and have an e-commerce infrastructure second only to the United States. Click here for more.

Online scammers renew Westpac attack: Westpac customers have been targeted by internet savvy fraudsters for the fourth time in seven months. The scammers are trying to con them into revealing account login details and passwords. Click here for more.

Government releases internet discussion document: The Government today released a discussion document setting out steps toward a "Next Generation Internet network", serving the research, education and innovation sectors. Click here for more.

National Party site defaced: The website of the National Party in New Zealand was defaced on Friday, a report at the defacement archive,, says. Click here for more.

Groundbreaking e-crime case: A 36-year-old Dunedin man has become the first person charged under beefed-up laws designed to fight computer crime. Although the company he targeted was in the United States, new crime fighting tools mean there's now no problem taking him to court in New Zealand. Click here for more.

US war on spam may put NZ at risk: Four leading United States internet providers are taking some of the world's leading spammers to court under the new Can-spam Act. If that sounds good, bear this in mind - spammers such as Davis Wolfgang Hawke and Eric Head, who have made millions sending bulk unsolicited emails, could shift base to New Zealand where there is no anti-spam law. Click here for more.

Internet NZ to spend more on regulation, lobbying politicians: Internet NZ wants to boost the amount it spends on legal and regulatory issues and on lobbying politicians. Vice-president David Farrar said issues such as attempts to enforce patents on e-commerce processes had highlighted the need for the society to respond quickly. Click here for more.


Spain unveils supercomputer plans: Spain has unveiled plans to build the world's second most powerful computer. The supercomputer will be able to process 40 teraflops - 40 trillion calculations per second, equivalent to 18,000 personal computers. Click here for more.

US rethinks internet porn law: The US Supreme Court considered whether a law that requires web site operators to wall off risque material from underage visitors violates free-speech rights. Click here for more.

Online vigilantes hunt pedophiles: Five minutes into his Internet chat with a 14-year-old girl, Ray Dooley’s conversation turned from snowboarding to sex. Enticed by “Rachel” of Harper Woods, Dooley, 23, drove 50 miles the next day, apparently expecting to see her in a short leather skirt. Instead, the Port Huron man met a camera crew. Click here for more.

Australian hacker activity on the rise: An Internet Security Report released by anti-virus vendor Symantec has revealed that Australia has joined the ranks of international hacker sources. Ranked 5th amongst the top originating countries... Click here for more.

For many, eBay is the way: Anyone with a computer is bombarded daily with messages like these: Work from home. Be your own boss. Quit your day job. Make a fortune on eBay. But can you really make eBay pay? There are billions of dollars to be made. Nearly 95 million eBayers sold about $7.5 billion worth of goods last year and racked up $2.17 billion in revenues for the auction site. Click here for more.

Famous wills, including Shakespeare's, posted online: When William Shakespeare bequeathed his "second-best bed" to his wife almost 400 years ago, a scribe scratched out his last wishes on parchment with a quill pen dipped in ink. Now the public can see the playwright's final will and testament almost instantly on a computer screen with the click of a mouse button. Click here for more. The wills can be accessed at

Software hunts for Net paedos: Software agents that mimic the behaviour of real children are been used to detect paedophile grooming behaviour on the Internet. Called ChatNannies, the technology is the brainchild of IT consultant Jim Wightman, of Wolverhampton in the UK. The software runs with thousands of sub-programs - dubbed nanniebots... Click here for more.

New domains '.mobi' and '.xxx' under consideration: SAN JOSE, California (AP) -- Ten organizations submitted applications to sponsor new Internet domains, including ".mobi" for mobile services and ".xxx" for adult content, the group that oversees key aspects of the global network said Friday. Click here for more.


More NetSky worms. So much for quitting: Two new NetSky worms appeared on the scene yesterday, despite a promise by the original author this week to refrain from releasing any more versions. Differences in the code of NetSky-L and NetSky-M from their 11 older siblings have led anti-virus researchers to suspect that they are the work of a copycat. This suggests the source code of the virus has been leaked. Click here for more.

Bagle latches on to antispam ploy: Three new Bagle variants discovered over the weekend differ from previous incarnations by using an antispam trick to try to avoid detection by antivirus software--but experts believe the attempt won't succeed. Click here for more.

Netsky-D makes your PC go beep, beep, beep: An email worm posing as a PIF file is spreading rapidly across the Net today. The Netsky-D worm is clogging in-boxes already sagging under the collective load of five new variants of the Bagle worm and sundry other irritants. Click here for more.

Worm creators keep abreast of the news: Janet Jackson's breast-baring incident at the Super Bowl hasn't gone unnoticed by worm and virus writers. The so-called "storm in a C-cup" is being used by the creators of a new worm named Synpapse (W32/Synpapse-A). Click here for more.

'War of the worms' has erupted: A "war" between authors of different computer worms has erupted in cyberspace, opening up the potential for a growing wave of e-mails clogging computer networks, IT professionals said yesterday. Analysts said one reason for the proliferation of computer worms and viruses over the past week was a spat between the authors of at least two of these bugs. Click here for more.

Cashing In on Virus Infections: After a recent epidemic of computer viruses that seemed much worse than usual, security experts are questioning whether the antivirus software industry is working hard enough -- or has enough incentive -- to develop new and better ways of stopping nasty software. Click here for more.

Latest Bagle worms spread on auto-pilot: The Bagle virus saga takes a new twist today with four new members of the worm family. Bagle-Q and its three new siblings use an unusual method of infection in an attempt to bypass AV protection at email gateways. Each of the four viruses infect only Windows PCs. Bagle-Q is the more widely spread of the four. Click here for more.

'Witty' Worm Wrecks Computers: A quickly spreading Internet worm destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of personal computers worldwide Saturday morning by exploiting a security flaw in a firewall program designed to protect PCs from online threats, computer experts said. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

Minimising your computer security risk: Security and privacy are essential for safe computing. Michael Herman in the first of three articles, explores the concept of safety-first principles for internet users. Click here for more.

E-mail scam victim counts his losses: The victim was exactly the kind of person they prey upon - an experienced, small businessman, highly educated, 40-ish, with plenty of disposable income. Click here for more.

Nigerian scammers in line of fire: In the third of three reports on e-mail fraud, Go Digital's Tracey Logan meets Nuhu Ribadu, head of Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, who is trying to end so-called 419 e-mail scams. Click here for more.

Latest phishing scam most "devious" ever: A prominent anti-virus vendor has described the latest e-mail fraud scheme targeted at Westpac bank customers as the most "devious" the company has ever encountered. The e-mail, distributed en-masse to Westpac customers, represents the latest example of "phishing scams," designed to catch the unwary and fool them into divulging their online banking security details. Click here for more.

New bill aims to shine light on spyware: If you've ever wondered how software got on your computer, and spent even more time wondering how to get it off, chances are you've encountered spyware. Spyware is software that installs itself on your computer without your knowledge. It could sneak in as part of a virus or as a Trojan horse via e-mail, or piggyback onto a piece of software you agreed to download. Either way, it's typically tough to remove. Click here for more.

Internet protection is the key: Teeming with "smart" con artists and vandals working 24/7 to steal your identity, money, private data and system resources, this still untamed frontier is paradoxically also a beneficial modernising influence across the world. Click here for more.

Serious flaw found in three Symantec products: Security vendor eEye has released basic details about a vulnerability in Symantec products that would permit the execution of a severe denial-of-service attack. Click here for more.

Computer security's new 'polybot' nightmare: A new malicious computer program has been detected that can create networks of remotely controlled computers to take part in online attacks, send junk e-mail messages as spam and engage in other shady activities common to the bad neighborhoods of cyberspace. Click here for more.

Mainly Microsoft

Microsoft Wins One in IE Battle: In a preliminary ruling, the U.S. Patent and Trade Office Friday said the original HTML specs precede a patent for Web page plug-ins owned by Eolas Technologies, invalidating its patent claims against Microsoft. Click here for more.

Windows XP SP2 could break existing applications: When Microsoft Corp. releases Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows XP later this year, some software developers may find that their applications no longer work on updated Windows machines. Microsoft has made something of a trade-off with the update, focusing on security improvements at the expense of backward compatibility. Click here for more.

Patch day at Microsoft: Microsoft has released details of three vulnerabilities in its products and patches for all three. The products in question are MSN Messenger 6.0 and 6.1, Outlook 2002 and in the service packs 2, 3 and 4 issued for Windows 2000. Click here for more.

E-mails give peek at Microsoft strategies: An e-mail message that may become part of a Minnesota antitrust case is providing a rare glimpse into the way a top Microsoft executive tried to persuade an iconic investor to buy into the company's software business. Click here for more.

Unix/Linux Line

Study claims Linux most hacked but ignores malware: In what appears to be an econometric approach to the analysis of server compromises and website defacement, a London-based group is claiming that Linux is the most breached online server and the BSDs and Mac OSX the safest. Click here for more.

The Linux desktop is here: Linux distributions which target the desktop user are growing in number and if some bigger names have left the field there are plenty of smaller, worthy successors to take their place. Click here for more.

SCO sues two more companies: SCO Group filed suit late Tuesday in a federal court in Nevada against AutoZone Inc., a nationwide auto parts retailer which uses Linux software. Yesterday, SCO filed suit in Michigan against DaimlerChrysler AG, one of the world's largest automakers and a user of SCO's own Unix software. Click here for more.

Predictions for 2004: I've learned a lot about the desktop Linux business over the last year that we've been doing I've talked with industry experts, consumers, CEOs from many of the major software and hardware companies and our own Insiders. Using the knowledge I've learned from these people, I'm going to make a few predictions about what you'll see in the desktop computer business in the upcoming year. Click here for more.

SCO so despised that chief is armed: Darl McBride, chief executive of SCO Group Inc., says he sometimes carries a gun because his enemies are out to kill him. He checks into hotels under assumed names. An armed body guard protected him at Harvard Law School when he gave a speech last month. Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux operating system, calls SCO "the most despised company in technology." Click here for more.

Mac News

When Windows won't work, it's time for a Mac: In my computing life, there's one constant: The Macs don't crash and the Windows machines do. I mention this because on Thursday I went to see my friend Rob (Enderle, the noted industry analyst) and took along my Fujitsu Tablet PC. I used it at Rob's house to take notes of our meeting. Click here for more.

Spam, Wonderful Spam

E-mail identity system proposed to combat spam: With a simple adjustment in your e-mail software, you can pretend to be anyone. You can send messages marked as coming from The trick, known as spoofing, is a popular method for spammers to hide their tracks - you'd blame Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates and not the actual perpetrator of junk mail. Click here for more.

Spam's irritating cousin, spim, on the loose: Consumers ditching e-mail for instant messages to avoid spam are in for an unpleasant surprise. Spim, or instant-messenger spam, is peppering computer screens with increasing frequency. And the problem may get worse as e-mail marketers look for new ways to reach consumers after a federal crackdown on spam. Click here for more.

Gates: Buy stamps to send e-mail: If the U.S. Postal Service delivered mail for free, our mailboxes would surely runneth over with more credit-card offers, sweepstakes entries, and supermarket fliers. That's why we get so much junk e-mail: It's essentially free to send. So Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates, among others, is now suggesting that we start buying "stamps" for e-mail. Click here for more.

Ten years of spam: A decade has now passed since the first email, which could be classified as spam, was sent, according to the web services firm Netcraft. A message was posted to some Usenet newsgroups on March 5, 1994... Click here for more.

Internet titans gang up on spammers: Four of the biggest U.S. e-mail and Internet service providers said Wednesday they filed six lawsuits against hundreds of defendants in the industry's first major legal action under a new anti-spam law. Click here for more.

AOL sees sharp decline in spam: America Online, America's largest internet provider, says it has seen a dramatic decline in the amount of spam email entering its network over the past month. Click here for more.

The Weird, Weird Web

Moggy becomes net celebrity: A moggy cam has become the latest internet hit, with the website of an injured cat attracting over quarter of a million visits. Frank the cat was run over at the end of January near his home in Cambridge, UK, and has been recovering from a broken pelvis ever since. Click here for more.

Attempt to sell women on the web: Online marketplace eBay Inc. said it had removed from its website a listing that offered three young Vietnamese women for auction and will report the person who posted it to local authorities. Click here for more.

For Orlando Soto, No Day Is Complete Without Some Spam: Mr. Soto routinely comes home to some 150 e-mail pitches, and he loves getting them all. The 45-year-old grandfather opens most of them. He answers spam questionnaires. And he buys stuff pitched in spam e-mail -- again and again. "Everyday people call it spam," says Mr. Soto, who prefers calling it "unsolicited" e-mail. "But I'm open to everything." Click here for more.

DotComGuy auctioning off his name: Mitch Maddox, who legally changed his name to DotComGuy in 1999 and got lots of media attention because of a yearlong Internet stunt, is selling his trademark name. "I've taken it as far as I can go," Maddox said on March 16. Click here for more.

A Little Levity

Computer One-Liners

Bringing It All Back Home

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Take care through April,

Rob Zorn