Latest Code Red 'bug' not a threat to home computer users


August 12, 2001



Unless you've been holed up in a cabin in Montana, you've probably already heard or seen TV or news reports about the Code Red Worm (or its successor, Code Red Worm II).

The news networks have spent time telling how terrible this particular threat is to computerdom. The truth is that home users won't be seeing red because of Code Red.

This worm isn't a virus, but a program that exploits a weakness that can be found in certain Microsoft software used to run Internet servers.

Unless you're running Microsoft IIS software versions 4.0 or 5.0 on a PC running Windows NT or Windows 2000 (and you haven't installed a specific security patch), then you have nothing to worry about.

In fact, the only way the virus will affect the vast majority of home users is if one of their favorite Web sites has its server infected with the Code Red worm.

For now, home computer users (and most business users) can sit tight and surf safely. Most systems folks worth their salt already have updated the computers in their care, and Code Red shouldn't be that big a deal.

Unfortunately, some companies were snagged by Code Red -- including Microsoft's popular Web site.

The Code Red worm also can slow traffic down on the Internet with attacks called "Denial of Service" attacks. These can disable a Web site by overloading it with bogus requests for data.

Remember, if you are running Windows NT or Windows 2000 systems and the IIS web server software, you may be vulnerable. If you are using Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows XP RC1 or later, or Windows .NET Server build 3505 or later, you're in fine shape.

NETSCAPE BROWSER UPDATE. Even if it lost the war for top Web browser, Netscape -- now a part of AOL Time Warner -- is still a software company with something to contribute.

That something was its Netscape 6.1 update the company released last week.

While Microsoft's Internet Explorer may still be the most popular Web browser, there are still a good many people who prefer using Netscape software as their Web browser.

This revision to Netscape 6.0 was necessary and probably a bit late in arriving. Netscape 6.0 had a number of bugs and glitches; in fact, the browser wouldn't run correctly on my Apple Macintosh at work.

I attributed this problem to the age of my Mac -- until I found the software wouldn't run properly on a Mac G3 in our office while Microsoft Internet Explorer (and an older version of Netscape Communicator) performed beautifully.

On my PC at home, Netscape 6.0 was slow and buggy at best.

Fortunately, these problems appear to be fixed in the Netscape 6.1 update. The software installed smoothly and works without any hitches.

The improvements are many, though subtle in some cases.

The layout of the browser's buttons and features has been improved. The browser history tab and bookmark management has been improved. The URL window has an auto-complete feature, as well as the ability to serve as a search engine window with a single mouse click.

Netscape 6.1 can manage multiple e-mail accounts, including AOL Mail, Netscape WebMail or any IMAP mail.

The My Sidebar feature has been improved, and the content available for it has increased. A number of content features are present, but users can easily change those to their liking.

My Sidebar is a small narrow window that pops out from the left side of the main browser window when you click on the small button on the left browser window frame. Two of the features I have already adopted and use frequently are the ZDNet News and the Search sidebars.

The search engine Sidebar window allows you to input a search keyword into a text window, and then select the search engine(s) you wish to use to conduct your search. The list includes Netscape Search, AltaVista, Excite, Google,, HotBot and Lycos.

Other options for the My Sidebar feature include news, MapQuest, CBS Sportsline and much more.

Netscape's Communicator series was known as ``bloatware'' -- it was quite a large file to download and install. Netscape 6.1 allows users to install just the components they wish. The entire package includes the Netscape Navigator Web browser, Netscape Mail, Netscape Instant Messenger, Netscape Composer (Web page editor), and Netscape Address Book.

Netscape 6.1 is available for Windows, Apple Macintosh, and Linux operating systems.

COPY-PROOF COMPACT DISCS. The music industry's fight to get Napster and similar file-trading services to curtail the swapping of copyrighted works has moved from the online arena to the source -- music CDs.

According to a story by Reuters last week, tests are already under way by many of the major record labels on copy protection schemes for audio CDs that would prevent them from being copied to computers.

By making all new music CDs uncopyable, the industry hopes to slow the spread of new copyrighted music files that are swapped at Napster and its many imitators.

Also targeted is the popular MP3 music file format.

MP3 is a compression format that condenses music from a CD into a smaller file. It's also the format that has made file-swapping possible.

One copy protection scheme involves exploiting the difference between audio CD drives and computer CD drives.

Audio CD drives are more tolerant of dust, jars and scratches than computer CD drives, and one copy protection method would be add just the right number of errors to the compact disc to make it unplayable on a computer.

A copy protection method developed by a company called Macrovision has been used on thousands of CDs already in the hands of consumers. There have been no complaints, a Macrovision spokesman told Reuters, though that may change if the entire music industry began copy protecting their CDs.

With the variations among audio CD players, there's the chance that copy protected music CDs may not play correctly on certain players.

Tests are still underway, though don't be surprised when if that next audio CD you buy won't play properly in your computer CD drive.

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