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Microsoft issues update on latest security patches

Feb. 23, 2003


The world of computer security seems to move at a dizzying pace at times, making it difficult for anyone to keep score of the latest updates.

Earlier this month, Microsoft scurried to issue a software patch for a security problem for its Internet Explorer 5.01,5.5 and 6.0 Web browsers. Unfortunately, this patch created another problem for users of Internet Explorer 6.0, who experienced problems accessing subscription or password-protected Web sites. Microsoft issued a "hot fix" that, in effect, patched the patch.

Now Microsoft has simplified matters by releasing a new patch that fixes all of the security problems without causing new ones. The details can be found in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS03-004.

Readers who went searching for the update later I wrote about in an earlier column told me they could not find the patch on the Microsoft Web site -- and for good reason. By the time my column was in print, Microsoft had moved the link off their home page.

The easiest way to determine what updates your Microsoft Windows operating system (or other Microsoft software) may require is to use Microsoft's Windows Update service at http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com. To access the site, you'll need to be running Internet Explorer version 4.0 or higher.

The Windows Update site will scan your system for Microsoft products and alert you to the latest software updates. On my visit during my research for this column, I learned my version of Windows needed a number of security updates. In just a few minutes, the updates were automatically downloaded and installed.

Windows Update will also alert you to updates that aren't so critical to security or the performance of your computer. For example, there were 42 updates listed that I opted not to install, most of which were foreign language support files. A menu tree divides the updates into three areas: one for critical updates; one for upgrade and support files for your version of Windows; and an area for updated drivers for your computer hardware.

There's no cost to use Windows Update, though you'll need to have a validly licensed version of Windows. It's the easiest way to keep on top of updates for your Microsoft software.

BLOG BUY. Search engine Google.com has purchased Blogger.com, one of the pioneer online journal "blog" sites that have become all the rage.

The word "blog" is an abbreviation for "Web log," which refers to a Web site that functions as a publicly available online journal. Blogging has been growing in popularity for several years. In the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, blogs became a way for users to share their outrage, pain and collectively express their grief.

Since then, blogging since has become more of a mainstream phenomenon. Journalists were quick to see that blogs offered a new way to interact with readers, sources and contacts.

Journalists at MSNBC, the Christian Science Monitor, NBC TV weatherman Al Roker and even humorist Dave Barry are among those who have jumped on the blogging bandwagon. Even I have joined the blogging revolution by starting my own blog at www.blurty.com/users/netwriter.

Google's purchase of Blogger.com follows other expansions of the search engine's services. Last year it launched Google News and Froogle Google, a shopping comparison site, in efforts to broaden its appeal. Privately held Google has grown to become one of the Web's top search engines.

Blogger was launched in 1999, and boasts more than 1 million registered users. Blogger offers two versions of its service: a free, ad-supported version, and a $35 version for commercial users.

Google's move to add blogging tools follows a similar one by Terra Lycos earlier this month. Terra Lycos is the company that owns the Lycos search engine and the Tripod free Web-publishing service.

New blogging tools, called the "Blog Builder," were given to users of the Tripod Web-publishing service.

For more information, visit www.blogger.com or http://blog.tripod.lycos.com/.

AOL ADDS ADS. Since the Dot-Com boom went bust in early 2000, the America Online service has seen its advertising revenues fall dramatically.

In an effort to try to gain back some of those revenues, AOL has -- for the first time -- started to place advertising on the service's Welcome Screen.

Trials have been underway for some weeks, and expect to see new pages debut in March with permanent ad spots. AOL has been reluctant to put ads on its Welcome Screen. Advertisers have sought to put ads on the Welcome Screen because it would nearly guarantee exposure to all of AOL's 35 million users.

Will users accept the new ads? Time will tell. AOL has been seeking sources for new ad revenue after it banned third-party pop-up advertising on its service last year. AOL will also be offering its advertisers spots on its main content channel pages, and new spots on its search engine results pages.

HACK ATTACK. A hacker who gained access to millions of credit card numbers has prompted banks to cancel thousands of customer's credit and debit card accounts.

Approximately 8 million accounts were illegally accessed, including 3.4 million Visa, 2.4 million American Express, and 2.2 million MasterCard accounts. The hacker gained access to the accounts through a third-party merchant processor.

Omaha-based Data Processors International told the Associated Press last week "an unauthorized outside party" broke into its computer system and accessed the account information. The company handles transactions for catalog companies and other sellers. How long the hacker accessed the firm's records wasn't released.

So far, at least two banks have canceled customers' cards and issued replacements.

Citizens Financial Group of Rhode Island and Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank canceled 8,800 and 16,000 cards respectively last week after the security breach was revealed.

NEW Q&A SECTION. Your questions about computers or the Internet are needed for a new questions-and-answer section that is being added to this column. While I can't guarantee I'll know the answers, I can guarantee that I'll try to find someone who can address your problem or query.

Chances are if you have a question, you aren't the only person who seeks the same answer. Send your questions and suggestions to the e-mail address at the end of this column.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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