Friday, November 10, 2006


Two recents items of rather bad news on the net. Firstly, spam is on the rise again but now the senders are often victims themselves, from home PC's that have been infected by trojans that then use the machines as 'zombies', sending out e-mails at the behest of a remote controller - story. Most people will have noticed a huge increase in dross supposedly giving stock tips on the sly, "pump n' dump" operations. Typically the owners of a dodgy small listed business will pay a spamming operation to send out this blatantly obvious rubbish in the hope of engineering a price rise.

A couple of days ago this paedophile got jailed for 10 years for blackmailing young girls by a similar exploit, using a trojan to take remote control over their PC's, a harrowing experience for the victims. However, attempts to make out the perpetrator as a criminal genius don't wash, this is script kiddie level stuff. In fact, Windows XP even runs a service to make remote control of the desktop relatively easily.

While most people find Windows a very easy OS to use, I think it's actually a very difficult one to run securely. The usual pro-Microsoft claim is that malware writers target Windows purely because of its ubiquity; this article from the Register exposes the falsity of this claim.

Like some people I still use Windows because several applications I use heavily are only available under it. If you are going to stick with Windows, at least beef up your security with internet software form other vendors:
  • the worst culprit IMHO is Outlook / Outlook Express, use Thunderbird instead, or better still a webmail service like googlemail.
  • Internet Explorer contains some awful security holes. Firefox or Opera are vastly superior. If you insist on using IE, at least go into the security options and disallow ActiveX controls completely; very few sites use them and they're a real security hazard.
  • get a firewall. Unfortunately the one I use, Sygate Personal Firewall, is no longer free. The one that comes with XP is very poor indeed and has no user controls to let you bar specific services or sites.
It isn't just about safeguarding yourself, it's also doing your bit for the rest of the online community and not becoming a tool of the spammers and other villains.


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