Author Topic: Virus & spyware issues  (Read 55301 times)

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John_fraser

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #60 on: June 18, 2005, 08:13:58 pm »
I just got one from admin@brookmans.com asking me to “see the attached document for further details.” I threw the attached document to my virus scanner (note that this doesn’t mean I opened it) and - unsurprisingly – it reported that it was a Trojan. If anyone did open the file they’d have something nasty installed on their PC. Possibly spying for passwords to accounts or turning the PC into a spam zombie.

Follow the rules and you should avoid getting your PC hijacked:

Use a virus scanner and keep Windows Updates turned on

Do not open any attachments unless you are 100% sure that they are genuine. It is very easy to forge mail headers.

Do not follow ( i.e. click on) any links in an email unless you are 100% sure the sender is genuine. Even when 100% sure it’s still best to type the address into the address bar yourself.

Don’t use Internet Explorer or Outlook. Download one of the other more secure tools. I strongly recommend Firefox and Thunderbird.
 

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #61 on: June 18, 2005, 08:21:24 pm »
Thanks John, all good advice. Just to confirm, these messages do not come from this website.

The Brookmans Park Newsletter has been supporting the village and our local community since 1998 by providing free, interactive tools for all to use.
 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #62 on: June 20, 2005, 05:29:13 pm »
Nothing wrong with IE or Outlook as long as all the latest patches are applied.

Firefox has had issues with (in)security too. Don't believe that Microsoft=bad and open_source=good, they both have their pros and cons.

As always, use common sense, a decent hardware firewall if possible and decent, up to date anti-virus and you won't go far wrong. Anti spyware programs are also recommended, the Microsoft AntiSpyware is excellent, as is Ad-Aware.
 

John_fraser

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #63 on: June 20, 2005, 06:11:53 pm »
Quote
Nothing wrong with IE or Outlook as long as all the latest patches are applied.

So I.E. is secure until MS brings out a patch, at which point it’s insecure until you apply the patch? And then it only remains secure until the next time MS brings out a patch? It really makes you wonder why MS bring out patches. Just leave it alone and everything should be safe.

In a less facetiously mode, there is plenty wrong with IE, which is why MS is continually patching up the holes.

Yes Firefox has had issues with security too and unpatched copy of Firefox would soon be less secure than a patched copy of IE. But Firefox has had far fewer and far less serious security issues than IE. Microsoft is not always bad and open source is frequently not good, but in the case of IE v Firefox there is a clear winner.

Microsoft’s AntiSpyware is probably worth a little more than it costs (which is nothing) but it lets a lot slip through. Use it over nothing, but there are much better.
 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #64 on: June 21, 2005, 12:49:02 pm »
The problem with all anti spyware packages is that in many cases it is difficult to define exactly what constitures spyware. You are correct in saying that Microsoft AntiSpyware does not detect as spyware some things that others do, however that doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong. The Microsoft product was bought from Giant Software - it had a good reputation then. I've founf Ad-aware always flags numerous objects, however when you analyse what they are it's debatable whether many of them should be called spyware.

Your comments about Microsoft patches are equally applicable to Mozilla / Firefox / Opera or whatever. It is generally regarded as impossible to write truly bug free software of the complexity required for a browser.

Whether Firefox is a 'clear winner' depends on your point of view as it is still a fact that Microsoft is still the defacto standard and is installed on the majority of the world's computers (for whatever reason) and works perfectly well when, as I stated before, is patched up to date.

Most vulnerabilities are only exploited AFTER the patch is released as many hackers merely reverse engineer the patch to see where problems lie. Firefox MIGHT have many vulnerabilities but may never be discovered or exploited, it doesn't mean you can say for sure that Firefox is better. It might be, it might not be.

BTW I work in support for a large company with 120 servers and 500 PCs. Some run Unix / Linux, the majority run Windows, I think I have a reasonably large amount of relevant experience to draw on to make these conclusions.

But, there will always be a Microsoft vs Apple / Linux / Unix point of view, in reality as about important as whether you choose to drive a Ford or a Vauxhall.

 

John_fraser

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #65 on: June 21, 2005, 02:52:02 pm »
MS is undoubtedly the world standard, which is why websites must support it. But this is not a good reason to you use it as your browser.

Quote
Firefox MIGHT have many vulnerabilities but may never be discovered or exploited
True and Spurs may win every game ten-nil next season, but you have to look at the record:

http://www.windowssecrets.com/comp/050512/#story1

Quote
The firm found that IE was wide open for a total of 200 days in 2004, or 54% of the year, to exploits that were "in the wild" on the Internet.

The Firefox browser and its older sibling Mozilla had no periods in 2004 when a security flaw went unpatched before exploits started circulating on the Net. With the latest 1.0.4 upgrade, Firefox has retained its "patch-before-hackers-can-strike" record so far in 2005, as well.”

 “Wide open” is the period where your only protection against a hacker is just not stumbling across their site. In other words, for  most of last year IE’s security policy was “be lucky”

Quote
“Microsoft has released at least 20 major security patches for Windows or Internet Explorer since November 2004. Most of these patches were rated "Critical," Microsoft's most severe security alert level.”

With a record like that, only a script kiddy would want you to use IE.

P.S.
If we are going to start waving the size of our experience around I’m afraid you’re not going to come off too well. If you can count the PCs then you don’t have a lot and 500 is definitely in the small category. Up until last year I managed IT projects at a company with operations in more than 120 countries and over 70,000 employees.
 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #66 on: June 21, 2005, 03:49:22 pm »
Well it's obvious we'll never agree but I enjoy a good debate !

IE and Outlook are still perfectly good products when patched up to date, as is Firefox. Maybe Firefox is better. Whilst I don't disagree with any of the references you quote, they too, are just opinions. I still stand by what I've said.

If IE really was as dangerous as you make out I would be spending my entire life dealing with IE related disasters - the fact that I don't means the real-world risk isn't really that great.

Yes, I have totally lost the battle when it comes to the number of PCs we have dealt with, however I was merely making the point that I have much more, real-life experience than, say, a home user who doesn't work within IT. You cannot possibly have dealt with every one of your 70,000 users, I have probably dealt with nearly all of my 500 users in one way or another. I'm sure we're both competent, just doing different types of job - I would imagine that people working in the NHS or government could quote you figures in the millions if sheer numbers of PCs are concerned.

So while there's nothing wrong with using an alternative browser such as Firefox I think it's alarmist to overhype the risks of using IE when there are still risks with Firefox. I'm sure you can put some spin on this argument either way by quoting statistics of some sort.

The one thing I can safely say though, is that Spurs are never going to win 10-0 at any game, let alone all season  ;D
 

John_fraser

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #67 on: June 22, 2005, 08:51:10 am »
I don’t see how you can claim that they are just opinions. Admittedly all studies will have an element of subjectivity and sample bias, but it is very clear that IE is being exposed on a daily basis. The fact that you seldom see these issues isn’t really relevant. If someone has managed to install a keyboard sniffer or a spam zombie on a PC then it isn’t really in their interest to advertise the fact. The first you may know of the  problem is when your bank account is cleaned out.

IE has been shown to be less secure than Firefox, or Opera. It’s not spin. Firefox is also faster, has more extensions, has a better find option, allows deletion if individual cookies, removal of individual stored passwords, password protection for security devices etc. In the words of MS “it offers a richer user experience.” There doesn’t seem to be any reason IE instead of it.

No I didn’t visit 70,000 PCs, or even 700. But if a PC is properly configured it really shouldn’t require too much intervention.
 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #68 on: June 22, 2005, 01:05:47 pm »
I don't claim that IE is a better browser or that Firefox is not superior.

All I'm saying is that for most people it will be perfectly safe as long as it is patched up to date and used sensibly. Yes, IE does need updating from time to time, but then it's easy enough to do using Windows Update. I'm sure you're not suggesting that users DON'T need to keep Windows updated even if they're using Firefox - so not really any extra effort there.

Any browser can be used to access dangerous content - if you're really stupid and download a spyware-infested 'toolbar' or some such pointless 'improvement' your choice of browser won't help.

Let's compare the argument to car choice. Yes, I might drive a Volvo which is considered a safe vehicle, however I don't immediately say to anyone driving, say a Nissan Micra, that it's unsafe and should not be used. You can still drive the Volvo into a tree and if you go fast enough no amount of crumple zones or airbags are going to help. What's important is how you drive it.

Yes, once again for the record, I agree Firefox might be a better browser. However IE is still perfectly fine and it's really not helpful to scare people with alarmist tales implying IE is dangerous.

Whatever you might think (and this is my opinion) Microsoft takes security very seriously (may not have been the case a year ago, granted) and makes it extremely easy to keep everything up to date. Yes, in an ideal world patches would not be required but Firefox needs them too - no software is perfect.

IE will always be the target of hackers etc simply because it's the market leader and has by far the biggest installed base. I don't have the latest figures but IE is still way, way ahead. Inevitably there will be more problems with IE, that's just statistics.
 

John_fraser

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #69 on: June 22, 2005, 01:55:25 pm »
Because IE because it is less secure there are more exploits and vulnerabilities. This is true if is on 1% or 100% of desktops. Take a look at MS’ latest updates, which came out this month:

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms05-jun.mspx

Quote
Vulnerabilities exist in Internet Explorer, the most sever of these could allow an attacker to take complete control of an affected system.

And April:
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms05-apr.mspx
Quote
Vulnerabilities exist in Internet Explorer that could allow an attacker to take complete control of an affected system.

And February
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms05-feb.mspx
Quote
Vulnerabilities exist in Internet Explorer that could allow remote code execution on an affected system.

All of these are classed by MS as ‘Critical - A vulnerability whose exploitation could allow the propagation of an Internet worm without user action.’
These are three separate exploits this year which could have been used to hijack a PC without the user “downloading a spyware-infested 'toolbar' or some such pointless 'improvement'”. They would lose control by visiting an apparently innocent web site. Your virus or spy ware scanner may pick this up, but then again it may not. In any case these should be your last line of defence, not your only line.

It is not a responsible attitude to claim IE is safe. It simply isn’t. Percentage of the market isn’t important, but even if it were it strengthens the “switch from IE case.” Using the browser not targeted by the hackers makes sense. 


 

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #70 on: June 22, 2005, 02:37:05 pm »
Hi folks,

The thread entitled 'Website Message' (click here to view that thread), had turned into a debate about browser and email safety. I have split the thread and put all browser discussions together in this merged thread. No posts have been lost and all those who had asked for email alerts for updates will still receive them.

David

The Brookmans Park Newsletter has been supporting the village and our local community since 1998 by providing free, interactive tools for all to use.
 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #71 on: June 22, 2005, 03:16:38 pm »
John

You may well be correct when you say IE isn't completely safe.

But neither is Mozilla or Firefox

See http://www.mozilla.org/projects/security/known-vulnerabilities.html for a list of vulnerabilities known.

I accept IE may have had more patches but that doesn't necessarily make it dangerous, nor Firefox inherently safe. Maybe Firefox is less dangerous but you still can't say it's absolutely safe. The latest version fixes three problems, all CRITICAL.

Once again, keep IE (or any other browser you choose) up to date and protect yourself with antivirus, firewall and a decent amount of common sense and you will almost certainly be fine. But nothing is absolutely guarnteed, whatever browser you choose.


 

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #72 on: June 23, 2005, 11:43:54 am »
I agree with sasquartch -

Quote
for most people it will be perfectly safe as long as it is patched up to date
... and
Quote
IE is still perfectly fine and it's really not helpful to scare people

As he points out, security is not really important to most people, what is much more important is that Microsoft is the standard.

When my Laptop locked up, and was reinstalled, the IT chap said that it would not have made any difference if I had patched IE because the worm bug didnt have any cure yet anyway! I am sure that FireFox would not have helped me to recover all the data I lost. I always log off my PC now when I am not using it, and I never type my password in the clear.

Regards
Jeff
 

John_fraser

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #73 on: June 23, 2005, 11:45:01 am »
If the argument is analogous with which car you drive then I think it is only responsible to encourage people not to drive a car with poor breaks, dodgy steering and limited visibility.

Smoking increases your odds of cancer and obesity is bad for your heart. A non smoking fit adult can still suffer from cancer or heart problems. I don’t know what you were told on the way in, but in this life nothing is guaranteed.  All you can do is play the odds and be sensible. i.e. Exercise, eat good food, don’t smoke and avoid using Internet Explorer.

Take a look at some more figures:

http://secunia.com/

Quote
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.x with all vendor patches installed and all vendor workarounds applied, is currently affected by one or more Secunia advisories rated Highly critical

This is based on the most severe Secunia advisory, which is marked as "Unpatched" in the Secunia database. Go to Unpatched/Patched list below for details.

Currently, 20 out of 82 Secunia advisories, is marked as "Unpatched" in the Secunia database.

Verses

Quote
Mozilla Firefox 1.x with all vendor patches installed and all vendor workarounds applied, is currently affected by one or more Secunia advisories rated Moderately critical

This is based on the most severe Secunia advisory, which is marked as "Unpatched" in the Secunia database. Go to Unpatched/Patched list below for details.

Currently, 6 out of 19 Secunia advisories, is marked as "Unpatched" in the Secunia database.

IE has Highly critical exploits where as Firefox has Moderately critical.

IE’s holes are “Typically used for remotely exploitable vulnerabilities, which can lead to system compromise. Successful exploitation does not normally require any interaction and exploits are in the wild.”

Note “In the wild” i.e. they are out there and being used

Firefoxes holes are two levels less serious: “Typically used for remotely exploitable Denial of Service vulnerabilities against services like FTP, HTTP, and SMTP, and for vulnerabilities, which allows system compromises but require user interaction.”

Note “require user interaction” which means that the depend on the user saying yes – and “Denial of Service vulnerabilities” which means that your PC may be kicked off the internet or may be used to kick others off, but it won’t itself be opened up.


I am at a loss where to take this argument now. Look at the number and scale of the issues and ask yourself this “Who’s interests are best served by encouraging people to use the least secure browser available?”
« Last Edit: June 23, 2005, 12:20:47 pm by John Fraser »
 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #74 on: June 23, 2005, 12:20:53 pm »
 

John_fraser

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #75 on: June 23, 2005, 12:23:15 pm »
Good artical
Quote
Firefox is proving popular because, at the moment, it has far fewer security holes than Internet Explorer and has some innovations lacking in Microsoft's program.
 

Offline jammer

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #76 on: June 23, 2005, 01:04:25 pm »
John - I think that sounds like science fiction? I am skeptical that IE has wild worm holes :)

You seem to indicate that IE is not secure right at this instant, but sasquartch says it is perfectly safe, and he has personally checked 500 PCs. I dont think you really checked 70,000 PCs.

I have done all my Critical Updates - is IE safe right NOW or not?
 
Should I turn my PC off until the patch is over? I dont want FireFox because it is not standard, and IE is free. If the BBC publish the security details (I don't know Secunia) how will I get the page? I don't really want to lose all my data again :(

PS I appreciate the technical advice from both of you - thanks!


 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #77 on: June 23, 2005, 01:05:57 pm »
John

Let's be clear - I'm not saying that IE is superior to Firefox, indeed in some ways it's definitely not. However, Firefox still has problems with security. It might have less security problems than IE but it does and doubtless will continue to do so - however that only makes Firefox LESS dangerous than IE, not safe.

The fact that Firefox fails to display many websites as intended (whether because of poor site design or whatever) is hardly a recommendation is it ?

So once again, if you follow my previous advice, you will likely be in no more danger using IE than Firefox. Yes, you can quote all sorts of statistics and theoretical risks but in every real world case I've come accross (and I've dealt with quite a few) of PCs being hijacked, hacked or whatever, the simple advice had not been followed.

Neither browser is a clear winner or loser - I'm not sure you could argue otherwise.
 

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #78 on: June 23, 2005, 01:49:01 pm »
So maybe should I install Firefox even though it is not Standard?

Can I have both? And then just use whichever one is safer at the current time?

I would rather keep all my documents safe now, than have any more worms and horses come into my laptop through IE. It took more than a week for my laptop to be fixed and I lost lots of documents and contacts forever :( - sasquartch maybe if you used Firefox too you wouldn't have to fix so many of the IE PCs that you have seen hacked?

I read that 3% of the tested websites don't work with Firefox (opps - more statistics :)), but I am a non-smoker, so I don't need access to British American Tobacco, and Odeon is still expensive, even though it is non-smoking these days.

Thanks for all the research - I have looked at the comparisons of IE and Firefox holes, and I guess I have learned that safer is better than sorry!
 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #79 on: June 23, 2005, 02:31:35 pm »
There's nothing to stop you installing Firefox, it should co-exist with IE quite happily.

As I hope I've made clear, there is always a small risk when browsing the web. By following the simple rules I've described you won't go far wrong, whatever browser you're using. But there is still a risk, like the real world, the WWW has nasty elements to it - just be sensible. If you download porn from russian websites or install software from unknown sources, or reply to African government officials with a view to making some easy money then you're going to come unstuck !
 

John_fraser

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #80 on: June 23, 2005, 03:39:49 pm »
You are not reading what I wrote:

You can have your PC hijacked today by existing websites without installing anything, answering anything or visiting dodgy sites. It can happen, it does happen and you may not know it has happened until something nasty happens – something nasty in this case being anything from finding that your PC is spewing out the spam that started the debate, right up to having a password to a financial account compromised or discovering child porn is on your PC. All of this has happened multiple times and is well documented.

True, not all sites work with Firefox – not all sites work with IE either. My experience is far less than 10%, but let’s take that figure as given. You can’t actually remove IE from your PC, which MS has integrated tightly into Windows and thereby caused many of the security issues. So you always have IE to fall back on should you need to use a site lacking Firefox (or Opra, or Safari) support. But by using an alternate browser you would be protected at least 90% of the time. Even more if you limit the sites you visit with IE.

I can – and have – quoted statistics and reports about this. I can continue to do so. You can continue to ignore and dismiss them, as you have done. But for zero cost you can get a browser that even you admit is more secure, if only in theory. What exactly is the issue?
 

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #81 on: June 23, 2005, 04:38:34 pm »
sasquartch ,

Quote
If you download porn from russian websites or install software from unknown sources, or reply to African government officials with a view to making some easy money then you're going to come unstuck

...but I lost a couple of years work on my laptop, and didn't, as you intimate, visit any intimate websites, or respond to any manky mails.

I bow to your superior experience as to which nation's risque is risky - company policy here precludes such pernicious peccadillos. I interpolate from your comments that the many hacked off IE PCs you know are all in favour of glasnost?

I have decided to travel the many-layered land, with a foxy combination of browsers. I hope that IE-alone land proves safe for your Internet journey.

Regards,
Jeff
 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #82 on: June 23, 2005, 04:48:53 pm »
John - I think I have read what you've written. Well presented and elegantly presenting your viewpoint. We have different viewpoints.

Jammer - If you backed up your files regularly you wouldn't have lost years worth of work - with CD-R's costing pennies each I think this demonstrates the need for common sense baing as important as technical considerations. Remember, if your hard drive dies you'll still lose any unbacked up work even without being compromised by something on the internet.

To respond to some of John's points -

If you've applied all the patches then you almost certainly won't have your PC hijacked.  

No more likely in practice than if you were using Firefox. Firefox might have lots of as yet undiscovered security problems, so could IE

I have nothing against using Firefox, I'm simply saying that there is no need to use an alternative browser as long as common sense is used. But you can if you want - no-one is stopping you.

I haven't ignored or dismissed statistics - in fact I've quoted some myself. But you need to look at them in context rather than reading into them what you want to hear.

Once again, I believe you when you say Firefox is more secure. But in fact it's just less dangerous than IE - the important thing is to use common sense. Going back to the car analogy I could have a huge Volvo with every safety feature and NCAP star, but I can still drive it into a tree at 100mph.

 

Offline jammer

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #83 on: June 23, 2005, 05:19:32 pm »
Gee thanks - first I am a porn monster, and now I have no common sense?

Actually, I did have backups, on CDs, but the worm infected all the documents and spreadsheets for months before everything died and started to smell. The boys in the IT band said the docs were too hard to recover. I carefully [shhh!] tried a few, but my shiny new AV wont let me open them, and says they can not be recovered. :(

I am sure that you have way more technical experience than me - we only have 8 PCs and 2 laptops here, but in my non-technical opinion, it makes clear common browser sense to be as secure as possible, and not to assume that backups will protect you. :(



 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #84 on: June 23, 2005, 05:25:20 pm »
Jammer

Sorry if I implied you were either a porn monster or had no common sense - no offence intended.

It does highlight how important the basics are, good AV, good backups etc etc
 

John_fraser

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #85 on: June 23, 2005, 05:33:59 pm »
It does highlight how important the basics are, good AV, good backups etc etc
and secure browser
 

Offline jammer

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #86 on: June 23, 2005, 05:50:26 pm »
so...
* prevention -> security... [best currently available] browser, AntiVirus, Firewall, AntiSpyWare
* cure -> backups... and make sure the are really working!

What about email? I use Outlook. I hear that lots of emails are fishing for bank details and email addresses

Hey - what is this thing with vilifying small creatues? bugs, viruses, worms, horses, phishies? (he says sheepishly) are there more dangerous electronic beasties I dont know about?  (and the mouse goes click click... don't you just want to screen!!)


 

John_fraser

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #87 on: July 08, 2005, 09:59:12 am »
An interesting book about moving to Firefox

Don't Click on the Blue e




 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #88 on: July 18, 2005, 04:04:04 pm »
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/13/firefox_update/

Yet more evidence that NO browser is without problem....

...Yes, Firefox included.
 

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Re: Virus & spyware issues
« Reply #89 on: July 18, 2005, 04:11:16 pm »
Thanks Paul,

I'll update my version of Firefox as soon as I get in tonight. Usually it let's me know there are updates to download, but perhaps I missed it. Thanks

David
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