Bits & P.C.’s: Big hack fact and XP update

Bits & P.C.’s: Big hack fact and XP update

By Richard Heller

Last week Microsoft reported that anyone running a Windows-based operating system were vulnerable to a hacker attack, an attack for which they was unable to discover the source. This week Microsoft reported that they have discovered the source of the attack; it was obviously YOU!

What they actually said is that because of your lax security, that is through blank or shoddy passwords, hackers have been able to get access to your computer. They are also saying that only computer servers running Windows 2000 were affected.

They are recommending that you tighten security by eliminating blank passwords or those such as “password,” disabling guest accounts, and to run a firewall program to prevent intruders from gaining access to your computer. They also recommend that you keep your anti-virus program updated along with Microsoft security patches.

Do you have an old VCR that doesn’t work or has a tape stuck in it? Through the web site, you may be able to do the repair yourself. You will find online service guides, instructions on removing that stuck cassette, and how to clean the heads.

Microsoft has released a major upgrade to Windows XP. Service Pack One or SP1 is available as a free download. It is important that everyone who is running XP should have the update, but unless you have a high-speed Internet connection, DO NOT DOWNLOAD IT! The complete update is over 130 MB and will take you more than 10 hours to download through a 56K connection. Many Internet providers will not allow you to be online for this long at a time, and you may have to restart the download if you get disconnected.

Also, unless you have more than one phone line or call at night, your phone will be busy until you’re done downloading. There is also a second way of doing the download; you first download a small(er) program that determines what updates your computer needs and then downloads the files necessary. This is still a minimum of 30 MB or 2-3 hours worth of download, and it may still take up to the 10 hours if you have never had an update.

The best thing to do is to either have a friend with a cable or DSL modem download the update, save it to a CR-ROM, and then do the install. Microsoft also has an update CD available for a shipping and handling charge. Whatever method of update that you choose, be sure to BACKUP YOUR DATA.

This update is important because it patches a major security hole in Windows XP. Without the update, a hacker can erase your hard drive just by having you visit a web page. The page can contain a command that is activated even if you close the browser or pop-up box. This is a security flaw that has been known for three months and is just now being reported about and being corrected. If you have Windows XP, be sure to get the update.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail

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