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Protecting your personal or financial information when using a public wi-fi

Unsecured wi-fi networks, like those found at airports, restaurants and coffee shops - are public networks that are available for anyone to use.  Some of these are managed by legitimate businesses while others are managed by “Honey Pot Operators”. 

In either case - on an open network - users are generally not protected from other users, hackers who get into that network, or viruses.  Some open networks are operated with the sole purpose of gaining access to the information of the people who use them.  Anything you type to gain access to web sites can be stolen by the honey pot operator and once they’ve gained access they can also steal anything stored on the computer’s hard drive.

How can you protect yourself?
Of course - make sure you have adequate anti-virus and internet security protection.  The sure proof way to avoid jeopardizing your personal and financial information is to limit your activity on these networks to browsing the web, reading the news, and watching videos.  Don’t use anything that you have to login to.


Critical Security Update for Microsoft Internet Explorer

Microsoft has notified us that they’ve released a security update to address the recent issue with Internet Explorer 7. During the analysis of this issue, they discovered that not only v7 was affected by this issue - but so was v5 and v6 - on all current variations of Windows (XP, Vista, and Server 2003).

If your system is setup for automatic updates, you should see an update come through for “MS08-78”. If your system is not setup for automatic updates—or if you don’t see that update come through—you will want to run the Windows update utility to get the latest updates.

If you need assistance - or if you are concerned that you may be missing security updates - we stand ready to help. Please call us at (269) 857-5517 to schedule time to get this done.


ALL Digital TV Coming February 17 2009

By law, all televisions have to be digital by February 17th.  The go-live started on December 15.  Chances are, if you have satelite or cable, you are already digital - or if you’ve gone out and bought a new television in the last couple years.  If you want to know - before you go out and spend the money on a digital converter or new television .. tune in to your local 6pm news on Wednesday.

Television stations around the country are planning to run several tests to verify that things are working.  The first of these, here in West Michigan, will air on Wednesday this week at 6:08 pm.  The test will run for 1-1/2 minutes - so you’ll miss if if you are not tuned in.  The good news is that they will be running several other tests between now and February 17th; you can get the full details for the southern West Michigan area here:

http://www.mlive.com/grpress/entertainment/index.ssf/2008/12/trial_runs_coming_this_week_to.html

 


*** Internet Explorer v7 Virus Warning !!

A new potentially serious issue has been found in Internet Explorer 7 - updates from Microsoft released on Dec 9th do NOT contain a fix for this issue and as of latest publications - a fix has not been found.

This thing downloads a trojan to your computer and can completely compromise your system.  It is infecting websites around the world - most of those published are not sites that our customers would typically use - but you never know how far it will go.  It is not affecting email at this time.

Microsoft has released a list of technical ‘workarounds’; but as usual, most of those are things the average user would not understand or know how to do without potentially breaking the functionality of the computer.

Our Recommendations:
- Don’t use Internet Explorer if you don’t have to (use an alternative like Firefox, Opera, or Safari)
- Make sure that your computer is current with its antivirus, spyware, and windows updates
- Use common sense when visiting sites that you don’t normally visit

If you would like to check it out yourself, these sites provide more information:
http://www.shadowserver.org/wiki/pmwiki.php?n=Calendar.20081210
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/advisory/961051.mspx

We’ll keep an eye on it and let you know when they get it fixed.

************************************************
From Microsoft’s Security Bulletin 961051:

“Microsoft is investigating new public reports of attacks against a new vulnerability in Internet Explorer. Our investigation so far has shown that these attacks are against Windows Internet Explorer 7 on supported editions of Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows XP Service Pack 3, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, Windows Vista, Windows Vista Service Pack 1, and Windows Server 2008.”

Revisions to this bulletin:
December 10, 2008: Advisory published

December 11, 2008: Revised to include Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 Service Pack 4, Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1, Internet Explorer 6, and Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 as potentially vulnerable software. Also added more workarounds.

December 12, 2008: Revised to correct operating systems that support Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2. Also added more workarounds and a reference to Microsoft Security Advisory (954462).  (This

December 13, 2008: Revised to add the workaround, Disable XML Island functionality. Also, in a FAQ entry, clarified the list of recommended workarounds and added the blog post URL for recommended workarounds.


Windows XP Service Pack 3

Windows XP service pack 3 has been released.  Service pack 3 includes all of the functionality of previous XP service packs including security patches and hot fixes.  SP3 enables installation of ALL of the previously released patches and hot fixes of XP in one package (rather than having to download and install each one individually).  Newer functionality added to SP3 is minimal.  It does not include any of the significant changes found in Vista; although it does include security enhancements and network access protection (NAP) to enable it to work better with Windows Server 2008.  It is a cumulative release and can be installed on top of XP1 and XP2.  Deployment over a network has not changed and can be implemented using Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007, or third-party solutions.

It was originally released earlier in the month and then withdrawn because it broke several of Microsoft’s own applications and had other problems ranging from spontaneous reboots to system crashes and machines that would no longer boot.  These issues have apparently been corrected.

A Word of Caution
As with any major operating system update; you’ll want to use caution and make a full backup of your system before upgrading to SP3 - and leave yourself time to go backward if needed.    Once you’ve upgraded to SP3, it prevents downgrading from Internet Explorer 7 to Internet Explorer 6; so you’ll want to be careful if you have applications that don’t play well with Internet Explorer 7.  It has also been purported to cause registry corruption and to not play well with Symantec’s Norton Antivirus utilties.

Click Here to read about some of the issues reported about SP3.