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More Reasons to Patch Your PC

Wednesday, November 10, 2004; 8:55 AM

People who use Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP operating system but haven't yet installed the company's hefty Service Pack 2 security upgrade got a few more reasons this week to stop procrastinating.

Several new computer viruses emerged on Monday that target a security flaw in the Internet Explorer Web browser. Security experts don't know what the viruses will do, but hackers often use them to damage computers, commandeer them for their own purposes or snoop around to steal people's passwords and private data.

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The viruses arrive in e-mails bearing messages like: "Congratulations! PayPal has successfully charged $175 to your credit card. Your order tracking number is A866DEC0, and your item will be shipped within three business days." Also included in the messages are supposed links to the order information. In fact, they are designed to launch the virus as soon as the messages' recipients click on them.

The viruses won't affect people who have installed Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, so the best thing to do is download it now from Microsoft's Windows Update Web site and install it. People who use Microsoft Office also should visit the Office Web site and download any new patches there.

The viruses also target flaws in older versions of Windows. Problem is, Service Pack 2 only is available for XP. For people who use Windows 2000 or 98, the best prevention is common sense: Don't click on the link if you're not expecting the e-mail.

About Those Patches...

The second Tuesday of every month is Microsoft's patch day, and this one came and went without any "critical" flaws being reported for Windows. That's good news for home users, but this time it's the business community that needs to be on the lookout. The company released a patch to fix a flaw in its Internet Security and Acceleration Server, an Internet connection program that allows companies to filter and distribute Internet access for their employees. Microsoft rated the patch "important," a step below the top level of critical.

Brian Krebs, washingtonpost.com Staff Writer

It's a Courtroom Drama

Taking a page from the music industry's playbook, the Motion Picture Association of America last week said it would sue people who share free copies of copyrighted films on the Internet. Recently anointed MPAA chief Dan Glickman said movie studios must send a message that "bad things happen when you steal copyrighted material."

U.S. film companies haven't seen their profits drop as much as the recording industry, mostly because it still takes longer to download feature-length films than three-minute songs. But the music companies' plight spooks the MPAA, especially as advanced Internet connections make it almost as easy to download a copy of "Mean Girls" as it is to procure an online bootleg of U2's still-unreleased latest album.

The big question is whether the lawsuits will have any effect on the online black market. The recording industry has wrangled plenty of settlements out of exasperated parents who finally know what it is their kids are doing on the computer all night long, but music file sharing among hardcore pirates continues.

For a different take on these developments, check out this transcript of our Live Online session with Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn.

David McGuire, washingtonpost.com Staff Writer

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