Microsoft Windows and Computer Security Spotlight

Recent newsmaker stories regarding Microsoft Windows security highlighted the recurring theme that there are “care and feeding” issues related to using computers in the dynamic, connected world of the Internet. Just days ago this month, computer users of home PCs, businesses, and mobile laptop users were affected. In this case, the issue was an animated cursor (typically, an “.ANI” file) exploit, which abused a Windows feature, and therefore created the issue. windows 8.1 product key

The impact potential was high; if attacked, most recent versions of Windows (2000, XP, 2003, Vista) permitted the bug to engage “Remote Code Installation and Execution” without the user’s knowledge. Under the right conditions, simply viewing a baited web page could set into motion the steps to infect the host PC with progressively damaging malfunctioning software (malware). The malware could take many forms, in a stealth-like fashion, with users unable to detect anything unusual, which makes this particular infection damaging to Internet coupled PCs. At worst, potentially your PC could automatically join a network of remotely controlled “zombie” computers, ready to perform additional malicious tasks to the connected world under remote direction. PCs left powered on for long periods unattended or in “screen saver” mode could do lots of downstream damage, switching to a more subdued, “light-impact” mode when the unsuspecting user returned to the PC.

This particular exploit was notable, in that a variant was apparently identified and patched in 2005, with a second form of the exploit surfacing in December 2006. Further, the typical practice of using firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus applications would not have prevented infection, leaving many users with a false sense of security, so to speak. Reportedly, the exploit could happen whether you used Firefox or something other than Internet Explorer 7 under Windows Vista (in protected mode) to browse the web (though Vista was not totally immune).


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