Internet horror show: Attack
of the Killer Worms
Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business
2005; issue 828
High Tech Office Column
As I write, the news is full of reports of the latest Windows security
scourge: Zotob and Rbot worms targeting Windows 2000 systems that lack
the latest Microsoft patches. At least 225 corporate networks,
including the New York Times, CNN, NASA, and, in Canada, CIBC, BMO, and
Bell were affected.
The Microsoft patches were made available a week prior to the outbreak,
showing that the time is shrinking between reports of a vulnerability
and attacks. Some reports suggest that infected computers could be
turned into "zombies" rented out by "cybercriminals."
While it's otherwise been a relatively quiet year virus-wise, these
attacks may motivate users to pay more attention to keeping their
computers secure. (We'll assume that the IT departments of the
organizations affected by Zotob et al will do better in the future.)
Home, small business, and notebook computers all need to be set to
check in regularly with Microsoft's Windows Update. Moreover, all
should be running up-to-date antivirus, anti-spyware and firewall
These categories have a wide range of options, including good free
software for home use. (Distrust anything advertised in a Web pop-up
If you want the convenience of getting all your security needs met in a
single bundle, take a look at Zone Labs' new ZoneAlarm Internet
Security Suite version 6 (www.zonelabs.com
one year of updates). The company is well known for its
popular ZoneAlarm firewall, available in both free and paid versions.
The suite includes the latest version of this firewall, which, unlike
the software built-into Windows XP, blocks both unknown incoming and
outgoing Internet signals.
Users of a firewall were safe from this recent round of worms, along
with many other online hazards.
New to ZA's firewall: new layers of defence blocking malicious changes
to either the Windows operating system or your applications.
In many cases, this will also prevent spyware from modifying standard
Windows files. Additionally, the program will scan for spyware that
either made it through the firewall or was already on the system prior
to installing the ZoneAlarm Suite.
The suite includes antivirus software licensed from Computer
Associates. Scanning your system either automatically or manually
checks for both spyware and viruses.
The suite also includes MailFrontier's award-winning anti-spam software.
Additional features include parental control, e-mail protection,
instant messaging security and an ID Lock to check before allowing your
credit card, bank account or other numbers to be sent out.
ZoneAlarm's free version, which includes just the firewall without the
other features, can become annoying with its pop-up queries that inform
the user about each new or changed application; the suite minimizes
these pop-ups with a database of 18,000 known safe and 52,000 known
Various other security packages are available bundled as suites. The
new ZoneAlarm suite stands out with better integration between the
This makes it easier for the user to manage the program's features. It
also lets the program run in the background without becoming a major
drain of computer resources.
(Note: Zone Labs strongly recommends uninstalling any older version of
ZoneAlarm prior to installing this new version.)
If you're running Windows, you need to take security seriously.
Of course, you may want to consider alternatives to Windows. I'm
currently evaluating the free Ubuntu Linux distribution, which
describes itself as "Linux for Humans" (www.ubuntulinux.org). It's
available in a version to install on a PC (on its own, or sharing a
hard drive with a Windows installation).
Alternatively, a "Live CD" version boots off a CD without needing to
install anything on your computer at all. That makes it possible to see
whether it can meet your needs without affecting your current
installation. More at a later date.