Computer Knowledge Newsletter – April 1998 Issue

In This Issue:

Administrivia

Two items:

First, an apology for the test message early in April. Because of spammers attacking and using the mail server I use for the newsletter I’ve had to change mailing programs. While testing the new program I accidentally put the list nickname into the “to:” block. As a result, the test message got sent to everyone, with everyone’s address listed. Thought I had it killed in time but saw it went out anyhow. Further, one of the readers managed to save the list and accidentally use it a couple of times (much to his chagrin). He has apologized and that copy of the list is now gone. Thanks to all who took the whole matter in such a good mood.

Second, in the past I’ve had a restriction about reposting newsletter info (you could not). On reflection, and examination of other newsletters, I find this policy to have been too restrictive. So, the new policy is that you may repost info from this newsletter so long as you don’t take things out of context (it’s usually best to post entire articles) and, as part of the posting, give credit to Computer Knowledge and a reference to our web site (http://www.cknow.com/).

Virus News

A97M/AccessIV Macro Virus. We’ve seen lots of Word macro viruses and some Excel macro viruses but until recently Access had not been attacked. No more. A buggy first attempt at an Access macro virus has surfaced (it’s not known in the wild, but once capability is demonstrated it’s not long before techniques are refined and more viruses start to show up).

The virus is spread through Access .MDB files. The infected file will have an AUTOEXEC macro (for this virus; don’t count on future viruses having an AUTOEXEC macro). While the first Access macro virus only infected Access97, newer variants have been modified to infect Access 2.0 .MDB files. Some even attempt to use the DOS DEBUG program to drop a file-infecting virus (that doesn’t work at this point in time).

If you don’t use Access, you don’t have to worry about these viruses; but if you do use Access and accept .MDB files from others, make certain you have current anti-virus software capable of scanning .MDB files. (It’s unlikely Access viruses will become popular since even among those who do use Access it’s not general practice to send files to other users.)

General Security

No Backups=No Data. No less an institution than the Stanford Graduate School of Business is reported to have suffered a “disaster” in March when two network computers were moved without an adequate backup. Reports say that extensive databases, crucial research notes, and dissertation/book drafts were among the many items completely lost when the computers could not access the data upon restart. Some 10 to 15 PhD candidates and faculty (out of 200 or so using the computers) could not recover their work.

Try to imagine three years worth of data collection toward a dissertation and degree wiped out in an instant; particularly when you trusted the network to save it (in this case, the network only had a partial backup and when a problem was noticed a restore was attempted, but the restore overwrote any good data left on the servers and so did more harm than good).

Bottom line: If you have really important data. BACK IT UP YOURSELF. You can’t have too many backups of important data! It can’t be said often enough. (Stanford has reportedly passed out free 100MB disks for network users to do just this.)

TCP Protocol Bug in Windows. CERT Advisory CA-98.05, Mar. 31, 1998 indicates:

A previously known but obscure TCP protocol bug has been identified as underlying recent successful denial of service attacks on Microsoft Windows 95 and Windows NT systems and servers. When specifically formatted TCP SYN packets are received by the Windows system, the Windows TCP stack locks up and the system hangs requiring hardware reset. Additionally, under some circumstances the Windows system can begin generating additional malformed packets and cause widespread network outages. An exploit for these vulnerabilities exists and is being used.

All versions of Microsoft Windows 3.x, Windows 95, and Windows NT are vulnerable. Please check the Microsoft web site for patches.

Information of Interest

More Year 2000. We could bore you with yet more specific Y2K odd items; but, instead, will refer you to a couple of extra good links on the subject. One is from the Small Business Administration of the US Government and the other is a collection of various links.

SBA Y2K site – http://www.sba.gov/y2k/Web Link
A good collection – http://www.netcom.com/~ggirod/bookmark.html [Link 404]

OK, one tip to pass on: If you have a beta of Windows98 and are considering setting the date forward to do any Y2K testing, my sources say DON’T. The beta has an expiration date and I gather can really mess things up on your system if you set the date forward past the expiration date.

One more came up regarding Microsoft. They have finally posted a web site with Y2K information about their products. Y2K compliance within the Microsoft product line is not a given in all circumstances. You should give this site a hit for any Microsoft products you or your company plan to have when the clock strikes 1/1/2000:

http://www.microsoft.com/year2000/Web Link

Finally, did you know about the Y2038 problem? That’s when the number of seconds since January 1, 1970 overflows a signed 32-bit quantity; this is how UNIX systems store their time of day.

Dihydrogen Monoxide, the Invisible Killer. Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide do not end there. Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage. Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting and body electrolyte imbalance. For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death.

Dihydrogen monoxide is also known as hydroxl acid, and is the major component of acid rain; contributes to the “greenhouse effect”; may cause severe burns; contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape; accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals; may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes; and has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.

Quantities of dihydrogen monoxide have been found in almost every stream, lake, and reservoir in America today. But the pollution is global, and the contaminant has even been found in Antarctic ice. DHMO has caused millions of dollars of property damage in the midwest, and recently California.

Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used as an industrial solvent and coolant; in nuclear power plants; in the production of styrofoam; as a fire retardant; in many forms of cruel animal research; in the distribution of pesticides (even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical); and as an additive in certain “junk-foods” and other food products.

Companies dump waste DHMO into rivers and the ocean, and nothing can be done to stop them because this practice is still legal. The impact on wildlife is extreme, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer!

The American government has refused to ban the production, distribution, or use of this damaging chemical due to its “importance to the economic health of this nation.” In fact, the navy and other military organizations are conducting experiments with DHMO, and designing multi-billion dollar devices to control and utilize it during warfare situations. Hundreds of military research facilities receive tons of it through a highly sophisticated underground distribution network. Many store large quantities for later use.

Act NOW to prevent further contamination. Find out more about this dangerous chemical. What you don’t know can hurt you and others throughout the world.

Oh yes, a belated April Fool; for those who were weak in chemistry dihydrogen monoxide is another name for water. This is perhaps my favorite spoof. (This being tax month and my doing returns for family members I needed some filler for this issue.)

Odds and Ends. Below are a couple of interesting links some may find useful:

Like editorial cartoons? There is an archive that gets updated daily at: http://www.cagle.com/Web Link
A little known shareware archive can be found at the Garbo site: http://garbo.uwasa.fi/. The site specializes in DOS software for the most part but you’d be surprised how may DOS utilities are still useful.

If you have a particular topic suited to a single page discussion, please let us know and we’ll attempt to construct a page around that topic and then let you know via the newsletter when it’s up.

In closing: We hope all in the US survived tax season. Keep your virus scanners current.