Computer Knowledge Newsletter – June 1997 Issue

In This Issue:

Attention AOL Users

America Online (AOL) and the National Computer Security Association have issued a warning about an array of Trojan Horse programs that can capture passwords from AOL users. The passwords can be sent to various hackers by the Trojan programs. There seems to be a heightened interest in AOL users on the part of the hacker community.

Virus News

Dr. Solomon’s reports a very large surge in new macro viruses over the past month or so. The total count exceeds one thousand now.

There is some good news when you migrate from Word 6 or 7 to Office 97: an entirely new macro language is used in Office 97 (Visual Basic for Applications 5). WordBasic programs won’t directly run under VBA5. Unfortunately, VBA5 attempts to convert any WordBasic programs it encounters. The shipping version does not convert a few named WordBasic macro viruses, but any new viruses not known before Office 97 finished beta testing may very well be automatically converted (not all can be).

And, of course, native VBA5 viruses are possible and exist (e.g., NightShade).

Also multiplying rather rapidly are virus hoaxes. It seems some folks have nothing better to do than think up (or copy) technobabble and put it out as the newest way to get a virus over the internet. Some of the latest include: Matra R-440 Crotale virus, Bud Frogs Screen Saver, the “A MOMENT OF SILENCE..” virus, Join The Crew, Valentine Greeting, Hackingburgh Virus, Yukon3, and, last but not least the Undelivered Mail Virus. This latter is particularly bad because at one time or another almost everyone is going to get a system message that says some E-mail can’t be delivered. These system messages are normal and informational only. Fortunately, the hoax message is almost a direct copy of the old standard hoax, Good Times.

General Security

It’s time for a reminder: BACKUP YOUR DATA!

The need for a proper backup was brought home recently to a friend. This friend had important data on a Bernoulli cartridge and the program to access that data on another cartridge. In some way (we were not able to figure out the exact sequence of events) all files and directories on the cartridge which contained the recovery program were deleted. I was able to recover some of the files and directories but other directories were not available for recovery. The directory files were on the disk but their links to their directory names were lost. By searching the disk I was able to find those directory files and then recover the deleted files in them BUT all the recovered files had to be placed into the root directory of the recovered disk and, worse yet, all of the files had no first letter in their names (DOS replaces the file’s first letter with a special character on delete). It’s likely that even though the files were recovered they won’t be of much use because it will be difficult, if not impossible, to correctly organize and rename.

It’s important to have a backup and, for really critical things, a backup of the backup stored in a different location. This latter, in case some disaster hits your primary backups. And, oh yes, if you use a backup program be certain to include the recovery program for the backups with the backups (you’d be surprised at how many people don’t!).

Do you have an AOL account? If so, do you know that some of the personal information you provided to AOL may be being packaged up and sold to others?

The 9 June 1997 issue of Inter@ctive Week reports that AOL is quietly packaging information it has with information gathered via market research and then selling that package. Can you stop them? According to the article, yes (although it does not say exactly how and I am not an AOL subscriber and so cannot test the techniques). According to the article you have to look two places:

  • Two levels down in the AOL Member Services area there is supposed to be a FAQ, and one of the questions is supposed to address keeping your name off of mailing lists.
  • As far as removing yourself from demographic packages one has to go the the terms-of-service contract. The removal method is supposed to be in the fifth part of the ten that make up the contract.

It’s probably worth trying to find the information if you are an AOL member.

General Information

Do you run a small business or intend to apply for a loan? Be careful about advance-fee loan scams. Companies that advertise themselves as loan “brokers” advertise in hope you will come to them. When you contact them they will pressure you to deal with them for your loan (the pressure usually implies that you must sign up “now” or not get a loan). With a normal broker the fees charged by the broker will usually be taken out of the loan itself and so the broker doesn’t get paid until you get the money. With the scam artist you will be asked for the loan fees up front. The scam is that you pay and then never see the loan money (or your fees despite an often-promised money back guarantee).

In a totally unrelated matter and as much as I dislike “tooting one’s own horn” I’ve got to pass on the following quotes from a recent press release.

Warwick, RI, June 11, 1997 — The Shareware Industry Awards Foundation (SIAF) announced the premiere induction of 52 individuals, companies, and programs in the International Shareware Hall of Fame, a new online pantheon honoring the pioneers in the fast-growing shareware industry. The first year’s inductions were voted by the officers of the SIAF with suggestions through online polling by ‘Net surfers conducted through the popular web site

The 1997 International Hall of Fame inductees are:
[the full list, including…]
Tom Simondi

This was an unexpected honor and I just hope my continued activities will reflect positively on shareware.

In closing: If anyone knows any secrets for growing lemon trees in a coastal region with mild temperatures and rock-hard sandy hardpan soil please let me know via E-mail.