SWEN Alert!

Once again my Yahoo! email address is attracting large numbers of ~150K emails containing the SWEN virus. Does this signal a return of SWEN? For those of you unfortunate enough to be using the world’s least secure (not to mention worst) operating system on your desktop or laptop machines, here’s some advice:

  1. Run Windows Update/Bandage daily (hourly?). The best chance you have on a Windows box is to make sure all the patches are installed. Still won’t solve the problem as there are so many holes in Windows it would make a Swiss cheese jealous, but its the best option you have short of unplugging the thing from the world (choose either the power cord or the network one, and leave it disconnected ;-).
  2. Stop using IE and Outlook/Outlook Express – these are the portals that virus writers most often use to get in, not using them prevents these two easy access gateways to your system. Instead, I recommend Mozilla which does a better job of web page rendering and email handling. It also includes, out of the box, popup blocking and a very effective spam filter. Upgrade now, and purge as many MS virus gateways as possible from your system. Software from MS has a proven track record of allowing these things in, so avoid using their poor quality code where possible.
  3. Please delete emails with attachments, always. Especially ones that claim to be patches to any or all of the problems with Windows. We all know that there are so many holes in it that a single 150KB download is not going to be able to repair them all. I don’t think I’ve seen a single Windows Update download that small.
  4. Download (or buy) the ultimate patch for Windows: a Linux installation CD. I’d recommend RedHat or Mandrake, though Mandrake can be a real pain to add anything to – most of the add-on packages are only available through their club, which is just another way of saying maintenance program.

Of course, you could always switch to an Apple platform… access to all the applications you’re used to (even the nasty browser from MS, though a very old version of it), with the added benefits of better security and a nicer user interface. It also happily displays X11 applications on the desktop, giving you access to all the unix graphical tools and remote display capabilities.

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