Archive for December, 2006

ITsafe Warning 06-019

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

ITsafe Warning 06-019

What is it?
A family of Malicious Software that is not yet being detected by all Anti Virus Software packages. These are being called the "Postcard viruses", after the name of an attachment in some emails containing the malicious software.

What does it affect?
This malicious software is a problem for people using Microsoft Windows.

What does it do?
A variety of effects are expected, the more serious of which could enable an attacker to gain control of your computer.

How do I fix it?
Manually update your Anti Virus Software (AVS), and check if your supplier has provided protection for this problem. In all cases, as previously stated in ITsafe News 2006/41, ITsafe Subscribers are encouraged to be vigilant when dealing with Email attachments or new Website links.


ITsafe Warnings are issued by e-mail when significant risks have been identified that are likely to affect the majority of ITsafe users.

ITsafe Team
Making IT safe for You

The UK Government Alerting and Advisory Service for Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Security

Thoughts on the final day of 2006

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Well, here is it folks, the last day of 2006, and what a roller-coaster year it's been for me.  I set a number of goals for 2006 and most of them have been achieved.  Web traffic on the PC Doctor blog has grown from a trickle to an absolute torrent, I've expanded the venues where I write (ZDNet, Barnes and Noble) and I've made a huge number of new contacts and met up with people who I'd lost touch with years ago.  All in all a brilliant year!

What does 2007 hold in store?  I dunno, I guess I'll have to wait and see.  I know that I've a new writing contact winging its way across the Atlantic as I type this so I know I'll be spending a good part of early 2007 doing what I love doing - writing.  I've also got some surprises in store for the PC Doc site and also loads of stuff to go up on my ZDNet blog too - watch this space!

This Christmas has been a good break for me.  I've had a lot of downtime to spend with family and friends.  I've also caught up on a lot of reading, listened to a lot of audiobooks and music, played a lot of games with the kids (the Star Wars LEGO games are the best PS2 games I've played in ages - simple, fun games that don't need you to buy a book to figure out how to play!) and generally chilled out and recharged my batteries.  To be honest, I always find the first week of January quiet and I don't get back into the groove of work until the second week, so I've still got a few more days of my break left!  😉

I've got a bottle of champagne on ice ready to see in 2007 tonight but we'll be keeping the partying down to a minimum - years of experience has proved to me that starting a new year hammered is no winning formula.

So, all that's left for me to do is to wish you all a happy, prosperous New Year - I'll see you all in 2007!

Gmail is not 100% reliable

Friday, December 29th, 2006

I've said it before, but I'll say it again, Gmail is not 100% reliable.  If all your email is with Google and you don't have a backup, you should be a little worried.

About 18 months ago, I lost access to my Gmail account for a few hours when an early version of Greasemonkey caused a glitch that made Google think there were an inappropriate number of simultaneous logins being made to my account. The problem was resolved quickly enough but I was devastated for those few hours by the thought that all the information I had stored in that account might be lost. Fast forward to present times and there are reports that a "small number" of people have seen their Gmail accounts vanish and they may be permanently gone.

Be on the lookout for malicious New Year postcards

Friday, December 29th, 2006

Our friends at F-Secure remind us to be on the lookout for malicious New Year postcards:

There's a large scale spam run underway, sending short email messages. No text, just the subject field of "Happy New Year!" and a file called postcard.exe as an attachment.

The attachments are variable, but so far we detect them all as Trojan-Downloader.Win32.Tibs.jy

LAN party tips

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Hi!  I'm thinking of organizing a few LAN parties next year so that gamers in my area can meet up.  Do you have any tips?  Thanks!

LAN parties are a great way to create social situations around PCs and games.  It's a great way to meet new gamers and make new friends.  However, setting up a LAN party does take some time and effort.


This is the daddy of all questions.  First, how many gamers will you invite?  Game rigs take up a lot of space so you'll need space for a system unit, monitor or two (or more), mice, keyboard, speakers and so on for each gamer.  Plan ahead but be strict - if you have space for 10 gamers, stick to that otherwise everyone will be unhappy.

LAN parties need a lot of power and wherever you choose is going to need to be able to cope with your massive power needs.  Discuss this with your potential host.  You also need to know the power layout, whether extension cords are going to be needed or not.  It's a good idea to know where the fuses are and how to change them, and where the fire extinguishers are (just in case!).

The network

First question - do you use switches, hubs or a router?  I recommend using switches, which are like hubs only faster because they send the data along to where it's supposed to be going.  Switches will also need cables to connect the PCs to them - decide in advance who brings the cables.

Give each gamer an IP address - a format like 192.168.0.x (where "x" is number between 1 and 255) works well.  Make sure each number is unique.  Put everyone on the subnet.  It also helps if everyone is on the same workgroup.  Most people will be able to handle making network changes but there's bound to be someone who can't so assigning someone as tech support is a good idea.

Other items

  • Food and drink - I'll leave that up to you, just don't be left picking up the tab for it all yourself!
  • Tidiness - Keep the area as tidy as possible, especially if you plan on using the same location again in future!
  • Lost and found - Assign a "Lost and Found" area for hardware that's wandered away from it's owner.
  • Have fun!