Technology Advice in Plain English

Conficker Set to Strike


One of the biggest computer worms in recent history, called “Conficker,” appears set to strike on April 1, 2009. No one knows exactly what this worm will do, but you can be sure it won’t be good. If you’re running any Windows operating system (including Mac users who have Windows installed), you could be at risk.

To be sure that your computer won’t be one of the millions affected, please take a few minutes this weekend to protect your computer. First, visit Microsoft’s update page at to make sure that you have the latest version of your operating system and any patches that are available. (Microsoft has released a patch for all the current versions of its operating systems to combat Conficker.)

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To Tweet or Not to Tweet…


I thought that was one of the big tech questions of late, but I was surprised to find out from some friends that their question was actually, “What’s tweeting?” or more precisely, “What’s Twitter?”

With all the buzz Twitter receives in the tech world, I assumed that everyone had heard of it and that I was a relatively late adopter. (I created a personal account in December 2008, and I created a TechKathy account in January 2009.) And while it has taken me a few weeks to understand what all the fuss is about, I have to confess that I’ve grown to like the service.

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Protect Yourself from Windows Worms


More than three million Windows computers around the world have been hit by a malicious worm, but your computer doesn’t need to become one of this growing number. Just a few simple steps can protect you and save you hours of trouble.

A computer worm is a self-propagating piece of malicious software. Computer worms use networks (like the internet) to send copies of themselves out to other computers on those networks. Since no action is necessary on the part of computer users for a worm to infect their systems, users are often unaware they’ve been infected, and they unwittingly allow the worm to infect other users.

On Friday, the BBC reported that, in this particular case, “the malicious program, known as Conficker, Downadup or Kido was first discovered in October 2008.” Microsoft released a patch specifically to stop this worm from infecting machines, but it remains a problem because many owners of Windows computers have not downloaded and installed this patch.

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Learn to Spot Phishing Messages


Most of us have spam filters to help shield us from the junk that spammers send us via email, and I really hope that by now everyone knows that those Nigerians needing help “freeing” their funds are really just looking for naïve people to scam. But how well do you think you can spot “phishing” messages?

“Phishing” is an illegal method of tricking someone into providing very personal and sensitive information (like usernames, passwords, credit card numbers and etc.) to people who are not who they say they are. Phishing typically happens through email or instant messages, and these messages may have real business names, real logos and/or legal-sounding language requesting immediate action. The messages often include forms to fill out and return by email or links to fake websites with online forms to fill out.

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Internet Explorer Security Issues


I’m always surprised to see how many people around the world still use Internet Explorer as their web browser of choice. I think there are much better browsers available to people, but I guess I can understand why people stick with it. Internet Explorer (or IE, as it’s often referred to) comes pre-installed on the vast majority of computers, and it’s a bit of a hassle to find, download and learn to work with a new browser. But if you are one of those people still using IE, please consider this compelling reason to switch…

Microsoft and IE made the news this week, and not in a good way. Hackers have exposed serious problems with all versions (new and old) of the browser that Microsoft has not yet addressed. The browser has a flaw which can expose your usernames and passwords to others when you visit “infected” websites. From what I’ve read (see below for links), your computer can be attacked as soon as you visit one of these “infected” websites.

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