Excel holes

Even though Microsoft has just delivered one of its largest batches of security patches ever - including one for a critical hole in Word - hackers and researchers have found three new (and as yet unpatched) holes involving Excel.

Two of the bugs permit attacks when you open a doctored Excel spreadsheet stored on a Web site or sent as an e-mail attachment. The first is clearly related to the way Excel handles memory, and could enable an attacker to take control of your PC. It hits Excel versions 2000 through 2003 for Windows, Excel 2004 and v. X for Mac (a Microsoft blog posting at http://blogs.technet.com/msrc/archive/2006/06/24/438657.aspx addresses the Excel issues).

According to Microsoft, the second problem, which can arise if you click a poisoned link in a spreadsheet, is caused by a deeper bug in the part of Windows that handles hyperlinking. At press time, the company had not said what versions of Windows are affected. A third flaw, recently reported to a hacker site, involves an attacker's use of an Office feature to embed a doctored Flash movie, for example, in an Excel spreadsheet or other Office document.

Microsoft says that fully patched Windows systems already incorporate a "kill bit" designed to protect against malicious add-ins of the third variety. But at least one attack has exploited the Excel memory-related bug noted earlier. And proof-of-concept code, which real-world attacks are based on, is already available for the second, hyperlinking vulnerability. So - as always - you should treat unexpected e-mail attachments with extreme caution, even if they appear to come from someone you know and trust.

Other critical holes closed

Microsoft's most recent group of 21 patches closed a Word hole from May that was the target of a zero-day attack, plus a host of other problems, including eight critical vulnerabilities. Any of the eight could allow "remote code execution," which is shorthand for letting an attacker exercise free rein over your PC. Windows Media Player, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer and other apps all got patched.

Microsoft distributed the patches via Windows Update. Run it manually from the Start menu if you've disabled Automatic Updates, or go here for direct download links and more information on the patches.

Remove WGA

Microsoft has been distributing a small notification program via Automatic Updates that issues constant nagging reminders if Windows Genuine Advantage suspects you of running an unlicensed version of Windows.

Well, recent revelations that the app "phones home" to Microsoft and significant public outcry have prompted the company to post instructions for manually disabling and removing the program (you can't remove it via Add or Remove Programs).

Go to http://support.microsoft.com/kb/921914 to find out how.

iPod Shuffle

Some users of the popular Apple music player have endured seemingly random failures. Apple's instructions for resetting shuffles work for some owners, but only if iTunes or the iPod Updater still recognises the shuffle. Frustrated users and owners of dead shuffles have tried to help one another on Apple's iPod support forums. Search the forums for "flashing green and orange lights" to find the appropriate thread.

Notebook drain fix

Remember the Windows XP SP2 notebook power bug that drains batteries extra quickly? Microsoft has quietly patched it. Go to http://support.microsoft.com/kb/918005 for more information.

Adieu to Win 98/Me

The hourglass has run out for Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition and Windows Millennium Edition. Microsoft no longer provides new security patches for those OSs.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stuart J. Johnston

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Shining a light on creativity

MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?