When my daughter went to do some research on
the Internet the other day using her notebook computer, she found
she couldn’t get to any sites. My first thought was that the
wireless wasn’t working; finding that was not the problem, I next
tried firing up Internet Explorer (IE).
The system kept attempting to connect to a bad URL I knew that
because at the bottom of the screen, it kept flashing
“badurl.grandstreetgraphics.com.” Simple enough to solve,
Nope. After trying other solutions checking her start-up items,
Internet settings, etc. I decided to see what grandstreetgraphics
was, so I Googled it. Lo and behold, not only was an actual site
listed, but there were numerous other links that described in
painful detail that I wasn’t the only one trying to solve this
I hate to admit that, a week later, I still haven’t resolved
It appears that a series of downloaded files affected the
registry and default search files of her IE. Where these files came
from is still up in the air, as there appear to be several possible
sources but the most common cited by several Internet discussions
is a shopping service that plants cookies and tracks where you go
on the web.
This is malicious activity and, as the tales of frustration in
trying to fix the problem indicate, very damaging and
Is this an isolated incident or the beginning of a new strain
of viruses that infect and attack our PCs through the cookies and
“bots” that we have become so used to? The little “Save your
password” message IE flashes could actually be writing files to
your computer that allow others to monitor your online activities
and copy your credit card and bank information.
So what are we to do? First, if you run the Microsoft Windows
operating systems, set your PC up for automatic updates so new
security features are added as soon as they’re available.
Next, visit Microsoft, which has released a major update,
Windows XP Service Pack 2 (www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sp2). It includes security
fixes and new features like a pop-up blocker, an improved firewall,
better wireless support, general updates and enhancements to
further protect your privacy.
After installing an update, some programs might not work as
before because of the expanded firewall capabilities mainly those
programs that provide access to your PC from remote locations.
Instructions are available from Microsoft for re-enabling those
programs. Online, you’ll also find a list of other affected
applications, and instructions for getting them to work with SP2.
Check out Microsoft’s Support Knowledge Base for more help (www.support.microsoft.com).
With an update of this magnitude, remember the install can take
quite a while to complete. Is it worth the time? The consensus in
the tech world is that if you have a stand-alone PC connected to
the Internet, the SR2 update is worth the trouble compared with
permitting unauthorized access to your PC and personal details.
This isn’t the end of XP’s security issues. As I write, Microsoft
has released an advisory that the popular .jpeg graphics format
might be infected with a virus that lets a hacker take control of
your PC, whether you view the file locally, over the Internet or
open it in a Word document. It’s kind of like the dikes in Holland
you plug one hole and another pops up.
Bottom line: Stay in tune with updates to your operating system
and be aware of funny things happening on your PC.
Bob Walters, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is founder of Phoenix
Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak Software.