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Safer Surfing with Microsoft
By John Freeman Jr.

The auto industry isn't alone in facing an up again down again January. It's been a tough month for Microsoft. The unwelcome news of the discovery of yet another security hole in Internet Explorer -- Wired called it "gaping" -- was probably not the way the company was hoping to start off the new year.

The glitch, which leaves users of recent versions of Internet Explorer exposed to attack by the sort of nasty little programs maladujsted people like to conceal in web sites and hide in mass e-mailings, is apparently quite serious.

If you're an Internet Explorer user, its probably a good idea to download and install the security patch, which Microsoft says cures the vulnerability.

While you're at, it may also be a smart move to grab the patch for Outlook as well, just to be on the safe side. That one guards against evil e-mail attachments and viruses that do unsettling things like mail themselves to everybody in your address book. Unfortunately, there is a downside to the Outlook patch: some features of your e-mail program may no longer work.

As an alternative, Eudora remains on the sidelines, waiting for your business.

Microsoft has received periodic healthy doses of criticism in the past for the way it has handled security on many of its consumer products: including it's operating systems (Windows XP, Windows 98), it's web sites (Hotmail) and the aforementioned duo of Internet Explorer and Outlook.

By the end of last week, Mr. Gates had clearly had enough. A "Trustworthy Computing" decree was issued by Redmond, declaring that from now on, the emphasis is going to be on security.

Probably just as well, too. One estimate uncovered by Wired has less than one percent of Outlook users properly protected with the numbers for Internet Explorer probably even more abysmal.

John Freeman covers technology from Los Angeles.

He can be e-mailed at jfreeman@operamail.com.

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