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Microsoft Hikes Security on Outlook E-Mail

May 16, 2000|From Associated Press

SEATTLE — Charged with enabling easy access for computer viruses such as the "Love Bug," Microsoft Corp. is altering its popular Outlook e-mail software to prevent users from running any "executable" program attachments, good or bad.

As an additional safeguard, any time a computer program attempts to access Outlook's address book or tries to send e-mail via Outlook, users will receive a warning and will be urged not to allow it.

The software "patch" announced Monday for Microsoft Outlook 98 and Office 2000 will be available on a Microsoft Web site starting next week.

As a trade-off for the added security, users will find that Outlook will also block some attachments that are harmless or possibly even beneficial.

The moves come two weeks after the Love Bug, also known as the "ILOVEYOU" virus, clogged e-mail systems around the world and infected millions of computers, destroying music and graphics files stored on many machines.

Reaction from computer security experts was mixed.

"The e-mail alerts are very, very good. But preventing every single kind of executable from ever running is overkill," said Ira Winkler, president of Internet Security Advisors Group.

Winkler noted that some companies use executable e-mail attachments to do business--for example, delivering greeting cards and advertisements--and could be hurt by the changes to Outlook.

Microsoft Outlook will still accept file attachments, such as MP3 music files or Microsoft Word documents. While viruses can be hidden within those documents, the new address book and e-mail alerts will help stop their spread, said Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president for Microsoft Office.

Legitimate programs that access Outlook, such as the synchronization software for Palm organizers and other hand-held devices, will also be flagged.

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