It is a diabolical idea and an insidious threat against Microsoft Office users. By simply viewing – not actually opening – an malicious email, a user’s system would be infected with a nasty virus right away. This virus is especially crafty because opening the infected email isn’t even necessary. Simply accessing it in Microsoft Outlook is enough to do major damage.
This virus attacks both the Mac and PC.
It was November 2009 when Microsoft officially released a warning about a threat targeting Microsoft Office users. According to Microsoft’s warning, a security update was critical and immediately necessary. Here’s the Executive Summary from that bulletin:
"This security update resolves one publicly disclosed vulnerability and five privately reported vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office. The most severe vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user opens or previews a specially crafted RTF e-mail message. An attacker who successfully exploited any of these vulnerabilities could gain the same user rights as the local user. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.
This security update is rated Critical for all supported editions of Microsoft Office 2007 and Microsoft Office 2010. This security update is also rated Important for all supported editions of Microsoft Office XP, Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac, Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac, and Microsoft Office for Mac 2011; and Open XML File Format Converter for Mac."
Although the threat is a dangerous one, Microsoft designed an appropriate security update to "patch the hole" and securing the vulnerability. The update, titled MS10-087, can be downloaded for free by visiting Microsoft’s website. For those who allow their Microsoft OS to update automatically, installing this patch isn’t necessary.
For those who choose not to allow their Microsoft based operating system to update automatically, regular visits to Microsoft's Malware Protection Center can provide insight into current threats and appropriate fixes.
If you aren’t sure whether or not you have the right update, there’s an easy way to check. Follow the steps below to verify your latest OS updates.
- Go to your START menu.
- Click on or hover over ALL PROGRAMS.
- Click on WINDOWS UPDATE. Look carefully, it may be above your other programs in a separate section.
- Now you should be able to view current and past updates. You can also choose to view the updates in more detail, in case you decide that a particular one isn’t necessary.
Constant updates may annoy you, but they’re essential for the safety of your computer. Make sure that you check for updates often and stay informed.