It’s really important to download and install Windows patches on a regular basis. Hackers and identity thieves are continually looking for new ways to infiltrate your system by penetrating through weaknesses in Windows. Right now, a dangerous .ANI file vulnerability could leave you wide open to identity theft if your computer is not patched.
A very dangerous Windows exploit is spreading rapidly around the globe right now. It has to do with an .ANI vulnerability that hackers have found. An .ANI file is an animated cursor file, which is commonly used with Windows. Hackers have discovered that by creating a malformed .ANI file and forcing installation on a Windows PC, they can quickly take over the computer by remote control.
Microsoft has known about this .ANI vulnerability since December 2006, and has just recently come out with a patch (the patch was released on April 3, 2007). Normally patches don’t take this long to create, but this particular flaw is deep within a core area of Windows and was extremely difficult to fix. You can download the fix for this dangerous vulnerability directly from Microsoft, or use Windows automatic update utility to ensure you get it installed.
Computer users with unpatched systems can easily get infected with the .ANI exploit by landing on web pages that have embedded malware that is designed to take advantage of this particular flaw. Anyone using an unpatched modern version of Windows (including Vista) with Internet Explorer or Firefox browsers is vulnerable. The infection is instant and shows no symptoms. Another popular method of infection is by opening emails or attachments that have the embedded malware.
Once infected, your computer is left wide open to intruders, because the malware creates a “hole” or “doorway” into your PC from the internet. Depending on the hackers motives, this hole could lead to identity theft or turn your computer into a “robot”, secretly used for sending millions of spam emails, hosting illegal websites or launching attacks against other computers. The .ANI patch from Microsoft will “close the doorway” to your computer, even after an infection has occurred.
The reason the .ANI exploit is spreading so rapidly is due to automated “rootkits” that are freely available online. These “create your own malware” kits are downloaded and used by “wannabe” hackers who use them for personal gain. Currently there are thousands of websites that include secretly embedded malware that will infect your PC, so be careful where you surf!
Windows exploits occur all the time, and this .ANI vulnerability is just one recent example of the dangers that lurk on the internet. Here are a few easy things you can do to always ensure you are as safe as possible when online:
- Use Windows automatic update service, and set it to look for and install new updates on a daily basis.
- Use a computer security suite, which provides you with protection against viruses, spyware, and hackers.
- Frequently check for and install the most recent version of web browser, whether it be Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, or something else.
Here are some links you may find helpful:
Microsoft update site for Windows and Internet Explorer updates.
Firefox browser site - where you can get the most recent version of this popular web browser.
Antivirus, Firewall and Spyware Resources - Information about internet security threats and products that are available to protect you.