Support Alert

                Your pointer to the very best
           tech support information on the Web.

                Issue 56 - 15th July 2001

Welcome to Support Alert, the email newsletter that
points you to the best technical support resources
on the Internet.

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Check out the following free tutorials available now
at http://www.pcsupportadvisor.com

* Understanding TCP/IP
* How to Dual Boot Windows 2000
* Understanding the OSI 7 Layer Model
* The Windows Registry Explained
* How to Create Bootable CDs
* JavaScript Tutorial
* IPv6 Tutorial

Plus dozens more.



Well, it had to happen.  Microsoft swore it would never release
details of the Product Activation feature in Office XP and Windows
XP.  So didn't you just *know* that every kid in hackerdom would
take this as a personal challenge from the boys in Redmond to
reverse-engineer the details?

Finally last week, someone finished the challenge.  Surf over to
http://www.licenturion.com and you'll find a fascinating paper which
blows the lid of WPA (Windows Product Activation).  It tells you
which characteristics of your hardware get fingerprinted in order
to tie your copy of the software to your PC. And it goes into
great detail about how the whole thing works.

Sometimes I just love the Web.  Without it, this sort of information
would never get beyond half a dozen people or perhaps onto a bulletin
board or two.  But the Web really is worldwide, and that means
millions of people have easy access to the data within minutes of
it being published.

Surely Microsoft isn't stupid.  Surely it knew that any encoding
scheme would attract thousands of hackers and reverse-engineers.  So
why did it make the thing so easy to dissect that the registration
system for Windows XP is now fully in the public domain even before
the product is out of beta?

It's only consumer copies of Windows and Office XP which require
activation.  Corporate versions have no such limitation.  Microsoft
always said that activation was merely to prevent casual copying,
and that there was no need for it to be 100% watertight.  Which
is handy, because it clearly was never 100% anything at all.

It's 1 set all.  Microsoft to serve.  This should prove to be
a fascinating match.

Robert Schifreen



    - Home of Freeware
    - Helping each other
    - How fast?
    - That WPA Paper
    - Office Keeps Exiting My Apps

    - ZoneLog
    - Free RAM Tester
    - Elcomsoft vs Adobe

    - Win2k LDAP Weakness
    - Firewall-1 Problem
    - Major Outlook Security Hole
    - Win2k Could Allow Mail Relaying
    - Apple PSU Recall

    - Windows XP goes RC1
    - Yahoo Lists
    - NIST Vulnerability Database
    - Usenet via the Web
    - Not Found?

    - Windows 2000 Remote Storage
    - Drive Technology Double Bill!



Home of Freeware
Thankfully, there are still someone people around who write
software purely for the pleasure of doing so.  Here's a site
with links to some of the best freeware around.  So if you're
looking for a utility to perform a specific task and you'd rather
not pay for it, this is the place to start your search.

Helping each other
Speedcorp is a Web site and free discussion group that provides
somewhere to post your PC problems in the hope that someone,
will know the answers.  Why not give it a try?  Although the site
is relatively new, it is growing rapidly in popularity.

How fast?
You're debugging an Internet connection, and you need to
know how fast it is.  Sure, you can read the message on screen
about how fast the modems claim to be talking to each other.
But what is the real throughput?  Wouldn't it be handy if
the remote site told you how fast it was managing to talk
to your end?  This site will do just that.  Handy, eh?

That WPA Paper
For the sake of completeness, here's another link to the
above-mentioned paper which blows the lid on Windows Product
Activation and how it works.  There's even a program which
will decode your activation data file and tell you everything
that Office XP and the Windows XP beta knows about your PC.

Office Keeps Exiting My Apps
We've featured this fix before, but we still get regular
emails from Support Alert subscribers who have only just
encountered the bug.  So here it is again.  If you have
installed Office 2000, or an Off2k Service Pack, and your
Office apps keep quitting after a minute or so, here's
a link to the explanation and a downloadable fix.


Like proper grown-up firewalls, the freeware ZoneAlarm produces
log files.  And also like grown-up firewalls, these log files are
incredibly difficult to decipher without the help of a third-party
software tool.  Thankfully, just such a tool exists and it's
called ZoneLog.  We recommend that you get it.

Free RAM Tester
DocMemory is a commercially-available software tool for testing
RAM chips in PCs.  And for a limited time, it's available as
a free download.  If you support PCs, or simply want to
ensure that your own is functioning correctly, you need this.

Elcomsoft vs Adobe
A war of words is developing between Adobe and a software company
called Elcomsoft.  Adobe claims that the encryption behind protected
PDF files, including commercial e-books in PDF format, is unbreakable.
Elcomsoft claims it's not, and has published a program that breaks
it.  So Adobe increases the encryption key length, and Elcomsoft
publishes an update to its software which cracks the new "improved"
encryption too.  Does the Elcomsoft tool work?  Try it for yourself.


Win2k LDAP Weakness
Microsoft warns of a security weakness in Windows 2000's LDAP
server.  Because of an error in the program, the LDAP server
could allow a user to change any other user's domain login password.
You'd laugh if it wasn't so serious, wouldn't you?  Get the patch
and fix your servers, before someone discovers that you haven't.

Firewall-1 Problem
CheckPoint Software has released details of a problem with
its firewall software which could allow packets through the
firewall without permission.  If you run Firewall-1, or
any appliance based on it, you should check this out.

Major Outlook Security Hole
Here's news of a serious problem with Outlook 98, 2000 and XP,
which could allow a hacker to run code of their choice on any
of your users' PCs.  The attacker simply needs to send a particular
email message to the user, or tempt them to visit a suitably
constructed Website, and he has full control. Get the patch. Now.

Win2k Could Allow Mail Relaying
Microsoft has released a patch for the Windows 2000 SMTP
service, which could allow a remote hacker to make unauthorised
use of the service.  He would probably do this to use it for
mail relay, eg sending out unsolicited email from your server.

Apple PSU Recall
Bugnet, the rather excellent software and hardware bug alert
service, is currently alerting subscribers to details of a
recall by Apple of the AC power supplies for certain Powerbook
G3 machines. Apparently some units are prone to overheating
and could be a fire risk.


Windows XP goes RC1
Release Candidate 1 of Windows XP is now in circulation.  This
is feature-complete, so all (all?) they have to do is remove
the bugs.  This rather excellent Windows site has the lowdown.

Yahoo Lists
Want to publish an email newsletter, but not sure where to
get the list hosted or how much it will cost?  Actually it
needn't cost anything at all, as some companies will host
it for you for absolutely nothing.  Like Yahoo, for example.

NIST Vulnerability Database
The US National Institute of Standards and Technology maintains
a database of vulnerabilities, which currently contains almost
3000 entries.  This database is used as the basis of the ICAT
scanner, which check systems for security weaknesses and other
vulnerabilities.  And now, NIST is giving away the database free
of charge, for use by anyone writing vulnerability scanners both
free and commercial.  A superb resource indeed.

Usenet via the Web
Usenet newsgroups are a great resource, but it's not a good idea
to clog up your email program with endless usenet messages.  So
wouldn't it be neat if you could read Usenet over the Web?
Well guess what?  You can.  And here's the link you need.

Not Found?
You know how you get a "404" error if the Web page you're requesting
can't be found?  And you know how Webmasters can actually create
their own "404" pages rather than using the default ones that
things like FrontPage generate?  This site contains examples of
some of the funniest 404 pages on the Web.  Reading them isn't
exactly educational, but it's something to do if you're bored.
Of course, one problem remains: how will you know you've
successfully managed to reach the site?


Windows 2000 Remote Storage
The remote storage feature in Windows 2000 allows you to
automatically migrate old files to cheaper offline storage
media such as tape.  July's issue of PC Network Advisor
includes an article which explains how to use this facility.
You can read it online now, free of charge.

Drive Technology Double Bill!
The current issue of PC Support Advisor includes the first
of a 2-part article that looks disk drive technology, from
first-generation drives to the latest ultra-SCSI and beyond.
You can read this, plus part 2, online right now.  And it's free.


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(c) Copyright International Technology Publishing 2001