I just got a nasty surprise from FlashGet, my favorite download manager. It's got a big, inviting security hole that let a nasty Trojan worm its way onto my system. I'm not the only one having to fend off the attack. Users on the FlashGet and Kaspersky Labs forums first raised the flag.
My at-the-moment favorite antivirus program, Kaspersky, spotted and deleted Trojan-Downloader.Win32.Agent.kht. I didn't give it a second thought; some of the files I download are, to say the least, suspect. [You, too. --Editor] And I didn't connect the Trojan with FlashGet.
But the next day, Kaspersky hollered again--and this time it was just after launching FlashGet. So I did some digging and found a Viruslist blog entry that explained the FlashGet exploit.
FlashGet's servers appear to have been infected and FlashGet merrily passed along the Trojan to users. That's why even though Kapersky caught it the first time, FlashGet let it through again. You can read Aleks Gostev's explanation at Viruslist.
The problem is that FlashGet's security breach hasn't been fixed. For all I know, the site might be attacked again, with FlashGet users still at risk. So far there hasn't been an acknowledgment of the problem on the FlashGet site and the Chinese developer hasn't replied to my request for comment.
I prefer FlashGet, but I also like a Trojan-free PC. So I struggled with whether to uninstall and replace FlashGet with another download manager. Finally I decided that with Kaspersky and my anti-spyware program, CounterSpy, watching over me, I can safely continue to use the download manager.
If you're feeling apprehensive, uninstall FlashGet and read about some alternatives--as well as other downloading tips--in "Get Smart About Downloads." Here's a quick list:
- Download Accelerator Plus
- Fresh Download
- Crawler Download Manager
- Free Download Manager
Why Use a Download Manager?
Using a download manager is vital if you're scarfing up multi-part videos or lots of files from the Internet. For one thing, you can stack up dozens of files and the manager will download them automatically. The other benefit is that you can set a schedule so the manager downloads the files when you want, say, late at night after you've gone to bed. Finally, and probably most important, is that you don't have to worry if your browser crashes midway while downloading a large file--mine are typically 700MB--because the program will resume the download.
Time Inaccurate? Change Your Battery
I get lots of e-mail asking for help, like this one from Cynthia M.:
"So today, my normally reliable computer at work starts changing the time. First it thinks that it's 5 p.m. on Monday. Unfortunately, it's already Tuesday. Oddest thing, though, it correctly identifies that I'm on Pacific Daylight Time. Fast forward through several resets, reboots, McAfee Virus Scans, and deleting and reinstalling the Windows Daylight Savings Time patch. Better, but no cigar: Now the time is resetting back to 10:25 a.m., although it's at least recognizing it is Tuesday."
The problem, I told her, is a weak system battery. The symptoms can also exhibit as a temperamental PC, say, giving you a horrifying message that the hard drive doesn't exist when you try to book up. The next boot, however, will be normal.
A battery stores a PC's CMOS settings, and the time and date, among other things. A dying battery confuses the settings. Changing it is straightforward, but time consuming. You can pick up a new coin cell battery for under $7 at any electronics store.
First record your computer's existing CMOS settings. Boot up and head for your system's Setup screen. Do that by watching the screen for instructions. For instance, my PC wants me to hit the Delete key; my notebook tells me to use F10.
Once the Setup's visible, use a digital camera to snap an image of each page; the other option is to jot the info down using pencil and paper.
BTW, some computers come with a handy program for saving your CMOS settings. You'll have to hunt around in your PC's manual to see if you're one of the lucky ones. Read "Make a Backup of Your CMOS" in an old (but still useful) Answer Line column for details.
Once you've recorded the CMOS settings, print the tutorial at LiveRepair. Now turn off and unplug the PC, take off the cover, and follow the tutorial's step-by-step battery replacement instructions.
Boot your system and step through each page of the setup, changing the settings to match your original settings, and you're good to go.
Dig This: RIP
As newsletter subscribers have noticed, PC World sends out an e-mail with a link to my column online. Unfortunately, too many subscribers have written asking why there aren't any "Dig This" items--though there always are, just interspersed into the text.
When I first started writing the newsletter, I popped time wasters into the copy in order to break things up. My editor and I decided it's probably better to batch everything at the bottom of the newsletter, so the items are easier to find. We also decided to ditch the "Dig This" title. [Sorry, Randy.]
So here it is, the first-ever weekly "Time Wasters" section.
If your hard drive goes south, you can always take it to a chain's repair service instead of doing the heavy lifting yourself. Then again, after watching this Computer Repair Undercover Investigation, maybe not.
The question is, how many cannibals could your body feed? Well, it kind of depends on whether you keep kosher or have decided to go vegan. Wait until after lunch to find out.
Take careful aim and see if you can avoid doing what I did--missing the apple.
There are a few golden rules for birders. Number one: Always keep your mouth closed when you're looking up at birds.
It's hard to believe anyone would spend the time grabbing what looks like, I dunno, 30,000 URLs and matching logos. But AllMyFaves has done it. [Thanks, Tom L.]
Here's a decent illusion from one of those wacky Japanese TV celebrity shows. I have to give them credit--it sure looks like the guy's walking through a table.
Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of "PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer," available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail