Windows Messenger pop-up ads assaulting Windows users; Macintosh unaffected

“Before Walter Pomerleau could surf the Web recently, he had to fight a new kind of pop-up ad sweeping across the Internet,” Byron Acohido reports for USA TODAY. “The retired Massachusetts State Police major had to cancel 30 pop-up text boxes, each one directing him to Web pages to buy products and services. Later, as Pomerleau tried to compose e-mail, he had to delete 15 more pop-up boxes that kept superimposing in front of his e-mail. ‘They were more than annoying,’ he says. ‘They drove me crazy.’ Pomerleau fell victim to advertisers who are increasingly taking advantage of a feature, Windows messenger service, built into PCs using the Microsoft Windows 2000 and XP operating systems. This includes all Windows PCs sold in the past two years.”

Acohido explains that the Windows “feature” was intended to allow network administrators to broadcast text alerts via pop-up boxes to groups of computer users in a corporate setting. But, hackers discovered this “feature” will also accept pop-up boxes broadcast across the Internet. This means that advertisers can insert product pitches into such boxes and broadcast them to any Web-connected Windows XP or 2000 personal computer.

“‘It has gotten to the point where the home PC user has to battle for control of his PC,’ says Jeremiah Grossman, president of WhiteHat Security… Microsoft views pop-up boxes as a benign nuisance that does ‘not pose a security risk,’ says Greg Sullivan, product manager for Windows. Advertisers are unable to ‘execute code or do anything malicious,’ Sullivan says. ‘It does nothing to compromise your system other than cause an interruption,'” Acohido reports.

Macintosh users are unaffected.

Full article here.

29 Comments

  1. You can always use a firewall (hardware or software) and block port 135 — that will stop the majority of these things. My firewall blocks a couple hundred of these a day, so I can imagine how annoying this must be to these poor PC users.

    If you want to block them ALL, block all outside access to ports 1025-1029 as well.

  2. Hi Fred. I have both PCs and Macs. I run 3DS Max software that is proprietary to the PC. I have invested large sums of time and money over the last decade on this software to become proficient at it that I will not just set it on the shelf and start fresh with Maya, etc. for the Mac. Most of us use PCs on a daily basis and are not affected by these snafoos that crop up like this article is discussing. Rather than complain and loose large amounts of time worrying about these types of things, I find the solution, apply it, and am back to working like before. No problem.

    But I understand your reply. You are a Mac user. I am a Mac and PC user. Yes I use both so I really have to “Think Different”. I use my Mac to edit in Final Cut Pro and I use DVD Studio Pro to transfer my work to DVD. Why? Well because I have not found anything to match the Mac as far as video and DVD creation. But, I will not give up my PCs either. Why? Well because I appreciate the speed of the PC for creating 3D work. I feel comfortable using the PC for this. This article discusses more of the casual user but do not forget many people utilize their PC for work and I make a good living from both machines. But, I could not do it from just one machine, I need both. If one requires me to take 5 minutes to apply a patch to correct something, patch applied and on I go working.

    Guess Apple’s recall of the latest OSX 10.2.8 upgrade just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Oh yes, let’s not forget, Apple snafoos too.

    It really depends on how you approach things like this in life. Either you can sit around and muddle about it or find the solution. Deal with what life throws at you logically and get on with what you got to do. Period.

    That’s my solution.

  3. Here’s the easy fix,
    I understand your need for both platforms but it is not even in the same ballpark to say that Apple has snaffoos too when compared to Micros0ft. We have sat back and watched Windose users patch, patch, reinstall, etc. while we have had one problem in how long? Being a Mac user feels good…

  4. I suspect this “feature” will be exploited soon enough. I pity the poor Wintel drones. I wonder how much more suffering will it take for them to see the light?

  5. “I pity the poor Wintel drones. I wonder how much more suffering will it take for them to see the light?”

    A lot more. People do have a high treshold of suffering if 1. they have lots of companies and/or 2. if they don’t have to spend more money to buy better systems (i.e. piece of junks are acceptable if they are perceived to be very cheap). Both 1 and 2 applies to wintel crap.

  6. I CAN SEE A GREAT APPLE AD
    Two people are at a Starbucks kind of Wi-Fi coffee bar with laptops in tow. They are working on a project and need to research it on the ‘net. One has a PowerBook and the other a high-end Wintel folding desktop (what they call a laptop). Well you can guess the rest:
    Apple Safari XP Explorer
    No Popups MASSIVE POPUPS
    BUILT IN GOOGLE SEARCH NOPE
    TABBED BROWSING NOPE
    iDisk Bookmarks Actually Yes (,Mac Utilities)
    Sherlock No Way
    Watson Noooooooo!
    You get the idea.

  7. Easy fix, pulling an unneeded upgrade is not even on the same planet as not even being able to successfully patch a critical defect in a production OS on millions of computers. Please.

    By the way, as I type this today, I’m running 10.2.8 and loving it. Works great on my TiBook. Of course, Apple pulled it because it wasn’t perfect. Now that’s a word that has probably never been uttered in Redmond.

  8. Same here 10.2.8 and only one problem: battery time is incorrect.
    There are quirks on some configurations, Apparently it even depends on where your unit was built in the first place.

    Concerning the use of Windows from professionals. Sure, you manage to make it work, to avoid troubles, protect and fine tuning.
    The problem is exactly that: if you do not fine tune it and take care of what should have been taken care of from Microsoft you end up with a virus trap which causes problem to all networked systems.

    I have colleagues who work fine with XP BUT what they do for that is not even in the mind of the rest 95% of Windows users.
    So it does not surprise me that a professional can make something out of it – we are way above the knowledge required to make it work, but the majority of users are way below that threshold.

  9. Virus
    Crash
    Patch
    Virus
    Crash
    Patch
    Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad…
    Virus
    Crash
    Patch
    Virus
    Crash
    Patch
    Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad…
    Virus
    Crash
    Patch
    Virus
    Crash
    Patch
    Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad… Pop-up Ad…

    “Insanity: Doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

  10. 10.2.8 works great here too. This winblows ‘feature’ is going to be fun dealing with at work on Monday, at least I have the weekend to remind myself of what computing should be like!

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