Tuesday, August 12, 2003

The Latest Worm

A friend of mine got hit by the DCOM problem last night. My friend is the kind of guy who, even though he has an "always on" broadband connection, leaves his DSL modem off unless he is using the Internet. What he noticed was that, about 30 seconds after he turned his DSL modem on and his Windows XP machine connected to the Internet, his machine would reboot. It would pop up a message that said, "Remote procedure call (RPC) service terminated unexpectedly." He tried it a couple of times, and every time he connected, his machine rebooted.

His problem, of course, is now common: how do you fix a computer problem if you cannot connect to the Internet? He called me, and I was able to eventually find this page by typing his error message into Google. That page had a work-around -- turn on the firewall built in to Windows XP. We turned the firewall on, and his problem went away. Then I sent him email with the link so that he could download the required patch from Microsoft.

Look back at my post from August 6, 2003. Should both my friend and I get paid $20 by Microsoft for the hour we each wasted last night? If we did each get a check for $20, how would that change Microsoft? How would it change the software industry? Would we all end up with operating systems and software that work flawlessly, or would there be no software because it would be too expensive for anyone to buy? I doubt that the latter would be the case -- cars have to be recalled if they contain a flaw, yet we still are able to buy and drive affordable cars. The threat of a recall, however, means that car companies are a lot more careful about what they release.

Wired has a good article on how worms like this are designed and built - click here if you would like to learn more.

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