April 14, 2006 10:00 AM PDT

Week in review: Here comes the tax man

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Mozilla also made some revisions, releasing an update to its Firefox Web browser that fixes several security flaws and, as expected, adds support for Macs with Intel processors. The most serious bugs in Firefox could allow an outsider to commandeer a vulnerable computer, according to the Burning Edge, a Web site that tracks development of the open-source browser.

The vulnerabilities are fixed in version 1.5.0.2, which was released on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Oracle accidentally let slip details on a security flaw it has yet to patch. The business software giant is usually secretive about security and critical of researchers who publicly discuss flaws in Oracle products. But on April 6, the company itself published a note on its MetaLink customer Web site with details about an unfixed flaw.

Oracle confirmed the accidental posting. "Information regarding a security vulnerability was inadvertently posted to MetaLink," a representative for the company said. "We are currently investigating events that led to the posting."

Rogues beware
Pirates, typo squatters and tech thieves, beware. There's a new sheriff in town.

With that in mind, Windows Vista plans to offer you spiffy new graphics, as long as you're not a pirate. With the new operating system, Microsoft is offering plenty of new graphics tricks, including translucent windows, animated flips between open programs, and "live icons" that show a graphical representation of the file in question.

But before Vista will display its showiest side, known as Aero, it will run a check to make sure the software was properly purchased. The move is the latest salvo in Microsoft's broad attack on those who use unauthorized copies of its operating system. In the fall of 2004, Microsoft began testing the Windows Genuine Advantage program, designed to verify that a particular copy of Windows is legitimate.

Microsoft is also releasing a new tool that aims to take some of the annoyance--and risk--out of mistyping a URL when browsing Web sites. The company's Cybersecurity and Systems Management group released a prototype of Strider URL Tracer with Typo-Patrol version last week. The tool is designed to seek out and block mistyped versions of domain names--www.frod.com instead of www.ford.com, for example.

Typo squatters are companies that exploit slips of the fingers by registering for mistyped versions of popular URLs. Some typo domains are parking lots for pay-per-click and syndicated advertising, according to a Microsoft research paper published alongside the tool. The group's researchers found that a mere six services have a presence on between 40 percent and 70 percent of active typo domains.

Feel like you need more protection when you are surfing the Web--especially in public? An entrepreneur has rigged portable computers with a security measure that car owners have relied on for decades.

Randy Green has reconfigured Apple Computer's MacBook Pro so the computer's remote control can activate his security system. Coffee-shop computer users who get up for another latte can hit a button on their remotes and they will hear the classic car-alarm chirp that tells them their systems are armed.

Also of note
America Online apparently began blocking e-mail on its servers containing the Web address of a petition against the company's upcoming certified-mail program, an issue the company called a "glitch"...Google unveiled a free Web-based calendar application that is expected to heat up competition with Yahoo and Microsoft...Lenovo decided to sell its ThinkPad notebooks and new Lenovo 3000 series PCs at Best Buy, in the company's largest move into the U.S. retail market since it acquired IBM's PC business.

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