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Windows Vista's first malware warning

Web-based email services expose Windows Vista

Microsoft has touted Vista as a more secure version of Windows, but on the day of Vista's official launch, a security company has identified malware already in circulation that can infect computers running the OS (operating system).

Sophos has identified three viruses typically spread through email that can infect Vista customers who use a third-party web email client. While Vista's email client stops Stratio-Zip, Netsky-D and MyDoom-O, the malware slips past Vista's defences when users receive infected messages online.

Stratio-Zip topped Sophos's list of malware affecting computer users in November, accounting for 33.3 percent of malware in circulation. Combined, the three viruses that can affect Vista users make up 39.7 percent of all malware in circulation during the month, Sophos said.

However, even if the malware Sophos identified slips through in an email, customers won't necessarily be affected, another researcher said.

Additional Vista security mechanisms should protect users, said Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer at F-Secure. If a customer opens an infected malware file, Vista would warn and question the user before allowing the malware to wreak havoc. "These particular examples of malware probably wouldn't still be able to successfully infect the machine unless the user specifically allows it," he said.

Sophos applauded the security improvements in Vista, saying that the variety of popular third-party applications used by consumers will inevitably open doors to hackers.

Other antivirus companies haven't been so kind. McAfee has been highly critical of changes in the OS that it says will make Vista less secure than previous versions of Windows. Symantec said it has discovered vulnerabilities in Vista's networking software which makes it less stable than Windows XP.

Sophos found that overall, the proportion of infected email remained low in November at 0.28 percent, but identified a record number of new threats, 7,612, during the month.


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