StatsCounter claims Windows 7 (yellow) has just surpassed Windows Vista (green). Windows XP (blue, top) is still far ahead.  (Source: StatsCounter)
It's security panics and deja vu all over again for Microsoft

Windows 7 is arguably one of Microsoft's greatest achievements to date.  However, the company's OS is far from impervious, despite its free antivirus/malware protection suite, beefed up memory protections, and numerous security tweaks.

Today Microsoft will release an "out of band" emergency patch to try to lock out a highly dangerous new family of malware that's attacking Windows 7 via a vulnerability in .LNK files. 

LNK files are more commonly known as shortcuts.  You often see shortcuts on your desktop.  Clicking them runs programs in the Windows Shell (Microsoft's graphical layout in Windows and its supporting backend).  However, shortcuts can also be autorun, under certain conditions, when USB sticks or MP3 players newly connect to a machine.  The problem is that the autorun can be used to start an attack process, if the LNK file is a malicious attack package coordinator.

The vulnerability presumably existed in Windows for a long time, but only recently has been widely published in the hacking community.  Some hackers have created a new family of viruses called Sality, that are designed specially to exploit the vulnerability.

According to Microsoft's Malware Protection Center, "Sality is a highly virulent strain.  It is known to infect other files, making full removal after infection challenging, copy itself to removable media, disable security and then download other malware."

Christopher Budd, spokesman for the Microsoft Security Response Center, states, "We're able to confirm that, in the past few days, we've seen an increase in attempts to exploit the vulnerability.  We firmly believe that releasing the update out of band is the best thing to do to help protect our customers."

As of press time the patch does not appear to be live.  The Microsoft Knowledge Base article for the problem can be found here and a workaround lives here.

In other Windows 7 news, according to market researchers StatsCounter the new OS has finally surpassed its predecessor, Windows Vista.  Windows Vista never managed to pass Windows XP, the current market leader.  However, StatsCounter's numbers show Windows 7 market share soaring and Windows XP market share in an equally steady fall.

If those numbers give you deja vu, you're not going crazy.  Back in May, Janco Associates -- another market research troop -- reported that Windows 7 had passed Windows Vista internationally.  According to StatsCounter's research, though, this is the first month Windows 7 came out on top.  Its current numbers show Windows XP with 54.89 percent, Windows 7 with 19.56 percent, Windows Vista with 18.82 percent, Mac OS X with 5 percent, and Linux with 0.74 percent.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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