Critical Office XP fix disables spam filters

Critical Office XP fix disables spam filters

Summary: The latest Microsoft Office security patch is disrupting the PCs of companies using some anti-spam applications


Microsoft's critical security patch for Office 2002 effectively disables two spam-filtering applications, Sunbelt Software's iHateSpam and Cloudmark's Spamnet, and renders PCs with the software installed practically unusable, according to security experts.

As part of its monthly patch cycle, Microsoft on Tuesday released three patches for vulnerabilities in MSN Messenger, Windows Media Services and Outlook 2002. The Outlook patch was originally rated as Moderate but then upgraded to Critical after a security researcher challenged the original rating.

Companies using either iHateSpam or Spamnet have complained that after installing the update, their junk email filters do not work correctly because the user is inundated with pop-up messages alerting them that an application is trying to access Outlook's email addresses.

Users of the NT BugTraq Web site started reporting problems shortly after Microsoft released the fix. One BugTraq user reports that his client was successfully using iHateSpam to filter out 98 percent of junk emails until the fix was installed: "Now, the resulting pop-up messages have rendered his system unusable, with the security dialogues creating a de facto denial-of-service situation on this desktop," he said. "The obvious solution is to uninstall iHateSpam, but then he still has the 200 junk emails a day to contend with."

In a statement, Cloudmark said it is working with Microsoft to find a solution to the problem but until one is found, it recommends that users revert to a Windows Restore Point from before the update, called Service Pack 3 (SP3). Alternatively, its users are asked to uninstall Office, reinstall it and then not update to SP3.

Sunbelt Software has released an updated version of iHateSpam that solves the problem.

Topic: Operating Systems

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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  • No doubt it is just a coincidence that MSFT bought an anti-virus company several months ago.
  • By the way Symantec's Norton Anti Spam is also affected by this Service Pack release...
  • The software I use for filtering spam. does not seem to be affected by this problem. It still works fine after the update and has always been excellent at filtering out the unwanted spam.
  • I installed SP23 as well and discoverd that my Norton Internet Security 2004 is no longer working properly in Outlook. I cannot use the "This is spam" button on the tool bar to get rid of email that gets through the email filter and when I try the entire Outlook toolbar freezes and the only way I can shut down Outlook is through ctl/alt/del. Not fun! I haven't gotten any response from either Symentec or Microsoft.