Microsoft has come up with an extreme method of slapping down the predicted virus onslaught by outlawing email attachments. The security feature will be a default setting in Microsoft's forthcoming release of Outlook 2002, part of the Office XP package due for release on 31 May.
Although the feature is designed to prevent the spread of viruses and malicious code, a Microsoft spokeswoman admitted that it would be difficult to switch off and that all attachments, including clean ones, would be banned.
"A systems administrator or someone who really knows what they're doing would be able to deactivate the feature," she said. "Your average consumer sitting at home may have difficulties, but the aim is to provide more security."
Outlook 2002, the email application included with Office XP, will reject more than 30 types of files sent as email attachments including executables, which are the most popular way of spreading viruses.
Other files the client will refuse to download are batch files, Java and Visual Basic scripts, help files and screensavers. The program will not distinguish between harmless attachments and infected files - everything will be blocked although users can still send attachments.
Microsoft has attempted this technique before - Service Pack 1 for Office 2000 included an option to ban all attachments - but this time round the measure will be forced.
The spokeswoman denied that the move showed a lack of faith in antivirus software. "We are still working very closely with antivirus vendors and we still recommend the use of antivirus software in conjunction with our own security measures," she said.
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