Windows Manager: Avoiding macro viruses

Windows Manager: Avoiding macro viruses

One of my previous columns described a way to insert into e-mail text a line that works as a "hotlink" in most e-mail readers.

The trick is to insert a blank space before the first quotation mark and after the second quotation mark in a line of HTML code. The line would look like this in your e-mail: Click Me!.

You need the spaces in the above example to make Eudora, Outlook and Outlook Express display the URL as a hotlink. In America Online and HTML-based e-mail readers, the example displays only "Click Me!"

The purpose of this exercise is to give your e-mail recipients the ability to view a document without actually sending them a large document file. Besides saving download time, this can also make recipients feel more comfortable viewing such a document, because a Web page is unlikely to contain anything damaging, compared to a macro virus (such as Melissa) that might be in a Word file.

Reader David Barber proposed another way to avoid the possibility of macro viruses. This is to save word-processing documents as RTF files. RTF files usually contain most or all of the formatting of the original.

"RTF does not support Visual Basic for Applications or macros," Barber writes, "and has the advantage of being readable in a wider variety of word processors" than the original format might support. By attaching an RTF file instead of inserting a Web link into an e-mail message, "your customer gets an editable document with virtually all common formatting intact, and doesn't have to go to the effort of trying to reach your Web site".

Some companies have already chosen RTF as a virus-free document exchange standard. "We were having lots of macro virus problems," writes Gary Wilson, a computer services director at Columbia University, in New York. "Once we instituted a policy of only accepting attachments in RTF, we eliminated the macro virus problem."

Other readers didn't at all like the idea of including Web links in e-mail messages. Angus Scott-Fleming wrote that this technique "assumes those with e-mail access also have Web-browsing capabilities from their desks.

"E-mail can be and often is available to those without Web access," Scott-Fleming says. "UUCP accounts can provide e-mail for an entire company for under $US20 per month, while Web-based e-mail or e-mail with browsing costs far more."

More problems with IE 5

I reported in another column that installing Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5 eliminates your PC's ability to connect to a server using "tunnelling". Tunnelling is a secure way to link two computers across the non-secure Internet (see ARN, May 5, page 36).

I recommended a way to get tunnelling back. In the Properties dialog box of the Dial-Up Networking connection, you change the "host name", such as, to its IP address, such as (where 255 is from 0 to 255). Microsoft describes this further at support/kb/articles/q222/9/36.asp.

Reader Kent Manley reports that a more efficient work-around is to place the correct IP number in your configuration files. "Putting the IP-to-host-name mapping in the hosts/lmhosts files on the system would have the additional benefit of speeding network access to those resources."

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