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Disabling Windows Autorun - there's a right way and a wrong way

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After some confusion about exactly how Windows users can protect themselves against a prolific computer worm called Downadup, Microsoft security watchers are once again reiterating the steps for disabling the Autorun feature.

Downadup has managed to infect an estimated 9 million machines at last count using multiple attack vectors. Two of those vectors are USB flash drives and mapped network drives, which are booby-trapped with files that compromise machines that are configured to automatically connect to CD and DVD drives and other types of media.

Disabling the feature has long been a good idea, as the 2005 fiasco involving the Sony rootkit made clear. Those unfortunate enough to have Autorun configured - and the feature is turned on by default - found their machines were secretly infected by digital rights management software after playing certain Sony BMG CDs on their PCs. With Downadup spreading like wildfire, disabling Autorun is an even better idea than ever.

For the low-down on exactly how that's done, head over Microsoft Knowledge Base article 953252. The May 2008 article revises an earlier Knowledge Base item that didn't completely remove the dangers inherent in Autorun.

It would appear that the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team referred to that older article when it warned the world on Wednesday that Microsoft's instructions "are not fully effective" and "could be considered a vulnerability."

The group went on to give labored instructions for changing registry settings that disable all Autorun features. We're sure they work, but we can't imagine Aunt Mildred having the slightest clue how to pull them off. ®

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