BOSTON (06/08/2000) - Microsoft Corp. today announced the release of a delayed software patch that's designed to protect users of its popular Outlook e-mail program from viruses such as the "I Love You" bug that hit Outlook-equipped computers around the world last month.
A Microsoft official had said earlier this week that the patch might not be ready until mid-June after being delayed for a second time because of the need to do further testing of its compatibility with other applications. But the company today said users can now download the Outlook E-Mail Security Update for free from its Web site.
In its announcement, Microsoft said it "strongly recommends that all users of Outlook download this update to help protect themselves against the growing problem of malicious e-mail viruses."
Microsoft first announced a beta version of the Outlook patch last month and said the final version would be issued the week of May 22. But the company later postponed the release, claiming that it needed more time to incorporate changes based on feedback from users, developers and security experts.
The patch is designed to prevent Outlook from receiving certain types of program files containing executable code that can be used to spread viruses.
With the update, Outlook also will prompt users with a dialog box whenever an external program tries to access and open the e-mail software's address book.
Microsoft also has disabled the Windows Scripting Host as a default security precaution as part of the patch.
Security analysts last month said it was the lack of such measures that allowed the "I Love You" virus to use Outlook to spread so rapidly to computers throughout the world.
In an apparent response to concerns that the patch would be too restrictive for some users, Microsoft said it included features that let system administrators customize the levels of security their companies desire. For example, security managers will be able to choose which file types can be accessed as attachments and how the warning dialog boxes are to be shown, according to Microsoft.
The e-mail attachment filtering available on the patch by default blocks out not just executable code and Visual Basic scripts but also a wide range of other file types, such as photo images and Internet shortcuts.
The patch is only available for Outlook 98 and Outlook 2000 Service Release 1, Microsoft said. This means users on earlier releases of both these products will have to upgrade their applications before they can apply the patch.