Microsoft Ships Windows 2000 Worm Removal Tool 

In response to widespread Windows 2000 based worm attacks, this week Microsoft has released a free worm removal tool and updated its statement about the attacks. Although the software giant still refuses to characterize these worms as new attacks, the company is at least speaking more plainly about how its affected customers can get help.

"Microsoft is taking additional actions to help protect customers from the Zotob worm," a Microsoft representative told me. "We are not aware at this time of a new attack but are releasing a free software based cleaner tool to help any customers that may have been affected." That tool is available from the Microsoft Web

In its statement about the worms, Microsoft notes that it's working with law enforcement agencies to find and charge those responsible for the attacks. The company also explains that customers using firewalls are generally protected from these attacks. Microsoft recommends that customers running Win2K use a firewall, turn on Automatic Updates, and enable up to date antivirus software. Microsoft customers in the United States and Canada can also receive free technical support for this problem from Microsoft Customer Service and Support CSS 

Meanwhile, more than 250,000 Win2K systems, most in large corporations, have succumbed to the attacks. McAfee has raised its risk assessment of one of the worms to high and reveals that most attacks seem to have occurred in the United States. According to security experts, however, the Zotob worms have affected far fewer systems than did similar malware attacks last year.

Microsoft Surprises with Lowball Xbox 360 Pricing 

Given recent news that Sony's upcoming PlayStation 3 will be premium priced, Microsoft's announcement that Xbox 360 pricing will start at the same levels as did the original Xbox comes as somewhat of a surprise. Microsoft will offer a basic Xbox 360 console package for just $299 when the systems become available this holiday season. A premium version of the Xbox 360, which includes a hard disk and numerous other add ons, will cost $399.

"I'm confident that we're on track for the Christmas holiday," Microsoft Vice President, Robbie Bach said, although the company declined to specify an exact release date. The system is ready and primed. Many analysts expect Xbox 360 to ship in November.

Microsoft has announced two Xbox 360 bundles. The entry level version, called Xbox 360 Core System, includes the Xbox 360 console, a wired hand controller, a removable faceplate, and a standard A.V. cable that works with most of today's TV sets. The premium edition, simply called Xbox 360, features the Xbox 360 console, a 20GB removable hard disk, a wireless hand controller, a removable faceplate, a headset for online play, a component High Definition A.V. cable for connecting to HDTV displays, membership in Xbox Live Silver, and for a limited time a bonus remote control that can control the unit's Windows Media Center Extender capabilities.

Microsoft also announced pricing for several Xbox 360 peripherals. Those peripherals include a 20GB hard disk ($99.99), a 64MB memory unit ($39.99), a wireless hand controller ($49.99), a play and charge kit ($19.99), a rechargeable battery pack for the wireless hand controller ($19.99), a wireless networking adapter ($99.99), a headset ($19.99), a universal remote control ($29.99), and various A.V. cables ($29.99).

Xbox 360 will launch simultaneously in the United States, Japan, and Europe. For more information about Xbox 360 pricing and peripherals, please refer to my recently updated Xbox 360 FAQ on the SuperSite for Windows.