Money Minute: Microsoft Users Face New Cyberthreat

Another potential problem for millions of computer users to worry about.

Many of us still haven't figured out how to deal with the Heartbleed hack attack, and now there's a new threat to many users of Microsoft's popular Internet Explorer browser. The company is warning that a newly discovered flaw could allow hackers to have complete access to users' computer files. This is especially true for computers still using the aging Windows XP platform, which Microsoft (MSFT) stopped providing technical support for earlier this month. At this point, there's no fix available for the new bug.

We've reported a number of times on the huge horde of cash many U.S. companies -- especially tech firms -- hold overseas, often to avoid paying a big tax bill if they brought that money back home. But now Google (GOOG) could be hit be a hefty bill for back taxes owed to the French government. The exact amount is still uncertain, but news reports say it could reach $1.4 billion. From the European point of view, Google and other firms placed their overseas headquarters in low-tax countries such as Ireland, to avoid the higher rates in the countries where they make the most money.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Pfizer (PFE) refuses to take "no" for an answer. The company is once again pursuing a takeover of the European drug-giant AstraZeneca (AZN), which turned down a $100 billion offer earlier this year.

Here on Wall Street last week, the three major averages edged lower Friday due to a big sell-off. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI), the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) each fell less than 1 percent.

One of the main reasons behind the selling late in the week was the ramping up of tensions between Russia and Ukraine. A big part of that concern is the potential damage an escalation of sanctions against Russia could have on the economies of Europe. Trade between the two totals more than $460 billion a year, and if their economies suffer, it could have a ripple effect on the U.S. and elsewhere.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

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Money Minute: Microsoft Users Face New Cyberthreat
"Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess," writes Trent Hamm, founder of "Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month." Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much? 
Remove all credit cards from your wallet and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises WiseBread contributor Sabah Karimi. “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she writes.
If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don't need. So clear that information. "If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account," Hamm writes.  
Reward yourself when you reach debt payoff goals. "The only way to completely pay off your credit card debt is to keep at it, and to do that, you must keep yourself motivated," Bakke writes. Just make sure to reward yourself within reason. For example, instead of a weeklong vacation, plan a weekend camping trip. "If you aim to reduce your credit card debt from $10,000 to $5,000 in two months," Bakke writes, "give yourself more than a pat on the back." 
“Establish a budget,” writes Money Crashers contributor David Bakke. “If you don't scale back your spending, you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole." You can use personal finance tools like, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs.    
Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. "By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards," writes spokeswoman Hitha Prabhakar.
To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. "Paying the minimum -– usually 2 to 3 percent of the outstanding balance -– only prolongs a debt payoff strategy," Prabhakar writes. "Strengthen your commitment to pay everything off by making weekly, instead of monthly, payments." Or if your minimum payment is $100, try doubling it and paying off $200 or more. 
If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Hamm recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. "You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate," he warns. "If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way."
Have any birthday gifts or old wedding presents collecting dust in your closet? Look for items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. "Do some research to make sure you list these items at a fair and reasonable price," Karimi writes. “Take quality photos, and write an attention-grabbing headline and description to sell the item as quickly as possible." Any profits from sales should go toward your debt. 
If you receive a job bonus around the holidays or during the year, allocate that money toward your debt payoff plan. "Avoid the temptation to spend that bonus on a vacation or other luxury purchase," Karimi writes. It’s more important to fix your financial situation than own the latest designer bag.
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