Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Are you still using Internet Explorer 6?

You could be rolling out a red carpet invitation to malware if you're continuing to use Internet Explorer 6.

Internet Explorer 6 was released in 2001. IE6 was a big improvement over IE5, but it was never regarded as a highly secure browser. Over time, its exploitation by malware writers has become almost legendary, while web developers have long decried the difficulty of creating websites that are compatible with IE6 without degrading the experience of users who are utilizing more modern browsers.

Many computer users have switched over to alternate browsers for their primary web surfing needs; however, there are some sites that may not render properly in those browsers, and that's when Internet Explorer is useful, even if it's not your primary browser of choice. Therefore, even if Internet Explorer is not your primary browser, it's very likely to be your secondary browser. As such, you should be using the most secure version of Internet Explorer available, and that version isn't IE6.

Vista came with IE7 and Windows 7 with IE8, and now Internet Explorer 9 has been released to excellent reviews, so much better choices than IE6 are available. Unfortunately, many XP users, for some unknown reason, still cling to IE6... even some users who have updated XP to Service Pack 3 are still slogging along with IE6, perhaps because it came with Windows XP or perhaps because they just don't realize the dangers inherent in using this obsolete browser. Although XP users cannot upgrade to IE9, they certainly can and should install IE8.

Recently, Google started phasing out support for IE6 for their various services, including YouTube. A vulnerability in IE6 was exploited by hackers who used it to launch a cyberattack against Google and other companies. Governments in China, France, Germany, and other countries as well, have advised users to move from IE6 to a more secure browser.

Microsoft will continue to support IE6 on XP computers with SP3 installed. However, there are plenty of hackers and malware writers who will view IE6 users as easy prey and will therefore continue to search for and take advantage of the vulnerabilities in this obsolete browser.

Remember, Microsoft has made better and more secure browsers available for your use, so take advantage of their availability and use them: If your operating system is Windows XP, then IE8 should be your Internet Explorer choice. If your operating system is Vista or Windows 7, you should install IE9.,9737.html

Surf smart.

Jane Edwards, MS-MVP
Consumer Security 2006 - 2011