German Government warns users not to use Microsoft Internet Explorer

Microsoft’s problematic Internet Explorer web browsing software has raised the ire of the German Authorities.

Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (which translates to Federal Office for Information Security), issued an unprecedented warning to users, not to use Microsoft Internet Explorer. This follows the discovery of a security hole that led to attacks against Google and other US companies by hackers, allegedly based in China.

Deutche Welle's rather excellent
Deutche Welle’s rather excellent “Broken Internet Explorer” logo

The warning applies to all the latest versions of Internet Explorer, namely versions 6, 7 and 8:-

Instructions telling hackers how to exploit the security hole are available on the web – but I haven’t found them yet! However, the US Department of Homeland Security has published more details of the problem. Seems it is a so-called zero-day exploit and Microsoft does not have a fix for it yet.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft has tried to play the affair down. Since it is unable to offer a patch, Microsoft has offered a “workaround” instead. Basically it involves putting your browser into what some refer to as “cripple mode” by setting the Internet Zone Security setting to “High“. However, the German authorities say even this won’t make it safe.

The reason for the furore is that it seems Google’s Chinese servers were attacked by hackers exploiting one of Internet Explorers many security holes. Machines belonging to Chinese gMail users were compromised via Microsoft Internet Explorer, allowing hackers to get access to their gMail accounts.

It seems this has allowed the Chinese Authorities to obtain vital information regarding dissidents. If this is true then, it could result in imprisonment, torture or even death. Of course, we don’t know how deep these attacks have gone and no one has actually proven it was the Chinese behind the attacks either. After all, the United States has a long and sad history of creating “bogeymen” to act as scapegoats for all evils of the world. And if there is one government that is less trustworthy than China’s, it is that of the United States – along with the British one of course!

Likewise, Microsoft Internet Explorer running on Microsoft Windows has a long and sad history of serious security flaws, one of which is that your machine can become infected with malware simply by visiting a website. Worse, Windows fans – people daft enough to believe all the rubbish than emanates from the spindoctors at Redmond – will tell you that its the user’s responsibility to make sure a website is safe before you visit it. I’m not sure how exactly? Thousands of perfectly legitimate sites are hacked every day.

Fortunately, it seems that the computer-using public is slowly waking up to the fact that Internet Explorer is indeed a very poor quality product. According to it seems that Firefox has 25% of the market and the combined market share of all the Internet Explorer versions has fallen to 63%. Interesting to see what the figures look like in a couple of weeks, don’t you think?

Moreover, the W3Schools stats make really interesting reading. Granted, its clientèle is likely to favour standards-based browsers. Nevertheless, its figures indicate that IE’s combined share has fallen to below 40%:-

A couple of final notes of caution…

Firstly, many of the articles regarding this debacle refer to the BSI. This is of course the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik, which translates to (German) Federal Office for Information Security, not the British Standards Institution. Interestingly the somewhat pro-Microsoft British Government has remained very, very quiet on the subject!

Secondly, the official Goose advice to computer users who really want to remain safe, regardless of what country you live in:-

Don’t use Microsoft products – at all!

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