If you’re a user of Internet Explorer, you might want to reconsider. And while this is rather universally true it’s pretty widely accepted that Internet Explorer is one of the worst ways to access the internet it’s particularly true right now because of a security flaw that can allow attacks, according to Homeland Security’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team.
Here’s the advisory by Homeland Security, and the linked resource states, “Microsoft Internet Explorer contains a use-after-free vulnerability, which can allow a remote, unauthenticated attacker to execute arbitrary code on a vulnerable system.”
So what does this mean, exactly? Seth Rosenblatt at CNET explains:
The zero-day exploit, the term given to a previously unknown, unpatched flaw, allows attackers to install malware on your computer without your permission. That malware could be used to steal personal data, track online behavior, or gain control of the computer. Security firm FireEye, which discovered the bug, said that the flaw is being used with a known Flash-based exploit technique to attack financial and defense organizations in the US via Internet Explorer 9, 10, and 11. Those versions of the browser run on Microsoft’s Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8, although the exploit is present in Internet Explorer 6 and above.
Basically, the issue lies in the versions of Internet Explorer 6 through 11 and could potentially allow someone to install malware on your computer. Microsoft has offered the following advice in a recent blogpost about how to protect yourself from the flaw:
Our initial investigation has revealed that Enhanced Protected Mode, on by default for the modern browsing experience in Internet Explorer 10 and Internet Explorer 11, as well as Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) 4.1 and EMET 5.0 Technical Preview, will help protect against this potential risk. We also encourage you to follow the “Protect Your Computer” guidance of enabling a firewall, applying all software updates and installing anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Additionally, we encourage everyone to exercise caution when visiting websites and avoid clicking suspicious links, or opening email messages from unfamiliar senders.
But honestly? The best bet, in my opinion, is just walk away from Internet Explorer entirely. It’s the worst browser available, frankly. Personally, I’m a huge fan of using Google Chrome because it integrates so seamlessly with my Google Apps, but Firefox is also a pretty amazing option. You’ll find that both of those browsers offer many tools that can really enhance your online experience.
But if you’d like to be a Microsoft loyalist (I don’t blame you, Microsoft is a great company), definitely take the steps listed above and even consider updating your Windows platform to Windows 8 and if you’ve been holding off because of the lack of a start menu, there’s good news: it’s coming back. But in the meantime, be careful. Malware is nothing to play with.