Security Warning: Stop Using Internet Explorer - Technologist
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Security Warning: Stop Using Internet Explorer

IE 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 , or 11. It doesn't matter which version of Internet Explorer you are using. Stop it.

That's the message from the Department of Homeland Security after a massive security vulnerability was discovered in the browser over the weekend, reports Reuters. The exploit, which piggy-backs on Adobe Flash, could allow a hacker to gain control over your entire computer, which is especially terrifying for those of us with client files stored on our hard drives.

If, for some reason, you were using Internet Explorer, you'll want to take this opportunity to look elsewhere.

The Bug

We can usually follow along with geek speak, but this is the description of the technical side of the bug, courtesy of Ars Technica:

"The in-the-wild attacks the researchers observed target IE versions 9, 10, and 11 and work when victims visit booby-trapped websites. To bypass address space layout randomization and data execution prevention -- which are security mitigations Microsoft designed to make it harder for hackers to remotely execute malicious code -- the attacks abuse the presence of the vector markup language and Adobe Flash."

Now to you, that might mean very little. Heck, we only half-understand it, but here's what you need to know: hackers can use Internet Explorer's implementation of Adobe Flash to gain access to your computer. This isn't merely theoretical either, as actual security breaches have already been logged.

Switch Browsers

If you had asked us last week, we would've told you the same thing: switch browsers. IE 11 is not particularly bad, but the alternatives are far superior. For each, when you install the browser, there should be an option to import your Internet Explorer Favorites (Bookmarks), which should make the transition a little less painful.

Though there may be a few other stragglers out there, these are the three biggest non-IE browsers:

  • Google's Chrome, which is brilliant, but with a caveat: privacy considerations. (Google has a terrible track record as of late with email scanning, Wi-Fi sniffing, and other scandals.) To be fair, we have not heard of any privacy issues with its browser, which in our experience, is the quickest, most stable, and most user-friendly out there.
  • Mozilla's Firefox browser is also extremely popular, and has none of the privacy concerns, but in my personal experience, it was significantly slower and less stable than Chrome (though better than IE).
  • Opera is a third option, based on Google Chrome's open source code, but maintained by a third-party company. If you're worried about Google's privacy issues, go with Opera, as it's nearly the same browser.

Even if you're a decades-long user of Internet Explorer (ouch), now is the time to test drive an alternative, at least while the bug is being patched. If you hate it, you can always go back in a week or two.

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