Fans of Microsoft's Internet Explorer will be no strangers to defending their browser choice against jeering Google Chrome and FireFox users, but now they're facing an altogether more powerful attacker. The worried US government is advising citizens to abandon Internet Explorer until Microsoft fixes a dangerous security vulnerability that has put private customer data at risk.
A few days ago Microsoft admitted that a flaw in Internet Explorer could leave its user's computers vulnerable to cyber attacks. Now the US Department of Homeland Security has warned American citizens that a bug in versions 6 to 11 of the popular browser "could lead to the complete compromise of an affected system."
By exploiting this vulnerability, Microsoft confirmed that attackers could install programs, gain access to sensitive data or create new accounts with full user rights. The company has assured customers that it is taking appropriate action to fix the issue and protect its customers, though in the meantime the American government is urging caution for those wishing to carry on their virtual activities as normal.
The warning is a huge blow to Internet Explorer's already damaged reputation. Governmental cautions are not to be taken lightly, and the advice will now hang as a proverbial scarlet letter around the browser's neck until the vulnerability can be fixed.
A security patch is expected to be released either as a one off update or through Microsoft's monthly security release process – however those still using Windows XP will not receive or benefit from the fix. Earlier this month headlines were filled with the news that Microsoft has stopped supporting the 13-year old system, with the OS consequently being cut off from the company's protection.
In the meantime, if you still insist on using the popular browser, Microsoft has advised customers to deploy the "Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit" (EMET), which it says can help to mitigate the damage by adding additional protection layers that make the vulnerability harder to exploit.
To learn more, check out Microsoft's Internet Explorer bugs: How worried should you be?