Homeland Security Warns: Stop Using Internet Explorer 6

Dennis Faas's picture

United States security officials have joined European officials in noting the potential security risks of running Internet Explorer 6 (IE6). But they haven't gone as far as issuing a formal warning to stop using the browser.

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), part of the Department of Homeland Security has issued an advisory suggesting users review the recent Microsoft security patch and apply any updates which will improve security. That could be interpreted in two ways: patch IE6 immediately, or update to a later edition; the latter of course would make more sense. (Source: msn.com)

Concerns over Internet Explorer 6 being too weak on security have been expressed for some time now. They took on added credibility after the recent breach of Gmail accounts in China which exploited a bug in the browser. While they aren't perfect in themselves, both versions 7 and 8 of Internet Explorer contain additional safeguards which either mitigate or eliminate that particular threat.

350 Million Still Use Internet Explorer 6

Internet Explorer version 8 has just taken top spot in the global figures for individual browsers.

However, version Internet Explorer version 6, which drops to second place, is still used by 20.07 per cent of people. Based on current estimates of the global Internet audience, that would mean around 350 million people are still using the browser. The proportion is closer to 13 per cent within the US, which is largely due to wealthier consumers being more likely to have bought a new machine packed with a later edition already installed.

IE6 Losing Industry Backing

There's some hope that major web firms will do their part to encourage people to upgrade. Several prominent websites have already stopped supporting IE6, with Google having just changed their online document service to stop working with that edition of the browser.

Microsoft says it will continue to support IE6, but strongly advises users to upgrade immediately, arguing that doing so brings both security and performance improvements. (Source: cnet.com)

Here at Infopackets, we'd naturally encourage readers to consider all available browsers, not just Microsoft's. If you're an existing Windows XP / Vista user and decide Internet Explorer is for you, there is absolutely no reason not to upgrade immediately to the latest edition. Version 8 is a free download for existing Windows XP and Vista customers -- and, at 16MB, shouldn't tax even a dial-up connection.

Side note: Internet Explorer 7 and 8 are not compatible on legacy Windows systems previous to Windows XP (such as Windows 2000, ME, NT, 98, and 95). If you're still using these older versions of Windows, you should seriously consider using a more up to date operating system -- even if it means switching to Linux if your hardware can't handle upgrading to XP, Vista, or Win7.

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