Avoid Internet Explorer, Says German Government

Dennis Faas's picture

The German government has issued an official warning that citizens should avoid using Internet Explorer. It's a response to a recently discovered flaw in the browser that is believed to have been exploited by hackers attacking Google in China.

Germans Expect Flaw to be Widely Exposed Soon

The warning comes from the Federal Office for Information Security, known locally as the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (BSI). The warning, which was translated via Google Translate, read:

"The BSI expects that [the Internet Explorer] vulnerability will be used [very soon] for attacks on the Internet ... Although [this would make Internet Explorer more] difficult to attack ... it can not completely prevented. Therefore, the BSI recommends to [stop using Internet Explorer, and] switch to ... an alternative browser. Once the vulnerability has been closed, the BSI will provide information on its warning and information about public-CERT." (Source: bund.de)

Microsoft says it doesn't agree with this warning, arguing that the attack on Google was very specifically targeted and doesn't indicate that the bug poses a proven threat to the average consumer. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Internet Explorer Zero Day Exploit

While security bugs in software are relatively common, critics believe this security flaw is a fairly major deal. It affects all versions of Internet Explorer, and code for exploiting it has already been published online before Microsoft has developed a fix.

The problem appears to be a flaw in the way Internet Explorer is designed rather than an obscure error. The flaw in particular involves pointer references, which are used in computer programming. In this instance, the pointer reference points to code that has been deleted, which creates confusion for the computer and exposes it to remotely code execution.

It's important to remember this specific issue can only been exploited by users visiting an infected webpage designed to take advantage of this specific security flaw. This type of attack usually involves a bogus link in an email or instant message.

IE Browser Already #2 In Germany

This isn't the first time German users have been warned to avoid Internet Explorer. A university's Internet security department has previously told the public the browser isn't safe. That's thought to be one of the main reasons why late last year Mozilla's Firefox overtook Internet Explorer as the most used browser, the first major market where that has been the case.

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