McAfee: IE Zero-Day Exploit a 'Watershed Event'

Dennis Faas's picture

Widely-known security firm McAfee has called last week's breaching of several major tech companies (including Google and Adobe) "the most sophisticated cyber attack... seen in years," even suggesting the operation could usher in a new age of cyber warfare.

Attack a "Watershed Event," Says McAfee

Discussing the attack on 34 tech companies in China last week, McAfee Chief Technology Officer George Kurtz was noted as saying, "I believe this is the largest and most sophisticated cyber attack we have seen in years targeted at specific corporations," adding, "What really makes this a watershed moment in cyber security is the targeted and coordinated nature of the attack with the main goal appearing to be to steal core intellectual property." (Source:

This suggests that last week's attack exploiting Internet Explorer, which was first believed to have used vulnerabilities in Adobe Acrobat or Reader, could indicate that hackers are using new, more advanced weaponry to attack bigger targets that offer bigger rewards.

IE Users "Face a Real and Present Danger"

It will take time before we find out if Kurtz is right on that prediction, but in the meantime the attack is making security firms and even governments uneasy about using Microsoft's ubiquitous browser, Internet Explorer. In a blog post this past Sunday, Kurtz noted that users of IE "face a real and present danger."

In fact, the crisis has caused McAfee to create a special new web page that offers updates and advice for anyone concerned about the attack (otherwise known as "Operation Aurora") or its impact on the wider tech community.

German Government Uneasy About IE

For its part, Microsoft said late last week that it was working steadily on a patch for Internet Explorer versions 6, 7, and 8 for all recent editions of Windows, including Windows 7.

The worst news for Microsoft may have come later in the weekend, when the German government told users in that country to use an alternative browser until the IE flaw has been solved by Microsoft. "There is no threat to the general user, consequently we do not support this warning," a stunned German Microsoft spokesperson shot back. (Source:

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