U.S. Government Suggests that You Switch from Internet Explorer
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U.S. Government Suggests that You Switch from Internet Explorer, XP Users at risk

Microsoft is currently working on an update for a known security flaw in their Internet Explorer(IE) web browser, which affects versions IE6 to IE11.

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Forbes reports that these 5 versions of IE make up for 55 percent of the PC browser market.

To ensure PC users protect themselves, Reuters has reported that the U.S. Government has sent an advisory to use alternatives to Internet Explorer until the security update is complete.

Alternative browsers include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera.

The IE security breach can allow hackers to gain access to your computer files, install programs on your computer, and delete data by simply visiting an infected website.

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This security breach affects everyone, although it’s especially crucial for Windows XP users to pay attention to this issue.

Windows has discontinued support for Windows XP users, which took effect on April 8th, and no security patches will be made available for that version of windows. For the more tech savvy XP user ZDNET has released steps that you can take to make your system safer.

Here is the text from the Reuters article by Jim Finkle:

U.S. Government Suggests that You Switch from Internet Explorer

Jim Finkle, Reuters Apr 27, 2014

UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security advised computer users to consider using alternatives to Microsoft Corp’s Internet Explorer browser until the company fixes a security flaw that hackers have used to launch attacks.

The United States Computer Emergence Readiness Team said in an advisory released on Monday morning that the vulnerability in versions 6 to 11 of Internet Explorer “could lead to the complete compromise of an affected system.”

***

BOSTON — Microsoft is rushing to fix a bug in its widely used Internet Explorer Web browser after a computer security firm disclosed a flaw over the weekend, saying hackers have already exploited it in attacks on some U.S. companies.

PCs running Windows XP will not receive any updates fixing that bug when they are released, however, because Microsoft stopped supporting the 13-year-old operating system earlier this month. Security firms estimate that between 15 and 25 percent of the world’s PCs still run Windows XP.

Microsoft disclosed on Saturday its plans to fix the bug in an advisory to its customers posted on its security website, which it said is present in Internet Explorer versions 6 to 11. Those versions dominate desktop browsing, accounting for 55 percent of the PC browser market, according to tech research firm NetMarketShare.

Cybersecurity software maker FireEye said that a sophisticated group of hackers have been exploiting the bug in a campaign dubbed “Operation Clandestine Fox.”

FireEye, whose Mandiant division helps companies respond to cyber attacks, declined to name specific victims or to identify the group of hackers, saying that an investigation into the matter is still active.

“It’s a campaign of targeted attacks seemingly against U.S.-based firms, currently tied to defense and financial sectors,” FireEye spokesman Vitor De Souza said via email. “It’s unclear what the motives of this attack group are, at this point. It appears to be broad-spectrum intel gathering.”

He declined to elaborate, though he said one way to protect against them would be to switch to another browser.

Microsoft said in the advisory that the vulnerability could allow a hacker to take complete control of an affected system, and then do things such as viewing, changing, or deleting data; installing malicious programs; or creating accounts that would give hackers full user rights.

FireEye and Microsoft have not provided much information about the security flaw or the approach that hackers could use to figure out how to exploit it, said Aviv Raff, chief technology officer of cybersecurity firm Seculert.

Yet other groups of hackers are now racing to learn more about it so they can launch similar attacks before Microsoft prepares a security update, Raff said.

“Microsoft should move fast,” he said. “This will snowball.”

Still, he cautioned that Windows XP users will not benefit from that update since Microsoft has just halted support for that product.

The software maker said in a statement to Reuters that it advises Windows XP owners to upgrade to one of two most recently versions of its operating system, Windows 7 or 8.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle; editing by Diane Craft.)