Introduction to Mat Wright

Mat Wright is a Zend Certified Engineer and qualified designer available for freelance web development + consultation work.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is Internet Explorer Safe ?

Microsoft's Internet Explorer has once again hit the news headlines and as often of late it isn't for the good reasons.

Following the highly publicized row between Google Inc. and the Chinese authorities over alleged cyber-attacks originating from China in which email accounts held by human rights activists were targeted, it soon became apparent that the attacks were carried out by exploiting a weakness in the Internet Explorer browser.

Was this simply a piece of ingenious, negative publicity on Google's part or is it time to start looking for a safer, alternative web browser ?

According to an entry at Wikipedia, Microsoft Internet Explorer maintains a huge share of over 62% of browser usage (Dec 2009) with Mozilla Firefox in second position at just under 25% and Google's own web browser (Chrome) trailing in third place with just over 5% of usage share. So what does this mean for the majority of web users who rely on the Internet Explorer software every day ?

The admittance by Microsoft that a vulnerability in its browser was a weak link in the recent attacks on Google's system has triggered shock-waves throughout the world with Germany and France both releasing official recommendations that its web users should find an alternative web browser to Internet Explorer to protect security. But how easy is it to switch browsers overnight ?

The recommendations in France were to switch to Firefox or Google Chrome until Microsoft issue a fix. Firefox is a favourite with hardened web users and especially those involved with the web development industry. Chrome is the relatively new kid on the block which has only been in public release for just over a year but designed to take on Internet Explorer head to head with its simplicity and benefits of being a browser created in the modern internet world.

It is possible for most web users to install each of the browsers on a single machine and even run them simultaneously. Most browsers allow users to transfer their favourites and other settings too.

To download Firefox:

To download Google Chrome:

or if you like living life on the edge, Microsoft Internet Explorer:

What is the current situation with Internet Explorer ?

Microsoft normally release patches and fixes at a set time each month but with the extent of the publicity concerning this latest scare Microsoft has said it will issue an emergency patch today (Thursday 21st January 2010) . The exploitation uses a 'Trojan Horse' whereby if a user visits a compromised website they could become infected and hand over control of their machine to a hacker.

What is the best advice ?

Whichever browser you decide you use, the most important advice of all is to make sure that you are always running the most up-to date version available.


  1. At 18:00 GMT Microsoft released a patch (MS10-002) for the security hole that was used in the cyber-attack on Google.

    The patch is available here:

  2. IE is so bad, Microsoft employees have been told not to use it at work, or so I've been told.

    That really should be your first clue.

  3. Blogger, Neal Grosskopf wrote about some findings in his google analytics regarding microsoft corp network visitors and what browsers they were using:

  4. Thanks for the stats. I had no idea IE had so much of the pie. With all of Gate's success you would think he would invest more in his product. Google offers so many advantages and services that I believe they will soon be in the lead.