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Internet Explorer Bug Leaves Users Vulnerable to Hackers

48-50 percent of the web browser's share was from U.S.

Microsoft reported on Sept. 18 that a bug had been discovered in the Internet browser Internet Explorer. According to USA Today, the breach was discovered by the German government’s IT department, and found that the bug in the Internet browser could cause users to be vulnerable to possible hacker attacks. Microsoft stated that most browser users will not be affected and that they are working on fixing the technical issue. USA Today also stated that the German government has advised users of Internet Explorer to switch to another browser to avoid the security breach altogether. But, if your personal choice of an Internet browser is Internet Explorer, The Washington Post reported that Microsoft released a patch on Sept. 21 that will permanently fix the security issue. You can now wipe the sweat off your forehead, or can you?

This is actually the second time that the German government has put out warnings to stop using Internet Explorer. According to an article from The Guardian in 2010, Chinese hackers were stealing intellectual property from U.S. companies. A report from Wired stated that the Chinese hackers used Internet Explorer to execute an attack on Google and many other companies, including Adobe and McAfee, and that the attack was highly sophisticated. As a result, the German and French governments told their citizens to stop using the Internet browser. While the latest threat on Internet Explorer is not the same magnitude as the Google hacking two years ago, the German government has definitely been top notch on their surveillance. Maybe we should be listening to the German government more often on these matters.

In an age where technology and the Internet are expanding every day, more Internet browser options have become available. Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari are all Internet browsing alternatives, depending on what your operating system is. With the past security threats and other options, you would think that most people would have listened to the Germans and the French and done away with Internet Explorer and switched over to another browser. A review done of Internet Explorer 9, by PC Magazine, said that it was an improvement of Internet Explorer 8 but is still behind other advanced browsers. However, even with these factors, Internet Explorer is still a strongly used web browser. From statistics done by StatOwl, StatsCounter and NetApplications, 48-50 percent of the web browser market share in the United States this past year was from Internet Explorer, while only 18-20 percent of the web browser market share was from Google Chrome. However, on a worldwide scale, research done by StatsCounter states that Internet Explorer declined from 41.89 percent to 32.85 percent in the past year, while Google Chrome accelerated from 23.16 percent to 33.59 percent, slightly passing Internet Explorer. While our international friends have been keeping up with the times, Internet Explorer continues to be a popular browser here in the States.

It can be mind-boggling to understand why so many people use the browser. But in fact the reasons are endless and no definite reason can be pinpointed. It could be a case of being unaware that other options are available. After all, the only way to download another browser requires using Internet Explorer or Safari for Mac users, and only then can you get to your browser heaven. For some, it is easier to stick with what is already installed on their computer, and it is not necessary to change it. It could also be a case of preference. One review of Internet Explorer 9, done by cnet.com, said that the browser was given a 4.5 stars out of five, and was “highly competitive.”

The reviews for the browser go on both ends of the scale, and probably will continue to be that way. These opinions may change with the release of Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10 in October, but for now we wait until reviews are published and the new operating system is released. In the end though, it all comes down to personal preference and what works best for you. For me, I will continue to avoid the hacker threats and stick with good ol’ Google Chrome.

Sarah Garrity can be reached at sarah.garrity@spartans.ut.edu

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