The US and UK government warned today that everyone should stop using the Internet Explorer Web browser immediately, because of a massive security breach.

What’s worse, since Microsoft announced that it will no longer provider security updates for people using the Windows XP operating system, Windows XP users can no longer safely use Internet Explorer, unless they want to risk someone taking over their entire computer.


The specific version of Internet Explorer affected are versions 6 to 11.

CNN Money explains just how bad it is:

This is how it works: Hackers set up a website that installs malware when you visit it. If you’re duped into visiting the website while using the Internet Explorer program, malware seeps into your computer and gives a stranger total control. You might not even notice.

“I’d say someone taking control of your computer is just the beginning of the worst case scenario,” said Adrian Sanabria, a security expert with “Because then they steal your info, get access to your email, etc.”

That’s where the real danger lies. Anyone in control of your computer can spy on everything you do. If it’s a PC at work, hackers can reach into anything an employee has access to.

Microsoft says it will come up with a fix by mid-May.

For years, lots of people have felt that Internet Explorer is garbage.  I know from a Web site owner’s perspective, far too many of our problems, in terms of readers encountering errors on the site, is due to Internet Explorer.

Just say no.  You can use Chrome, Firefox, Safari.  Or other browsers as well, such as Opera.

In other news, AOL was also compromised by a cyberattack, and the company is now warning all of its user to change their passwords and security questions immediately.

Welcome to cyber-security Monday.

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CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  1. Even I haven’t used IE since Firefox came into existence.
    I always loved Mozilla Firefox.

    Ruby on Rails Technology

  2. ComradeRutherford says:

    My dad, the retired IBM engineer still doesn’t like that computers aren’t like toasters that just run straight out of the box for decades, but more like a Barbie doll. Once you buy it, you have to buy accessories and updates, and a new one….

  3. ComradeRutherford says:

    Ah, yes, Chrome. A spying tool for Google to track everything you do…

  4. ComradeRutherford says:

    Yes, I’ve known that since 1992…

  5. Blk Popeye says:

    Good point …Question is will they do it or say they have bigger fish to fry. I would to hear soon that they have found these crooks!

  6. Blk Popeye says:

    What’s Next I guess they’re working on compramising the other browsers as well

  7. BeccaM says:

    Honestly? The 99% of the computer-using world that doesn’t pay attention and/or doesn’t care.

  8. BeccaM says:

    Nope. :-)

    Although I have to admit, even if you had guessed right, I would have had to deny it.

  9. DD says:

    Dell : )

  10. taylorholtfk395 says:


  11. teknorebel says:

    Hackers don’t go after small targets. Research mac exploits done every year at Defcon. The only reason Mac users can feel relatively safe is because hackers don’t care about you. They only go after “targets of opportunity” (i.e. vendors that hold more market share).

  12. PaulN says:

    They know exactly where many of them are. They work in NSA offices!

  13. ComradeRutherford says:

    Who hasn’t known since IE5 was released that IE was nothing more than a criminal’s paradise?

  14. ComradeRutherford says:

    Anti-Virus? Malware? What’s that?

    (I use a Mac, so my computer just works.)

  15. ComradeRutherford says:

    Why? They aren’t the ones that the NSA is charged with neutralizing. Those would be US citizens who think the rich people shouldn’t control everything.

  16. zerosumgame0005 says:

    well, I was replying to the OP to find out where he could get a copy of Vista (which was not nearly as bad as people think, the hardware manufacturers were the ones who were to dammed lazy to write drivers even with over a year lead time) but I can beat you on old timey machines. I know of and have serviced an old AT running PCDOS that has basically been sitting in a barn in the Central Valley of Ca. for decades just counting eggs day after day :)

  17. willythegeek says:

    I keep a few old machines up and running for what I call “risk taking machines”. As long as you have COA keys for it you can load it and keep it up to date as far as Microsoft will let you. I have several XP, Vista, 7 that I use as diagnostic/repair machines. They work great for trying new software that you may not want to put on your favorite machine and letting the kids mess up one of these instead of yours. I also recommend this arrangement for customers. You can buy these cheap and reinstall easily when messed up.

  18. The_Fixer says:

    Quite frankly, just about all computer software is garbage. Some is better than others, but they all have flaws. We’re really in the “juvenile years” of computing – beyond infancy and the toddler stage, but nowhere near mature adult.

    The browser I like best is Opera, although it does not render some pages properly. Odd, considering that it was an Opera guy who invented CSS and theirs was one of the first browsers to pass the “acid test” (IIRC). I switch between that and Firefox, which is pretty clunky and slow at times. I don’t have the option of IE, it’s not available on the platform I use. In fact, there are really no other fully-functional browsers available for me.

    In my mind, the measure of how bad a particular piece of software is how often it needs to be updated. If it’s so damn good, why do they need to fix it so often? So that means we’re talking Flash, Java, and Windows. Firefox is right up there as it seems that they come up with an new version nearly as often as most people do laundry.

  19. The_Fixer says:

    You forgot Yahoo!

  20. BeccaM says:

    For what it’s worth, one of my clients is a major international technology company with many thousands of employees worldwide.

    Everyone — employee, contractor, and consultant alike — received a notice today advising that while it was okay to use IE internally, the official company policy was that everyone should switch to Firefox or Chrome for now. They even included download links.

  21. patroy75 says:

    Every government agency in America wrote their stuff to work with IE LOL.

  22. patroy75 says:

    And hitting kim Kardasian sites.

  23. patroy75 says:

    Why not have the NSA do something USEFUL, FIND THESE PEOPLE.

  24. Zeus says:

    I use IE right now and have for years and never had a problem. I have worked for a computer repair shop for 2 years and noticed that others have had problems but only because they were using the wrong anti-virus and spyware / malware scanners.

  25. BeccaM says:

    That I kind of agree on, and I do have what I consider a couple of ‘throwaway’ passwords, for use in situations where I don’t want the site cluttering my collection.

    In truth though, this whole regime of “username or email” + “password” sucks donkey balls, in terms of being anything like secure. I am glad to see more sites, especially those involving commerce, beginning to implement two-factor authentication options, although even this is an imperfect solution.

  26. BaylorBear says:

    Right, there’s a big “conspiracy” with “Obama” and wanting to get rid of Microsoft lol now I see why people don’t believe conspiracy stories, especially if they sound anything remotely to what you just posted :P

  27. BaylorBear says:

    Using one password for non-important things is fine, but for personal things I see where you’re getting at. I wouldn’t have my OnlineBank password, email, university email the same etc, but having the same pswrd for let’s say IGN, random blog posts, etc won’t hurt me in the slightest since there’s nothing sensitive on those sites just a random “I like that game too, blah blah blah”.

  28. Baylor Bear says:

    Having an email ending with hotmail is just fine, I can access it through my Chrome :P

  29. Zorba says:

    We haven’t used IE in years. Mr. Zorba uses Firefox or Chrome. I use Safari.

  30. vickif says:

    My son told me to change from XP to 7 and I’ve been very happy with it.

  31. Niceanne says:

    my TSA info is only available via IE. and they wonder why I call them for info.

  32. rmthunter says:

    Fortunately, I never use IE anyway — it’s garbage. And Microsoft’s “security” is notoriously lacking.

    And I have three layers of security that I’ve managed to install in co-ordinated versions. Nothing seems to have gotten through since I installed them. (With the caveat, of course, that something may have, if it’s managed to sneak past all three.)

    And yes, Windows 8 sucks.

  33. Naja pallida says:

    All Windows machines come with IE pre-installed, but there’s no reason to use it beyond once, to download a better browser. If someone was infected with something before they even managed to finish their basic updates, they’re doing something seriously wrong.

  34. Naja pallida says:

    A lot of schools and non-pofits also continue to use it. Upgrading is expensive and hard to justify when what they have works “well enough”.

  35. Naja pallida says:

    Stop using Internet Explorer? Is it 1996 already?

  36. Steven Leahy says:

    There were already a hundred reasons not to use that crap browser of theirs, this is just one more.

  37. benb says:

    And doesn’t every new PC come with IE pre-installed?

    Reminds me when my neighbor told me she bought a new computer, brought it home, and hooked it up to her DSL modem without any kind of DSL router or firewall. Even though the first thing she did was run Software Update it was too late—her computer had already been infected.

  38. Houndentenor says:

    How much is this going to cost me? I know I’m overdue for a new computer but until I’m done with grad school that’s not really an option.

  39. MyrddinWilt says:

    Its not just dialup anymore.

    They have carrier pigeons as backup.

  40. MyrddinWilt says:

    Go to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 if you feel brave. Vista is essentially the same as Windows 7 except the graphics are not so clean. Windows 8 is by far the prettiest user interface of any current O/S but the team was run by a complete idiot who screwed up the desktop trying to get into the tablet market. They say it is fixed in 8.1 but I haven’t see it yet.

  41. zerosumgame0005 says:

    seriously, where can you find a copy of Vista much less a PC with it pre-loaded?

  42. intoxination says:

    As someone who has done government work, the problem with that advisory is that it won’t be followed. Why? Because IE is the browser on the government computers and they won’t install anything else. Also, the IRS is still using XP. They are actually paying Microsoft big money to provide patches to it, until they can finally upgrade (because 6 years isn’t enough warning!)

  43. TomL says:

    Unfortunately, there are applications still out there that only run on IE. I use a fuel management application that uses an older version of Java, so I have to have an XP virtual machine on my Windows 7 computer at work. I mostly use other browsers when I can.

  44. BeccaM says:

    No, it’s not moot.

    Use a password once and only on Gawker and if it’s compromised, only your Gawker account is stolen. Use the same password all over the place and suddenly they’re into your credit card and online banking accounts, your email, your everything. A few years ago, I foolishly used the same password and email address on Gawker (a site which itself was hacked and IDs stolen) and on World of Warcraft. Suddenly, one day, my WoW account was stolen.

    Now I never use the same password anywhere — and I use LastPass to keep track of everything.

    Another, even worse thing can happen if you use the same password on one type of account and on your email account, esp. online services like gmail, hotmail and so on: They can log in to your email and, using that, start requesting password reset links for all kinds of services. There was one guy whose Apple laptop began wiping itself because someone managed to hack his Apple ID. Complicated story, but it began with one cracked password in an unrelated location, plus some social engineering that pointed out the ridiculous weakness of Apple’s account recovery team’s procedures.

  45. Drew2u says:

    Regarding passwords, while it’s generally a good idea not to use the same password, if sites like Gawker (I think, it’s been a while), everything affected by the Heartbleed bug, etc. can’t protect their stored databases of passwords, then isn’t it essentially moot? And are these companies reporting every instance that sensitive information gets stolen or just when it affects a large number of people?

  46. Drew2u says:

    “untrusted software should never be allowed to install itself automatically.”

    Isn’t that a breach of privacy? Certainly anything that is installed onto one’s computer, say their home desktop computer, would essentially be “Breaking and Entering” without consent?

  47. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    I don’t think that’s anything to be proud of really, considering how bloated and leaky Firefox has gotten. But then there’s one rule that applies to all web browsers: they’re all rubbish.

  48. UncleBucky says:

    When I see an,,, and the like, I feel really sorry for the user. Then I tell ’em to change. When they don’t I stop answering.

  49. BeccaM says:

    I’m no Apple fan. Don’t even own one. And not to start yet another Apple v Microsquishy war, one of the things that infuriates me most is to hear an Apple computer owner brag that they don’t need to protect themselves from hackers — because nothing could be further from the truth.

    That said though, no — this is a brand new flaw, it was just found, and it’s incredibly serious because as it’s described, all you have to do is take IE to a bad website and bam, you’re infected.

    Personally, I’m furious that once again Microsoft failed to understand that untrusted software should never be allowed to install itself automatically.

  50. UncleBucky says:

    If you have to, use 7. Otherwise, drop kick your Winders 8.x machine!

  51. UncleBucky says:

    I do not use Winders or Internet Despoiler. I do use other things, but I try to be very careful. ;o)

  52. BeccaM says:

    I made my very first online purchase — a long out-of-print book I hadn’t been able to find anywhere for YEARS — using Mosaic in the very early 1990s.

    I can’t begin to tell you the thrill it was to just see it, right there, and available to be ordered. After having spent so many fruitless visits to Atlantic, B&N, and independent bookstore counters asking if they could find this one book for me and never having any success.

  53. Peder Svane says:

    Well there is a patch for IE today in windows update so sorry if I miss took that as the fix. And even if it is 2-3 weeks, that is a hell of a lot faster than Apple and its patching.. it took them 2 years to fix a SSL issue with all their devices…And my reason for accusing Apple is simple.. the Obama administration is a know Apple fanboy club. /shrug. And the fact that no warnings have been issued for Safari pretty much EVER, despite it being holed like swiss cheese, then something aint right… Hell Google got fined for exploiting a Safari bug that everyone knew was there and went unpatched for 2+ years, and what happened to Apple? Nothing… So sorry if I am a bit twitchy when it comes to advisories from government when they are so selective.

  54. BeccaM says:

    Common sense tips:

    – Don’t surf porn. If you need whacking-off material, subscribe to a magazine or rent/buy DVDs.
    – Don’t download Warez (pirated software); most of it is infected
    – Do not ever click on a link or open a file that comes from someone you don’t know. And even if it someone you know and you weren’t expecting what they sent, it’s a good idea to ask them personally if they meant to send it.
    – Keep your operating system and program files up-to-date. One day each month, do an update check and if found, take the time to install the patches. Yes, it’s a pain and an interruption, but unpatched OSs and software is how many attacks spread.
    – Do not use the same password for lots of sites. Consider using a program like 1Password or LastPass, but don’t make the mistake of using a lousy password with those services.

    I have a friend who worked at Symantec and he used to tell us the number one tactic of hackers and exploiters was to try to make you click on something. Open a file, go to a site, run a program. He said, “Learn to recognize the click-bait and ‘just say no.'”

  55. BeccaM says:

    If that’s so, then why did the U.S. and U.K. governments issue the advisory today and Microsoft admit they won’t have a patch for 2-3 weeks?

    If this is a bullshit campaign against Microsoft by Apple, you might have more credibility if you cited some sources.

  56. Indigo says:

    I think so too but even so . . . I miss Netscape. It seemed like it was opening up the whole world. Of course, that was a long time ago now. Maybe what I really miss is my youth.

  57. BeccaM says:

    More to the point: People still USE it? *boggles*

  58. Dave of the Jungle says:

    I went from XP to 7 and am quite happy. Still a lot of Windows 7 machines around.

  59. Dave of the Jungle says:

    I do too, but Firefox is pretty good.

  60. Peder Svane says:

    Safari is full of security holes that continue to go unpatched…. so dont recommend that POS. Plus the flaw has been patched, check your windows updates. This is just another BS campaign against Microsoft on behalf of Apple.

  61. Indigo says:

    I miss Netscape.

  62. leathersmith says:

    I don’t know what to try next time I buy a computer, I really like XP, where do I go from here? Vista? I have no idea. I will continue buying re-manned or off-lease XP boxes while I can I suppose.

  63. leathersmith says:

    I am considering using Firefox now & then but I’ve begun using Chrome, and I guess its OK. I do love my XP boxes though…

  64. The_Fixer says:

    Where I work, we are forced into using it because the web sites we utilize to do business require it. That’s because Microsoft has added extensions to it that work only with their web framework. That’s one reason why it is so easy to load malware into a computer – these extensions. The other two reasons involve Adobe Flash and Java.

    This is one result of Microsoft’s dominance that it attained through illegitimate manipulation of the market (back when they killed Netscape). We are a franchisee for two companies; one is hopeless to get to change. But the other one is going to hear about this from me, and I am going to make it known that we need to use other browsers when they rewrite their web interface, which they are in the process of doing.

    Thank the FSM I don’t use that IE and Microsoft shit at home. It’s simply horrible, and I know – I have to fix it when it breaks (often).

  65. cole3244 says:

    i went to an imac and firefox years ago, i love the mac its fantastic and very user friendly.

  66. Thom Allen says:

    The article I read said about 24% of internet users use some version of IE.

  67. jomicur says:

    There are still people who use Internet Explorer? Son of a gun.

  68. heimaey says:

    They make us use it for work. I use it only as much as I absolutely have to because it’s soooo slow.

  69. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Satanic Evil,… Lawrence Welk, AOL, Internet Explorer, Firefox,… Enlightenment.

  70. zerosumgame0005 says:

    this makes it sound like a sudden decision to not update XP, but MS has been telling people for quite a while now when it would stop supporting it. and the date has been out there for months. Hell I made a lot of money the last 14 months upgrading a large company from XP to 7.

  71. AndyinChicago says:

    I feel like since Mozilla ended up doing the right thing about Eich, maybe this is the time to switch to Firefox for those still using IE.

  72. I know.

  73. rerutled says:

    AOL is still around?

  74. Dave of the Jungle says:

    I went over to Netscape and then to Firefox years ago – haven’t ever looked back.

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