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Microsoft and Internet Explorer

How We Learned to Keep Computers Safe(er)

Now we come to one of my favorite subjects, Internet Explorer, (IE). You're unlikely to hear this from anyone else, much less a Microsoft Partner like myself, but IE, is the most dangerous browser available and possibly the most dangerous application on your computer. We have authoritative links to back up that statement. (See the bottom of this page for links) If you have the time to look through those links it would be difficult to justify continue with IE. Having used IE 7 I can say its a major step in the right direction for usability but what took so long. (We get so much more functionality from Firefox we can't see changing). Other browsers have had IE7's features and capabilities for years. In fact if it wasn't for so many people using the more capable alternative browsers Microsoft would never have had an incentive to make ANY improvements. (Bill Gates hates being #2 in anything). The March 2007 edition of PC World magazine, (page 120) had the headline "Thwart the Three Biggest Internet Threats of 2007" Threat # 1, Internet Explorer, #2 Phishing and Identity Theft, #3 Malware.

What are better alternatives? Opera and Firefox are the two kings of the hill, Both of those browsers are heads and shoulders above IE in functionality and security, (and both are free), but Firefox has several features that make it very appealing. See our Firefox page.

OK, so what's wrong with IE? Let's start with the biggest problem. Anyone who has ever tried to get updates from Microsoft while not using IE can't. Some people assume it's because you are on a Microsoft site and it requires a Microsoft product to get the updates. Not Entirely True. Microsoft needs to communicate with your system!

There are several WEB sites that offer real-time virus scans of your system in a pinch. (They should only be used in an emergency). With only one exception we are aware of, none of those sites work with any other browser but IE. There are plenty of sites that are willing to check the security status or scan for malware on your system but guess what. They only work with IE. (With that one exception). So what's the story? All those sites need IE so they can have an close up and personal conversation with your computer. Think about this. Are you going to be comfortable using a browser that will allow a WEB site to talk directly to your system? If you said "no problem" then you could have a serious problem and not even know it. Unexplained intermittent errors, ads that appear out of nowhere, an unexplained, relatively sudden slowdown of your system, unusual hard disk activity, (even when you aren't using the computer) and periodic error messages and blue screen errors are all symptoms of unwanted software in your system almost always allowed in by Internet Explorer

IE is the only browser that natively supports ActiveX. ActiveX is like a very small application, (program), that IE installs on your computer to allow those sites to see your system, your files, your identity and the list goes on. Most sites that require IE are telling you one of 3 things, either the site wasn't designed to World Wide WEB standards, they don't care about people who may be using another browser, or that the browser you are using, if it isn't IE, will NOT allow the site to see your computer.

It's not just ActiveX. Microsoft has frequently been slow to respond to many other security holes that have been found over the years. Before Firefox became popular Microsoft frequently denied problems existed for 2-3 weeks before they would begin to take action. The company is so large that little can be done quickly or on time. The turnaround time on patches is still long. (The April 2007 issue of PC WORLD stated that the current patch fix time for Microsoft averaged 10 days after the flaw was found. Because Microsoft normally issues patches only once a month it could be 40 days before your system gets patched. On the other hand, the same article stated that the average patch fix solution for Mozilla Firefox was 3 days and your system will probably be patched in 4).Some of the security problems with most browsers have been posted as a "proof of concept" on the Internet before Microsoft even had a chance to begin developing a fix. This gives the people waiting for an invitation the means to take control of your system or worse. What's worse? When they take control of you computer you may not even be aware of it. They can steal anything they want, user names, passwords, Quicken files etc. A fairly recent development allows the intruders to encode an important file or database on your system and hold it for ransom. No kidding, this is real.

IE also supports Visual Basic Scripting which allows pretty much the same bad things to happen to your system. Double whammy! There are utilities that allow you to "lock down" IE to make it a little more safe but it strips IE of some of its capabilities and if you go far enough IE will become inoperable.

We can't count the number of systems we have seen with pop-up ads appearing out of nowhere, frequently several at a time. Issues where the user couldn't go to the sites they intended and more. We never see these problems on systems that don't use IE. In fact, IE related, (or directly caused), system malfunctions account for the majority of our service requests. We suggest our clients change but some won't and they continue on the same path to problems over and over. The worst problems are the ones that can't be solved even after throwing 7-10 corrective solutions and potential fixes at the system. Then it's time to start over. With all that said, a very small fraction of our customers who use IE don't have problems. We consider them fortunate. There are a few WEB sites still around that don't support any other browser but IE but they're are disappearing rapidly.

The WEB site, CNET.COM had a "shootout" between the newest IE (version 7) and the newest Firefox (version 2.0) and in all 6 areas they tested, Firefox beat IE. Here are the results

Links to Internet Explorer problems and issues: Problem ::: Another Problem, theft ::: IE 7 no match for Firefox ::: Penn State says, dump IE! ::: IE is annoying ::: Why is anyone still using IE? ::: IE users, proceed with caution if at all ::: IE bug can crash IE ::: Department of Homeland Security suggests dumping IE ::: Here's a newer one, We think you get the point. There are dozens more just like these. In the July 2006 issue of PC World they declared Internet Explorer 6 as one of the worst tech products of all time (number 8 on the list).

If you have a site that just won't work without IE, use it for that site, then close IE and switch to something else, anything else, for the rest of your Internet session.

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