German Government Urges People to Stop Using Internet Explorer
It's been a bad week for Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. They've experienced a major security breech, that Microsoft say makes any computer using the browser vulnerable to hackers.
It has however led to an unprecedented response from the German government, who have urged all German citizens to stop using Internet Explorer until the security hole is fixed.
Evidence suggests that the hackers are primarily targeting defence contractors, with the exploit an example of so called zero day vulnerability.
So-called zero-day, or newly discovered, vulnerabilities are rare. According to security firm Symantec, only eight such bugs were spotted in 2011.
Symantec research manager Liam O Murchu said they were dangerous to users because they were new.
"Any time you see a zero-day like this, it is concerning.
"There are no patches available. It is very difficult for people to protect themselves."
Microsoft reported the vulnerability on Monday, saying that hackers can exploit the whole to infect a users computer, and then take control of it.
The German response however reveals greater fears that they may have been under cyber attack. The German government's Federal Office for Information Security, or BSI, said it was aware of targeted attacks and that all that was needed was to lure Web surfers to a website where hackers had planted malicious software that exploited the bug.
"A fast spreading of the code has to be feared," the German government said in its statement.
They urged citizens to use an alternative browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, until the exploit was patched.
Microsoft have been at pains to downplay the severity of the problem however.
"There have been an extremely limited number of attacks," said company spokeswoman Yunsun Wee. "The vast majority of Internet Explorer users have not been impacted."
A patch is expected in the next few days, with Microsoft asking customers to visit their website and update the browser by clicking on a code update link.
Of course, for some this may be effort too far, and they will instead make a permanent switch to Chrome or Firefox.