01.19.10

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More Nations Make Statements Against Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, So Microsoft Advertises ‘Upgrades’

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Security, Windows at 6:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: France is the latest nation to sail away from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which is notorious for enabling full system compromise such as the one that recently targeted Google users

Germany has already recommended that people abandon Internet Explorer (this received some mainstream press coverage from the BBC) and France is doing the same. From the BBC:

France has echoed calls by the German government for web users to find an alternative to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) to protect security.

Certa, a government agency that oversees cyber threats, warned against using all versions of the web browser.

The BBC did not let this message just be. One of our readers wrote to tell us that the BBC advertises new software from Microsoft. “The BBC is falling short,” he wrote. “The Microsofter, Cliff Evans, and the BBC are being misleading to the point where one could almost call it prevarication:” [quote from the above]

Microsoft told BBC News that IE8 was the “most secure browser on the market” and people should upgrade.

Cliff Evans, head of security and privacy, said that so far the firm had only seen malicious code that targeted the older version of its browser, IE6.

“Even though MSIE 8 is just as vulnerable,” points out our reader. Here is the direct link:

Microsoft: upgrade to IE8, even though it’s vulnerable

Microsoft is advising its customers to upgrade to Internet Explorer 8 – even though the latest version of its browser is vulnerable to a serious security attack.

The software giant issued a statement urging people to upgrade their browser, after the zero-day exploit that was used to attack companies such as Google went public.

There is also this one in the news:

Internet Explorer vulnerable on Windows 7

So it seems that an Internet Explorer zero day vulnerability allowed the back door to be opened that resulted in the hack attack on Google and many others that has received such publicity this week.

The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones, who is typically very sympathetic towards the convicted monopolist, adds:

This terrible piece of PR for Microsoft comes just as the IE browser which had almost total control of the market starts to come under pressure – not just from the open-source Mozilla Firefox, but from Google’s Chrome.

Regarding the BBC/Microsoft, our reader adds: “This is the same deception used with other vulnerabilities on the same application, other applications and even operating systems. This is costing businesses, governments and people lots of money. In borderline cases, this deception is costing people their livelihoods.”

“Exploit code for potent IE zero-day bug goes wild,” showed The Register (UK) on Friday, demonstrating that Microsoft is still negligent. There is more from The Inquirer, which is also a British publication.

Watch this article from yesterday at The Register (the same issue was pointed out by others):

British government ignores MS browser fears

France and Germany have already told their citizens to avoid Microsoft’s Internet Explorer because of a critical hole in the browser, so what does the British government think?

[...]

Microsoft confirmed that the hole was used in the attacks against Google and 33 other companies believed to come from China.

The British government is deep in the pockets of Microsoft, as we pointed out numerous times before, e.g. [1, 2, 3].

“Dump Internet Explorer Now,” says this new headline from SJVN.

The latest attacks on Google have made it clear. Internet Explorer is a set of security holes masquerading as a Web browser. Get rid of it. Now.

Another person from IDG points out that “Microsoft Support Policies Guarantee Insecure Products” (Microsoft once said: “Our products just aren’t engineered for security”). From the article:

I’ve written it many times before: Nobody is more generous with support lifecycles than Microsoft. Operating system security updates are provided for about 10 years. Are Linux or Mac OS versions from 10 years ago still being updated? The answer is no, and not for a long time.

Combine this with a couple of side-policies of Microsoft’s: They don’t issue new browsers with OS service packs and they support the browser that comes with the operating system and the implication is that browsers also get supported for about 10 years. The technical term for this is “Nearly Unlimited Technical Support” or NUTS.

And it’s not just browsers. Because Windows 2000 is still supported, so is Outlook Express 5.5 (possibly 5.01 as well, I can’t quite confirm it).

That’s not the key point however. When Microsoft is leasing licences to run binaries and charges extra each time these binaries evolve, then no wonder it must handle this support nightmare. Some people stay with older binaries in order to save money. Free software does not have these problems.

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7 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    January 19, 2010 at 9:41 am

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    Shouldn’t that title be “More Nations Encourage Compute Security” or something like that?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    It seems as though The Register has just made a similar observation (“MS spins IE security disaster into Windows 7 upgrade opportunity”).

  2. your_friend said,

    January 19, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Gravatar

    GNU/Linux and applications and hardware are supported longer than non free software. How many non free applications from ten years ago do people actually have today? Netscape Navigator? Word Perfect? Quatro Pro? File Maker? Software that has owners is the only kind of software that can vanish against the will of users. People run 10 year old versions of Windows because their old software won’t work on new versions of Windows, a unique non free software problem. Free software not only keeps it’s older applications working, such as the 25 year old emacs, it also keeps hardware. There are lively communities working to backport hardware drivers to older kernels, even back to 2.2, for use on older hardware at distributions like DSL Linux. This is support for 10 year old software and it’s support that gives people the latest and greatest version of their favorite software. That kind of mixing and matching is impossible in the Windows world.

    If you look at what Microsoft actually spends, their support boils down to technical and legal efforts to keep their user community out of the source code (“helpless and divided” in FSF parlance), and hyping the resultant stale code. Part of the effort to keep others out is sabotage of “competitor’s products”, all those things that make Windows do anything. These are peculiar failures of non free software. Advice to fix the mess comes at $50/hour.

  3. NotZed said,

    January 19, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Gravatar

    BTW you could add Australia to that list.http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/01/19/2795684.htm
    although the spin from the academic in the article (‘no suggestion ie is any worse than any other browser’) and the ‘clarification’ are a bit strange.

    “Free software does not have these problems.”

    Precisely why Linus’ ‘its ok by me to use binary drivers’, Ubuntu (we’re in a popularity contest, not here to free the world) and moonblight are so dangerous. They’re ensuring ‘open source’ will have those problems.

    your_friend Reply:

    New Zealand and France also now advise against IE and they are mentioning “open source” as an alternative [2]. It is too bad that they don’t go all the way and advise people to dump Windows itself. “Browser choice” is a poor surrogate for software freedom and real security.

    The second article spins good browser behavior as non standard. They idiotically call “commands in metadata” and other advert friendly garbage “web standards” and blames Chrome and Safari for not working with user hostile sites. It’s as if they did not hear Murdoch promise to help Microsoft out with their slog against free software and Google.

    Some users, particularly those using Apple Mac, complain that sites “only work with Windows” when, in fact, it’s their browser that’s at fault.

    No, the stupid sites only work with Windows or cutting edge free software. Most users are not willing to download new browsers every six months, so the ultimatum is clear – use a flawed and dangerous browser on top of an even more dangerous OS or you don’t get a bunch of “mainstream” websites. It’s easy to see which side is going to lose and it’s not iPhone or GNU/Linux. Turning customers away is always a losing proposition and insulting them on the way out is a good way to be sure they never come back.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    What a reversal. Some years ago, government sites were not at all accessible to Web browsers other than MSIE. South Africa and some other countries still operate such sites.

    your_friend Reply:

    How interesting that a rumor about iPhone going Bing should crop up in the Microsoft press. It’s like Microsoft wants Apple to commit suicide just to prove my point. iPhone would suck if Microsoft could Bung it and that would be a great advertisement for software freedom. Folks in the Ballmer Bunker are dreaming out loud.

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