Stop Using Internet Explorer, Feds Say

The latest security alert is an official warning from the Feds!  There’s a flaw in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer that bad guys can use to get into your computer and have their way with it.

The technobabble US government warning is Brithish-like in its drollness.

US-CERT [United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, Department of Homeland Security] recommends that users and administrators review Microsoft Security Advisory 2963983 for mitigation actions and workarounds. Those who cannot follow Microsoft’s recommendations, such as Windows XP users, may consider employing an alternate browser.

If you click through to Microsoft’s site in the link, you’ll see there is a whole list of rather difficult technical work-arounds that will, at best, “mitagate” the potential problem. For example, Microsoft’s first of six suggested work-arounds is to “Deploy the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit 4.1”.  Others are equally daunting.

Remember, after you’ve done everything Microsoft says, you’ve simply lessened the possibility that the bad guys will get through.  The vulunerability is still in the Internet Explorer program. Plus, once you’ve implemented the work-arounds, you may discover that you can no longer do some things that you expect to.  Why did IE originally have the settings and permissions Microsoft is now saying to change? I am guessing that IE probably needs them for some functionality you expect in a browser.

Anyway, there is a much simplier way to avoid the problems in Internet Explorer.  Even the government suggests it: use a different web browser.

The two browsers I regularly use are:

Both are free and fast.  Just click on one of the links above, download and install the browser, and start it up.  Make sure that you make the new program your default Internet browser so that Internet Explorer doesn’t run when you click on a link.

Yes, if you switch away from Internet Explorer there will be some adjustment to a different look and feel. But, both Firefox and Chrome have a lot of free add-ons that make web surfing better.  My favorites are add-ons that block ads and the annoying Flash ads.

But, really, you have to switch for your own security.  Even the government thinks you should “consider” switching!

Another Hit Against Flash

I am in the process of switching to my first new computer in five years, a Dell which runs a 64-bit version of Windows 7.  Surprisingly, I have had few troubles transferring programs and setting myself up.  I see noticeable speed improvements, especially when I use 64-bit applications that are designed to work with the expanded addressing of the new system.

One problem:

I cannot use the 64-bit version of Internet Explorer 8 to surf unfettered through the Internet.  There is no 64-bit version of Adobe’s Flash player, so no Flash content can be displayed on this latest, fastest version of Microsoft’s browser.  Here’s what I see when I go to YouTube — which displays its movies using Flash — and click to see a video:

YouTube Flash error message
YouTube's Flash Videos are Inaccessible on 64-bit IE8

I am told that I “need to upgrade your Adobe Flash Player”.  A quick surf around the Internet shows that I cannot upgrade my Flash player because Adobe does not support 64-bit browsers.  Adobe itself says, “The underlying reason for this problem is compatibility. To use Flash Player to view Flash content on a 64-bit operating system, you need a 32-bit browser.” from Adobe.com

I was stunned. Adobe itself recently released a 64-bit version of its Creative Suite programs (CS5), but it didn’t/hasn’t yet bothered to support 64-bit versions of web browsers so that web visitors can see the handiwork of Adobe’s own Flash developer clients? Seriously?

No doubt I am way behind the early adapters in pointing out this lapse in Adobe product development and support. But, as a web developer, Adobe’s late-to-the-party inability to run Flash Player with a 64-bit browser reconfirms my belief that Flash should be avoided in most web pages.

Any business looking to make their site visible to the most number of people should hesitate before using Flash!