Pull the Plug on Internet Explorer 6
Could you be inviting hackers into your computer just by surfing the Web?
The answer is yes, if you are using an old version of Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Internet Explorer 6 was released in 2001. It was never a terribly secure browser, but over the years, it has become a gateway for hackers and virus writers.
Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 8 and many other Web browsers are much more secure. Many people, however, are still using Internet Explorer 6. They are still using it because it came with Windows XP and because they don't realize the dangers.
The dangers, however, are so real that they need to be publicized. Hackers took advantage of a hole in Internet Explorer 6 to take control of computers and used them in a recent attack on Google in China. Governments in China, France, Germany and several other counties advised users to move to a more secure browser.
Microsoft is still supporting Internet Explorer 6 because it was a part of Windows XP, so a patch for the current vulnerability was issued. If you did the recent Windows update, your Internet Explorer was patched, so it is no longer susceptible to that flaw.
However, there are sure to be more hackers and virus writers taking advantage of this old Web browser to attack Internet Explorer 6 computers. Microsoft has advised users to upgrade to a newer browser. And even YouTube recently started advising visitors to upgrade to a more modern Web browser.
If you are still using Internet Explorer 6, I also urge you to update your old browser or get a new one. If you are unsure of which Internet browser you are using, here's how to tell. If you are clicking on an icon with a blue E to access the Internet, you are using Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
When you are on a Web page, the name of that page will be listed on the top left side of the screen followed by the words "Windows Internet Explorer" or something similar.
In order to tell which version you are using, when you have the browser open, just click on Help or the blue question mark icon. Choose "About Internet Explorer" from the drop-down menu. The resulting screen will tell you which version you are using.
If you are using Internet Explorer 7 or 8, you are much safer than you are with Internet Explorer 6. If you are using 6 and are a little afraid of upgrading to 7 or 8 because of some horror stories that you have heard, here is a work-around.
You can leave Internet Explorer 6 on your computer and simply add another browser and let that be the browser that you use on a daily basis.
I use Firefox, which you can download at www.firefox.com. I also like Opera (www.opera.com) and Chrome (www.chrome.com). All of these browsers, like Internet Explorer, are free to download, and all are safer to use than Internet Explorer 6.
One other problem with Internet Explorer 6 is that it often requires special coding by Web site developers because it doesn't follow current Web standards. Older Web sites that were developed during the heyday of Internet Explorer will probably still look good in Internet Explorer 6, but some of the newer Web sites won't look good. That's why YouTube and other Web sites are now advising Internet Explorer 6 users to get a better browser.
So don't stick with a decade-old browser. Whether you choose a newer version of Internet Explorer or an alternative browser such as Firefox, Opera or Chrome, it is easy to download a new browser. You don't even have to uninstall your old browser. Just download and install a new one.
Your computer will be safer and more secure.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compukiss.com/happycomputing.
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