IE? Nein! Nein!

No Microsoft haven't released a sucessor to Internet Explorer 8 (yet!)

The Australian is reporting that the French and German governments have warned people against using Internet Explorer due to the (as yet unpatched) security vulnerabilites that were allegedly exploited by the Chinese Government in cyberattacks against Google.

While I applaud any government effort to help ensure their citizens are provided with information on how to stay safe online, how to detect and avoid phishing attacks etc, I'm not sure I can agree with a Government picking out (or picking on) a particular piece of software.

Microsoft certainly has had a number of long running legal battles with the European Union, the most recent over their alleged browser monopoly, that was dropped after Microsoft agreed to include up to 12 other browser choice in European versions of Windows. Has this recent case and previous legal entanglements coloured the judgement of certain European government officials?

Microsoft are always the bad guys, the evil empire, the 800-pound gorilla, the easy target. It's something that comes with the territory of being so dominant in an industry. Windows and Internet Explorer have a less than stellar security record, but one that has been improving greatly since the start of their 'Trustworthy Computing' major security inititives back in 2002.

Are they perfect? No. But no software vendor is (or is even close!), as every major vendor regularly releases security patches. Will these same governments recommend users stop using Acrobat next time Adobe faces a 0-day vulnerability? Or stop using Safari? Or Firefox?

The high profile nature of the Google-China standoff (and I don't know what's worse, Google withdraws and the chinese people are punished, or China backs down to Google...) has thrust browsers and vulnerabilities back into the limelight for 5 minutes and I think some politicians want to have their soundbyte heard. I think their time and effort would be better used in continuing education for their end-users and letting them decide for themselves what software they want to use once they understand all of the risks involved.

The danger in pointing the finger at Microsoft and Internet Explorer is that it doesn't address the fact that these sort of attacks are out there and all software has flaws. It may give those people who do swap to Firefox or Safari a false sense of security 'because they're not using IE' (in much the same way I am critical of Apple's security attacks on Microsoft that paint OSX/Safari as being free of security problems). It seems to me to be a pretty shortsighted approach (but we are dealing with politicians right?).

Or maybe it's an EU thing and they want everyone using Opera instead?

While there seems to have been plenty of hysterical articles about dropping IE and changing over to (insert favourite browser) NOW!, this one is much more balanced and sensible.

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