TecKnowledge: Internet Explorer

Posted: April 21, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

George Mason’s Information Technology Unit (ITU) presents a Q&A on the security problems of Internet Explorer.

Q: Why does Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) have more security problems than other browsers?

A: IE is deeply embedded in Microsoft’s computer operating system. “Evil doers” can use that integration between IE and the operating system to deposit viruses, worms, spyware, Trojan horses, root kits, remote controls, and malware in your computer.

Q: Who are “evil doers?”

A: These are people who create web sites whose purpose is to entice you to visit so they can gain access to your computer and deposit tools that allow them to invade your privacy, steal sensitive data, and degrade the performance of your computer.

Q: Can you tell by looking at it that a web site is “evil”?

A: No. People claim that most of the evil web sites are illegal game download sites or pornographic web sites. However, one can be misdirected to an evil site even when doing legitimate university business, either by clicking on a link in an e-mail to what looks like a legitimate web site or by clicking on the result of a search. Google, Yahoo, and other search engines do not check sites for legitimacy. Also, evil doers are making more fake web sites that look like legitimate sites (bank web sites, especially). You should never click a link in a suspicious e-mail.

Q: Why don’t you recommend disabling IE?

A: Many web-based applications are written specifically for IE, so there are times when only Internet Explorer will do the job. However, you should use an alternative browser when searching the Internet.

Q: What alternative browsers does George Mason University support?

A: We support Netscape 7.2 and the latest version of Mozilla’s Firefox, which is built with technology that’s nearly identical to Netscape. The advantages to Firefox and Netscape are that they are only web browsers, and an evil web site cannot install its surreptitious tools on your computer through them. People who use Windows but do not have XP with the Service Pack 2 (SP2) installed will benefit most from this switch to Firefox or Netscape. However, no web browser can protect you from scams. If you enter bank, credit card, or other personal data into a scam web site, you will be robbed.

Both Netscape and Firefox have download links at the ITU Support Center downloads web site.

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