BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – First Microsoft cut Windows XP users loose by dropping ongoing support for the 12 year-old operating system, leaving customers ripe for hacker attacks.
Now, users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser could be in danger, even users of the latest versions of the program, and the potential for mayhem has reached the point where the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning.
“This is a big problem,” says CNet senior news writer, Seth Rosenblatt.
Zheng Bu works for the security firm, FireEye that uncovered the flaw that impacts Internet Explorer versions 6 through 11, and warns, “The hackers now have complete control over the computer.”
The flaw makes it easy for a hacker to take control of your computer. Experts say, all it takes is an accidental click on a malicious link in your email, or in an instant message, and your computer ends up at a website that installs software that hijacks your machine.
Rosenblatt believes the hackers are going after specific PC users. He says, “The problem is really targeted at defense industry and financial industries. So chances are, ‘mom and pop’ aren’t going to be targets, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be exploited.”
In a rare move, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning this week, telling people to not use Internet Explorer until Microsoft develops a fix. Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari are suggested alternatives.
Microsoft hasn’t given a timetable for the fix, but issued a statement reading in part, “at this time we are aware of limited, targeted attacks. We encourage customers to follow the suggested mitigations outlined in the security advisory while an update is finalized.”
Many PC users are cautious. As one of those users put it, “If I am not aware of what I am going to click on, I don’t click there.”
Internet Explorer users are urged to download a security toolkit from Microsoft.
In other tech news, if you are an Aol. email user and got spam email from a friend, it was most likely someone who hacked your friend’s account, and “spoofed” their email account. Aol. is urging all its email users to change their passwords and security questions immediately.