Users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 beta 2 are at risk of corrupting their hard drives because of a bug, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The bug lets a malicious Webmaster build a Java applet that can erase or corrupt files on any PC running Windows 95. It does not affect Macs or Windows 3x. The bug sneaks onto a user's machine after a malicious web page has been visited. The Java applet leaves the page and begins wreaking havoc on the user's hard drive.
To corrupt a file, the applet writer needs to know the name and location of a file, which is not a major problem for files such as autoexec.bat or config.sys. The bug works only with a combination of Java and Microsoft's DirectX, commonly used for games applications.
Normally the Java security model stops applets from writing to the hard drive, but certain DirectX code, when built into a Java applet, bypasses Microsoft's version of the Java security model.
Mike Pryke-Smith, developer tools product manager at Microsoft, insisted that there have been no user reports about the bug so far.
"There are several work-arounds on the Microsoft web site (microsoft.com) but we are fixing the bug in the final release," he said. "We're absolutely confident IE4.0 will be bug-free and the most robust browser on the market."
IE4.0 is scheduled to ship on 30 September. In the meantime, if you are using IE4.0 Beta 2 and are concerned about this bug, simply turn off Java in the security menu.
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