Microsoft was forced to delay the release of its much anticipated browser, Internet Explorer 4.0, after a series of bugs exposed potentially serious security flaws in IE 3.0. Although IE 4.0 is now available on Microsoft's Web site, it had been scheduled for initial release on 17 March.
The bugs, which Microsoft insists have now been fixed, all cropped up within two weeks of each other. The first bug, called Cybersnot, was discovered by a group of students from Worcester University and potentially allowed a programmer to write code in a Web page that could cause damage to the user's computer. But the creator of the link would have to know the specific program installed (name and path) on the user's hard drive in order for this technique to work.
A second flaw, similar to Cybersnot, was later discovered by students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, though Microsoft moved quickly to fix it. The third bug, unearthed by students at the University of Maryland, was found in MSN, Microsoft's Internet access service, and could potentially corrupt Microsoft OutLook files and prevent users from accessing their email.
Users whose corporate firewall or ISP allows file-system calls to be passed to the Net are thought to be at risk, while such a scenario is unlikely for home users who dial into an ISP.
"Let me apologise for the inconvenience these security issues may have caused you," said Brad Silverberg, Senior Vice President of Microsoft's applications and Internet client group, in a letter to users posted to the company's Web site.
"Looking ahead, security will continue to be an industry issue; although today the issues may be ours, tomorrow they may affect a different vendor," Silverberg wrote: "As an industry, we must pull together to solve problems and provide you with a safe and secure Internet." See page 30 for details of IE 4.0.
Microsoft has posted a patch at (www.microsoft.com/ie/security/update.htm).
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