Leading government security bodies, the UK, US and Australia CERTs, have warned users to avoid Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser until the Redmond firm has fixed a major issue that came to light over the weekend.
Microsoft admitted to a problem with IE over the weekend, which was first uncovered by security firm FireEye, and advised its users to take care before it releases a full fix for the issue.
The vulnerability affects a swathe of IE versions and could impact on as many as one in four of its users. Because of this each of the CERTs has counselled parties not to use the browser.
According to an alert from the Australian Government's Stay Smart Online, users are best to take the route of downloading a different browser such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox until the issue is resolved, rather than following the more complicated Microsoft workaround.
"Microsoft has issued a security advisory warning about a critical vulnerability affecting all versions of Internet Explorer. The vulnerability is known to be targeted by cyber criminals. You should take action to ensure you will not be affected," the guidance note reads.
"The vulnerability could be exploited if an attacker can gain access to your computer, or if you visit a malicious website using one of the affected versions of Internet Explorer."
The US security unit is direct, and simply says that users who cannot deal with the problem should find a alternative solution.
"US-CERT is aware of active exploitation of a use-after-free vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer. This vulnerability affects IE versions 6 through 11 and could allow unauthorized remote code execution," it says.
"US-CERT recommends that users and administrators review Microsoft Security Advisory 2963983 for mitigation actions and workarounds. Those who cannot follow Microsoft's recommendations, such as Windows XP users, may consider employing an alternate browser."
The UK CERT which launched recently, is more detailed in its advice. It says that anyone that uses Windows XP is particularly at risk, and recommends a move off of the non-supported operating system.
"Its significance is likely to be that, even once patched, users of Windows XP will be at risk because on current plans no patch would be issued for that version of the Operating System following its end of life. As the first such vulnerability to appear, this one is likely to receive a greater than normal level of interest," it advised.
"Users should also consider using alternative browsers, such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox; and ensure that their antivirus software is current and regularly updated. In the longer term, our advice remains (as per alerts issued during March and April 2014) that where possible users and enterprises should implement a controlled migration from Windows XP to later versions of the operating system."
The threat posed to Windows XP users underlines what many security professionals have been warning that risks will proliferate now the system has moved beyond Microsoft's help.
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