Sebastian Kahnert/DPA/Press Association Images
Microsoft was on the back foot last week, after an IT security adviser in Luxembourg identified a weakness in Internet Explorer, which let hackers infect computers with viruses. The experts suggested that users ought to consider using an alternative internet browser until the bug was fixed.
Unsurprisingly Microsoft has rushed out a patch to protect users. So are you safe now?
The weakness was identified after the adviser uploaded a file from servers that had been used by a hacking gang. His computer had up-to-date software and protection, but a Poison Ivy virus still made it through. He discovered that a weakness in Explorer was to blame, and publicised it on his blog.
The experts warned that this discovery was particularly worrying because it not only identified a weakness, but also that the hackers were poised to exploit it. Poison Ivy can be used to monitor your computer, or take control of it in order to use it as part of a coordinated attack.
Microsoft admitted at the time that there had been an "extremely limited number of attacks".
It immediately released a 'workaround'. However, the complexity of using it was off-putting for some, who preferred to switch browsers. Earlier this week, it issued a temporary fix that was far easier to use. The 'Fix It' tool required just one click.
In a blog post, Yunsun Wee, Director of Trustworthy Computing, said: "This is an easy, one-click solution that will help protect your computer right away. It will not affect your ability to browse the web, and it does not require a reboot of your computer."
Today, it will release a full update for Internet Explorer - a proper patch. This is due out at 6pm UK time. If your computer automatically updates software it will prompt you to install it anyway, and you don't have to do anything. If not, you will need to visit your usual distribution channel - such as Windows Update
- and download it.
Wee said: "We recommend that you install this update as soon as it is available... This will not only reinforce the issue that the Fix It addressed, but cover other issues as well."
Internet Explorer users are therefore being reassured that once the patch is installed, their browser software will be safe to use again.
The question for Microsoft is whether people will install it, and come flocking back to Internet Explorer, or whether they will have discovered that they quite like the alternatives.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments?
- 1. Mid-contract price hikes
<p>It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.</p>
<p>Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.</p>
- 1. Land banking
Land banking involves plots of land offered for sale, often online, with the promise of sizable returns when planning permission is approved for housing or other development. Yet often the land is located in areas protected from development by planning law.</p>
The companies involved soon disappear with investors' money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme</p>
- 2. Money mule
Fraudsters recruit unknowing accomplices through email under the guise of offering employment, seeking a personal favour, or through internet shopping sites. The recruits are persuaded into receiving what are essentially fraudulent payments and then passing funds on.</p>
The 'mules' are frequently offered a small financial incentive to encourage involvement and face difficulties in proving their innocence when the fraud is discovered.</p>
- 3. Carbon credit fraud
The scams claim to offer people the chance to profit from carbon credits. Under regulations that permit businesses to emit a tonne of CO2 – the companies claim to offer investment in green projects like a forestry scheme or a solar panel project, which generates carbon credits that are then sold on to heavy industry.</p>
A flashy brochure or website tells of a reliable 'government-backed' scheme which provides reliable returns for investors. Such a scheme doesn't exist however – a reality investors only discovered when they have parted with their cash and the company is untraceable. As with land banking, fraudulent companies are not covered by the FSA so victims have no course for recompense</p>
- 4. HMRC phishing scam
Receiving an email from the taxman saying you are owed a payment may seem like a nice surprise, but it is actually from fraudsters trying to relieve you of your cash instead.</p>
The emails provide a "click-through link" to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details - all the information the criminals need to clear your account, and sell on your personal details.</p>
- 6. Crash for cash scams
Insurer Direct Line reported a hike in the number of 'crash for cash' scams last year – where fraudsters fake accidents by making unnecessary emergency stops at busy roundabouts or slip roads, forcing motorists to crash into them.</p>
They then make bogus claims to the innocent motorist's insurer, often including fictitious injuries and passengers.</p>
- 7. Driving school scams
Learner drivers have been taken for ride by being unknowingly taught by trainee instructors. An investigation by the AA found up to 27,000 extra driving tests have been failed in the last year because one in 10 learner drivers are unwittingly taught by an instructor they do not know is learning on the job.</p>
- 8. One man mail scam
July saw the arrest of a Leicester postman who stole £46,686 worth of mail over two-and-a-half years. Yogeshbhai Patel, 38, was jailed for two years for stealing mail including 2,000 DVDs and 2,250 games along with CDs and other electrical equipment. He intercepting the valuable packages and spent the money on living a luxury lifestyle including helicopter rides and a trip to Las Vegas.</p>
- 9. Smart meter scam
The Trading Standards Institute reported over 200 cases where elderly homeowners have been targeted by telephone cold callers, purporting to be from their energy supplier and offering energy saving devices which could cut their bills by 40%.</p>
The TSI tested the devices in homes where owners had fallen for the scam, only to find they both failed to satisfy electrical safety standards or deliver any tangible energy savings.</p>
- 10. Thermal camera fraud
Thermal cameras that track ATM pin numbers are the latest weapon in their arsenal and US scientists have warned it is the next threat for this form of crime. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that up to 45 seconds after a person types their pin code into an ATM machine or door entry pad the numbers and even the sequence are still readable by thermal cameras.</p>