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Local Techies Caution Against Using Internet Explorer Temporarily

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by Anum Valliani
NewsWest 9

WEST TEXAS -  If you use Internet Explorer to surf the net, you may want to hold off on that. Hackers have found gap in its security. 

According to some local information technology experts, it probably came about from hackers trying to one up one another and expose holes in Windows XP Operating Systems. If that's the case, they were kind of successful. They did find vulnerabilities- but in the web browsers.

"Having different browsers is like having a Ford or a Chevy. It really is your choice. But if you've got one, then why do you need another? In this case, you do," Shawn Shirey, the owner of Triple C Computers, said.

Officials at Microsoft have notified the public about the issue. Basically, there's a potential for attacks coming in through the Internet Explorer web browser.  Hackers target sites by using Adobe Flash Plug-Ins that pop up on your screen, and if you click on it, it allows users to take over your computer.

Disabling Flash is an option, but not a good one.

"For people to be able to work in an everyday environment, a lot of pages require Flash," he said.  

"Operation Clandestine Fox" and "Free For Now" are a couple of names of this bug circulating. It applies to all the different versions of Explorer from 6-11.  And those using XP are especially vulnerable, since Microsoft is phasing it out. They're no longer supporting their regular fixes to the system.

"For the every day user, for small businesses, even city agencies, they should really move away from XP," Shirey said.

Recently, Shirey said an entire law firm brought in their computers to switch operating systems. As for the current problem, if users want to continue using Explorer, they're urged to download Microsoft's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit or EMET. 

"It gives them added protection but not necessarily protection from this," Tyler Patton, Director at the Better Business Bureau, said.

"That is their answer at this point right now until they can release a patch," Shirey said.

Even though Homeland Security has cautioned folks, some experts say it's too early to freak out.

"We don't know of any cases at this point where a code was downloaded on someone's computer and information was extracted from it. The best thing to do is don't expose yourself anymore than you have to and use a different Internet Explorer browser in the meantime," Patton said.

Microsoft has alerted the public and is scrambling to find a solution. A fix is expected before mid-May. In the meantime, local techs said to make sure to have your antivirus software up to date, although it might not prevent an attack, it will reduce vulnerability.