It emerged last week that the method used by Chinese hackers to hack into Google’s Chinese website and steal valuable information relating to human rights activists in China was IE6 (Internet Explorer 6). The heavily flawed Microsoft browser, and one that is still used by millions of people, was exploited by hackers to gain entry into Google’s website.
In reaction to the exploitation caused by IE6, the governments of France and Germany have appealed to their people to stop using the bug ridden browser. However, the British government has remained blissfully ignorant of the potential for exploitation and has stated that they will continue to use the browser themselves. Even HM armed forces are to continue to use IE6.
The Cabinet Office declared:
It doesn’t think the issue [of being open to hacking] would be resolved any better by going elsewhere.
The Germans and the French haven’t just advised against IE6, they’ve advised their citizens to stop using any version of Internet Explorer, in what has to be a PR nightmare for Microsoft.
It probably didn’t look too bad for Microsoft when their biggest rival online, Google, was hacked last week – but they’ve come off worse in the affair.
IE6 was released in 2000 and even today is the most widely used browser on the Internet. It came pre-packaged with Windows XP and is well known for its weaknesses from a security point of view.
The British government is sticking by Microsoft and IE6 however, even though they have advised businesses against it – as Tom Watson, a former Cabinet Office minister, stated:
The government’s own advice to businesses and consumers, through its Get Safe Online site that it helps to fund, is to not use IE6. So other than the fact that they aren’t taking their own advice, it’s preposterous that they wouldn’t take this threat seriously. With the added security threat, all departments should certainly ditch IE6 and upgrade.
Microsoft were probably laughing when news of the Google hack broke – they’re not laughing now.