DHS Warns Against Vulnerability In IE; Marketers Don't Expect It To Affect Search

The Department of Homeland Security has issued an alert asking government and state agencies to stop using Internet Explorer until Microsoft fixes vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer versions 6 through 11. The move is not expected to affect search marketing. IE could take a hit in market share from the latest bug; but marketers don't expect it to influence searches in general. Bing could take a hit because it's so closely tied to IE.

Most people use IE because it's their default browser, and very few people choose it, said James Green, Magnetic CEO. "People are slow to change, so when they do they tend to stay with the new solution until something is demonstrably better, not equal," he said. "Yes, I suspect this change will become permanent as IE has consistently been the second best solution, at best, and most people, including me, rate it below Safari, Firefox and Chrome, which makes it fourth best."  

Green said none of this will affect search engine consumers. The vulnerability that is described doesn't affect search. No one will stop searching. They will just choose to use a different browser to reach the engines and Web sites.

The hole in IE could allow unauthorized remote code execution. The government organizations recommend a workaround until it's fixed such as working with an alternative browser, which gets Internet users to Web sites and search engines.

The Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute describes the bug as a use-after-free vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer that can allow a "remote, unauthenticated attacker to execute arbitrary code on a vulnerable system."

Microsoft suggests using the Microsoft Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) to help plug the hole and reduce vulnerability. It does not support Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. These will not receive the same level of protection to more recent Windows platforms.

In a security advisory posted Saturday, Microsoft said it was aware of limited target attacks. FireEye, credited for discovering the flaw, said the issue is still under investigation.

Government agencies are asking employees to switch to Chrome or Firefox, at least until the hole gets plugged. This could provide Google and Mozilla, respectively, with the opportunity to gain market share.

NetMarket Share, which measures the market share of browsers, estimates share for a variety of IE versions in Q1 2014: Microsoft IE 8 21.36%; IE 11, 13.54%; IE 9, 8.82%; and IE 10, 8.06%.

It's not clear whether the vulnerability will influence the search engine consumers and government employees use, and whether the move will become temporary or permanent.

"Caterpillar over a computer keyboard" photo from Shutterstock.

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