Over the weekend, Microsoft announced a huge security flaw in its Internet Explorer Web browser (in versions IE6 through IE11). “An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the current user,” Microsoft wrote in its advisory.
In response, the Homeland Security Department issued its own memo, advising computer users within the federal government to “consider employing an alternative Web browser,” seeing that the vulnerability “could lead to the complete compromise of an affected system,” which is not desirable.
A vulnerability like this is especially bad for the U.S. government, which tends to cling to older technology. That’s not to say that Internet Explorer is an “old” technology; it’s updated regularly. But it is losing market share, as National Journal‘s Stephanie Stamm demonstrated in the graphic posted below. The browser also causes headaches for developers, because it renders Web pages differently than other browsers do. It also has a history of security glitches. Generally speaking, it’s thought to be the Hotmail of Web browsers.
On National Journal‘s website, for instance, visitors on government computers are more than twice as likely to be using Internet Explorer as our readership overall. Plus, 10 percent of government computers still use the decade-old Windows XP, and because that operating system has been discontinued, Microsoft will not release a patch to fix Internet Explorer on those computers.
It’s a dangerous time to be an Internet user, especially in the wake of the Heartbleed bug. But it’s even riskier to be an Internet user on a discontinued machine.
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The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House this morning by a 375-34 vote. The bill, which heads to the Senate next week for final consideration, would fund the military to the tune of $618.7 billion, "about $3.2 billion more than the president requested for fiscal 2017. ... The White House has issued a veto threat on both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill, but has not yet said if it will sign the compromise bill released by the conference committee this week."
"Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel" to succeed Michgan's Fred Upton.
"Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that would limit deportations" under President-elect Donald Trump. Leading the effort are Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is also expected to sign on.
Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis as his secretary of defense, according to The Washington Post. Mattis retired from active duty just four years ago, so Congress will have "to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law that states secretaries of defense must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years." The official announcement is likely to come next week.