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Internet Explorer Security Flaw: 4 Ways to Protect Yourself

4 minute read

This is why we can’t have nice things. A security flaw affecting most versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser is making the rounds. If you use IE, you’ll want to follow one or more of these four steps in order to keep yourself safe.

Use a Different Web Browser

This is the path of least resistance. Until Microsoft patches up this hole, using a browser such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox can keep you safe from this particular vulnerability.

Don’t Click On Suspicious Email or Chat Links

This is a rule for every day, not just today. This vulnerability only works if the bad guys can get you to click your way to a special infected page they’ve set up. These trick links might make their way to you via email messages or chat messages that seem legit. If someone forwards you an email or initiates a chat with a link in it, call them on the phone and ask them if they really sent it. This accomplishes two things: One, you can make sure you’re not being duped. Two, it’ll make that person think twice about forwarding you an email or trying to chat with you ever again. The less time you spend dealing with forwarded emails and mind-numbing chat conversations, the more time you’ll have to live your life as intended.

Download and Install This Microsoft Toolkit

I appreciate the irony of having just told you not to click on mysterious links, but click on this mysterious link and install this program. It’ll automatically protect Internet Explorer and “make the vulnerability harder to exploit,” according to Microsoft. Notice that Microsoft didn’t say it’d be impossible to exploit.

Ratchet Up Your Internet Explorer Security Settings

If you don’t want to use a different browser until this blows over, you can goose Internet Explorer’s security level instead. Take note that ramping up the security level could impact the performance on certain sites, especially those containing interactive elements. This should be a last resort, like if you’re using a work computer and your IT department won’t allow you to install a new browser. Seriously, try Chrome or Firefox first if you can. You might like them.

Here’s Microsoft’s how-to:

To raise the browsing security level in Internet Explorer, perform the following steps:

  1. On the Internet Explorer Tools menu, click Internet Options.
  2. In the Internet Options dialog box, click the Security tab, and then click Internet.
  3. Under Security level for this zone, move the slider to High. This sets the security level for all websites you visit to High.
  4. Click Local intranet.
  5. Under Security level for this zone, move the slider to High. This sets the security level for all websites you visit to High.
  6. Click OK to accept the changes and return to Internet Explorer.

Note If no slider is visible, click Default Level, and then move the slider to High.

One bonus tip: If you’re using Internet Explorer on Windows XP, the chances that this issue’s going to get fixed are pretty bleak. Microsoft finally dropped support for XP earlier this month, which means any security fix that’s issued for one of Microsoft’s newer operating systems won’t make its way to Windows XP. If you insist on using XP, your best bet would be to use a different browser like Chrome or Firefox for everything and cross your fingers that neither of those browsers suffers a serious setback such as this in the future. Microsoft details a few other tips here as well.

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