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Category: Internet Explorer

Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 to let users list sites they do and don't want tracking them

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Microsoft announced Tuesday that users of its Internet Explorer 9 Web browser would soon be able to create lists of sites that they do and don't want tracking them.

The news of the browser update, which Microsoft said would arrive sometime next year, comes as the Federal Trade Commission is mulling over proposals to limit websites and online advertisers' ability to track how and what people surf on the Web.

The commission is looking to protect online consumers from companies tracing their "digital footprints" online, but some lawmakers worry such laws could hurt the economy of the Internet.

Internet Explorer's new feature, called Tracking Protection, will not automatically block websites from collecting data about how a user surfs the Web. Rather, users will have to create their own lists of specific websites and third-party sites that they'd like to block and not block.

"Some consumers today have been very clear that they have privacy concerns, like being unclear about what information is being shared and how it is used as they browse," said Peter Cullen, Microsoft's chief privacy strategist, in a statement.

"Some sharing is good -- you may want a shopping site to know your history -- but it is hard for anyone to differentiate today. The consumer challenge here is that the technologies involved are very complex and even the definitions -- what exactly constitutes tracking -- are still under development by the industry."

ALSO:

Mozilla to Apple, Google and Microsoft: 'Stop being evil'

'Do not track' bill to protect online privacy worries some lawmakers

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: A screen shot of "Tracking Protection" being used to block a third-party website from following a user of Internet Explorer 9. Credit: Microsoft

Google hackers exploited security hole in Microsoft's Internet Explorer

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Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, second from left; former Google China executive Kai-Fu Lee, center; and Google executive Johnny Chou, right, in better times. Credit: Doug Kanter/Bloomberg News.
Attackers targeting Google and other U.S. companies exploited a new security hole in Internet Explorer, Microsoft said.

In a statement, Microsoft admitted that Internet Explorer was one of the "vectors."

Microsoft said it is working with Google, partners and authorities. It is working on a patch for the hole, which could allow an attacker to gain control of a computer if the target clicks on a link in an e-mail or an instant message.

Earlier in the day, McAfee detailed how attackers targeted Google. 

Wrote McAfee CTO George Kurtz: "As with most targeted attacks, the intruders gained access to an organization by sending a tailored attack to one or a few targeted individuals. We suspect these individuals were targeted because they likely had access to valuable intellectual property. These attacks will look like they come from a trusted source, leading the target to fall for the trap and clicking a link or file. That's when the exploitation takes place, using the vulnerability in Microsoft's Internet Explorer." 

Once downloaded and installed, malware allows the attacker to take over the compromised system.

Google stunned the world by going public with the attacks on Tuesday. It said the attacks originated in China and that human rights activists' e-mail accounts were targeted.

McAfee said it believes attackers named the operation "Aurora."

-- Jessica Guynn

Internet Explorer 6, the browser that will not die

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Good news for fans of Internet Explorer 6, the version of Microsoft's online browser that debuted in 2001. Even though the company is now up to its eighth version of the browser, it will continue to support IE6 until at least 2014.

Not that Microsoft is happy about that.

"Friends do not let friends use IE6," said Microsoft's Amy Barzdukas, in an interview with BBC News. The company wants Internet users to upgrade to IE8, which is also free.

And many developers don't want to bother making their products conform to IE6. Mark Trammell of the Digg content rating site, blogged, "Here at Digg, like most sites, the designers, developers, and QA engineers spend a lot of time making sure the site works in IE6, an 8-year-old browser superseded by two full releases."

The developers even contributed to a site, www.ie6nomore.com.

But IE6 has the numbers on its side. As of July, according to Net Applications, IE6 was still the world's most popular browser, with just more than 27% global market share. IE7 was second at 23%, followed by Firefox 3.0 at 16%.

Some fans of IE6, who had their own Save IE6 site, were loathe to upgrade from a browser version that seemed to work just fine for them. Perhaps they were haunted by the 2006 switch from Microsoft's XP to Vista operating system, which for many did not go well, to put it mildly.

But the major obstacle to IE upgrades is business users, many of whom have hundreds or thousands of computers humming along with IE6. Upgrades bring about the possibility of software conflicts in all those computers.

As Microsoft's Dean Hachamovitch put it on the company's Windows blog, the business user can't afford to upgrade for the fun of it, just to use nifty new features. "The backdrop might be a factory floor or hospital ward or school lab or government organization, each with its own business applications," he said.

"For these folks, the cost of the software isn't just the purchase price but the cost of deploying, maintaining and making sure it works with their IT infrastructure."

-- David Colker

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