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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, July 8, 2004

You may be using Explorer browser but not know it

By Anna Weaver
Advertiser Staff Writer

Recent alerts about security breaches in the popular Internet Explorer Web browser advised users to fix the program or stop using it altogether. Less prominently reported was the fact that some Web surfers may be using the bugged browser and not know it.

How to protect yourself

Install updates and patches that can protect Internet Explorer from viruses, available at Microsoft's Windows Update page and Microsoft's security page.

Use a different browser, such as Netscape, Mozilla or Opera.

To check if you're using a rebranded IE browser, click on Help and then About on your browser.

Install Google Toolbar at www.toolbar.google.com to block pop-up ads, which have been used to spread viruses.

Install a virus scanner such as Norton, MacAfee and Symantec and set it to to update daily.

Macintosh computers are not affected by IE viruses.

Source: Advertiser research

That could happen to people who use certain Internet service providers such as AOL, Earthlink and Roadrunner, some experts say. Those ISPs and other providers use customized versions of Internet Explorer that have been rebranded with another name.

"If you're using Internet Explorer, just in a different guise, you can definitely be infected," said Herb Dudley, senior systems engineer and network security officer for Computer Training Academy of Honolulu.

One virus, publicized last week, uses security flaws in Internet Explorer to steal Web users' banking and financial information by monitoring their keystrokes. Another version uses pop-up ads to steal passwords.

Also last week, Microsoft said it will remove a feature of its Windows operating system because hackers have used it to steal information from personal computers.

Hackers have used the feature, which allows Web sites to save information on a PC's hard drive, to steal passwords from EBay Inc. and PayPal accounts, said Stephen Toulouse, a security program manager at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft.

Some Hawai'i computer experts, such as SuperGeeks president James Kerr and Lava.net systems administrator Michael Wise, said they are doubtful about customized Internet Explorer browsers being infected, but other tech experts consulted believe such browsers are susceptible to the new viruses.

"Companies that are rebranding, modifying and putting out improved versions of the IE browser are putting out an operationally more efficient version of the browser, but it's not more secure," said Gordon Bruce, director of marketing and sales for Pau Spam, a company specializing in spam- and virus-filtering.

Such customized versions provide almost no clues that they are versions of Internet Explorer. The only indication is a small IE symbol, often at the bottom of the page.

Reach Anna Weaver at aweaver@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2455.