Internet Explorer Panic, Again

For years now, there has been Internet Explorer panic amidst the IT world. The agony of the software world was how do we design for Internet Explorer, when it supports so much less than everyone else does?

Boss: We need this site to be fully compatible on Internet Explorer because that’s what the client has installed on their systems.

UX Developer: Groan! Can’t they just install Chrome or Firefox for free?

It’s a far cry from the days when sites proudly displayed footer-resident buttons with the insignia of Microsoft’s browser and the tagline of “best viewed in” at a specified resolution too, just for good measure. I’m convinced that those buttons were a direct influencer of the growth in responsive design and the need to not leave well enough, alone. Not that it was a bad thing of course.

Despite these types of considerations taking the fore of Internet Explorer centric discussions, every now and then, a more sinister blip on the radar caused somewhat of a stir. Always in the form of some security vulnerability and yet again in the last week, a new security risk at the heart of Internet Explorer has ruled it as somewhat of a no go area for the remaining users of the browser. Microsoft have yet to release a fix for this issue, suggesting that some measures may reduce but not completely fix the leak.

Combined with the sealing of the coffin for Windows XP last month, in terms of Microsoft’s discontinuance of support thereof, this is shaping up to be a scary period for users of older systems. They have effectively been bypassed by a technological time curve and told to get with it or be gotten.

This latest threat to long-time supporters (read, those unwilling to try something new) comes about in the form of an old favourite, “the way that Internet Explorer accesses an object in memory that has been deleted or has not been properly allocated“, leading to potential execution of malicious code. Yet again, another tax on our constant desire to save seconds in our everyday life. So much integration has taken place over the years that browsers (especially in the case of Internet Explorer) are no more than a subtle façade on the operating system below, allowing access to things that really should not be left in full view of a malevolent audience. We pay the price for impatience and “ease of use”, while one would be forgiven for thinking that less effort appears to be spent copper-fastening our security.

Joe: How am I going to protect myself from this? My old laptop runs XP and they haven’t released an official fix for it nor are they going to support XP anymore!

Geek: There’s a simple self-help guide; go to www.google.com/chrome and follow the instructions 😛

What impact will arise from this flaw is debatable but it is known that there are already attacks underway to exploit the issue. Users have been warned to take precaution and by the more facetious, albeit rightly so, have been directed to self-help measures resulting in download instructions for Chrome and Firefox. How much longer will Internet Explorer last with both the UI designers and those with designs on our private data, out to get it, in two very different ways?

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