It’s unfortunate to hear Internet Explorer 6 for windows may be the last version to be released as a standalone application. I don’t use the browser much anymore, and it does have several long-standing CSS bugs I wish could be fixed, but the biggest problem with the browser is the lack of security.
When the DOJ went after microsoft for bundling the browser so close to the operating system, I never really considered the potential pitfalls of such an arrangement. That is, until I used my dad’s computer the other day.
It’s ridiculously easy to install software through IE on windows and that’s great for necessary stuff like quicktime and flash players, but it has been exploited to the fullest by unscrupulous developers. Web sites can cloak some pretty hideous installers with innocuous popups that ask you if you want to speed up your connection or some such nonsense. Sometimes they go for the double negatives, so you can’t tell what option needs to be checked to prevent something from being added to your system.
My dad is retired and disabled now and is computer savvy enough to read email and search the web, but I have to help him with installing some apps and working with the filesystem. When I fired up his copy of IE, it went to a get-rich-quick site, launched a sidebar search engine that I’ve never heard of, and then a barrage of popups and popunders began that slowed the machine to a crawl. After about two minutes, the computer became stable again and I proceeded to close all the advertising windows, but through the use of various exploits, phantom popunders continued as I used it. Toolbars were featured in the app that couldn’t be removed. A couple strange things were running the taskbar, one in a character set not used by his OS, that monitored everything he was looking at.
I ran ad-aware and found a couple processes running and untold numbers of registry keys and cookies used by advertisers. I uninstalled everything I could, but there were still spyware remnants everywhere. Just opening a file explorer window caused the machine to dialup and send data to god-knows-who.
I installed mozilla on the machine and showed my dad how to use it, but I never realized just how much normal people get taken advantage of as they wander the depths of the hinternet, thanks to slimy spyware and advertising companies.
There exist businesses with business models that rely on the lax default security of popular applications combined with the technical naivete of typical users. While I wish those companies much ill will, to hear one of the most popular internet applications will no longer be updated in major ways… that is unfortunate news for millions of people trapped by the software.