September 18, 2012, 8:39 PM — If you use Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8 or 9 as your default browser on a Windows PC, security experts are advising you to use a different Web browser until Microsoft patches a critical vulnerability in IE. Microsoft on Monday confirmed that hackers were actively exploiting an IE vulnerability that could allow an attacker to take over your PC. The exploit does not affect users running IE10 on the Windows 8 Release Preview.
So far, Microsoft says it has received reports of "a small number of targeted attacks" using this exploit. The software maker is working on a security patch for the problem, but the company has not yet said whether it will issue a security update as soon as possible or as part of its monthly "patch Tuesday" update cycle. The next "patch Tuesday" would be October 9.
The exploit was made public on security firm Rapid7's Metasploit Project and first discovered in the wild by security researcher Eric Romang. Metasploit is advising users to dump IE until Microsoft issues a security update. The new IE security flaw was developed by the same group that created the recent Java zero day flaw, according to Metasploit.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer makes up about 48.75% of active Web browsers worldwide, according to Net Market Share.
Microsoft said the exploit makes it possible for a hacker to take advantage of corrupted memory in your system and execute malicious code on your PC. The end result is that, if attacked, a hacker would have the same control over your PC that you do. So if you login as an administrative user, which many Windows users do, then the hacker would be able to do everything you can including install or remove programs; view, change, or delete files; and even create new user accounts with full administrative rights.
How It Could Happen