German authorities advise against use of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer

German’s web safety authority has warned web users not to use the Internet Explorer browser until a newly discovered and serious security defect has been fixed.

The Federal Information Technology Safety Office BSI said computers could be infected with a virus simply by visiting a tainted website. The threat was described as zero-day virus, meaning one that cannot yet be detected by anti-virus software.

The late Monday warning was rare in advising users to avoid the browser completely and to use alternative browsers. The Berlin-based BSI said it was in touch with Microsoft, the software company, and would issue an all-clear when the vulnerability had been fixed.

The computers affected are those running Internet Explorer 8 and 9 with the Windows 7 operating system and versions 7 or 8 with Windows XP. BSI said the vulnerability had not been previously published, but had already been exploited.

Microsoft responded that its newest Internet Explorer version, 10, was not affected and said in a blog it was working to fix the problem. It said there had been “only a small number of targeted attacks” as a result of the vulnerability. – DPA