Category Archives: IE9

Internet Explorer only? IE doubt it

Fewer businesses standardizing browser use on Internet Explorer, but the practice isn’t gone yet.

Just as Internet users in general have defected in huge numbers from Microsoft Internet Explorer over the past several years, the business world, as well, is becoming less dependent on the venerable browser.

Companies that used to mandate the use of IE for access to web resources are beginning to embrace a far more heterodox attitude toward web browsers. While it hasn’t gone away, the experience of having to use IE 6 to access some legacy in-house web app is becoming less common.

“Things have changed a lot in the last three years, and I think a lot of it has to do with the emergence of the modern web and the popularity of mobile. They have made it very different for companies to truly standardize on a browser,” says Gartner Research analyst David Mitchell Smith.

One example of the changing face of business browser use is SquareTwo Financial, a Denver-based financial services company that works primarily in distressed asset management. The firm’s 280 employees handle both consumer and commercial business, buying and selling debt, and a franchise program means that there are upwards of 1,500 more people working at SquareTwo affiliates. According to CTO Chris Reigrut, the company takes in roughly $280 million in annual revenue.

“In addition to buying and selling debt, we also provide a software-as-a-service platform that our franchises (and we) use to actually negotiate and litigate the debt,” he tells Network World.

Square Two hasn’t needed to standardize, he says, because keeping their offerings diverse is part of the idea – the company’s various online resources all have differing requirements.

“We do distribute Firefox on Windows systems – however, Safari and IE are both frequently used. Our internal wiki is only officially supported on Firefox and Safari. Our SaaS ‘client’ is a pre-packaged Firefox install so that it looks more like a traditional thick-client application. Most of our employees use their browser for a couple of internal systems, as well as several external services (i.e. HR, training, etc),” says Reigrut (who, like the other IT pros quoted in this story is a member of the CIO Executive Council Pathways program for leadership development).

The Microsoft faithful, however, are still out there. Many businesses have chosen to remain standardized on IE, for several reasons. SickKids, a children’s research hospital in Toronto, sticks with Microsoft’s browser mostly for the ease of applying updates.

“We have more than 7,000 end-point devices. Most of those devices are Windows workstations and Internet Explorer is included as part of the Microsoft Windows operating system. As such, this makes it easier and integrates well with our solution to manage and deploy upgrades, patches and hotfixes to the OS including IE,” says implementations director Peter Parsan.

“Internet Explorer is more than a browser, it is the foundation for Internet functionality in Windows,” he adds.

The complexity of managing an ecosystem with more than 100 types of software – running the gamut from productivity applications to clinical programs – requires a heavily controlled approach, according to Parsan.

Smith agrees that IE still has its advantages for business users that want just such a strictly regimented technology infrastructure.

“If you want a managed, traditional IT environment … really, your only option is Internet Explorer,” he says, adding that both Firefox and Chrome lag behind IE in terms of effective centralized management tools.

Some companies, however, have gone a different way – standardizing not on IE, but on a competing browser.

Elliot Tally, senior director of enterprise apps for electronics manufacturer Sanmina, says his company’s employees are highly dependent on browsers for business-critical activities. Everything from ERP to document control (which he notes is “big for a manufacturing company”) to the supply chain is run from a web app.

Tally says Sanmina made the move to standardize on Chrome in 2009, in part because of a simultaneous switch to Gmail and Google Apps from IE and Microsoft products.

“It made sense to go with the browser created and supported by the company that created the apps we rely on. Also, Chrome installs in user space so it doesn’t require admin privileges to auto-update,” he says. “It also silently auto-updates, as opposed to Firefox, which requires a fresh install to update versions, or IE, which is similar. Chrome, over the last year or so, has supported web standards better than any other browser, and (until recently) has offered significantly better performance.”

Plainly, broad diversity exists both in the actual browsers used by workers and the approaches businesses have taken in managing their use.

That diversity, says Smith, is the reason Gartner has been advising clients against standardization from the outset.

“Standardize on standards, not browsers,” he urges. “That was a controversial position for 10 years. People really didn’t agree with it, they didn’t listen to it, and they paid the price.”

Microsoft, as well, has had to pay a price.

“[Standardization] hurts Microsoft’s reputation as an innovator; as a forward-thinker,” he says. “When people’s impression of using Microsoft technology – whether it’s a browser, whether it’s an operating system – is something that is two or three versions old, because they’re dealing with it through what enterprises want.”

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IE ‘silent’ upgrade helps put newest browser on Windows

Stats show some Windows 7 and Vista users upgraded to IE9, but the new practice affected few XP users

Computerworld – Microsoft’s decision late last year to switch on “silent” upgrades for Internet Explorer (IE) has moved some Windows users to newer versions, but has had little, if any, impact on the oldest editions, IE6 and IE7, according to usage statistics.

In December 2011, Microsoft announced it would start automatically upgrading IE so that users ran the newest version suitable for their copy of Windows.
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Under the plan, Windows XP users still on IE6 or IE7 would be updated to IE8, while Windows Vista or Windows 7 users running IE7 or IE8 would be pushed to IE9.

Previously, Microsoft has always asked users for their permission before upgrading IE from one version to the next, even if Windows’ automatic updates was enabled.

First to get the automatic treatment, Microsoft said, would be Australia and Brazil, both guinea pigs for the January 2012 debut. The program would then be gradually expanded to other markets.

Yesterday, Microsoft declined to disclose what other countries, if any, had had the auto-upgrade switched on.

But in Australia and Brazil, the move shuffled share among some editions of IE, according to data from StatCounter, an Irish Web analytics company that publishes country-by-country usage share numbers for IE6, IE7, IE8 and IE9.

In both countries, IE9 jumped unexpectedly in February, the first full month after the auto-upgrade switch was thrown, while IE8 saw an almost-corresponding decline in share.

IE9 in Australia climbed 3.3 percentage points that month, a 23% increase, which was significantly greater than any spike of the previous 12 months. Meanwhile, IE8 slipped 2.8 points, or 15%, in February.

The result in Brazil was eerily similar: IE9 jumped by 3.5 points (42% increase over the previous month) and IE8 dropped by 3.1 percentage points (for a decline of 16%).

There was some evidence that the auto-upgrade did impact IE7’s share in Australia, since the browser’s February decline was only a third that recorded for both January and March.

It’s impossible to tell if, assuming some copies of IE7 were upgraded to IE8 or IE9, which operating system — Windows Vista or Windows XP — was affected: Both those editions can run IE7.

The theory that IE auto-upgrades primarily applied to Windows 7 and Vista users was bolstered by the shares XP owns in each of the two countries: In Australia, XP accounted for 19.5% of all operating systems used in February, while Brazil’s XP share that month was double that at 37.7%.

If appreciable numbers of XP users had had their copies of IE upgraded, one would have expected to see Brazil’s numbers for IE 6 and IE 7 show a larger variance from the norm than Australia. That just wasn’t the case.

The shifts reported by StatCounter hint that IE’s automatic upgrade program successfully moved some Windows 7 and Vista users from IE8 to IE9, but did little to migrate Windows XP users to a more modern browser, since IE6 and IE7 shares did not drop more than the usual.

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Researchers hack IE9 during second day at Pwn2Own

Researchers from VUPEN Security exploited previously unknown vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 9 at the CanSecWest conference

Internet Explorer 9 was the second browser to succumb to white-hat hackers during the Pwn2Own contest at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver.
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Contest hacks the heck out of Chrome

A team of vulnerability researchers from French security firm VUPEN Security exploited a pair of previously unknown vulnerabilities in the latest version of Microsoft’s browser on Thursday.

The attack was demonstrated on a fully patched 64-bit Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 system and earned the VUPEN team 32 points in the annual Pwn2Own competition sponsored by TippingPoint’s Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) program.

The rules have changed for this year’s Pwn2Own contest, its focus shifting from who can hack a browser faster, as it was in previous editions, to who can write the highest number of reliable exploits. Researchers earn 32 points for exploiting previously unknown browser vulnerabilities, also known as zero-days, and 10 points for exploiting patched vulnerabilities selected by the organizers.

VUPEN is currently in the lead with 124 points, 64 of which were earned for a zero-day exploit against Google Chrome on Wednesday and a similar one against Internet Explorer 9 on Thursday. The team claims to have similar exploits for Apple’s Safari and Mozilla Firefox.

VUPEN’s Internet Explorer 9 exploit leveraged two vulnerabilities — a remote code execution (RCE) that bypassed the browser’s anti-exploitation mechanisms like DEP (Data Execution Prevention) or ASLR (address space layout randomization) and one that bypassed its post-exploitation defense, commonly known as the sandbox, or Protected Mode in Internet Explorer’s case.

The Internet Explorer 9 Protected Mode limits what attackers can do on the OS once they exploit a RCE vulnerability inside the browser. However, according to security researchers, IE’s Protected Mode is less restrictive than Google Chrome’s sandbox. This is expected to improve with Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8.

It’s also worth noting that the order in which browsers get attacked at this year’s Pwn2Own contest has nothing to do with difficulty. Participating researchers come with their zero-day exploits prepared in advance and the order in which they demonstrate them is purely a matter of personal choice rather than an indication of one browser being harder to hack than another.

The zero-day RCE vulnerabilities are shared with TippingPoint, but not the sandbox-escape ones, which are considered highly valuable and rare. The organizers will share the details with the affected vendors after the contest is over.

Microsoft: Switch to IE9, get free stuff

Tries to pump up new edition’s numbers on Windows 7

Computerworld – Microsoft on Friday launched a promotion to convince more Windows 7 users to adopt Internet Explorer 9 (IE9).


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Windows 7 users who download Microsoft’s newest browser, then “pin” any of seven different websites to their taskbars, receive offers that range from a free month of Hulu Plus to a $5-off Fandango movie ticket.

Some of the offers are available immediately, while others launch later this month and during December.

When people running alternate browsers such as Google’s Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox on Windows 7 visit the promotional site, they see the message, “Where’s the love? … Upgrade to Internet Explorer to pin these sites and get the free stuff.”
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Pinning, introduced in IE9, lets users add website shortcuts to the Windows 7 task bar for the same kind of easy access as locally-stored programs.

Users running Mac OS X who visit the free offers site see a different message: “Oh Nooooooo… You’re using Mac OS which doesn’t support Internet Explorer 9 and Site Pinning.”

Windows XP users — still the most widely-used version of Microsoft’s operating system — cannot upgrade to IE9. Microsoft has defended that ban even as IE’s share has continued falling, calling the decade-old OS the “lowest common denominator” and not worthy of future browser development.

Microsoft has been aggressively pushing IE9 as the best browser for Windows 7, and has regularly touted that edition’s gains in usage share even as other versions lose ground to Chrome and Apple’s Safari.

According to Web metrics company Net Applications, IE9 accounted for 22.5% of the browsers running worldwide on Windows 7 during October, an increase of 1.4 percentage points from the month before. Only Microsoft’s own IE8 sported a higher share.

Last month, IE overall lost the largest amount of usage share in three years, falling to 52.6%, putting Microsoft’s browser in danger of slipping under the 50% mark as early as January 2012.