UPDATE: Microsoft has released a patch for this important security hole. Your Windows PC should’ve installed the patch already (indicated by a pesky need to reboot). If not or if you’re unsure, you can run Microsoft Update (or Windows Update) or go to the Microsoft Download Center.
A security exposure was recently discovered within Internet Explorer (IE) that could allow malicious software to be installed on your computer without your knowledge. There is virtually no limit to what this malicious software could do once installed but might include logging user keystrokes, stealing passwords, etc.
Simply browsing an infected or malicious web site with IE can result in silent malware installation. Microsoft is working towards releasing a fix but no target date has yet been specified.
How can you avoid becoming infected?
The easiest workaround is to stop using Internet Explorer until a fix becomes available. Alternate browsers such as Firefox and Opera are not vulnerable to this issue and can be used instead. More technical workarounds are available on Microsoft‘s web site.
Windows users with Automatic Update enabled will automatically download the IE fix once it becomes available (and their PC is connected to the Internet).
A few words on multiple browsers:
Now’s a good time to consider using more than one browser for your Internet activity. For example, designate one browser (e.g., Firefox) for any banking or access of sites containing sensitive data (e.g., Banner, Blackboard, etc.). A different browser (e.g., IE) would be used for more generic, less sensitive surfing like blogs, social networking sites, etc. The idea is that isolating types of Internet activity by browser provides extra protection against malicious sites accessing secure sites being viewed within the same browser.