Microsoft: 340 Million PCs Using Out-of-Date Browsers at Risk of Infections

“Socially engineered” malware is deemed biggest threat

Microsoft is warning that users of in excess of 340 million computers worldwide are at risk of infections from malicious code because they’re running out-of-date browsers.

According to Roger Capriotti, director, Internet Explorer Product Marketing, the top threat to consumers that fail to keep their browser up to date comes from socially engineered malware attacks, as revealed in the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report Volume 11 launched earlier today.

Social engineering tactics involve tricking unsuspecting victims into infecting their own machines by masquerading malicious code as genuine downloads or legitimate content. Users are often incentivized into installing malware themselves, but cybercriminals can leverage a variety of strategies, including scarring customers into becoming participants to the attack that compromises their PC.

“These attacks are particularly nefarious because they manipulate people into taking actions, such as downloading software that may harm them or their PC by corrupting their computer with a virus, collecting confidential information, or stealing files," Capriotti  explained.

“Attacks like these accounted for 45% of computer infections according to the Security Intelligence Report and they are exactly the types of attacks modern browsers help protect against." is part of Microsoft’s response to the problem of socially engineered malware.

The site is designed to tell users just how safe their browser is against attacks using this type of malicious code. Browsers get a score rated in accordance to information supplied by not only Microsoft, but also a number of partners which helped put together, including the Anti-Phishing League, Identity Theft Council, and Online Trust Alliance.

I said only part of the software giant’s way of tackling the issue because the latest release of Internet Explorer also plays a key role.

IE9 has been rated the top browser worldwide in terms of protecting users against socially engineered malware, according to NSS Labs. But Capriotti notes that is not about advertising IE9, but about raising awareness of the threat represented by socially engineered malware and determining users to keep their browser up to date.

“ also makes it easy for people to upgrade to the latest version of any of the most popular browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome. Of course, we hope they choose IE9 because among other things, it blocks more malware than any other browser out there – more than 7 times that of Chrome and over 13 times more than Mozilla Firefox or Apple Safari according to NSS Labs,” Capriotti said.

“But while we’re confident that when compared to any other browser IE9 excels at keeping people safer, the bottom line is we simply want people to protect themselves by knowing that a modern browser is the first line of defense online.”

Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) Platform Preview 2 (PP2) Build 10.0.1008.16421 is available for download here.

Windows Internet Explorer 9 RTW for Windows 7 and Windows 7 SP1 is available for download here.

Firefox 7 for Windows is available for download here.

Google Chrome for Windows is available for download here.

Opera 12.00 Codenamed Wahoo Pre-Alpha and Opera 11.50 for Windows are available for download here.

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