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Browser 'has security risk'

Updated: 2012-04-23 10:35
By Tuo Yannan (China Daily)

Browser 'has security risk'

Microsoft issues warning ahead of launch of new operating system

An old but highly popular version of Internet Explorer may cause security risks to Chinese Web surfers and increase the chances of their computers being attacked by viruses.

That is the opinion of John Lambert, general manager of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing.

Online attacks have been a hot topic in the country since China's Internet population reached 513 million, becoming the largest globally, according to a China Internet Network Information Center report in January.

About 65 percent of Internet attacks, including those in which a Web page is linked to Trojan horse virus, were from foreign-registered domain names, according to the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Center of China last month.

"These factors indicate that China is facing more and more serious outside network attacks and security threats now," said Zhou Yonglin, director of the administration and operations department at the institution.

There are about 8.53 million computers hit by attempted online attacks every day, an increase of about 50 percent year-on-year, according to a report released by China's top industry regulator and Internet safety giant Qihoo 360 Technology Co.

One of the main reasons is that Microsoft Corp's Internet Explorer 6, although it is outdated by today's technological standards, remains the most widely used Web browser in China.

According to Microsoft's latest report, about 24 percent of Internet users are using IE6, accounting for half of the old browser's global market. While the market share of IE6 has dropped to about 1 percent in the United States market, Chinese users are the largest user group of the old browser.

A fall in the use of old versions was expected because Microsoft has stopped updating the security pack for IE6, said Lambert. The introduction of Internet Explorer 9 is increasingly encouraging people to upgrade from Internet Explorer 6, he added.

The high piracy rate for the Windows XP operating system, which supports it, has led to Chinese Web surfers becoming used to free software and they don't like to pay for upgrades, industry experts said.

"In China's PC software market, more than 70 percent of the software is illegal," said Yu Weidong, general manager of the intellectual property rights department at Microsoft China, in an earlier interview with China Daily.

It is not easy for the US-based company to update Chinese browsers. In March last year, Simon Leung, vice-president of Microsoft Corp and chief executive officer of Microsoft (China) Co Ltd, announced the release of the company's latest Web browser IE9. Leung said that his aim is for IE to take 80 percent of the browser market in China.

However, according to Internet data analysis by Baidu Inc, China's largest Internet company by market value, while IE8 had 14.7 percent of the Chinese browser market share and the latest IE9 only accounts for 1.7 percent, the 5-year-old IE6 accounted for the biggest share at 33.31 percent last year.

According to Chinese technology news website, 142 weaknesses were found in IE6. Repair software has not been issued for 22 of them. Microsoft announced its coming operation system Windows 8, due out later this year, won't support IE6 and 7.

That will create market space for domestic browsers, such as Baidu Inc, Tencent Holdings Ltd and Qihoo 360 Technology Co Ltd. "Local companies' browsers provide applications with more flexibility that can adapt to different operating systems," said Cao from iResearch.

Last year, the Qihoo 360 browser had about a 20 percent market share, while the Sogou browser had 5 percent, together exceeding the market share of IE8 and IE9.

With about 450 million regular Internet users, the Chinese web-browser market will be a major battlefield for software companies, Cao said, because browsers are an important application needed to link Internet users to Web content.