Microsoft to Initiate Silent Update of IE6

Paul Mah
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In a bid to ensure that users have access to the latest version of its Internet browser, Microsoft says it will be pushing out "silent" upgrades to Internet Explorer (IE) users next year. Specifically, Windows XP users still using IE6 and IE7 will be updated to IE8, while IE9 will be pushed to users on Windows Vista and Windows 7. Previously, Microsoft would ask for permission prior to downloading the updates, which has allowed users to delay or even reject an update.


Of course, observers will point out that the rival Chrome browser has practiced autonomous updates since three years ago - downloading and installing new updates in the background. New versions of Chrome are then launched without fanfare upon restarting. There is no doubt, however, that the repercussions of Microsoft's decision will be of a larger magnitude given the huge installed base of Internet Explorer deployments.


I have written in the past about how IE6 lives on in corporate IT despite repeated calls - many of them by Microsoft, to stop using its vulnerable IE6 Web browser. At that time, reader "Mihai" wrote in a comment that part of the problem has to do with how older versions of IE were at that time bundled with the Windows installation media, resulting in the creation of a "time bubble" as underperforming or hassled IT departments stuck with what was available. The latest move should eliminate this problem once and for all.


From a security perspective, I see this move by Microsoft as an excellent idea given the number of hacking incidents perpetuated through unpatched as well as zero-day flaws in browser software. To be clear, however, the silent update will only be pushed out next month starting with users located in Australia and Brazil.


And as reported by Computerworld, Microsoft has declined to set a timetable for U.S. users. A number of other caveats apply too: Enterprise users have the option to opt out, while users who have already opted out won't be updated. Moreover, silent updates will only take place for licensed versions of Windows that have Automatic Updates enabled.


With the above points in mind, Tony Bradley of PCWorld expressed frustration at the limited effect of the move. He wrote:

When you boil it all down, it doesn't seem to leave many users who will be pushed one way or the other. IE8 has been around for quite a while, and even IE9 has been offered through the Windows Update system for some time. It seems reasonable to assume that the vast majority of those who don't currently have IE8 or IE9 have, in fact, declined the update at some point-which puts them out of scope for the silent updates anyway.

For now, my advice to SMBs will be to do their part in ensuring that their Web systems are compatible with newer versions of Internet Explorer - especially considering how a rollback to IE6 probably isn't a trivial process. Indeed, it may just be a great opportunity to bite the bullet and migrate to something less that is more secure.


Is your SMB still using IE6 at the moment?

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