[ISN] German IT agency sets record straight on Explorer

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Fri Sep 17 07:47:58 EDT 2004


By John Blau
SEPTEMBER 16, 2004 

In response to the growing number of viruses infecting computers, a
spokesman for Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI)  
has suggested that users consider alternatives to Microsoft Corp.'s
Internet Explorer Web browser. But the agency didn't recommend that
users steer clear of Microsoft products, the spokesman said, refuting
a statement issued Tuesday by browser developer Opera Software ASA.

"Microsoft products are the target of many virus writers," BSI
spokesman Michael Dickopf said in an interview yesterday. "If computer
users want to avoid viruses and Trojans, they may want to consider
using alternatives to Microsoft software."

However, Dickopf said, BSI "did not issue any warning against using
Microsoft products."

The Opera statement, titled "German Government Computing Security Body
Recommends Switch to Opera," was based on a story published Monday by
the online news site The Register, according to Opera spokesman Pal
Hvistendahl. Opera didn't contact BSI directly in preparing its
release, he said.

The Register report was based, in turn, on a story published Saturday
in the German daily newspaper Berliner Zeitung. In that story, Dickopf
was one of several experts interviewed on the topic of computer
viruses and worms, and on recent phishing attacks in the country. The
BSI spokesman was paraphrased as saying that he "indirectly advised"  
Internet users to switch from Explorer to Mozilla or Opera. He was
directly quoted as saying, "Whoever doesn't use Internet Explorer
can't be affected by these viruses and worms."

The IT industry is closely monitoring the procurement behavior of
governments, which traditionally have been big users of Microsoft
products but increasingly are becoming interested in the use of
open-source alternatives to save money and reduce security risks.

In Europe, the German government has been at the forefront of
promoting the use of open-source software in the public sector. Cost
has been the key driver for its support of Linux and other open-source
products. But over the past year, security has also become an issue.

Microsoft has responded to the developments by offering discounts to
the country's vast public sector and agreeing to provide special
assistance with software security.

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