Microsoft’s ubiquitous Internet Explorer might come pre-installed in all Windows devices, but over the past few years it has not been able to keep pace with Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox. Even in a country like India, which hardly has a significant Apple presence, the browser is now well behind the two rivals with just over 10% market share in March 2014. If people do use the browser, it is because they are more than concerned about their online safety and trust Microsoft more than others. Many Indian banks and PSUs still prefer transactions to take place through this browser and do not even let you use the newer entrants, even though they are much more popular. And that is exactly why the impact of the newly discovered vulnerability in the browser could be bad news for Microsoft.
The vulnerability, Microsoft says, lets attackers “gain the same user-rights as the current user”—they could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user-rights. There is a double whammy here for India’s banking sector and government agencies, who still make up around 70% of the 16% Windows users who are yet to upgrade from XP. With no support available for users on the now-retired operating system, these sectors are pretty much on their own when it comes to tackling the hackers. They can, of course, move on to a different browser, but it will take longer for them to change their mindsets regarding technology. It is not much of a problem for individual users who have anyway moved on to other options which give them much more than the Microsoft’s plain vanilla offering. With Internet Explorer’s biggest USP also taking such a hit, it remains to be seen how Microsoft gets people back on its browser.