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Penn State Advises of Alternatives for "Exploring" the Internet

A recent announcement by Penn State University that discourages against the use of Microsoft's Internet Explore by faculty, staff, and students is sure to send shock waves across the higher education scene as other colleges and universities (and perhaps corporations and governments) consider whether or not to follow suit. The story first broke on December 8th when a news headline ("Change in Internet Browsers Recommend") posted to the Penn State Live news service announced, "Penn State's Information Technology Services (ITS) is urging that the University computing community use standards-based Web browsers other than Internet Explorer to help minimize exposure to attacks that occur through browser vulnerabilities." The story was then picked up by the MacDailyNews, CNET, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Advice against the use of Microsoft's Internet Explorer has been building up steam since the June announcement by US-CERT of significant vulnerabilities with IE. Among the steps recommended by US-CERT was "Use a Different Web Browser". Bruce Schneier, in an article ("Who says safe computing must remain a pipe dream?") that coincidentally appeared in CNET also on December 9th, writes, "Don't use Microsoft Internet Explorer, period."

For Penn State, this is not just an assault against Microsoft or an open source religious campaign. The letter to the campus community states: "ITS has not made this recommendation without due deliberation." The university is recommending the use of alternative Web browsers such as Firefox, Mozilla, Netscape Communicator, and Opera. Importantly for Penn State, their latest announcement is part of a broader awareness effort ("Take Control") that informs the campus community about "5 Steps to Take Control" which is a campaign designed to safeguard data privacy and improve computer security.

For more information, see:

Pennsylvania State U. Advises Computer Users on Its Network not to Use Microsoft Browser (Chronicle of Higher Education, December 10, 2004)

Schools out to shun IE (CNET, December 9, 2004)

Penn State's IT Services recommends dumping Microsoft Internet Explorer immediately (MacDailyNews, December 9, 2004)

Tired of Spyware? Try Another Browser (Seattle Times, November 15, 2004)

Firefox Leaves No Reason To Endure Internet Explorer (Washington Post, November 14, 2004)

Microsoft Internet Explorer does not properly validate source of redirected frame (US-CERT Vulnerability Note VU#713878, June 9, 2004)

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