Microsoft is issuing an emergency patch to block the security hole in its Internet Explorer browser that was responsible for the Chinese cyberattacks last month on Google.
Microsoft normally releases patches on the second Tuesday of each month, but considers the issue so serious that it will release this patch out of band. The company has admitted that IE was the "weak link" in the Google attacks, which also hit more than 30 other firms.
The attack generated a great deal of publicity, and in its wake both the German and French governments advised their citizens to use alternate browsers. All this has been a massive public relations blow to Microsoft, forcing it to take action now, rather than wait.
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George Stathakopoulos, General Manager of Microsoft's trustworthy Computing Security Group, said: "Given the significant level of attention this issue has generated, confusion about what customers can do to protect themselves and the escalating threat environment Microsoft will release a security update out-of-band for this vulnerability."
He stated that the only successful attacks have been against Internet Explorer version 6.
Microsoft's woes have been a boon for the Firefox browser. Despite Microsoft's plea that changing browsers is the wrong thing to do, in the past four days alone it's enjoyed another 300,000 downloads in Germany alone, as well as increased traffic from France.
Web analytics company StatCounter says Firefox now has 40 per cent of the European browser market, just 5 per cent behind IE.
The Opera browser has also enjoyed a surge from this, with downloads in Germany more than doubling.