It's no secret that hackers use the Internet to break into computers and steal information. BusinessWeek, for example, has reported on thieves in Asia and Europe that penetrate U.S. networks over the Internet and steal secret information on satellites, rocket engines and even the Space shuttle. Such break-ins are far more than a nuisance -- they threaten our national security.

More recently, cyber criminals have been sending out an email, with the subject line 'Remembering Michael Jackson.' The email goes on to say that there is an attachment; a file containing secret songs and photos of Jackson. But when you open the file, a worm infiltrates your computer and it then spreads on to other Internet users.

You won't find many security software firms taking blame for not protecting your computers from this malware. So it's awfully refreshing that today, Redmond, WA.-based Microsoft (MSFT) thought it was in the best interest of those who use Internet Explorer, to issue an alert warning of a breach in security of its software.

The company said that if you use its Internet Explorer browser on a computer operating on Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, hackers have the ability to take control. You get infected simply by visiting a Web site that has been hacked.

While Microsoft just learned about this, apparently criminals have been taking advantage of the vulnerability for a week -- serving up their malicious software on some 1,000 Websites, which then exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft's software which is used to play video over the Internet. The criminals send you spam email that provides a link. Click on it, and you are transported to the infected Website and a hole is opened to the contents of your computer.

While Microsoft develops a "patch" the company says that for now, you can safeguard your computer and your business by disabling part of its software, which is explained in its security advisory. The company has made a practice of issuing security updates the second Tuesday of each month. So when the company can't wait until Tuesday, it's serious.

You have to give Microsoft credit. By being upfront, the company should develop more trust with its users. That is something Microsoft could use. According to StatCounter GlobalStats, Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 7 have been losing market share over the past year, while other browsers, including Firefox, have been gaining.

Nikhil Hutheesing is an editor at Dailyfinance.com. You can follow him on Twitter at Nikhil212

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