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Michael Dickopf, spokesman for the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), has told the Berliner Zeitung that internet users should switch from Internet Explorer to Mozilla or Opera. Dickopf says Internet Explorer is hazard-prone, attracting too many viruses and worms. BSI already uses a combination of alternative browsers, Dickopf told the paper.

Dickopf's comments are bad news for Microsoft. BSI is the central IT security service provider for the German government. Its recommendations are usually taken extremely seriously.

The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (Vzbv), a non-governmental organisation acting as an umbrella for 38 German consumer associations, also warns users to be careful when using Internet Explorer. Online banking scams and identity theft are proliferating in Germany due to security exploits in Microsoft’s browser or in its email client Outlook (Express). Recently, several customers of Dresdner Bank have fallen victim to a Trojan horse program, which snatched their banking passports.

Microsoft Germany denies that Internet Explorer is less safe than other browsers and says that it offers patches as soon as an exploit is discovered.

It isn’t the first time that governmental agencies issue warnings about Internet Explorer. In 2002 The Department of Homeland Security's US Computer Emergency Readiness Team touched off a storm when it recommended for security reasons using browsers other than Microsoft's Internet Explorer. ®

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