The flaw that was reported last week, and rather lazily acknowledged by Microsoft, in Internet Explorer 6 and 7, has been refined and made easier to use by those disposed to cause trouble.

An article in PC World states that, though no verified exploits have been seen, the ‘improvements’ make it much more likely. (Don’t you just love predictions like that?)

Hackers working on the open-source Metasploit project have spiffed up a zero-day attack on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, making it more reliable — and more likely to be used by criminals.

Security experts have been worried about the flaw since it was first disclosed on the Bugtraq mailing list Friday. But the original demonstration code was unreliable and has not been used in real-world attacks.

“The Metasploit exploit that was released last night will be more reliable against certain attacks than the initial exploit,” said Ben Greenbaum, senior research manager with Symantec, in an interview Wednesday.

As of Wednesday morning, Symantec had not seen the exploit used in Internet-based attacks, but security experts say this type of code is for a very popular hacking technique called a drive-by attack. Victims are tricked into visiting Web sites that contain malicious code where they are then infected via the browser vulnerability. Criminals also place this type of code on hacked Web sites in order to spread their attacks.

On Monday, Microsoft published a Security Advisory on the flaw, offering some workarounds for the issue. It affects IE version 6 and version 7.

I actually thought this might have been quietly patched, as my copies of Windows XP were notified of several updates yesterday. I thought these might have been out-of-band Patch Tuesday fixes.

Apparently not.

Now, a very small, and, as for now, unverified blurb on slashdot states that there is an exploit for Internet Explorer 8, and that Microsoft has known about the exploit for a while.

After this weekend’s report of a dangerous flaw in IE (which Microsoft confirmed today), intrudere points out an exclusive report in The Register on a new hole in IE8 that could allow an attacker to pull off cross-site scripting attacks on Web sites that ought, by rights, to be safe from XSS. This is according to two anonymous sources, who told El Reg that Microsoft had been notified of the vulnerability a few months ago.

This is an amazing run of bad luck for Microsoft, especially if the IE8 flaw turns out to be true. Everyone knows that Microsoft tends to sit on certain flaws, so the fact that it has been known is no big news, just another reason to not use IE8 except when absolutely necessary.

It makes you wonder if the new changes in Internet Explorer 9 will only make for speedier exploits in that browser. After this many years, Microsoft needs to ask, “Why is our browser still the most unsafe?” When they can successfully answer that question, then it might be time to proceed.

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If_browsers_were_women-and so it goes…

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