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Calls grow for ActiveX alternative

Mar 09,2011
The latest round of cyber attacks has highlighted Korea’s vulnerability to security breaches and raised calls to re-examine the country’s unusually high reliance on ActiveX and Internet Explorer.

Designed by Microsoft for the IE browser, ActiveX downloads applications needed for online tasks like banking and shopping, as well as viewing and downloading certain content.

The recent cyberattack that affected some 40 government and corporate Web sites is thought to have been triggered by the distribution of malicious codes through a peer-to-peer file sharing Web site - or to be more precise, as people accessed ActiveX technology through the site.

Against this backdrop, the Korea Communications Commission, the country’s broadcasting and telecommunications regulator, said yesterday it will announce this month a set of guidelines aimed at reducing the country’s dependency on ActiveX and IE.

“For the last five months, we have examined ways to enhance our Internet environment, which is largely based on ActiveX,” said a KCC official. “We are working on guidelines that suggest alternatives for ActiveX and technological support for the shift.”

Controversy surrounding ActiveX is nothing new.

Since the infamous July 2009 cyberattack, observers have said it provides an easy channel for hackers to spread malicious software, or malware.

“Oftentimes, because government and financial institution Web sites use ActiveX, private companies also follow suit,” a KCC official said yesterday. “Besides the FSS, other public institutions are working to shift away from ActiveX.”

While the specifics of the guidelines are not known, Kim Do-han, an official with the KCC’s network policy division, said it will involve diversifying the Web browsers Koreans use.

According to market researcher Intertrend, IE holds down a whopping 98 percent share of the Korean Web browser market.

This is strikingly high compared to IE’s 62 percent share in the global Web browser industry.

Another disadvantage of ActiveX is that it only works on Internet Explorer, rendering many Korean Web sites dysfunctional when accessed through other popular browsers such as Firefox and Safari.

“[Diversifying browser use] will require effort from Web site developers, operators as well as users,” Kim said.


By Kim Hyung-eun [hkim@joongang.co.kr]



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