Latest Windows upgrade exposes an Achilles heel

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Latest Windows upgrade exposes an Achilles heel

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When the launch of Microsoft’s Windows 10 was generating buzz around the world, Korean Internet users were warned by government agencies not to install the latest operating system.

The reason? A cumbersome authentication system known as ActiveX used by government agencies and financial companies in Korea - and few other places around the world.

Though it does not work on all web browsers and requires users to download a hefty set of supporting programs, the system is still necessary for most Koreans to access government services or their bank accounts online.

But Edge, Windows 10’s new default browser, will not support the authentication system.

As the operating system’s July 29 release drew closer, government agencies scrambled to notify citizens not to install Windows 10.

The National Tax Service (NTS) launched a pop-up notification on its Home Tax website where people can file their taxes electronically.

The website is accessed by the vast majority of Koreans, because tax filing is now done completely online.

“The service would not be optimized under Windows 10,” read a pop-up notification on the site.

The site later modified the notifications to suggest that people use Internet Explorer 11 instead of Edge if they must use Windows 10.

Other groups are taking a more proactive approach to dispelling the use of Windows 10.

The North Jeolla Office of Education published information about how to prevent an automatic upgrade of the operating system, and also offered steps on how to downgrade to earlier systems if an upgrade accidentally occurs.

The moves triggered public anger.

“I was really upset to know that the websites of some government agencies are not compatible with Windows 10,” said Choi Jeong-hwa, a 31-year-old woman who works at a local retail company.

“Microsoft hinted at the update several months ago, and they should have prepared for it.”

She went on to say that the direction to use Internet Explorer 11 restricts people’s freedom to use their favorite platforms.

“I learned that Edge is faster and has more advanced features than Internet Explorer. I don’t know why the government steps in to say which operating system or web browser that I should use.”

An electronic family registration site operated by the Supreme Court informed the users that the site will not work under Windows 10 altogether.

Access through Google’s Chrome browser is also blocked.

The Park Geun-hye administration is in the process of removing the system from government websites, but it is still used by many.

Among 12,000 public agencies, 33.8 percent requires the ActiveX plug-in on their sites, according to the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs.

The move to simplify payment systems across the board was initiated when the president chastised ministers in March for the difficulties Chinese consumers faced when trying to buy a coat seen on the hit drama “My Love from the Stars” on online malls.

Government bodies are not alone in facing difficulties of keeping pace with the newest operating system; local banks are also struggling to adapt to Windows 10.

Both Suhyup and KDB Bank notified users that their Internet banking services will not be available under Windows 10, even if customers use Internet Explorer 11.

“The system works on Windows 8 or its predecessors,” Suhyup said.

KDB also said Windows 8 or earlier systems and Internet Explorer 10 were the means of accessing their services.

The exclusive use of the Windows operating system and its web browser by the financial industry and governmental bodies has contributed to its pervasive use in Korea.

Internet Explorer’s market share in Korea hit 87.5 percent in 2014, according to data jointly released by Korea Internet & Security Agency and the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning.

In the global market, Internet Explorer has less than a 50 percent market share and keeps losing ground to competitors like Chrome.

Chrome’s share in Korea is meager compared to the global market, at 9.26 percent.

The Windows operating system has a whopping 97.76 market share.

Both the NTS and local banks vowed to revamp their websites to let users run Windows 10.

“We are in the process of upgrading our security program so that it will be functional on Windows 10,” said KDB Bank on their website’s message board.


BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]

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