If there’s a problem with some product which puts you at risk, you’d expect news bulletins to explain your safest options, yeah? But is that possible when the media outlet is a key business partner of the product’s manufacturer?

Microsoft released an emergency patch to their Internet Explorer web browser yesterday and, yes, the threat is real. It’s a so-called “zero day exploit”, which means the bad guys already had automated tools to take advantage of this flaw before Microsoft even knew the problem existed. Tens of thousands of hacked websites are loaded with those tools now, ready to infect your computer just by visiting them.

They may not even be websites that, erm, you wouldn’t tell your mum about. Last year the Sydney Opera House’s site was hacked in just this way, potentially infecting any of their 300,000 monthly web visitors who might be unprotected. It was weeks before anyone realised.

If you use Windows, even if you use another web browser, patch now! But if you were watching Channel Nine news last night, did you get the full picture?

“Most IT experts are saying the only solution is don’t turn on your computer,” said Nine. Well, no. You could disable active scripting instead, or use another web browser like Firefox or Opera.

Nine didn’t mention other web browsers. Instead, the next not-quite-right statement was that “89% of all web users” use Internet Explorer. Now 89% is Microsoft’s market share in desktop and laptop operating systems, and Internet Explorer is installed on all those computers. But millions of people use other web browsers. The proportion of mainstream website visitors using Internet Explorer is typically 60 to 70%.

“Microsoft products are being constantly improved and updated,” Nine concluded. A nice free kick for Microsoft, but it ignores that fact that all software products need continual updates to fix newly-discovered security flaws, and that it can be argued that Windows’ less-than-modular structure makes it inherently more vulnerable to these problems than Apple’s OS X or open-source systems like Linux.

Now this all might be because Nine’s journalists, like most others, are pretty clueless about computers and simply regurgitate media releases. But could it also be because Nine and Microsoft are 50/50 business partners in one of Australia’s most-visited websites, NineMSN. We’ll never know. And that’s the problem.