Millions of internet users could be at risk from web bugs and viruses after Microsoft ended support for three versions of its Internet Explorer web browser.

The technology giant will no longer supply updates or support for versions 8, 9 and 10 of its Internet Explorer program, as the company continues to migrate towards its new Microsoft Edge browser.

Browsers are often focal points for cyber hackers, and some experts are predicting an increase in attacks following the withdrawal of support and fixes that close any vulnerabilities that are discovered.

Internet statistics site NetMarketShare says nearly half (49%) of all browser traffic is currently done using Explorer, and according to PC site Computerworld around 340 million people globally are at risk because they are not yet running a modern enough version of Internet Explorer.

In an announcement on its website, Microsoft said: “Beginning January 12, 2016, only the most current version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical support and security updates.

“Microsoft encourages customers to upgrade and stay up-to-date on the latest browser for a faster, more secure browsing experience.”

Internet Explorer 11 and the new Edge browser will continue to be supported by the US firm as these are both compatible with Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 operating system.

Mark James, a security specialist at online security firm ESET, warned users of the need to upgrade as the cut-off date was reached.

“No updates, no patches, no fixes, no new versions and no support options if things go wrong,” he said.

“This basically means it’s a hot potato and you need to drop it as fast as you can. With the majority of malware being delivered via your web browser these days, it’s imperative you keep it as up to date as possible.”

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