Cyber security (illustrative)
Cyber security (illustrative)Reuters

Microsoft warned Windows users operating Internet Explorer (IE) versions 6 through 11 to switch browsers on Monday, after US and UK authorities warned that a major bug in the system could breach their users' cyber-security. 

The bug is the first of its kind to emerge after Microsoft announced that it would stop providing updates and technical support for Windows XP, the popular operating system which turned thirteen earlier this year. 

The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team and the UK's National Computer Emergency Response Team warned IE users in both countries to avoid the browser until further notice, saying the bug could lead to a "complete compromise" in their internet security. 

Versions 6 to 11 of Internet Explorer dominate desktop browsing, according to Reuters, accounting for 55 percent of global market share.

To compound the problem, 15-25% of Windows users worldwide are estimated to still be using Windows XP - which can cause more problems down the road now that tech support has been taken out of commission. 

IE users reluctant to switch may still be able to enact safeguards - at least, for now. Tech site FireEye noted Monday that one possible solution, for Windows users operating IE10 or later, is to enable Enhanced Protection Mode (EPM). The video below explains how to enable the safeguard. 

Another option, according to Mashable, is to disable Flash. The move would disable watching videos and playing online games, but renders the bug powerless.

Microsoft is expected to release a patch for the bug as soon as possible, before the company's May 13 "Patch Tuesday" event.