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Microsoft Points to IE 9 Security Measures

Internet Explorer 9, released on Wednesday in beta form, doesn't talk to strangers.

At least that's the thinking when it comes to the security parameters in the new browser. Users will get more of a warning than in the past when they download unknown files with IE 9, for instance.

"Our features are kind of like 'stranger danger' against malware and other threats," said Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Internet Explorer. "Internet Explorer 9 is the only browser that uses download reputation to help users make safety decisions."

For the new browser, Microsoft is tapping filtering technology that has already repelled at least 1.3 billion malicious downloads. The key feature to look for in the IE 9 beta is the download manager, which integrates Microsoft's SmartScreen Filter.

The IE 9 beta introduces the "SmartScreen download reputation" feature, which uses site reputation data to "remove unnecessary warnings for well-known files, and show more severe warnings when the download has a higher risk of being malicious," according to Microsoft's announcement.

Brian Hall, general manager of Windows Live and Internet Explorer, said that IE 8 was the most secure browser ever built. He added that IE 9 simply takes that capability forward with its "database" of trusted and nontrusted Web sites.

"With IE 9, we make it plain what's dangerous and what's not but we understand that our security is never done," Hall said. "We'll have to continue to invest heavily in the ability to create a safe enterprise and customer experience."

Chenxi Wang, principal analyst of security and risk management at Forrester Research, predicted before the IE 9 launch event that "some sort of malware detection and Web site reputation capability built right into the browser" would be seen in the IE 9 beta. However, she'd like to see implementation of other browser security measures. For instance, support could be added for Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) to help verify Web sites.

"I'd like to see some kind of visual cue to users whether the Web site they are going to is a DNSSEC-validated domain name," she said.

Trust is an issue with so-called "drive-by installs," where malware can be spread by getting the user to visit a malicious Web page. Users can also be led to click on a malicious link if it's sent by a trusted source.

Will the release of IE 9 bring fewer security bulletins to Windows users? The answer is "No," according to Rob Juncker, vice president of technology at Shavlik Technologies, a company that makes security software.

"Are we saying that we won't see a security bulletin that resembles something along the lines of 'vulnerability in Internet Explorer 9.0 could allow remote code execution?' Absolutely not," Juncker said. He did credit Microsoft somewhat, adding that Microsoft seems to "have realized how to guard the wall better than they have in the past."

About the Author

Jabulani Leffall is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times of London, Investor's Business Daily, The Economist and CFO Magazine, among others.

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