IE 8 Beta 2

In August 2008, Microsoft will be shipping out Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2, which is the second major milestone for its upcoming Web browser. Whereas Beta 1, released in March 2008, focused primarily on developer features, Beta 2 will be all about end users. I’m talking about the new and improved security features that will debut in IE 8 Beta 2. Those features constitute the bulk of the work Microsoft is doing for the security in IE 8, so this tip will give you an interesting snapshot of what you can expect. Let’s get to it!

Security in IE 8

From a security perspective, IE 7 is already an excellent product, especially with Windows Vista, where you can take advantage of the Protected Mode. But with online threats evolving more everyday, Microsoft is taking the steps needed to address new types of attacks in IE 8. Here’s what they’re doing:

Domain Highlighting

In order to protect users, IE 8 highlights the relevant part of the loaded URL in the address bar so that you can see which Web site you’re really visiting. That’s particularly important for sites that have incredibly long URLs, as is often the case with malicious sites that attempt to fool you into believing you’re on a trusted site. Also, when a Web site uses a raw IP address instead of a domain name, the address bar will turn red, alerting you of the potential threat. (Legitimate Web sites do not use raw IP addresses).

SmartScreen Filter

While IE 7 had the phishing filter, IE 8 adopts a new and improved version, which has been renamed the SmartScreen Filter. As with its predecessor, the IE 8 SmartScreen Filter provides anti-phishing functionality. It also helps protect against other classes of malicious Web sites, including those that have been set up specifically to deliver malware to users. Similar in functionality to the malware protection in Firefox 3, the SmartScreen Filter consults with a blacklist to prevent known malicious sites from delivering malware. To warn the end user, the browser window is colored red in a very obvious way and the user is given the choice to return to their homepage or disregard the warning and continue on.

If the SmartScreen Filter discovers a Web site that isn’t on the blacklist, but trips certain heuristics (like an IP based site that’s asking for your credit card number, for example), it will display a different pop down dialogue window, alerting you of the potential issue. Like most other IE based warnings, the dialogue originates from the Information Bar and appears over the browser window.

Here’s to staying safe with the new Internet Explorer 8!

~ Ramachandran Kumaraswami