Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


05:48 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme

Microsoft Readies Most Secure IE To Date

Next month, should Microsoft make good on its promises, Internet Explorer 8 will pack some considerable security enhancements. Could Microsoft deliver not only the most widely used Web browser, but also the most secure?

Next month, should Microsoft make good on its promises, Internet Explorer 8 will pack some considerable security enhancements. Could Microsoft deliver not only the most widely used Web browser, but also the most secure?In the fourth quarter of 2006, Microsoft released what was then a long-overdue update to IE6. It was IE7 that finally brought tabbed browsing to IE, which previously had only been available for Firefox users, as well as native RSS feeds. While I welcomed those usability enhancements, as a security guy, it was the security improvements that caught my attention. When it comes to sheer performance, Firefox 3 (at least on my Mac Pro) screams.

The security enhancements in IE7 included the ability to better spot phishing Web sites and a reduction in the attack surface of ActiveX. But it was "protected mode," a sort of wall setup between the browser and the underlying OS, that really sent IE7 security to an entirely new level. In protected mode, the browser is largely prevented from changing system settings and installing apps without user knowledge and approval. Unfortunately, protected mode was only made available to Vista users.

Next month, according to this story by J. Nicholas Hoover, IE8 will improve security against cross-site scripting attacks, which have been growing in popularity and make it possible for attackers to steal cookies, passwords, and just about anything the user types into the browser.

Internet Explorer 8 also will have what Microsoft is calling the SmartScreen Filter, an update to the phishing filter already available in IE7, which will include malware defenses. Both Firefox and Opera have similar features.

The Data Execution Prevention enhancements will help mitigate many memory-related attacks, including buffer overflows (the engine of many memory resident worms). This is very welcome protection against one of the most prevalent exploit vectors.

In all, the security enhancements in IE8 appear, at first blush, to be an improvement over the already tremendous improvements found in IE7 running on Vista in protected mode.

They also leapfrog over Mozilla's security enhancements in Firefox 3. For starters, the anti-phishing technology in Firefox 3, as pointed out earlier by Mitch Wagner, is woefully inadequate. The feature failed more than half the time in testing and could lull more neophyte users into a false sense of security.

We'll see how well Microsoft executes on its promises, hopefully, soon.


Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/10/2020
Pen Testers Who Got Arrested Doing Their Jobs Tell All
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/5/2020
Researcher Finds New Office Macro Attacks for MacOS
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/7/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-11
An issue was discovered in certain configurations of GNOME gnome-shell through 3.36.4. When logging out of an account, the password box from the login dialog reappears with the password still visible. If the user had decided to have the password shown in cleartext at login time, it is then visible f...
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-11
django-celery-results through 1.2.1 stores task results in the database. Among the data it stores are the variables passed into the tasks. The variables may contain sensitive cleartext information that does not belong unencrypted in the database.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-11
There is a possible out of bounds read due to an incorrect bounds check.Product: AndroidVersions: Android SoCAndroid ID: A-152225183
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-11
The Temi application 1.3.3 through 1.3.7931 for Android has hard-coded credentials.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-11
radare2 4.5.0 misparses signature information in PE files, causing a segmentation fault in r_x509_parse_algorithmidentifier in libr/util/x509.c. This is due to a malformed object identifier in IMAGE_DIRECTORY_ENTRY_SECURITY.