Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate has a number of enhancements aimed at improving privacy and security controls.
Explorer 9 Release
arrived Feb. 10 with privacy and malware protections built in to
At the forefront of those
features is the new TPL (tracking protection list), which enables users to
choose to visit only certain Websites if they click on a link or type in the
address. The feature is meant as a privacy protection against online behavioral
tracking. By limiting the calls to these Websites and resources from other Web
pages, the TPL limits the information these other sites can collect.
"IE9 enables consumers to
express their preference for privacy, and also gives consumers a mechanism to enforce
specific aspects of that preference," blogged Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice
president for Internet Explorer at Microsoft. "Consumers can do this by
choosing Tracking Protection Lists from organizations they trust. These lists
can block and allow third-party content in order to control what information
consumers share with sites as they browse the Web."
The TPL feature is Microsoft
answer to calls
for better controls to block tracking online. Other browser
vendors are making plays as well. Mozilla recently added a "Do Not Track" HTTP
header to the latest beta release of Firefox 4, while Google released an
extension called "Keep My Opt-Outs." However unlike other solutions, IE9's
benefits users even if Websites do not respect the user's preference not to be
tracked, Hachamovitch wrote.
Also new in the release
candidate is an ActiveX Filter that gives users more control over ActiveX
controls. ActiveX has long been a source of criticism by security researchers
due to vulnerabilities and exploits taking advantage of the technology.
According to Microsoft, in IE9, the filter makes it easy to turn off ActiveX
for all sites, and then re-enable it site by site.
Other security features in
the SmartScreen Filter and Download Manager. The
SmartScreen Filter was introduced in IE8, and works by checking Websites
against a list of known phishing sites as well as sites that may
contain malware. The integration with Download Manager in IE 9 is meant to
use reputation to remove unnecessary warnings for well-known files and
show more severe warnings when the download has a higher risk of being
malicious, Microsoft has said.
"On today's Web, consumers
are increasingly wary, often out of necessity," blogged Hachamovitch. "They
face security risks like malicious sites and phishing scams. Even on sites
consumers know and trust, bad things often happen. It's easy to almost follow a bad link
friend on Facebook, or become a victim of malvertising
when a malicious advertisement appears on an otherwise trustworthy site."