Internet Explorer 7

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2006-05-29 Print this article Print

+"> Internet Explorer 7+. So much has been written about IE7 that Ill not go into any detail. As I blogged recently, Microsoft decided to rename IE7 on Vista as IE7+ because it has several important features not available to IE7 on other platforms.

Protected Mode: In Vista, IE7 runs with specially crippled permissions. Anything remotely dangerous is blocked. If necessary, with explicit permission, users can elevate permissions. This is analogous to some of the user account control advances described above, and I believe subject to some of the same social engineering attacks. But its still an important improvement.

ActiveX Opt-In. Vista users are prompted before they can access a previously installed ActiveX Control that has not yet been used on the Internet. Web sites that attempt automated attacks can no longer secretly attempt to exploit ActiveX Controls that were never intended to be used on the Internet.

Many of the other improvements in IE7, such as the Phishing Filter, are available on earlier Windows versions as well.

Click here to read about new Windows Media Player features expected to debut with Windows Vista.

Theres more in the document and more thats not in it. Last week on multiple security lists the famous David Litchfield of NGS Software revealed that Windows Vista Beta 2 implements Address Space Layout Randomization. With ASLR Windows randomizes the locations of different Windows program sections: the heaps, stacks and base load addresses. For lots of gory details on ASLR, see Litchfields paper "Buffer Underruns, DEP, ASLR and Improving the Exploitation Prevention Mechanisms (XPMs) on the Windows Platform."

The short answer to your "so what?" is that ASLR—properly implemented—makes exploitation of overflows in programs considerably harder to accomplish. Other researchers piped up to say that similar techniques have been used in hardened versions of Linux and there are ways to defeat them, but theres some controversy over how true this really is and how relevant it is to Microsofts implementation. Clearly more research needs to be done, and betas the time to do it.

Its easy to get cynical about Windows security, but I look at the last couple years, since XP SP2 especially, and I see a vastly improved situation. Its been more than two years since Sasser, the last of the great network worms. There have been threats and fears of serious outbreaks in that time, but the worst you can say is that the tools exist for conscientious users and administrators to protect their systems. The flaws that weve seen lately typically require some user intervention and are blockable through other means.

This is due in large part to all the work Microsoft did on Windows security. Why doubt that the company is capable of greater advances in Vista?

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog. More from Larry Seltzer

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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