IE7 and a lot

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2005-07-28 Print this article Print

more"> Internet Explorer 7 has many new security-related features on Windows Vista and Windows XP, but the most important work only on XP. IE runs, by default, in a crippled mode called Protected Mode. Doing bold and possibly dangerous things will require special permission. Its a special type of User Account Protection for the browser.

And as with User Account Protection, it has the potential to trip on the outstretched leg of social engineering. Even if it works perfectly, all you need to do is convince users that they really do want to do the things that Windows is warning them could be dangerous. IE7 has plenty of other cool and useful security features, but they also all happen in Windows XP.

A good example of a feature that has been around for a while is NAP (Network Access Protection), which came out, I believe, for Windows Server 2003. It is a set of programs and policies, similar to Ciscos Network Access Control Program and the Zone Labs Integrity product line, that defines security and other requirements for a client before it attaches to a network. The requirements can be that Windows be up to date with specific patches, that anti-virus software be running and up to date, that other programs be installed—just about anything.

The advance in Vista may be as simple as bundling the client components of NAP, but it would be good if this encourages use of it. I have a dream that one day a system like this will be simple enough for ISPs to use and thereby keep dirty clients off of their networks, but were nowhere near there yet.

Theres a lot more, of course: The Windows Firewall will finally filter outbound traffic. EFS disk encryption will improve. Windows programs can be profiled so that the system will know what resources (such as TCP ports) they use, and anything else will raise a red flag. Microsofts malware removal tool, which runs during updates, will be included. Many of these are important, and Im sure Ill be looking at them in greater depth in the coming months.

This isnt the first time Microsoft has gotten serious about security, so it would be premature to declare victory against security threats, and Microsoft is plenty circumspect about the future of such things. There is some clever stuff here though, along with a continuation of a several-year trend of locking things down after an orgy of opening insecure services in the late 1990s. If all Windows users were running Vista, the Internet would be a much safer place.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. He can be reached at 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.

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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