Internet Explorer

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2004-08-23 Print this article Print

Internet Explorer

As the worlds most widely used window to the Web—and the primary platform for many enterprise applications—Microsofts Internet Explorer browser is a vital application for most companies. But its also an all-too-common point of vulnerability.

SP2 brings a set of changes to the Windows browser (available only through Windows XP) that should help make IE safer by granting users more control over and information about its operation.

For instance, in SP2, IE includes an add-on manager that lists all ActiveX controls loaded in IE, alongside information about the digital signatures of these controls and buttons that enable, disable or update the controls. Along similar lines, Windows will provide information about which add-ons were loaded during an IE crash to help administrators determine the cause.

The updated IE also does a better job of alerting users when pages attempt to download and install these controls. Using a new information bar at the top of the Web page, IE provides notification of attempted ActiveX installs, downloads and blocked pop-up windows.

Microsofts decision to build pop-up blocking into IE moves the browser toward feature parity with alternatives such as Mozilla and Opera, and, we hope, will reduce the use of this annoying Web feature on most sites.

We did encounter a problem with IEs new notification bar and pop-up blocking while browsing at a computer game demo download site. The site appeared to launch a pop-up window that tried to install an ActiveX control before closing immediately and opening another pop-up.

In earlier versions of Windows, this wouldnt have been a problem because the IE dialog asking for permission to install the control would have remained open, pending user approval. With SP2, however, the approval prompt closed too quickly for us to approve the controls installation. We had to add the game site temporarily to our Trusted Sites list to use the application.

IE now blocks the privilege elevation that occurs when pages that have been loaded in a particular IE Security Zone, such as the Internet Zone, link to a page in a less restrictive zone, and IE also now enables users to opt never to install code from particular publishers. This prevents users from having to deal with recurring prompts to install controls theyve already rejected.

Next page: Windows Firewall.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at

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