Microsoft has
released the second beta version of its new Internet Explorer browser that is
set to ship with the soon to be released Windows operating system Vista.
However, you don’t have to wait for Vista to
be released to check out IE 7. This is the second version of this browser and
it’s very stable and offers a wide variety of the most requested security
features that have been standard on other browsers like MozillaFirefox and Opera.
Here’s a look at the security features.

ActiveX opt-in–Disables nearly all pre-installed ActiveX
controls to prevent potentially vulnerable controls from being exposed to
attack. You can easily enable or disable ActiveX controls as needed through the
Information Bar and the Add-on Manager.

This was the number
one requested feature and the most exploited flaw within older versions of IE.
Other non-Microsoft browsers gained widespread usage because they didn’t
include this active vector in their browser release.

Phishing filter–Proactively warns and helps protect you
against potential or known fraudulent sites and blocks the site if appropriate.
The opt-in filter is updated several times per hour using the latest security
information from Microsoft and several industry partners.

Phishing is directing unsuspected users to sites that
look like their banking web page and harvesting privacy and financial
information. Microsoft is trying to build a phishing
database and warn users about fraudulent sites before any information is
transferred to these criminals.

Cross-Domain barriers–Limits script on web pages from interacting
with content from other domains or windows. This enhanced safeguard will
further protect against malware by limiting the potential for malicious
websites to manipulate flaws in other websites or cause you to download
undesired content or software.

scripting has long been the avenue of choice for all of those drive-by
installations and pop-up ads that warn you about how insecure you computer is
and click here to fix it. Microsoft has finally addressed this problem.

Delete browsing history–Allows you to clean up cached pages,
passwords, form data, cookies, and history, all from a single window.

This feature will
allow you to safely use a public (kiosk) computer to check your email or bank
balance, then erase all of your privacy information
with the click of a button.

Address bar protection–Every window, whether it’s a pop-up or
standard window, will present an address bar to the user, helping to block
malicious sites from emulating trusted sites.

Some web sites
script the disappearance of the address bar to hide their true identity so you
can’t block their site. By forcing an address bar, users will always know where
the web content is be served from and will be able to block that site
(advertisers beware!).

Fix my settings–To help protect you from browsing with
unsafe settings, Internet Explorer 7 warns you with an Information Bar when current
security settings may put you at risk. Within the Internet Control Panel, you
will see certain critical items highlighted in red when they are unsafely
configured. In addition to alerts warning you about unsafe settings, you will
be reminded by the Information Bar as long as the settings remain unsafe. You
can instantly reset Internet security settings to the “Medium-High”
default level by clicking the “Fix My Settings” option in the
Information Bar.

Sometimes users or
programs modify their browser security settings. This feature offers a quick
method of restoring browser settings to a safe level.

Final thoughts

I’ve been running IE 7 since its first beta
release and have been impressed with it’s approach to
security. Microsoft
Internet Explorer 7
is a tremendous improvement in their internet browser
and has many other features and security enhancements. This browser release
will be the standard when the Vista operating
system is deployed; maybe it’s time you checked it out.

We want your feedback

In this week’s column, Mike
Mullins discusses the Microsoft Internet Explorer features. Have you upgraded
to Internet Explorer 7? We want to hear from you! Add your comments to this
discussion in our Discussion
or send us an