On Wednesday, Microsoft announced new security features within the upcoming release of Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2. The features are designed to combat the rising tide of drive-by downloads and malicious scripts contained within carefully crafted links embedded in e-mail and Web pages. Most of the new features require systems to be running Windows Vista SP1 or Windows XP SP3.
Perhaps the most anticipated addition is Internet Explorer's new antimalware protection. Opera 9.5 and Firefox 3 both recently added antimalware protection. Safari has so far not announced plans for similar protection. Using mostly its own antimalware technology, Microsoft will block emerging threats by masking the entire IE 8 browser screen with a warning to users. The addition of malware protection to the existing antiphishing protection will be re-branded as the Microsoft SmartScreen filter.
IE 8 Beta 2 will have a Cross Site Scripting (XSS) filter, preventing scripts within a link from executing on the browser.
Previously announced features include highlighting domain names from the rest of the URL (so you can visually see that you are on eBay.com, not some other site), and extended verification SSL.
IE 8 Beta 1 has already introduced several changes when handling ActiveX components. Components will be installed per user, which eliminates the need for everyone to have administrator privileges. In addition, you must acknowledge or opt-in for the component to run, eliminating drive-by downloads. Components will be per site and will only be available from site of origin. Finally, site developers can request killbits from Microsoft which can be sent via Windows Update to terminate risky or outdated components.
For developers, Microsoft is including improvements for better communication between the client browser and Web server. Cross Domain Requests (CDR) is a more secure way for the browser to pull data from other domains; and Cross Domain Messaging (XDM) is a more secure means for a browser to send a message across a domain. Microsoft says it is working with other browser vendors to standardize these.
The public Beta 2 for Internet Explorer is expected sometime in August 2008.