Locking Down Internet Explorer

By Larry Seltzer  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

IE's My Computer zone has been an open door to security threats, but now you can padlock it.

If you've read about Microsoft's Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, you know about the new, improved firewall that is turned on by default. But there's a more important security enhancement in SP2 that will make a bigger dent in the stream of vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer: SP2 locks down the My Computer zone.

The security model for Internet Explorer has been based on security zones. Different Web pages execute in different zones, which have varying levels of privilege. To see this, go to Tools | Internet Options and click on the Security tab. Click on a zone and you can add a site to it if you like or change the security settings.

One of the most important zones is the My Computer security zone, which is actually hidden by default. (To view and modify the settings for this zone, see "How to Enable the My Computer Security Zone in Internet Options".) Web pages on your computer run in the My Computer zone, which is completely trusted. The theory is that pages running on your computer were installed—perhaps as part of an application—and need access to local resources such as files on the system.

The problem is that a large number of cross-zone vulnerabilities, such as the one described at www.securityfocus.com/bid/9628/, have let Web pages on the Internet execute script and other code in the My Computer zone.

Click here to view the complete story on PCmag.com.

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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