Microsoft added a new security feature called SmartScreen Filter to the company's Internet Explorer 8 web browser. The filter has been designed to warn users when unsafe websites are accessed in the web browser.
This covers outright malicious sites that attack the browser or underlying system directly, phishing sites, sites that use other attack forms such as drive by downloads, and anything else considered unsafe by Microsoft.
The SmartScreen filter checks the website that is about to be opened against a list of "high traffic website addresses" stored on the computer system. This list is maintained by Microsoft and contains references to legitimate high traffic sites.
Any address that is not included on the local list is send to a Microsoft server where it is checked against a database of unsafe and suspicious sites. Some computer information and the SmartScreen Filter version number will also be transmitted in the process.
Information that may be associated with the address, such as search terms or data you entered in forms might be included. For example, if you visited the Microsoft.com search web site at http://search.microsoft.com and entered "Seattle" as the search term, the full address http://search.microsoft.com/results.aspx?q=Seattle&qsc0=0&FORM=QBMH1&mkt=en-US will be sent. Address strings might unintentionally contain personal information, but this information, like the other information sent, is not used to identify, contact or target advertising to you. In addition, Microsoft filters address strings to try to remove personal information where possible.
From time-to-time, information about your usage of SmartScreen Filter will also be sent to Microsoft.
This information, along with the information described above, is only used to analyze performance and improve the quality of Microsoft products and services.
The SmartScreen Filter is a security addition to Internet Explorer that warns users if known malicious or dangerous websites are visited. It is therefore usually recommended to keep the filter activated when Internet Explorer is being used.
Some Internet Explorer users on the other hand might prefer to deactivate it. Either because they are using a security software that checks the websites for them, like Web of Trust for instance, a security software that integrates in the web browser and checks the accessed websites, or because they do not want to transmit information about the visited websites to Microsoft.
The SmartScreen Filter can be disabled in the Internet Options of Internet Explorer. Open the Internet Options by clicking on Tools > Internet Options and switch to the Security tab. If the main menu bar is not shown in Internet Explorer, tap on the Alt-key first to display it before selecting Tools > Options.
Select the Internet Zone and click on the Custom level button. This opens a new window with lots of configuration options. Scroll all the way down until you find the Use SmartScreen Filter setting; it is enabled by default. Switch the value of the setting to disable instead, and click on ok afterwards to save the change to turn off the smartscreen filter in the Internet Zone of Internet Explorer.
You need to confirm the changes. This will disable the SmartScreen Filter in Internet Explorer 8 so that no visited websites and computer information will be submitted to Microsoft.
It is also possible to turn of the SmartScreen Filter by clicking on the Safety link in the Internet Explorer toolbar and selecting SmartScreen Filter > Turn Off SmartScreen Filter. This menu can also be used to check websites manually and report potentially dangerous websites. The last two options can be performed even if the SmartScreen Filter has been deactivated in Internet Explorer.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.