Microsoft to Push Out IE7 as High Priority Update
Microsoft is apparently planning to ship Internet Explorer 7 out to Windows XP users as a "high priority" security update later this year, according to a company spokesperson. While the new browser version will be pushed out through Windows' Automatic Updates feature, users will still have the option not to install it.
CNet's Joris Evers reports: "IE 7 will be the first major update to Microsoft's ubiquitous Web browser in five years. Security was the No. 1 investment for the update, Microsoft has said. Critics have likened predecessor IE 6 to 'Swiss cheese' because of the many security vulnerabilities in it. A third and final beta of IE 7 was released late last month."
This is probably a positive move overall, as the majority of Windows users still browse and will continue to browse with some version of Internet Exploiter ... err, Explorer, and any security rewrite can only help them stay safer online. The new browser fixes more than 1,000 bugs and shores up some weaknesses in ActiveX. The feature was designed to help Web sites load interactive content, but spyware purveyors have used ActiveX to install their junk with abandon. IE 7 also includes tools to help users spot phishing Web sites that mimic banks and trusted e-commerce companies to steal personal and financial data.
But from where I sit, the true test of IE 7's security will be whether it comes with fewer flaws that take Microsoft a month or three to fix while the bad guys continue exploiting them to hijack Windows computers. Also, one of IE 7's most useful security features, protected mode -- a "containment wall" called that prevents the browser from installing software or changing computer settings without the user's consent -- will not be available for XP users. That feature will be reserved for users who upgrade to Windows Vista, the next version of the operating system, due in January.
The third beta of IE 7 currently is available for download for Windows XP users who have installed the bundle of security and bug fixes known as Service Pack 2. In October, Microsoft plans to end security updates for XP machines still running Service Pack 1. While we're on the subject of service packs, Microsoft says it doesn't plan to issue the next one for XP Home and XP Professional systems until the second half of 2007. That date is tentative, of course -- if Microsoft decides to further delay Vista's release, Service Pack 3 could be pushed back even further.
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