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Privacy And Security Features Of Internet Explorer

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November 16, 2006

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Internet Explorer provides a number of security and privacy features. These features allow users to personalize the Web browsing experience and restrict people from accessing unauthorized information.

These features are described as follows:

Privacy Settings:

A user can protect his or her personally identifiable information by configuring privacy settings for websites in the Internet zone in a number of ways. He can configure and specify privacy settings that determine what type of cookies can be saved to a computer and under what circumstances. Cookies, which are small text files created by a Web site when a user visits, store a user's personally identifiable information such as user name, his e-mail address, name and version of operating system being used, and user's preferences etc. on the computer. The website reads these text files the next time the user visits the site letting the site keep track of a user's preferences.

A user can change the privacy settings for websites by performing the following steps:

  1. In Internet Explorer, on the Tools menu, click Internet Options to open the Internet Options dialog box.
  2. Open the Privacy Tab page of the Internet Options dialog box, move the slider up for a higher level of privacy or down for a lower level of privacy. By default, Internet Explorer displays medium privacy level shown below:

    A user can select different privacy settings for the Internet zone by moving the slider up or down as shown below:
Note: Users can also override the cookie handling for individual websites, and allow or block the websites to use a cookie's information.

Security settings: Besides the privacy features, Internet Explorer also provides a number of security features. These features are used to prevent people from gaining access to unauthorized information. The features are described as follows:
  • Certificates: A certificate is a statement verifying the identity of a person or the security of a Web site. Following are the two types of certificates used by Internet Explorer:
    1. Personal Certificate: It is a verification of a person's identity over the Internet. This information is used when a user sends personal information over the Internet to a Web site that requires a certificate, verifying his identity.
    2. Web site certificate: Web site certificate states that a specific Web site is secure and genuine. It ensures that no other Web site can assume the identity of the original secure site. When a user sends personal information over the Internet, he must check the certificate of that Web site to ensure that it will protect his personally identifiable information. When users download software from a Web site, they can use the certificates to verify that the software is coming from a reliable source.
· Profile assistant: Profile assistant stores a user's personal information such as name, e-mail address, phone number etc., which can be sent immediately to a website when the information is required. The profile assistant saves the information in a secure location on the client's computer. Using this feature, a user can securely share the personal information among websites. None of this information can be viewed on a user's computer, or shared with others, without the permission of the user. Besides, a user can also encrypt his or her personal information when it is transmitted or stored on the user's computer.
· Security zones: Security zones enable users to establish different levels of security based on their level of confidence about a site. There are four security zones found in Internet Explorer: Internet, Local Intranet, Trusted Sites, and restricted Sites. Each of the four zones have default security settings (Low, Medium-Low, Medium, and High) that determine the type of content that can be downloaded and run and what a user can do on a website. A user can change the security level and modify the security default for any of the zones. Whenever a user attempts to open files or downloads content, and performs other tasks on the Web, Internet Explorer checks the security settings for the Web site's zone. Internet Explorer provides the following four configurable security zones:
  1. Internet: By default, the Internet zone includes anything that is not on a user computer, on an intranet, or which is not assigned to any other zone. The default security level for this zone is Medium.
  2. Local Intranet: It typically includes the trusted content inside the company's firewall, such as sites on the company's network. The default security level for this zone is Medium. A user can change it as per his or her requirement.
  3. Trusted Sites: It consists of sites that are trusted by the user. A user can place such sites to this zone. The default security level for this zone is Low.
  4. Restricted Sites: The sites that a user does not trust or trust less than the rest of the Internet are placed in this zone. The default security level for this zone is High.
A user can assign a Web site to a security zone by performing the following steps:
  • On the Tools menu in the Internet Explorer, click Internet Options.
  • Click the Security tab in the Internet Options dialog box.
  • In the Zone list, click the Trusted Sites or Restricted Sites zone.
  • Click Sites.
  • In the Add this Web site to the zone box, type the URL for the Web site, and then click Add.
After placing website to a zone, a user can set and configure the default security levels for a particular zone by performing the following steps:
  • On the Tools menu in the browser, click Internet Options.
  • Click the Security tab.
  • In the Zone list, click the zone for which a user wants to set the security level.
    Click on Default Level and move the slider control to set the security level.
  • Click on Custom Level to customize the default security settings and reset the security level.
  • Content Advisor: It is a security feature of Internet Explorer that helps a user to control the Internet content that can be viewed on a computer. By using the Content Advisor dialog box, a user can configure which websites can and cannot be viewed based on his or her preferences and the guidelines of the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA). When Content Advisor is enabled, a user can view only Web content that is rated and meets or exceeds the specified criteria. A user can adjust the settings by moving the slider left and right to reflect what he thinks is appropriate content in each of the four areas: language, nudity, sex, and violence. Using Content Advisor, a user can create a list the websites, which are always viewable or never viewable regardless of how they are rated. Content Advisor also allows setting a supervisor password to prevent unauthorized users from changing the Content Advisor settings. Using the supervisor password, a user can turn Content Advisor on or off, change content-rating settings, or override content settings on a case-by-case basis.

    A user can enable the Content Advisor and set the supervisor password by performing the following steps:
    1. Click the Content tab on the Internet Options dialog box.
    2. In the Content Advisor area, if a user has never used Content Advisor before, click Enable. If a user has already enabled Content Advisor, click Settings, and then type the supervisor password.
    3. Click a category in the list and then drag the slider to set the limits a user wants to use.
    4. Repeat this process for each category that a user wants to limit and then click OK button.

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