Hi, I’m Rob
Franco, Lead Program Manager for IE Security. Today I want to focus on clearing
up a few details about an important feature that we’re calling “Low-Rights IE”.
“Low-Rights IE” is one of several new features that we’re working on to help
keep users safe. It is a defense-in-depth feature, meant to back up and support
the many other security features.
most IE7 security features will be available in IE7 for Windows XP SP2,
Low-rights IE will only be available in Longhorn because it’s based on the new
Longhorn security features that make running without Administrator privileges an
easy option for users (“User Account Protection”). When users run programs with
limited user privileges, they are safer from attack than when they run with
Administrator privileges because Windows can restrict the malicious code from
taking damaging actions.
We are using the
same Longhorn security infrastructure to limit IE to just enough privileges to
browse the web but not enough to modify user files or settings by default. As a
result, even if a malicious site attacks a vulnerability in IE, the site’s code
won’t have enough privileges to install software, copy files to Startup folder,
or hijack the settings for the browser’s homepage or search provider.
primary goal of Low Rights IE is to restrict the impact of a security
vulnerability while maintaining compatibility. Low-rights IE doesn’t “fix”
vulnerabilities, but it can limit the damage a vulnerability can do. In that
way, it’s like the “Local Machine Zone Lockdown” feature in XP SP2. That
lockdown prevents cross domain vulnerabilities from installing malicious
software on users’ machines. We expect Low-rights IE to protect users from other
classes of vulnerabilities.
I also want to
point out two other scenarios that some people have confused with Low-rights IE.
Low-rights IE does not prevent users from downloading and installing software
that turns out to be malicious. Any programs that the user downloads and runs
will be limited by User Account Protection, unless the user explicitly gives the
program Administrator privileges. Microsoft and other software makers
to help protect against spyware downloads. Another issue to clarify is that
Low-rights IE will not change IE security settings for ActiveX and script as the
Enhanced Security Configuration for IE on Windows Server 2003 did. We are
considering changes to some default security settings for IE, but that work is
separate from Low-rights IE and will not impact the user experience in the way
that ESC did for Windows Server 2003.
and browser add-ons may expect users to run with Administrator privileges. Our
goals are to be as secure and compatible as possible and we’re doing work to
help sites and add-ons continue to work as users expect. We’re looking forward
to feedback from web developers and add-on partners in Longhorn Beta 2 when low-rights and many other security features are first
enabled in the software.
I want to be
clear that Longhorn and IE7 have many other facilities in addition to Low-rights
IE for keeping users safe. I look forward to writing about more of them soon. We
hope you will download the upcoming Betas to see more and provide feedback on
all of our work.