Over at the IE8 team blog, they’ve hit a milestone – using the Smartscreen filter, they have recently blocked their 1 billionth piece of malware from being downloaded.

1 billion malware blocks is an amazing milestone and an example of two things. First socially engineered attacks like malware continue to be a real threat for users on the web. Second, to help keep you safe online your browser needs to continually enhance and improve its service. We have got better and better at blocking malware through the SmartScreen Filter because we have continued to invest in our back end service since we released IE8 in March 2009.

Smartscreen is the name of the anti-spam engine that Hotmail uses for its spam filtering, and this is a version of the filter that is shipped alongside the browser.  The technologies used to do detections of malware are similar but not quite the same since spam and malware filtering are different balls of wax.

This type of milestone is a pretty big step for Internet Explorer.  In IE6, they didn’t even have malware blocking, and IE6 is the most vulnerable browser from Microsoft at the moment (in terms of usage and attack vector space).  You might be wondering who uses IE6 and there are still a lot of people.  I went to a session at TechEd in New Orleans last month, and in one session they asked the question of which companies are still primarily using IE6.  In a room full of 500 people, roughly 3/4 of the room raised their hands.  I was really surprised by that.

Protecting people at the source from being infected is incredibly useful.  Of course, other browsers like Firefox and Chrome do the same thing.  However, I just want to point out that automated malware protection is one of the better security advances in web browsers that have appeared over the past 3 years.  The fact that this protection is free is even better.