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IE8 Beta 2
When we tested IE8 beta 1 it was a disappointment in security terms, but it seems Microsoft was just saving its most interesting ideas for the next version. IE8 beta 2 has just been released, and it contains some important features that will have a real effect on how we use the web. Click the new Safety button on the toolbar, for instance, and you're able to turn on InPrivate Browsing. This prevents your history, form data, cookies, passwords and so on from being recorded — very handy if several people are using the same PC. It's not perfect, as temporary Internet files are deleted, and a snooper could simply undelete them to track your activities. Still, it does prevent some information from being cached, and is a welcome first line of privacy defence. InPrivate Blocking is another new feature that monitors third-party content such as adverts and scripts. If you visit a page that makes use of a script on another domain —, say — then IE will notice, and if the same script appears on more than 10 sites it'll be blocked. The idea is to limit how your activities can be tracked across the internet, which is good in theory but may cause problems. Developers who use common scripts hosted on another domain (Google Analytics, say) could find their content blocked to anyone who has InPrivate Blocking enabled.

Elsewhere, IE7's Phishing Filter has now been replaced by something called SmartScreen, which apparently offers enhanced protection. And the new Cross Site Scripting (XSS) Filter promises to "detect malicious code running on compromised websites". Both sound like really good news, but there are very few details on how they work at the moment, so we're reserving judgement until the final version hits the streets.

The IE8 address bar now supports domain highlighting. This simple anti-phishing measure displays the domain in URL in grey, so it's easier to pick out where you are. It turns on Data Execution Prevention by default, limiting the damage that can be done from buffer overrun exploits, and includes new ActiveX restrictions that make it harder for a malicious control to infect your PC. InPrivate Blocking could annoy developers, then, but elsewhere the browser offers some welcome security improvements. We still wouldn't recommend you install it — this is a beta and thus still buggy — but there's not long to wait until the real deal. The final version should be out before the end of the year.
Webnetics UK Ltd.

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