Microsoft outlines Explorer 7 security changes

Microsoft has revealed some of the security changes to the upcoming Internet Explorer 7 and Windows Vista - changes that could cause trouble for some Web sites.

One key change is that Explorer will disable SSLv2, an older version of the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) protocol. SSL is used to carry out secure Web transactions. In its place, Explorer 7 will continue to support SSLv3 and will enable Transport Layer Security (TLS) v1, a newer protocol.

The change means that sites currently requiring SSLv2 will need to allow either SSLv3 or TLSv1, Microsoft said on its Internet Explorer Weblog, part of the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN).

Microsoft downplayed the possible disruption caused by the change. "It's a silent improvement in security. Our research indicates that there are only a handful of sites left on the Internet that require SSLv2," wrote IE program manager Eric Lawrence on the blog. "Adding support for SSLv3 or TLSv1 to a website is generally a simple configuration change."

SSLv2 was the first public version of SSL, and suffers from several well-known weaknesses -- for example, it doesn't provide any protection against man-in-the-middle attacks during the handshake, and uses the same cryptographic keys are used for message authentication and for encryption. These and other problems have been fixed in SSLv3, but the older version is still supported by most browsers and is in use on some systems.

IE 7 will introduce some changes to the user experience, including blocking navigation to sites with problematic security certificates. The problems include certificates issued to a hostname other than the current URL's hostname - for example, secure.example.com instead of www.example.com; the certificate issued by an untrusted root; and expired or revoked certificates.

Instead of giving the user a dialog box asking how to resolve these problems, as IE currently does, the browser will present an error page explaining the problem. The user can, however, choose continue to browse the site, unless the certificate has been revoked, Lawrence said. If the user continues on, the address bar will be colored red as a reminder of the problem.

"Ensure that the hostnames used for your secure pages exactly match the hostname in your digital certificate," Lawrence advised.

If a page includes both secure and non-secure items, the user will no longer be initially given the option of displaying the non-secure items. Instead, only the secure items will render, and users will have to manually request that the nonsecure items be rendered.

Lawrence said this could head off future types of attacks. "Very few users (or Web developers) fully understand the security risks of rendering HTTP-delivered content within a HTTPS page," he wrote.

Other changes include the inclusion of AES security in Windows Vista and certificate revocation checking being enabled by default in Vista, Lawrence said.

A change to Vista's Transport Layer Security (TLS) implementation could cause problems for some sites. TLS will be updated to support Extensions, a feature that can cause some non-standards-compliant TLS servers to refuse connections, Lawrence said.

"If your site supports TLS, please ensure that it has a standards-compliant implementation of TLS that does not fail when extensions are present," he wrote.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matthew Broersma

Techworld.com
Show Comments

Essentials

Mobile

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?