Microsoft SmartScreen Security System Protects From Drive-By-Download Attacks

The latest update, which Microsoft made to its SmartScreen security system is said to protect users from drive-by-download attacks in Edge and Internet Explorer.

SmartScreen, which was first introduced with IE7, is now one of the security features included with Windows. Its main function is to protect pc users against phishing schemes and social engineering attacks.

During the past years, the SmartScreen system has evolved to add URL reputation checks and Application Reputation protection and has expanded to also cover the company’s most recent browser: Edge. After the latest updates to the Windows 10 OS, Microsoft has upgraded the SmartScreen system to deal with drive-by downloads in both IE 11 and Edge web browsers.

Drive-by downloads are cyber-attacks which occur when users access a malicious website. Most drive-by attacks use exploit kits (called crimekits) to automatically scan the computer of a site’s visitor in search of known software vulnerabilities. In case any vulnerabilities are detected, there is a huge weaknesses in someone’s defense and his/hers computer might get easily infected with malware without user’s interaction.

Since the latest Microsoft update to SmartScreen, if IE or Edge detects any suspicious exploit kit-related activity coming from a website, it shows a full-page warning like the image embedded below the article, recommending users to proceed with caution.

Also, every time any content is loaded on a website using iframes, SmartScreen scans the iframe’s content, and if it finds anything dubious, it turns that specific iframe red (just like the full-page warning). This measure can be crucial in detecting some malicious ads (called malverts or malvertising) that often employ i-frames to load.

In case the specialists want to improve Microsoft’s SmartScreen system, they can report suspicious sites via the browsers themselves.
This is how Microsoft advises users to report suspicious websites:

  • Microsoft Edge on Windows 10. Tap or click the “More” menu, choose “Send feedback”, and then choose “Report unsafe website.”
  • Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 10. Tap or click the “Tools” button, select “Safety,” and then choose “Report unsafe website.”

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