Security and privacy features in Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer offers a number of features to help protect your security and privacy when you browse the web.

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What security features does Internet Explorer have?

Internet Explorer includes the following security features:

  • Domain highlighting, which lets you more easily see the real web address on websites you visit. This helps you avoid deceptive or phishing websites that use misleading web addresses to trick you. The true domain you're visiting is highlighted in the address bar.

  • SmartScreen Filter, which can help protect you from online phishing attacks, fraud, and spoofed or malicious websites. For more information, see SmartScreen Filter: frequently asked questions.

  • Manage Add-ons, which lets you disable or allow web browser add-ons and delete unwanted ActiveX controls. For more information, see How do browser add-ons affect my computer?

  • Cross site scripting (XSS) filter, which can help prevent attacks from phishing and fraudulent websites that might attempt to steal your personal and financial information. For more information, see How does Internet Explorer help protect me from cross-site scripting attacks?

  • A 128-bit secure (SSL) connection for using secure websites. This helps Internet Explorer create an encrypted connection with websites run by banks, online stores, medical sites, or other organizations that handle sensitive customer information. For more information, see How to know if an online transaction is secure.

Windows also provides a built-in troubleshooter that can automatically fix some common security problems in Internet Explorer:

Open the Internet Explorer Safety troubleshooter by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type troubleshooter, and then click Troubleshooting. Click View all, and then click Internet Explorer Safety.

How can I keep websites and programs from changing my default search provider?

Some websites and add-ons might try to change your default search provider. To learn how to prevent this, see How do I prevent programs from changing my default search provider?

How can I protect my privacy when I'm online?

Internet Explorer provides the following features that can help protect your privacy when you're online:

Why am I getting a message that reads "Your security setting level puts your computer at risk"?

You are getting this message because certain security settings are at a lower level than is recommended. By default, Internet Explorer has a minimum level for some settings that can help protect your computer from websites that are trying to install malicious or unwanted software without your knowledge or permission.

How do I know which settings are not at recommended levels?

To see which security settings are not at recommended levels, follow these steps:

To view Internet Explorer security settings

  1. Open Internet Explorer by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button. In the search box, type Internet Explorer, and then, in the list of results, click Internet Explorer.

  2. Click the Tools button, and then click Internet Options.

  3. Click the Security tab.

  4. Click the Internet icon, and then click Custom level.

    Settings that are not at recommended levels are highlighted in red.

    Picture of security settings
    Security settings set below recommended levels

What is changed when I click "Fix Settings for Me" on the Information bar when my computer is at risk?

When you click Fix Settings for Me on the Information bar, Internet Explorer will reset the security settings that put your computer at risk back to their recommended settings. To see your security settings, follow these steps:

To view Internet Explorer security settings

  1. Open Internet Explorer by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button. In the search box, type Internet Explorer, and then, in the list of results, click Internet Explorer.

  2. Click the Tools button, and then click Internet Options.

  3. Click the Security tab.

  4. Click the Internet icon, and then click Custom level.

    Settings that are not at recommended levels are highlighted in red.

    Picture of security settings
    Security settings set below recommended levels

How do I change my Internet Explorer security settings?

To change your Internet Explorer security settings

  1. Open Internet Explorer by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button. In the search box, type Internet Explorer, and then, in the list of results, click Internet Explorer.

  2. Click the Tools button, and then click Internet Options.

  3. Click the Security tab.

  4. Click the Internet icon.

  5. Do one of the following:

    • To pick a preset security level, move the slider.

    • To change individual security settings, click Custom level. Change the settings as desired and click OK when you are done.

    • To set Internet Explorer back to the default security level, click Default level.

    • Click Reset all zones to default level to clear any custom settings.

  6. When you are finished making changes to the security settings, click OK.

How do I change my Internet Explorer privacy settings?

To change your Internet Explorer privacy settings

  1. Open Internet Explorer by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button. In the search box, type Internet Explorer, and then, in the list of results, click Internet Explorer.

  2. Click the Tools button, and then click Internet Options.

  3. Click the Privacy tab.

  4. Under Settings, do either of the following:

    • To allow or block cookies from specific websites, click Sites.

    • To load a customized settings file, click Import. These are files that modify the rules that Internet Explorer uses handle cookies. Since these files can override default settings, you should only import them if you know and trust the source.

  5. When you are finished making changes to your privacy settings, click OK.