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Protected Mode in Internet Explorer

What is Internet Explorer  Protected Mode and what does it do for me?

Internet Explorer bases its concept of security on Security Zones including the Internet Zone, the Local intranet, Trusted sites and Restricted sites.

It is always advisable to have Protected Mode on for security reasons. Protected Mode is a per-zone setting, and is enabled by default for the Internet and Restricted Sites zones in IE7 and later disabled for the Trusted Sites and Local Machine (aka Computer) zone.

Protected Mode runs in a process which prevents modification of most areas of the file system and registry, including those areas which you cam normally modify, such as the Startup folder. Protected Mode is intended to serve as a defense in depth measure, so that if malware from the internet manages to exploit a browser vulnerability, it will be much harder for the attacker to make changes to the system.

You can see whether Protected Mode is on by looking in the bottom right-hand corner of Internet Explorer (in IE9 go to File > Properties) where you should see the text Internet | Protected Mode: On.

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If you are on the Internet in a Internet cafe, airport or similar location and Protected Mode is not on beware! You should be able to turn Protected Mode on:

  • Double-click on the Protected Mode icon (shown above or click Tools > Internet Options).
  • You should see the Security tab.

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  • Tick Enable Protected Mode.
  • Close Internet Explorer and then restart it.
  • You should now see that Protected Mode is on.

If you cannot turn Protected Mode on, then you are advised not to use the machine.

Screen shots are printed with the permission of the Microsoft Corporation.