Internet Explorer 8 malware filtering problem hits users across the Web

Internet Explorer 8 malware filtering problem hits users across the Web

Summary: A problem with the Microsoft SmartScreen malware-thwarting technology in Internet Explorer 8 rendered countless users unable to access all kinds of sites throughout the day on November 4.

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A problem with the Microsoft SmartScreen malware-thwarting technology in Internet Explorer 8 rendered countless users unable to access all kinds of sites throughout the day on November 4.

Microsoft officials seem to have licked the problem by the end of the work day on the East Coast, but had posted no explanation as to its cause.

There are numerous tweets from frustrated IE users attempting to access banks, financial sites and other Web properties, noting that those sites were being reported as malicious by IE 8 even though they were not.

SmartScreen Filter is a feature introduced in Internet Explorer 8 designed to help users avoid "socially engineered malware phishing websites and online fraud." The filter checks sites against a "dynamically updated list" of reporting phishing/malware sites, and checks software downloads against reported sites. If a user tries to visit a site that is marked as malicious, a screen pops up advising that user not to continue to the unsafe site.

The @MicrosoftHelps twitter account is reporting that the issue has been resolved and apologized for any inconviences caused by the issue. I've asked the Internet Explorer team whether there is additional information on what went wrong today, but there's no word back so far.

Update: Microsoft is providing the following statement but no further details as to which sites were affected or what caused the problem. From a spokesperson:

"The SmartScreen Filter was unintentionally blocking a group of websites sites earlier today.  The issue has been resolved and we apologize to the customers and sites that were affected.  We understand the root cause and have taken preventive action.  We take security seriously and are committed to delivering a trusted browsing experience."

Via Twitter, I am seeing reports that Visa and Moneytree Inc.sites were affected, among others.

Internet Explorer 9 also incorporates the smart screen filter technology. I am running the beta of IE 9, but didn't encounter any issues today with sites falsely reporting to be malicious.

Anyone else out there encounter the smart screen problem today or hear more about what might be behind it?

Topics: Malware, Browser, Microsoft, Security

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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59 comments
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  • RE: Internet Explorer 8 malware filtering problem hits users across the Web

    Yet another reason to dump IE. Thanks Microsoft, for shooting yourself in the foot every single time!
    [deXter]
    • RE: shooting yourself in the foot

      @[deXter]

      Actually, I thought they shot themselves about 2 feet HIGHER UP. (Use your imagination, dexter!)

      FAIL! Its a good thing I have been using Firefox since 1.0.
      fatman65535
  • RE: Internet Explorer 8 malware filtering problem hits users across the Web

    Yes...Microsoft is going down for the last count in my office. They can take all their Synofski Shit and stick it.
    CustomComputers
    • I sense you are being less then honest

      CustomComputers. I have no proof, yet the tone and timing of your statement would lead me to believe so.
      :|
      Tim Cook
  • RE: Internet Explorer 8 malware filtering problem hits users across the Web

    Yeah, two of my sites got it.
    j-naz@...
  • Can happen with anybody.

    I know Google's filter has nabbed legit sites before, but since it is Microsoft might as well as flame the Hell out of them!

    DOWN WITH MICRO$SHAFT!
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Internet Explorer 8 malware filtering problem hits users across the Web

      LOL @Cylon Centurion 0005

      (roll eyes)
      I12BPhil
    • Got "act up"?

      NT

      lol...
      ahh so
    • can happen

      @Cylon Centurion 0005 <br>with anybody; but like somebody said: "why shlt always happens to me"...
      theo_durcan
  • Got it for money.cnn.com this morning.

    You do have the option of proceeding to the site so it's not like people were locked out.
    ye
    • Who am I to believe: ye or the entire blogosphere?

      @ye <br>It says <b>very</b> clearly that:<br><i>rendered countless users <b>unable to access</b> all kinds of sites</i><br><br>The blogosphere wouldn't lie about this, would they?<br><br>Oh yeah. That's right. They do all the time.<br><br>I believe you ye. :)<br><br>PS Read the article a little closer. Looks like my instinct to believe ye was the right one:<br><i>a screen pops up <b>advising</b> that user not to continue to the unsafe site</i><br><br>MJF: advising is <b>not</b> the same as <i>being unable to access</i>. Please fix your post. Thanks!
      NonZealot
      • RE: Internet Explorer 8 malware filtering problem hits users across the Web

        @NonZealot
        Our site was affected as well. There are a lot of users that see a big red screen and stop! They are too scared to do anything but freak out and close the browser. We ended up with a ton of support calls from this. So, you might as well say the site was locked out. There are still a ton of non-savy computer users out there.
        rquade
      • RE: Internet Explorer 8 malware filtering problem hits users across the Web

        @NonZealot - I tried the "Continue Anyway" option, and on at least one site, the spurious malicious site designation actually did totally prevent my completing an order, so it was a real problem. Thankfully, Microsoft's fix that avoids the error works, and is not currently causing any problems.
        boomer57
  • RE: Internet Explorer 8 malware filtering problem hits users across the Web

    Where's UberZealot and Loverock Soapstar?
    I12BPhil
    • RE: Internet Explorer 8 malware filtering problem hits users across the Web

      @I12BPhil Oh that's right! They only troll the Apple threads!
      I12BPhil
    • LOOK EVERYONE!@! HE MENTIONS ME!!!

      @I12BPhil

      Thanks! Tell all your friends about me! Trying to increase my fan base!
      Loverock Davidson
      • This type of thing is why I come to ZDnet anymore. XD

        Even when LD is being insulted, he takes it with a grain of salt and has a good chuckle.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Internet Explorer 8 malware filtering problem hits users across the Web

        @Loverock Davidson ..lol @ fanbase! You mean your weekly Microsoft paycheck.
        I12BPhil
      • He must be your hero, geoffypoo

        Or is it sock puppet?
        ahh so
  • RE: Internet Explorer 8 malware filtering problem hits users across the Web

    My firm did some analysis of the problem and determined that the problem was that Microsoft was flagging a specific JavaScript statement as malicious. It does kind of bring up the frightening nature of how much control Microsoft has over the Internet.
    jrpattison