Uninformed: Informative Information for the Uninformed

Vol 8» 2007.Sep

Next: Introduction

Getting out of Jail: Escaping Internet Explorer Protected Mode

September, 2007



With the introduction of Windows Vista, Microsoft has added a new form of mandatory access control to the core operating system. Internally known as "integrity levels", this new addition to the security manager allows security controls to be placed on a per-process basis. This is different from the traditional model of per-user security controls used in all prior versions of Windows NT. In this manner, integrity levels are essentially a bolt-on to the existing Windows NT security architecture. While the idea is theoretically sound, there does exist a great possibility for implementation errors with respect to how integrity levels work in practice. Integrity levels are the core of Internet Explorer Protected Mode, a new "low-rights" mode where Internet Explorer runs without permission to modify most files or registry keys. This places both Internet Explorer and integrity levels as a whole at the forefront of the computer security battle with respect to Windows Vista.