Our opinion of IE9’s Smart Screen filter irks a reader

By | December 3, 2011
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Rom disagrees with our opinion about Internet Explorer’s Smart Screen
I totally disagree with your comments on Widows Smart Screen. It is a warning. that makes you ask yourself “Do I trust the source of this program?”. The source is Information Ave and I trust them because they test the program before they recommend it. You test a lot of little know programs and the Smart Screen will appear with many of them. Stating that that it is nonsense is a disservice to your readers since they may ignore the warning about a program from another source that does not thoroughly test the programs that they recommend.

Our answer
We’d totally agree with you if it worked, but it doesn’t. Smart Screen will let you download SmileyCentral, for example, without causing you to pause. Do you know why? Because big companies can afford what are known as “security certificates”. And Windows Internet Explorer won’t bat an eye if a download has a security certificate. Now this would be great if only good guys could by them – or if they actually meant something. But do you know what a certificate guarantees you? It guarantees you that the company who claims to have made the file actually made it. It in no way guarantees you that the file is safe.

We don’t have security certificates – and many of the freeware programs we feature are made by small companies like ours and they don’t have them either. So does the lack of a certificate mean the file is less safe? No. Does it mean that one with a certificate is safe? No. Microsoft’s Smart Screen is based on the nonsense logic that if a file has no certificate and hasn’t been downloaded much (what about a brand new program?), then the file is subject to suspicion. Yet millions of Internet Explorer uses download adware and spyware because Smart Screen doesn’t bat an eye because the files have certificates.

The worst thing about Smart Screen is it lulls users into thinking that if Smart Screen does not give a warning then the file is safe. And that’s simply not true. We don’t much like programs that lull users into thinking they can rely on software to keep them safe. If you can’t rely on a program’s accuracy, then you can’t rely on the program. If you had a malfunctioning carbon monoxide detector in your house that was constantly warning you of high-levels of carbon monoxide, that would make you think too. But does that make your faulty carbon monoxide detector worth having? No. You wouldn’t say it does either.

Giving you pause and making you think a file might be harmful would be OK if Smart Screen didn’t, on the other hand, allow you to download files that can harm your computer and jeopardize your privacy. So we will stand by our opinion of IE’s Smart Screen Filter. If Smart Screen was even 85% accurate in its warnings we might be more inclined to give it some latitude. But it is not accurate, it’s not even close. So we respectfully disagree with you, Rom.

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