Loretta discovers the disadvantages of Internet Explorer 9’s so-called “Smart Screen Filter”

By | November 19, 2011
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Loretta says she got a warning when she tried to download our freeware pick last week
What is going on with the new photo editing program, “Phoxo”. When I start to download, it says it is not commonly downloaded and could harm my computer. Loretta

Our Answer
Well Loretta, you’re discovering how stupid Internet Explorer’s Smart Screen filter is, eh? The freeware pick of the week last week was Phoxo – a really nice – and SAFE graphics editor. And we thoroughly checked it out before we featured it. According to the wizards of Microsoft, a file that is not commonly downloaded is, by its nature, not safe. We’ll SmileyCentral is “commonly downloaded” and it’s not safe, but Smart Filter says it is.

This week we released a brand new collection of Thanksgiving stationery – and we received about a dozen emails from people who got the “not commonly downloaded” warning from Internet Explorer’s Smart Screen filter. It’s just plain nonsense. Our files were brand new this week – so how could they possibly be “commonly downloaded”? IE’s Smart Screen filter is keeping many people from enjoying our stationery and thousands of other good software programs because they are not “commonly downloaded”.

Let’s see. If Microsoft ran the real world, I’d get a warning when I bought a brand of frozen vegetables which weren’t “commonly purchased”. Or a warning for a bottle of wine that was not “commonly purchased”. How insane is that logic?

While the warning IE’s Smart Screen filter gives say “May harm your computer” everyone reads “May” as “Will”. We have no idea how many people are afraid to download safe files from our site because the stupidity of Internet Explorer’s Smart Screen filter. It’s certainly not smart and its warnings are certainly not based on any testing or other valid data. If it’s not commonly downloaded then it’s probably not safe – that’s the dumb logic of Smart Screen.

I use Chrome and sometimes Safari and Firefox so I never seen the dumb warning from Internet Explorer’s Smart Screen. But EB uses IE and she gets them all the time. It looks like we’re going to have buy some site certificate for our site to “prove” to a dumb Smart Screen we’re safe or almost all IE users will be scared away – at least those who don’t know us well.

It’s too bad that Microsoft looks for simple solutions to complex problems. Just because a file is not commonly downloaded, does not make it unsafe. There is nothing wrong with our freeware pick, “Phoxo“. It’s a great free photo editor and it is a safe download.

Keep in mind that many of the download which Smart Screen warns you about are not dangerous at all.  We’d be all for a Smart Screen filter that was based on facts and data from actual testing of a download. But Smart Screen’s algorithm is so flawed as to assume that files which are not commonly downloaded (or which do not have a security certificate) are somehow suspect. Every developer who publishes a new product will face Smart Screen’s illogical logic — unless they purchase a security certificate. But here’s the problem with security certificates — anyone can buy one and it does not guarantee a download it safe; it only guarantees that the company who claims to have made the program (download) actually made it. We have seen a lot of spyware and bundlers with certificates. For some reason, Microsoft just can’t seem to get much right anymore – and Smart Screen is another example of a company that has lost its way.

Many sites and developers are being hurt by Internet Explorer 9’s Smart Screen filter. Not only does it hurt developers who don’t use certificates – it hurts small companies who don’t use certificates and who release new downloads often. Smart Screen would be a good idea if it were actually “smart”. It would be a good thing if its warnings were derived from empirical data and not just guessing that files that are not commonly downloaded “could” be dangerous.  Your toaster “could” kill you if someone dropped it into your bathtub while you were taking a bath.

If a filter is going use guesses instead of facts to make a determination as to whether or not to display a warning, then that filter is flawed and you should never rely on it. Instead, if you have a question about the safety of a download, google the product and learn the facts. Guessing is never a good way to make decisions – but Microsoft seems to think it is. We just hope that Google, Mozilla and Apple don’t join in the guessing game.

One thought on “Loretta discovers the disadvantages of Internet Explorer 9’s so-called “Smart Screen Filter”

  1. Technonana

    Had a mechanical problem with my power source fan a few weeks ago. CPU was still under original HP warranty so I called them. After determining which fan was making the noise and ordering it for me, I had to call them regarding some fine tuning on the installation.

    HP needed to remotely control my computer and uses IE to do so. The technician noticed that Microsoft had automatically updated my IE to 9. He stated that he would have to uninstall IE9 and reinstall IE8. He stated that IE9 was very unstable and would cause my computer to crash. I never use IE but appreciated his advice and allowed him to do so.

    FYI, I was very pleased with the HP techs who helped me. They even called a few days later to see if everything was still working o.k. I mentioned that MS kept telling me I needed to install IE9 and he sent me a link to download a MS program that would stop that aggravation. I had to call them back to get it installed and again they were very helpful and polite.


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