One of the most annoying modes of Internet advertising is the unsolicited pop-up window and its variations such as pop-unders, etc. In spite of the fact that pop-ups are very irritating, marketing agencies claim that they are effective and persist in using them. To defend against these intrusions, many varieties of pop-up stopper have been available for some time. Microsoft finally joined many other browser offerings and put a pop-up stopper in the Window XP SP2 version of Internet Explorer 6 (IE 6). There is now an added entry “Pop-up Blocker in the Internet Explorer “Tools” menu as is shown below.
The pop-up blocker can be turned off or configured for individual Web sites in the Settings dialog shown below. There is also a “Filter Level” to adjust how stringently pop-ups are controlled. Some pop-ups are useful, providing additional information on some subject or expanding a menu. Usually, however, these require the viewer to click or pass over a link and do not appear automatically. If you would like to test the level of your defenses against pop-ups, try this test site.
Another new entry in the Internet Explorer “Tools” menu is the Add-on Manager as indicated in the figure below. An “add-on” is something that helps IE carry out a function that it can’t do itself or creates new functionality. Common Examples are the Adobe Acrobat reader for PDF documents, the Google toolbar, and the Macromedia Flash player. They are normally what is called “ActiveX” objects. (See this page for a description of ActveX.) There are many useful objects but there is also malware designed to use this particular way to infest your computer.
The dialog for managing add-ons is shown below. Useful ActiveX add-ons can be updated in the manager. Any object that is suspicious or causing system instabilities can be disabled here. Note that this only disables the use of an object by IE. Other components of your system can still use a disabled ActiveX object.
More about the changes in SP2 can be read at this Microsoft article. The specific security changes in Internet Explorer 6 are discussed here.