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IE7 'critical update' causes headaches for managed desktop environments

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Many organisations use methods to keep a standard look and feel to their computer desktops, with branding, logos, default company websites as home pages and various rights and privilege settings. These "manageable computer desktops" have always been fairly easy to roll-out company-wide, and if any changes were made in a session, they are wiped when the next user logs on.

Recently, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7, the latest version of its web browser. Even more recently, it added it to the "critical updates" section of Windows Update. Many organisations, to keep their computers up-to-date and bug-free, allow these critical updates to be installed automatically overnight, with no user intervention.

Internet Explorer 7 is a nice update to IE6, enabling tabbed browsing, and introduces other features seen in other web browsers like Firefox and Opera. Typically, IE7 will overwrite IE6 as the default Microsoft browser.

The previous incarnation, IE6, was nicely integrated with managed desktop settings. It was very difficult to make any permanent changes to the home page. However, it appears that IE7 has forgotten its "managed" roots and allows users, by means of a few simple clicks, to permanently choose a home page of their choosing!

Now, this isn't a security threat of any sort, but for an organisation trying to keep the same branding company-wide, it can get difficult. As many organisations may not feel compelled to turn off automatic updates, they should be prepared to face this is issue when Internet Explorer 7 is downloaded and installed automatically.

For those organisations wishing to hold back a little further until these potential issues are sorted out by a later IE service pack (we are already on SP2) help is at hand from Microsoft. It has released a "Toolkit to Disable Automatic Delivery of Internet Explorer 7" here. ®

Grigorios Fragkos and Huw Read are research students at the Faculty of Advanced Technology, University of Glamorgan.

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