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Overview: Security on the Internet

The Internet works by sending information from computer to computer until the information reaches its destination. When data is sent from point A to point B, every computer in between has an opportunity to look at what's being sent. This can pose a security problem.

For example, you are viewing a clothing catalog on the World Wide Web and you decide to buy a shirt. This requires that you type information into an order form, including your credit-card number. You know the clothing company in question is reputable, so you type your credit-card number and other information, and then send the completed form. Your information passes from computer to computer on its way to the clothing company. Unfortunately, one of the computers in between has been infiltrated by criminals who watch the data passing through that computer until they see something interesting, such as your credit-card number.

How often does something like this happen? It's hard to say, but the important thing is that it's technically possible. And, as the Internet grows, it could happen more and more.

How does Microsoft Internet Explorer help protect you and your data?

Many Internet sites are equipped to prevent unauthorized people from seeing the data sent to or from those sites. These are called "secure" sites. Because Internet Explorer supports the security protocols used by secure sites, you can send information to a secure site with safety and confidence. (When you are viewing a page from a secure site, Internet Explorer displays a "lock" icon on the status bar.) Internet Explorer can also notify you when you are about to do something that might pose a security risk. For example, if you are about to send your credit-card number to a nonsecure site, Internet Explorer can warn you that the site is not secure. If the site claims to be secure but its security credentials are suspect, Internet Explorer can warn you that the site might have been tampered with or might be misrepresenting itself. To specify when Internet Explorer should warn you, click the View menu, click Options, and then click the Security tab.