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Configuring Security Zones in Internet Explorer

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 12/29/2009

This guide explains how to make adjustments to the Security Zones in Internet Explorer in order to give your PC more protection against both Internet and intranet threats.

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    Internet Explorer Logo The zones you can configure for Internet Explorer are shown in the Security tab of the Tools>Internet Options dialog box. You can view information on each zone by clicking it. Take a look at the zones you can configure and the ones that are set up by default. Here are the steps to follow:

    1. Open Internet Explorer, click the Tools menu, and click Internet Options.
    2. From the Internet Options dialog box, click the Security tab.
    3. Select an Internet zone to view its properties.

    Internet Zone

    By default, all Web sites fall into the Internet zone, and the security level for the zone is Medium. (The other zones require you to choose sites manually and place them in the zone yourself.) Medium security offers safe browsing while still being quite functional. With this setting, you will get a prompt before anything potentially harmful is downloaded. Medium security is appropriate for most users and Internet sites. You can change the security level for the Internet zone by simply moving the security slider up or down. When you move the slider, the information about the zone’s security precautions changes.

    Additional Zones

    In addition to the Internet zone, there are three other zones: Local Intranet, Trusted Sites, and Restricted Sites. When you use these zones, you must manually place Web sites in them. Once a Web site has been placed in a zone, the site takes on the security measures for that zone.

    In the Local Intranet zone, for instance, the default security level is Medium-Low. That’s because any site you manually place in this zone should be a site on your local intranet; it should be a trusted and secure Web site maintained by your company.

    In the Trusted Sites zone, the default security level is Low. This setting and zone are only appropriate for sites you absolutely trust, like your own. Low security provides minimal safeguards; for example, no prompts appear when ActiveX content is downloaded and run on your machine. Because all ActiveX content is run, it is only appropriate for sites you absolutely trust.

    Finally, the Restricted Sites zone has a security setting of High. Place Web sites here that you do not trust. A security level of High reduces functionality, but you’ll at least be safe while visiting!

    Here’s how to add a Web site to any of these zones:

    1. Open Internet Explorer, click Tools, and click Internet Options.
    2. Click the Security tab and select any zone other than the Internet zone.
    3. Click Sites.
    4. In the Sites dialog box, type in the Web address of the zone to add and click Add. Note that the URL for trusted sites will have to start with https://, a verification that the site is indeed secure.