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Microsoft To Let Edge Browser Block Unsafe Apps

Microsoft this week announced a forthcoming feature in its Chromium-based Edge browser that will block potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) from getting installed.

The capability will be available starting with version 80.0.338.0 of Edge. It's part of Windows Defender SmartScreen, a Web site reputation-checking service in Windows 10, which needs to be turned on to use the PUA blocking service.

Microsoft defines PUAs based on criteria listed in this document. Some items on the list are unclear. For instance, the PUA blocking service is said to block software that "displays advertisements or promotions," but the Microsoft Games software in Windows 10 does that sort of thing. Apparently the advertising has to occur "in software other than itself" to get blocked.

Another gray area is the service's blocking of marketing software. It'll block "software that monitors and transmits the activities of users to applications or services other than itself for marketing research."

Other criteria in which PUAs will get blocked include software that uses peer-to-peer file sharing or engages in cryptocurrency mining. It'll block applications that bundle and install other PUA software. Applications that try to avoid security solutions will get blocked. Lastly, the service blocks software that's distrusted by the security industry.

Users will see a dialog box before the PUA software gets blocked. They can either cancel the app download or elect "Keep anyway" to ignore the blocking. They can also send a note to Microsoft with a "Report this app as reputable" option.

The blocking service won't be on by default. Users wanting the service will have to go to Edge's Settings menu and select "Block potentially unwanted apps," which is located under the "Privacy and services" option.

IT pros can also turn on the PUA blocking service for their organizations using a Group Policy setting for Windows Defender SmartScreen called "SmartScreenPuaEnabled." The Group Policy setting only works with devices that have been domain joined using Active Directory, or "Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise instances that are enrolled for device management."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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