Security

When is an "Information Bar" a REAL "Information Bar"?

If you're a Windows XP SP2 user using Internet Explorer then you've probably seen the "Information Bar" pop up on you when surfing.

Initially when it appears the Information Bar comes complete with an informational pop-up box that tells you about it:

However, given that the box has a "Do not show this message again" option (one that I believe should only be available to people who have "Learned more about the Information Bar ..." but that's my opinion) people soon forget about this.

Here's an Information Bar telling me about pop-up windows being blocked on CNN.com:

It's a great idea but one that is unfortunately open to abuse and confusion.  Tell me, what's the difference between the Information Bar above and this one:

Kinda looks the same doesn't it?  Even in the browser itself they look oddly alike.  They even act alike when you hover over them:

So what's the difference?  Well, the one on CNN.com is real whereas the other one, from http://minghong.dyndns.org:8080/Software/infobar/ is a fake.

It's a good fake, not perfect by far as you can see by the rough aliasing on the image when you look at it close up:

Real Information Bar:

Fake Information Bar:

Notice how rough the triangle is around the edges.  However, these things are just cosmetic and can be fixed easily by someone who wants to fool you.  The fake isn't real but it is close enough to fool people.

Thankfully, there are other cues that you can use to make sure that you are looking at a real Information Bar and not a fake.  One way is to keep the Information Bar pop-up box going, although this could become a major pain.  Another is to look for cues in the status bar of the browser.

Here the site with the "fake" Information Bar is on the top and the real one below it.  See the icon in the Information bar repeated in the status bar (next to the eye with the blocked symbol below it)?  Also notice the shield icon to the left of the status bar.  These are cues that the Information Bar is indeed a real one and not a fake.

The messages that you should see in the Information bar are as follows:

  • "To help protect your security, Internet Explorer stopped this site from installing an ActiveX control on your computer. Click here for options…"
  • "To help protect your security, Internet Explorer blocked this site from downloading files to your computer. Click here for options…"
  • "Your security settings do not allow Web sites to use ActiveX controls installed on your computer. This page may not display correctly. Click here for options…"
  • "Internet Explorer has blocked this site from using an ActiveX control in an unsafe manner. As a result this page may not display correctly."
  • "To help protect your security, Internet Explorer has restricted this file from showing active content that could access your computer. Click here for options..."
  • "This content might not be displayed properly. The file was restricted because the content doesn’t match its security information. Click here for options..."
  • "This site might require the following ActiveX control: Name. From: PublisherName. Click here to install..."

Remember that there is no risk on the warnings being bypassed using this technique, but it is a way that unscrupulous advertisers might use to get you to click on their links.  Be careful that what you click on is what you think it is and not something trying to fool you into clicking on it!



Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
Last updated: April 4th 2005
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