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Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

SmartScreen is a Microsoft filtering tool designed to detect and block suspicious and malicious sites, applications and files.

The program checks the safety of websites and downloads and tracks malware and phishing attempts. Introduced in Windows 7's Internet Explorer 8, SmartScreen uses a whitelist of trusted sites collected from the surfing data of other IE SmartScreen users.

Windows 8’s version of SmartScreen is included in IE and throughout the operating system. SmartScreen ranks the trustworthiness of programs based on data gathered from all users of the application. The whitelist is created by collecting the IP addresses, file names and hashes of all programs from all users with SmartScreen enabled. SmartScreen tracks downloads conducted through IE, Chrome and Firefox.

SmartScreen has been criticized for exerting too much control over users’ systems and being too invasive of users’ privacy. One of the main concerns is the fact that it can take control of harmless but lesser-known programs as well as malware, which is considered anti-competitive by some developers. The application is sometimes referred to as pre-installed malware because many of its behaviors mimic those of spyware programs.

This was last updated in July 2014

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