Windows SmartScreen filter warning messages explained

The Windows SmartScreen filter offers protection to Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer users from internet based attacks by blocking malicious websites, phishing attacks, socially engineered malware, Drive-by-download attacks as well as web-based attacks that exploit software vulnerabilities, and displays warnings for Malvertising and Tech Support scam sites. However, with attackers finding newer ways to intrude into the PC’s, Microsoft announced that the latest Windows 10 updates, includes a beefed up SmartScreen that provides protection from drive-by attacks in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer.

SmartScreen filter warnings

Let us take a look at the warnings it throws up when it wants to draw your attention to certain events.

1] Safe Download

safe-smart-screenIf when you download a file from the Internet, you see a white notice at the bottom of the wb page, which turns to yellow, and it has a dark yellow line as the top border, then the file may be considered as safe. It asks you Do you want to run or save the file from web page? You then have the option to Run or Save it. Or you may simply Cancel the operation.

2] Downloaded file blocked from running

malicious-download

If the file being downloaded is a malicious file, when you click on Save, the file will get downloaded, but SmartScreen will block it from running. The warning displayed will read – SmartScreen Filter reported file as unsafe. The only option you see here is to Delete it.

3] Blocked download from questionable website

smartscreen-blockedIf the website or the URL has a doubtful reputation, SmartScreen will just not download the file and will block it! It will also warn you about it – File is unsafe to download and was blocked by SmartScreen Filter.

For the above two warnings, when using Internet Explorer, if you were to select View downloads, and right-click on the file entries, different context menu items will appear for these two kinds of potentially malicious files.

downloads-warnings-10

If when using, SmartSreen reports that the file is unsafe to download, and its download itself is blocked, then you will see these context menu items when you right-click on that file:

  • Copy download link
  • Go to download webpage
  • Download unsafe file
  • Report that this program is safe

If SmartSreen reported that the unsafe program was blocked from running, then you will see these context menu items when you right-click on that file:

  • Run anyway
  • Delete program
  • Copy download link
  • Go to download web page
  • Report that this program is safe
  • Rerun security checks on this program

If you are using Microsoft Edge browser, you will see the following right-click menu options:

edge-smartscreen

If a program is stopped from running you will see:

  • Delete
  • Report that this download is safe
  • Run anyway

If a program download is blocked, you will see:

  • Report that this download is safe
  • Download unsafe file

You may select the desired options after due considerations.

4] Reconfirmation to run downloaded file from unknown publishers

protected-run

If the file being run comes from an unknown publisher, you will be asked for confirmation. You may select Run anyway or Don’t run.

5] Possible Phishing page

smartscreen filter

If SmartScreen suspects but is unsure if the URL you are visiting, is a Phishing site or not it will ask you to confirm. This way it will bring your attention to the issue, and you need to ensure that the URL you typed is correct. If you are sure that the site is safe, you may click on Yes to proceed.

6] Known Phishing website

smartscreen-phishing-2

If SmartScreen is sure that the website you are visiting is a  site, it will display a red screen with This website has been reported unsafe heading with a Phishing threat warning, when you click on the More information option. If you see such a warning, you should close the tab. But if you are sure that the site is safe, you may click on the Report that this site does not contain threats link. If you wish to proceed anyway, you need to click on the Disregard and continue link.

7] Known exploit web page that attacks browser vulnerabilities or distributes Malware

smartscreen-malicious-3

If a website is known to push malware onto users computers, SmartScreen will display a Malicious software threat warning, when you click on the More information option. If you see such a warning, you should close the tab. But if you are sure that the site is safe, you may click on the Report that this site does not contain threats link. If you wish to proceed anyway, you need to click on the Disregard and continue link. But in this case, I would recommend that you close the tab and move on.

8] Blocked Malvertising

malvertising-blocked

Malvertising lures users to Phishing websites. The purpose is Identity Theft or to compromise your computer, by downloading a short malicious code on to it, when you hover on or click on an advertisement.

If the SmartSreen filter detects malvertising, it will simply block the ad and replace it with a red square as shown above. The rest of the content on the web page will, however, remain visible.

So you see, the Windows SmartScreen Filter plays a very important role in protecting your computer, and it is imperative that you have it enabled on your PC – which is, of course, the default setting.

More posts about the SmartScreen filter:

  1. Windows SmartScreen can’t be reached right now
  2. Windows SmartScreen filter, Download Reputation, XSS Security features
  3. Enable or Disable SmartScreen Filter in Internet Explorer
  4. SmartScreen filter cannot check this website
  5. How to bypass SmartScreen filter and download files in IE or Edge
  6. Prevent bypassing of SmartScreen filter warnings.
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Anand Khanse is the Admin of TheWindowsClub.com, a 10-year Microsoft MVP Awardee in Windows (2006-16) & a Windows Insider MVP. Please read the entire post & the comments first, create a System Restore Point before making any changes to your system & be careful about any 3rd-party offers while installing freeware.