A senior Microsoft executive has confirmed many of the security enhancements that have been rumoured for the next major update to Internet Explorer, including integrated anti-spyware features and restrictions on cross-domain scripting access.

Microsoft has said IE 7 is to be above all a security release, with any other enhancements on the back-burner. The browser, code-named Rincon, will be available for Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and Windows XP Professional x64.

At a Monday security briefing at Microsoft's TechEd conference, Gordon Mangione, corporate vice president of the company's security business and technology unit, confirmed that the IE 7 will run in reduced-privilege mode by default, according to a report in industry journal eWeek. The feature is designed to prevent remote attacks via the browser, which have become a major hassle for Microsoft.

This change, among many others, has been rumoured since the announcement of IE 7. Microsoft is retooling the browser after years of neglect, which was largely due to lack of serious competition for the dominant browser, according to industry analysts.

Microsoft had even said it would stop updating IE independently of the operating system, a decision it reversed once the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox browser began giving IE a run for its money. IE still controls about 90 percent of browser market share.

Mangione confirmed that the browser will change the way files are executed, will include anti-spyware and anti-phishing features and will block cross-domain scripting access, according to the report. He confirmed the browser will support international domain names (IDN), built-in RSS, built-in search with a choice of search providers and new printing capabilities.

Other expected improvements include a better SSL user interface, and integration with Windows AntiSpyware.

Mangione said that crash reports provided to the company revealed that 30 percent of all Windows machines were infested with spyware. He said the rebranded AntiSpyware software acquired from Giant Company Software in December has seen 17 million downloads, the report said.

Microsoft recently confirmed that IE 7 will include improved support for two key Web standards - Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and PNG graphics. For years, inadequate support for such rendering features has forced Web developers to create two different versions of their sites, one supporting IE and and another for standards-compliant browsers.