Microsoft today launched a beta version of its Internet Explorer 7.0 browser, emphasising updated security features designed to defeat security problems that plagued earlier editions.

"Internet Explorer 7.0 Beta 2.0 is a major step forward in ease of use and security," the company's download page for the new version said.

The browser integrates Microsoft's Phishing Filter, which informs users if they are visiting known phishing sites, and indicates this by displaying a red shield with a white X on it, the company said on the site.

Phishing involves the theft of personal data, often by duping users into entering that information into a seemingly familiar site that is being operated illegally and on an unrelated server.

Designed especially for the delayed Windows Vista operating system, the new browser is intended to address concerns over security risks that were specifically aimed at earlier versions of Internet Explorer, including exploitation of weaknesses that allowed for the theft of personal data and credit card or other account information. "We heard you – you wanted it easier and more secure," the website for the latest version said.

The final version of Internet Explorer 7.0 is expected to launch around the same time as Vista in 2007.

The software can be downloaded here.