Microsoft has long been criticized for its browser security, while its closest rivals are often praised by it. The software giant seems keen to restore the balance, though, and is set to include a raft of new or upgraded security features designed to safeguard against malware, phishing and scripting attacks when Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 debuts next month.

One such feature is the new SmartScreen Filter, which adds malware blocking to the anti-phishing protection already embedded in IE7. The new feature resembles the defenses already used by rival browsers Firefox 3.0 and Opera 9.5 in that it warns users when they’re about to visit a site known or suspected of spreading malicious code and then block any download from that site.

Other new measures include protection against cross-site scripting (XXS) attacks and added levels of security for ActiveX controls and Data Execution Prevention to help mitigate memory-related attacks. You can read more about it on Microsoft’s IE Blog.