Are You Practicing Safe Surfing? (Part 1)

Posted: June 16, 2011 in articles, computers, cybersecurity, hacking

Are you practicing safe web surfing?  Probably not, most people don’t.  Many ‘think’ they are safe.  “I have virus filters and spam filters, and I don’t go to websites I don’t know.”, paraphrases the response I get from most people.  I hope you don’t consider a bug screen over an open window as contributing to your home security.  Bug screens keep bugs out of your house, not crooks!.  And a bug screen doesn’t stop the mosquitoes from bitting when you’re outside.  Viruses and spam can be used to steal your identity or personal information, but they are not the only threats to your cybersecurity.

The single largest cybersecurity threat is DOS.  Not the very old operating system that is still at the heart of Windows.  DOS, Deficit Operator Syndrome.  Computer users behaving badly.  Sorry, but I have never found any fix, patch, or work around for this issue.  Best just to keep your distance and hope it isn’t contagious.

The second largest, is Internet Explorer,  Microsoft’s web browser.  This you can’t fix, but you can replace.  And it’s not just Internet Explorer (IE), but any program that uses / accesses IE’s libraries for rendering web content.  This would included: Outlook, Outlook Express, and Windows Messenger (aka MSN Messenger, aka Windows Live Messenger).

First let me explain my reasoning.  Microsoft made two conscious choices that have opened and left open huge security holes in IE.  First, instead of having code to render web content included in every program that needs it, they have all the different programs simply start a background mini session of IE.  The idea being why have the essentially same code included into a whole lot of programs.  Two problems: One, any bugs or holes in IE are automatically in everything; Two IE is huge bulky inefficient code in the first place.  This is like saying “Let car pool! To be more efficient”, then doing so in a Freight-liner pulling a full trailer.  The second problem is ActiveX.  which are mini compiled programs that run inside web pages and IE.  Microsoft allows ActiveX code to have direct access to your computer.  This is unlike other similar technology (Java, Javascript, Flash, Shockwave, Quicktime plug-in) which are effectively restricted to the browser space.

The solution is to stop using IE and programs that utilize IE libraries.  There are numerous other web browsers: Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, SeaMonkey, etc….   Just don’t switch to one that uses IE as it’s core, like Avant, Bento, Enigma, Maxthon, Realplayer, MSN Explorer.  These are effectively re-skinned versions of IE.  I often use multiple browsers simultaneous (Don’t ask why, that’s a whole other post!), but Firefox tends to always be one that is open.

Switch to Firefox (any other browser, that doesn’t use IE to render web content).  Sometime in the near future I’ll write part 2.  Were I will explain how to make Firefox ALOT more secure then it comes standard.

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