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Internet Security Basics – Internet Browser

October 23, 2012

Internet Security Basic weekly serial describing how to act on the Internet

An Internet browser is a software application used to locate and display information on the World Wide Web. A web browser enables users to access, retrieve and view documents and other resources on the Internet. To utilize an Internet browser, the user types a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), into the browser’s address field. The entered address is called an “information resource” and may be a web page, image, video, or other piece of content. The most commonly used kind of URL starts with “http:” and identifies a resource to be retrieved over the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Although browsers are primarily intended to access the World Wide Web, they can also be used to access information provided by web servers in private networks or files in file systems. The most popular web browsers are Internet Explorer®, Firefox®, Google Chrome, Safari®, and Opera®. 

Why secure an Internet browser?

Many people ask me, why should I secure my web browser? But the answer is quite easy, this kind of software is installed on every computer and it is definitely the most used application for access on servers all over the world. Not securing your web browser can lead quickly to a variety of computer problems caused by anything from spyware being installed without your knowledge to intruders taking control of your computer. So one of the answers and the initial reason may be, computer users should evaluate the risks from the software they use the most. If you imagine the Internet as a large sea and your application as your ships in docks, you should definitely have the ship you use the most in the best condition, so it won’t leave you in the middle of the sea someday.

Be sure, there is an increasing threat from software attacks that take advantage of vulnerable Internet browsers. Exploiting vulnerabilities in web browsers has become a popular way for attackers to compromise computer systems.

Internet browser features associated with risks

It is very important to discuss here the functionality of the web browser and to see it as a complex application that provides us with an improved web interface. An Internet browser consists of many features that enable us to see and hear all graphical and audio experience, but these features may end up increasing the risk to the computer, and they are:

  • ActiveX -A technology used by Microsoft Internet Explorer on Microsoft Windows systems. ActiveX allows applications or parts of applications to be utilized by the web browser.
  • Java - An object-oriented programming language, Java is used to develop active content for web sites.
  • Plug-ins – Applications intended for use in the web browser, plug-ins extend the functionality of the browser and serve us usually in some additional service.
  • Cookies - Files placed on your system to store data for specific web sites, they provide communication between your computer and the server.
  • JavaScript, - Also known as ECMAScript, JavaScript is a scripting language that is used to make web sites more interactive.
  • VBScript -VBScript is another scripting language that is unique to Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer.

A low-cost way attackers use the features above for exploiting vulnerabilities in web browsers. An attacker can create a malicious web page that will install Trojan software or spyware that will steal your information. Rather than actively targeting and attacking vulnerable systems, a malicious web site can passively compromise systems as the site is visited.

How to secure an Internet browser?

Every browser is offering and bringing us a slightly different protection, but it is usually caused by initial setting of its features mentioned above. You should understand which browsers support which features and the risks they could introduce. Some web browsers permit you to fully disable the use of these technologies, while others may permit you to enable features on a per-site basis. Many people solve this problem by installing multiple web browsers on their computer and they use different browsers for different work on the Internet. One they will have set with really strict settings and use it for important online operations, and another set with its own settings for entertainment. Actually I would like to explain to you in this paragraph what browser’s features and functions you should change and why, as well as what not to do to keep the Internet browser as safe as possible:

10 browser’s features and functions you should focus on:

  1. Block pop-up windows –This feature is usually set to active by default, but you can check in your browser’s settings and keep it enabled so as to avoid accidentally clicking on redirecting pages.
  2. Do not enable the automatic launching of Active X – If you are asked to enable this feature on any site, think about whether or not you invoked this action and want to use it or not (usually used for downloading files).
  3. Password remember function – Web browsers usually contain some kind of password manager, from the point of personal security and online account security, do not automatically save your passwords and user names for your important accounts where you have personal information.
  4. Auto-fill form function – It is same as with your passwords, think about where you fill in your information and if it can be abused by someone. You can remove your personal data from these pages by  clearing individual cookies, this feature you should be able to find this in the settings of your browser.
  5. Keep warning for add-on installation enabled – Your browser should have an active function that ask you about the installation of add-ons and extensions, check if this is true, and do not turn it off.
  6. Keep your browser updated – Developers release fixes for issues found in your browser and it is the same for security bugs.  So have automatic updates enabled.
  7. Use trustworthy third party extensions that blocks suspicious websites – Applications like these are installed in your browser and use an external database of dangerous servers and block access to them. Read more in our article that focuses on avoiding dangerous search results.
  8. Do not use browsers with major representation in the market – It is logical that hackers and thread programmers tend to focus on major Internet browsers, if you choose a lesser represented application you potentially minimalize your chances of being attacked. (See the picture below with chart of Internet browsers usage).
  9. Keep your computer secure – Of course every application communicates with your operating system and your internet browser is no different.. Install antivirus, antispyware, system protection tools and a firewall and keep them updated. Here are some related articles that may help you:

    ·         How Do I Choose the Best Antivirus

    ·         How Do I Completely Protect My Computer

    ·         How Do I Protect my System

    ·         How Can I Be Secure While Shopping Online

    ·         How Do I Install a FREE Spyware and Adware Blocker

    ·         How Do I Find Good Firewall Software

  10.  Just think – Remember that there is no software that can 100% protect your computer, you have to be the most active security element for your computer. Avoid visiting suspicious web sites, do not click on “cheap” advertisements and offers, etc. Simply, think before you click.

Portable Internet Browsers:

An interesting tip is to use a portable browser, it is a special version of the application that can be launched from any removable device such as USB flash drive. You can set it however you want, have it with you all the time, and use it on any computer.

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