Knowledge is Power

19 Jun

The first step in any effort to secure your browser is to know your browser. Different browsers have different strengths when it comes to security, and whichever one you choose, you need to know how to use it effectively.

If you’re using Internet Explorer, then you’ll need to work with its Security Zones. Each site is assigned to one of four zones – Internet (default), Trusted, Restricted, or Local Intranet – which will determine its privileges.  You should become familiar with the long list of security options that can be switched on and off in each zone (more on these in future posts), and ensure that you’ve set things the way you want them. In particular, pay close attention to the privileges that you give to the default Internet zone. Ordinarily this zone is quite permissive, but if you’re concerned about security, you’ll want to crank it up. Bear in mind that the higher the default security, the more often you’ll need to add sites to the Trusted zone before they will work. If you’re not sure about visiting a site, or you suspect that it’s dangerous, then you can add it to the Restricted zone before you go there. Make sure that each zone has the right level of security for the sites that belong there.

If you’re using Mozilla Firefox, or a related browser like SeaMonkey or Pale Moon, then you should focus on your extensions. Firefox addons can drastically change your browser’s behavior, adding layers of defence that no browser has out-of-the-box. For this reason, Firefox is my personal choice, with a long list of addons installed (RequestPolicy, Adblock Plus, Certificate Patrol, Perspectives, HTTPS Finder, VTZilla, Host Permissions, RefControl, Safe, and various others). In particular, I cannot recommend the NoScript extension highly enough. This little gem, by Giorgio Maone, will give you back control of your browsing – just make sure that you read the documentation first, so that you know what you’re getting in for! It’s a whole different world wide web with NoScript. More to come in my next post.

If you use Google Chrome, or the related Chromium browsers, then you have a more limited selection of addons available, and those that exist don’t always work as well as Firefox addons. Chrome does, however, have strong protections against websites trying to install viruses on your computer, and if one tab crashes, the rest of the browser should theoretically keep going. It also has some useful features that you can turn on, like controlling which sites can run JavaScript; somewhat like NoScript, but much more limited.

Which browser do you use? Which security features or addons are you using? If you don’t know what’s available, it’s worth taking a few minutes to take a look.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: