Securing Your Web Browser

– zenwolf –

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Are you concerned about privacy on the Web? Recent findings surprised even some experts. It’s amazing and maybe scary just how much information can be gathered from your computer while you are online. Perhaps you’ve seen the 60 Minutes story about DoubleClick and how they may be tracking your web browsing habits through the use of cookies. Perhaps you’ve heard of the CERT (the Carnegie Mellon Software Research Institute) advisory on malicious HTML and Java Scripting. You may be worried or just mildly concerned. Either way, take a look at what you can do to protect your privacy and your computer while on the Web.

In this article, we will take a look at some simple steps to follow that will help armor your OS. Then we will take a closer look at the three most popular Web browsers: Internet Explorer, Netscape, and Opera and the steps you can take to make them more secure.

You must make a decision

You’ve probably heard R.A. Heinlein’s expression “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Keep this idea in mind as you read this article, because one of the things you will have to determine is just how important your security and privacy is and how to balance securing your browser vs. making some Web content unavailable, making some Web sites no longer functional, and possibly requiring input of information every time you visit a site. You should balance the risks against the ease of use you may be accustomed to.

What this all boils down to is that you must decide what risks you are willing to take in order to view various Web content. Some sites such as Hotmail and sites hosted by Homesite will not function without Java Script turned on, but there are often other sites on the Web you can visit that offer the same services. For example there are many other free e-mail sites, and for each site that will not function correctly there are many more that will. The same can be said for almost any type of site on the Internet. You will have to determine just how important any given site is to you, and if a site no longer functions after making the changes, we will discuss your options.

What is your browser telling people?

One of the first things you need to determine is to see the type and extent of information your browser is giving out. There are several sites where you can test this. We will look at two of these.

The first is http://privacy.net/analyze/ Here you will get a basic run down of your browser and your Internet connection. If you have Java and Java Script enabled, you will be amazed at what you will find.

The next site is http://www.gemal.dk/browserspy/ and here you will simply be astounded at the data that your web browser is making available. You will need to have Java and Java Script enabled in order to run these tests. Once you are done, you will see why you have good reason to worry!

Additional security tests and scans can be found here:

http://www.pcflank.com/test.htm
http://security2.norton.com/ssc/home.asp
http://browsercheck.qualys.com/
https://grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2
http://scan.sygatetech.com/prequickscan.html

 

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