Be afraid, be very afraid — or am I just paranoid?

After visiting the sites mentioned above you have just seen how much information about you is available to anyone who wants to see it. But there are other reasons why you should take steps to secure your browser. There are a lot of terms out there: ActiveX, Java, Java Script, and Cookies. What do these things mean and why should you be wary of them?

ActiveX is used via Windows mostly, if not exclusively, by Internet Explorer. It is Microsoft’s answer to Java and Java Script and is a scripting language that allows content to be run on a users system.

Java was created by Sun Microsystems and in simple terms it is a derivative of the C++ programming language that can run on many different operating systems.

Java Script is a scripting language that is primarily used to allow content to run on a users system and was created by Netscape.

What are Cookies? To put it simply cookies are text characters saved by a browser to your hard disk. They can be used to save information as you browse a web site or they can be used to track specific information on a user.

Ok, that sounds good, but why should you, the Web user, be worried? Well to put it bluntly, ActiveX, Java Script, and Scripting Languages have numerous security holes, which can be used in a variety of attacks. Hostile Java Script can allow malicious persons to access files from a web users hard drive. PC Week Magazine reported that a hacker group was able to create a hostile ActiveX script that allowed access to financial software on a Web user’s system. If you visited the Browser Spy site we discussed above, you have seen how much information Java and JavaScript makes available to anyone who wants to see it. Go to http://www.cert.org/advisories/CA-2000-02.html and read up on just one of the problems associated with these Scripting Languages. Many Warez sites (illegal web sites distributing pirated software or cracks for trial versions) require Java Script and cookies to be turned on to get the software or crack to download … now why do you suppose that is? Now what about ActiveX? Read what CNet and Intuit had to say at http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-316652.html?related.

What about cookies? They are safe, right? What harm could they cause? They are simply text files that cannot be used to track you, aren’t they? There is more to cookies than most people realize. Read what USA Today has to say regarding cookies and DoubleClick: http://www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/tech/cth211.htm. Then take a look at what they have to say about cookies in general: http://www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/tech/cth203.htm. Now after reading that you may be a little worried … just take a look at one more article, this one is from InternetNews.com: http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article/0,1087,3_66711,00.html.

Now that you have read these articles you are in a better position to make knowledgeable choices in what you want your web browser to do. You are better prepared to understand why we make the following suggestions.

 

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