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23 Jan 12 Consider security when choosing Web browsers


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Think of your browser as your window into Internet Web pages and applications. Which browser should you choose, and what security measures should you take to protect your view?

The most popular browsers are Microsoft’s Windows Internet Explorer, Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Foxfire. Internet Explorer — preinstalled on all Windows machines — dominates with 40 percent of all users. But Chrome is coming on strong, according to StatCounter, a global Web analytics company. It reports that among those browsers’ latest versions, Chrome 15 edged past Internet Explorer 8 during November’s final week, taking 23.6 percent of the worldwide market compared with IE’s 23.5 percent.

People primarily try out a new browser for appearance and ease of use, but security should be a concern, too. Choosing the right one can help you surf more safely.

Look for these security features:

  • Sandboxing: If you use tabs instead of opening another window every time you visit a new site, sandboxing isolates each tab from the rest of your system. If one tab gets infected, crashes or runs a piece of harmful code, simply closing the affected tab kills the process and leaves the other tabs — and all parts of the system — untouched. Internet Explorer and Chrome use sandboxing; Firefox does not.
  • Plug-in security: Plug-ins are the small applications that run within your browser to enhance functionality, customize the user interface or let you play games. One of the most popular plug-ins is “AdBlock” (http://adblockplus.org/en/), which blocks annoying Web site ads, leaving only the content. From a hacker’s point of view, finding vulnerability in a plug-in is easier than attacking the whole browser. Each browser differs in the amount of access it allows plug-ins on your system. Chrome is the only one that doesn’t allow plug-ins to install software or run scripts without user interaction.
  • Just-in-time (JIT) hardening: Viewing a static page on the Internet isn’t a security risk, but many Web sites let users do stuff, from calculating mortgage payments to playing games or creating a spreadsheet. But if you allow a Web site to run code on your machine and stumble upon an infected site, BAM! Suddenly you’re hosting Season 7 of “Entourage” for Internet pirates in Denmark. While Chrome and Internet Explorer block this type of malicious code from running, Firefox does not.

Firefox lovers, don’t despair. With good anti-virus and anti-spyware protection and a little effort, you can make your browser safer than the default configuration. Firefox offers a plug-in called “HTTPS Everywhere” (www.eff.org/https-everywhere) that will let you browse more than 1,000 Web sites securely. Https encrypts Web site pages you see, so passwords, e-mails and other data you send and receive can’t be easily recreated by a hacker via the browser you’re using. Ironically, the security settings in Chrome and Internet Explorer block this plug-in.

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Article source: http://www.seacoastonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120123/BIZ/201230304/-1/NEWSMAP

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