Secure Your Systems- Web Browser Edition

Everybody that is reading this obviously has a computer (okay, okay there are some that are using Blackberry‘s or iPhone‘s) so one of the most important things is; Is my system secure?

Note: this series of articles wasn’t meant to make fun of or abuse non-technical users, but the opposite. All of us were newbies at one time and we have (through experience) learned more and more. This series of articles is meant to assist newbies and point details out to the techies about securing computers. Also please, if I get anything wrong, leave anything out, or just that you have a suggestion, post it in the comment section. Thanks and enjoy!

So today the basics will be covered to protect your computer; lets start with the browser. (If you are on Mac or Linux skip this article)

Step One: IE? Bad decision

If you are on Internet Explorer (IE) GET OFF OF IE (if you aren’t skip this step). IE is the slowest and the most insecure of all the major browsers. This is because of two things.

  1. Bad oversight on Microsoft‘s part

  2. Because IE is the default browser, the majority of non-technical Windows users use it. And because of this most of the virus authors write their viruses to exploit any holes in IE. The logic being that if one virus can exploit a browser that has 65% market-share then why write one that only works on a browser with less then 25% market-share?

So how can you change browsers and which one is right for you?

Step Two: Which Browser?

All the major browsers besides IE have less then 20% market-share. This isn’t because they are bad or unreliable just that non-technical users (the majority) don’t know about or aren’t aware of the alternatives to IE. There about 4 major browsers when IE is excluded. Note: all the browsers listed here are free.

Listed in terms of market-share.

  1. Mozilla Firefox 22.5%

  2. Apple Safari 8.4%

  3. Google Chrome 1.8%

  4. Opera 0.7%

Personally I only have experience with Firefox, Chrome and a little with Safari (sorry Opera).

Firefox has an INSANE amount of free add-ons; covering anything from security add-ons to themes that make Firefox your own. The customisations are almost infinite. But no matter what the speed and memory tests say Firefox has a knack for eating more and more RAM as you keep it open, so if you are a heavy user of tabs, be warned. Google Chrome was a breakthrough when it was first released, because each of the tabs that you opened were its own process a tab could crash and not bring down your entire browser. The individual processes allowed the tabs play together nicely (not compete for bandwidth). Chrome also tends to be light weight-ish and fast on both a productive UI standpoint and a engine standpoint. Safari is slightly slow on a cold startup but faster in when up and running. Opera…dunno never used it… yeah.

The Conclusion

So the conclusion? That’s for you to decide, but don’t be afraid of installing various browsers and using more than one.

Bonus Tip for Firefox Users

Since Firefox has so many add-ons there was bound to be security and privacy add-ons, and there’s just that. Two that I recommend are NoScript and AdBlocker Plus. Both are free. NoScript blocks Javascript and other scripts that could harm your system, with a white-list of sites that sites that are trusted which you can edit. AdBlocker Plus uses lists that you “subscribe” to to block ads on sites, its useful because sometimes Flash intensive ads sometimes are the only thing between you and the site loading faster.

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