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Browser Windows Of Opportunity?

Web Browsers: A hacker’s easiest entrance…

Today’s web browsers spend as much time running on your computer as the operating system does. Windows sits in the background while you do all your word processing, , banking, receiving entertainment, and all manner of other tasks through the view of Internet Explorer or . The day of Internet hosted word processors and other programs that were once installed on our systems has increased the amount of time web browsers remain open and active. This increase also introduces another entrance through which a malicious might gain access to and control over your system.

Accessing a maliciously designed website with low security settings on your web browser is enough to infect you with Trojan horses, viruses, spyware, or other backdoor creating programs. An unprotected web browser on an unprotected PC can become infected within minutes of connecting to the Internet. You can defend your PC and your surfing experience by locking down your web browser and controlling what features you allow to function. Taking this control now will prevent another virus writer taking control of it later.

ActiveX – These controls are generally created to provide specific, added functionality to a web site or other application. The downside is if they are not properly secure they can allow access to your PC even if you are not using them. Avoid these when you can.

Java – A platform independent programming language designed to allow programmers to write one set of code that will work on any computer. These are a little more difficult to exploit than ActiveX, but that doesn’t mean impossible.

Plug-ins – Most frequently seen in Firefox, these applications are little add-ons that enhance your web browsers functionality. The same cautions apply to these: if the developer did not design with security or compatibility in mind these can become the doorway through which your machine is attacked. Only install plug-ins from sources you trust. Treat them like applications.

Cookies – These little text files are designed to identify you to specific web sites and ease your use of them. If the web site recognizes your cookie you don’t have to log in and can access the web site quicker after the first visit. These items can be dangerous if someone steals your cookies and starts pretending to be you.

Scripting Languages (VB, Java) – Scripting languages can add functionality and interactivity to an otherwise bland media. However, adding this functionality can introduce additional vulnerabilities.

Disabling or requiring special permission of these functions from your web browsers will take you several steps closer to a secure surfing environment. Unless you are actively using content that requires the features, they provide only bells and whistles that are usually unnecessary for the average web experience.

Review your browser’s documentation. Learn how to disable and enable these features at will. If you are in control of when full browser functionality is enabled, you have control of that all important window of opportunity.

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