How to Practice Safe Web Browsing

12 07 2006

Here’s the problem:  In the past, most computers connected to the Internet were directly connected.  In other words, another user on the Internet could connect to your machine directly.  This allowed malware to propagate rather quickly, connecting to vulnerable ports created by unnecessary programs running on your machine.  Today, most people utilize some sort of router or firewall.  Even Windows comes with a built-in firewall.  This means that “direct attacks” to your open ports become more difficult.  The attack target turned to “publicly accessible ports” such as web servers, FTP servers, mail servers, etc.  All the while, there was an attack vector that was slowly gaining momentum: client-side attacks – or attacks that require the user to actually do something.  Client-side vulnerabilities became the focus of hackers.  The most common vulnerability released nowadays involve client-side vulnerabilities.  ActiveX, JavaScript, e-mail endusers, etc have become the target.

What this means is that you can have millions of dollars of routers, firewalls, proxies, etc invested in protecting your network (or your home computer), but all you need to do is to open a web page to a compromised or malicious web site and whammo! your computer is hacked.  

Most people practice Safe E-Mail by not opening email from unknown persons or using Anti-Virus software to strip malware from emails.  But I’d venture to guess that 99% of people DO NOT practice safe web browsing.

Safe Web Browsing means that you disable all of the bells and whistles for unknown web sites.  This means the fancy drop-down menus, the scrolling text, the fancy flash sites, etc all go away.  But I want it! you say.  Well, you still can, with a little work.  You need to make use of the ‘Trusted Sites’ in Internet Explorer (I’m sure Firefox and other web browsers have something similar, but if you are not using IE then you can probably figure out how to find them!).  Internet Explorer has several zones available (Click on Tools/Internet Options then click on the “Security” tab).  Most websites are in the “Internet Zone.”  What you need to do is set the Internet Zone to a really high setting (i.e. HIGH) or customize the settings so that JAva, JavaScript and Active X don’t run AT ALL.  Then, set the “Trusted Sites” to “Medium.” 

When you have a website that you use often (i.e. paredes-ohana.org):

  1. Click on Tools/Internet Options then the Security tab.
  2. After that, click on “Trusted Sites” and then click on the “Sites” button. 
  3. Uncheck the “Require server verification…” checkbox. 
  4. Add the site by typing, without the quotes: “*.wordpress.com” in the “Add this Web Site…” field, then click on “Add”. 
  5. Click OK until you close all the windows.
  6. You may need to “Refresh (F5)” the web page if you were looking at it before doing this.

By doing this, you ensure that if you get redirected to a hacker site or happen to click on a bad link (like when Googling), you won’t get whacked by a client-side attack.  SInce most Microsoft products use IE settings, this should help with your other often attacked Microsoft applications too.  It’s more work, but once you start doing it, you’ll get used to it and it will seem natural.  Think of it as clutching your purse or watching your surroundings when you are walking in a bad neighborhood.  You don’t HAVE to do it, but it’s probably best to.

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2 responses

7 08 2006
obijuan: [techno]plebe » Blog Archive » [FINALLY!] Google to warn over unsafe sites

[…] Although this does nothing to come close to mitigating this threat, this does help and at least brings attention to the matter.  Now if only people practiced more safe web browsing… […]

12 08 2014
Ouvan

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