Monday, October 18, 2010

Safe Browsing

I wrote an article back in June for the readers of the fanfiction site I maintain, Henneth Annun Story Archive. The topic of the article is how to quickly and effectively configure your PC and browser to give you a fighting chance against the malware and nosy advertising firms. I wrote it to combat the rampant fear mongering in the computer world where it is more important to seem hip and cool by bashing Windows than it is to present practical information about how to avoid 99.9% of the trouble.

Safe Browsing

It is fairly comprehensive, with an explanation of how exploits happen and then a walk through of securing your computer, complete with screen grabs and helpful links. It is for Windows users running at least XP SP3, and discusses the two most popular browsers, IE and Firefox.

While you can jump right to the browser settings, I encourage you to go through the whole thing and build your security from the ground up. I spend time debunking Conventional Wisdom (just as moronic in the computer world as amongst the denizens of Versailles) and do my best to explain both how to get something done and why its a good idea to do so.



StephenAG said...

Wow! What a well written and informative series. I have bookmarked the site and will refer to it often.

Out of curiosity, do you get much push back from males when you share the information at work? Are people fairly steeped in their "anti-Microsoft" zealotry?

Anglachel said...

Hi Stephen,

Most of the people I work with are men, and I get push-back on pretty much everything I say and do. IT guys enjoy contrarianism as a mode of life, and they very much like hating on Microsoft. The IT press, like any other media channel, gets more eyeballs when there is "controversy", so the IT news is one long bout of beating on the Redmond giant.

I'm the Subject Matter Expert on browsers for my company and I spend a lot of time reading some fairly dry technical stuff on the different offerings, especially as it pertains to security. People who believe they are safe as long as they don't use IE are really playing with fire, especially if they anything but IE8 on XP. One of the security researchers I talk to (he specializes in online security for major banks) thinks Macs are at a tipping point for really nasty exploits because of a false sense of security.

It is fucking scary out in the Interwebz, and the anti-MS zealotry is becoming a greater factor due to a message that only a Mac or a Linux box can be secure. It discourages ordinary users from taking simple steps to defend their systems, and it leads to unnecessary risk taking from people who think they understand security and are safe.

I'm lucky to work with a security team that dislikes all software equally, and so doesn't single out any one vendor for special contempt. This makes it easier to talk about browser features and versions rather than brands. No one comes out smelling very good.

I've been using IE9 beta since it came out and I'm disappointed that they've dumbed down the interface and hidden a lot of the very useful data that is on the status bar in IE8. Yes, the interface is a slick as Chrome, but I can no longer tell at a glance if my Smart Screen filter is running.