With the large assortment of content available online, web browsers have become one of the most-used applications on computers. You can communicate, shop, bank, entertain yourself and even pay taxes online. Business systems are also increasingly being accessed through the web using a browser. With its ease of use and its presence everywhere, the web has made computer users out of many people who would never have used them otherwise.
Unfortunately, this usefulness and convenience have come at a price-the browser is also one of the most-used ways through which malicious software and unscrupulous hackers can compromise computer security. Without good enough protection, the web can quickly become hazardous to the health of your computer-or worse, your personal information.
Just as anti-lock brakes and defensive driving cannot ensure that you will never be in a car accident, there is no guarantee of 100% security on the Internet. Like safe driving, safe browsing is a combination of technical safeguards and good habits that work together to protect you. By following the recommendations outlined below, it is possible to have a highly secure browsing experience, without excessively limiting the functionality of the sites you visit.
Ensure that your browser is recent enough that the vendor is still providing regular security updates. When a browser is no longer being actively supported vulnerabilities are not fixed and you can be left exposed. For example, Internet Explorer 5.5 is no longer actively supported, and support for Internet Explorer 6.0 and 7.0 is scheduled to end soon as well.
To simplify accessing this functionality, browsers have been designed so that extensions can be downloaded and installed with just a few mouse clicks. Unfortunately, this ease of installation has led to the growth of many undesirable or malicious browser extensions. There are plug-ins and ActiveX controls that redirect your searches, display unwanted advertising, track your browsing habits or compromise your privacy-some are outright computer viruses or worms. Even legitimate extensions can degrade the performance of your browser significantly.
Recent browsers have made improvements in how extensions are downloaded and installed. By default, most new browsers will not automatically install software and will provide users with a warning if a page tries to download one. Always read these messages carefully and only install software that you actually require and that is from a trusted source. If you suspect that a browser extension or other program you have downloaded from the Internet is malicious, perform a full scan of your system using both an anti-virus and anti-spyware software to be sure.
For assistance with your browser settings, consult with your local IT support personnel or contact the ICT Help Desk. Support for commercial anti-spyware products is provided by vendors.