It’s not the browser, it’s the browsING!

April 30, 2014

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer isn’t the only browser with security holes, it’s just the one you’re hearing about in the news. In fact, as noted by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), there are security updates for Adobe Flash Player and all the flavors of Mozilla’s browsers (i.e., Firefox) — seemingly, all in conjunction with the “zero-day exploit” discovery within the Microsoft Internet Explorer application. While Microsoft is usually targeted by hackers across the globe, other companies have been scrambling to patch up their holes, too. This event, in particular, is closely connected to Adobe’s Flash Player.

So, are we ready to abandon our computer programs? Not really. I think it’s time to browse more safely, instead. While the browsers we use do impact what content is delivered to our computers, we still have to request it. Taking precautions while browsing and reading email will mitigate potential threats to our information and computer systems, and the process is always the same.

It’s a layered approach:

  1. Install and update security software. Personally, I use Microsoft Security Essentials. It very quietly does its job without impacting my computer’s performance (noticeably), and it’s free.
  2. Don’t click anything inside email from unknown senders. This is a really big one, as it’s easy to be fooled by phishing attempts (emails that look legitimate, but aren’t). Get a second opinion if you’re unsure.
  3. Don’t visit questionable websites. You know what I mean, don’t you? Most browsers warn you before you visit an “unsafe” website, but common sense is the #1 defense.
  4. Perform weekly malware scans. I prefer to use Malware Bytes. Thorough and free. There is a paid version, if you’re so inclined.
  5. Use strong passwords and vary them across the sites you visit. Need help creating a strong password? I generally recommend staying away from readable words, and instead advise combinations of letters and numbers with a special character in the mix. If you like words for easy recollection, try something like this: 43egaym2014! Isn’t that fun? Of course, if you’re hardcore you can always try a password generator like this.

These are basic steps to browsing securely, and certainly not exclusive. I have never had a virus or compromising event on my computers and I travel far and wide on the Internet with all three of the top browsers going at once (IE, Firefox, Chrome). Maybe I shouldn’t have said that out loud…

For more information and guidance on the Internet Explorer Vulnerability, take a look at Microsoft’s guidance: