Is Your Web Browser Putting You At Risk

Doug Partridge

Its free, it comes with Windows and its used by approximately 94% of the Internet population. It also poses an unacceptable security risk. What am I talking about If you guessed Internet Explorer, youre right on the money. So, is your web browser putting you at risk If youre one of the 94% using Internet Explorer, the answer is a definite *yes*. By my math, quite a few people require critical information for protection.

Whats the problem with Internet Explorer known as "IE" from here out and how does it put you at risk

The main problem with IE is the numerous security flaws. As an example, between April 2001 and June 2004, Microsoft documented *153 security flaws* in IE. When a security flaw is discovered Microsoft releases information about the flaw and the potential impact. *Usually* at this point Microsoft provides a downloadable security fix to remedy the problem. Since many people dont know about the flaw and the fix, frequently people remain vulnerable for long periods of time.

Just how serious are some of these security flaws Some of the critical security flaws allow attackers to basically gain control of your computer and run whatever malicious programs they chose. In many cases, your vulnerable computer can be compromised just by visiting the wrong website.

Here are but a few of the malicious programs Ive seen loaded on peoples computers through security holes in IE:

  • Browser Hijackers. These are programs that do nasty things like change your home page to another page, usually something pornographic in nature. They can also install software and links on your desktop, of course *without* your permission.

  • Spyware. This is extremely devious and malicious software, and in many cases, its used by criminals for online identity theft. Once its on your computer, Spyware sits quietly in the background recording information about you. Do you shop and bank online This is one threat to be extremely concerned about.

What can you do to improve security

Rather than continue to apply what boils down to "band aid" security fixes to IE, I recommend a more permanent solution. Stop letting IE put you at risk, and switch to another web browser.

How exactly will switching web browsers help Quite simply, there are so many security exploits on the Internet targeted specifically to IE that just by using another browser, youll happily avoid most of them.

The good news is that there are several alternative web browsers available free of charge like Netscape, Mozilla, Opera and Firefox. For more information a great website to visit is This website is dedicated to getting people to switch from IE. Its full of "real life" stories about why people switched, and what browser theyre using now.

So, whats the best browser of the bunch Well, its highly subjective of course, but my vote goes to …

Firefox, "Rediscover the Web" A new browser called Firefox has quickly become my web browser of choice. First off, Firefox was written to be "lean and mean" and it certainly delivers. Its faster at loading web pages than IE and even provides features not found in IE. Something I suspect will quickly become a favorite feature is called tabbed browsing. Tabbed browsing allows you to load multiple web pages in the same window, and quickly switch between the loaded pages. Tired of pop-ups Firefox has the best built-in pop-up blocker Ive seen. I have yet to see a pop-up get past it. When it comes to security, Firefox receives *high marks*.

Firefox definitely has a positive "buzz" going right now, and its easy to see why. If youre interested in trying out Firefox, you can download it for free here:

Ill conclude by saying that switching browsers is only one of several steps necessary to protect yourself from the many threats on the Internet, but its certainly a good place to start. Heres to practicing safe computing.

© Doug Partridge - All Rights reserved

About The Author

Doug Partridge is co-author of a new eBook, "How to Secure Your Computer Using Free Tools and Smart Strategies." This is the missing Internet security guide that should have come with your Windows computer, but didnt.

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