Tech-Friendly: Update your browser for safe computing

June 19, 2013

By Paul Gorski

Browsers” are the programs you use to surf the Internet, bank online and read The Rock River Times via the web. Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) are the most popular, not necessarily in that order, browsers installed on Windows PCs. Mac users usually use Safari, Chrome or Firefox, as there is no current version of IE for Mac.

Whichever browser you use, update it. Now. I’ll wait. You’ll find Firefox updates at http://www.getfirefox.com, Chrome updates at http://www.google.com/chrome, and IE and Safari updates will download as part of your regular system updates. I encourage you to keep current with your Windows and Mac system security updates.

I prefer Firefox, for a variety of reasons I won’t list here, but Firefox and Chrome now both either request to apply or apply security updates automatically. A nice security feature to have these days.

If you are running Windows XP, I suggest you move from IE to Firefox or Chrome, as XP users cannot run the current versions of IE 9 or 10, which are more secure than earlier versions of IE. Heads up to XP users: support for XP has been reduced and is going away completely next year. XP users should upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.

Keeping your browser, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash and Oracle Java up-to-date will help prevent attacks from “drive-by” malware on infected websites. Perfectly legitimate websites can be and have been infected by programs that can re-direct you to illegitimate websites, or worse yet, automatically download malware to your computer without your knowledge.

Some users add website security add-ons to their browsers to help identify “drive-by” infected sites. These add-ons generally display, graphically, whether a website is “safe” or not. Common browser security add-ons include: WOT (World of Trust), McAfee SiteAdvisor and Norton Safe Web Lite. WOT is very popular, works with the browsers mentioned here and is easy to install.

I haven’t included links to these browser add-ons though. Why? Because: 1) some anti-virus programs include similar features, 2) these add-ons can slow down browsing, and 3) I prefer using a different solution, OpenDNS.com.

OpenDNS.com can help protect all the computers and mobile devices in your house from malware sites. That’s all I’ll say about OpenDNS.com right now. I’m offering this “teaser” to my next article: “OpenDNS — Malware blocker, faster surfing and more.”

Previous Tech-Friendly articles related to computer security include the following:

Tech-Friendly: Be wary of links from unknown senders,” June 12-18, 2013, issue. (http://rockrivertimes.com/2013/06/12/tech-friendly-be-wary-of-links-from-unknown-senders/)

Tech-Friendly: Install Java and Flash security updates now,” Jan. 16-22, 2013, issue. (http://rockrivertimes.com/2013/01/16/tech-friendly-install-java-and-flash-security-updates-now/)

Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple IIe.

From the June 19-25, 2013, issue

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