Sunday, September 6, 2009
Your Browser – Cyber Security’s 1st Line of Defense
Nowadays, many people seemed to have forgotten the importance (and the inherent dangers) of their computer’s browser. They forgot that the browser, per se, works like a two-way street. It is where cyber security should police the two-way cyber traffic.
A web browser’s main job is to find and display web pages. From there, it makes possible the “communication” between your computer and the web server where a site is located.
Cyber security risks
But, your browser is also – and this is the dangerous part – the gateway of the cyber world into your computer. And, not all of the things from the Internet going inside your computer are good. Some are downright risky.
Today’s browser is sophisticated enough, through the years of innovation, to handle the multiple applications needed to surf the Internet. Many of these try to boost up and heighten the surfing experience by enabling your browser’s functionalities.
But sometimes, these functionalities are not needed and they can leave your computer vulnerable. It is therefore safe to disable them until they are needed.
In a perfect world, one should set one’s browser security to the highest level possible. But these settings may restrict the functionality of other features and prevents some web pages to load properly. The best compromise solution would be to set your browser to the highest security level (to prevent attacks) but at the same time enabling some features to work when you need them.
Today’s many browsers are mostly graphical browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, AOL, Opera, Safari for the Macintosh, and Lynx for the visually-impaired users.) These are capable of playing video and audio clips, aside from displaying texts and graphics. Most have user-friendly tabs and options in choosing your preferred security level setting.
It is important to know and be familiar with your browser and how it is different from the others. It will come in handy when you evaluate and determine the features and setting most appropriate for your use.
For instance, to explore the basic security options in Windows’ Internet Explorer, you click Tools on the menu bar, select Internet Options, choose the Security tab, and click the Custom level. In Firefox, you click Tools first, select Options, and then click Content Privacy and Security tabs. The others have their own path systems.
Choosing your browser
Security should be paramount in choosing your browser. But, of course, given one’s particular needs in surfing and using the Internet, other considerations are just as important. Sometimes, a browser comes packaged with the operating system. It should not limit, however, your choice.
Compatibility – does your browser work with the OS (operating system) of your computer?
Ease – are you comfortable and familiar with the options, menus, system of your browser?
Function –will it still work if other plug-ins or other devices are installed?
Appeal – do you like how your browser looks and works?
Functionalities - Your browser should be able to give you the option of putting web sites into different segments, or zones, and define different security restrictions for each. The best protection should be to set the security to the highest level, or maintain it at a medium level.
If you know of some sites which can be classified as trusted, you can set your browser setting accordingly. You may require them to implement SSL or Secure Sockets Layer so you can verify if they are what they claim to be. Note, however, that it is good to avoid lowering your security levels with them. If they are attacked, you might be included.
You may restrict particular sites you are not sure of. Prevention is always the best cure for any disease, real-life or online.
Be careful about your Java and ActiveX controls. These scripts, used to achieve certain appearances or functionality, can be used in attacking your computer. This is also true about Plug-ins, those additional software that enhances the function of some programs. Make sure that the sites that installing them are trustworthy.
For safety, it is advisable to disable Cookies and enable them only if the site you trust requires them.
Cyber Security starts first in your browser. It is best that you start the safeguarding process from there, your computer’s door to the wide, wild world of cyber space.