As a customer service focused Broadband Internet Service Providers (ISP), MVTV Wireless takes cyber safety very seriously. So we asked our friends at PC SOS in Redwood Falls to give us a few pointers and direction. They rose to the occasion with an easy to understand description of exactly where the threats lie, a list of best practices and suggestions for how to prepare for what’s to come.
Guest blog by PC SOS, Redwood Falls MN:
Change Your Browser? Lessons Learned from IE.
The recent security vulnerability in Internet Explorer was patched within days as Microsoft released fixes for every version back to IE6 and sent them out even to XP computers whose official support ended last month. The crisis was thus averted, the world did not end, and the Internet is once again safe to browse. So, no need to change your browser.
Or is there?
The simple truth is this: There is no such thing as a secure browser, because the browser must be connected to an insecure Internet. If your browser is used to view only safe Web pages, then your browser will be secure. If you use it to view sites full of malicious code, then it most likely will not be secure for long. All the air bags and seat belts in the world won’t protect you if you choose to drive your car off a cliff.
Safe driving and safe browsing are very similar, but too many computer users do not practice safe browsing. In our cars, we know that we must follow certain rules to be safe, such as speed limits, traffic signs, and keeping in our lane. We know that our cars will not prevent us from violating these rules, but we assume that our browsers (or our anti-malware program) will keep us from allowing something bad into our computers.
Browsers, like cars, protect us as best they can, and just like cars, some are safer than others. Interestingly, the browser we at PC-SOS prefer, Firefox, is currently probably the least secure. Why do we still use it and recommend it? Because it can be configured to be the safest browser by reducing the ability of malicious sites to successfully attack it. It’s like driving the car that is best at avoiding collisions rather than the car that is best at surviving one.
Safe browsing, like safe driving, is mostly the responsibility of the user. To cover the subject of safe browsing (or “defensive browsing” as we like to call it) would require a much longer article. However, like checking your tires and brakes, there are some things that will make your browsing safer even if you drive dangerously.
- Change your browser. No, this does not mean to switch from IE to Chrome or Firefox. It does mean to upgrade to whatever is the newest version of your browser. Patches and updates sometimes add or change features, but most often they fix vulnerabilities. It was startling to lean that Microsoft had released a patch for IE 6 when the current version is 11. Firefox version 29 was just released.
- Update your add-ons. Many parts of Web pages are not displayed by your browser but by add-ons to it such as Adobe’s Flash and Acrobat Reader. Java is another extension used by some Web pages. All of these should be kept up-to-date to keep them as safe as possible.
- Choose your additions carefully. Browsers offer thousands of add-ons, all of which claim to improve your Web experience. Many of these do just that, but far too many are useless or harmful. At PC-SOS, we make a habit of uninstalling any toolbar we find on client computers because we have yet to find a client who intentionally installed one. Limiting your add-ons to only those few you really need and trust will improve the performance and safety of your browser.
- Listen to your browser. While it will not stop you from doing something harmful, your browser will often warn you that you are about to do so. It is important to read and heed these messages. It is tempting to automatically click “Yes”, “OK”, or “Continue” whenever a dialog pops up, but that’s like ignoring your car’s warning lights.
- Be prepared for an emergency. Just as even the best driver in the safest car can have an accident, so even the best-equipped Web viewer can get a malware infection. For this reason, it is important to keep backups of your files (and even of your entire computer). If access to the Web is critical (getting important e-mails, for example), have another means (such as a spare computer) available. We can fix your infected computer, but it may take a while.
Bad news is big news, and dire warnings of imminent computer threats may get more attention than they really deserve. This crisis has passed, but another is certain to follow someday, with similar hype and hysteria. At best, we can become informed, learn from such events, and develop better, safer ways to user our computers and browsers. At worst, we can panic, overreact, and take drastic measures without understanding the real risks posed by the threat.
Ultimately, the browser you use should be the browser you like best. Use the browser that works best for you. Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome are all quality programs with good security. In our experience, it isn’t the browser you use but the way you browse that is the cause of most problems. So relax, keep your browser, and enjoy the Web.
At least for now. ~ Adam
To learn more about PC SOS, Redwood Falls MN, follow their FB page. They are always posting helpful technology tidbits and fun facts. If you’d like contact Adam and Michael, call (507) 641-5435 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.orgMVTV Wireless Your Broadband Internet Service Provider ‘Connecting Rural Minnesota’