16. What Do I Do First?
So, what should you do first for the biggest amount of protection for the least amount of effort?
- Update your browser:
- If you are using IE6 and you can upgrade to IE 8, do that first. IE6 is not capable of handling the malware out there today.
- If you are running any version of Firefox less than 3.6.3 and you are able to update it, do that. Absolutely do not use any version of Firefox less than 3.5.9.
- If you are on Windows, do not use Safari! It cannot be secured on Windows.
- If you are on Chrome, Opera or Safari/OSX, make sure you are running the latest versions. All of them have pushed out security fixes in the last 90 days.
NOTE – iPad users running Safari who connect to a Windows machine are at high risk because the version of Safari on the iPad did not receive the security update that was pushed out for desktop versions, and is not due to be updated until September 2010. You will have to secure your Windows machine against malware brought in by your iPad.
- Activate your computer firewall.
- For Windows users on XP or above, install Windows Security Essentials. For all other OSes, research and install an alternative anti-malware program.
- Set up distinct Administrator and User accounts.
- Update all Adobe products. Depending on the product, you will need to do this once for IE and again for any other browser you regularly use.
- Open Adobe Acrobat Reader and tighten the security settings. If you use a different PDF reader, do comparable settings for your preferred reader.
- Open Adobe Flash Player and tighten the security settings.
- Run Microsoft Update and get your system and your Microsoft programs patched.
- If you do not have Microsoft Update set to automatically notify you of new patches and/or to automatically download them, change your settings. It won't help you to only run the update once – you have to keep the system patches up to date.
- For IE users, tighten browser security – see instructions in IE Security Basics chapter for details:
- Enable SmartScreen Filter
- Enable Protected Mode on Vista and Win7
- Clean up browsing history
- Tighten default security levels in the four browsing zones
- Turn off cookies to make them opt-in rather than opt-out
- Turn on Pop-up blocker
- Disable Flash and PDF from running automatically
- Check/uncheck options in the "Advanced" tab of Internet Options
- For Firefox users, tighten browser security – see instructions in Firefox Security Basics chapter for details:
- Block pop-up windows
- Use custom settings in Privacy tab
- Check your Security tab settings
- Make sure automatic updates are turned on
- Disable Flash and PDF add-ons in the browser
- Decide if you wish to load AdBlock Plus and/or NoScript
- Set your email program to send all email to the junk/trash box unless the sender is explicitly included in a safe list.
- If you are running XP or Vista, have control of your machine and can afford to upgrade, upgrade to Windows 7. After you install, update all programs and double-check security settings in your programs.
In truth, I think an OS upgrade to Windows 7 is the best thing you can do to improve security and should be done first, but I realize that it is a qualitatively different step to take than just updating and securing what you already have. Do what you can to tighten security, then consider what it will take to upgrade to Win7.
And that, in a nutshell, is how to make your browsing as safe as it can be.
This entire article is available as a PDF download: SafeBrowsing.pdf
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.