In Security

Today I thought I’d pass on some tips I, and many of the team use to improve the safety of our browsing online – in the hope that it will help you better protect yourself.

This all came about last weekend. I was sitting there thinking to myself “Why is it I NEVER seem to get the sort of browser-based malware attacks my clients seem to experience?”

Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I had my computer throw up unwanted popups, or inadvertently got told that my computer may be infected (Microsoft Security scam). It’s not just because I’m an IT guy and there’s an expectation that I should be more careful in my online ways – because aside from visiting dodgy websites, I use the internet as much, if not more, than most people – and some of the websites I visit researching cyber-security topics are just as likely to be compromised as some of the dodgy adult websites we all default to blaming when someone does get infected.

We invest in some of the best stuff to protect our clients, and yet every now and then something will bypass all the security measures. Sometimes, thanks to the cyber-security awareness training we do with our clients, they’ll realise it’s malicious, sometimes not. It’s not always the users fault either – the business model of cyber-crime is so advanced it’d put many Fortune500 companies to shame.

First thing I can suggest is unless you have a particular website that absolutely has to be accessed via Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) or Edge (the new Windows 10 browser), we recommend you avoid using them.

I rarely if ever open up Internet Explorer unless a particular website or device refuses to work properly in something else – and then I’ve probably cut and paste the address out of the browser I was in, straight into IE.

But, because there may be moments you are forced to use it, go into Internet Explorer’s settings and change your homepage to “about:blank”. This’ll stop IE annoyingly going to NineMSN or some other Microsoft favoured website. NineMSN is a slow website anyway, so this will make using IE super fast when you absolutely need to.

Speed Up Internet Explorer Loading

All you need to do is go to the Tools menu and select Internet Options (or access via the cog in the top right hand corner of the page, then select Internet Options).

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Once in there, on the General tab remove everything in the ‘Home page’ box and replace it with ‘about:blank’. Then click OK.

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Install Firefox and/or Chrome

Now, take a deep breath and say goodbye to Internet Explorer. You’re not getting rid of it, but you are going to install something else and hopefully never use it again.

Day to day I live in three browsers (usually simultaneously): Mozilla Firefox is open for work related activities; Google Chrome is open for researching; and Google Canary (the development version of Chrome) for my personal browsing. Pick one and use it (or pick all three!)2016-01-06_13h21_49

If you need your IT guy to install software, then ask them to do this, otherwise you can visit www.ninite.com which is a super handy ‘tools’ installer we use to mass install software.

Once there, tick the options you want to install and select “Get Installer”. I’d recommend installing Chrome, Firefox, Java, .NET, Silverlight, Air, Shockwave, Malwarebytes and WinRAR – which form part of our standard computer run up.

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NOTE: If you want to use my options, just click this link: https://ninite.com/.net4.6.1-air-chrome-firefox-java8-malwarebytes-shockwave-silverlight-winrar/

Download and run the installer and then go get yourself a coffee. It’ll take 10-15 minutes depending on your internet to download and install everything.

NOTE: Google Canary needs to be installed manually. Do a Google search for ‘Chrome Canary’ and you’ll find it. The main reason I run three browsers is that I have the option set to ‘reopen tabs’ on my browsers so that I can take my laptop home and keep working where I left off; and running three separate browsers allows me to keep things semi-organised.

Install Ad-Blocking Extensions

I realised this is a pretty critical reason why I never see some of the crap everyone else does. I hate advertising. Can’t stand it! For years I have installed ad-blockers of all shapes and sizes so that I don’t have to put up with the garbage on the internet – and ironically it’s filtering out some of the browser-based malware many people get hit with.

You see, those enterprising individuals over at Crime Inc. realised that they could leverage advertising systems to display compromised web code, which sometimes doesn’t even need to be clicked for it to compromise your system; and whilst this won’t make your computer bullet-proof, it will add an extra layer of protection to your browsing.

Mozilla Firefox

In Firefox, click the hamburger icon and select ‘Add-ons’

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Then on the left hand side click ‘Get Add-ons’.

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There are a tonne of ad-blockers, but I use and recommend ‘Ad-Block Plus’.2016-01-06_13h51_48

Find it and install it. Then click Options.

Once in options, select ‘Filter preferences’.

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Click ‘Add filter subscription’ in the top right hand corner and add ‘EasyList’.

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I also use another list called ‘Adblock Warning Removal List’, which you can also add by clicking ‘Add filter subscription’, then clicking ‘Add a different subscription’.

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Remove the text in the options below and enter the following:

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Subscription title: Adblock Warning Removal List
Filter list location: https://easylist-downloads.adblockplus.org/antiadblockfilters.txt

Click ‘Add subscription’. That’s it!

I use a bunch of other extensions for helping to stop website tracking, in particular Privacy Badger and Ghostry, but that’s a topic for another time!

Google Chrome

In Google Chrome (and Canary) click the hamburger icon, then ‘Settings’.

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Next select ‘Extensions’ from the left hand menu.

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At the bottom of the page (you may need to scroll down) will be an option to ‘Get more extensions’. Click that.

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Search for ‘Ad-block Plus’ and select ‘Add to Chrome’.

Once installed, click the Ad-block Plus’ logo in the top right hand corner of Chrome and select ‘Options’.

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Click the dropdown selection, find ‘EasyList’ and click ‘Add’.2016-01-06_14h10_06

Select the drop down again and this time select ‘Add a different subscription….’2016-01-06_14h11_13Subscription title: Adblock Warning Removal List
Filter list location: https://easylist-downloads.adblockplus.org/antiadblockfilters.txt

And click ‘Add’.2016-01-06_14h12_52

That’s it!

Warning!

I apologise if you miss some advertising. But ultimately your life will be better off.

You should note, this won’t stop all advertising, but it will kill a lot of junk you see online and limit the chance your computer will be infected due to a compromised ad services.

This doesn’t mean you can go clicking every link though! Be safe online!

 

 

 

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