Tuesday, July 15, 2008

For safer browsing

The main responsibility for online security lies with your browser. It’s the browser’s security and privacy settings that keep malicious code such as Trojans or spyware out, warn you when you visit potentially unsafe websites or download content from a suspicious source, and protect you from online fraud and identity theft.
By default, Internet Explorer (IE) comes preset with security levels that are good for most browsing and online transactions. But you can also tweak these settings if you require a higher security level. What’s more, you can assign a slightly low security level to websites that you trust and more stringent security for those that you visit for the first time. Similarly, you can work out the privacy settings that suit your browsing needs.
Changing security settings

The default security settings in IE block the entry of malicious code and also prevent websites from installing add-ons or other programs on your computer without your knowledge.
To view these settings for IE6, open IE, go to Tools > Internet Options, and click the Security tab. You will see four zones here—Internet, local intranet, trusted sites, and restricted sites—each of which has a default security setting assigned. The default level for the Internet zone, which includes all the websites that you browse, is Medium. Click Custom Level to see specific security settings. It is advisable to use at least this level of security for browsing. You can move the slider on the Security tab to set a higher level of security, for instance, if you plan to visit some lesser known sites for the first time.
If your machine is connected to an intranet where you view local sites, you may want to assign a lower security level. Click Local Intranet and then Default Level to set the security to Medium-Low. Otherwise, click Custom Level to set your own security preferences.
As a Netizen, you will have visited certain sites that you trust implicitly—sites that can cause no potential harm to your computer. If you are extremely sure of this, you can add these sites to the Trusted Sites zone and set a lower security level for them. To add sites, the first step is to get the exact URL—you can do this by opening the site in IE and copying (CTRL+C) the URL from the address bar. Then, go to Tools > Internet Options. Click the Security tab, click Trusted Sites and then click Sites. Paste (CTRL +V) the URL in the box titles ‘Add this Web Site to this zone’ and click Add. If you add sites whose URLs begin with http: and not https:, uncheck the check box against ‘Require server verification (https:) for all sites in this zone.’ However, be very sure that the site you’re adding is trustworthy. Click OK when you’re done. Now, you can customize the level of security for the Trusted Sites zone by clicking Custom Level. For instance, you could disable alerts when you download something from a trusted site.

Changing privacy settings

These deal with blocking cookies and the Pop-Up Blocker.
Cookies are used by websites to gather some information about you, mainly for the purpose of providing you a personalized and consistent experience whenever you visit that website again. For instance, shopping sites use cookies to store items in your shopping cart as you visit various sections of the website. Some cookies could help you go to a site directly, without having to sign in each time. However, some cookies are harmful, and could be used to track your online behavior for malicious purposes.
Settings for this are available by clicking the Privacy tab in Tools > Internet Options.
It’s not a good idea to block all cookies, because that may prevent some sites from functioning properly on your machine. The default setting in IE is Medium here, which you can increase to Medium-High by using the slider. For even more safety, you could select to block all cookies; when you visit websites that attempt to use cookies, you will be alerted and you can select to accept cookies from websites that you trust. A word of caution here: first-party cookies (those used by the website that you visit) are usually safer than third-party cookies (those used by banner or pop-up ads on the website).
Another way of managing cookies is to select sites from which you want to block or allow cookies at all times. For this, click Sites in the Privacy tab, and enter the URLs of the concerned sites.
The Pop-Up Blocker is a strong safety measure for unknown sites, so it should not be turned off completely. To tweak its settings, click Settings under Pop-Up Blocker in the Privacy tab. You can change the Filter Level to Low, Medium, or High here. You can also add sites from which you always want to allow pop-ups. Click Apply and OK when you’re done.


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