Making Web Browsing More Secure

Published: February 8, 2005

A few years ago, Web pages consisted of basic text and simple graphics, which provided information in an unsophisticated way. More recently, though, Web pages contain moving graphics, links to other Web pages, and even easy ways to shop over the Internet, make travel plans, or do your banking. These more complex Web sites use embedded programming to create these rich user experiences. These same capabilities, however, also create security risks, such as malicious software (malware) programs, spam schemes, and phishing scams, which use Web pages to collect personal information.

You can make Web browsing more secure by doing a few simple things:

  • Make sure that Windows XP Service Pack 2 is installed. This service pack increases the security of Microsoft Internet Explorer with pop-up blocking and add-on management.

  • Configure your browser’s security settings for safer browsing.

  • Configure your browser’s privacy settings to avoid unwanted cookies and pop-up ads.

  • Be careful about which Web sites you visit. Sites devoted to illegal or questionable subjects, such as hacker sites, sites for downloading pirated music or software, and pornographic sites are most likely to contain malicious code.

  • Enable checking of digital signatures on drivers and other programs you download.

  • Configure your browser so that it does not automatically download ActiveX controls or run scripts, Java applets, or other code. If you want to be able to run code on some sites, configure the browser to prompt you before doing so.

As shown in the following figure, popular Web browsers such as Internet Explorer 6 have many security settings that you can configure.

You can adjust the security settings for your Web browser software to make Web browsing more secure.

You can test your Web browser software for common vulnerabilities and determine its encryption strength at the following Web sites:

See other Security Tip of the Month columns.