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Why You Should Dump Internet Explorer

Why You Should Dump Internet Explorer

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Published by rolandslade

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Published by: rolandslade on Dec 01, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Why You Should Dump Internet Explorer
The time has come to dump Internet Explorer. I know, I know -- you may have heard the samething before from those that think it's cool to hate Microsoft; but I'm not one of those guys. I'mactually an MCSE and I happen to like quite a few of Microsoft's products. Rather than lump meinto the Microsoft-basher category, consider for a moment why you use the browser you use, andhumor me by entertaining the notion, if even for a second, that switching to another might beworth your while. My argument is simple:
The benefits of using IE are too few -- and the faults too many -- to put off the adoption of analternative any longer.
Since information security is my hobby/job/obsession, this particular topic is near and dear to myheart. Just about everyone reading this has seen computers that have been beaten down withspyware - the evil junk that hijacks IE and renders a system virtually useless. How many timeshave you been called to a family member's house to clean up their system? Or had to call your techie friend to come clean yours? It's often quite awkward - the system slows to a crawl andevery other mouse click conjures up some species of perverse, obscene image. What most peopledon't realize, however, is that there is a very simple and powerful way to defend your system(and/or the systems of your loved ones) in one fell swoop.
 Don't use Internet Explorer.
What makes other browsers better than IE at protecting vs. spyware and other attacks? Well, it'ssimple really - most other browsers don't make it so easy to install malicious software on your system without you knowing about it. IE makes it relatively trivial through two features calledActiveX and Active Scripting. These technologies were designed specifically for the purpose of giving websites more control over a user's computer. Unfortunately, as we have seen with exploitafter exploit - that's not always a good thing.In addition to the spyware issues, IE in general has had a terrible track record when it comes toall types of serious security issues. For years now, it's seemed like every time you turn aroundthere is a new way to have your computer taken over via Internet Explorer. Put "internetexplorer" and "allow an attacker to execute commands" (with the quotes) into Google and you'llsee what I mean.In IE's defense, many anti-Microsoft types will claim that it's not possible to lock down IE at all.This is not true. It is possible, but if and only if you have a fair amount of technical know-how onthe subject, and the time to do it. My personal view, however, is that tools such as Internet browsers should not require extensive expertise and configuration time to be able to use themsafely.
This is likely to get me in some hot water with my fellow security enthusiasts, but I find thisissue to be of even more concern than that of IE's security. The Internet works for one simplereason - everything at its core has been built on agreements that bind it together. Whether acomputer is connected from California or Sri Lanka, it's going to speak the same language andobey the same rules - the rules defined by standards. If this weren't the case there would be noInternet at all.
These agreements are forged by a body of people whose goal is nothing short of designing a better and more efficient Internet for everyone. Microsoft, for some odd reason, seems bent on breaking stride with these agreed-upon standards. Case in point: the next time you're in a bookstore, head over to the technology section and pick up a book on XHTML or CSS. Theseare two major web standards that deal with how web pages are displayed to users, and within any book on the subjects you will find one common theme:
The absolute worst browser when it comes to supporting the standards is Internet Explorer.
Page after page in these books will reveal features supported in other browsers, but not in IE.Ask yourself why a company would choose not to support standards that benefit everyone? Theway I see it, it's for precisely one of two reasons -- either they are unable to, or they don't wantto. Given the fact that they are a multi-billion dollar company (one of the richest on the planet), Ican't help but lean toward the second option. Without going into too much detail, they have their own plans, and those plans involve implementing their own standard and forcing it upon theworld. Call me a geek/hippie, but the idea of a multi-billion dollar corporation snubbing its noseat agreed-upon standards is nothing short of infuriating.
Lucky for us, we have alternatives. The good news is that the alternative browsers are actually asgood or better than IE. There are many out there, but in my opinion theMozilla productsare the best. I personally prefer and recommendMozilla Firefoxas a web browser. Not only does it keepyour browsing sessions a lot more secure and spyware-free, but it also supports the standardsreligiously and has a wide range of powerful features. Arguably the biggest benefit to using aMozilla-based product is something called tabbed browsing. What this allows you to do is havemultiple pages open within a single browser window. Rather than going from window to windowin the taskbar, you can simply switch between clearly visible tabs, all within the same view. Youcan even do this and many other commands via the keyboard if you are into that sort of thing.Using Firefox will not require any major shift in your daily browsing habits. It'll import your favorites automatically, and you can benefit from the improved security starting the first timeyou open it. With the popup blocking enabled, you can breath quite a bit easier when browsing tounknown sites. Attempts to install garbage on your system that could have easily succeeded if you were using IE will simply be ignored by Firefox. Plus, the whole time you're browsing you'llknow that you are doing your part to keep the soul of the Internet alive by choosing to use a browser whose developers actually care about standards.Of course, I still use IE. (pause for effect); it's how I usually get my Windows security updates.Seriously though - Windows Update is a must, and it works best in IE, so that in itself is a goodreason to fire it up once in a while. Aside from Windows Update though, there is still theoccasional site that I go to that doesn't look right in any other browser. Those sites, by the way,are all the more reason to
use IE. They weren't written according to the standards, and theylook bad in any browser other than IE as a result of that fact. Using IE all the time just becausethe occasional site is designed so poorly as to look like crap in other browsers is utterly badform. I implore you not to give into this temptation.
Wrapping It Up
So, in closing, I leave you with two thoughts:1.Due to the combination of ActiveX, scripting, and its integration with the Windowsoperating system, Internet Explorer is more vulnerable to attack than many other  browsers.

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