Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why you should switch to Firefox

Executive summary: If you're using Internet Explorer v7 or earlier as your web browser, you should seriously consider switching to Firefox. Even if you're using the new v8 of IE, you're still not going to have as much protection from malware as with FF and the NoScript plugin.


I have been using Firefox as my primary browser for several years, and generally try to avoid Internet Explorer as much as possible. (Sometimes, though, it's not possible - my previous employer only supported IE for all of its Oracle infrastructure.) IE, being the most popular browser in the world - primarily because it is essentially built-in to Microsoft Windows - has been the primary target of cybercriminals for quite a while. Also, I like the fact that Firefox's user community has developed any number of (occasionally) useful plugins for it.

One (free) Firefox plugin that I run religiously on all of my systems is NoScript. Although there's a little bit of a hassle factor involved with using it, I feel a lot more "protected" from malicious web sites with it turned on. With its default settings, it will initially block all JavaScript, Java, Flash, etc. content and require you to specifically allow that content to be downloaded and displayed. You have the option of temporarily allowing content from a specific site, or adding the site to a "white list" of sites that will always be allowed through. (It protects against several other potential exploits, such as cross-site scripting.)

What prompted me to finally write something about Firefox and NoScript (this has been on my to-do list for a while) is the zero-day Adobe exploit that I posted about earlier today. NoScript can protect you from the exploit described in that post.

Finally: At the top I mentioned IE v8, which was released recently. I was hoping that Microsoft would take some steps to improve IE's resistance to malware, and I think they've made some good progress, but I found an article that seems to indicate that IE still has a ways to go. So although I'll continue to evaluate IE v8 on my Vista install as an intellectual exercise, I'll be keeping Firefox (and NoScript) as my favored "surfboard" for the indefinite future.

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