Monday, January 21, 2008

Secure Your Web Surfing And Online Access

Why I like Firefox for safer web surfing
There are always discussions of which browser is the best, and if there is which one? Well, I am not going to say one is better than the other, rather I am gong to say why I personally choose one over the other.

I personally like Firefox. I like Firefox because it is the most secured browser. Secured not just because Firefox is immune to hacks, whacks and other malware; but it is more secure because of various reasons. One that is often quoted is that "it is more secure than IE because IE is more prevalent." Well maybe so. But I think it is also more secure because it is so customizable. You also have a plethora of plugins and it is not closed to one company making the decisions of what gets developed for it like Microsoft does with IE.

The bulk of the evidence that I see in reading numerous articles on Web Browsers leaves me with not other conclusion. I do believe that the version 7 of IE though is more secure than any of its predecessors, nevertheless, you cannot customize, or un-customize IE like you can Firefox.

Using Free Proxies
If you are a bit paranoid, and if you surf the Internet you should be, you can help your self by surfing anonymously. This does not require one browser over the other. You can simply use a free proxy - there is a good list at AtomIntersoft ; but those can also be a bit dangerous if you do not know who is running them. I looked for the ones that were being run by Universities, but I really don't know for sure of course who is running them. I think it is safe as long as you don't ever give out any information - your - mileage may vary.

Another option is to use an anonymous surfing site like Anonymouse or Proxify . Sites that let you traverse the Internet without disclosing your location. They both have a free versions although, if you pay a nominal fee, you get faster service, and that is a caveat, all proxies do slow you down a bit.

The TOR network
After poking around a bit more I decided to use the Tor Network. I believe that TOR stands for "The Onion Router". Onion because of the "layers". To learn more about the Tor Network please visit their site. In a sense you travel the Internet by first hoping on their network which bounces you all over the world proxi to proxi until you arrive at your destination.

Before you do so, please read their documentation. It has very good advice. It tells you that even using Tor you are not totally immune from being tracked or spied upon; but that you must follow other advice. Four of which I follow now as much as possible even when not using Tor:

1. Use Firefox
2. Un-install all plugins (at least all suspect, and keep only the bear minimum)
3. Do install four plugins: FlashBlock, No Script, Cookie Culler, and Quick Java (all of these block active content but still allow you to control when you want to allow).

In addition if you are using Firefox, it is also easy to install one more plugin Torbutton which allows you to turn on and off Tor on the fly.

If you follow the instructions on their web site you will end up with Tor, Vidalia, and Privoxy installed. Tor is for the actual surfing. Vidalia is the Gui to configure it, and Privoxy is like a local proxy. I also figured out how to have IE use the Tor network.

I am not going to explain all the details of how, because it is well explained on their site. There is one thing that still is an issue: When surfing on Tor things do slow down. Tor is there because of volunteers. It is free, so consider pitching in. Also some sites, even Google thought I was a hacker not because I am, but because Tor actually worked! That is Google could not figure out who I was or where I was coming from so they freaked! See they are watching us. Sometimes you come out of Europe or some other place.

They are watching us. So surf stealthfully as much as possible.


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