While everyone who uses a computer probably knows that there are viruses and malware out there that could infect your computer, not everyone understands how. While human error and unsafe downloads are sometimes to blame, you’d probably also be surprised to know that your browser can also be the culprit in some situations. While browsers often have their own security settings designed to prevent malicious websites from downloading and installing malware and viruses on your PC without your knowledge, the security isn’t always foolproof.
Cleverly designed malicious websites can take advantage of security holes in browsers, or may try other tactics designed to acquire sensitive information and data. Thankfully, with a bit of knowledge and understanding of how to make your Internet browser more secure, you’ll be better equipped to protect your PC from getting infected by your browser.
- Don’t use unnecessary plugins
Plugins are little bits of software that add more functionality to a browser. However, not all of them are wholly necessary, and many of them contain ample security flaws that hackers can take advantage should you visit a malicious website. A recent example is Java, which was in use by millions of consumers on their browsers. Even major corporations such as Facebook and Apple fell victim to malicious websites as a result of malicious Java. The best defense against this is to simply uninstall Java completely, as well as any other browser plugins you might not need, such as toolbars from third party corporations.
You should also make sure that any plugins you do require, such as the Flash plugin, are up to date, so that they have the latest security patches installed. Use a tool such as Firefox’s plugin to check on a regular basis if any of your plugins need to be updated. Although it is designed for use with the Firefox browser, the tool will still work with other browsers.
- Keep your browser up to date
Browser updates often contain security patches that fix previously discovered flaws. While your browser may never be completely secure, you’ll at least be able to keep your PC safe from the multitude of older threats that are circulating on the Web. Unless you are already using a very old browser, Internet browsers today automatically let you know when a new update is ready to be downloaded and installed.
- Use virus protection software
If you really want to protect yourself, you should use antivirus protection. Installing a reliable virus protection application on your PC is your best line of defense against anything downloaded through your browser without your knowledge. Like your browser, you should also keep your antivirus software up to date in order to ensure that it is ready to detect and defend against the newest threats. Additionally, to protect yourself, you should use antivirus protection that automatically updates itself, such as a cloud-based antivirus application offered by Avg, Immunet, Bitdefender.
- Be aware of malicious websites
Your browser will do its best to warn you that you are about to enter a malicious website, but the problem is it doesn’t always know. Cleverly designed websites can fool your browser, and once you are one the website, the site will either attempt to exploit your browsers security holes in order to download and install malware on your PC, or attempt to trick you into doing it yourself. There are many ways a website a might do this, such as by making some downloads look appealing, masquerading them as one type of file when they are really just cleverly disguised viruses. It is a similar method used by phishing email messages.
To avoid any problems and reduce the risk of this happening, avoid downloading any files that you aren’t completely sure about. Be wary of websites that tell you need to download and install a plugin in order to make the site work properly, such as the ActiveX plugin or the Flash plugin. If you do think you need these plugins, then visit the actual web pages that provide these plugins rather than downloading them from the questionable website. Also watch out for files that begin to download automatically. If you didn’t initiate a download yourself, then don’t allow one to continue. And when you do intend to download a file, make sure you click the correct download button. A website may contain several download buttons, but some of them are actually just links to other malicious files that will download in place of the file you actually intended to download.
Be sure to remain consistent in your efforts to ensure security on your PC, and you’ll efficiently lower the risk of any malicious files, malware and viruses infected your computer.
About The Author
Sandra J. Lambert, a computer networking and security specialist. She is a CISCO certified professional who writes about computer security services and antivirus products.