Keeping Spies Out, Part 2

Dennis Faas's picture

This entry is the second part of a three part series on spyware prevention tips.

In the first article, I overviewed an excellent (and free!) tool called SpywareBlaster whose sole purpose is to prevent the installation of spyware on your computer. SpywareBlaster is lightweight, easy-to-use, and continually updated.

Today I'm going to share a second spyware prevention tip. Are you ready?

Spyware Prevention Tip #2 - Stop Using Internet Explorer

  • Fact: Some popular forms of spyware specifically target vulnerabilities associated with Microsoft Internet Explorer.
  • Fact: Internet Explorer has a disproportionate number of security vulnerabilities and associated patches compared with other desktop software.
  • Fact: In June of 2004 the US Government's CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) recommended people stop using Internet Explorer because of issues associated with spyware and other forms of malware. (Source:

Allow me to qualify the above statements.

While it's true that critical vulnerabilities can be found in any piece of software (including Firefox, Opera, and other browser alternatives), users generally like Firefox because it's much faster at loading web sites, and most importantly: it offers tighter security versus Internet Explorer. This is true for two reasons:

  1. There are more reported vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer than Firefox. Some unscrupulous site operators will take advantage of these vulnerabilities to install spyware on your computer just from you visiting a web page.
  2. By default, Firefox doesn't support ActiveX technology. ActiveX is a technology developed by Microsoft that allows executable code to be downloaded and seamlessly executed on a web surfer's computer upon visiting a web site or clicking a link. Though this provides great flexibility in terms of what can be done on a web site, you'll no doubt guess that it also can provide a good deal of risk.

And while Microsoft has been fairly responsive about resolving Internet Explorer security holes, there is still a handful of reported vulnerabilities for which no known patch exists. (Source:

In addition to being safer, Firefox also boasts a number of great features. Things like tabbed browsing will keep your desktop clutter to a minimum. And perhaps the best feature of all, "Firefox extensions" (an extension is a plug-in that allows you to perform a shortcut of sorts) make it a joy to surf the web again.

With all these enhancements, wouldn't it make sense to at least check out Firefox?

It's free!

Still to come: Spyware Prevention #3

Stay tuned for the third and final part in our series on spyware prevention tips. The third and final tip is probably the single most important thing you can do to prevent the installation of spyware on your computer. In fact, it will help not just with spyware but also with other security problems. You won't want to miss it!

Until then, stay safe...

For more great tips like this one, be sure to download David's free security newsletter to your mailbox, today!

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