A Freshmac Review (Is Freshmac Safe?)

One of the most asked questions in our comments seems to be “Is Freshmac safe?” Since we are a security website and we perfectly understand the importance of this question, we installed and tested Freshmac to determine whether the software lives up to its marketing, tag price, and if there are any shady practices it is involved in.

A quick aword: This review is intended to be completely objective. If you feel the author is biased, please write back to us in our contact form and inform us which part of the review you feel needs to be changed.

We will leave the comments section below open to anyone who wishes to leave an honest opinion, but if you intend to say the software is “the best” or “the worst” we will ask for proof of purchase. This is simply to make sure our readers can get an unbiased opinion. The last thing you or me want is for the people behind Freshmac or their competitors to start writing here.

Q: Is Freshmac safe?

A: Freshmac is a safe anti-malware program that can remove malware, adware and all other varieties of threats. It will also prevent new ones from installing themselves and act as a cleaner for your Mac.

You can download Freshmac from its official website.

BUT! Here is a very big caveat – this is a new software. It works perfectly right now, but we never know for how long the developers can keep up the quality. But still, our verdict is that Freshmac is not only safe to use, but your Mac can benefit substantially from it. As of the time we are writing this review there is almost no negative user feedback on Freshmac – and the negative feedback that does exist seems to focus solely on the price, which feels like these people hoping to get a free meal out of it. Mac optimizer/cleaners generally have a fishy reputation, for one simple reason: many  believe that free software can achieve the same results as a paid one.

Let me be loud and clear on this – paid software will always be head and shoulders above any free one you can find. Free software tend to be made by enthusiasts or companies that want to popularize through it their other services. In both cases, this means a very limited amount of resources (read: money) was invested in the project and the overall quality and support suffer from that.

Paid programs on the other hand are a “professional” class of software – everything negative about them starts and ends with the fact that you need to take money out of your wallet to use them. Yes, part of the profits are just that, profits for whoever created the software, but the same means that these people are more motivated to make the software better. This is when paid software truly begins to shine. In the case of Freshmac, my honest opinion on the matter as a security specialist is that if you value your machine and want to keep it secured, clean and fast – try Freshmac or another program of this type. If you regret the decision you can always cancel your subscription. The reason I recommend this to you is that nowadays more and more malware is targeting Mac devices and these figures will just keep growing.

My personal experience with Freshmac 

The first thing I did with Freshmac was run it on my old Macbook Air 2014 (the link is to apple’s website) just to see if it does anything at all. First impressions definitely raised my eyebrows a bit. As you can see on the screenshot below, according to Freshmac, my mac has 4474 issues on hand. To my knowledge, if there truly were that many issues, my mac would be garbage by now – so one negative strike here for overestimating the problems.

A closer look at the scan log reveals that 4248 of the 4474 issues were so-called “privacy” issues, which is to say many cookies and other browser-related stuff – the entirety of these 4000 issues resulted in a total of 4kb, which is vastly inferior to the other ones it found. Another mac I tested on had a whopping 66613 issues – again, about 99% of them being privacy issues.

A lot of programs do this. They count every single tracking cookie as a virus or a problem that needs to be fixed immediately. Without any context or explanation you are left without the full picture. What happens in reality here is that these “issues” are simply cookies that allow Google and other websites to offer you targeted ads – yes, the annoying kind, but hardly an “issue.” This is a marketing strategy that can be very misleading if you don’t understand what you are looking at.

Here are the good news:

There was a malware called Safe Finder on the second machine I tested (the one with 63000 issues). If you do a quick google search you will find that it is a huge issue that’s been plaguing users for years. The malware redirects users to shady websites and offers them unsafe advertisements – and Freshmac absolutely took care of it in a matter of seconds. The problem did not reoccur after. I am highly confident Freshmac is the best Mac cleaner if you are battling malware. I’ve been using a Mac for 8 years and I pretty much know how to clean it myself, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that it sped up at least 25%. I don’t have the necessary tool set to estimate exactly how much, but it was absolutely a noticeable difference. 

So, bottom line: despite confusing marketing, Freshmac performs well on all fronts and is definitely money well-spent.

If you liked my review of Freshmac, please like and share it!

Com.master.wallet Android Virus Removal

Browser hijackers can be the most annoying thing ever, especially when one finds its way on your android smartphone or tablet. Today we’re discussing a certain browser hijacker called Com.master.wallet Android Virus. It’s one of the newest versions of this type of software, but the symptoms are the same with pretty much any other variant: a changed homepage and possibly also search engine within your default browser, as well as numerous online ads, both within your browser and potentially also outside it. In the following few lines we will aim to explain what purpose Com.master.wallet Android Virus serves and what concerns you ought to have with it. In addition, at the end of it all we will show you how to remove this browser hijacker from your portable device.

What does Com.master.wallet Android Virus do and why is it on your phone/tablet?

Programs of this type are used as online marketing tools with the intention of promoting certain products and services by means of displaying popups, banners, new tabs and other online ads on the screen of your device. On the one hand, the distributors of the products and providers of the advertised services benefit from gaining more exposure. But on the other, the developers of programs like Com.master.wallet Android Virus benefit just as much, in fact – directly from the users’ interaction with the ads on their screens. This is possible through methods like the Pay Per Click scheme and other similar remuneration models.

Unfortunately, however, those tend to breed certain practices that many users and security experts alike disagree with. For one, browser hijackers like this one can often look through your browsing history to extract certain data from it, like the kind of content you tend to like and share on social media platforms, for example. They can also record the websites you visit and take special note of those you spend the most time on and/or favorite. All of this data can allow the hijacker to modify its flow of ads and try to relate to your preferences.

This, as well as the fact that programs of this type have the potential of exposing your device to various threats, like ransomware and Trojan horse viruses, is often the underlying reasons why people prefer to get rid of programs like Com.master.wallet Android Virus. And once you’ve done the same, you might want to research the apps you would like to download from now on. Browser hijackers come integrated with them, so it’s best to know beforehand if a certain app has a hijacker in it.

Com.master.wallet Android Virus Removal

STEP 1

Regardless of the type of browser you are currently using, be it the default “Internet” App or another one, such as Google Chrome, head over to:
Settings/More/Application Manager/All

Find the Browser or the App you’re using and tap on it.

STEP 2

Here you will basically be doing the same thing if you’re using the “Internet” App, or a different browser of your choice, such as Chrome or others. However, below are instructions for both cases:

For user of the “Internet” App:

Tap the Force Stop button.

Move down and tap the Clear Data and Clear Cache Buttons.

For Google Chrome Users:

Tap on  Force Stop.

Then tap on the buttons labelled as Clear Data and Clear Cache.

STEP 3

Restart your browser. You might want to consider rebooting your Android device, as well.

Were we able to help? Please help us, too, and spread the word!

Block Audit-seo.net Referral spam in Google Analytics

The Audit-seo.net referral spam in Google Analytics is a new breed of problem. This page is dedicated to eradicating it from your GA statistics.

If you have found yourself being harassed by referral spam called Audit-seo.net, then you’ve come to the right place. Here we will aim to tell you all about what this referral spam is, what it does and how it does it. Furthermore, we’ll also tell you just how much harm it is capable of inflicting on both you and your website. But what’s more important, we will also provide you with a set of instructions, which will help you get rid of Audit-seo.net and free yourself from its presence. You will find those under the removal guide below, but before you head on to the instructions, we would recommend that you read through the following information first.

What does referral spam represent and how does it operate?

First, a little history. Don’t worry, this won’t take long and is only necessary so you can understand what Audit-seo.net is really doing to you. To begin with, referral spam initially emerged in the form of what we now call classic referral spam. Basically, what this meant was that spammers would employ the help of things called bots and crawlers, so as to spam various different websites. They would program those bots and crawlers to generate hits on as many sites as possible, numerous times per site even, and with virtually no session time. This was done to prompt the website owners or admins to get curious enough so as to click back on this visiting websites and find out why it’s been opening their site and leaving it immediately after. And even if this didn’t succeed with everyone, you can imagine that even a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of targeted sites would still be able to generate sufficient traffic for the spamming website. And that is precisely what they aim to do: boost their rating by gaining more traffic, even if it’s through such a dishonest scheme.

After a while Google was able to catch on to this practice and eventually put a stop to it. And that’s when versions like Audit-seo.net started to appear. These are now known as ghost spam and are the new and enhanced version of the classic referral spam. They don’t require the use of bots and crawlers, unlike their predecessors. Instead, they go for your Google Analytics stats directly. That way they can simply make the impression that you’ve been visited numerous times by the spamming website, as opposed to having to make those hits. The good thing about this is that nothing but your stats is affected. This means that your actual traffic count and such remain untouched, so in other words – on the outside it’s like nothing ever happened. On the flip side, though, you may find it both annoying and hindering that your stats are getting polluted by all this fake data that keeps on getting entered by Audit-seo.net. And that may, in fact, prove to be a problem, especially over time.

And this is usually the point where users make rash, uninformed and harmful decisions. One such decision is using the Referral Exclusion list as a means to block the referral spam. Because it contains the word ‘referral’ in it, right? So it must work! Wrong. Not only will it not help you remove the spam from your GA stats, it will actually worsen the issue and will cause you a whole lot more headache than you ever bargained for. First off, that’s not what the list is meant for. Secondly, once you enter the spammers in it, it will prompt GA to investigate the visits you’ve reported. But seeing as there were no visits to begin with (ghost spam, remember), it won’t be able to do anything about it and will go a step in the opposite direction by marking those visits and genuine traffic. Congratulations, now you will have them added to your actual traffic count.

Don’t cause yourself the extra trouble by going down that route. Instead, use the removal guide we’ve created for you below and have the issue done with. Your best shot at avoiding such future harassment from now on would be to consider switching to some better quality hosting. It is likely to provide you with better spam filters and, therefore, with better protection against referral spam like Audit-seo.net.

Block Audit-seo.net in Google Analytics

Instruction #1: Enter your Analytics account.
After that load Admin and then – All Filters.
referral_spam_1

Instruction #2: After that, hit New Filter.
Next, add Audit-seo.net in the Filter Name value.

Instruction #3. Choose the Custom Filter Type. 
Once you see the Filter Field, go with Campaign Source.
Next, when you see the Filter Pattern text box, enter Audit-seo.net. Confirm by clicking  the Save button you will see at the bottom.
ref_spam_2

How to block Audit-seo.net referrer spam using your .htaccess file

If you are aware of a way to access your .htaccess file, you will just have to write the  code below in there:

## SITE REFERRER BANNING

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} Audit-seo.net [NC,OR]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} Audit-seo.net

RewriteRule .* – [F]

In case you are not aware of a way to access it, follow these instructions:

Access your cPanel account,
the go to File Manager.
After that you should mark the check-box ‘Document Root for’.
Then go to your webpage.
Another important tip: choose ‘Show hidden Files’.
After that select Go. 
Look for the .htacess file.

Once you find it,  rightclick it.
From the options that appear, select Code Edit.
Enter the code above and Save Changes. 

Hopefully, we have been helpful! Tell us in the comment section. We will be glad to read what your opinion is!

How To Enter Safe Mode

Why pressing F8 sometimes doesn’t enable Safe Mode for windows 8 and later

For years pressing F8 immediately after a reboot has been the default option to enable Safe Mode for all versions of Windows. This hasn’t changed for Windows 8 and Windows 10 either, yet for some people it just won’t work. The reason behind this is the fast boot feature developed by Microsoft. Fast boot, especially when Windows is written on a quick SSD drive, will load windows so fast that it is humanly impossible to press the F8 button in time.

How to enable Safe Mode for windows 8 and later versions.

  1. Navigate to your Desktop, then press Win+R buttons simultaneously
  2. In the box that appears type MSCONFIG
  3. Now click on the Boot tab, then select Safe boot with Networking.
  4. Click Apply, followed by OK. Now reboot your PC
  5. Whenever you are done using Safe Mode go back to this menu and remove the tick from the Safe Boot box

How to reveal hidden files and folders

How to reveal hidden files and folders

  • IMPORTANT! You can make hidden files and folders to become hidden again by following the exact same instructions!

in Windows 7

  1. Begin by going to your Desktop.
  2. Now you’ll need to open the Start menu. You can do this by clicking on your Windows start button – the button in the left corner of your screen with the Windows logo on it.
  3. Navigate to the Control Panel option (should be in the right-most column) and click on it.
  4. Now look for the the Appearance and Personalization link, click on it.
  5. Look for the Hidden files and folders, fill the check box named Show hidden files, folders, or drives.
  6. Use Apply, then OK and you are done.

in Windows 8

  1. Look at the  Windows 8 Start Screen and select the Control Panel app.
  2. Now go to the More Settings option.
  3. The more traditional Control Panel window will appear, click on the Appearance and Personalization link.
  4. You’ll need to find the Hidden files and folders section and fill the check box next to Show hidden files, folders, or drives.
  5. Apply, then OK. Done.

in Windows 10

  1. Open the file explorer (Win button + E button) and open any folder on your computer.
  2. In the upper-left side of the screen you’ll notice the File, Home, Share and View tabs. You need the View tab, click on it.
  3. To the right you’ll notice a checkbox labeled Hidden items. Click on it so that it is marked. Done!

How to add trusted sites to Internet Explorer 10 & 11

How to add trusted sites to Internet Explorer 10 & 11

This article will help you add trusted sites to Internet Explorer 10 & 11, as well as outline the benefits of doing so. Many people have trouble with different type of malware viruses and Trojan horses, because these viruses specialize in targeting the weak spots of their internet browser. Internet Explorer has accumulated a bad reputation over the years, but in reality the recent versions of IE are no worse than the competition. The main thing you need to do in order to make your browser safe is to disable your Java and Adobe Flash plug-ins.

It’s not the browser, it’s the plug-ins that are vulnerable

Adobe Flash and Java made the internet what it is today, but unfortunately they have outlived their usefulness. In fact, critical weaknesses remain in both products and these weaknesses cannot be fixed. It is now recommended for all internet sites to upgrade content written in Flash/Java to HTML 5.0 code, which Is much safer. Unfortunately, this upgrade process is slow and many sites have not even begun the update (or lack the resources to do it). A large portion of internet sites require complete rework, because they are basically build with these programs in mind. They require the plug-ins to be enabled in order to be used, but at the same time it is dangerous to do so everywhere else. Due to this, all major internet browsers decided to keep Flash and Java disabled by default since 2014-2015. Sites that make use of Adobe or Flash will display a warning display message that you need to enable the plug-in before you are able to see the content that requires it.

This is where trusted sites steps in to help.

When you designate a site to be a Trusted Site you are basically telling your browser that it has nothing to fear from these web pages. This allows the browser to drop some security checks – thus trusted sites load faster – but it also automatically creates an exception where Flash and Java are turned on if they are off by default.

If you keep those two plug-ins disabled by default (like you should) you will have to manually enable them for every page which you visit that also requires them. As expected, this gets tedious very fast. If you frequently visit certain web sites and you are confident that they are safe to use, then there is no reason not to add them to your browser’s list of trusted sites. As you are about to see, this is a very straightforward process that is also easy to use.

  • IMPORTANT! There is just one thing to keep in mind when you enter trusted sites – try to enter the site’s URL without any sub-directories. A site’s subdirectory is separated from the main URL with this symbol “/”. If you add a site’s sub-directory, then only this directory will be trusted and the other will be treated as unfamiliar. When adding sites simply copy-paste the site’s URL up to the first “/”.

How to add trusted sites to Internet Explorer browser:

Step 1:

Open your Internet Browser and look at the top-right corner. Click on the Gear button.

From the drop-down menu select Internet options.

Trusted sites IE

Step 2:

A new menu should open. Click on the Security tab.

Now click on the Trusted Sites green tick, then on the Sites button.

You can now add Trusted Sites in the window that opens.

  • Don’t forget to add the URL without any sub-sections of the site. Simply copy the address up to the first”/”.

Trusted sites IE 2

Step 3:

That’s all, you are done!

How to add trusted sites to Mozilla Firefox

How to add Trusted sites to the Mozilla Firefox browser

This article contains detailed instruction on how to add trusted sites to the Mozilla Firefox browser, as well a list of the benefits of doing so. Hopefully our readers will find it as a useful tool in their efforts to keep their computers more secure.

Why should you add Trusted sites to your browser?

It appears that actually a few people make good use of this excellent feature Firefox offers us. The benefits may not be immediately imminent, but they are there. Using trusted sites will both help keep your PC safe and reduce your annoyance when you have to deal with the security features that arrange for your safety.

When you add a site to the trusted sites you are basically telling your browser that this particularly site is perfectly safe. This allows Firefox to load the site more quickly and smoothly, possibly skipping some security checks along the way.

Another very important feature of using the Trusted sites option is that it will enable add-ons as an exception. Add-ons like Java, Adobe Flash and the ActiveX plug-in are a great security vulnerability for your browser. They can be exploited by many viruses in order to infect your computer without your knowledge. The worst viruses like Trojan horses and Ransomware are also very hard to detect by anti-virus software. Cutting all access points for those is the first (and best) line of defense for your computer. Because of this most internet browsers (Mozilla included) now keep Flash and Java disabled by default. Actually, there is a whole campaign that aims to phase out Java and Flash written content from websites and that campaign is supported by the owning companies. This is, however, a slow process and perhaps several years may have to pass before we stop seeing Java/Flash based content in the sites we visit.  And while stoping these two programs is something good and healthy for your computer, it is bound to some problems. The most obvious is that content written in Java or Flash will not be displayed unless you manually activate the plug-in for the page. This will get tedious very quickly if you have to do it for sites you already know to be safe and which you visit frequently.

By adding such sites to Firefox’s trusted sites you create an exception for the sites and all content will be properly displayed for your leisure. Of course, you have to be absolutely sure that any site you add to the Trusted sites section is really safe.

How to add trusted sites 

Step 1:

Open your Firefox browser, then click on the three horizontal lines in the top-right corner. From the drop-down menu select Options.

Trusted Sites FireFox

Step 2:

You are not inside the Settings menu.

Click on the Security tab, then on the upper Exceptions button.

Trusted Sites FireFox 2

Step 3:

You can now enter or remove the URLs of trusted site.

  • WARNING! When entering URLs please include the full address of the website, but without any sub-sections. A sub-section is divided from the main url by “/”. When you want to enter the address of the site include everything between the first “/” symbol, if any. If you add the address with the sub-section you’ll only flag the sub-section as a trusted site and the rest of the site will still be considered unsafe by the browser.

Step 4:

All done!

How to enable Trusted sites in Google Chrome

How to enable Trusted sites in Chrome and what are the benefits?

Adding trusted sites to your browser is a very useful utility option that many people overlook and in our opinion this is because they are not even aware of what it does. In this article we’ll speak about the benefits of adding trusted sites to your Chrome internet browser, as well as provide a detailed guide on how to do that.

On the benefits of using Trusted sites

When you add a website to your list of trusted sites you are basically telling your computer that this is a site you know to be safe. When you visit a site on your list of trusted sites Chrome will not perform its normal routine to ensure that the site is safe – this automatically means that a trusted site will load faster than an ordinary site. In addition to that trusted sites will have plug-ins like Adobe Flash, ActiveX and Java enabled even if they are normally disabled by default in your browser.

Keeping Adobe Flash, ActiveX and Java disabled is actually the default option in Chrome, because these three have had a long history of problems. Over the years multiple weaknesses were discovered within those programs, which allows for many different viruses to be installed. Dangerous things like ransomware and Trojan horses can make great use of these weak spots to infect computers with Java and Flash enabled. Unfortunately, much of the content online has been written in these two languages – videos, Ads and site features will often get disabled when Flash and Java are turned off. The Chrome browser has both Java and Flash turned off by default simply to protect its users. These can be turned back on for convenience, but that is simply not recommended as it puts your computer in unnecessary risk.

Of course, you always have the option of turning them manually in order to see the content that requires them, but this has to be done manually for every instance and every page. This can quickly get tiresome, especially for sites you are well familiar with and absolutely sure they are safe. This is where trusted sites comes in.

A site added to your list of trusted sites will have add-ons turn on as an exception. This will make all pages that contains code which requires those programs to load instantly and smoothly. Your computer will also eagerly receive Cookies from such sites without prompting for your permission.

How to enable Trusted sites in Google Chrome

Step 1:

Open Google Chrome and look at the top-ride side of the browser. Locate the three horizontal lines and click on them.

A drop-down window should appear. Select Settings.

trusted sites Chrome 2

Step 2

You are now in the Settings main menu. Scroll down to the very bottom and click on Show advanced settings…

The settings menu will be expanded with additional content.

Keep scrolling down until you reach the Network section and click on Change proxy settings…

trusted sites Chrome 1

Step 3

A new window should open. Select the Security tab.

Next click on Trusted Sites green tick, followed by the Sites button.

A new window should open. You can now input the addresses of your trusted sites.

  • IMPORTANT! It is a good idea to input as little of the site’s name as possible. Any sub-sections of the site that you add to the site’s address will restrict the trusted site privileges to apply only to that subsection of the site. Note that sub-sections will be separated from the main site’s address with this symbol “/”, so you need to select anything between the first “/” you see.

trusted sites Chrome 3

Which is Safer, Internet Explorer or Firefox?

There is a lot of discussion going on about the relative safety of Internet Explorer vs. Firefox. In this article I say why I think most of the commentary is missing the point.

The battle over the question in the title has been raging in discussions all over the Internet. Unfortunately, this is the wrong question. In fact, it is a meaningless question unless a lot of additional factors are considered. Security is a multidimensional problem and cannot be usefully discussed in the kind of simplistic comparisons that are being made.

I am not a professional security expert but there are some pretty obvious points that can be raised about how you define what is meant by “security”. The most popular way seems to be a kind of numerology where somebody with a vested interest like Symantec purports to count “vulnerabilities” or even “possible” vulnerabilities. The conditions where these vulnerabilities apply are usually not specified. Many questions have to be asked before any meaningful assessment of the severity of a problem can be made, For example, does having a firewall prevent them? Do typical anti-malware packages detect them? Does the user have to click on a link or do something stupid for the problem to apply? Can the problem be fixed by changing a default setting? How long does it take before a patch can be made? Not all “vulnerabilities” are created equal. A so-called vulnerability may be “potentially” very dangerous but not be a problem in practice because it easily fixed by standard measures or can only be incurred because of stupidity. So this numbers game looks very misleading to me.

The whole subject is quite complicated but in an attempt to keep this discussion reasonably short I suggest we replace the single question of the title with three questions (all pertain to Windows systems):

  1. Which browser is safer for experienced computer users?
  2. Which browser is safer for average computer users?
  3. Which browser is safer for careless, uninformed or clueless computer users?

The answer to question 1 is that either browser will do. What browser is used by an experienced person is a matter of personal habits and preferences about different browser features. An experienced user knows what security precautions must be taken and will rarely get a problem just because of the browser that is being used. Personally, I use both Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox. I prefer Firefox for most things but some sites only work in IE.

Next let’s consider question 2. The term “average” computer user covers a lot of different people so only a few generalities can be stated. The average PC user is not going to be familiar with the details of security measures but most will be aware that they need some kind of defense. If they have a PC bought in recent years they will have quite a bit of automatic protection such as anti-virus programs that update themselves and at least the Windows XP firewall. Also Windows update will be set to run unattended. Many PC users also have installed entire security suites. It is important to note the presence of these security measures because otherwise the question of which browser to use is moot.

For those people who have enough other security in place so that they can turn their attention to browser security, one question concerns updates. Both IE and Firefox have periodically been found to have security holes. IE has an apparent advantage in that it is automatically updated whereas at present Firefox has to be patched manually. Typical PC users can be lax about updating so that looks like a point for IE. However, this possible advantage is much lessened or even disappears because Microsoft can take many weeks to issue a patch for a known problem. Firefox patches come out within a few days after a problem is revealed. Which browser has the advantage here? For those who would keep up with the Firefox updates, I give the nod to Firefox on this particular issue. For procrastinators, maybe IE is better but future versions of Firefox are supposed to also update automatically. Note added later: Firefox version 1.5 is scheduled for release at the end of November, 2005. It contains an automatic update feature and that removes any advantage IE had for procrastinators.

There are also other security factors such as ActiveX, which I have discussed in detail on another page. On the issue of ActiveX, individual PC users will have to balance convenience with safety to decide on a browser. Knowledgeable users can configure IE to avoid ActiveX problems but I wonder how many average PC users will actually do what’s necessary. From a theoretical point of view, I think Firefox is safer because it doesn’t support ActiveX but from a practical view it can sometimes be inconvenient that some pages won’t work for any browser but IE.

What about the average PC user who has an older system with Windows 98/Me? These people are totally ignored by most commentators but there are still quite a few of them around. They will be missing a lot of the security that Microsoft has added to IE in Windows XP SP2. Personally, I think that these systems are safer with Firefox. However, there is the psychological barrier that many people have about installing a whole new browser when they already have one in place. Also, IE has to be used for certain sites and this is another obstacle to using Firefox. For these users, I think that the theoretical answer to question 2 clearly is Firefox. In practice, however, most of these users will probably stick with IE. Hopefully, they will have enough security measures in effect to obviate the newer IE exploits that they are exposed to.

Now we come to question 3. This one is easy to answer. It doesn’t matter what this group uses for a browser. These are the ones that do not use firewalls or do not install security updates or blithely click on any old link. They have much bigger problems than what browser to use. Unfortunately, their problems are our problems, too. This group is where most of the worms and Trojans hide out. It is also where the crackers get their “zombie” machines to carry out Distributed Denial of Service attacks and conduct various criminal activities.

I have framed the discussion in terms of who the intended user is. To really discuss the issue of browser security would require a much more complicated metric. However, I think the discussion helps illustrate my contention that measuring security is not simple and that there is no easy answer that applies to everybody for the question of which browser is safer to use. If you held a gun to my head and demanded that I choose a browser for everybody, I would personally pick Firefox. But you still have to use IE for some sites like Windows Update whether you like it or not. And I haven’t even mentioned Opera or Netscape.

I am very interested to hear what you have to say about all this. Log on to http://tips.vlaurie.com and let me know what you think.

Quick Method for Configuring IE 7 ActiveX Settings for Greater Security

Disabling ActiveX

Table I shows some settings that involve ActiveX in the Internet security zone for IE 7. Changing this small group of settings will still protect against many common security problems but is less of an obstacle for the average home PC user. Some ActiveX settings are already disabled by default in the Internet zone and those listed are additional settings that should also be disabled. The settings can be changed manually by going to the Internet Explorer menu Tools-Internet Options-Security-Internet-Custom level (Figure 1). Note that some Web sites use ActiveX and there may be loss of functionality. In particular Microsoft sites such as Windows Update will no longer work. To retain ActiveX capability, commonly visited sites that are secure can be placed in the Trusted Zone. Or, if desired, settings can be returned to their default values by clicking the Reset button shown in Figure 1 or by using the Default Level button.

Table I. Settings for Disabling ActiveX in IE 7
Category Setting Default Recommended
ActiveX controls and plug-ins Binary and script behaviors Enable Disable
Download signed ActiveX controls Prompt Disable
Run ActiveX controls and plug-ins Enable Disable
Script ActiveX controls marked safe for scripting Enable Disable
Figure 1. Dialog box for settings in Internet Security Zone
secsettingsint

Quick way to change IE security zone settings.

Rather than changing the settings manually, an INF file that makes the changes in the Registry can be used. (Using INF files to make Registry changes is discussed on this page.) This has the advantage of providing a simpler method that is not subject to possible errors in entering setting changes by hand. The INF file that carries out the changes shown in Table I can be seen here. The text file shown can be copied and changed to an INF file by editing the extension. To make things even easier, I have also wrapped the INF file in an EXE package that can be downloaded here. To use it, simply left-click in the usual manner. If you do not like the results, the changes can be undone with another executable file that can be downloaded here. Note that any additional setting changes that you might have made will not restored by this file. As is true for any executable file, your security settings may give the standard warning.

Because of our litigious society, I must make the disclaimer that all files are provided as is, without guarantees, and that the user assumes all responsibility.

Responding to zero-day exploits

Many so-called zero-day exploits have been making use of ActiveX. In these cases,Microsoft often advises the work-around of disabling Activex until it issues a patch. The downloads provided above provide an easy way for PC users to apply the temporary defense.