Tinfoil Tom Series – Episode 1: Securing your web browser

f73603379ec11c4bdc493282f4b2d547p_510x270“What’cha lookin’ at?!”
(Thanks to Sarah for this beautiful depiction of paranoia!)

Hi and welcome to the “Tinfoil Tom” series that I intend on running on this very blog. This series of post will be dedicated to end-user computer security – for the slightly paranoid. So it seemed appropriate to start with what you’re doing at this very moment – that is, surfing the web! (Whatever else you were doing is but your own business, in the spirit of tinfoil hats, paranoia and all.)

This guide is first and foremost directed at power-users, but it is written in a way so that (hopefully) anyone can follow it without problems.

The web browser
Try asking someone about their web browser preference and you’ll notice that many people would rather bite your head off than consider an alternative one. That being said, according to me – the power-user browser is Firefox. Opera is not far behind and may very well excel in some categories, but with the grand focus on security, the enormous community and the perpetually growing add-on library that all Firefox users can enjoy, it’s simply unbeatable, and so it will be a prerequisite for this tutorial.

With its out-of-the-box configuration Firefox is one of the most secure browsers, but we won’t stop there! To make your experience even safer – read on for some useful add-ons.

Added security
Here are some great add-ons that will help in tightening your browsers security.

Adblock Plus

beforeafterBefore and after shot. Unfortunately, some of that heavily
appealing “bling-bling” disappears together with the ads.

Whilst not technically a security add-on, Adblock plus make practically all ads on pages disappear, and in such way makes you less targetable to third-party exploits such as XSS attacks, not to mention those bastard animated smileys. *shivers*

Using Ad blocking software has come under heavy fire lately, with many ad-financed sites expressing heavy criticism towards the users, some sites have even started to reject users with ad-blocking software. Luckily, the number of these sites so far is very small, and let us hope it doesn’t spread. One could probably spend a whole series of posts just discussing the moral aspects of ad blocking (Which according to me has heavy parallels to downloading or TiVo‘ing TV shows, effectively skipping the commercials.) but I’ll leave it for another day.

Get Adblock for Firefox here.

NoScript

logoEvil script is evil.

Before you install this add-on, you should be aware of the fact that breaks almost all modern websites because it interferes (or rather completely shuts off) JavaScript support unless you specifically enable it on a per-site basis. But it also stops a lot of third-party homepages from running scripts and makes a lot of other security improvements under the hood. Although I don’t recommend this add-on for normal users, power users who often visit the same set of homepages may benefit greatly in terms of increased security – this add-on will truly make your browser an impenetrable fortress.

Get NoScript for Firefox here.

TorButton

tor_stickerJust watching that onion makes my eyes tear up… with laughter!

TorButton is actually a quick proxy gateway to Tor, an online darknet-like anonymization effort, but because the Tor software acts as a standard HTTP proxy, we can use any proxy server in its place, and because the TorButton add-on features many security tweaks, some similar to NoScript, even running it through a transparent server on your own computers adds security, and as far as I have noticed, TorButton breaks much fewer websites and barely requires any user attention. The only problem might be the cumbersome task of properly setting up a proxy server, but for Windows I can recommend CCProxy which I use myself. (Demo version with some non-timebased restrictions, although works fine for our intentions.)

Get TorButton for Firefox here.

Coming up!
In the next episode of the Tinfoil Tom series we will be discussing laptop security, secure file deletion through wiping and file recovery.

In other news…
000-va-unreal_tournament_score-1999-i
Randomly speaking of video game soundtracks – the classical Unreal Tournament Score is really such a pearl. Fantastic and surprisingly mellow soundscapes with a hint of almost organic roughness. I’m pretty certain it isn’t being sold anymore (I think it was only included in the special editions to begin with.) but I found a mirror, let’s hope it stays up!

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