Monday, January 18, 2010

A change of browser

A while ago I swapped form using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to Firefox. The main reason was the number of handy add ons that Firefox has available. One of these is NoScript which blocks  Javascript and Flash but can be easily configured to allow pre-determined safe sites. Most browser threats these days come via scripts, so the more protection the better.

For the past week I decided that I would use Google Chrome as my default browser and I must say that I’m impressed. It is fast, stable and supports many (not all) of the little add ons that I use. I use a site on a daily basis that is very heavily Java based and I gotta say that here it really flys, even compared to Firefox. So I’m now using Chrome everyday without hesitation.

Interestingly, I came across this news report “Calls to ditch Internet Explorer after China hacks” that details how the recent major cyber attacks against Google were perpetrated via Internet Explorer and Adobe Acrobat. Internet Explorer has had a really bad name in relation to security and even with the release of version 8 it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Again, you do need to take these reports with a pinch of salt being they come from mainstream media (read techno-illiterate and sensationalism seeking) and are about a competitor to Google (i.e. Microsoft). However, the most interesting thing is that I haven’t seen much response from Microsoft about the attacks (Did they also get attacked? If they didn’t why didn’t they? Or did they and they are just not admitting it?).

After using both Firefox and Chrome I can honestly see no need to return to Internet Explorer, it just feels old. Perhaps there is a need to really strip Internet Explorer back and make a really simple and secure version which is really what most people need. The problem in this business is once you fall behind it normally takes a monumental improvement in a product to catch up as it has to be so much better than what is already out there to even warrant attention. Personally, I can’t see Microsoft doing this. They have reached middle age and a technical leap of that size just doesn’t seem possible to them any more.

If the browser is the default application through which which most people access the web how many of these are unpatched and insecure? Even if you are up to date all these unpatched systems still represent a threat because when you are connected to the web you are also connecting to them. The joys of an interconnected world!

So what is your browser of choice? Whatever it is make sure it is up to date (as well as your version of Adobe Acrobat).