Thursday, Jul 12th 2012
Has your web browser evolved to look like the one below where the browser bars have magically propagated to the point they occupy more real estate on your web browser that the sites you’re browsing?
Their proliferation isn’t as magical as you might think as they are almost always bundled with other software you do want, such as Adobe Acrobat reader, AVG Anti-virus, and many other innocuous programs. The trick to avoid them is to Un-check the box that asks if you want to also install the browser bar. In the image below, the Java installation asks the user if it should also install the Bing tool bar. It is checked by default because they expect most end-users to just click Next, Next, Next, accepting all the defaults rather than pay attention. This, but they way, is how people get hacked and why the best defense against malware is vigilance, so pay attention and read each step as you install a program, especially free ones.
Of course, we don’t associate Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, with hackers. Indeed, we tend to trust Microsoft-branded products. If we didn’t, they wouldn’t own the PC market along with a host of other software like Internet Explorer and the Office suite. But the browser bars are evil for several reasons and should be avoided at home and the office. Here’s why:
On the surface browser bars are convenience offering one-click access to Facebook, cheap flights and the current weather in Timbuktu. Looking a little deeper we see that the toolbar breaks the important fence protecting the computer from potential malicious web content. The browser runs the code of the developer’s choosing and can do whatever the developer wants it to do, including giving the web browser access to functions of the operating system. This extended functionality means extended threats. The end result leaves a computer so vulnerable to attack that it only visit a bad web site without clicking anything and the computer and potentially your whole network will become infected with a virus.
One of the things end users do the first time they sit at a work computer is to make it like their home machine. Right way they start testing what they can and can’t do including a visit to favorite sites and installing their favorite tool bars.
How to prevent toolbars on your work computers?