What you are really telling the web

Most people when the browse the web believe they are aware of the information they are giving away on the web; and these people are mostly wrong.  Although for the most part, browsing the web casually is a harmless affair and the details that you give out our benign, being aware of exactly what and how you are giving out your personal information and what you can do to stop it will make you a smarter, safer surfer.  As an added bonus you’ll get less spam, and less targeted ads.

To start, try going to the following website, http://www.mybrowserinfo.com/detail.asp?bhcp=1.  That page is entirely generated using the information your browser is giving away about you.  Another tactic websites use to follow you is cookies.  Google sets a cookie using it’s tracking software, which is installed on millions of websites to follow you around the web.  When you are logged into these services, they can then link your browsing habits to your particular account and use that information to serve more targeted ads.

Fortunately you are not powerless to stop these companies, from getting your personal information. Many tools exist on the web in the form of browser add ons that stop tracking cookies in their tracks, software that stops ads from being shown, and even a browser that hides your IP altogether.

AdBlock Plus <https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/adblock-plus/?src=search>

Adblock is a free firefox plugin that stops ads from being displayed on many websites.  Although this tool is controversial in the web world due to it’s nature, it is a great tool to stop not only sound advertisements, but a large quantity of tracking cookies that these advertisers like to plant.

Self-Destructing Cookies <https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/self-destructing-cookies/?src=search>

Easily one of the quickest ways to gain control of your privacy is to gain control of websites cookie behaviour. Self Destructing cookies simply deletes cookies from non-whitelisted websites as soon as you leave the site, stopping websites, and third parties from tracking you across domains.

No scripts <https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/noscript/?src=ss>

An essential tool in any browsers security arsenal. No scripts stops javascript hijacks and attacks on malicious websites, and websites that have malicious content injected in (such as a forum).  No scripts also stops common but hard to spot attacks such as Clickjacking (an attack which you are tricked into clicking something you would not) and XSS (cross site scripting, an attack in which third party JS is loaded and executed maliciously)

Tor Browser Bundle <https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en>

The tor browser bundle is by far the most secure way to surf the web.  Tor is an onion routing service meaning that it routes your requests through several computers using different encryption methods, so that only you know you made the request. The tor browser bundle couples this behaviour with add-ons to create the most secure possible browsing experience.

Of course no amount of addons will ever prevent all attacks, and nothing is a stronger defence then education and common sense. Some things to look out for when browsing the web include watching the address bar.  For example, if you are visiting your banking website, make sure the address bar has that address and the https:// icon is present.  Most browsers will also indicate that the site is verified.

Upon closing your browser, do some housekeeping.  Clear your cookies, cache, a history, review your downloads and make sure that they are indeed things you downloaded. Also regularly check and make sure your browser, and all extensions are up to date.  Most browsers are configured to update automatically, but it’s never a bad idea to check.  Lastly, make sure you are running a solid virus, and firewall solution.

The web can be a fun and exciting place, and with the right precautions it can also be a safe one.  Following general web safety tips can make the difference between you, and a hacker having control of your computer.

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