Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Firefox 1.5 - and security tools

The latest version of Firefox is out now - go and get it here. I know many of you are still using Internet Explorer, so now is the perfect time to give it a go. Firefox is safer, prettier, more customisable, more standards compliant, prevents popups, stops viruses and spyware getting at your machine, has tabs so you can have lots of sites open in the one window, and has all kinds of cool extra bits you can add in if you want. It will import all your bookmarks from IE really easily, you barely have to do anything. If you're using IE to read this, go and try Firefox now, for me. You won't be sorry.

And before the Opera fans start complaining: Firefox is what I use, I like it. But as long as people stop using IE, I don't care if they use Firefox, Opera, Safari, or anything else. Anything but IE.

While we're at it - if you've been using IE, then you've probably got some spyware and stuff littered about your PC. Here are three things that *all* Windows users should have installed - they're all free, and easy to use:

Spybot Search & Destroy: A spyware cleaner. Finds, removes and blocks loads of nasty, hidden programs.

Ad-Aware: Another spyware remover. Ad-Aware and Spybot can sometimes each find things the other one missed, so it's best to run them both regularly.

AVG: Anti-virus software. It's fast, free, and sits in the background keeping an eye on everything. If you don't have an anti-virus package installed, please get this immediately. I had Norton Anti-Virus for a year, a commercial package, but it didn't do the job for me. Once I'd installed AVG, it found several viruses that had been lurking there the whole time. Do regular scans, but once it's installed, it'll quickly scan every file you try to open. It updates itself, so that you're always protected against any new viruses that come out.

And two things you can install if you like:

Thunderbird: An email client. Outlook and Outlook Express are bloated and unsafe, and up until very recently, merrily ran scripts by default that could do all sorts of damaging things. You don't have to use Thunderbird if you've got all your safety updates installed, but it's faster and nicer.

Firewall: If you're on the internet, people can see you. Firewalls make you invisible, and slap anyone who comes too near (sort of). If you have a router, it has a built in firewall that is perfectly fine. If not, then use the one that comes with Windows Service Pack 2. If you want a separate one, go for Sygate Personal Firewall - I use a router at home, so the PC (or "the 'Half Life 2' machine " as it's now called) doesn't have a firewall installed.

Spybot, Ad-Aware and AVG are essential (as is Firefox, I'd say), to keep things clean and safe. If your system is riddled with spyware and other stuff, you will need to go deeper - some really nasty spyware needs its own removal tools. If you're using a Mac, of course, you can happily ignore all of the above - although I still use Firefox on mine, because it does everything I need.


Danny Stack said...

Dunno James. I'm hesitant. After having a couple of spectacular PC crashes from supposedly respectable downloads, I'm reluctant to try something out, especially when IE seems to be doing all the things you mention. I'm ready to be wooed, I'm sure it's great, but everything's working and I don't want to jinx my system again. Or am I being too cautious?

James Moran said...

You're right to be cautious, but Firefox is safe and respectable. Windows is extremely fragile though, so always create a system restore point before installing anything. If you've had trouble before, I'd recommend running a Spybot scan, and an Ad-Aware one too - they check for spyware and clear it out (mostly). The main problem with IE is that it's a tart, it'll let anything through without even checking with you, no matter how careful you are - the latest version addresses some of the problems, but it's still gappier than a... very gappy thing. I think I'll update the post with some essential safety and housecleaning utilities, as anyone switching from IE will probably have some rogue spyware hidden on their machines.

Anonymous said...

any of the Mozilla browsers is better than IE (and I mean even IE7 coming out cause I tried a beta of it). I was using SeaMonkey but tried the Firefox 1.5 Beta and never looked back

Danny Stack said...

Ok, you sold me.

Word verification was: spyqxxq.


James Moran said...

Haven't heard of Seamonkey - but if Firefox didn't exist, I'd have to use that, purely for the name.

Danny: Cool, let us know how you get on. One of us! One of us! Gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble!

soulmining said...

Computer says 'thank you'