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Disable 'majority' of browser features

Left unprotected, Web browsers can be the gateway to malicious attacks. US-CERT offers some basic tips on how to safeguard this potential loophole.
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Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor on

Disabling the majority of features in a Web browser may be your safest bet to keep malicious hackers at bay, says a U.S.-based IT security watchdog.

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) said in a report released Thursday: "Many Web applications try to enhance your browsing experience by enabling different types of functionality, but this might be unnecessary and may leave you susceptible to being attacked. The IT security group is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"The safest policy is to disable the majority of those features unless you decide they are necessary," the research team said.

While the exact browser settings differ from one browser to another, most platforms have settings and functions that are enabled by default.

US-CERT recommends that users set the highest security level possible, only enabling features when they are required, and to disable them again after the user is done with the Web site that required the functions.

What to disable in your Web browser:

  • JavaScript: Some sites rely on Web scripts such as JavaScript, to achieve a certain appearance or functionality, but these may potentially be used in an attack.
  • Java and ActiveX controls: These programs are used to develop or executive active content, but may also put you at risk.
  • Plug-ins: Additional software that extends the functionality of your browser. Before installing them, make sure they are necessary and originate from a trustworthy site.
  • Cookies: Web sites store these on your PC to remember data about you, so companies can use the information to identify you on subsequent visits to their sites. It is best to disable the cookies and enable them only if you visit a site that requires them.
  • Pop-up windows: Blocking pop-up windows will minimize the number of pop-up advertisements you receive, some of which may be infected with malicious spyware.

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