In this week's security-themed freeware roundup, I called out Mozilla Firefox for not being that secure of a web browser as compared to the virtualization-friendly Google Chrome. And that's still true. Unpleasant web sites can inject and exploit all sorts of nastiness in Firefox--not as badly as, say, the security lapses of Internet Explorer, but Firefox still contains the potential to open a door to your system's innermost workings. If this happens because of some hosted exploit or less-than-friendly extension you've downloaded, you're in for a world of hurt. Google Chrome, on the other hand, requires a separate exploit to somehow break its virtualization in tandem with malware that attacks the browser as a whole. The latter is doable, but the former is much more difficult to accomplish via web-based tricks.
So how, then, do you make for the most secure browsing experience possible if you're a die-hard Firefox user? Three words: web of Trust. This popular Firefox add-on uses the power of a five-million-user community, as well as a host of recommendations by site listings and phishing alerts, to rate the security of theweb sites you want to visit. If you're about to step into a trap, you get a big, fancy alert window telling you that the site you're about to click on might not be the best choice from a security standpoint. In short, this is one of the most preventative techniques you can use to protect yourself against unknown web threats!
How does it work? Simple. Install the add-on. That's all you have to do. From there, you'll see little icons whenever you perform a search on one of the major Web search engines. You can check out exactly what said icons mean here, but for the most part, they're structured like a traffic light: Green is a site that's been validated as "good" by members of the community, yellow represents a site that you should pay a little more attention to security-wise, and red--like Mordor--is a place you simply shouldn't venture.
If you want to take part in the ratings system yourself, that's easy too! Just click on the Web of Trust icon now in your browser window, then rate the current site you're on using the add-on's adjustable sliders. Maintaining comprehensive web security is as easy as that.
Every Tuesday, Maximum PC picks a new Firefox add-on as its favorite of the week. Have a nifty extension that you can't live without? Twitter David Murphy @acererak with your latest suggestions.