How to have a safe surfing experience

I seem to run into a lot of people who are still using Internet Explorer. They install all kinds of antivirus and anti-spyware tools, download google task bar (or worse, something else) for pop-up blocking and then still pray to the gods that they won’t get hurt. Seems like I’m always giving suggestions for how to avoid the pain. So, here’s my method for protecting myself with little user side pain.

1.) Download and install Firefox from The installation is pretty straight forward. Go ahead and import bookmarks from Internet Explorer if you really need to. Don’t go to any websites yet! Go ahead and open Firefox though.
2.) Configure Firefox with the following settings by going to “Tools”,”Options” from the menu bar inside Firefox.
a.) The default web page for Firefox is a google search page. Leave it on this or change it to something like the customized google page if you want. Don’t point it at or some other kind of crap. Yahoo’s ok I suppose.
b.) Make sure Firefox is the default browser.
c.) From the Privacy tab – select “saved forms” and un-check the “save information…” box.
d.) From the Privacy tab – select “passwords” and un-check “Remember passwords”. Don’t worry, forum passwords will still be remembered.
e.) From the Privacy tab – select “Cookies”. The only box that should be checked is “Allow sites to set cookies”. Also, set “Keep cookies” to “Ask me every time”.
f.) From the Content tab – all should be checked except “for the originating website only”. Some will argue with me about java and javascript but there’s a lot of content out there that uses those so I like to leave them checked.
3.) Download Adblock from It should install into Firefox and tell you it will be active after you reload. Go ahead and reload Firefox.
a.) Go to and find the most current file name yyyy-mm-dd.txt. The file might have an “a” after the date in the filename.
b.) Right-click on this file and select “Save link as”. Note the location you save it to.
c.) Select “Tools”, “Adblock”, “Preferences” from the Firefox menu bar.
d.) Select “Adblock options”, “Import Filters”. Find and select the filtersetg text file that you just saved in step b. Click OK if you are asked to overwrite the existing file.
e.) Click “done” to close the Adblock window.
4.) Open up Internet Explorer. Go to “Tools”, “Internet Options” on the menu bar. Set the Home page to “Use Blank”.

Ok, so now you have a nicely configured browser. But that’s not the last step. The last step is you. That’s right, here’s the part where you have to change some of your habits. It’s not too hard and once you start doing it it’ll become much easier.

First of all, you will be prompted for every cookie that is sent to you now. Cookies allow websites to track who you are. This is important for some websites like forums and online shopping. Basically, any time you want to log into a site it will probably prompt you for a cookie. When you are prompted you’ll have the option to “Use this choice for all cookies from this site”. Check that box. Before you hit ok, think about whether or not you want that cookie., ok. Forum’s you frequent, ok., NOT OK. This is where you need to be a little vigilant. Does the really need to leave a cookie on your computer? Maybe, if you want to get into the additional content section.

Lastly, you might notice that many websites will look a little more streamlined now. A prime example of this is If you go to in Internet Explorer it’s littered with all kinds of ads and probably a pop-up or two. Go to it in your new Firefox install and it’s just the news.

One other comment about other bad programs. Don’t run Kazaa or Limewire or one of the other P2P programs. Most of them are loaded with all kinds of spyware. There are safer ways to snarf programs but I won’t go into that here. Don’t run weatherbugs, or toolbars and any other little program that will “make your experience 1000% better!”. They don’t…really. If you really need to know the weather go to or All of these little programs tie up resources and many of them have embedded spyware.

I’ve used this method for a while now. I don’t run antivirus at home on a regular basis. I might run it every 6 months just to make sure something hasn’t snuck in. I also run adaware or something similar about once a year. Never had a virus and the only things that come up in adaware are a few cookies that I’m ok with being on there.

The spyware removal industry is mostly crap, in my opinion. A little change of your surfing habits and you won’t be overun with the bad stuff.

If you suspect you’ve got an infection, go to Unfortunately it must be run in Internet Explorer, but it’s pretty good for running a quick check for virus’ and spyware. And it’s free.

Please let me know if you think I’m nutty, or if I’ve left something out.

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