Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Depending on how secure your computer already is, you may or may not want to switch to Firefox as an internet browser.
Every day it seems I hear of some new exploit or vulnerability in Internet Explorer. Several of my friends have suggested I switch from IE to this other browser they claim is more secure: Firefox. Will I be safer if I switch?
Maybe. It really depends on how secure you are to begin with.
But before you switch it's worth understanding what you are and are not getting and what you'll still need to do.
I actually run Firefox. It's a fine internet browser, and works very well on 99% of the web sites I visit. Like many of the IE alternatives, it actually does a better job of implementing the various HTML standards than IE does. Unlike IE, it's in active development, which means that features are being added, and bugs are being fixed on a regular basis.
Firefox works well.
If you do switch, you'll still need Internet Explorer at times. Not surprisingly, several Microsoft sites, including Windows Update, require Internet Explorer to work. In addition, many sites are "optimized for Internet Explorer" often whether they know it or not, and they take advantage of IE-specific quirks, extensions, and features not supported in other browsers. The result is that some sites just won't look the same in browsers other than IE.
But what about all those exploits?
In my opinion, IE is an "ok" piece of software; it's better than some and worse than others in terms of overall quality and security. Certainly the news would have you believe that it's a total disaster and security nightmare, but I disagree with that strenuously. I believe IE (and in general Microsoft) is a victim of its own success.
All software has bugs. Period. It's a fact. IE has bugs, Firefox has bugs, and some of those bugs are certainly security related.
Pretend you're a hacker. You want to cause some trouble, and gain a little notoriety - do you look for exploits in the product that 85% of people use (that's Internet Explorer, by the way, though market share is falling), or the one that perhaps 10% of people use (Firefox, who's market share is growing)? Obviously you want the bigger bang for your hacking buck, and you'll target the bigger crowd - the crowd using IE. Couple that with a strong anti-Microsoft sentiment in the hacking community, and you can see that the number of times IE gets exploited actually says more about the number of people trying and nothing about the relative quality of IE versus alternatives like Firefox.
Regardless of their relative merits, IE will be hacked more often simply because it's a bigger target. And as I said, I believe the same is true for Microsoft software in general.
Should you switch? Well, as I said earlier, it depends on how secure you already are. If you're doing the right things already:
you're probably just fine with IE. The fact is, you should be doing all those things even if you're running an IE alternative.
However, if you want a little more protection and if you want to make yourself a little less of a target, then by all means, Firefox is a great alternative.
Yes, I have all those things, and I run Firefox. Why? Mostly to become familiar with it enough to write articles such as this. I also happen to like tabbed browsing (also available for IE via some add-on products), and appreciate some of the add-ons that are available for Firefox. However my wife, who is probably a more typical computer user, has been using IE for years without a single incident. Not one.
So absolutely, use Firefox if you like. But you don't have to, and if you do, you shouldn't let it lull you into a false sense of security either.
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