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Monday, July 25, 2011

Faster surfing, Upgrade your Web browser

If there’s one piece of software on your computer that gets run ragged on an everyday basis, it’s your Web browser. With so many great sites on the internet for catching up on news, checking out videos, enjoying a mindless laugh, socializing with friends, or doing just about anything else you can imagine, our browsers have become a huge part what we do on computers.

So what’s changed? A big reason why we’re doing more on the Web is that our browsers have gotten a whole lot better in recent years. Early competition from Firefox, Opera, and Safari pushed Microsoft to deliver Internet Explorer 7 and 8, which were huge improvements over version 6. With the arrival of Chrome, Google challenged everyone to put the pedal to the metal – and it worked. Today’s browsers like IE9, Firefox 5, and Chrome 12 tear through web pages at a blistering pace, offering speed up to three or four times faster than browsers from just two years ago!

Faster, more powerful browsers have led to more complex, more feature-packed websites. It’s to the point now where our web browser is a bit like an operating system running web sites as “programs.” And like your operating system — whether it’s Windows, OS X, or Linux — there are important reasons to keep your browser as up to date as possible other than speeding it up.

It’s also about security. Nearly every major update for the big-name browsers in the past few years has introduced a new security feature. With Internet Explorer 9, for example, there was the new App Rep system that helps block social engineering malware with almost a 100% success rate. That feature also taps into another one that debuted in Internet Explorer 7: URL Reputation, which helps users avoid arriving at a malware-stricken site after clicking through a malicious link.

Google Chrome introduced sandboxing, which isolates web code in a secure “container” so that it can’t easily harm your computer – and later it began securing Adobe Flash content the same way. And just about all major browsers offer built-in protection against phishing attacks like the kind that plague Facebook from time to time. All these security measures have become increasingly important as cybercriminals move away from traditional viruses to smarter, more deceptive, Web-based attacks. Using scare tactics and infecting advertisements on the sites we browse, the bad guys try to push things like fake antivirus and system repair software onto our systems. A shiny, new browser can help protect you against their snares; old browsers probably won’t. In the past two years, these types of attacks have become incredibly common — and they’re costing Canadians money, too.

If you’re using an older browser, you’re simply not enjoying the same level of protection online that you would if you were to update. The more time you spend on the Internet, the more you’re exposing yourself to risks if you use an out-of-date browser, and there’s really no reason to avoid making the switch. Dealing with a look that you don’t like (a common complaint about IE9) is a small price to pay for the increased speed and security you’ll enjoy.

Worried that you might lose your bookmarks, saved passwords, or other browser data if you upgrade? Check out FavBackup, a free utility that will save data from Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and even Flock.
Once you’ve done that, go ahead and download a newer, better browser!


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