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Windows 7: Safe browsing

18 May 2013   #1

Microsoft Windows 8.1 64-bit Professional
 
 
Safe browsing without being tracked

First off, I know that browser safety and tracker free browsing are not specifically Windows 7 related, but since unsafe browsing might result in getting a virus, a key-logger or more realistic, a ton of tracking cookies you don't want, it's quite relevant. It's very important to be safe on the internet and to know what companies and websites are doing with your data, and so I thought you guys might be interested in this tutorial.

That said, today I will instruct you on how to keep your browsing safe from the ever watchful eye of the Big Brother.

For those who immediately think "ugh, tinfoil hats and conspiracy theories", you are wrong. Your internet activity is being tracked and it has nothing to do with paranoia. Nearly everything you do online (even in safe browsing and private browsing) is being recorded and archived.

The next question you might ask is "why should I bother?" or maybe you think "I've got nothing to hide". This couldn't be further from the truth. Your personal information can easily be used against you; in fact, it's one of the most effective tools for influencing people. Your browser records might put you into the "risk group" of users, your message logs might be found extremistic (and they can be categorized as evidence in court), your Facebook friends can be used for finding you in case you commit a crime etc. Basically, sacrificing your privacy puts you at someone else's mercy.

Step one
Now let's get to it, starting with your browser. Firefox is (in my opinion) currently the safest one; not only it has capabilities for installing safeguarding addons, all of it's user-independent automatic activity can be regulated or disabled.
Internet Explorer and Opera are useless - too many vulnerabilities and zero to none modification capability. Those of you who use Chrome, prepare for a shock: your browser is basically a direct activity feed to the Google database. And using Chromium or RSware Iron isn't any better - despite the claims that Google trackers were removed from them, they are no different, being nothing but a ploy to lure more paranoid users into thinking they are safe.
For this tutorial, uninstall your current browser (for tutorials on how to uninstall IE, read this one
Internet Explorer 9 - Uninstall, or this one Internet Explorer 10 - Install or Uninstall in Windows 7) and install Firefox.

Step two
Your browsing habits are the next thing that needs to be changed. Google and everything associated with it is your main enemy. It tracks everything, starting with your searches and e-mails and ending with stuff you type into Google Translate. Same goes for Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and every social network there is - all your activity is being recorded.
First of all, get rid of Google. Use startpage.com, ixquick.com and duckduckgo.com for your web searching needs. Startpage gives you exactly the same search results as Google, minus the tracking, the other two are useful for finding things Google doesn't like.
Next, get rid of Gmail, as it reads all your mails. Use hushmail.com instead.
The next step is to delete all your social media accounts. Many people aren't going to do this (neither did I), but if you are willing to sacrifice social media for online privacy and security, I recommend you to at least read this step: first, delete your Facebook account. Do not simply close it, this just gives you stimulus to open it again, discard it entirely. Same goes for your Youtube, Twitter etc. Basically, all of your traces shoud be gone from Google-associated websites. Do not get worried about losing contact with your friends - Skype (and even Miranda) are still safe to use.

Step three
And now we arrive at our main point: customizing your browser.
First of all, tell your Flash Player to stop storing anything on your computer (don't worry, this won't affect any video playback or flash games).
Go to Control Panel > Flash Player > tick the box saying "Block all sites from storing information on this computer" > click "delete all" > click both options and click "delete data".
Next, go to

Adobe - Flash Player : Settings Manager - Global Privacy Settings Panel and select "always deny".


Your browser settings come next. Don't store your passwords (when FF asks you if it should remember a password or username, click "do not remember"), don't use bookmarks and delete your browsing and search history and cookies every time you close your browser (I find CCleaner useful for this, use this tutorial
Cookies - Delete. To use CCleaner to delete your history and searches, simply tick the boxes "history" and "recently typed URL's" in step one).

Having the right addons installed is the next thing you need to see to. Here's a basic list of addons which you need:
  1. [removed by admin]
  2. Ghostery. Many websites plant 1x1 .gif trackers in your browser by embedding them into their background and allowing them to see which site you go to next. Ghostery disables those and keeps a constantly updating list of websites that carry them.
    Install the addon, restart your browser and tick "select all" in the website list that pops up and you're done.
  3. BetterPrivacy. Some cookies, so-called LSO's, refuse to be deleted via normal means. By wonderful coincidence most of them are stored in your browser by Google-related websites. This addon allows you to delete them from being stored on your PC.
    Simply install the addon and restart your browser. You don't need to do anything else. When you exit your browser BetterPrivacy will scan your system for stored LSO's and prompt you if you want to delete them.
  4. AnonymoX. This nifty addon simulates proxy connections, preventing tracking by IP. It is shareware though; you'll have to pay to get the full version.
    If you don't want to pay, use IPf*ck (replace the asterisk with the correct letter, I'm not using harsh language in my tutorial). It does the same thing as AnonymoX, but it's less reliable and can be seen through by some sites.
  5. NoScript or FlashBlock. These addons block scripts.
    For FlaskBlock: simply install the addon, restart your browser and you're done. From now on, all Flash links (Video's, Disqus widgets etc.) are replaced by an icon. If you click the icon, you allow Flash to load.
    For NoScript: this addon is going to require some fine tuning and fiddling with whitelists before you are able to use it comfortably (there's a tutorial in the addon's screen for this).
    Tip: most of the blocked scrips aren't essential, they are downright malicious, so don't allow them to load unless you know what they are for.

Note   Note
Installing a lot of addons will cause your browser to be slower. In my tutorial I put web anonymity and trackerless browsing above speed. If you don't, simply install less addons for a faster browser.


Step four
Note   Note
If you do not know what you are doing I recommend you not to do this step, for you might do something wrong and ruin your browser.

Now let's preform some surgery on your browser. Type "about:config" (minus the quotations) in a browser window. This will take you to your browser's mainframe. You'll be prompted by Firefox that messing with this might void your warranty, simply click "I'll be careful, I promise!" and continue.
Settings here are mostly changed by selecting "true / false" or "0 / 1" (1 meaning enabled, 0 meaning disabled). Use the tiny address field on top as automatic search to find what you need faster.

Do the following:
  1. Set "disable dom.storage.enabled" and "dom.indexedDB.enabled" to False.
    This disables all Forefox storage settings.
  2. Set "browser.safebrowsing.enabled" and "browser.safebrowsing.malware.enabled" to False.
    This disables all Google blacklists.
  3. Set "network.prefetch-next" to False.
    This disables prefetching.
  4. Set "browser.send_pings" to False and "browser.send_pings.require_same_host" to True.
    This disables pinging.
  5. Set "network.Http.sendRefererHeader" to False.
    This disables referers.
  6. Set "browser.search.suggest.enabled" to False.
    This disables search suggestions.
  7. Set "keyword.enabled" to False.
    This disables keywords.
  8. Set "network.proxy.socks_remote_dns" to True.
    This disables DNS proxy bypass.
  9. Set "geo.enabled" to False.
    This disables geotracking / geolocation (for example, those add's for "hot girls in your region". From now on, they won't have a clue what your region is).
  10. Optional: disable crash reports. Go to "application.ini" in your browser folder > open it > find the line "[Crash Reporter]Enabled=1" and change 1 to 0.


Congratulations, you now have safeguarded your browser against tracker efforts!

My System SpecsSystem Spec
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18 May 2013   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Ult. x64 Windows 8.1 x64
 
 

I think you are confusing tracking with unsafe browsing - being tracked isn't necessarily unsafe. Firefox being safer than any other browser is also an opinion, not fact. I use Chrome and other Google products and have never been swamped with advertisements - besides, its the price you pay for free products.

I think you need to explain that using some add-on's interfere with the functionality of some websites - for example, using some of the Ghostery options prevents the tutorial search function here at SevenForums.

I think your tutorial is more of a 'prevent tracking' than 'safe browsing' tutorial.

Regards,
Golden
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 May 2013   #3

 

Not tutorial section quality I'm afraid, mostly based on your opinion and not fact.

Moved from tutorial section to browser section.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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18 May 2013   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Win 7 Pro 64-bit
 
 

Hello Stefan -

Nice tutorial about customizing Firefox. But just so there's no misunderstandings, Firefox may not be the "safest" browser depending on how browsers are tested and who is doing the testing. According to NSS Labs, IE10 is the safest when it comes to "socially engineered malware".

https://www.nsslabs.com/reports/2012...neered-malware

I think trying to select the "safest" browser is very much like trying to select the "best" anti-virus. There is no best or safest. If there was such a thing we'd all be using it. Each user is ultimately responsible for knowing how to customize their browser of choice, what websites not to go to, what links not to click on, what emails not to open, etc.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 May 2013   #5

Microsoft Windows 8.1 64-bit Professional
 
 

I added some information and elaborated my purpose a bit more Golden.

Too bad Z3r010, but I understand. Next tut will be of higher quality and containing more facts than opinion (although a lot of this used-to-be-tut is based on facts).

Nommy
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 May 2013   #6

Microsoft Windows 8.1 64-bit Professional
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by marsmimar View Post
Hello Stefan -

Nice tutorial about customizing Firefox. But just so there's no misunderstandings, Firefox may not be the "safest" browser depending on how browsers are tested and who is doing the testing. According to NSS Labs, IE10 is the safest when it comes to "socially engineered malware".


https://www.nsslabs.com/reports/2012...neered-malware

I think trying to select the "safest" browser is very much like trying to select the "best" anti-virus. There is no best or safest. If there was such a thing we'd all be using it. Each user is ultimately responsible for knowing how to customize their browser of choice, what websites not to go to, what links not to click on, what emails not to open, etc.


I agree Marsmimar, but since IE, Opera and like don't allow very much customization, and because Google does sell their user data to third parties
(Don Norman: Google doesn’t get people, it sells them — Tech News and Analysis), Chrome isn't the best choice either in my opinion.
But yes, there is no best or safest, it's all choice.

I more or less made this tut out of personal experience with IE, Opera, Chrome, Chromium and FF and what I saw or heard on the news and various fora, but the choice of which browser is the best is indeed something that has been and will be discussed a lot, without apparent winner.

Also, Golden, I have been using Ghostery for about three months now, and everything works perfectly so far. The search widget in the tut section might not be wirking for you because you chose to block widgets. I didn't and it works good.

Nommy
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 May 2013   #7

Windows 7 Home Premium x32 SP1
 
 

You can agree with that or not but it's a fact - Firefox is less secure that IE 9/10 or Chrome. Why? Because it doesn't have bulit-in policy sandbox which is very important security feature these days.

I'd also recommend to enable so called "click-to-play" against all based-on flash sites.
Additionally do the same with Java extension... or better don't install Java if you don't have to.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 May 2013   #8

Microsoft Windows 8.1 64-bit Professional
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Creer View Post
I'd also recommend to enable so called "click-to-play" against all based-on flash sites. Additionally do the same with Java extension... or better don't install Java if you don't have to.
FlashBlock does that. It puts a button over the video, site etc. that you have to accept before Flash loads.

Nommy
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 May 2013   #9
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

Real safe browsing in Windows will be difficult. There is too much malware floating around and a high level of protection is not guaranteed - regardless which AV programs you use.

For that reason I suggest to do your browsing with Linux where you are a lot less exposed. Here is a tutorial that proposes two possible solutions:

Safe Internet Browsing
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