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Safe browser an oxymoron?

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In November 2003, the CERT Coordination Center first advised Web users to consider using a Web browser other than Microsoft Internet Explorer.

IE's problems at the time were pervasive, and many of them were rooted in its complicated architecture. Vulnerabilities in IE were being reported almost monthly, and users faced risk until Microsoft released updates.

By June 2004, attackers started targeting IE. Exploits appeared "in the wild" on Web sites that installed malicious software on visitors' computers. This trend culminated in a "zero day" IE vulnerability, disclosed in an attack where malicious software captured information typed into bank Web sites, giving attackers access victims' accounts.

Since then, two developments have occurred. First, Microsoft released security enhancements in its Windows XP Service Pack 2. Second, attackers have begun to exploit vulnerabilities similar to IE's in alternative browsers.

There is no silver bullet, no such thing as 100 percent secure. Security requires a balance between functionality and cost, and relies on concepts of trust and risk tolerance. With this in mind, here are some recommendations for safe Web browsing.

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