By Jay Garmon
Internet Explorer is rightfully derided as the slowest and least secure browser on the market — but IE is still the most widely used browser in the world. Thankfully, the majority of Internet Explorer victims…er, users can improve IE security with these seven Add-ons.
First things first: If you’re still using Internet Explorer 6, stop. IE6 is so dangerously insecure and outdated that even Facebook won’t support it anymore. Internet Explorer 8 is well established, and the public beta of IE9 began on Sept. 15, so upgrade now.
Second, know that the more Internet Explorer Add-ons you install, the slower and more crash-prone Internet Explorer becomes. Faster PCs can handle a higher Add-on count, but every Add-on puts more strain on IE’s codebase. Still, for those of you conveying sensitive information via your web browser — which is to say, anyone who uses webmail for business or does online banking — these seven security Add-ons will likely be worth whatever minor loss of browsing speed they incur.
We’ve covered a few of these entries previously in our Top 10 IE Add-ons guide but, when it comes to security, everything is worth a second mention.
McAfee SiteAdvisor – The SiteAdvisor Internet Explorer Add-on lets you know whether a site is safe to surf (say that five times fast) by offering a pass/fail grade from McAfee’s security research. Red means turn back, green means keep surfing. Simple, effective, and the first security Add-on you should download.
Web of Trust – As documented in our Internet Safety Guide, the Web of Trust (WOT) Internet Explorer Add-on works much like McAfee’s SiteAdvisor except that websites are rated based on user feedback, rather than McAfee’s automated analysis. Safe sites are labeled green, uncertain sites are amber, and malware-infested sites are labeled red. Web of Trust offers a one-two punch of site assessments that complements SiteAdvisor nicely and ensures you won’t ever tread to unsafe online destinations.
LastPass – The LastPass Internet Explorer Add-on replaces some of the most dangerous native functionality of your browser: the automated password manager. IE stores your saved passwords in a simple, easily hackable file on your PC. LastPass encrypts your password and stores it in an online database where a local security breach can’t find it. Moreover, LastPass replaces your multiple logins and passwords with a single master password; remember that one key login and you can forget the rest. It’s the best way to ensure a hacked browser or PC doesn’t lead to a hacked Gmail, Facebook or online banking account.
Realtime Cookie & Cache Cleaner – This IE Add-on says what it does and does what is says, removing stored cookies and clearing your browser cache as you surf, rather than as a one-time job when you close your browser. You can save selected cookies you want to keep — like those login cookies for your Facebook page — but the rest of privacy-invading files get cleared away.
EasyHide IP – There are several versions of this IE Add-on, many of them paid, but this iteration of EasyHide will let you surf anonymously for free from one IP address. That’s great for PCs that don’t travel, which is to say the one locked to your home or your office, but not so great for travelers. Nonetheless, you can use EasyHide IP to surf through a proxy server and disguise your location, making it harder for marketers to pigeonhole you for spam.
Spywall Anti-Spyware – Spywall is free to try for 15 days, so you have two weeks to test drive an IE Add-on that mimics one the key features of Google Chrome: browser sandboxing. So long as Spywall is running, a compromised Internet Explorer session cannot execute commands to the rest of your PC, keeping hackers from using your browser as a port-of-entry to your local system.
AdBlock Pro – This is the pay version of the classic AdBlock Internet Explorer Add-on, offering more functionality to prevent pop-ups or embedded ads from appearing on any web page. While most ads aren’t necessarily a security threat, many deposit tracking objects or cookies that can compromise your privacy. Moreover, some advertisements are hacked to serve as Trojan horses, dumping malware onto your system as a means to subvert your browser. AdBlock Pro stops the majority of web ads — harmless or otherwise — from even appearing, let alone dropping refuse into your Temporary Internet Files folder.
Are there Internet Explorer Add-ons you think we’ve missed? Shout them out in the comments below.