Why I switched to Mozilla Firefox from Internet Explorer, and you should, too!

Get Firefox!It started innocently enough.

I decided I wanted to make a font of my handwriting -- it'd be fun, and when you've got 6000+ fonts, yet none that is uniquely "you", it just has to be done. So I did a Google search for "free font editor" in Internet Explorer, the browser I'd been happily (one might say, blissfully ignorantly) using for many years. I started merrily clicking on the results. I wasn't having much luck -- font editors are, as a rule, not freeware or even shareware. I got through the first page of results with nothing. Then, I clicked on the first link on the second page.

Everything *looked* all right... until I noticed that all the images were done loading, and IE was still receiving data from the host. And not just the site I was on... it was getting data from dozens of different sites. "Crap!" I yelled (well, okay, the word I used was a little stronger), and started hitting the "stop" button. It kept downloading. I hit "back" and the downloading stopped... and then the "fun" began.

That one site had installed literally dozens of malware programs on my machine. And IE, helpful little browser that it was, happily allowed it to. It didn't ask me if I wanted to download; it just downloaded. It didn't ask me if I wanted to install unknown programs; it just installed them.

This was with Microsoft's Security Pack 2, a firewall, and fairly high security within IE. I thought I was safe using IE in those circumstances. That was most emphatically not the case.

Immediately, I started seeing adware popups. Every time I did the three-finger salute (ctrl-alt-del), I'd close the popup program, only to have it reinitiate itself as soon as I closed the task manager. It wasn't just one adware program; it was several. I went to "Add/Remove Programs" to uninstall them. Hitting "remove", though, brought up a custom uninstall routine... the program wanted me to submit personal information before uninstalling! David said, "Uh, you really should disconnect from the web RIGHT NOW." Of course he was right. Uninstalling did nothing, though; it might have uninstalled the one program, but then it installed others at the same time.

Great. Time to bring out the big guns. I started up Spybot. It found a few things, and tried to quarantine them. No luck -- even with the updates, it wasn't up to the task, though usually it's great. Adaware gave similar results -- found and took care of a few things, but not the main problems. Another Google search on the names of the programs that had been installed brought up dedicated removal tools -- open source critters that individual programmers had created to get rid of these buggers. Those took care of some of the malware... or so I thought.

I was feeling pretty good about having gotten rid of the stupid things, until I started up my computer the next day, only to find a host of new problems. Increasingly frustrated, I was now instructed to do a registry edit... totally nerve-wracking. It took three tries to find and destroy all the malware that had enmeshed itself in my system, while I cursed and David, though helpful, kept saying, "If you hadn't been using IE, this never would have happened."

He was right, of course. I had tried an early, Beta version of Firefox a few months before, and didn't like it -- I was so used to IE that any deviation from the way I had been browsing just felt wrong. However, this incident and its two-day fallout convinced me that anything, ANYTHING was better than a browser that would blithely allow pig-fucking jackasses to install malware on my machine.

Luckily, I was, and continue to be, pleasantly surprised by Firefox. It is a terrific browser. It is about a zillion times more secure than IE. And because it's open-source, if a security hole (or, in IE's case, a security tunnel large enough for several dozen elephants to parade through) is found, there will be reliable patches within hours, instead of the ultra-lame "Oh, yeah, I guess there's a security flaw... we'll fix it in a few months" attuitude that Microsoft seems to have. Also because it's open-source, there are tons of very useful extensions and additions to Firefox, which serve to make browsing much more pleasant. I love the "tabbed browsing" feature, as it keeps my taskbar nice and clean. Firefox blocks popups in a far more intelligent manner than does IE. It is a smaller install. It has a very intuitive interface. My only complaint is that images take a little longer to load in Firefox than IE... but that is so minor in the scheme of things that I am more than willing to put up with a few micro-seconds' worth of time in exchange for the security that IE so obviously lacks.

So. Take my story as a cautionary tail. Malware installs happen in *seconds* and can do untold damage to your computer. I was lucky -- the installs on my machine were mostly adware, as far as I know. But it could have been a lot worse. I should have switched to Firefox ages ago. Now that I'm using it, I'll never go back. It's quick, it's simple, and it's free.

Get Firefox!

Get Thunderbird!While you're at it, get Thunderbird for your email. You can set it up to act just like Outlook Express, which is a comfort to me. It's more secure, blocks images from senders you don't know (no more porn spam loading automatically!), and has a smart junk mail filter that learns what is spam and what isn't.

DON'T WAIT! Download these programs TODAY! You may think I'm being alarmist, but if a malware install happens to you while you're using IE (and 70% of my web visitors are using IE), you'll understand. Do it now, while you're thinking about it. Seriously. You won't regret it.

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All content, barring that which is otherwise attributed, is ©2007 to Jan Andrea. If you wish to use my content on another page, please email before doing so, even for content with the Creative Commons licenses. Text/images used elsewhere must be attributed to me. Be advised that I will pursue copyright violations.