Safer Web Browsing with Adblock Plus and WOT

Often, when I am tasked with cleaning up a malware infected computer, I am asked “how did this happen?”   The quick answer is: the malware most likely made its way onto your computer through the web browser.  I recommend using Firefox with Adblock Plus and WOT (Web of Trust) for ‘safer’ web browsing.  Google Chrome browser also has these extensions available.
First, make sure your version of Firefox is the latest version.  Click FirefoxHelpAbout Firefox.  If you are already running version 4, it will automatically check for updates and may give you an option to Apply Update.  If you are not running Firefox 4, you need to be.  Click the link to download here:
Click Apply Update – Firefox 4.0.1 is the latest at the time of this post.
Many malware installations are initiated using a new zero day security exploit.  Sometimes, simply viewing and NOT clicking on a simple banner ad is enough to initiate the malicious payload.  By targeting ad service sites, malware writers can attack a large base of users with very little work.  That is not to say all ads are bad, but the old adage stands, better safe than sorry.
Now, install Adblock Plus (click on the big green button).  You should see a prompt that “Firefox prevented this site from asking you to install software”.  You need to click Allow here.   The add-on will download and prompt you to “Install Now”.   When it finishes, you will be prompted to Restart Firefox.  Go ahead and click Restart (Firefox will save your open tabs).   You will be prompted with a choice to add a Filter subscription server (free).  Choose “EasyList English” from the drop down menu and click “Add Subscription”.   To note, certain sites may not load properly if it requires you to view an ad before viewing the content.  9 times out of 10, find the content elsewhere on the web.  You can click the ABP button in Firefox status bar and “Disable on this page only”.
Firefox 4’s security prompts pop down from the address bar.
Red ABP button for options in the bottom left corner of Firefox 4
Here is a good YouTube video run down of the install process for ad-free browsing in Firefox, Chrome, and IE:
Manage Firefox Add-ons via Firefox Add-Ons Extensions to Enable – Disable – Remove
WOT (Web of Trust)
WOT works by tapping into the power of community to monitor sites for malicious activity.  It is an added layer of protection when clicking that link.   Recent updates make it the best tool to combat Facebook link spam and like ‘virus’.
Install WOT from their web site here: Again, find the big green button labeled “Download the free add-on”.  This will take you to the Mozilla add-ons page where you can click the green “Add to Firefox” button.  Wait for the install counter to count down from 5 and click Install when available.  After installation you will be prompted to “Restart Now”.  This only closes and reopens your web browser, not Windows.  After restarting Firefox, Accept the Terms of Service for WOT.  Choose your level of service (Basic Recommended) and click next, then just click the Red X to close the register window.  Now you are all set.  Notice the Green “O” to the left of the address bar?  That is the WOT extension watching out for your safety.
Clicking the Web of Trust button will give you access to ratings and settings.
Chrome Extensions
Adblock Plus and WOT are also available as Google Chrome extensions.  Again, as with Firefox, make sure your installation is up to date.  Click the Wrench (“options”) icon and “About Google Chrome”.  Chrome will automatically check for the latest version and update after restarting your browser.  Version 11.0.696.68 is current as of this post.  Again, WOT will ask to register after install which is recommended but not needed.  Handling of extensions in Chrome is again done using the Wrench icon and selecting ToolsExtensions.
The Wrench icon in Chrome to access About (and it’s hidden updater) and Extensions
Internet Explorer
I recommend against using Internet Explorer in most all cases (except when necessary for site compatibility). If you must use IE, make sure you are up to date.  This is becoming a HUGE problem with older versions of Windows, as XP can only upgrade to version 8 (version 9 is the latest).  Also, of course, make sure that you keep your computer up to date with Microsoft security updates.
Download Internet Explorer 9:
Check for Microsoft Updates:  (Windows 7) StartControl PanelSystem and SecurityWindows Update
Windows XP Microsoft Updates: