Minimiz your footprint on the web!

Thursday, February 10, 2011
The web browser is the main tool every one uses to communicate over the web.  Some times we use other applications like IRC, messengers,...but the browser is king.  Over the years I have used many but the one I used the longest and most often is the firefox web browser.  I have been using it for six years and I have no intention to stop using it.  I believe that it is the best.

Lately thought I have experimented with some new browsers though.  There has been much talk about chrome but I have not bothered with it much at all.  I have noticed some cool security features like XSS protection but besides that nothing else really caught my eye.  I have also played a bit with lynx on my linux box.  It looks promising and I am sure when I get more comfortable with it I am going to use it more often.  I can see the benefit of using it.  Some times I just want the text and nothing else.

As an alternative to firefox though I put my bets instead on Opera.  I remember when I heard about a new feature in the opera browser called opera unite.  I went to their site and noticed that Opera 10.10 that had that feature was already available for linux.  Sure enough I downloaded it and installed it.  After a while I managed to set up a folder which could be accessible from the net to download or upload to it.  I thought that was really cool.  Another feature called opera turbo I tested just the other day.  I happened to be using mibbit over a proxy and opera turbo turned on because it detected a slow network I guess.  Well later I stopped using mibbit and I used opera to surf the net with out a proxy but I forgot that opera turbo was still on.  Just by chance I checked my IP and that is when I noticed that I have some different IP.  I kept checking the network settings in opera.  I could not understand what was happening.  It was showing me that I have an IP from a different country.  Then I figured it probably had some thing to do with opera turbo.  Sure enough when I turned it off I was back on my IP.  I went immediately on google to check this out and sure I found a link to some forum where a guy experienced the same thing.

I have used this browser a couple of times but it never actually became some thing that I would use on a daily basis.  I hope now things are going to change and I say that because of the way I surf the net now days.  I have configured my firefox for security and lesser traceability.  Which means I have disabled cookies and javascript and I changed the user agent.  I have not even installed flash player on it so I can not even view videos.  It is pretty much just to view a site.  You can not do any thing on it in terms of logging into websites, posting,...Just to take a look at a site and if I feel there is some thing that I need to do on it then I fire up some other browser like opera or chrome and do the fun stuff on either of those two.

You may think what is the point of that?  It seems like a lot more work.  Well I figure since I really browse all day long I need to take some measure to secure my self.  Browsers can be exploited and since I have put so much effort and time in securing my OS in the past few years I figure why leave a weak spot in my web browsing?

Take a look at how little the site: shows about my firefox web browser.  It can not determine what OS I have or what web browser I am using.  Take a look also at my header and how little information is presented there.  It looks very clean and neat.  It is beautiful.  Any ordinary web browser that has not yet been configured for security and lesser traceability is going to show there all bunch of information and it is going to appear like a big mess.

Just for the sake of comparisement I am going to compare the header of my firefox web browser and my opera web browser that show on the site.  Note that my opera web browser has not been configured and it is exactly the way I installed it.


Firefox header:
Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8
Accept-Language: en-us,en;q=0.5
Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate
Accept-Charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.7
Keep-Alive: 115
Connection: keep-alive

Opera header:
User-Agent: Opera/9.80 (Windows NT 5.1; U; en) Presto/2.7.62 Version/11.00
Accept: text/html, application/xml;q=0.9, application/xhtml+xml, image/png, image/jpeg, image/gif, image/x-xbitmap, */*;q=0.1
Accept-Language: sl-SI,sl;q=0.9,en;q=0.8
Accept-Charset: iso-8859-1, utf-8, utf-16, *;q=0.1
Accept-Encoding: deflate, gzip, x-gzip, identity, *;q=0
Cookie: __utmz=153422714.1297338470.3.3.utmcsr=google|utmccn=(organic)|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=show%20ip; __utma=153422714.588881547.1297333889.1297334004.1297338470.3; __utmc=153422714; __utmb=153422714.1.10.1297338470
Cookie2: $Version=1
Connection: Keep-Alive, TE
Te: deflate, gzip, chunked, identity, trailers


You see the difference!  Just take a look at all the cryptic information from the opera header.  Now that is what you leave on every site you visit.  If any one cares to look at it what do you think looks better.  We spend all this time to make our homes, outfits, cars,...look neat and clean but how we appear at least to the administrators of our favorite sites no one seems to care.

8.7 on the richter scale is a catastrophe but apparently for a web browser it is a good thing.  I used the site to help me determine that.  8.7 bits of information is all that my firefox web browser provides to a site as opposed to opera which has not been configured and it gives out the max number, "of at least 20.44."

Any way if you want your firefox to behave as I have shown above and to provide as little information as possible then you need to do three things.  You need to disable javascript and cookies.  To change the user agent you need to type in the url bar about:config then create a new string and in it type "general.useragent.override" with out the quotes and you are done.