These days, we need every single bit of security we can find. And platform doesn't matter. That's right, once upon a time I'd have said, "If you're looking to keep your computing experience 100% safe, you should be using Linux!" However, now that so many depend upon a web browser to get their work done, the idea of a secure platform goes only as far as the browser one uses. As far as default browser security, you'd be hard-pressed to find one better than the latest iterations of Firefox. But that doesn't mean the browser is perfectly free from danger. The old adage "Where there's a will, there's a way" most certainly comes into play.
Two issues every web browser user must consider are phishing and malware. And although you might use a platform that, by design, requires the addition of antivirus and anti-malware, it would behoove you to seek a bit of additional help. If you use a platform that doesn't require the use of antivirus and anti-malware, you should remember that phishing attacks can nab you, regardless of platform, if you're not careful.
That's where the Avast Online Security extension for Firefox can help. With this handy addition, you'll get a real-time indication of sites' trustworthiness, based on crowdsourced web of trust ratings and known blacklists.
I'm going to show you how to use the Avast extension in Firefox. I'll be demonstrating on Elementary OS with Firefox 61.ob14. However, the platform doesn't matter, as the installation and usage is the same, regardless of OS.
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Installing the Avast extension is simple. Just follow these steps:
- Open Firefox.
- Click on the menu button in the upper-right corner.
- Click Add-ons.
- Click Get Add-ons.
- Scroll to the bottom and click See More Add-ons.
- Search for Avast.
- Click on the Avast Online Security entry.
- Click Add To Firefox.
- When prompted, click Add.
- When prompted, click OK.
Once installed, you'll see a new icon in the Firefox main toolbar (Figure A).
As you go to a website, the Avast extension will automatically check the site's web of trust (against known lists and crowdsourced feedback). If all is well, the icon will light up green. You can click on the icon to expand the site's listing (Figure B).
One thing to take into consideration is that the Avast extension doesn't just give the site a metaphorical thumbs up or down. It also checks ad tracking, web analytics, and more. You can (and should) also rate the site as either positive or negative (which helps in the crowdsourcing for a site's web of trust).
If it turns out the site is using ad tracking, you can click on the Block All button (to block all sites) or the Block button (to block individual sites) to prevent this behavior.
Until the Avast extension has had enough crowdsourced reports for a particular site, the toolbar icon will remain gray. If it gets enough positive feedback, it'll be green, whereas enough negative feedback will turn the icon red (indicating that it may not be safe). Don't worry: Avast doesn't depend solely on crowdsourcing for its data. The extension does block known sites and attacks, so if you attempt to go to a known phishing or malware site, a warning will pop up informing you that the site has been marked (Figure C).
The call is yours
This little extension by Avast will go a long way toward protecting your Firefox web browsing experience. However, it's up to you whether you install it and/or use it. I do recommend using this add-on for Firefox. You'll get instant feedback if a site is trustworthy, as well as the ability to block ad trackers and web analytic bots. That alone is worth the free price of admission.
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Have you installed the Avast Online Security extension? Share your advice and experiences with fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.