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Chapter 9. Viruses, Trojan Horses, Hoaxe... > Active Content on the Web

Active Content on the Web

Active content on the Web simply means using scripting and programming languages to provide dynamic and interactive Web pages. (That sounds like a marketing brochure.) I guess the easiest way to describe this is to say that most content on the Web is static, but it can be specifically built to perform tasks, collect data, or display dynamically. Some of this can be done by using animated graphics or HTML tags (the language for programming Web pages). Sometimes a more advanced programming language is used to “instruct” the computer or browser what to do. Most Web programmers are designing active content to provide their users with a better experience on the Web—easier and more enjoyable—but hackers can use the scripting for other reasons. By taking advantage of poorly coded ActiveX controls or using scripting to access files on your local system, hackers can do many things from a Web page. The catch is that if you protect yourself by turning off Active Scripting in your browser, you’ll lose out on some of the features programmed into pages to make them easier to use. So what can you do?

Microsoft Internet Explorer includes a feature called security zones that lets you determine the level of access programs can have, based on their “zone.” You can set the zone levels or leave them at their defaults. (I talked about the details in Chapter 7). Using these settings can increase your security. Additionally, don’t browse the Web while you’re logged on as Administrator. If a Web page tries to do something on your system, it does so with the same permissions you have (because your user ID opened the browser) and, therefore, with the same access to files, directories, and user rights. Always use the account with the lowest privileges when you browse the Web.


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