Because the web will dramatically change how we interact and learn, I thought it important to find out about the Netscape browser since it is one of the dominant application programs for viewing content. This page started on (5/29/98) is a summary of some of the information I have discovered about using the Netscape browser on a Mac.
Now (1/21/2001) that I pretty much know how the Netscape browser works, I figured I would try to secure Micro$ofts Internet Explorer 5.0 as well as I have secured Netscapes Navigator (besides I was sort of curious how my site looked using that other browser).
An even simpler method in place of "save contents to (RAM) disk..." might be to edit the pref file and add the lines:
In this case the disk cache to zero (which forces the use of the memory cache).
The startup screen
After installing Communicator 4.7, I noticed an AOL influence (a Personal Toolbar, AOL InstantMessenger built in and two additional buttons on the regular toolbar: My Netscape and Shop). Personally I think that is way too much bloat and I have some issues with later versions, Smart-Browsing feature in Communicator 4.06 can be used to profile your surfing habbits, so for now I am just discarding my old certificates in Communicator 4.05 and just replacing them with the certificates from Communicator 4.7.
F.Y.I. if you use 4.7 and dont use AOL or InstantMessenger, you can trash AOL Scheduler (a self-launching app), InstantMessanger Menu extension and any other AOL extensions.
Things your mom didnt tell you about browsing
Mozilla/4.04 (Macintosh; U; PPC, Nav)
Mozilla/4.05 [en] (Win95; U)
Mozilla/4.0(compatible;MSIE 4.01;Windows 95)
Mozilla/4.05 [en] (X11; I; Linux 2.0.32 i686)
The art of Spoofing
You may wonder what legitimate reason there may be to Spoof. Well, I think the following correspondence from a friend who found my site this past week, sums it up pretty well.
If you decide to use ResEdit to spoof I suggest you Duplicate your browser program, and modify the program copy. With that warning here are the step by step instructions, for ResEdit to modify your browser:
1. Open a copy of Netscape 4.04 with ResEdit 2.1.3.
Im guessing at these entries but they should be close. If you want to make the spoof complete, you can edit the vers resource in ResEdit, and change the info visible in the Get Info box. You may want to change the version number of the modified browser, creating for example:
version: 4.04.007, License to Kill
This of course is a browser that James Bond agent 007 might use. Keep in mind that when you modify your browser to Spoof you reduce the Macintosh and Netscape web use statistics. Furthermore if you spoof with a unique browser name, you will be instantly noticed in the web use statistics logs.
Cover your tracks
When you surf, your browser may disclose to what ever site you are at currently, the URL of the site you were at previously. If you do not feel comfortable disclosing that information to an independent council or want to piss off those marketers who love to know what type of sites you visit, I suggest that you add the line:
to the Netscape Preferences file. To add or check a line of text you will need a text editor such as BBEdit lite. For consistency insert the line where the other network prefs are set, in order. Basically this line tells Communicator/Navigator to not send the URL in response to the referrer tag.
The truth about Cookies
For example, if you visit a Web site that requires you to key in certain information (name, address, password, credit card number, etc.) the server can recall that information the next time you visit by storing it in a cookie.
Suppose you work in an office where different people have to share a single computer, or where the computers are networked. In such a case it is possible to save confidential information in a MagicCookie, that by the way is the name of the file, where cookie information is stored on a Mac. If confidential information is contained within a MagicCookie, its a simple matter for an evil coworker to view the contents of the cookie with a program such as BBEdit. A more benign scenario, would be for marketers to get personal information from the MagicCookie so your name can be added to their snail mail lists, which they often times sell to other marketers. If you hate junk mail and spam Ive got some useful info for you.
Although HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) rules state that one site cannot deposit a cookie for another, slick internet marketing firms such as DoubleClick came up with a clever way to circumvent this rule. When you load a page from a given site (like AltaVista, Yahoo and even some personal home pages, for example) there are pieces of that page (banner advertisements or counters) that come from other sites. If your browser actually connects to DoubleClick to get the ads on a page, DoubleClick can send you a cookie--even though youre on AltaVista or even some personal home page.
Simple work around, that NSA spooks would appreciate
Its also possible to replace the Global History file (type in the phrase about:global the result may take some time and may shock you). If you have a Global History folder, information about the sites you have been to cannot be determined after quit browsing, since that information is not saved onto your hard disk. This work around is very effective because, sites think they sent you cookies which they can retrieve later on for possible marketing purposes, but in reality when you shut down, all that information is lost. If you use this work around, keep in mind that while you browse, cookie and history information is still stored in RAM.
After installing Communicator version 4.7 (January 2000) I discovered that the browser history is now kept in a file called Netscape History. As before trash the Netscape History file and replace it with a similarly named folder.
Secure the Cache
Did you know that, the pronunciation of Cache rhythms with Trash and thats exactly what should be done with the Cache when you quit surfing. To eliminate all traces of information contained within the Cache you will need a secure erase program such as the Wipe Info program, which is part of the Norton Utilities. On the Mac OS whenever you Empty Trash... the data contained within the Trash folder is not permanently erased; in reality the OS just makes that space available to be written over. Some computer users may be surprised to find out that, there are utilities on the market for many different platforms that allow the user to recover so called erased data.
If you are using M$ products (OS and browser) and want to secure your cache, you have to realize that those products are not well designed. If you snoop around in DOS you will discovered that IEs cache folder contains four hidden folders. So you ask why Windows Explorer doesnt show those hidden folders? Well, to put it simply, C:\Windows\Temporary Internet Files is a weird folder that follows its own rules. For performance reasons, IE spreads the files it caches into four system folders within Temporary Internet Files. (These are not four redundant copies of your cache, but four parts of the whole collection.) So when you look at C:\Windows\Temporary Internet Files in Windows Explorer, you see the contents of all of these system folders. But you wont see the only two files that are actually there: index.dat and desktop.ini.
Are you getting the latest info?
Some proxy servers are used to hold web pages in a cached fashion. The purpose of these proxy servers is to speed up your connection by storing web pages and files so your connection doesnt have to look past the proxy server for the data. However, sometimes it has the reverse effect if the server is not working correctly. There is no way to tell if the web pages you are viewing are stored on a proxy server or if you actually downloaded the page from its real server. The problem is you can never know if you are getting the latest version of a web page or not. Proxy servers can be updated by the minute, hour or day, there is no standard for them. There is a solution however; you can set your browser to not use proxy servers assuring you will always get the latest version of a web page. Note however, some connections have to use proxy servers to get through a network firewall.
Adding a ? to the end of a URL may also speed up your connection by avoiding proxy servers, for example:
Netscape Navigator 3.0.x:
Netscape Communicator/Navigator 4.xx:
Eliminate graphics for faster browsing
The easiest way to speed up your browsing is to nuke downloading images. To make Navigator ignore graphics, select Edit/Preferences from the main menu, then select the Advanced category. Uncheck the Automatically Load Images option. If you later decide that you want to see an image (while Automatically Load Images is turned off), just click the images placeholder icon. To see all the images on a page, just go to Edit/Preferences/Advanced and turn the Automatically Load Images option back on, and reload the page.
If you want to surf with graphics, pick up WebFree. This control panel for the Mac intercepts the flow of data into your Web browser and strips out everything that might annoy or worry you, from bandwidth hogging irritants like ad banners and GIF animation (imagine going to AOL and not seeing any advertisement) to the paranoia-inducing cookie.
Be sure to set your browser so it does not provided your email address as the password when you download files from anonymous FTP connections. In Netscape select Edit/Preferences and click Advanced, delete the check mark next to Send email as anonymous FTP password, then click OK.
Broadband, what you should know
Although cable modems are fast, they are also insecure if not configured properly. That is because every one who uses a cable modem in your neighborhood is networked together. Suppose you use a Mac and your neighbor does too, if you left file sharing turned on, then your computer will show up as an AppleShare server on your neighbors Mac. Likewise, if you have an AppleTalk printer that is connected to the same Ethernet hub as your cable modem, your printer will appear on your neighbors Chooser. Fortunately neighbors with a PC using Windows and a cable modem, will not see your Mac or AppleTalk printer unless they have installed software to use the AppleTalk protocol.
If you have a Mac and a cable modem, turn off file sharing in the FILE SHARING control panel and turn off your AppleTalk printer when it is not being used, to secure your machine.
If you have a home Ethernet network, and need file sharing turned on, double-click the GUEST icon in the USERS & GROUPS control panel, and disable the guest connection. With the guest connection disabled, your neighbor will need to know a valid user name and password to access your Mac Ethernet network. You can specify user names and passwords, in the Mac USER & GROUPS control panel.
One item you may want to add if you have a high speed connection, is a router (think of it as a traffic cop that not only allows several computers to share one line, it can also enhance network security). If you have only one computer connected to the internet, you can use the routers Network Address Translation (NAT) to give your computer an IP address, users on the internet cannot detect.
If your Macintosh has a broadband connection Speed Download is an extremely fast and powerful download manager packed with a clean Macintosh interface and tons of essential features, such as segmented downloading, resumeable downloads, scheduling, scripting, and much more.
On a public network OS 9.x and Netscape can be very secure (if ya know what to watch out for).
Reviews and 15 seconds of fame
This past April (1999) I was notified that this page is listed on a new computer security search engine. This page in fact is the only page so far listed under the topic of web browsers.
It was just after I was notified about the computer security search engine, that I started to log traffic for an experiment seeking to answer the question, What people search for on the web. After checking the logs I discovered that ResExcellence has a link back to this page which states, A site that delves into the tiny recesses of Netscape Communicator to discusses Global Histories, Cookies, and Cache. Ironic that I found that link exactly one year after I started this page, my first attempt at a web page as a matter of fact.
A last word and some links
On this page you may have noticed in some sections, that I mentioned that Java Script needed to be enabled for some cleaver Java Script programs. In general Java Script and Java are harmless tools, but I should warn you that these two tools in the improper hands, can be used to compromise your computer security. Therefore if you are not sure about a site, play it safe and disable both Java and Java Script.
B.T.W. if all you use a computer for is browsing/checking email, word processing, and balancing your check book with something like Quicken, simplify your life boycott Micro$oft and buy an iMac.
The following sites I consider worth while reference material.
Frequently Asked Questions about Communicator 4.x