Posted by Dave
5 Star Support Security Specialist
Let me say from the start that I am not a very big believer in browser
helpers or BHO’s (Browser Helper Object). Many of them have been proven
to represent security risks to the user. This is true of most toolbars
and deskbars. Most of them contain code that allows them to dial home
with Internet usage and surfing habit information when you are on line.
The privacy statement from the company that owns the software usually
indicates this is done to “help enhance your browsing experience”. I
don’t know about you, but I don’t feel that I need my browsing
experience “enhanced”. Now that I have said that, there are, however,
two browser helpers that I have found and use that actually help
increase your security and safety while on the Internet. Good programs
of this type are few and far between, but well worth installing when you
find a good one.
I never thought I would actually recommend a browser helper or plug-in
to anyone, but the usefulness and benefits of the two programs we will
discuss here have changed my mind and I actually use both of them. They
are both very small programs that also make very light use of system
resources, and I have not found that either of them slows down Internet
speed at all. Even if they did, the safety enhancements they provide
would be worth it and I would still recommend them. Both programs are
offered free for the home user, so the price is right too.
With all the phishing scams on the Internet, and many spoofed Web sites
as well, it is important to always know what Website you are really
connecting to on the Internet. SpoofStick allows you to do just that.
The program is very small, very fast, and makes use of almost no system
resources. The program works by reading the server of the Web page you
requested with your browser and displaying the resulting domain name of
the site on your browser’s upper toolbar. This way, you know the true
name of the site you are connecting to at all times. The display is user
configurable for both display size and color.
This program is available in versions for both Internet Explorer and
Firefox, and is made available by Core Street. The Internet explorer
version is available here:
You download the small program and then install it. The current version
is v 1.02. You should be logged on with administrator privilege for the
actual installation. If you have XP sp2, you should also go to | Tools |
Internet Options | Advanced | and check the box to “Enable Third-Party
Browser Extensions (requires restart), and then re-boot your computer.
After installation and re-booting your computer, you will most likely
have to right-click on your top toolbar and check the SpoofStick toolbar
for the plug-in to appear. After it appears, you left click the
‘Options” button and then ‘Configure’ from the drop-down menu. This will
allow you to choose the size of the display as well as the color of the
Firefox installation is a bit different. You launch the Firefox browser
and go to:
Scroll down toward the bottom of the page and you will find the download
The current version for Firefox is v 1.06. You should download and
install according to the instructions below. You will need to choose a
directory to download to, and I personally use a created desktop
shortcut to a shared hard drive folder that I name “Downloads” for this
purpose. It beats searching all over the hard drive for it later. To
install, follow the instructions below carefully, or use the
instructions from the Website.
- Download spoofstick-firefox.xpi and
save it in a local directory.
- In Firefox, go to File->Open File
and open the spoofstick-firefox.xpi file from where you saved it.
- When installation is complete,
close all Firefox windows and restart the browser.
- SpoofStick just sits there
contently displaying the domain name of the site you’re currently
- Before entering any information
into a site, glance up at SpoofStick to confirm that you are where
you think you are.
- To configure the size and color of
the display, right click anywhere on SpoofStick or go to
Tools->Options->Extensions, select “spoofstick-firefox.xpi” and
click on the “Options” button.
- SpoofStick is no longer a toolbar,
but a button. To enable SpoofStick, select
View->Toolbars->Customize, and drag SpoofStick onto any toolbar. To
configure or uninstall SpoofStick, select Tools->Extensions.
If you encounter a problem getting
SpoofStick to show up, try right clicking the Firefox toolbar and then
left click on “Customize”. Find the SpoofStick icon from the pop-open
window, then left click and hold on the icon and drag it to your toolbar
to add it. Then you’re all set and ready to customize it to your
Siteadvisor is the second browser helper or plug-in we will discuss. It
is very new, and offered by McAfee. It was put together after a report
from McAfee regarding search engine safety and security. The links
provided by all major search engines can take the user to a Website that
has all kinds of pop-ups, and clicking on certain links and filling in
forms can result in receiving unwanted emails and can even subject your
computer to drive-by downloads and installs. Siteadvisor is designed to
alert you regarding these sites.
If you want the technical details, you can also access the full report
If you are an intermediate or advanced user, I recommend you read both –
it is a real eye opener regarding your on-line risks when using search
To avoid these risks as much as possible, McAfee has made a program
named Siteadvisor available as a free program to the home user. There
are versions for both Internet Explorer and Firefox available.
For Internet Explorer users, the program places a small button in the
upper right hand corner of the browser toolbar that changes color to
alert you if you connect to a suspect site that Siteadvisor has
information on. It also places color-coded warnings next to search
engine site listings when you use any of the popular search engines such
as Google, Yahoo Search, AOL, Ask etc. Left clicking the down arrow of
the Siteadvisor box in your browser opens a drop-down menu and allows
you to configure the options, and can also provide additional
information about the site you are connecting to.
For Firefox users, the program places a small box at the lower
right-hand corner of the browser window. Operation is the same as it is
for IE users with the exception of location of the Siteadvisor button.
Please note that you should be logged on as an account with
administrator privilege to install the program in either browser. For
ease in finding your downloaded program file, I recommend creating a
desktop folder named “Downloads” to save the files to so you can find
them easily after downloading without having to search the hard drive
for the files. You can best do this by actually creating the new
“Downloads” folder as a shared folder on your hard drive, and then
placing a shortcut to it on the desktop. If you do it this way, and use
shortcuts on the desktop for both your regular and administrator
accounts, the files can be downloaded here as a general user, but they
will be easily available from both accounts. It makes the files much
easier to find when you log back on as an administrator in order to
install files or programs.
Download and installation instructions for the Siteadvisor plug-in, as
well as screen shots for Internet Explorer users is located here:
If you are a Firefox user, the download, installation instructions and
screen shots are available here:
In summary, I can honestly say that I use and recommend both of the
browser plug-ins we discussed in this paper. I believe both to be very
useful and valuable tools to have in your computer. Give both of them a
try and I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Until next time her on 5 Star Support, happy computing!