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Cope with Internet scripting annoyances

How to use Internet zones to make your life easier.

One of the most annoying things Web surfers encounter are Web sites that open new windows by themselves, or maximize the existing window to display ads or otherwise monopolize your attention. The method usually used to accomplish this is Javascript or ActiveX, with the former being much more common in my experience. Javascript and ActiveX, if left unchecked can do some pretty nasty things to your computer, particularly since there are so many exploits around. So you want to protect yourself from these potential security hazards. However, there are so many good sites now that use Javascript for something useful, that turning it off disables half of why you use the Internet in the first place.

Perhaps the best way to deal with this solution is the zone feature built into Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which hardly anyone ever uses. Zones are simple to understand: the "Internet" is all sites that aren't in one of the other three zones. "Local intranet" is for stuff inside your firewall or company. "Trusted sites" and Restricted sites" are buckets for you to configure.

This is easy to do because, if you're like most surfers, you've got around ten or twenty sites that you read every day and they're usually book-marked, then you follow links from these sites to hundreds of other sites. If this sounds like you, then click Tools -> Options and then the "Security" tab in Internet Explorer. Next, click "Trusted sites" and then the "Sites" button. Add the URLs from your bookmark page to this zone.

This allows you to set different security attributes for each of the four zones. For trusted sites, you can leave it default, or modify it if some of the sites require something special. Do this by pressing the "Custom Level..." button at the bottom of the Options dialog box.

Now, you can adjust the Internet zone's settings to disable or prompt you before any Javascript is executed, by clicking the "Internet" icon and then pressing the "Custom Level..." button. These settings won't bother your regular sites, since they're not in this zone anymore, but it will keep some new site from opening five new windows and maximizing them, or hiding your menu and tool bars, etc.

Thomas Alexander Lancaster IV is a consultant and author with over ten years experience in the networking industry, focused on Internet infrastructure.

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