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Should you turn off Javascript to protect your computer?

javascriptMost internet browsers have something called “Javascript” turned on by default. It’s a powerful programming language that lets websites do interactive and interesting things on your computer, and generally makes the internet much better. For example, Gmail uses Javascript to let you control your inbox using keyboard shortcuts.

However, because Javascript has the power to do so much, it is also the perfect tool for criminals to use to infect you with malware. Therefore the question is: should we turn off those additional features to increase our security?

Why do we use Javascript?

Javascript is one of the three major components of web sites, alongside HTML (the content you see on a website) and CSS (how that content is styled). After the creation of HTML and CSS, developers decided that websites should be more interactive, so they created Javascript to bring a lot more power to the web.

Javascript is everywhere on the internet. It’s used to store your information so that when you log into a website, your details are saved the next time you visit. It’s used in high-power online programs, like Google’s online alternative to Microsoft Word, and it’s used in many subtle ways, in places you wouldn’t even imagine.

What’s the problem?

The problem with Javascript is that it is too powerful. Criminals often use it to infect healthy websites with their malware (some researchers suggest that this is how 80% of malware infections happen!)

By adding just one line of the code to a healthy website, criminals can turn it from a typical, safe site to a hotbed of malware, automatically downloading computer viruses as soon as people visit the website.

Should I turn Javascript off?

Because Javascript is so widely used on the internet – and rightly so, given the features it provides – it’s difficult to recommend anyone to turn it off.

However, I suggest you try turning off the feature for a few days, and see if you can live without the benefits of Javascript for your day-to-day browsing. If you don’t notice any difference, why not leave it turned off?

Most website that need Javascript to function detect whether you have it turned on or not, so you’ll know exactly what you’re missing out on.

How do I turn Javascript off/on?

Ironically, you can visit http://enable-javascript.com/ to learn how to disable Javascript. Just follow the instructions, but turn it off instead of turning it on!

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