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Using Workstation to Browse the Web More Safely

Did you know you can use VMware Workstation or Fusion to safely browse the web? Check out our video and learn more below!

A quick History Lesson

During the Internet’s infancy, ‘Surfing’ the World Wide Web was an exhilarating experience. (complete with a soundtrack!)  It wasn’t called ‘Web Surfing’ without good reason, although we don’t really refer to it that way anymore.

The Internet was great, but in addition to being a place to share ideas it needed to be a place for consumer commercial activity in order to gain the resources (i.e. corporate sponsorship and investment) needed to grow.

Online retail had overtaken buying things from brick-and-morter stores as far back as 2013, and the statistics only show Internet usage growing.

With bring the most connected generation in the history of the world, we are also now gathering more information than ever.

Things start to go Wrong

We now live in a world where a simple transparent 1×1 pixel .gif can be used to follow and track our online behaviour an endless number of sites across all of your devices. Social media hooks are built into every page for shareability, allowing groups like Facebook, Twitter and Google to learn more about what you click than ever before.

On the darker side of that equation, you have lots of potential for misuse and abuse of this new distributed digital landscape. Ad networks can unknowingly distribute malware, pages can ‘click-bait’ you into accidentally opening a barrage of popups or worse, and mobile devices have not had the same maturity as desktop devices so their ability to block unknown threats is minimal at best.

A Potential Solution

So, what does this have to do with VMware or VMware Workstation?

Workstation can be used to isolate all of this behaviour away from the computer that you are using, keeping you safe and protected.

Because of the isolation provided by the VMware hypervisor technology, using a virtual machine in Workstation effectively creates a sandbox for a second (or third, or fourth…) Operating System on the same computer you’re running.

It runs it the new OS in an isolated way with respect to Memory, CPU, and physical hardware devices. To be cliche about it: “What happens in the VM stays in the VM.”

So when something attacks a browser that’s running in a Virtual Machine sandbox, it has no way of impacting the main computer where you might have more sensitive information stored, like credit card or account numbers or access to otherwise protected networks that are available to the host computer.

And because it’s a virtual machine, you can do other interesting things as well, such as having a ‘snapshot’ for a roll back point, put it on a different network than the physical computer itself, or even bring that same VM to different computers to avoid having to use someone else’s browser.

Kid Friendly Internet-ing

It also makes sense if you have kids. I helped my sister out by having my nephew use a virtual machine. He double-clicks the ‘Kids Internet’ button on the desktop, it fires up a Linux virtual machine, and everything that he and his little brother click on can be easily undone by rolling back to a snapshot taken earlier.

It’s an interesting use case, and makes a lot of sense, especially for the privacy-conscious. There are OS’s out there designed specifically for anonymity such as Tails, Discreete Linux, Whonix, or Qubes OS.

We really think that our users would get a lot of benefit from this sort of a setup, so we put together a short Infographic and Video to share the story.

Have a look!