Bitdefender Safepay offers secure browsing for online banking, shopping

The application provides a hardened browser that runs in a secured environment, Bitdefender said

By Lucian Constantin, IDG News Service |  Endpoint Security

Bitdefender has released a Windows application designed to help users secure sensitive Web-browsing sessions, especially when they shop or bank online. The application is called Safepay and a free version is available to home users.

The application provides users with what Bitdefender calls a "hardened" Web browser that runs inside an environment protected by several technologies designed to prevent man-in-the-browser, phishing, packet sniffing and other types of attacks.

It can be installed on both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 8, 7 and Vista and on 32-bit versions of Windows XP.

When run, Safepay will open a "secure desktop" -- a secondary work environment that is separate from the regular desktop -- and will launch a custom browser created by Bitdefender.

The browser is based on Chromium, the open source project that serves as the base for Google Chrome. This means that it has most of Chrome's security features, including its anti-exploitation sandbox mechanism, and some additional features added in by Bitdefender.

For example, the Safepay browser has a button that launches a virtual keyboard. This allows users to enter log-in credentials and other sensitive data without actually typing them on their physical keyboards, therefore protecting the information from malware with keylogging abilities.

The browser also performs URL filtering using Bitdefender's data in order to block known malware, phishing, fraud, spam and other untrusted sites.

There's also an option to pass all of the Web traffic through a secure encrypted channel -- essentially a Virtual Private Network (VPN) -- but it is only available in the premium version of the application.

The feature is known as "hotspot protection" and is intended to protect Web traffic from network sniffing attacks when connected over untrusted networks, like open wireless hotspots. Enabling it and upgrading the application to the premium version costs $4.95 per week, $14.95 per month or $34.95 per year.

Hotspot protection is the only feature that differentiates the free version from the paid version of the application.

Users cannot install extensions, custom toolbars or other types of add-ons in the Safepay browser, Bogdan Botezatu, a senior e-threats analyst at Bitdefender said Friday. This is because such add-ons can pose a security risk and malicious browser extensions have already been used by attackers in the past.

Support for Java, a technology that is frequently targeted by attackers, is disabled by default, but there is an option to enable it on the browser settings page in case some websites need it.

The benefit of running the hardened browser on a secondary desktop screen is that it's protected against malware that takes screen shots of running applications, Botezatu said.

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