A cartoon explanation of why web apps are more secure than desktop applications

Because of the novel coronavirus, we can't leave our homes to go to meetings right now. Everybody is figuring out how to set up online video meetings. When somebody asks me what video chat platform I would like to use for a meeting, I answer that I want to use any platform that doesn't make me install a program on my computer. Here's why.

Most programs that you might install on your computer are helpful and want to make your life better, like this kitten.

A kitten

But some programs are more like this five-eyed man-eating monster. They might spy on you, look through your files without your permission, or keep taking up resources after you close them.

A five-eyed man-eating monster

If I could tell the difference between good programs and bad programs, I'd install the good ones and avoid the bad ones, but it isn't that easy. In the past people have found out that some programs that looked innocent were spying on them or had security bugs that let other people take them over and make them act badly.

Programs that run in your web browser (and, to a lesser extent, phone apps) run inside of a cage. From inside the cage, they can't spy on the other things you're doing on your computer. They can't look through your files. Their ability to keep running after you close them is extremely limited.

Kitten Monster
Cage A kitten in a cage is okay A monster in a cage is okay
No cage A kitten without a cage is okay A monster without a cage is not okay

A program running outside the cage can do some helpful things that it can't do from inside the cage, but because it's so hard to tell good programs from bad programs, I only want to run a few programs without a cage, programs that I trust and that need to be outside of the cage to do their job. That's why I prefer using programs that run inside of a web browser.

Published 2020-03-31

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