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My first principle in browsing or publishing stuff is this:
The internet is a public place.
Forget that at your peril.
As regards specific actions, I do use a hosts file and have for years, first on Windows and then later on Linux. I commonly use this one. Why hosts files were created seems irrelevant to me; what they do seems very relevant. Furthermore, they work regardless of the browser I am using.
I recently started using script blockers (No Script on Firefox, notscript on Opera), since that horrible Meebo thingy started infecting newspaper websites after Google bought Meebo (I'm a news junky--inherited it from my father).
As for cookies, I deleted all the cookies I don't want (everything except my "TV listing" and "weather report" pages), restarted my browser (Opera has been my primary browser for years), and set it to "Delete new cookies upon exit."
If you want complete computer security, unplug your computer, put it in box, pour concrete around it, and drop in the the sea. Otherwise, take precautions and browse sensibly.
I use NoScript, Ghostery, Https-Everwhere and have images and cookies set to 'off' in Firefox.
That way I have to turn them on specifically for each site.
Not that hard actually; there aren't many sites that I want/need to turn them on for.