We spend a huge amount of our day-to-day lives online. According to recent statistics, we spend around 100 days per year on the internet for both work and leisure. This means that web browser security is of the utmost importance: keeping our browsing safe can cut down on a lot of computer security risks.
Yet what does good web browser security look like in practice? What steps do you need to take to secure your web browsers and keep your computer safe?
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at what steps you should take to make your web browser’s security stronger, both at work and at home. Ready to learn more and stay safe? Then read on!
1. Keep Your Browser and Plugins Updated
The most important step that you can take to improve your web browser’s security is to keep your browser updated. As with other software, web browser updates tend to be in place to improve security and patch up any existing security holes.
Your browser will typically notify you when there is an update available, and we’d recommend that you install the update as soon as you can. The longer you go without updating, the higher the risk of your existing security flaws being exploited by hackers.
The same rule applies to any extensions that you’re using. As a general rule, your browser will keep the plugins updated without any input on your part, but there are times when an update will need new permissions and you’ll need to review them and manually allow the update. When this happens, make this a priority and close off any potential security flaws!
2. Block Ads
Malware is a serious threat to businesses. It can cost you working hours, it can take your website down, and it can lead to lost data. However, even if you try your best to lock down your computer and limit attack vectors, your web browser could be letting you down.
Malware can lurk in advertisements, hiding their malicious code in an ordinary-looking banner ad. This is called malvertising and it’s a common way for malware to spread.
So, how can you protect against malvertising?
Turn on Your Pop-Up Blocker
The first thing that you should do is turn on your browser’s pop-up blocker. Most browsers come with a feature that blocks pop-ups but it’s not always enabled by default. You should be able to find it in your browser’s settings menu.
To turn it on Chrome, you need to go to settings, then click on “privacy and security,” then “site settings,” and finally “pop-ups and redirects.” Here, you can turn this protective feature on and cut out some of the most annoying and potentially dangerous online ads.
Install an Adblocker
Next up, you should install an adblocker. These add-ons block a huge range of ads and come with blacklists that are updated regularly, so you’re always getting great protection against ads.
There is a wide range of different adblocker extensions but two of the most popular ones are Ublock Origin and Adblock Plus.
By using one of these and your browser’s pop-up blocker, you’ll considerably cut the risk of being infected by malvertising.
3. Force an HTTPS Connection
HTTP is the standard protocol for the World Wide Web, yet it isn’t secure by default. A standard HTTP connection doesn’t encrypt any of your information.
This is why looking for the little padlock icon in your address bar is important when you’re making a payment or transmitting other sensitive information. The padlock means that you’re not connected with HTTP, but with HTTPS.
HTTPS is a secure version of HTTP that uses SSL technology to encrypt any information that you transmit. This means that to anyone who intercepts it, your information will be scrambled, rendering it useless.
Normally HTTPS is only used for certain pages, but you can force an HTTPS connection to any website that you want with a simple extension called HTTPS Everywhere.
This add-on makes every connection secure and keeps your information safe from interception.
4. Synchronize Your Browser Data
Many browsers now allow you to create an account that lets you synchronize your browser data across multiple devices. This can be very convenient and save you time, but it can also boost your security.
This is because it will synchronize your bookmarks.
When you bookmark a page, you can go back to it with a single click. This prevents you from mistyping the URL and being the victim of typosquatting. This is where a fraudster will register a domain that is very similar to a legitimate domain, hoping to catch and defraud people who make typos.
For example, if you wanted to visit YouTube, a typosquatter could register “Youtub.com” and use it to harvest YouTube account details.
Synchronizing your bookmarks across all of your devices means less time spent typing in URLs and cuts the risk of typosquatting significantly.
5. Use a VPN
If you want to go a step beyond HTTPS, you should consider using a virtual private network, or VPN. This software creates a secure tunnel between your computer and an end node situated elsewhere, and between these two points, all of your data is encrypted.
This means that when you’re using public Wi-Fi, which is typically unsecured, your data will still be secure. Unlike HTTPS, VPNs also protect other data and other protocols on your computer, too.
So, for instance, if you need to connect to your workplace’s file server using FTP, a VPN will keep your files secure in transit. If you need to use remote access to log into your work computer, this will be secure.
Using a VPN is a must when you’re on home and public networks and is an essential component of a strong network security setup.
6. Only Use Extensions That You Can Trust
If you’re using a popular browser, you’ll have a lot of different extensions that you can choose from. However, adding an extension to an online library isn’t difficult and the permissions that extensions can request are extensive. This means that extension libraries can be a hive of malware.
There’s no guaranteed way to know whether an extension is safe or not, even if you have antivirus software installed. So, what can you do to lessen the likelihood of installing a malicious extension?
First off, we would recommend taking a look at the number of people who use the extension. If millions of people have installed the extension, it’s likely safe. While it may be easy to upload to the extension libraries, their owners delete extensions that are known to be malicious: the more people who have installed it, the more likely it is that a malicious extension would be noticed.
Secondly, you can Google the extension and see whether it’s been reviewed by an established website or magazine. If there’s anything problematic about the extension, they’re likely to have detected it.
You can also take a look at who made the extension. If it’s made by a large and well-known company, it’s more likely to be safe.
7. Use a Password Manager and 2FA
As with many facets of computer security, good browser security also depends on strong passwords. If you use the same password for everything and enter it on one typosquatted or otherwise fraudulent site, those fraudsters now have your login for everything else, too.
The answer is to use a strong password on each site, yet remembering these tough passwords can be difficult. The solution lies in using a password manager. This software keeps all of your passwords safe in an encrypted vault that you access with one master password, which means this is the only one you need to remember.
When you make a new account, most password managers will also make a secure password for you that’s made up of letters, numbers, and special characters.
However, sometimes strong passwords aren’t enough. Even the strongest passwords can get cracked. When it comes to your most important accounts, you should be using two-factor authentication or 2FA.
When you use 2FA, you have to have another method to verify your login. So, for instance, you may ask the site to text you a code that you can enter to verify that it is you that’s logging in. You could also use a physical dongle, an authenticator app, or biometrics.
This adds an extra level of security to your most important accounts, an invaluable addition.
8. Check Links Before You Click
Whether you’re browsing your email inbox, checking out Twitter, or reading a blog, it’s a poor idea to click your links without checking where they go. Hover over a link, and you can see where you’ll go if you click it, and it may not be where you think!
This tactic is often used by fraudsters in phishing emails. They may tell you to click a link to go to PayPal, which will instead take you to another website entirely.
If the link isn’t going to take you to the right website, don’t click it.
9. Turn Autofill Off
While autofilling your contact details, billing address, or even card details can be a very useful feature, it also opens you up to a lot of risks. As this GitHub program shows, it’s very easy for criminals to hide certain fields from the user that are nevertheless filled by your browser’s autofill feature. This means that while you may think you’re only autofilling your name, you’re actually giving your attacker a lot of information.
Not only is it risky for this reason, but autofill could also cause problems if your device is stolen.
You can find autofill in your browser’s settings. In Chrome, you need to go to settings and then “autofill” to turn it off.
10. Limit Cookie Tracking
While cookies are an important part of the modern internet, they can also cause security issues. Cookies are small files that store useful information and can track you around the internet.
If you turn them off completely, you can break a lot of websites, yet if you leave them on, malware can use the information that’s stored inside them to its advantage. So what’s the right solution?
The solution is to limit cookie’s tracking abilities. To do this, you need to block third-party cookies. If you want to do this in Chrome, you need to open up settings, then go to “privacy and security,” then “cookies and other site data.”
Here, you’re able to turn off third-party cookies in either incognito or regular browsing, as well as turning off all cookies.
11. Clear Your Cache Regularly
Your browser caches information that it’s downloaded once, which can make it quicker to access next time. While this can be handy, it also has the potential to cause security issues, especially if it caches sensitive data such as online banking pages.
You can set your browser to clear your cache every time you close it, which can eliminate this risk. To do this in Chrome, you need to go back to the “cookies and other site data” page in your settings, then scroll down and click on “clear cookies and site data when you quit Chrome.”
These Tips Give You the Web Browser Security That You Need
If you follow the tips that we’ve outlined, your web browser security will be far stronger, which can eliminate a massive range of threats. However, this is only one facet of computer security.
If you run a business, computer and network security should be one of your top priorities, but managing security for your business can feel like a full-time job. We’re here to help you: our expert staff can make your business safer and more resilient, giving you the protection you need and allowing you to focus on running your business.
For more information about how we can help you, get in touch with us.