Which is the most secure Web browser? Google Chrome? Mozilla Firefox? Microsoft’s Internet Explorer? It’s a simple question—but the answer is a bit complicated.
An unsecured web browser is like a cracked window into your network. And just as you’d fix a cracked window, you’ll want to secure your browsers.
It’s not that hard. Today’s browsers have built-in security and privacy features that can be set with a few quick steps, but users often either ignore or don’t know about them. To ensure all browsers in your organization are configured to maximize security, create a policy for browser privacy settings and instruct users to follow it.
Regardless of which browser you sanction for your home or business – Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome or Firefox – each gives you options to disable cookies and block security risks such as malware that can sneak in through, infected pop-ups, plug-ins and extensions.
To configure a browser, know how to get to the security settings: With Chrome, go to “Advanced Settings;” with Firefox, the “Options” menu; Internet Explorer, “Internet Options.” With Safari, when you click on “Preferences,” a window appears with several security related tabs – passwords, autofill, privacy and security.
Here are a few tips to follow to secure any browser:
1. Configure your browser’s security and privacy settings
Review your browser’s privacy and security settings to make sure you’re comfortable with what’s checked or unchecked. For example, look to see if your browser is blocking third-party cookies, which can enable advertisers to track your online activities.
The point here is to disable features that can cause vulnerabilities introduced through third-party cookies as well as plug-ins, add-ons and extensions. The fewer of these features you enable, the less likely they are to be exploited by hackers.
Browser Security Settings for Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge
While no single setting can make your browser 100% safe, the ones we are proposing will go a long way into protecting you from a majority of cyber attacks.
Secure Browsing for Internet Explorer
First, access the Tools icon in the top right corner and then go to “Safety”. Here you have the most useful shortcuts.
A nifty trick is the InPrivate browsing, similar to Chrome’s browser Incognito mode. If you use InPrivate Browsing, data like passwords or search and page history will be deleted automatically when you close the tab. This will help you against prying eyes like coworkers sharing your PC, spouses trying to see what you’re planning to purchase and so on. It’s also useful if you use someone else’s PC and don’t want to affect their browsing history.
To do this, right-select the Internet Explorer icon on the taskbar and pick Start InPrivate Browsing.
But let’s visit Tools again.
Here you can see 4 internet zones, the “Internet” security zone contains all the websites that are not in the “Trusted/Restricted sites” zone, meaning 99,999999% of the internet. For this zone, it’s best if you change the security level from Medium to High.
A side effect of selecting “High” is that features such as flash pages or ActiveX scripts might be disabled on certain pages.
If you want a more hands-on approach to browser security, press the “Custom Level” button and select what features you want to enable/disable.
In the “Trusted sites” zone you can include websites that you know for sure are risk-free so you can select a lower security setting that enables all the features of a site.
In the “Restricted sites” zone, you can write down websites you know are dangerous. This way, Internet Explorer can apply the maximum security settings while on the page.
Right next to the “Security” tab you will find the “Privacy” settings.
In here you will find settings related to Cookies. As we’ve said above, these remember personal information such as account names, emails, and passwords and more. Click the “Advanced” button.
In this area, you can find two columns, first-party cookies, and third-party cookies.
Session cookies are used on the same site to track the information from one page to another. On internet commerce websites, for instance, session cookies are used to track your order from one page to the next until the moment you check out.
Our recommended setting is to block both first party and third party cookies while disabling session cookies, unless you frequently use sites that need them to function properly.
Now press the “Sites” button and go to this menu.
Here you can write down what websites you allow to store or block cookies.
The last setting you should change in Internet Explorer can be found on the “Advanced” tab.
Scroll down on the list until you find “Enable third-party browser extensions*” and uncheck it. This will disable any browser extensions you may have, which is a good idea from a security perspective. Many of them have been known to secretly track a user’s behavior. They also open up potential security vulnerabilities.
Firefox hacks and tips for better browser security
If you use Mozilla Firefox and haven’t upgraded yet, we highly recommend you do. Firefox has a pledge to help users against tracking and has pledged its support to privacy.
Firefox 57 Quantum brought a visual update to the classic browser. It also says it’s twice as fast as versions from the previous year, being optimized for modern processors.
If you want to edit your Firefox privacy settings, you can click on the top right icon. Or you can simply open a new tab and paste this address about:preferences#privacy.
So let’s see how you can secure your online browsing with Firefox. This guide applies to both the newest and previous Firefox versions, the interface did not receive a major overhaul.
In the “General” ta of the Downloads section, press “Always ask me where to save files”. This way, you won’t have a web location try to automatically save dangerous content to your computer. At the same time, this gives you the option to place suspicious content in a safe location where you can analyze it afterward.
Next, go to the Privacy tab.
At the “Tracking” section press the blue text with “manage your Do Not Track settings”. Check “Always apply do not track”. After doing this, advertising, commerce and various other sites shouldn’t be able to track you across the web.
While in the Privacy tab, at the “History” section, choose “Firefox will never remember history”. This is especially important if you know your device may be used by other people.
Of course, you can always use Firefox Private Browsing with Tracking Protection. Either visit the top right menu and select New Private Window or use the Ctrl+Shift+P keyboard shortcut.
If you want to have the same features and a better control of your history section, without Firefox Private Browsing, do this:
Check “Always use private browsing mode” so every time you close your Firefox browser it will clear browsing history, search results, cookies and download history.
The last changes you should make in Firefox can be found in the “Security” category.
First, make sure all of the four checkboxes in the General section are checked in. This ensures that your browser will inform you whenever websites try to install malicious add-ons and other content.
In the “Logins” section you can set up a Master Password. Doing this is especially useful when multiple people have access to the computer since it asks you introduce a master password before you can access logins.
This way, other people won’t be able to access your important accounts such as email. Once more, we cannot recommend this enough, but don’t let your browser remember your passwords.
Google Chrome tips and hacks for better browser security
First off, use the Chrome Cleanup Tool to scan and remove software that interferes with Chrome’s processes. It can clean-up toolbars, weird ads and random crashes.
To improve your Chrome browser security settings, go to the Settings area. It can be accessed in the top right corner of the browser.
If you are logged into Chrome, under the “Sign in” section you will see an option named “Set up sync…” which will take you to a list of options.
In the Encryption section, you can find “Encrypt all synced data with your own passphrase.” This is a nifty setting since it functions as a double password. If a malicious hacker learns your account info and password, they won’t be able to sync your search history, bookmarks, and login information until they enter the passphrase.
After you’re done setting up a passphrase, go to the bottom of the Settings page, where you can find a blue text that says “Show advanced settings…”. Click this to reveal more options.
In the Privacy section, check the option to “Send a “Do Not Track” request with your browsing traffic”. Normally, this should prevent sites from tracking your activity on the web. However numerous loopholes exist in the browser and they allow a majority of websites to bypass this. Nevertheless, every bit of anonymity counts when you want to do secure browsing.
In the password section, we recommend you uncheck both “Enable autofill” and “Offer to save your web passwords.” While it can be a hassle to write down this information every time, browser security best practices dictate you to say no to Autofill passwords.
In the Privacy section, you can find the “Content settings…” button. This will take you to a whole host of options that concern your privacy and anonymity on the web.
In the Cookies section, select “Keep local data only until you quit your browser”. If you are willing to cope with a loss in web browsing usability, you can select the “Block sites from setting any data” option. Lastly, we strongly recommend you check the “Block third-party cookies and site data” to enjoy secure browsing without advertisers and potential cybercriminals tracking you on the web.
In the Plugin section, you can select the “Let me choose when to run plugin content”. This will give you more control over plugins and stop an infected plugin to pass the malware on your PC.
In the “Downloads” section, check the option to “Ask where to save each file before downloading”.
Doing this will prevent a lot of malicious software from downloading itself automatically to your computer. It also gives you a greater sense of control of what gets on your PC.
We also recommend increasing security for Chrome by enabling Site isolation in your browser. It offers additional protection against some types of security bugs. You can do this by following the basic steps described in Google Chrome Help.
Microsoft Edge browser security tips and tricks
For Microsoft Edge, press the three-dot menu icon in the top right corner and select “Settings”. At the bottom of the menu, you will find the “View advanced settings” button.
Flash Player is a favorite hacking target for cybercriminals because of its numerous vulnerabilities. It’s a good idea if you disable it altogether. Some website features and pages might stop working. On the upside, so will spammy and annoying page elements.
At the “Downloads” section, make sure the “Ask me what to do with each download” option is selected. This browser security feature prevents the browser from automatically downloading malware or other potentially dangerous software onto your PC.
In the “Privacy and security” section, deselect the “Offer to save passwords” and “Save form entries”. For secure browsing, it is of critical importance to close any possibilities cybercriminals might have of getting their hands on your valuable accounts, passwords, and personal information.
Don’t forget to turn on the option to “Send Do Not Track requests”. Once you turn this on, your browser will notify third-party websites not to track you across the internet.
2. Keep Your Browser Updated
Use a current web browser and keep automatic updates enabled. Don’t use an outdated web browser like Apple’s Safari for Windows or old versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
Use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox and leave automatic updates enabled, use a current version of Internet Explorer on a modern version of Windows and install Windows updates, or use Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.
3. Uninstall Plug-ins You Don’t Need
Uninstall any plug-ins you don’t need to secure your web browser. Head to your web browser’s list of installed plug-ins and uninstall the ones you don’t need. Java is particularly dangerous and used by few websites — uninstall that unless you really need it. Microsoft’s Silverlight is becoming less necessary and is no longer needed for Netflix. The one plug-in you’re most likely to need is Flash, and even it is becoming less necessary.
Feel free to uninstall a plug-in if you’re not sure whether you need it. The worst case scenario is you’ll have to reinstall it when you come across a website that needs it, and that may never happen.
4.Keep Plug-ins Updated, Too
Any plug-ins you do need should automatically update themselves. Leave Adobe Flash’s automatic updates enabled. Google Chrome automatically updates its own copy of Flash and Windows 10 updates Edge’s copy of Flash, but you’ll need to update other versions of Flash automatically.
Ensure plug-ins you use are updated regularly and automatically.
5. Install security plug-ins
The majority of plug-ins and extensions are safe, however, and some can help bolster your browser’s security. Here are three suggested—and free—browser extensions for added security.
• HTTPS Everywhere. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and The Tor Project jointly developed this Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension. HTTPS is a communications protocol for securing communications over a computer network, vs. the standard HTTP protocol, which is more widely used but less secure. (The ‘S’ in HTTPS stands for ‘secure.’) HTTPS Everywhere encrypts communication with many major websites to help secure your browsing experience.
• Web of Trust (also known as WOT). This extension for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera helps you determine if a website is safe to surf. The extension displays traffic signal icons next to URLs and links. Green means the site is reliable; yellow indicates you should proceed with caution; red translates to “steer clear.” The ratings are crowdsourced from WOT’s global user base and are supported by trusted third-party sources, such as up-to-date directories of malware sites.
• LongURL.org. If you’re on Twitter or Facebook and you see a shortened link embedded in an interesting post, you might click it without a second thought. But shortened links have been known to mask malicious links. If you’re unsure of a shortened link, copy and paste it into the search box at LongURL.org. You’ll see where the link would take you, without having to actually click through to the site. LongURL.org is also available as a Firefox browser extension.
6. Use Caution When Using Browser Extensions
Browser extensions are awesome, powerful tools for customizing the web and your browser. At the same time, they’re potentially dangerous. Rogue extensions could insert advertisements into web pages you use, capture keystrokes, track your browsing activity, and do other nasty things.
Try to use as few browser extensions as possible — that will help make your browser perform better, too. Evaluate browser extensions like you would software you install on your computer.
Securing your browser’s software is just one part of it. It’s also important to avoid phishing sites and nasty software. Many websites try to trick you into downloading junkware instead of the software you’re looking for, and even legitimate software is often bundled with potentially dangerous junk.