When you’re not on mobile, chances are you’re posting pics, collaborating on projects, or shopping for stuff online through a browser.
Browsers are our gateway to the internet, but how secure are they? Like other applications, they are susceptible to security vulnerabilities developers do their best to find and correct.
You shouldn’t depend on the developers’ expertise and goodwill, though! Here are eight changes you’ll want to make to your browsing habits for a safer and more rewarding online life.
1. Keep your browser updated
Billions of people access the internet through browsers, which makes them juicy targets. Hackers and developers are in constant conflict; keeping your browser updated is the only way to stay on top of it. This ensures you aren’t leaving any old security vulnerabilities open. It also provides you with the newest features, security or otherwise.
2. Take control of your privacy settings
Default privacy settings allow sites to collect more data on your behavior and store cookies on your computer or smartphone. You can’t shut off cookie functionality completely since websites may need them to display properly. What you can do is change your privacy settings. This won’t hide your browsing history from your internet service provider. However, it will prevent cookie accumulation and unwanted tracking.
3. Don’t rely on browser-based password management
Most browsers store our passwords for later use by default. While convenient, this poses a security risk. Someone who steals your smartphone or laptop will use this weakness to access all your accounts in one swoop.
It’s better to install a stand-alone password manager instead. They will upgrade your security by exchanging existing passwords with longer, more complex ones. You don’t even have to remember the new ones since you get a master password to access them all.
4. Clear the cache
A browser’s cache is a vault of information stored on your device. It’s useful for reducing site loading times and keeping cookies. While this data isn’t harmful on its own, a cybercriminal with access to your device could use it to uncover your password or payment data. Modern internet speeds make website loading times a non-issue, so clean the cache regularly.
5. Get an ad blocker
Ads have become a plague that makes browsing frustrating and unsafe. More than 40% of users worldwide use an ad blocker, and you should, too! They remove clutter from websites, making them easier to navigate and letting you reach the content you’re interested in faster.
More importantly for cybersecurity, ad blockers can prevent malicious behavior. Some ads may promote dangerous activities or websites. Clicking on them could download malware onto your device, so not seeing the threat means there’s no chance you’ll interact with it.
6. Pay attention to the sites you visit
The internet isn’t the frontier it once was. It’s still possible to stumble upon unsafe sites, but advanced security protocols make much of the internet safer. You’ll want to pay attention to the format an internet address takes in the address bar.
A secure site will have a lock on the left and start with HTTPS – not HTTP. That means traffic on it is encrypted through a secure protocol. That prevents anyone other than yourself and the website owner from seeing the information you put into any fields on the site. Browsers will automatically prevent you from entering websites that don’t abide by this convention, but it’s never wrong to check.
7. Practice safe browsing
A browser can’t do all the work – you have to be smart about browsing! That means you should avoid suspicious sites or links promising free downloads of paid software. Phishing scams abound, so learn how to recognize emails containing malicious links.
You should also take steps to safeguard your privacy. Never share info about yourself with strangers. Think twice before posting something on social media.
8. Consider using alternatives to top browsers and search engines
Abandoning a browser you’ve been using for a decade plus might sting, but it can be a good long-term cybersecurity strategy. Smaller players attract users by building features into their browsers the big ones lack. Some will make them more lightweight or ship them with a built-in VPN. Others emphasize privacy more and don’t let companies collect as much data on you.
It’s similar to search engines. They don’t all offer Google’s scope, but they don’t construct detailed profiles of your interests and shopping habits either.