The web browser is the portal to the internet, and the internet is where work happens these days. But opening this portal is a dangerous thing to do because there are many threats on the other side, including malware, pop-up ads, cryptocurrency miners, and fake websites.
It doesn’t help that all major web browsers are by default configured for maximum performance, compatibility, and convenience. Users themselves often make the situation even worse by disregarding these 10 web browsing best practices for safety.
10 Tips for Safer Web Browsing
Fortunately, there are several ways to make the web browser more secure, and we describe 10 of them in this article. With our browsing tips, you will be able to enjoy safer web browsing without sacrificing your user experience.
1. Keep Your Web Browser Updated
Popular web browsers like Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Apple’s Safari, or Google Chrome receive updates on a regular basis to fix bugs, add new functionality, and, most importantly, patch security vulnerabilities.
For example, a new major version of Google Chrome, the most used web browser in 2022, is released roughly once a month, with multiple minor updates typically released in between.
Whenever you notice that a new version of your web browser is available, you should install it as soon as possible to prevent cybercriminals from taking advantage of the security vulnerabilities your current version may contain.
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2. Use as Few Extensions as Possible
Every now and then, a large number of users become compromised after installing a malicious web browser extension.
In 2020, for instance, security firm Avast discovered 28 extensions that contained code capable of performing several malicious operations. These extensions were installed by over three million users, exposing them to threats such as phishing, malware, and data theft.
As useful as web browser extensions are, you should install as few of them as possible because any developer can become compromised. If multiple extensions that do the same thing are available, always pick the one that has been around for a while and has received many positive reviews.
3. Enable HTTPS-Only Mode
HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is a web protocol used for secure communication over a computer network, typically the internet.
Virtually all reputable websites these days use HTTPS to encrypt data in transit, and major web browsers make it possible to enable HTTPS-only mode to help users avoid unsecured sites.
- Firefox: Open Settings > go to Privacy & Security > find the HTTPS-Only Mode option > enable it > restart your browser.
- Edge: Go to edge://flags > enable the Automatic HTTPS flag > restart your browser.
- Chrome: Open Settings > go to Privacy and security > click Security > enable the Always use secure connections option > restart your browser.
4. Install a Reliable Adblocker
If there’s one web browser extension that you should definitely install, it’s an adblocker like uBlock Origin, which is available for Chrome, Chromium, Edge, Firefox, Opera, and Pale Moon.
Adblockers are the most controversial web browser extensions because many people install them to disable ads on websites to enjoy a more comfortable reading or viewing experience.
However, adblockers don’t block only legitimate ads that websites use to earn money. They also block malicious ads, various annoyances, privacy threats, trackers, and more.
The best adblockers let you customize exactly what you want to block, so it’s up to you to decide which websites you want to support by allowing ads to be displayed on them.
5. Block Pop-Up Windows
Pop-up windows are not only annoying, but they’re also very dangerous because they often lead to malicious websites and are designed to appear right under the mouse cursor.
Luckily for you, popular web browsers can block pop-ups without a third-party extension:
- Firefox: Open Settings > select the Privacy & Security panel > make sure the “Block pop-up windows” option is enabled.
- Edge: Open Settings > use the search bar to find the “pop-ups and redirects” option > select the Pop-ups and redirects category > make sure the option is enabled.
- Chrome: Open Settings > navigate to Privacy and security > go to Site Settings > open the Pop-ups and redirects category > ensure the “Don’t allow sites to send pop-ups or use redirects” option is enabled.
There are also various third-party extensions that block pop-up windows, but those are usually not necessary unless you frequently visit websites that go out their way to display pop-up windows.
6. Delete Unwanted Cookies
Cookies are small blocks of data where websites save information about each user’s session to offer personalized experiences. Some websites also use a special type of cookie, called tracking cookie, to track users’ web browsing habits.
To prevent cookies from tracking you and compromising your privacy, you should delete all cookies except for those that are associated with websites you regularly visit and trust. An extension like Click&Clean makes this easy, but all major web browsers come with a cookie manager, so you don’t really need a third-party extension.
While you’re at it, you should also enable the “do not track” setting in your web browser to tell websites to not track your activities:
- Firefox: Open Settings > select the Privacy & Security panel > navigate to the the Enhanced Tracking Protection section > choose Always under Send websites a “Do Not Track” signal that you don’t want to be tracked.
- Edge: Open Settings > use the search bar to find the Send “Do Not Track” requests option > enable the option.
- Chrome: Open Settings > navigate to Privacy and security > go to Cookies and other side data > enable the Send a “Do Not Track” requests with your browsing traffic option.
7. Use a Password Manager Extension
In recent years, all popular web browsers have gained password management capabilities, allowing their users to securely save commonly used passwords for faster authentication.
These and other similar extensions make it easy to access saved passwords across all devices and platforms, and they offer superior password protection thanks to their support for a number of different multi-factor authentication options.
8. Disable the Autofill Feature
The purpose of the Autofill feature is to make your life easier by automatically populating form fields with previously-entered information, such as addresses, passwords, and credit card data.
While useful, the Autofill feature is a double-edged sword because it makes it way too easy to fill in sensitive information in a form created by a cybercriminal. What’s more, the saved information can be retrieved by anyone with access to your computer.
Unless the convenience of the Autofill feature outweighs the risks associated with it, you should disable it, which you can do just by changing a single setting:
- Firefox: Open Settings > select the Privacy & Security panel > find the Forms and Autofill section > turn off the Autofill addresses feature.
- Edge: Open Settings > select the Profiles tab > open the Personal info category > turn off the Save and fill custom info feature.
- Chrome: Open Settings > select the Autofill tab > turn off all autofill options.
9. Take Advantage of Private Browsing
Private browsing, also known as incognito mode, is a misunderstood feature because many people believe that its purpose is to hide their online activity. That’s not the case at all, however.
Instead, private browsing deletes all information about your browsing session, including your history, downloads, and cookies, when you close the private window. Some web browsers also enforce strict tracking prevention when private browsing is enabled.
Private browsing is useful when logging in to online accounts from a shared or public computer, and it can also come in handy when visiting websites whose cookies you don’t want to be saved on your computer.
10. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
When you use your web browser to visit a website, your activity is visible to your internet service provider, the person responsible for the local network you’re connected to, and, if the network is unsecured, potentially even malicious strangers.
To prevent all these third parties from seeing what you do online, you should tunnel your web browser traffic through a virtual private network, an encrypted connection that enables data to be securely transferred over the public internet.
A VPN can also hide your real IP address and make it seem that you’re located in a different country than you really are, which can be useful when traveling since many online services automatically trigger security mechanisms when they detect a login attempt from an unusual country.
What are your Safe Browsing Tips?
We hope you learned a few from our top 10 tips and that you will be able to now be safer on your browser of choice. Tell us in the comments how you stay safe online to help others improve even more!