Securing Your Web Browser Tips
Web browsers are a prime target for hackers and attackers. They are an easy target because they’re rarely configured properly. Many other factors including human habits and behaviors, fake links and web pages, and choosing functionality over security also give hackers plenty of opportunities and methods to choose from. You’re not at the mercy of would-be attackers, however. You can take numerous steps to tighten up your browser’s security and protect yourself.
Eliminating Vulnerable Features
Web browsers are relatively secure on their own, but they’re limited in terms of functionality and user experience. For this reason, browsers come with added features such as Java, ActiveX, plug-ins, scripts. This makes browsing the web more enjoyable and provides users with more ways to absorb content. Unfortunately, it also gives malicious users a wealth of options to exploit weaknesses in your browser.
Some of these exploits can be as simple as reading your browser information to find out what plugins, operating system, and preferences you have. Or it can be extremely harmful to you or the websites you visit and include attacks such as buffer overflows, malware, spyware, cookie manipulation, scripts, and many more.
To protect yourself, eliminate any extra features, not needed for basic browsing. You also want to eliminate any plugins that don’t directly improve your browser’s security. To do this, visit your browser’s settings or options and disable these features. If your browser has a security setting, like Internet Explorer, make sure it’s moved to the highest setting and disable any options to use third-party plugins. Then, if you find trusted sites don’t work well with your settings this high, add the URLs for these sites to your browser’s exception list.
Get Rid of Pop Ups, Images, Video and Audio
Pop ups are generally harmless, but not always. In many instances, they’re used by hackers to gather login information, credit card details, initiate redirects to harmful sites, and numerous other types of attacks. To eliminate this, go into your browser options and click ‘disable’ or uncheck the box next to it. Images and audio can force your web browser to process unverified data, which can introduce all kinds of harmful effects.
Cookies and History
Usually, when you visit a website, it (or a third party) stores a file on your computer containing some small bits of information. This file is called a cookie. Unfortunately, not all of these are harmless or helpful. Many of these can be used by attackers to gain access to your accounts and gather information, to name a few of the possibilities.
Eliminate this possibility by blocking all cookies and adding exceptions for specific sites, or requiring the site to request permission for each cookie. Do the same with your browser and download history.
Allowing your browser to save your password and login information can be extremely convenient. Unfortunately, if someone else uses or gains access to your browser, they have login details for all of the sites you use. If you do choose to have software save your logins, take steps to minimize your risks. This can include password protecting your passwords or not allowing the browser to save login details for important or sensitive accounts.
There are additional steps you can take to keep your information and computer safe. Use separate browsers for confidential and sensitive information and another for regular web surfing. Scan your computer for viruses and malicious programs frequently, and be sure to keep all of your software up to date. Nothing you do can guarantee that you’ll never experience an intrusion or attack, but following these helpful tips will go a long way to reducing your risks.
Author Bio: Fergal Glynn is the Director of Product Marketing at Veracode, an award-winning web application security company offering tools for vulnerability scanning and other resources for risk assessment and protection.