Web Browser Security – Useful Tips

In this tutorial, we review additional web browser security tips.

WordPress Security TutorialsThis tutorial is part of our tutorial series on WordPress Security. In this tutorial, we review additional web browser security tips.

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Web Browser Security – Useful Tips

In the previous section of this tutorial, we covered a number of important areas related to browser security information. In this section, you will complete the tutorial on browser security by learning some additional tips on ways that your browser contributes to the overall security of your online assets.

Review & Disable Unnecessary Browser Features

Your web browser includes certain features that contribute to the browser’s operation and online security. Some of these features can be disabled. Before deciding whether or not to disable these features, however, it’s important to know what they do.

ActiveX

ActiveX is a software component or an add-on of the Windows operating systems and comes pre-installed on computers with the Internet Explorer browser. ActiveX is required by some websites to view certain elements or perform actions, and for improving general user browsing experience. When visiting certain websites, you may see a request to install ActiveX.

Malicious users may use ActiveX to create and add malicious ActiveX software to web pages in order to damage computers. If you don’t need ActiveX, don’t install it, especially if you don’t trust the publisher or the website.

Java

Java is a programming language developed to create applications on computers or active content on websites. Java has two components: the Java application that runs on our computers and the browser plug-in, which we recommend disabling unless you really need to use it.

The Java browser plug-in presents a number of security holes that allow hackers to access your personal data, such as credit card information or banking account credentials.

Javascript

JavaScript is a programming language designed to create interactive web pages and is used mostly for displaying dynamic content and improving users’ online experience. The problem with JavaScript is that many viruses are script-based and many scripts can be used to delete system files or perform other malicious tasks.

Cookies

Cookies are files which are stored on your browser and contain data about your browsing history. Cookies are commonly used in websites to reduce the burden on computer servers to store information about the sites that you are visiting. Websites use cookies to improve browsing session, but this behavior has also given rise to privacy concerns and security issues.

Extensions

Extensions are software add-ons that add or modify a feature or a functionality in web browsers. Some extensions allow you to block ads, watch videos or play games online, access information on other websites, integrate user experience with social media websites, improve your online session, etc. On the downside, extensions can also be used to inject ads into the sites you visit or track your browsing activity for malicious purposes. Do not install extensions from suspicious sites or publishers.

Block Data Tracking

Many websites use advertising network scripts to track what pages you visit online in order to serve you advertisements based on your specific interests. For example, you may have noticed in the past visiting a website for a specific product or information, and then visiting another website and seeing advertisements for the product you viewed earlier.

Some companies track the pages you visit and then compile the data to be analyzed or sold to advertisers, or track which pages you visit on their site and how long you spend on each page to try and determine what you are interested in.

Browsers give you the option to disable tracking, which then lets websites you visit know that you don’t want to be tracked …

Browser Security

Important Info

Enabling “Do Not Track” doesn’t actually change any browser privacy settings. When “Do Not Track” is enabled, your web browser merely requests each website that you visit not to track you.

Websites have to be updated to take notice of your request, and most will simply ignore your request. Websites that take notice of your request may disable all tracking, or they may choose to disable targeted advertising and show you generic advertisements instead, or they may disable tracking by third-party website, and continue tracking you to collect data for their own purposes.

The bottom line: Just because you have disabled tracking on your browser, it doesn’t mean that the sites you visit will respect your request.

Private Browsing

Most web browsers provide an option to browse the web without having your history saved. This is useful if you use a shared computer and don’t want others to see which sites you are visiting.

Important

Private Browsing doesn’t make you anonymous on the Internet. Your IP address leaves a “digital footprint” wherever you go online, and this can be tracked by your Internet service provider, employer, or the sites themselves.To surf the web anonymously, you will need to use anonymous proxy servers. As the subject of anonymous web surfing is beyond the scope of our tutorials, we have included a link to an article on “How to Surf the Web Anonymously” in the ‘References’ section at the end of this tutorial.

Private Browsing also doesn’t protect you from keyloggers or spyware that may be installed on your computer.

In Firefox, you can access private browsing to browse the Internet without saving any information about which sites and pages you’ve visited, either by selecting ‘New Private Window’ from the Firefox menu …

Browser Security

Or by right-clicking on a hyperlink when visiting pages on a website, and selecting ‘Open Link in New Private Window’ …

Browser Security

You can tell whether you are browsing normally or privately by looking at the topmost Firefox window tab icon …

Browser Security

Note: You can have both types of windows open and alternate your browsing activity by switching from one window to the other.

In Google Chrome, the private browsing mode is is called “incognito”.

You can access this feature by clicking on the ‘Control’ button and selecting ‘new incognito window’ …

Browser Security

A private browsing tab will open up, allowing you to view pages that won’t be recorded in your browser’s history after you’ve finished your browsing session and closed all of your ‘incognito’ tabs …

Browser Security

Note: Browsing in incognito mode only keeps Google Chrome from storing information about the websites you’ve visited. Your IP address can still be tracked and recorded by the websites you visit. Also, any files you download and save to your computer or mobile devices will be kept.

Here’s how incognito mode works:

  • Webpages that you open and files that you download while you’re incognito aren’t recorded in your browsing and download histories.
  • All new cookies are deleted after you close all incognito windows that you’ve opened.
  • Changes you make to your Google Chrome bookmarks and general settings while in incognito mode are still saved.
  • You can have both incognito mode windows and regular windows open at the same time, and switch between the two.

help Refer to the browser support sites listed in the ‘Reference’ section at the end of this tutorial to learn more about private browsing.

Clearing Recent File Usage Records

Even if you delete records of your browsing activity, Windows may still keep a record of your most recently used files on your computer’s temporary file storage area. To delete these records, you will need to clean your registry.

help To learn how to clean your registry, search online for tutorials on how to harden your computer security.

Browser Security

This is the end of this tutorial. Hopefully, this tutorial has provided you with useful information on ways to secure your web browser and how to safely browse the internet. To view previews sections of this tutorial, click on one of the links below:

redarrow Web Browser Security Overview

redarrow How To Configure Your Web Browser’s Security And Privacy Settings

redarrow Important Web Browser Security Information

redarrow Return To WordPress Security Tutorials

References

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Disclaimer: WordPress and its related trademarks are registered trademarks of Automattic, Inc. This site and the services and products offered on this site are not associated, affiliated, endorsed, or sponsored by WordPress, nor have they been tested, certified, or reviewed by WordPress. The owner, contributors and/or advertisers may derive financial benefit from sales of items reviewed, advertised, or linked to this site.

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Important Web Browser Security Information

In this tutorial, we cover important security information about web browsers that contribute to overall web security.

WordPress Security TutorialsThis tutorial is part of our tutorial series on WordPress Security. In this tutorial, we cover important security information about web browsers that contribute to overall web security.

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Important Web Browser Security Information

In the previous section of this tutorial we showed you how to configure your browser settings. In this section, you will learn general browser security tips to ensure a safe browsing experience. The suggestions shown in this section can be implemented at no cost.

Note: In the tutorial examples below Firefox is used as the main browser. All major browsers have similar features, and a link to their browser support pages is provided in the ‘References’ section at the end of this tutorial.

Browser Security

Keep Your Browser Up-To-Date

Like all other aspects of the security “cat and mouse” game, hackers are constantly searching for new vulnerabilities and weaknesses in browsers that they can exploit and browser companies are constantly releasing updates to fix these issues.

Running the latest version of your browser ensures that you have the latest security technology.

You can check the latest version of Firefox by going to ‘Firefox’ > ‘Help’ > ‘About Firefox’ …

Browser Security

The ‘About Mozilla Firefox’ screen will display your current version and whether there is a new version update …

Browser Security

Important Info

By default, Firefox is set to automatically update itself but you can configure Firefox to do manual updates.

To change the setting for Firefox browser updates, go to ‘Options’ > ‘Update’ tab and select an option other than the automatic updates …

Browser Security

Note: If you want to change from automatic to manual Firefox updates, we recommend choosing the option of letting Firefox ask you whether to install new updates, instead of choosing “no” updates, which would create a security risk.

TipBefore upgrading your browser to the latest version, it’s a good idea to run a search online to see if there are any problems with the new version (e.g. conflicts and incompatibilities). Simply type in “your browser name + version number + problem” (e.g. “Firefox 27 problem”) into your search field …

Browser Security

To learn more about updating your browser, visit the browser help pages below:

redarrow Update Firefox To The Latest Version

redarrow Update Google Chrome

redarrow Internet Explorer Downloads

redarrow Mac Apps Support – Safari

Be Careful When Using Browser Plug-ins

Plug-ins are small, downloadable programs that add functionality to your browser. When you visit a website, you may receive a message on your screen informing you that, in order to view features on the site, you have to download and install a browser “plug-in.”

Think about the following before clicking on the install button:

  • Any software that you install may need to be updated, and could contain security vulnerabilities.
  • Is the plug-in from a trusted or trustworthy site? If you don’t know or aren’t sure, don’t click.
  • Is the plug-in really necessary? The fewer plug-ins you have installed in your browser, the safer your browser will be and the better the performance.

Check That Your Browser And Plug-ins Are Safe And Up-To-Date

Keeping your browser and plug-ins up-to-date and ensuring that all components are safe is vitally important to your overall online security.

Qualys, a leading provider of information security solutions has developed a free browser checking tool called “BrowserCheck” that lets you easily and quickly scan your browsers, plugins, security settings, and patches to identify common security issues …

Qualys Browser Check

To use BrowserCheck, click on the ‘Install Plugin’ button …

Browser Security

Depending on your security settings, you may have to allow Firefox to install the plugin …

Qualys Browser Check

Install the plug-in …

Qualys Browser Check

You will need to restart Firefox for the plugin to work …

Qualys Browser Check

After restarting Firefox, go to ‘Tools’ > ‘Qualys BrowserCheck’ …

Qualys Browser Check

The tool will automatically perform a security analysis of your browser and plug-ins looking for vulnerabilities and allowing you to fix any issues it finds …

Qualys Browser Check

Note: You can also turn automatic scans for this plug-in on or off from the screen (see screenshot above).

If you don’t want to install the plug-in, you can just perform an online scan …

Browser Security

An onscreen report will present you with the results of your scan and allow you to fix any issues it finds …

Qualys Browser Check

help For more information about the Qualys browser checking tool, visit the site below:

redarrow Qualys BrowserCheck

Block Pop-Ups From Displaying On Your Browser

Pop-up windows, or pop-ups, are browser windows that appear automatically without your permission. Pop-ups can vary in size from small to large windows and some can even cover your whole screen. Some pop-ups open on top of your current browser window, while others appear underneath them (called pop-unders).

Unless you have a reason to allow pop-ups to display on your browser, it’s best to set your browser to block pop-ups from websites and advertisements. This will minimize spyware and the chances of clicking on ads that load malware onto your computer.

Info

Many malicious sites use pop-ups that look very similar to the warning messages used by your operating system to warn you about issues …

Browser Security

Avoid clicking on these pop-ups. They are ads disguised as help windows, and will usually install spyware or malware on your computer. Close these ads by clicking on the X in the top right corner of the window.

Blocking Pop-up Windows

In Firefox, pop-up blocking is turned on by default, so you don’t need to enable it to prevent pop-ups from appearing, as shown in the screenshot below …

Browser Security

If you want to control both pop-ups and pop-unders, then go to the ‘Options’ > ‘Content’ tab and enable/disable the checkbox in the ‘Block pop-up’ windows’ section …

Browser Security

Notes:

  • Blocking pop-ups may interfere with some websites: Some websites, including some banking sites, use pop-ups for important features. Blocking all pop-ups disables such features. To allow specific websites to use pop-ups, while blocking all others, you can add specific websites to the list of allowed sites in Firefox.
  • Blocking pop-ups doesn’t always work: Although Firefox blocks most pop-ups, some websites may show pop-ups using uncovered methods, even when blocked.

help To learn more about blocking pop-ups in Firefox, visit the Firefox help section below:

redarrow Blocking Pop-Ups In Firefox

In Google Chrome, you can configure settings for blocking pop-ups by clicking the menu icon on the browser toolbar, and selecting ‘Settings’ …

Browser Security

Click on ‘Show advanced settings’ …

Browser Security

Scroll down to the ‘Privacy’ section and click on the ‘Content settings’ button …

Browser Security

Scroll down the page to the ‘Pop-ups’ section and configure your settings …

Browser Security

help To learn more about blocking pop-ups in Google Chrome, visit the Google Chrome help section below:

redarrow Manage Pop-Ups

Tip

You can test the effectiveness of your popup blocking browser settings and tools by visiting a site like PopupTest.com and running some of their tests …

PopupTest.com

Disable Scripts And Active Content

Set your browser to prompt you whenever Javascript, Java or ActiveX controls are executed on a Web site. Malicious code can sometimes be hidden in these functions. Be sure that the site you’re visiting is trustworthy before enabling the content.

help To learn more about enabling / disabling Javascript in your browser, visit the site below:

redarrow Enabling And Disabling Javascript In Browsers

Consider Using Web Of Trust (WOT)

The Web Of Trust is a safe browsing tool that warns you of potentially dangerous websites …

WOT

WOT is a free community-powered website reputation service that tells you which websites you can trust based on other users’ experiences. It protects you from threats that only humans can spot, such as scams, phishing, and bad online shopping experiences.

WOT is an add-on application that installs on your Firefox browser. When you do a Google search, a circular indicator will appear next to each search result that has been rated by the service …

Qualys Browser Check

Red indicates a site that is probably dangerous, yellow a potentially dangerous site, and green a site that is probably safe to use. Once you’ve logged in to a website, the same indicator appears in the title bar of the browser …

Web Of Trust

WOT ratings are based on ratings by members of the online community. While the information is not authoritative, it can provide useful information about websites, especially by providing an early warning of sites to avoid …

Web Of Trust

help For more information about Web Of Trust, visit the site below:

redarrow Web Of Trust

Browser Security

This is the end of this section. In the next section, we review additional web browser security tips. To continue, click on the link below:

redarrow Additional Web Browser Security Tips

See also …

redarrow How To Configure Your Web Browser’s Security And Privacy Settings

redarrow Return To Web Browser Security Overview

References

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How To Configure Web Browser Security Settings

In this tutorial, you will learn how to configure your web browser’s security and privacy settings.

WordPress Security TutorialsThis tutorial is part of our tutorial series on WordPress Security. In this tutorial, you will learn how to configure your web browser’s security and privacy settings.

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How To Configure Web Browser Security Settings

Regardless of the browser you are using, there are security settings that you need to know about in order to have greater control over your web browsing privacy and security.

In this section we look at how to configure privacy and security settings for:

  • Browser Cookies
  • Browser History
  • Browser Cache

Browser Cookies

The main purpose of cookies is to identify users and possibly prepare customized Web pages for them. When you enter a Web site using cookies, you may be asked to fill out a form providing such information as your name and interests.

This information is packaged into a cookie and sent to your Web browser which stores it for later use. The next time you go to the same Web site, your browser will send the cookie to the Web server.

The server can use this information to present you with custom Web pages. So, for example, instead of seeing just a generic welcome page you might see a welcome page with your name on it.

(Source: Webopedia)

Most sites that provide some form of e-commerce, membership or subscriptions use cookies.

For example, if you shop at Amazon or have an account with eBay, your login details and preferences will be stored in a cookie in your browser. This allows the sites to remember your settings and previous activities on the site …

Browser Security

It also allows the sites to retrieve the information stored in the cookie when you return to provide you with a personalized user experience …

Browser Security

Your WordPress login is also stored in a browser cookie, as are the logins of any sites you visit, especially if you tick the ‘remember me’ box commonly found in many login forms …

Browser Security

Most users have no idea that cookies are being stored in their computer, or how long the cookies in their browser are storing the information for. Some websites may also place more than one cookie in your browser.

Cookies help to personalize your experience when you visit websites, but they also have disadvantages and can present security risks.

For instance, cookies can identify your IP address and give the sites you visit information about your purchasing behavior that could be onsold to advertisers. This could leave you open to exploitation not only by marketing companies, but other third-party agents that you may not even know about …

Browser Security

In terms of security, cookies log the sites you visit, which can create privacy issues and provide useful information for anyone trying to build a profile of your online behavior …

Browser Security

Configuring Your Browser Cookie Settings

Information about your browser cookies is stored in your browser’s ‘Options’ or ‘Settings’ section, depending on the browser you are using.

For example, in Firefox, you can access information about your cookies by selecting the ‘Options’ menu …

Firefox

In the ‘Option’ > ‘Privacy’ tab, select ‘Use custom settings for history’ from the drop-down menu in the ‘History’ section …

Browser Security

This will display a number of additional settings that will allow you to configure things such as:

  • Whether to accept cookies from sites or not
  • How to handle third-party cookies (always accept, accept cookies from visited sites only, or never accept cookies)
  • How long to keep cookies on your browser for (keep cookies until they expire, keep cookies until you close Firefox and end your browser session, or let Firefox ask you every time)
  • Create exception rules for handling cookies from specific sites (e.g. block cookies just from some sections of a website but not other areas)
  • View stored cookies

Browser Security

Click on the ‘Ok’ button when finished to update your settings.

In Google Chrome, you can access your cookie settings information by clicking on the Google Chrome control button and selecting ‘Settings’ from the menu …

Browser Security

Click on ‘Show advanced settings’ …

Browser Security

In the ‘Settings’ > ‘Privacy’ section, click on the ‘Content settings…’ button …

Browser Security

This brings up the ‘Content settings’ window. Configure your cookie settings in the ‘Cookies’ section of the screen …

Browser Security

To prevent any cookies from being placed on your computer, select “Block third-party cookies and site data” …

Browser Security

Click ‘Done’ when finished to update your settings.

To configure your cookies in Internet Explorer, click on the ‘Tools’ button and select ‘Internet options’ …

Browser Security

Change your cookie settings in the ‘Internet Options’ > ‘Privacy’ tab …

Browser Security

To configure your cookies in Safari, select the ‘Safari’ > ‘Preferences’ menu option …

Browser Security

And click on the ‘Security’ tab …

Browser Security

help To learn more about configuring cookie settings in the above browsers, visit the help pages below:

redarrow How To Enable And Disable Cookies In Firefox

redarrow Manage Your Google Chrome Cookies And Site Data

redarrow Block Or Allow Cookies In Windows Internet Explorer

redarrow Safari – Managing Information Stored By Websites

How To Delete Browser Cookies

You may want to delete some or all of the cookies stored in your browser for privacy reasons, to improve the performance of your browser, or to remove an unwanted event, activity or error that has been caused by a cookie (e.g. your browser keeps redirecting to an advertisement, to an expired login page, or to a site containing information placed by a previous cookie).

In Firefox, you can remove cookies as follows:

In the ‘Options’ > ‘Privacy’ tab, click on ‘remove individual cookies’ …

Browser Security

This brings up the ‘Cookies’ window, listing all of the cookies that are stored on your browser …

Browser Security

You can delete an individual cookie by selecting it from the list and clicking the ‘Remove Cookies’ button …

Browser Security

Or click on the ‘Remove All Cookies’ button to clear all cookies from your browser …

Browser Security

All cookies that were stored in your browser will be deleted …

Browser Security

Note: After clearing all cookies from your browser, you will probably notice that some of your most visited sites no longer remember who you are or your preferences, and you may have to login again to access any sites that you were logged into previously.

In Google Chrome, navigate to the ‘Content settings’ > ‘Cookies’ section, and click on ‘All cookies and site data…’

Browser Security

You will be able to see all the cookies that are currently stored in your browser …

Browser Security

You can click on cookies to delete them individually, or click on the ‘Remove all’ button to clear all cookies on your browser …

Browser Security

Remember to click ‘Done’ when finished.

help To learn how to delete cookies in Internet Explorer and Safari browsers, visit the help pages below:

redarrow Delete And Manage Cookies In Windows Internet Explorer

redarrow Safari – Remove Cookies From Your Computer

Browser History

Your browser also keeps track of all the sites you have visited over a period of time. This allows anyone with access to your computer to see which sites you have visited …

Browser Security

You can access your browser history in Firefox by going to ‘History’ > ‘Show All History’ …

Browser Security

To view your browser history in Google Chrome, click on the control button and select ‘History’ from the menu …

Browser Security

Accessing your browser history on Internet Explorer and Safari is also simple. Search online for “view history in browser name” if you need help with this.

Configuring Browser History Settings

To configure your browser history settings in Firefox, go to the ‘ Options’ > ‘Privacy’ tab and select an option from the dropdown menu in the ‘History’ section …

Browser Security

You can allow Firefox to remember your browsing history, to never remember it, or you can configure custom settings for your browser history (.e.g. have Firefox delete your history when you quit the browser) …

Browser Security

help Refer to the earlier documentation in this tutorial and help pages in the ‘Reference’ section to learn more about managing browser history in your particular web browser.

Deleting Browser History

To delete the history in Firefox, go to ‘Options’ > ‘Privacy’ and click on ‘clear your recent history’ …

Browser Security

You can select various browser data (see next section below) and time ranges to clear; from the last hour of browsing online, to deleting everything, by selecting your options and clicking on the ‘Clear Now’ button …

Browser Security

You can allow Firefox to remember your browsing history, to never remember it, or you can configure custom settings for your browser history (.e.g. have Firefox delete your history when you quit the browser) …

Browser Security

help Refer to the earlier documentation in this tutorial and help pages in the ‘Reference’ section to learn more about managing browser history in your particular web browser.

Browser Cache

As well as the security benefits, clearing your browser cache can fix many browser problems, such as browser plugin crashes, stored cache content conflicting with live content, and the browser preventing you from seeing updated content.

Clearing Your Cache

To clear your cache in Firefox, go to ‘Options’ > ‘Privacy’ and click on ‘clear your recent history’ …

Browser Security

Select ‘Everything’ in ‘Time range to clear:’ and make sure that ‘Cache’ is selected, then click on the ‘Clear Now’ button …

Browser Security

Note: To only clear the cache, make sure that no other options but ‘cache’ are selected before clicking on the ‘Clear Now’ button …

In Google Chrome, click the ‘Clear browsing data…’ button …

Browser Security

Select the items you want to delete and the time frame, then click on ‘Clear browsing data’ …

Browser Security

In Internet Explorer, your browser cache settings can be accessed by clicking on the ‘Tools’ button and selecting ‘Internet Options’ …

Browser Security

Select the ‘Internet Options’ > ‘General’ tab and configure your options in the ‘Browsing history’ section …

Browser Security

To empty your cache in Safari, go to ‘Safari’ > ‘Empty Cache’ …

Browser Security

You will be asked to confirm your decision to empty the cache. Click on ‘Empty’ to proceed and delete the content of your cache …

Browser Security

help Refer to the browser support sites listed in the ‘Reference’ section to learn more about managing your web browser’s cache.

Browser Security

This is the end of this section. In the next section, we review important web browser security information. To continue, click on the link below:

redarrow Important Web Browser Security Information

See also …

redarrow Additional Web Browser Security Tips

redarrow Return To Web Browser Security Overview

References

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