The Safest Browsers to Use When Handling Sensitive Data
As cybercrime becomes more sophisticated, criminals are finding increasingly clever ways of targeting and reaching businesses. It’s estimated that around 43% of cyber attacks are aimed at small businesses and Covid has only made things worse with increased numbers of employees working from home on their private networks and devices.
In fact, according to the Cybersecurity Breaches Survey 2021, 38% of micro and small businesses identified cybersecurity breaches or attacks over 2020 to 2021, with around 27% of those businesses being attacked at least once a week. With the average cost of a security breach reaching £8,170, this threat is far from insignificant.
But given that only many businesses aren’t adapting their cybersecurity plan to respond to increased remote working, their dispersed teams are left vulnerable, particularly if they’re using browsers with limited built-in security.
But businesses don’t need to overhaul their cyber security strategy to keep their employees’ systems and their business data safe. Small tweaks can include insisting teams use a secure browser for their online activity.
We’ll demonstrate why your browser choice is so important to your online security, and reveal our top 4 safe browser choices to get you started right away.
What is a safe browser?
A safe browser is an internet browser that includes extra security measures that will stop any unauthorised third-party activity while you’re using the internet.
Safe browsers will allow authorised programmes and activities to happen but will prevent any third-party activity that hasn’t been approved on their white list.
What makes a browser safe?
Whilst all browsers use security and privacy measures that will allow you to block ads and cookies, the most secure and safe browsers take extra steps to ensure users get a top-level of protection from nefarious activity. These will include:
Antitracking will black web-tracking technology, such as third-parties tracking cookies.
Anti-fingerprinting tools will help you stay anonymous whilst online.
This will help you stay safe by protecting you against malicious website identity theft and fraud.
This will stop you from seeing ads and will reduce the chances of an adware infection.
Built-in password management
This will let you store and create passwords for all your accounts and keep them in one central location.
This will let you only install trusted extensions and block third-party browser extensions being installed.
Automatic HTTPS encryption
This will protect your personal data when you land on an unsecured website.
This will prevent your webcam from being hacked by unauthorised websites.
Built-in Virtual Private Network (VPN) integration
This will hide your IP address and encrypt your traffic.
Why should you use a safe browser?
Whenever you’re using a browser to access the internet you’re handing over personal information – whether you know it or not. Your browsing history, your login details, your cookies and trackers, and your autofill information can all be used by businesses for marketing purposes or exploited by cybercriminals.
Companies will use this data, usually to target their marketing ads to reach you and personalise your experience with them. This kind of “personalised marketing” or “relevant advertising” is harmless. At best it can actually be helpful; at worst it can be annoying and unsettling.
By tracking your cookies (the small files that websites place in your browser) or browser fingerprinting (the scripts or code websites use to get information about your browser), companies can follow you online, tracking your behaviour and habits for commercial insight.
But in the hands of cybercriminals, the data that you’re leaking when on your browser can be used for malicious reasons – usually motivated by access to data and/or money. They’ll use phishing tactics, browser-focused malware, “malvertising”, and scareware pop-ups to try and take advantage of you and trick you into handing over data… or, worse, funds.
It’s also worth noting that incognito or private browsing will not protect you against cybercrime. Your IP address will still be exposed and your activities can still be tracked by third parties.
Our top 4 safe browsers
Available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
Edge, with its latest updates, is becoming one of the most preferred browsers. With its SmartScreen anti-phishing tool using Microsoft’s phishing detection technology, it now detects more phishing sites than Chrome when tested.
Edge has a basic tracker blocking feature which gives the user three levels of tracker blocking. The “strict” level will block most of the trackers and cookies – but also those which are vital for a website to function, although the medium-level “balanced” tracker blocker will detect the most invasive trackers without impeding user browsing experience.
Edge also supports DNS-over-HTTPS by default which increases privacy. That said, because user data is being gleaned by Microsoft, user privacy is questionable.
Available for Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, and Android.
Google Chrome is a popular option as a secure web browser. As it’s owned by Google, its security features are constantly being revised and updated
With Chrome you can use “Safe Browsing” which means that Google uses its vast database of unsafe sites to alert you to suspicious web pages. Safe browsing is updated on a daily basis and is proven to be successful at detecting phishing sites.
With Chrome you can also select DNS -over-HTTPS protection. This is an extra layer of privacy and protection from Internet Service Providers and hackers. This can be activated with a single click from within Chrome’s settings.
On the downside, Google has become synonymous with privacy violations lately. Because Google Chrome is an ardent collector of user data, it has often been accused of privacy violations. The company gives a lot of weight to its user profiling and ad targeting, which means you can’t expect to experience a highly private experience using the Chrome browser.
We advise using a VPN browser extension alongside Chrome, to boost your security and privacy.
Available for macOS and iOS.
Apple’s browser, Safari, is a top player in online security. Its list of features is relatively small but safe, such as its password generator; private browsing mode; and machine learning protection and anti-fingerprinting features.
This being said, as a product of Apple, which has been under scrutiny for collecting users’ browsing history even when they’re using a private browser, it’s far from entirely secure or private. On top of this, Apple has participated in the NSA PRISM programme which collected communications from internet companies, particularly in the USA.
Available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Mozilla Firefox is the only mainstream open-source browser, and as a result, has been thoroughly investigated and scrutinised by the coding community. Because of this, you can be assured there are no hidden secrets lurking beneath the bonnet.
Firefox offers a private browsing mode, tracking, malware and phishing protection. It has a pop-up blocker and anti fingerprinting protection, as well as a whole gamut of customisations so that you can disable functions you don’t want operating in the background. Like Chrome, it also includes DNS-over HTTPS encrypted browsing, although this is activated by default.
Potential issues: It has features such as Pocket, startup profiling and Telemetry which might be compromising to privacy. That said, these can be disabled within Settings.
Bonus internet security tips
Selecting a secure browser is the first step, but of course, it’s vital that you follow the basic security steps to ensure you keep your data safe. Here are our top 7 to get you started.
- Install an antivirus (and keep it updated!)
- Use unique passwords for every login (even when they’re optional)
- Turn off saved passwords in your browser
- Use two-factor authentication
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
- Regularly clear your cache
- Be on the look-out for phishing emails
Here at Firstline IT, we take cyber security seriously. We know how difficult it is to navigate your way into a more secure experience in an increasingly hostile online world. But we also have the expertise to guide you through best practise, find the right tools to protect your team’s systems (whether in-office or remote), and keep your business operational even when breaches occur.