Are You Practicing Safe Browsing? What you should know about browser safety – and why it matters

September 22, 2021

Like most web-enabled businesses, Salisbury Bank takes every possible step to ensure that your online interactions are safe and secure. But many people don’t realize that using the wrong browser technology can put them at risk, no matter how stringent a website’s security protocols are.

What is a secure browser?

According to McAfee, the online security giant, a ‘safe’ browser is one with extra security measures that help prevent unauthorized, third-party activity while you're online. These browsers have a list of authorized programs and activities; if you attempt to access an unauthorized function, they prevent it from starting up.

This is different than anti-virus or anti-malware programs that you run on your computer. They’re designed to identify a threat after it is on your computer – and potentially doing harm. Secure browsers work to proactively prevent you from accessing potentially destructive programming.

Which browsers are secure?

  • Google Chrome is the world’s leading Internet browser. It’s intuitive, flexible and has built-in transparency features that warn you if you come into contact with phishing or malware sites.
  • Mozilla’s Firefox is also very robust and secure. It’s easy to customize and issues frequent updates, which are important in the ever-changing landscape of web browsing.
  • Microsoft Edge is a cross-platform web browser created and developed by Microsoft. A new version was released in January 2020 and is based on Chromium (see below). This is the platform Internet Explorer (IE) users are being encouraged to use as the previous IE platform will be retired and no longer supported as of June 15, 2022.
  • Chromium is an open-source (non-proprietary) version of Google Chrome. Its downside is that it requires manual updating.
  • Apple Safari is another top browser. According to PC World, while it is excellent at anti-phishing filtering and pop-up blocking (especially on Apple iOS platforms), there are a number of security weaknesses, including programming that allows Apple programs to advertise themselves, and discover other compatible programs on the local network. Security experts tend to be wary of such programs.
  • Brave (another Mozilla product) is another free, open-source, customizable browser. It’s a good choice for people who want extra security features, such as the ability to specify which data to keep after every browser session. It also offers an extra layer of security via HTTPS Anywhere (see below).
  • Tor (short for The Onion Router) was designed to provide complete anonymity while on the Web. This free, open-source software is considered more secure than other browsers, but it can slow down your connection, and disable certain online features. Most Internet security experts agree that Tor is probably the top choice in terms of security.

What’s up with Internet Explorer (IE)?

Although many people still rely on Microsoft IE, it is essentially out of date. If you’ve been using it, you’ve probably received notices that it will be retired and no longer supported as of June 2022. Instead, the company is migrating users to Edge, the browser it introduced in 2015 for Windows 10, and reconfigured in 2020. Edge is native on Windows 10, with limited compatibility for some earlier Windows versions. Built on the Chromium platform, it offers a faster, more secure and more modern browsing experience than IE. The company states that the new Microsoft Edge offers the highest-rated protection against both phishing attacks and malware on Windows 10 with Microsoft Defender SmartScreen.

HTTPS Everywhere: a worthwhile addition to almost any browser. HTTPS Everywhere is an open-source add-on that can be used with Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Brave, Vivaldi and Firefox for Android. It protects you by automatically enabling HTTPS encryption on sites that support it, even when you type in a URL or follow a link with an HTTP (non-encrypted) prefix.

A note of caution

Even a secure browser does not guarantee security. That’s why it’s important to practice good web hygiene, and make sure you’re always running the latest version of anti-virus and anti-malware software. Be sure to keep your browser software up-to-date and regularly review your browser's security settings and preferences. If you don’t need pop-ups (which are often used to plant malicious code), you can disable them or install software that will prevent pop-up windows.

 

This article is designed to provide informative material and is distributed with the understanding that it does not constitute legal or other professional advice. Opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. Information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy and interpretation are not guaranteed.


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