If you want to surf the internet, then the way to do so is through an internet browser. The big shots in the browser world are Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Mozilla Firefox, serving as your online 'starting point' whenever you use the internet. It is important you make sure the privacy settings maintain a strong level of security over your data and online activity because of their prominence when it comes to what we do online.
Users often fail to correctly set up the browser securely to start off with, known as the default settings, this leaves you vulnerable to threats in the form of malware.
The Dangers of Default
The default settings that come when you start using a device, whatever that device may be, should not be accepted as being enough to protect you from online hackers because the growing complexity of online threats is too much for them to keep up with, leaving users exposed if they choose to neglect their privacy settings.
95% of users don't change anything once their new device is up and running, meaning that default is as far as most people go. It is easier and most convenient to just use what it comes with, but these settings are not the most secure, not by a long shot.
Default settings are decided by the manufacturer and they prioritise usability and functionality to better the computing experience, however this comes at the cost of security. People accept the default configuration without properly reviewing it because it's quicker and easier, so although it may save time, they haven't even paid attention to what the settings are, never mind if they're happy with them.
The Growing Number of Cyber Threats
Web browsers can be dangerous if you aren't protected, and as the default settings aren't enough, you need to actively improve your browser settings. Failing to secure your web browser can quickly lead to a variety of problems caused by anything from spyware being installed without your knowledge to intruders taking control of your computer.
With a growing number of web applications relying on web browsers, there is an increasing threat from software attacks that take advantage of this through targeting the browsers themselves. New software vulnerabilities are being exploited and directed at web browsers through the use of compromised or malicious websites. This popularity in attack method is made worse for users due to the following factors:
- Many users ignore the improvements in security available to them, so stick with the default settings
- Users click on links without realising the potential risks in doing so
- URLS, otherwise known as the web address that appears in the search bar, can be disguised and therefore when you think you're clicking on a safe site, it could take you somewhere completely different
- Many users don't know how to configure their web browsers to improve security
How to Use Browsers Safely:
These problems can be easily dealt with through a better understanding around the way web browsers work, and how we can use them to improve online security. There are different ways to configure your browser's settings in order to improve security, although it can differ across the browsers, the same general advice applies to all.
Auto-fill – Disable your browser from saving your login information, it does this so that it can automatically fill in your details to save time, but actually it is creating potential vulnerabilities for hackers to target by holding more information on you than needed.
Disable third-party cookies – Cookies are used by websites to remember you, and therefore they personalise the experience for next time you use the site (an example of this would be a shopping site remembering the items in your 'basket' from last time you were there). They make your interaction with your frequently-visited sites smoother and more tailored, something that can also be seen negatively. The personal aspect the cookies add means that these organisations have information on you, something that can hinder online security. This is because, if hackers attack the company, they could also gain whatever personal information the site has on you, leaving you in a vulnerable position.
Stop pop-ups – By blocking pop-up windows, it prevents users from experiencing unwanted advertisements that randomly show up as you're browsing. Essentially this deals with the online equivalent or junk mail being posted through your door.
Clearing your history – By regularly clearing your browsing history, it limits the amount of data the browser saves on you, limiting the information that hackers could ever get their hands on through targeting the browser.