15 tips for a safe browser

The internet is sometimes portrayed as a perilous place where danger is constantly lurking. Not much of that is true. Of course, there are dangers, but if you walk through the alleys of Amsterdam at midnight naked with your credit card and all your other data taped to your body, you won't get home safely (at least not with your credit card). A safe internet experience is perfectly possible, but you have to use common sense and the fifteen tips we give you to get a safer browser.

Disable cookies

In this article, we discuss measures to better guarantee the security and privacy of your browser. A method that would be great for that is to disable all cookies. The only downside to this is that, while cookies are now "misused" for data collection, they were once designed to make the browsing experience more enjoyable. If you disable all cookies, most websites will no longer work properly. So make sure that you only refuse tracking cookies, because they are intended to map your behavior.

1 Safe Browsing

The top three browsers (Chrome, Firefox, and Edge) are all fairly secure. The Security Council of Certificate Authorities (CASC) even named Edge the fastest and most secure browser at the end of 2018, with a 'protection score' of 93.6 percent. Chrome had a score of 87.9 percent and Firefox was just below with 87 percent. The score is based on the percentage of phishing sites that are detected and blocked. But please note: there is a difference between security (protection against malware and phishing) and privacy (confidentiality of your surfing behaviour). Chrome and Edge are safe, but score low in terms of privacy, more about that below.

2 Browsing with privacy

It is important to ensure that you also take steps to ensure your privacy. For example, you can start browsing in private windows, an option that every browser offers. It is not really private, because it mainly ensures that your surfing behavior is not stored locally and that cookies are deleted after the session. But sites and also your ISP can simply see your IP address and track your surfing behavior in ways other than cookies and recognize you as an online identity. Commercial browsers such as Edge and Chrome are wholly or partly closed source and pass on your surfing behavior to Microsoft and Google (if you are logged in, you open the door completely). Firefox is a better choice because it's open source and from a non-profit organization that doesn't benefit from collecting data. Also recommended is Brave, an open source browser with all kinds of built-in security and privacy features. Because it is based on Chromium (the open source base of Chrome), you can also use Chrome extensions in Brave. You get the highest degree of privacy with Tor, but that is less user-friendly than the above options.

3 Autocomplete

Browsers have gotten more and more useful features over the years. AutoComplete is one of them, as well as saving passwords. It's super handy, because you have to type less and less, but that data is stored on your hard drive, and if you're unlucky, hackers can get away with it. As convenient as it is, we recommend that you do not use AutoComplete. Of course, having passwords filled in automatically is super convenient, but don't use the browser's function for that. You can read that in tip 11.

4 Block popups

Pop-ups were once invented so that websites can conveniently draw your attention to important things. Of course, people soon found a way to capitalize on this, and nowadays pop-ups are almost just advertising messages and, if you're unlucky, viruses trying to hijack your browsing session. It is therefore a good idea to prohibit pop-ups on websites. Every browser has that option. To illustrate: in Chrome, click the icon with the three dots and then click Institutions and then on Advanced after which you scroll to Privacy and Security. Now when you click Site Settings do you see the option Popups and Redirects. Here you can indicate whether these are allowed or not.

5 Privacy Settings

In the menu Privacy and Security want to stick around for a while, because besides pop-ups you can manage all kinds of other permissions here. For example, you can indicate here that sites are not allowed to follow you, but you can also indicate whether a site can just access your webcam or microphone (tip: no!). Not every browser has all this data collected in the same menu, but in Firefox it is. There you will also find the settings in the menu Privacy and Security within the institutions.

6 Clear history

If someone says that they regularly delete their browser history, the environment will quickly think that that person has something to hide. And that's right. Contrary to popular belief, we all have something to hide, and it really doesn't have to be porn sites. Everything you visit online is stored in your browser history. People often don't realize that this is very useful information. To illustrate, if a hacker sees you regularly visiting a gambling site, your credit card site, etc., then he/she will also know that you are an interesting victim. At least someone with (occasionally) money. And hackers, just like burglars, always go for the low hanging fruit.

7 Two-step verification

In theory, this has more to do with websites than your browser itself, unless you're using Chrome. When a hacker knows your password, he/she can log into your account without any problems. If this is your account at the candy store, no problem, but if it's your Google account, with access to your Gmail, and therefore indirect access to all your passwords (via the forgot password option) you could be in big financial trouble. problems come. And in the case of Google, your Google account is also what you use to sign in to Chrome. If a website allows you to do this, it is best to always opt for two-step verification, then unauthorized logging into your account is (almost) impossible.

8 Watch the lock

It would be nice if everyone would handle our data neatly and safely. Unfortunately, that is absolutely not the case in reality. Many sites do not even have an SSL certificate, the data you send and receive is then unencrypted and easy to intercept. When you shop online somewhere or send personal information in any other way, check whether there is a lock in the top left of the address bar next to the URL. If that is not the case (and it says Not secured), that does not mean that the site is malicious, but it does mean that your data is not securely sent back and forth.

9 Updates!

This tip applies to your browser, but also to your operating system in general. Always make sure to install updates as soon as they are available. This is not always a problem - sometimes there are significant bugs in updates - but that is still better than being hacked because your operating system or your browser is not up-to-date. You will regret as hair on your head if you were hacked through a security hole that could simply have been closed with an update.

10 VPN

Anyone who ever downloads something via The Pirate Bay has seen the notifications: do not download anything without a VPN (virtual private network) because authorities can easily trace you. That already shows how useful a VPN is. When you use such a service, your data is sent encrypted via all kinds of servers, so that you cannot be traced and your data cannot be deciphered. Unfortunately, we live in a time when this has become a necessity. A good Dutch site for this is www.expressvpn.com. Here you can buy access to a VPN for ten euros a month, and you will receive a clear explanation of how to use it.

11 LastPass

In front of: Edge, Chrome and Firefox

We mentioned it earlier: storing passwords locally on your computer is a bad idea. You don't want that information on your computer at all. More secure in this case is a service like LastPass. When you install this extension and create an account, all your passwords are stored in the LastPass vault, protected by one master password. The extension automatically loads passwords when needed. And since LastPass can shut down if their service isn't secure, rest assured that they're doing everything they can to ensure that security.

12 Ublock

In front of: Chrome and Firefox

We understand the need for companies to collect data from you at times, but it's very disturbing when this happens without your knowledge (and it often does). To increase that transparency, we recommend the Ublock Origin extension (located under that name in the appropriate extension store). This extension clearly maps when and what is collected from you, so that you can intervene and avoid certain sites in the future.

13 Disconnect

In front of: Chrome and Firefox

This extension is similar to Ublock Origin in many ways, but what we love about it is that it not only clearly maps which site is keeping what exactly, so that you can block it, but also how much time and bandwidth you have it. saved. Especially if you often use a mobile internet connection with limited data traffic, it is fantastic to have this mapped out.

14 Tunnel bear

In front of: Chrome

Earlier we indicated that it is very wise to use a VPN. You probably agree with us, but maybe you don't feel like paying for it or you find the installation too complicated. In that case, you can install the Tunnelbear extension. This is a free vpn that you don't need to install as everything is set up automatically through the extension. There are of course limitations (especially in terms of data traffic), but it's a great option to try out how a VPN works.

15 HTTPS Everywhere

In front of: Chrome and Firefox

You now know why it is important to check whether sites have an SSL certificate, and how you can see that. However, there are also sometimes sites that are not configured properly. They may have an SSL certificate, but it is not loaded properly. The HTTPS Everywhere extension ensures that if there is a certificate, it will always be used, even if it is not configured properly. Unfortunately, this extension cannot conjure a certificate where there really isn't one, but it is a very nice solution for when things don't go quite right.

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