Browser Security – How to Improve When Working From Home

Browser Security

When was the last time you thought about your web browser security?  With more than half of London working from home, organisations must adapt to new cybersecurity threats.

In the past, risk factors were mostly limited to internal servers and systems, whereas the rush to establish remote arrangements brought local networks, public internet, and consumer hardware to the forefront. Cybercriminals are also targeting unknowing and unsuspecting employees to access business data.

Web browsers are among the primary areas for concern, serving as an entry point for phishing scams and malicious downloads. From the user perspective, issues like data privacy and intrusive advertising can disrupt productivity and further compromise security.

This makes it crucial to implement the necessary browser security measures and ensure that your external devices are adequately protected. Let’s begin by discussing the most secure platforms for accessing the internet at home.

Comparing Web Browsers

Which browser is best for privacy and security?

The general consensus is that it’s a close tie between Chrome and Edge, with Firefox posing as the leading alternative to the two Chromium-based options. While compelling in terms of safety, Mozilla’s browser lacks integration with the Google and Microsoft products that typically form part of remote workflows.

For this reason, our focus will remain on Chrome and Edge. Here’s how they shape up.

Google Chrome

Familiarity, versatility, and ease of use make Chrome the preferred browser for many.

  • Compatible with everything
  • Great user interface
  • Tons of extensions
  • Limited privacy settings
  • Resource demands

Google Chrome offers an ever-growing collection of add-ons that not only customise the experience, but also improve security. For instance, extensions such as AdBlock Plus hide unwanted banners and pop-ups, while HTTPS Everywhere provides data encryption and Disconnect stops sites from tracking your activity.

You can install Chrome on just about any device and sync data across platforms with a Google account. This includes bookmarks, history, settings, and more. As most desktop users are aware, the browser can suffer optimisation issues and tends to devour RAM with numerous tabs open. Chrome also falls behind when it comes to privacy settings.

Microsoft Edge

All the benefits of its competitor without the main drawbacks.

  • Light on resources and battery life
  • Robust privacy features
  • Microsoft service integration
  • Lacklustre device syncing

Replacing an outdated Internet Explorer, the Chrome-based Microsoft Edge takes the winning formula of a browser that shares its engine and presents several unique advantages. Chief among them are lower power drain and superior privacy options. Microsoft has also made efforts to improve browser security with extensive settings and features.

Edge is available on all operating systems apart from Linux, which is set to gain support soon. Where it lags behind most are the limited syncing capabilities, although this too will undoubtedly be addressed in due course.

Microsoft Edge vs Chrome Browser Security

It stands to reason that the latter-mentioned browser comes out on top with regards to overall security.

Current research supports this notion. For example, the latest report from NSS Labs concluded that Edge is more effective at defending against common threats compared to Chrome and Firefox. The following are the success rates for each browser when preventing phishing and malware attacks respectively:

  • Edge – 91.4% and 99%
  • Chrome – 82.4% and 85.8%
  • Firefox – 81.4% and 78.3%

So, it’s clearly ahead of the competition, but is Microsoft Edge secure enough out of the box? Do you need to make any additions or adjustments to ensure that it’s safe for remote working? The bottom line is that any browser, no matter how secure by default, is still vulnerable to threats.

Fortunately, there are various ways to improve browser security. Read on to learn more.

Microsoft Edge Privacy and Browser Security

Edge has a number of built-in features that enable safer web browsing. Start by running through these settings:

  • Place tracking prevention in Balanced or Strict mode to block harmful trackers
  • Verify that SmartScreen is active to enhance protection from phishing and malware
  • Switch to a secure DNS service provider when applicable
  • Navigate to passwords and turn on Password Monitor
  • Disable the ‘Allow Sites to Check if You Have Payment Info Saved’ option

While the resulting configuration is ideal, you may experience certain problems moving forward.

SmartScreen, for instance, can occasionally detect a false positive and stop you from downloading files you know to be safe. You can override this by switching off the feature. Here’s how to disable security scan in Microsoft Edge:

  1. Enter the settings by clicking the three dots in the upper-right corner
  2. Scroll to the bottom and select ‘View Advanced Settings’
  3. Scroll down again and adjust the toggle for Windows Defender SmartScreen accordingly

Now that you’re aware of how to turn off security scan Microsoft Edge, keep in mind that it’s best to re-activate the feature after downloading the file you wanted. This will ensure that valid Microsoft Edge security warning messages appear if you encounter any malicious files or websites.

However, not every Microsoft Edge security alert is genuine. The Identity Theft Resource Centre points out that hackers can send fake alerts claiming that your computer has been infected. These scams aim to extort money from victims by having them call a ‘tech support’ number. Of course, any such attempt should be avoided.

The next section details some general guidelines that can help you further improve browser security.

Safe Browsing Strategies

Cybercriminals often leverage vulnerabilities in web browsers, which get patched by developers through updates. That’s why your first step should be to ensure that you’re always running the latest version. It’s a good idea to enable automatic updates if the option is available. Below are a few more ways to improve browser security.

Use an Ad Blocker

Intrusive pop-ups aren’t just annoying; they can also contain malicious content. While most browsers come with pre-installed filters that block pop-ups from appearing, ad blocker extensions can provide more comprehensive filtering. Edge has one pre-installed and you can find it in the settings.

Enable ‘Do Not Track’

Another common feature among web browsers is the ability to send a ‘do not track’ request that asks sites to not collect your personal data. What happens after the request is sent depends on how the website responds. Some may be ignored, but it’s still worth having the option enabled.

Download a VPN

VPN (virtual proxy network) tools encrypt your connection to the internet by routing it through an allocated server. This prevents advertisers, websites, and less benevolent parties from tracking your activity. Plus, you can use a VPN to access content that might not be available in your region.

Secure Your Passwords

You probably know that it’s best to avoid using the same password for different accounts. This ensures that breaches remain isolated if your login details for one website are compromised. Aside from using unique passwords that are long and unpredictable, it also helps to store them in a password manager where they can be encrypted.

That just about covers it for browser security. Of course, there’s more to protecting your data when working from home than web browsers. Let’s take a step back and discuss overall security.

Work From Home and Browser Security

Every organisation should establish an effective work from home security policy for remote staff. It can include:

  • Company device usage rules
  • Data storage and disposal practices
  • Prerequisite antivirus and security software
  • Video conferencing and communication guidelines

With the complex and pervasive nature of today’s online threats, an increasing number of businesses are seeking outside assistance in the form of managed IT service providers. These comprise dedicated teams of remote experts who can streamline the transition to home offices and keep external operations secure. Here’s how.

IT Support in London

Companies of all sizes can benefit from having access to the skills and resources of a 24/7 support team. Their range of security solutions begin with the monitoring, detecting, eliminating, and reporting of incidents around the clock. Providers can also conduct security audits and assist in areas such as antivirus software and disk encryption.

In addition to mitigating security threats, an IT support company can also help with purchasing and setting up the best technologies for remote teams. Their industry knowledge may be used to reduce compliance burdens as well.

Given how costly and scarce IT resources can be among small and medium-sized businesses, letting an external team take care of operations allows internal technicians to focus on core tasks back in the office. Plus, the associated staffing and infrastructure costs can be replaced with predictable service fees.

Family and Working From Home

Finally, consider the implications that family may have on your work when moving to a home office, particularly with regards to security. The aforementioned device usage rules should account for the safety of company hardware.

This includes making sure that other members of the household cannot access work laptops and mobiles. From the business side, company devices are best reserved exclusively for work purposes and should only be used on private home networks that are correctly configured.

Working from home is not without its challenges. But once you’ve taken the time to properly secure your hardware and software, there will be far less problems to solve moving forward.