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 employees now taking up a hybrid working style, organisations must adapt to new cybersecurity threats.

In the past, risk factors were typically limited to internal servers and systems. In contrast, the shift to remote working arrangements brought local networks, public internet, and consumer hardware to the forefront.

Now web browsers are among the primary areas for concern, as cybercriminals are targeting unknowing and unsuspecting employees to access business data. Unfortunately, employees are a weak link in business cybersecurity, often susceptible to phishing scams and malicious downloads. Additionally, 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. First, we will consider 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
  • Lots 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, this 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

Edge has 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.

As of recently, Edge is now available on Linux, making it compatible with any operating system. Arguably Edge has improved its syncing capabilities, cutting it close to Chrome’s features. However, there are some small differences. For example, with Chrome cross-device syncing is by default, whereas Edge requires a quick manual change on settings.

Microsoft Edge vs Chrome Browser Security

It stands to reason that the Microsoft Edge browser comes out on top with regards to overall security.

In 2021, CyberRatings conducted a test to measure malware protection by browser. It concluded that Edge was the most effective at defending against common threats compared to Chrome and Firefox. The following are the success rates for each browser when preventing malware:

Edge – 97.4%

Chrome – 86.3%

Firefox – 81.8%

In comparing each browser’s features, research suggests that Edge offers the most protection from malware sites and tracking. Chrome and Firefox collect far more data, which is a greater concern for users’ privacy. But, by default Firefox is more privacy regulated, and Edge follows shortly behind with many more possible features to enhance security. Recently, Chrome has come under scrutiny for intercepting user data in ‘Incognito’ mode, leading to current lawsuits in progress.

So, it is slightly ahead of the competition, but is Microsoft Edge secure enough out of the box? You may need to make additions or adjustments to ensure that it’s safe for remote working. For example, you will always feel safer and more secure surfing the internet using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). 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 several built-in features to 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 SmartScreen on 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 false ‘tech support’ number. If it occurs, any such attempt to call should be avoided.

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

Safe Browsing Strategies

Cybercriminals often control the vulnerabilities in web browsers, which later 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 tools encrypt your connection to the internet by routing it through an allocated server. This prevents advertisers, websites, and other unknown 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.  Outsourced IT services will offer 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. Service providers can also conduct security audits to assess and improve the effectivity of your protective infrastructure. They may also assist in other areas such as antivirus software and disk encryption.

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

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. It may also be relieving to know 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.

All in all, implementing a company device usage policy should account for the safety of company hardware. This should include making sure that other members of the household cannot access work laptops and mobiles. From a business perspective, 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.

Stay Alert to Improve your Browser Security

So, hopefully now you’re aware of the steps to take to improve your browser security when working from home.

We found that Microsoft Edge was the best web browser to choose for user privacy and effective malware protection. But understand that there will always be some risk in browsing, as your data is on display. Ensure your security is layered – utilise VPNs, filter your browser settings for optimum protection, add anti-tracking extensions if necessary. Similarly, passwords must be strong and unique to avoid multiple points of access for hackers.

And finally, always consult with an IT expert or reach out to your IT service provider when switching to remote working. They can help deliver crucial services to improve your browser security and ensure you have a smooth, stress-free migration.

If you need any further guidance or would like to learn more about our award-winning IT support here at totality services, feel free to contact our experts today! Want to boost your business’ security further? Our robust solutions include full network security audits, real time monitoring, and hardware encryption for all workstations.