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How to Evaluate Your Web Browser’s Security Settings

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Security

Increasing the security settings in your web browser could prevent your computer from being attacked by viruses or unwanted hackers.

Your web browser is your main connection to the rest of the Internet, multiple applications may rely on your browser, or elements within your browser to function. This makes the security settings within your browser very important.

Many web applications try to enable various types of functionality, but it may leave your computer vulnerable to attacks. Disable most of these features and enable the functionality temporarily if you think the site is trustworthy.

Remember to familiarize yourself with your browser’s security options and settings. Every browser allows you to adjust security levels, so it’s a good idea to understand how to change your settings and to be knowledgeable of certain terms.

If you use Internet Explorer as your default web browser, you can find your settings by:

  1. Clicking Tools on your menu bar
  2. Selecting Internet Options
  3. Choosing Security tab
  4. Clicking Custom Level

In Firefox, you can access your settings by:

  1. Clicking Tools on the menu bar
  2. Selecting Options
  3. Clicking the Content, Privacy, and Security tabs

To keep your computer safe, your security settings should be at the highest level possible. But this may prevent some sites from loading or functioning properly. Keep your security settings high, but only enable certain features when you need to.

Your web browser may give you the option of putting websites into different segments, or zones, and allow you to define different security restrictions for each zone. The Internet is the general zone for all public websites. The local intranet is a safe zone, but be aware of the settings on the sites that are listed.

Trusted sites are an optional zone, but may be useful if you or your business maintains multiple websites. Even if you trust these sites, apply the highest security levels to external sites. It’s in your best interest to avoid visiting sites that are restricted or that make you question if they’re safe. Visiting sites that use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) in this zone allows you to verify that the site you are visiting is what it claims to be.

Some websites use web scripts, such as JavaScript to achieve a certain appearance or functionality, but these scripts may be used in attacks. Java, ActiveX controls, and Plug-ins are used to provide some functionality, but they may put your computer at risk. Before installing them, ensure that they are necessary and that the site you download them from is trustworthy.

Disabling cookies and blocking pop-up windows in your settings are also simple, yet effective ways to protect and secure your computer.

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12 Comments
  1. Thanks for sharing ways to increase my privacy and security! Sometimes we need reminders like this because we tend to overlook how important security can be. After reading this article I will take these tips into account and re-evaluate my settings.

  2. Thank you, but when my safety is too high, I find it difficult to visit the sites. He sometimes has security alerts.

    But I like the idea. Especially since I am often worried because I made ​​acahts in lines sometimes! It’s reassuring to know that there are ways to be safe!

  3. I don’t know where this is on Chrome but I’ve set things to ask me before showing popups or plugins. I do make sure that I’m only running stuff that I need to run and from websites that I trust. Aside from that, I use other programs for security and efficiency purposes such as Advance System Care.

    • I know what Chrome’s settings will typically be pretty good for the majority of users for home use. If you’re using Chrome for work, there may be some security stipulations that they’ll have.

      Also, maintaining an active AV is a great idea but keep in mind that it’s pretty much useless unless you keep your virus definitions up to date. That, combined with daily/weekly/monthly (pick your frequency) will help in keeping your computer shiny clean.

  4. Thanks for this. Web browser security must be at the highest level because you may never know the spywares or malwares ready to attack your unprotected browsing routine. It should always be updated.

  5. There is so much to say about internet and browser security. Your article is a good introduction but maybe you could write some about all the other aspects too. That would be a great series and you’re one of the few that would be able to do it in a way that people understand.

    I’m thinking about proxies, add ons and so on..

  6. One thing to be aware of is that overdoing security can have a negative effect on the “quality of life” so to speak of the user. Locking things down to a degree that you can’t render sites that are using a lot of Java and Flash objects makes for a broken and ugly browsing experience. Learning to identify malicious sites, and “areas” of the web are important skills to add to your browsing repetoire, in addition to modifying safety settings.

    • Yes, there are tradeoffs for sure. I have my security settings rather high on Firefox and there are often sites I encounter that load very slowly. Also many videos do not play or even appear on the page. I can sometimes get these sites to load in Chrome without compromising the security too much.

      But having had problems several years ago with browser hijacking as well as the notorious SpySheriff malware, this is not something I want to go through again!

      This is a very helpful article and it serves to remind us that we need to be cautious in browsing the Web.

    • I know this kind of dilemma. Our company laptop has a very secure internet browser that almost blocks everything, even the Company’s datasheet view in SharePoint that uses ActiveX. Anyway, as Margaret mentioned, this is a trade-off especially to those who are handling confidential data.

  7. Thanks for this post, it reminded me to check mine. It’s always good to be thorough when it comes to your browser security. You can come across a lot of nasty stuff online that can harm your computer.

  8. Managing the security of my browsing experience is a bit painful because it’s not always as automatic as I hoped it would be. There would be ads popping up, links that open to a gaming/gambling site instead of the destination links, and shopping websites targeting us with their product suggestions.
    So, thank you for your tips, they are very handy. With optional plug-ins, like a pop-up blocker and safe script options, the browsing experience does become a lot more secure.

  9. This article is very useful, I honestly know very little about computers, but this article was so detailed and clear. I use Firefox and don’t feel so safe since I started using the sync option for my favorite links, I needed to get my favorite sites from one PC to another. This new option makes things easier, but it also makes me feel a bit worried. I guess I’ll have to take a look at the settings.

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