Nowadays we have so much information on our computers that it can be devastating to deal with malware. And with ransomware, websites secretly mining Bitcoin on your PC, and the fact that you can get a virus by just viewing certain ads; malware and viruses are more prevalent then ever. Here I am going to show you how to lock down your browser and do everything you can do to prevent your PC from getting infected.
There are countless different web browsers, however today I will only be covering Chrome, Firefox, and Chromium. Opera has a built in adblock setting that will provide a little protection, but Edge/Explorer and most other browsers are pretty insecure.
Step Zero: PC Security
Before you try to secure your browser it’s important to have your computer itself secured. Update your OS to the latest version and install some decent antivirus (especially important on Windows). Also, a firewall like TinyWall would not hurt either, but it’s not quite as much of a priority.
Step One: Browser Updates
The single best way to protect yourself from malicious sites is to keep your browser up to date. Vulnerabilities are found every day, and as the word gets out about them they will be abused. Seriously, if you do not have automatic updates then check right now.
Step Two: Adblock
Adblock is probably the easiest step you can take to provide yourself with more security than the average user, and it will save you battery, bandwidth, and probably overall improve your web experience. I would recommend “Adblock” for Chrome/Chromium and “Adblock Plus” for Firefox, although they are all pretty interchangeable.
Beware though, there are two sides to this coin. Although adblock is a must for security on shady sites it also blocks ads which kills revenue on honest sites. Once you have come to trust a site it’s best you disable adblock on that site.
Step Three: Noscript
Adblock is great and all, but it’s not going to stop all viruses, and neither will it do anything for malicious cryptocurrency mining. However, this is where script blocking plugins come in. You see, scripts are basically more advanced functions on websites. They do things that you could not do with basic web code (aka HTML). This is fine and all until they start installing viruses on your computer.
For this you will want “NoScript” for Firefox or “SafeScript” for Chrome/Chromium. Once installed it will block any scripts run by a website until you enable them. Operating NoScript/SafeScript is a bit complicated and may take some getting used too, but it’s a HUGE security boost. A full tutorial is a bit outside of the scope of this post, so I will refer you to this tutorial by GHacks.
Step Four: Privacy with Ghostery
This step is a bit more focused on privacy instead of security, making it a bit more optional.
Often times when browsing the web you end up loading different objects. It might be Google Share Analytics monitoring your browsing habits, “Like” buttons that tell Facebook you visited a page, or so forth. “Ghostery” for Chromium, Chrome, and Firefox attempts to block those objects and limit the amount of times it’s documented that you viewed a page.
You may or may not care about this, but with the way the internet never forgets do you really want a company to have a list of pages you have visited?
Bonus Step: Enable these addons in Incognito
If you use Incognito tabs then you probably will want this extra privacy & security here too. However Chrome/Chromium do not run extensions in Incognito tabs in fear that the plugins will be a privacy risk. While that may be true for some plugins, it’s not for these.
In Chrome/Chromium go to Menu > More Tools > Extensions. Then hit details for each of the plugins you’ve just installed and hit “Allow in Incognito” near the bottom.
In Firefox they are already enabled, so you do not need to do anything here.
Well I hope that I gave you a bit of a hand securing your browser against the most common exploits (and remember, as long as you are more secure then the average user you are probably safe). Good luck, and I hope you take action on at least most of what you have read today if you did not already do so.