Threats to your security while browsing
To understand safe web browsing, we need to understand the threats we might encounter when we browse online. These can include compromised sites, malware, or trackers.
- Malicious links: Be careful with the links you click on. If they prompt you to download a file you weren’t expecting or take you to a site other than the one you meant to visit, cancel everything and close your browser. Just visiting the wrong site can sometimes compromise your security.
Bad certificates/no HTTPS: HTTPS is an online browsing encryption protocol. It’s not perfect, but it offers a basic level of security that users should expect as standard online. Be careful around sites that only use HTTP.
But what are bad certificates? HTTPS uses certificates to ensure that both parties (you and the website you’re visiting) are who they say they are. If your browser says there’s something wrong with the certificate, you should close the site immediately. This may be a mistake on the website administrator’s site, or it may be a sign that the website isn’t who they say they are. Which brings us to our next point.
- Compromised sites: Whether through security carelessness or focused attack, websites can become compromised – sometimes without even knowing it. If you see bad certificates, weird pop-ups, or visual glitches, be careful. Any of these can mean that hackers have broken into the site and altered it to help them target people who visit or use it.
- Fake sites: Keep a watchful eye on your browser URL bar. If the URL is misspelled or looks off, double-check to make sure you’re really on the site you want to be on. Sometimes, scammers will buy up misspelled URLs (a hypothetical example might be “deniel.com” as opposed to “daniel.com”) and create convincing copies of the real site to scam visitors.
- Malware: By clicking on the wrong link or ad, you may download a malicious piece of software called malware. Once it’s installed, there’s any number of things it could do to your machine, and none of them are pleasant.
Each of these threats can have different security solutions. Fortunately, most of those can be incorporated as part of your browser.
Safe web browsing extensions
One of the best ways to boost your online security is a browser extension. These tools plug right into some of the most popular browsers and boost your security considerably.
- NordVPN browser extension: This proxy browser extension for Chrome, Edge and Firefox works much like a traditional VPN, but it only routes your browser traffic through the encrypted VPN tunnel. This reduces its impact on your bandwidth, providing a compromise between security and speed if all you’re doing is browsing.
- Script blocker: In addition to reducing or eliminating ad exposure, script blockers also help counteract many dangerous scripts that can invasively track you or even deploy harmful malware.
- Anti-trackers: These comprehensive extensions offer a number of features that help reduce privacy and security threats. Any anti-tracker worth its salt will help block cookies, pixels, and other trackers and threats.
- NordPass: NordPass is a password manager, password generator, and a whole lot more. It can improve your security considerably because it enables you to use highly random, long, and unique passwords across multiple devices.
- HTTPS Everywhere: This simple extension forces sites to use HTTPS if they have it available. It’s a brilliantly simple way to boost your browser security.
Other safe web browsing tools
For our purposes, secure web browsing tools (excluding extensions) are tools that will make your browsing experience more secure without working directly with your actual browser.
- NordVPN: A VPN will help keep you private and secure while browsing because it uses VPN encryption to secure your traffic and assigns you an anonymized IP address. However, NordVPN does more than just that. One key feature is called Threat Protection, which can detect certain threats and blacklisted sites before you ever visit them. This enables you to block trackers with NordVPN.
- Antivirus: Depending on the antivirus you choose, it may have features that assist you while browsing. Where any antivirus will really shine, however, is when you decide to download something while browsing. It will scan the file and quarantine it if it’s at all suspicious.
Check out our post on secure browsing tools to learn about more options.
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