There are roughly 4.4 billion internet users in 2019.
More than half of this internet population – 2.7 billion – use Facebook and Facebook-owned services. YouTube currently boasts around 1.8 billion active monthly users, while Netflix has a subscriber base of 139 million people worldwide, proving that we’re all using the internet differently.
But one thing is mutual to all of us:
We all rely on our dedicated browsers to make our online experience better.
Google Chrome (75%), Safari (13%), Internet Explorer (6%), Firefox (6%), and Opera (2%) are the most popular browsers that share the global web browser market. Regardless of your preference, you’re just as exposed to the common browser-based security threats as the rest of us. Every browser can be attacked.
Here are the cyber threats you’re exposed to while browsing and how to avoid them:
1. Hackers Can Access Your Browsing History
Every website you visit is recorded as part of your browsing history. Snippets of it also get saved in cookies and browser cache, which allows easier repeat access to the website and a smoother online experience. Taken together, these three sets of data can reveal a lot about who you are.
That’s how websites know what ads to show you.
By accessing your browsing history, hackers can get a detailed picture of your online behavior, buying habits, and even offline whereabouts. This can be used against you in numerous ways. Equipped with your browsing data, criminals can tailor phishing attacks or hold your info for ransom.
2. Criminals Can See Your Saved Passwords
All browsers store login credentials, pairing them with the associated websites and even autofilling usernames and passwords so that you won’t have to do that manually. From the cybersecurity standpoint, this convenient browser feature is incredibly dangerous and easy to exploit.
The only thing criminals need are login credentials for your email account.
That way, they can change passwords for your social media sites and other accounts that are not double-protected by two-factor authentication. And by accessing your browser’s autofill information, they can learn even more about you – including your home address and phone number.
3. Any Browser Can Be Infected with Malware
And the most dangerous thing about this is that they cannot be detected.
How Can You Avoid Browser-Based Threats?
There aren’t many cybersecurity solutions that can help you avoid browser-based attacks. Common sense and careful use may be the most effective techniques. In trying to use your browser without any risk, the best you can do is to stay under the radar. Here’s what you need to do:
Clear the Browser Cache & Disable Cookies
Depending on which browser you use, you can have your browser cache cleared out automatically every time you close the browser. If your browser doesn’t offer this option, then you should make a note and remember to clear the browser cache manually, especially after shopping.
It would be smart to disable your cookies in addition to this.
Use a Password Manager Instead of Autofill
Instead of relying on your browser to store and protect your login credentials instead of you, find a reliable password manager to help you keep your login credentials in order and away from criminals. There are plenty of great options out there, so pick a solution that feels convenient to you.
Browse Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A lot of people mistakenly think that going incognito will keep them anonymous.
Here’s how Google describes this popular browsing option:
“Pages you view in incognito tabs won’t stick around in your browser’s history, cookie store, or search history after you’ve closed all of your incognito tabs. Any files you download or bookmarks you create will be kept. However, you aren’t invisible. Going incognito doesn’t hide your browsing from your employer, your internet service provider, or the websites you visit.”
The only thing incognito provides is a false sense of security.
Luckily, the alternative is so much more reliable.
The most effective solution against browser-based threats is a Virtual Private Network (VPN). By masking your IP address and encrypting your online data traffic, this technology keeps you hidden from everyone who might want to access your browsing history, including criminals.
A simple Firefox VPN can go a long way in keeping you protected (you can get one here).
The same is true for all other web browsers, regardless of how exposed you are while using them. Your online activity is nobody’s business. You have every right to stay invisible from your ISP and your government, so make sure you’re using a VPN and clearing your history just in case.
Data Protection and Privacy Laws for the United States in 2020