Browser privacy is another matter of concern that is frequently looked over. For most of us, browsers are the gateway to the world of the internet. These multi-purpose tools allow us to explore the hidden realms of the internet and have thus managed to reduce the whole world at our mere fingertips.
However, while information is indeed readily available at our fingertips, little are we aware that our data is also conveniently stolen in the same way. And all this due to our activities over the internet!
To think, while we are minding our business and using in the internet doing random things such as:
- Browsing the internet
- Scrolling social media
- Streaming YouTube
What we fail to realize amidst this, is that we are at risk, of several attacks. And the worst part? These attacks are exceedingly common and even occur through some of our trusted place, such as:
- Facebook and the Equifax issue
- Google is allowing tracking cookies to track your data.
Apart from these tech giants, our ever-reliable browsers also render us vulnerable to several privacy issues such as:
- Browser fingerprinting
- Cookie tracking
- Ad pop-ups
- Cross-site scripting
These are some of the most common types of browser privacy issues that the users face. However, if you are unaware of these, then worry not. This guide gives you a detailed insight on browser privacy. Here we have discussed the issues along with prevention.
Browser privacy issues
There are several privacy issues that you become vulnerable to once you connect to the internet without a safe browser, as I have mentioned above. However, it is easy to get rid of these issues, online if you know what you are up against.
Here are details on what these issues are:
1. Browser fingerprinting
Browser fingerprinting is a method of identifying unique browsers so that it becomes easy to track them. Once your device connects to any site online, it gives information to that website such as:
- Browser type
- User operating system
- Active plug-in
- Time zone
- Screen resolution
This information is although collected to provide users with a better experience. Also, at times, it is sold to third parties to create advertisements. Therefore it is a gross invasion of privacy. Moreover, cybercriminals can also use this information to launch target malware, phishing or ransomware attacks.
An unsecured browser is the best gateway for malware to enter your device. Cybercriminals run malware campaigns where they release malicious links and plug-ins on target browsers. This malware is sent out disguised as legitimate-looking malicious links.
Once the user clicks on these links, he is redirected to pages where he unknowingly infects his device with malware. At times they are also in the form of a seemingly legitimate but malicious plug-in. The user is enticed to download them. This malware’s then proceed to harm the user in several ways, such as:
- The device data can be wiped clean
- Personal information can be leaked to the attacker
- Your device may become frozen and completely useless.
Malware infections are exceedingly common and are something to be aware of.
3. Tracking cookies
Tracking cookies are agents that are responsible for collecting your data and sending them to servers. Almost all websites release these cookies as they are means of building and adding functionality to a web page.
They are also used for advertising or retargeting to be specific. Retargeting is a method in which the tracking cookies are used to display advertisements to the users. These advertisements are targeted as the users are displayed ads that are related to products they have previously shown interest in or websites they have visited.
Although tracking cookies may seem harmless. After all, they are just displaying annoying ads, right? However, they tend to track and hoard lots of personal information of the users, which usually consists of:
- Browser history
- Search queries
- Device information
- The ads you saw
- The thing you have shown interest in
- How long you saw an ad
This information is then sent to servers who use to their advantage or may sell It forward. And as all this information compiled can reveal a lot of information about you, this is a gross invasion of privacy.
4. Ad Pop-ups
Ad Pop-ups are indeed annoying and at times, even quite confusing. However, apart from being annoying, they are also agents secretly collecting and transmitting your personal data to their servers. Moreover, at times, these pop-ups are also malicious.
They often come presenting warning signs that your device is infected with a virus and urge you to install an antivirus to remove it. And the worst part? They often don’t even have an “x” to remover them. This way, your device naturally ends up with a malware infection.
5. Browser extensions and plug-ins
Also, at times, these are somewhat aimless and do not provide business-level functionality. Now, these plug-ins and extensions, regardless of their origin, are what makes you vulnerable. This is because they are filled with holes and security flaws, which the attackers can use to their advantage.
These vulnerabilities in systems allow attackers to access your device and data easily. Once they have access, they proceed to wreak havoc by infecting ransomware, viruses and stealing data.
Apart from that, browser extensions are a primary cause behind browser-based crypto-jacking. In this, a malicious crypto mining script is installed in your device, and you remain unaware of it. This script runs the crypto mining software in the background without your knowledge. The result that you face is a hefty electric bill and a crashed system.
6. Cross-site scripting (XSS)
This is a client-side code injection attack that occurs through web browsers. The attackers usually launch this attack by infecting legitimate web pages or web applications with malicious code. This web page or web application becomes a vehicle that carries malicious scripts to your browser.
The main aim behind this is to spread malware. Some conventional vehicles of this malware scripts are:
- Webpages that allow comments
- Message boards
A web page or web application is usually infected if the user uses unsafe web extensions. These attacks are possible in:
How to maintain browser privacy?
Browsers are indeed vulnerable to various issues. However, we obviously can’t stop their use altogether. The best way to deal with these things is to stay vigilant and work to ensure browser privacy. Here are ways that can make sure to have your privacy game strong:
1. Have the latest browser software installation
Most browsers are automatically installed with some sort of protective measures. Having the newest version of the browser software means having the latest security updates too. This somewhat gives you a basic level of privacy and security.
2. Disable plug-ins and extensions
As I have mentioned above, plug-ins ad extensions are a cause of various malware, ransomware, and crypto-jacking infections. This is why it is better to have as little of these third-party apps as possible.
3. Use ad-blockers
By now you are aware of how harmful ad pops can be. Having an ad blocker prevents these ads from coming up on your browser or from displaying on your screen. This also prevents them from infecting you with malware or collecting your information
4. Connect to websites through HTTPS
HTTPS is a protocol that automatically encrypts your data on a web page. This is why using web pages with HTTPS protocol makes sure that your information is not getting snooped upon. A padlock denotes the presence of HTTPS protocol in the address bar.
5. Clear your web browsing history
Your web browsing history is useful for a lot of people. As I have mentioned above, many advertisers and websites collect your web browser history. This is why it is better to have it cleared as it reveals a lot about you.
6. Surf the web through private mode
Every browser is equipped with a private mode, such as Chrome and Mozilla. This mode is particularly handy and somewhat provides you privacy and security over the internet. With surfing the web in private mode, your cookie is not stored, and your browsing history gets cleaned up too. This way, it is not available for anyone to take advantage of.
7. Don’t store passwords
As a web browser is often discreetly crawling with data snoopers, it is better not to store passwords. Otherwise, if they accidentally end up in some attacker’s hands, you are in deep trouble.
Privacy on browsers is a crucial element of being online. As they are the main gateway to accessing the web, it is essential to have them as secure as possible. With your browser privacy updated, you can surf the internet more freely and are guaranteed not to fall victim to cyber-attacks.