A guide for safe and private web browsing

Continuing in the theme I’ve been following for the last couple of days, here’s a guide to security and privacy with web browsers. Like the guide I linked to yesterday, I’m not sure I agree with it 100%–I think saying never use Internet Explorer is too absolute–but I do agree with the overwhelming majority of it, and if everyone did all of this instead of what they’re doing now, we’d be in a much better state.

And, on a somewhat related note, here’s a rundown of what Windows 10 changes in the way of privacy, and some recommendations, but here’s a hint: You’re going to want to type privacy into your Windows search bar, pull up everything related, and start shutting stuff off. Use your discretion, but chances are there will be several things. If nothing else, there are things that are appropriate for a Windows tablet that aren’t appropriate for a desktop PC.

Let’s get back to privacy and safety in general, whatever OS you’re running. Here are some highlights.

Tweak your browsers to improve their overall security. The guide has some tips. Every browser does some things you probably don’t want it to do, but it’s possible to tweak all of them down enough to make them OK to use.

Use more than one browser. Using just one browser for everything makes you much easier to track. And this may or may not be in the guide, but there are times when your preferred browser has a known but unpatched security issue. When that happens, you want to use something else until the patch appears. Internet Explorer was the worst about this; hopefully in the era of Microsoft Edge, things will be better.

Log out of websites like Facebook and web-based e-mail when you’re done with them. This prevents many privacy and security issues. If you have Facebook open in one tab but aren’t using it, it’s theoretically possible for another site to hijack your Facebook session and steal your account. It’s difficult, but these things have happened before and they will happen again.

Use a password manager and enable 2-factor authentication (where the site sends you a verification code via a text message, for example) everywhere you can.

Should you use an online password manager or one that sits on your computer? That’s still up for debate, as there are pros and cons to each, but you’re better off with either of them than with none. Passwords that are easy to remember are increasingly easy for a computer to guess.

I’ll add this: Using an entirely separate machine exclusively for banking/financial transactions enhances security. Get a cheap Chromebook, load Linux Mint on the P4 you never got around to recycling, whatever. It will be harder to compromise because it’s on an alternative OS, and there’s a lot less on it to compromise since you’re only visiting half a dozen sites from it.

I’m sure you won’t do everything recommended in this guide, but even if you pick up a few things from it here and there, you’ll be better off than you were yesterday. Being better off than you were yesterday is always a good thing.

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