Why browser security matters

As the online landscape becomes increasingly unpredictable, fraught with cyber threats and privacy concerns, the need for a robust browser is paramount. A quality browser is equipped to shield users from harmful entities like malware, phishing schemes, and persistent trackers. But, as you might guess, not all browsers are created equal.

There is also the constant tug of war between government and big tech, over citizen privacy and safety. Just how much data about you, does your browser leak?

The good news is that big tech is listening. So, let's break down some of the leading contenders in the realm of web browser security.

Web browser insights

Google Chrome: The consistent guardian

Google Chrome, well-regarded in the web browser community, consistently emphasises user security. Built-in features such as site isolation, sandboxing and predictive phishing protections, keep you and your data safe. Google’s Safe Browsing feature is instrumental in alerting users about suspicious sites. Google regularly updates Chrome to ensure that potential vulnerabilities are addressed quickly.

Chrome also includes a number of privacy tools such as Incognito mode, and personalised privacy controls. There is also a nifty Safety Check function to make sure your browser is up to date and Safe Browsing is turned on:

Chrome is currently the number one browser, with over 75% of desktop users, and over 65 % of mobile users using it over other browsers.

Our privacy tip: Google are primarily an advertising company, and all of their free tools are there to support that business model. Chrome does ‘leak’ a lot of tracking information about your browsing habits to Google. This benefits you, because your browsing across multiple devices are synchronised using a Google Account. But don’t forget that it also benefits Google and their partners, through targeted advertising and search suggestions. Who would have thought?

Microsoft Edge: The reinvented contender

Microsoft's Edge, after its revamp, now boasts enhanced security and compatibility, thanks to the incorporation of the Google Chromium engine, the same engine that powers Google Chrome. Microsoft have secured your browsing experience in Edge with features like SmartScreen protection and Microsoft Defender, to offer a robust defence against malicious websites and files.

Edge integrates nicely with your Microsoft Work or School accounts, offering single sign-on (SSO), and search results from not just the internet, but also your Microsoft 365 environment. The latest update to Edge introduces Edge for Business with even more business functionality, security and manageability.

When it comes to security, Edge beats Chrome hands-down (Sorry Google). In the enterprise, Edge integrates with Microsoft’s Application Guard function in Windows. Using the powerful hardware in our computers, Edge can run individual sites in secure containers, shielding your company data from untrusted web sites.

From a privacy perspective, Edge has a Tracking Prevention feature that you can switch between Basic, Balanced and Strict modes. This shields your browsing activity from marketing and advertising companies, as well as those who don’t respect your privacy (Mark Zuckerberg anyone?):

▲ Our privacy tip: Edge is the better browser if your business used Microsoft 365. But make sure that Tracking Prevention is set to Strict if you want the best protection against trackers. Also, Edge is as leaky as Chrome when it comes to sending telemetry back to Microsoft. Turn off the Optional Diagnostic Data and Personalisation & advertising functions in settings to reduce that.

Mozilla Firefox: The privacy advocate

Those valuing privacy often gravitate towards Firefox. It offers an assortment of tools designed to give users control over their online footprint. Its Enhanced Tracking Protection, Multi-Account Containers, and the special extension for Facebook highlights its commitment to preserving user privacy.

Firefox keeps you safe by using the Google Safe Browsing dataset to protect you from malicious web sites. It also warns you if your online accounts have been involved in a known data breach, and warns you when visiting a site that has been breached in the past. Very useful.

Tests by third parties have shown that Firefox leaks zero to very little data back to Firefox about your browsing activity compared to Chrome and Edge. This is great news. Also, Mozilla the parent organisation, is not an advertising company, so the monetisation of your data is very limited in scope compared to those who stand to benefit from your data from advertising income.

▲ Our privacy tip: Make sure the Enhanced Tracking Prevention is set to Strict, and turn off the Optional Data Collection features.

Brave Browser: The rising star

Brave, while not as mainstream as some of its counterparts, is making significant strides due to its dual emphasis on rapid performance and robust security. Like Microsoft Edge, Brave is built on Google Chromium. Brave have a 3-layer approach to security and privacy.

Brave’s ‘Shields’ feature blocks trackers, cross-site cookie tracking, fingerprinting and more. An on-screen icon indicates when it is in use. Additional advanced privacy features ensure a best-practice approach to keeping your browsing session safe and secure. Lastly, Brave’s own company policies and practices mean that they don’t collect data from you, and they exceed standards such as GDPR and CCPA.

Brave also claim that their flavour of Chromium is up to 3x faster than Chrome. That can’t be a bad thing. They also replace ads generated by Google, Facebook and others with their own privacy focused Ads from vetted and screened vendors. These are surfaced to you anonymously, meaning your identity Is not being shared and monetised.

▲ Our privacy tip: By using the Brave Shields icon, you can see just how many tracking attempts a site is making on your computer. Even at the Facebook login page on a clean computer, you can see Facebook attempting to plant tracking information, even when not signed in!. Brave blocks these by default.

Safari: The discreet protector

Safari, Apple's flagship browser, champions user privacy. It comes with features enabled out-of-the-box to ensure your security too.

The Intelligent Tracking Prevention limits advertisers' ability to shadow your online activities, even on other web sites. It blocks data from crossing over from one to the next. This keeps your data confined to the originating site, and prevents data sprawl. On the latest versions of Safari this feature is turned on by default.

The browser is also proactive, notifying you when your password may have been compromised in any security breach.

You can also ask Safari to hide your IP address. Your IP address can be used to reveal information about you, including your location. You can stop trackers, or all sites from seeing this information. Apple also have a great feature to hide your email address when filling our forms or signing up to new services. A unique and disposable address is created that forwards email to your real address.

▲ Our privacy tip: If you have been using Safari for a long time, even though you may be on the latest version, you may want to make sure that the Intelligent Tracking Prevention is turned on. Go to settings > Privacy and turn on Prevent cross-site tracking.

Making your browser choice

Your journey online is intimately connected to your browser choice, impacting your security, privacy and overall experience. We have discussed a few of the available browsers, but there are others too. Although the browsers we have discussed above are among the top in terms of security, it's essential to realise that no browser is an impenetrable fortress. You should make sure your browser is kept up to date with the latest updates and you must follow smart online practices for safe browsing.

Which browser aligns best with your needs? If privacy is your top concern, Firefox or Brave are stellar choices. If a harmonious experience across various devices is what you seek, for Apple users, Safari steps up to the plate. For those seeking a blend of speed, security and convenience, both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge present compelling arguments.

As you chart your course through the digital seas, prioritise a browser that resonates with your unique requirements. Stay vigilant, prioritise safety, and enjoy your online exploration. 🌐🔒


Other things to think about:

  • Use incognito or private browsing sessions for maximum data privacy
  • Use a Privacy based search engine such as Duck Duck Go
  • Use a VPN to keep your internet traffic away from prying eyes, especially when using your browser on public Wi-Fi.
  • Use a DNS filter to add further protection from malicious web sites, or to keep your employees focused on their work.
  • Use a password manager to protect valuable accounts

Keeping businesses data secure is important to us. If you have any security based questions, please get in touch.

August 30, 2023 — Paul Stanyer