Giving employees the ability to search the web for information is an important part of success in modern business. However, this opens up the business to potential dangers that exist on the Internet.
Creating the highest possible level of security for employees, without creating unnecessary roadblocks, is the key to protection when web browsing.
1. Select the Most Secure Web Browser
Employees may like to use a web browser with which they’re extremely familiar, such as Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. These browsers work nicely, providing a decent level of web browser security.
However, for the greatest level of security, there are multiple other browsers and browser options available that deliver for businesses. We will look at some of the most secure browser options. (We won’t discuss the basic features of popular browsers like Chrome and Edge, as we assume most users are already familiar with them.)
One other important item to note. Some of these secure browsing options will have add-ons and integrations available that allow them to work inside Chrome or Edge. Although these add-ons bring some extra security features, to receive the full suite of security features, employees will need to use the actual browser, not an add-on.
The Brave browser provides a secure browsing experience, blocking trackers and preventing ad software from grabbing data as a visitor uses the website. By blocking tracking software, Brave is able to load websites far faster than browsers that allow tracking software to run.
Brave promises to never collect or sell user data. Additionally, Brave can integrate with Tor (which we’ll discuss later) to fully hide the user’s browser history and the user’s IP location.
One downside to Brave is that it does not allow the use of very many plug-ins or extensions. This limits its available features versus browsers like Chrome and Edge.
The DuckDuckGo browser is a highly secure mobile browser, as it’s available in an iOS and Android option. It’s also available as an add-on to the Chrome browser for those who want to provide extra security on the desktop or laptop.
Once the user chooses to leave a particular website, DuckDuckGo deletes any cookies or tracking information from that site immediately.
DuckDuckGo also has a search engine feature, through which it delivers trusted searches.
Google Chrome Incognito
Although Google Chrome has a nice level of security features, users seeking the ability to block tracking software will want to go into Incognito mode with Chrome.
Websites can still track the visitor’s IP address through Incognito mode, but it does provide extra security versus using Chrome alone.
Click the three dots in the upper right corner of the Chrome window. Then click on New Incognito Window to open a new browser window in Incognito mode.
Microsoft Edge InPrivate
For a bit of extra security versus what the basic version of Microsoft Edge offers, users can go into InPrivate mode.
When using an InPrivate browser window in Edge, the browser will eliminate some of the tracking data other browsers may store. This can include:
- Browsing history
- Download history
- Cached images
- Cached files
- Autofill data
- Site permissions
However, for those who are using extensions as part of Edge, InPrivate mode does not prevent those extensions from collecting tracking data.
To open an InPrivate window, right-click on the Edge logo in the Windows Taskbar. Then left-click on New InPrivate Window.
The Mozilla Firefox browser provides a solid set of security features. It’s available for Windows computers and mobile devices, but it’s especially popular among Linux users. Both Firefox and Linux use open-source technology, making them an ideal pair.
Firefox automatically blocks thousands of different kinds of data trackers as users are visiting websites. It also can block the majority of ads.
Firefox will collect some data as users browse websites, but it does not sell this data. Instead, it uses the data as a means of improving the performance of the browser software. Users do have the option of turning off this data tracking feature.
The Opera browser blocks the browsing history of its users by making use of a VPN (virtual private network). The VPN prevents websites from grabbing data from visitors as well.
Opera goes a step further by blocking advertisements too. This ensures a faster website loading experience.
As a downside, Opera doesn’t support as many extensions as Chrome and Edge.
The Tor browser ensures that the user’s IP address remains hidden. This can prevent websites from narrowing down your location or recalling your history for the next time you visit.
Tor also blocks trackers, preventing others from monitoring which websites employees are visiting. It clears the browser’s cookies after the user closes the browser window.
Additionally, Tor encrypts any data traveling back and forth from the computer to the web server, using a multi-layer encryption process to ensure maximum safety.
One potential issue with Tor is that some locations in the world do not allow users to download it because of its high levels of encryption.
2. Take Advantage of the Browser’s Automated Settings
Web browser software provides a number of settings that should help with security. Take advantage of these settings to keep the browser environment as safe as possible. Some of the most common automated options include:
- Turn off popup windows: Don’t allow websites to open a new browser window without your permission. Set up the browser’s settings to block any new popups and to warn the user of a popup request. Using a warning system gives the user the chance to open a legitimate popup window, if desired.
- Turn on automatic updates: The browser settings should provide the ability to automatically download and install any updates. These should include updates to the actual browser software, as well as updates to plug-ins and software that run inside the browser environment.
- Allow security warnings: Many browsers will give users warnings when they’re attempting to visit a potentially dangerous website. Leave these security warnings enabled. The employee may still choose to ignore the warning, but at least the employee knows to be wary when visiting this site.
3. Vary the Use of Passwords
Even though it’s easier to remember one user name and password combination, it’s a risky practice to use the same combination on every website.
Businesses should require employees to use unique passwords on any websites they visit. Additionally, employees should never use the same password for websites that they use for cloud-based software and other items on the company network.
When hackers are able to steal one username and password, they will try that same combination on many websites. If employees are using the same combination in multiple locations, it creates a significant security issue.
Encourage employees to use a password manager or password vault software to keep track of all of these unique passwords. With the use of a password manager, employees will feel more comfortable making use of a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers in the password.
Disable Automatic Password Saving
As an additional security step, a business may want to disable the ability of the web browser to store passwords for users. Storing passwords in the browser feels like a safe option, as the user doesn’t need to write them down. Most of the time, this process is safe.
However, if someone hacks the computer or laptop, it’s possible to steal these saved login credentials from the browser. The chances are small, but they do exist. Instead, it’s safer to make use of a password manager, as we mentioned earlier.
For Chrome, click the three dots button in the upper right corner, followed by Settings. Scroll down to the Autofill section and click on Passwords. Then slide the radio button for Offer to Save Passwords to the left to turn off this feature. Slide the radio button to the left for Auto Sign-in as well.
For Edge, click the three dots button in the upper right corner, followed by Settings. Click Passwords. Slide the radio button to the left for Offer to Save Passwords to turn off this feature.
4. Require Two-Factor Authentication
For maximum security in web browsing, require employees to enable two-factor authentication for any sites that allow it.
With two-factor authentication (2FA), users must enter a user name and password to start. The website then will send a text message or an email message with a code to the user. (At the time of signing up for an account, the user will provide a telephone number or email address to use with 2FA.)
Upon receiving the code, the user will enter it into the website, verifying identity.
By employing 2FA, users guard against the possibility of a hacker stealing a username and password and gaining access to the account. The hacker would also need access to the user’s smartphone or email account to be able to complete the login process, which is highly unlikely.
Some users may balk at having to use 2FA, because it adds an extra step into the login process, requiring additional time. However, for those businesses that want maximum security for their employees’ website accounts, two-factor authentication is the best way to guard against stolen passwords.
If the business stores sensitive files and data in cloud-based storage accounts, for example, 2FA will represent a strong security measure. Cloud-based storage often allows 2FA in the login process.
5. Enable Tracking Prevention
Tracking a user’s browser activity is a potential security problem for businesses. When tracking, a website will save a piece of software or some information on the local computer’s web browser. Tracking software can include cookies.
Most cookies do not represent a security risk. They simply store some of your preferences for the website. Some will track your browsing history to provide information to advertisers about your preferences.
Some companies will go a step further and save data about how visitors are using their websites. They then may use this information to generate ads or to try to trick a user into downloading dangerous software.
Users can disable some aspects of tracking through the browser software.
For Chrome, click the three dots button in the upper right corner, followed by Settings. Click Privacy and Security on the left side. Click on Cookies and Other Site Data. Scroll down to turn on the radio button for the Send a Do Not Track Request. (Not all websites will honor this request, however.)
In Edge, click the three dots button in the upper right corner, followed by Settings. Click on the three horizontal lines in the upper left corner, followed by Privacy, Search, and Services. Select the level of tracking prevention users should allow. The majority of users will select Balanced, but for those who want the highest level of protection from tracking, select Strict.
6. Have Employees Follow Best Practices
Some of the best security processes for web browsing involve convincing employees to use common sense. Some of the ways employees can follow best practices include:
- Always use bookmarks to visit favorite websites, rather than clicking on random links.
- Type website addresses carefully, as a spelling error could lead to a fake website.
- Avoid visiting entertainment, gossip, or unfamiliar websites from work computers.
- Don’t write down passwords and leave them in plain sight.
- Never click on random links in emails, texts, messaging apps, or on social media.
- Avoid downloading free software unless you completely trust the manufacturer.
Ultimately, businesses should encourage employees to follow their instincts. If a website feels strange, don’t click on links and leave the site immediately. If someone you know sends you an email, text, or social media message that seems oddly worded and that has links inside it, it could be coming from a hacker instead.
Have employees think about what could go wrong before clicking on an unfamiliar link or visiting a strange website.
Encourage them to report any problems they encounter. If an employee downloads malicious software inadvertently while web browsing, the sooner the administrative security team learns about the problem, the better.
Common Problems When Securing Web Browsing for Your Business
A business can take multiple steps to protect itself from web browsing problems among its employees. However, no business is fully secure. Some of the most common web usage problems that can arise for businesses include the following.
1. Employees Don’t Always Understand the Rules
A business can put in security measures for web browsing at every possible touchpoint. Yet, if employees aren’t sure what they should do, they expose the business to potential problems.
The business needs to have clear policies spelled out that inform employees about the protocols they must use. At the same time, the business should inform employees about the dangers if they don’t follow the protocols.
Giving employees clear information and steps they need to follow when web browsing can help the business maintain the safest possible browsing environment.
2. Employees Sometimes Ignore Security Warnings
When the business is making use of highly secure web browser settings, they should provide warnings about potential security issues as they occur. Not every warning is evidence of a real threat, however.
Should the business’ security settings be too restrictive, they may generate multiple warnings during the day. This can cause employees to begin ignoring the warnings because the vast majority of them result in false alarms.
The business needs to find the sweet spot in its security settings for the web browser. The browser should generate warnings in serious situations, but it should not give users warnings too frequently.
Consider having less severe warnings go into a log for security administrators to review later, rather than appearing on the screen of the employees. When employees only see warnings for the most severe potential problems, they will be less likely to experience burnout from warning messages.
3. Employees May Simply Go Rogue
Even when the business takes multiple precautions and lists dozens of rules for safe web browsing, some employees may purposefully ignore them. Employees may not be trying to cause issues. They may simply believe they know how to browse the Internet safely.
This can be a frequent occurrence, especially if employees suddenly must change the way they browse the web because of new security policies. The employees may believe they are protesting the new policies by ignoring them and by going rogue.
Education is important in a case like this. Administrators must clearly lay out the new policies. At the same time, though, administrators should spell out any penalties employees may suffer by ignoring policies.
Administrators may even want to tell employees that they’re monitoring web usage, hoping to scare them into adhering to the policies. Businesses will have to monitor and understand the makeup of the employees, determining the best way forward for the business as a whole. Some employees respond well to a simple set of rules, while some require the laying out of potential penalties before they will follow the rules.