What Exactly Is Browser Security and Why Does It Matter So Much

With an approximate of over 4.33 billion users globally, the internet first blossomed into a phenomenon the world could not get enough of and has now transformed itself into a necessity, around which the core of our modern lives revolve.

However, an often overlooked, yet highly essential part of connecting to the internet is the web browser. Without a web browser, even one as lousy as the Internet Explorer, getting an Uber, ordering takeout, shopping online- all of these aspects of everyday life become foreign concepts.

Having said that, since the web browser is the primary medium through which connection to the internet is made possible on an arsenal of devices today, it is also an extremely popular target for cybercriminals all around world. Perhaps the best way to put this into perspective is to consider the web browser as the window into the internet- if unsecured, it could allow malicious agents to gain valuable insight into a user’s online escapades.

Although recent years have seen a rise in the awareness that internet users have about cybersecurity in general, there’s still a lot to be desired when it comes to browser security. In an attempt to contribute to the propagation of browser security, we’ve compiled an article that (hopefully) gives valuable insight into the problems associated with browsers today, and tries to answer the question of amping up browser security.

The Loopholes In Our Web Browsers

Although the web browser was originally created for the purpose of displaying text documents, it has catapulted into becoming a staple when it comes to accessing videos, images, and games, among the other variety of content that the internet has to offer.

Unfortunately, however, despite being the primary medium through which millions of internet users gain access to their favorite content, most of the famous web browsers in use today have a variety of loopholes in them. Loopholes that leave a lot of room for exploitation of unsuspecting internet users.

Another crucial, yet often overlooked element of web browser security, is the fact that most companies tend to ignore the ever-growing complexity of web browsers as a problem. As users continue to rely on their web browsers to perform several different functions and access a multitude of media content, the number of entry points for cybercriminals increases accordingly.

Some of the most frequently exploited
loopholes present in some of the most popular browsers today include the
following:

  • Browser Plugins: Perhaps the best known exploitable tools associated with the web browser are third-party browser plugins. Regardless of the security measures, you take to secure your browser- cybercriminals can still have a field day snooping around in your browser through vulnerabilities present in plugins.
  • Unprotected online communication: The standard procedure for gaining access to a site involves your web browser’s communication with a DNS server. The communication that takes place between a server and a website browser is a common target, with many attackers looking to intercept the browser which redirects the user to a malicious site instead, allowing for an entry point to malware.
  • Browser-centric vulnerabilities:  Although a majority of the tools
    exploited by hackers are third-party plugins- attackers can also leverage loopholes in the browser itself, to either redirect the browser to a malicious site, or mine data. Keeping in mind the dubious nature of security associated with web browsers, it is crucial that users look for secure browsers that safeguard sensitive user information, and prevent cybercriminals from mining data for malicious purposes.

Why Does Browser Security Matter?

Keeping in mind that the previous section we’ve covered listed some of the many flaws in web browsers today, asking why browser security matters might seem redundant. However, the exploitable problems we’ve listed above are only one aspect of why browser security is not just a fancy cybersecurity gimmick.

Since most hackers exploit web browsers to gain access to sensitive user information, ensuring that one’s browser has the necessary tools to protect against such breaches is of the utmost importance.

Furthermore, the situation gets even more fearsome when we factor in the staggering amount of user data collected by popular browsers such as Google Chrome. If a hacker breaks into your browser, they gain immediate access to extremely personal insights about the life you lead, including the embarrassing google searches you made at 3 in the morning.
Additionally, a far more perverse aspect of the collection of data is that it contributes to the 14.4 million victims of identity theft since the data mined from browsers is often illegally sold in the black market.
There are also several insecure HTTP websites that use cookies and other invasive methods to surveil on a user’s online activities, which is why a key aspect of browser security is ensuring that all sites being accessed are HTTPS.

Is There Any Way To Boost Browser Security?

Up till this point, the state of browser security might seem like a dark and desolate valley straight out of cybersecurity hell. Although the flaws present in web browsers are serious enough to rid any cyber security-conscious individual of their sleep, there’s still a silver lining to look forward to.

Unlike other cybersecurity issues, web browser security can be amped up by taking a few simple steps that can significantly harden the process that a cybercriminal has to go through to gain hijack an individual’s web browser.

Right off the bat, the smallest, yet most important step a person can take on the path to improved browser security is to update to the latest version of your browser! Unless you’re using a browser from the past decade (read: Internet Explorer), most popular browsers will release frequent updates that include an arsenal of security and bug fixes.

Another critical step towards greater browser security is opting for a web browser that offers additional security perks. Usually, the most important security features to be on the lookout for include anti-malware, anti-phishing plugins along with a plugin analyzer, and a sandbox, which isolates the web browser’s processes so as to minimize the impact it has on the OS.

Some other steps to boost browser security include:

  • Installing security plugins such as NoScript, HTTPS Everywhere and Flash-block.
  • Using a VPN to encrypt online communication, which would render a user’s online activities into gibberish even if a criminal gained access to it.
  • Employing an effective and robust firewall to prevent any external threats from attacking the operating system.
  • Customizing browser security settings by blocking fake websites, and denying JavaScript from running automatically. Additionally, users can also disable cookies, plugins, cameras, and microphones from running automatically.

So, Where Do You Go From Here?

At the end of the article, we’d like to go reimburse what we said before- in the ever-evolving threat landscape of today, browser security isn’t a gimmick, it’s a necessity!

In order to remain safe while browsing online, it’s crucial that users take browser security seriously, and actively employ methods, as we’ve already discussed above, to propagate security while browsing!

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