Internet browsers are the most commonly-used software on workstations and mobile platforms, but they are also a common entry point for hackers to track browsing habits. Often, the web browser that comes with an operating system is not set up in a secure default configuration. This can lead quickly to a variety of computer problems caused by anything from spyware being installed without your knowledge to intruders taking control of your computer. Better Business Bureau cautions consumers to understand browser options and use features to make them even safer.
There are more browser choices than ever before. Some claim they are the fastest, while others offer a wide variety of functions, such as the ability to download videos, send web pages or documents to eReaders and safely store passwords on secure remote servers. Add-ons, extensions and plug-ins are features which allow users to block ads, pop-up windows, tracking cookies and scripts. Scripts consist of programming code which can be used to execute programs, some of which are placed on websites by hackers to snoop or take control of a computer.
“Because of the nature of the web, it's fairly easy for someone using your computer to see what you've been up to on the web, as well as it is for a website to track where you've been”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “That’s why it’s more important than ever to make an effort to take preventive measures when you’re online.”
BBB offers the following tips to strengthen Internet browsers’ security:
Apply updates – Hackers are constantly finding new ways to exploit browsers, and browser developers often send out updates to address those security flaws.
Check privacy settings – Many browsers allow “private” browsing or tell websites that you don’t want to be tracked by advertisers.
Don’t store your passwords in your browser – You may be prompted to allow your browser to store your password for given sites. If this vulnerability is exploited by malicious software or your computer otherwise compromised or stolen, hackers can retrieve those passwords.
Clear your history manually - This can help preserve preferences that you might have chosen on your favorite websites.
Change your passwords frequently - Hackers know that most people use the same passwords for multiple sites. If one password is hacked, the chance of other accounts being hacked becomes greater with repeated passwords. Make sure you use different passwords for different sites.
Be careful where you get your plug-ins – Beware of downloading plug-ins from websites that offer them. The safest source is a browser developers’ own site. These often may be accessed through the browser itself.
Make sure your plug-ins are up to date – These helpful extensions may require updating when a new, more secure version of a browser is released. Make sure to update your plug-ins to keep your computer stable.
Don't stay permanently logged-in to wireless hotspots - Never leave your Internet connection running while your computer is unattended and make sure to log-off after every use.
To learn more about protecting your privacy online and what to do if your information is compromised, visit http://www.OnGuardOnline.gov. For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to www.bbb.org. To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline: (903) 581-8373.