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How to Set up Your Browser for Safer Web Browsing

Updated on February 15, 2015

Learn about cookies, see happens when you log in to a site, what are the potential risks and learn how to set up your browser privacy settings.

Source

This is something I wanted to share for a long time. Now, I don't recommend you going with those settings alone. Once you set up your browser you should install a proper antivirus, such as Avast! Free Antivirus.

Browser Privacy Settings - Getting Started

In a nutshell, every browser leaves a trace of your visits online. Usually, this is in the form of cookies.

Cookies are small text files (think 'cookie.txt') which save data on your computer such as:

  • Login details
  • Website view settings
  • Activity information (a.k.a. tracking cookies used by website counters)

Since what we are looking for here are just the results, I'll save you the technical Latin.

I’ll just say that I'm avoiding trouble with this method for over 8 years now. Furthermore, over 350 PC setups behind my back stand as a living evidence of that.

Source

Table of contents

  1. Passwords Remembered by Sites vs Passwords Remembered by Your Browser
  2. The Difference between 'First-Party Cookies' and 'Third-Party Cookies'
  3. Chrome Privacy Settings
  4. Mozilla Firefox Privacy Settings
  5. Opera Privacy Settings
  6. Internet Explorer Privacy Settings
    Windows 7 only.
  7. Bonus tip

Apple Safari is not included because those settings are set by default.

The steps disclosed are guaranteed to work on version releases from the first quarter of 2013. And IE 8 + 9.


Passwords Remembered by Sites vs Passwords Remembered by Your Browser

Source

The default behavior for any kind of registered users is:

  1. heads over to a login form
  2. fills in username and password
  3. checks 'Remember me'
  4. clicks the 'Login' button, of course, and gets redirected to user area.

What Happens during Redirect to User Area?

Anyone capable of 'getting in' the server and/or reading your cookie is capable of writing additional data in it and compromising your computer's security.

So, to round it up, disallowing sites to save cookies on your system is good for you.

The only trade-off is that you have to click the login button every time. The deal is a steal, believe me.

What Are the Solutions?

Every major browser has a password management tool.

'What is that?' you might ask.

Well, assuming you have a fresh installation of your browser, simply head over to your fave site, login at the top, and a horizontal bar will appear asking if you want to save your login credentials.

If you click 'Yes' or whatever positive confirmation button there is, then the browser will enter your logins every time your reach that specific login page.

This way you don't need to select the 'Remember me' check box, the server will not save additional data on your computer and there will not be a potential security hole for nice people on the Internet to exploit.

If you feel like just setting up your browser skip the informative chapter below.

Not all cookies are good...
Not all cookies are good... | Source

Just as any dictionary would suggest, 'first-party' refers to the party you are currently in and 'third-party' is a party that is not part of the conversation.

On the Internet the difference would be that by 'party' you should read 'domain', 'website', 'company', etc. And by 'conversation' I am referring to the browsing experience from going to an address, off to closing the tab or window of your browser.

Simple enough, but let's make it crystal clear with an example:

  • You are visiting 'site.com' to check your email.
    This would be the 'first-party'.
  • However, 'site.com' has content that is being served by 'someothersite.com'.
    This is the 'third-party'.

What I am recommending here is blocking third-party cookies.

Yes, most webmasters will hate me for this, since most site counters use cookies to track visitors. And those cookies will be third-party in your case.

To reduce webmaster hate I have to point out that I am not endorsing this because of website counters, but of bad neighborhood 'freebie' sites that install adware on your computer. Although they prompt you to install 'the software that will boost your pc performance by 300%' there are also lots of sites that do some kind of bad code injection and on your next restart you are pimped up with lots of new software. Trojans and adware are a good example.

And, trust me on that, you won't be happy about it.

By the way if you, dear reader, by any chance know how exactly adware self-installs on visitor’ computers, it would be great to share it in the comments.

So, to round it up, keep first-party cookies until you close your browser and block third-party cookies entirely.

Note: if, by any chance, you experience browsing difficulties simply revert those settings to their initial values.

The Google Chrome logo.
The Google Chrome logo. | Source

Chrome Privacy Settings

  1. Click the Main Menu button (top-right corner)-> Settings
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click 'Show advanced settings...' link
  3. Under the first section of the expanded page, 'Privacy', click 'Content Settings...'
  4. In the 'Cookies' section set 'Keep local data only until I quit my browser'
  5. Set the checkmark 'Block third-party cookies and set data'
  6. Click 'Done' to save your changes
  7. Next to the 'Content Settings...' button, click 'Clear browsing data...'
  8. In the 'obliterate' drop-down select 'the beginning of time'
  9. Click the checkmark 'Delete cookies and other site and plug-in data'
  10. Uncheck all others, if any checked
  11. Click 'Clear browsing data'
    and you are good to go!

The Mozilla Firefox logo.
The Mozilla Firefox logo. | Source

Mozilla Firefox Privacy Settings

  1. Click the Firefox button (top-left corner)-> Options
  2. Click 'Privacy' tab
  3. On the drop-down labeled 'Firefox will:', select 'Use custom settings for history'
  4. Uncheck 'Accept third-party cookies'
  5. On the drop-down labeled 'Keep until:', select 'I close Firefox'
  6. Click OK to save changes
  7. Strangely, I couldn't find the menu section for deleting private data, so click Ctrl+Shift+Del
  8. On the drop-down labeled 'Time range to clear:' select 'Everything'
  9. Click 'Details'
  10. Uncheck everything except 'Cookies'
  11. Click 'Clear Now'
    and you're good to go!

The Opera browser logo.
The Opera browser logo. | Source

Opera Privacy Settings

  1. Click the Opera button (top-right corner) -> Settings-> Preferences
  2. Click the 'Preferences' tab
  3. On the menu list click 'Cookies'
  4. Select 'Accept cookies only from the sites I visit'
  5. Select checkbox 'Delete new cookies when exiting Opera'
  6. Click 'Ok' button to save changes
  7. Click the Opera button again and check 'Show menu bar'
  8. Now on the menu bar select Tools-> Delete Private Data...
  9. Uncheck all except 'Delete all cookies'
  10. Click the 'Delete' button
    and you are good to go!

Internet Explorer Privacy Settings

Unfortunately, what you can do in IE 8 and 9 is just block third party cookies.
There is no option for clearing cookies once you close the browser.

  1. Click the Cog button (top right corner) -> Internet Options
  2. “Privacy” tab
  3. Click “Advanced” button
  4. Select “Override automatic cookie handling” checkbox
  5. Switch “Third Party Cookies” to “Block”, click OK
  6. Clear cookies -> Press Ctrl+Shift+Del
  7. Uncheck everything except “Cookies”
  8. Press “Delete” at the bottom
    and you are good to go!

Dear Reader,

which browser are you using?

See results

Bonus Tip

#1 Want faster browser start up time?

Simply make "about:blank" your home page in order to load up a blank page. Since most browsing sessions start either from a search or bookmarks, it won't be an issue that you start with a blank page.

#2 Hotkeys for faster browsing

these apply for all major browsers, except for Opera

  • Ctrl+L or F4 - set focus on the address bar for entering a website URL
  • Ctrl+E - set the address bar to a search query of your default search engine
  • Ctrl+T - open up a new tab
  • Ctrl+W - close current tab
  • Ctrl+Shift+T - undo close of current tab
  • Use Ctrl+Shift+Del at any time to load the clean-up dialog for deleting cookies, cache, history and so on.

And There You Have It!

You are now browsing safer and have new keyboard shortcuts to brag about.

If you would like to subscribe for more article like this, follow me on HubPages or add me on Twitter @itknol. Thanks.

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    • itknol profile image
      Author

      ItKnol 3 years ago

      Thank you for the feedback, Electronician! I was starting to think that since people trust browser developers too much, they won't care about setting their software up to an increased benefit.

      And a big thank you for the support as well.

      By the way, awesome bio on your profile. By 'home automation' are you referring gadgifying up your house with things like 'turning on your oven with SMS'?

      I am planning on some automation myself - recording macros to upload photos and articles to my wordpress-driven sites.

      Always great to meet a fellow techie. Cheers.

    • electronician profile image

      Dean Walsh 3 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Great info - I've always been suspicious of letting ticking the remember me button because I suspected it could compromise security, although I never bothered to look into the details. Its good to learn more about it and to know which method is more secure. Voted up, shared with followers and tweeted!