Posted in Security

Improve your PC security with task-specific browsers

When we are using a PC – a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer – web browsers tend to be one of the most accessed applications. Unfortunately, web browsers are frequent attack targets because they can run Javascript programs on a PC, download new software on a PC, and access files stored on a hard drive. Browsers also provide plenty of information to data collectors that profile internet users for marketing purposes. A simple method to significantly reduce security risks and leakage of private data is to dedicate browsers for specific tasks on your PC.

A couple of years ago, I read an article at Fast Company that discussed browser compartmentalization. I realized I had been doing something like it for quite some time. The article helped me to plan it from security and privacy perspective and fully implement the setup.

The key thing why browsers that are dedicated to specific tasks improves security and privacy is that you use a browser with specific settings for one task and another browser with other settings for something else. If a malware hits one browser, the damage can be contained. Your most valuable services are only accessed with a browser that is locked down

How-to-Geek shows an example how they recommend to set it up. I have a slightly different setup – here is how it works.

First, you need two or three reliable browsers with tested privacy and security features. Browsers that are known to collect private data, like Google Chrome and Microsoft browser are not the best choices. Instead, use Vivaldi, Brave, Firefox, or Opera.

brave browser, settings page

Browser number 1

Dedicate browser number 1 for accessing services like your bank, tax office, health information, email, and any other personal or work services that deal with sensitive data. Don’t use this browser for anything else. Set the strictest security and privacy preferences for this browser. Block ads and tracking. EFF Privacy Badger may also be required if the browser doesn’t block all trackers. The extension that can lock down a browser from doing any dangerous activities is noscript by Hackademix or Giorgio Maone.

Then, try to login to your bank or email account. It probably won’t work. Since you know that it really is your bank or email where you want to login, disable restrictions and extensions for this service alone. You have to do the same for each important service. Once this is done, the service will work fine.

Browser number 2

Dedicate browser number 2 for accidental research, finding products, web surfing, Youtube videos, Tiktok, and visiting sites you don’t know. The idea is to use this browser for sites and services you don’t need to login. If this browser is infected, it is not logged in to an important service. Never use this browser to login to an important service that manages your personal data, like bank or email.

Set the preferences in the browser to delete all history (cookies, cache, and other items) when you close it. If you have VPN (virtual private network service), it is an excellent way to hide your location from the sites you visit. For instance, Opera browser provides a VPN service, and plenty of commercial VPN services are available as well. I have noscript extension active in this browser as well, but it is quite painful to manually lift restrictions for each site. It does, however, provide a fascinating view to the world of data collection because the extension shows all the parties that are sucking personal data.

opera browser, screen shot

Browser number 3

The browsers 1 and 2 are elemental for safer internet access. They create the simple secure and private online configuration for every internet user. Browser 1 for important, personal and work relates tasks, and browser 2 for web surfing.

Many of us want to follow and participate in social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest as well. These services require login but they also happen to be among the biggest personal data collectors known to mankind. Browser 3 can be tailored for accessing these services. If anything nasty happens, it should affect this browser alone.

Again, locking down browser settings and using extensions like noscript greatly enhances security and privacy. Every social media service requires access to, for instance, Javascript and in order to use the service, restrictions must be eased just enough so that the desired service can be accessed.

Downloads:
Vivaldi browser.
Opera browser.
Brave browser.
Firefox.

firefox browser, preferences page

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