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Cybersecurity Basics: Surf the Web Safely With These Browsers


Web-based cyber security attacks on small businesses are on the rise. Of all internet-borne attacks, 31 percent are targeted at businesses with fewer than 250 employees, according to a recent report from Symantec. In order to protect yourself and your business against hackers, you'll want to use a secure web browser, along with a trusted antivirus and firewall software package.

While no single browser can offer 100 percent protection all of the time, some are more robust than others when it comes to minimizing security risks, including malware, phishing attacks and much more.

Here's a rundown of the most secure web browsers:

1. Mozilla Firefox

Firefox is packed with several security options to fend off attacks when browsing, including built-in protection against phishing, spyware and more. The popular free, fast browser from the non-profit Mozilla Foundation automatically warns you when a webpage you visit has been flagged as a phishing page or a copycat of a legitimate site. It also tells you when you encounter a malware website designed to harm your computer.

Firefox also offers private web browsing protection, including "undercover" private surfing and the ability to inform sites that you don't want them to track your online behavior. The "Do-not-track" feature keeps your online activity trail out of the hands of other companies, including advertisers.

Related: Internet Users Want to Be Invisible. And They Fear Advertisers More than the Government

You can also block pesky pop-up windows, which hackers often use to infect computers with viruses and spyware. Keep in mind, though, that blocking pop-ups can interfere with websites that use pop-ups for key features, including banking sites.

While Firefox doesn't crash often, it can be somewhat of a memory hog. Even Mozilla admits that, stating "Firefox sometimes uses more memory (RAM) than it should" on a webpage that details how to make the browser gobble up less memory.

2. Google Chrome

Google Chrome, still the most used browser in the U.S., reigns supreme when it comes to loading speed and support for HTML5. Its overall security protections are also generally considered good, though not perfect. Chrome's arsenal of security and privacy features include malware and phishing protection, which tip you off to sites that Google deems potentially malicious.

The browser's unique "sandboxing" feature helps stop malware from installing itself on your computer and then potentially ripping off private data from your hard drive or spying on your online activities. Chrome also protects you from accidentally stumbling upon the wrong site -- perhaps a malicious copycat site -- when you misspell a URL.

Related: How to Avoid Getting Hacked (Infographic)

Looking to browse while off-the-radar? Chrome's "incognito mode" has you (mostly, if not for the NSA) covered by making sure one of your website visits or downloads are recorded in your download and browsing histories. Additionally, cookies created while going incognito automatically self-destruct after you close your incognito windows. You can also customize your privacy settings in Chrome, including cookie, plugins, JavaScript and images on a site-by-site basis.

However, Chrome's "Do Not Track" privacy feature isn't exactly easy to find and set up. Also, unlike Firefox's "Master" password feature, Chrome doesn't allow you to encrypt your saved credit card and password information, which can be a real problem if you let the browser remember your passwords, leaving them basically wide open to anyone who uses your computer.

3. Internet Explorer 10

Microsoft's lean, power performing latest entry into the browser market, Internet Explorer 10 (IE 10) debuted with Windows 8 and is now available for Windows 7. Users have more control over their privacy than with past versions. They're also now protected via the new Enhanced Protected Mode from cyber criminals seeking to tamper with system settings, install malware, access information from corporate intranets and snoop personal information.

IE 10 also helps protect against cross-site scripting attacks. These occur when hackers deploy malicious scripts to snatch private information about site visitors. Cross-scripting also allows cyber criminals to hijack your web account, capture your keystrokes and, worse, impersonate you online and make unauthorized purchases, etc. The browser's "Do Not Track" and "InPrivate" mode features also keeps users' web activity from being tracked online by third parties.

One drawback: While Internet Explorer's ActiveX technology is designed to make it easier to play animations, videos and other files, it can also be used as a hacking tool for cyber criminals. You can, however, easily customize your browser to allow ActiveX to run only on the sites you trust.  

Related: 4 Tools to Help Protect Your Online Privacy

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