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Grow Your Business Security

5 Ways to Surf the Web More Securely at Work

5 Private Web Browsers
Credit: 13_Phunkod/Shutterstock

Browsing the web can open your company to an assortment of security dangers. In a typical browsing session, visiting even a well-known site such as CNN.com, you can expose your search preferences, enable cookies (and other tracking methods), and even expose sensitive data stored on your local computer.

Sadly, the vast majority of business users do not bother with any protection on the web, and most rely on widely available browsers, such as Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. The truth is, these browsers are fast and reliable, and they tend to crash infrequently. They are also widely available (Edge is included on many new computers).

However, even if you use the "secure" mode in popular browsers, such as Chrome, your data is still exposed, along with your IP address and your location. These browsers' search engines (and privacy modes) are designed to alleviate those concerns.

Here's the main takeaway about private browsing: If you don't download the browser itself, it's probably not secure. Adding a Chrome add-on or using a private search engine like those mentioned below help, but you could still be exposing your private company data. The Tor Browser makes sure that is not possible. Completely anonymous, the Tor Browser uses a distributed network to anonymize your IP address. A downside is that this browser is not as compatible with or as reliable as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

An alternative to Tor, the Epic browser is secure because it uses a private VPN, or virtual private network (which has servers available in eight countries). The company claims that as many as 600 trackers are blocked with this browser in a typical session. Epic blocks all ads, trackers, saved sessions and your IP address to ensure your activity on the web is secure.

Easily the most popular secure search engine, DuckDuckGo (which is also available as a Chrome add-on) never saves any of your browser history. It also blocks cookies and trackers, and ensures that your searches are never saved or sold to third parties. Because the site doesn't use trackers, it is not attached to your browsing session either. When you visit other sites, your data is never saved or tracked after you leave the site. Unlike the safe mode in other browsers (which doesn't track searches locally but does track them in the cloud), DuckDuckGo doesn't track anything, making it more secure.

A secure search engine that also has a "green computing" angle, Ecosia adds extra security, because it does not sell your search results to third parties or use trackers to determine which sites you visit. For every search, you help plant a tree somewhere in the world. Each week, search traffic for users is anonymized, which means it isn't saved or tracked. Another bonus is that since searches are not tracked, the sites you visit cannot identify how you arrived there. It's a little more peace of mind, at least for web searches.

The Chrome browser is popular and reliable, and if you insist on using it in a business setting, the smarter approach is to at least use incognito mode. As mentioned earlier, incognito mode is not actually secure – your IP address is still tracked. However, this private browsing mode at least provides some extra security in that your search preferences are not stored locally. If someone were to hack into your computer, they would at least not see an archive of every site you've visited, and they would have a harder time tracking your website visits.

John Brandon

John Brandon is a technology expert, business advocate, and columnist. He has written over 12,000 articles in 16 years. His first articles appeared in LAPTOP magazine in 2002.