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Grow Your Business Security

5 Ways to Surf the Web More Securely at Work

image for 13_Phunkod/Shutterstock
13_Phunkod/Shutterstock
  • You can block hundreds of trackers during a typical browsing session using a popular secure web browser such as Tor Browser or Epic Privacy Browser.
  • It's quick and easy to download private browsers, and most are compatible with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. Many browsers request donations to support privacy efforts or permit free downloads.
  • Private browsing modes for search engines are less secure than private web browsers, but they are an option for tasks such as casual business surfing. 

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

Despite the risks, the vast majority of business users do not use any protection on the web, and most rely on widely available browsers, such as Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. These browsers are fast and reliable. 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.

The following 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.

Another issue that could prevent you from securely downloading the Tor Browser is censorship rules in your location. If you cannot download it through the provided website links, an error message pops up, stating "Tor is censored in my country." Another potential issue with download errors is an incorrect system clock. Set the clock correctly to fix this issue, and get started on this popular and secure search engine.

An alternative to Tor, Epic Privacy Browser is secure because it uses a private VPN, or virtual private network (which has servers in eight countries). This is significant because the Epic browser provides free VPN access. 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.

Epic is available on Mac, Windows and Android systems for one-click download. One of the concerns with Epic is that the host is unknown and outside the United States. And although the browser is advertised as secure, there is a possibility that user data will be compromised.

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 modes in other browsers (which don't track searches locally but do track them in the cloud), DuckDuckGo doesn't track anything, making it more secure. And unlike most privacy programs, DuckDuckGo doesn't require the user to download a new search engine. Instead, users enter a private browsing mode that blocks phishing and tracking attempts. The add-on is free to install and ready for secure browsing immediately.

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. The popular, secure search engine has made a global impact by helping underserved communities through user donations.

Each week, search traffic for users is anonymized, which means it isn't saved or tracked. Another bonus is that because searches are not tracked, the sites you visit cannot identify how you arrived there. It gives you a little more peace of mind, at least for web searches. An add-on for Chrome is available for increased convenience. One of the only downsides of Ecosia is the lack of transparency. Although the company has claimed to have planted 65 million trees as of 2019, there hasn't been any proof of this charitable effort.

Google's Chrome browser is popular and reliable, and if you insist on using it in a business setting, the smarter approach is at least to 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 not see an archive of every site you've visited, and they would have a harder time tracking your website visits. Additional browsers are starting to add private browsing modes, including Safari and Microsoft Edge. When using a business computer, you may not be able to download your own software, and private browsing mode conceals your browsing history from employers.

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.