How to reconfigure Google Chrome for better security

Wednesday , February 14, 2018 - 12:00 AM

LESLIE MEREDITH, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Last week we looked at the rising risk of malicious browser extensions, particularly those designed for Google Chrome. Because there’s an ongoing war between cybercriminals and security people, and one that likely will never end, it’s important for you to do your part in staying safe online.

With browser extensions, the fewer you have, the less vulnerable you will be to this type of attack. Further, you need to watch for pop-ups and other kinds of messages that urge you to download any extension. But there’s more you can do to safeguard your browser.

Chrome users can feel good about using what is considered the safest browser. But because it’s used by so many people, it’s also the browser most targeted by criminals. How can you make Chrome more secure? It’s all in the settings.

As a Chrome user, you may have overlooked the advanced settings that offer more security and privacy. Set aside a few minutes to take the following steps, which will go a long way to making your internet usage safer.

Open Chrome and look for the three dots in the upper right corner to access Settings. You’ll see it near the bottom of the drop-down list. When a new tab opens, scroll down to the bottom and click on Advanced. You’ll see a Privacy and Security section where you will want to turn on two features: “Automatically send some system information and page content to Google to help detect dangerous apps and sites” and “Protect you and your device from dangerous sites.”

The first gives permission to Chrome to periodically send some system information and page content to Google so they know about any threats you encounter. Chrome also will send this data any time you visit a website that has been flagged as suspicious. This data coming in from millions of users helps Google deliver the second feature. With protection turned on, you will get an instant alert whenever Chrome sees that the website you're going to could be harmful.

You can activate Do Not Track, but this is very hit or miss. The idea behind Do Not Track is to prevent websites you visit from recording the pages you visit and later showing you related advertising. This initiative was never made mandatory by law, so it’s up to a website whether or not it honors your request.

Move down to Content Settings. Make sure that Chrome must ask for your permission before revealing your location to a website that asks for it — you can always say no without affecting your browsing experience, in most cases. “Ask first” also should be on for both your camera and your microphone. You’ll also want Chrome to ask you first before automatically running Flash on a website, which is known to cause problems and is rarely found on modern and reputable websites, and before downloading a file. Pop-ups are blocked by default, but make sure that you have not changed that setting.

Next, take a look at your Autofill settings. I recommend you disable autofill for forms. Yes, it’s more convenient to have forms automatically populate with your name, address and even credit card number, but it’s really not worth the risk. Click on Autofill and look at what Chrome is currently storing for you — you may be surprised. Go ahead and delete this data, and be sure you have not stored any credit cards.

Finally, open Manage Passwords. Again, you may be surprised at what you see. Any password for any site that you have saved is here. Just click on the eyeball icon to see them. This is not the place to save passwords, especially those for online banking and other accounts. Delete them and don’t ever opt to save sensitive passwords in your browser.

Leslie Meredith has designed international websites and now runs marketing for a global events company. She writes about personal technology. You can email her at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.Last week we looked at the rising risk of malicious browser extensions, particularly those designed for Google Chrome. Because there’s an ongoing war between cybercriminals and security people, and one that likely will never end, it’s important for you to do your part in staying safe online.

With browser extensions, the fewer you have, the less vulnerable you will be to this type of attack. Further, you need to watch for pop-ups and other kinds of messages that urge you to download any extension. But there’s more you can do to safeguard your browser.

Chrome users can feel good about using what is considered the safest browser. But because it’s used by so many people, it’s also the browser most targeted by criminals. How can you make Chrome more secure? It’s all in the settings.

As a Chrome user, you may have overlooked the advanced settings that offer more security and privacy. Set aside a few minutes to take the following steps, which will go a long way to making your internet usage safer.

Open Chrome and look for the three dots in the upper right corner to access Settings. You’ll see it near the bottom of the drop-down list. When a new tab opens, scroll down to the bottom and click on Advanced. You’ll see a Privacy and Security section where you will want to turn on two features: “Automatically send some system information and page content to Google to help detect dangerous apps and sites” and “Protect you and your device from dangerous sites.”

The first gives permission to Chrome to periodically send some system information and page content to Google so they know about any threats you encounter. Chrome also will send this data any time you visit a website that has been flagged as suspicious. This data coming in from millions of users helps Google deliver the second feature. With protection turned on, you will get an instant alert whenever Chrome sees that the website you're going to could be harmful.

You can activate Do Not Track, but this is very hit or miss. The idea behind Do Not Track is to prevent websites you visit from recording the pages you visit and later showing you related advertising. This initiative was never made mandatory by law, so it’s up to a website whether or not it honors your request.

Move down to Content Settings. Make sure that Chrome must ask for your permission before revealing your location to a website that asks for it — you can always say no without affecting your browsing experience, in most cases. “Ask first” also should be on for both your camera and your microphone. You’ll also want Chrome to ask you first before automatically running Flash on a website, which is known to cause problems and is rarely found on modern and reputable websites, and before downloading a file. Pop-ups are blocked by default, but make sure that you have not changed that setting.

Next, take a look at your Autofill settings. I recommend you disable autofill for forms. Yes, it’s more convenient to have forms automatically populate with your name, address and even credit card number, but it’s really not worth the risk. Click on Autofill and look at what Chrome is currently storing for you — you may be surprised. Go ahead and delete this data, and be sure you have not stored any credit cards.

Finally, open Manage Passwords. Again, you may be surprised at what you see. Any password for any site that you have saved is here. Just click on the eyeball icon to see them. This is not the place to save passwords, especially those for online banking and other accounts. Delete them and don’t ever opt to save sensitive passwords in your browser.

Leslie Meredith has designed international websites and now runs marketing for a global events company. She writes about personal technology. You can email her at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.

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