No doubt you’ve been spending more time online over these past several months. At the same time, scammers have multiplied their efforts to steal identities and access sensitive data from unsuspecting users, preying on the uncertainty of people who are more isolated than ever due to shelter at home rules. And while restrictions are being eased, you can be sure these cybercriminals will not stop.
To provide more protection for Google Chrome users, Google added new security and privacy features to its most recent browser update (version 83), which should have reached you by now. To check, open the Chrome menu in the upper right of your screen, go to “Help” and then “About Google Chrome.” You should see a blue check mark next to “Version 83.0.4103.61 (Official Build).” Otherwise, wait a day or two for the update to appear and install automatically, or do it manually if prompted. The update includes 38 security fixes, including real-time security checks.
The real-time feature is part of Chrome’s new Enhanced Safe Browsing mode. It works in a similar way to third-party security software, which scans a database of known malicious websites to block you from visiting them. According to Google, its standard Safe Browsing system discovers thousands of new unsafe sites and adds them to a blocklist that is shared with the web industry. When you’re using the Chrome browser, Chrome checks the URL of each site you visit or file you download against a local list, which is updated approximately every 30 minutes. But now in the face of more sophisticated attacks, 30 minutes is too long a period and allows some malicious URLs to slip through Google’s net.
So the new Enhanced Safe Browsing mode helps to close the gap by using real-time data from users and uses a holistic approach. With Enhanced Safe Browsing mode turned on, the system will be able to pull data from Chrome as well as other Google apps you use, such as Gmail or Google Drive. If there’s a suspicious link in a document you’re working on in Drive, then the tool could inform Chrome when you click on it, while also blocking dangerous webpages.
Privacy advocates will be concerned about the increased information that this tool allows Google to process. The company said that after a short period, Safe Browsing anonymizes this data so it is no longer connected to your account and eventually deletes it altogether. How much privacy you require varies based on how you use your computer, but for the typical user, this is a small price to pay for the additional protection. You can opt into this mode by visiting “Privacy and Security settings” > “Security” > and selecting the “Enhanced protection” mode under “Safe Browsing.” The feature is rolling out slowly, so if you don’t yet see it, check back.
Google also has a built-in password manager in Chrome. This can save the passwords you use to login through your browser and can recommend if your passwords are insecure. Like with Safe Browsing, Google runs a check of the passwords you have saved against a list of passwords known to have been exposed in past data breaches. You will receive an alert if a password you are using is a match. You should immediately change the exposed password on that site and any other site where you have used it.
And remember, it’s a good idea to use a password only once, creating different passwords each time you need one. To see the passwords that have been saved by Chrome, click on your icon or photo at the top right of the page, and then click the key icon under your name and account. As you review the list, click on the eye icon to show the associated password, which is an easy way to see the ones that need to be changed.
In the 83 update, Google has also made its Incognito Mode more private. In addition to deleting cookies every time you close the browser window in Incognito, Google will also start blocking third-party cookies by default within each Incognito session and include a prominent control on the New Tab page. Google says it will let people allow third-party cookies for individual web pages by clicking on an “eye” icon in the address bar and accepting them for that page.
Finally, 83 acknowledges the fact that deleting browsing and cookie history is the most frequently used task in settings by moving this option to the top of Chrome’s settings page.