Regardless of how tough is the anti-virus you use, how strict you are at sharing and receiving files from others, how carefully you deal with the links in the emails you receive, and what kind of Operating System you use, criminal minds will always find ways to fool you. In recent times, most of the hacks and crimes that we have seen were all executed or at least revolved around the labyrinth of your internet browser.

So at last, it all comes down to this: how secure is your internet browser? What kind of hidden things it shares? As much as we love to use free services, is there any dark side of this coin we are not aware of? How can we use some little unknown services to prevent ourselves from these brutal hacks? And, what changes you could make to strengthen the security of your browser?

Stop websites from tracking you

There is an old saying, “If you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product, not the customer.” In one of my old posts I wrote about the little prices you have to pay to use free services such as Google, Facebook, Twitter etc. The advertising in recent years has come to be very targeted and personalized. One of the things that enables them achieve this sits silently under your browser and is called a cookie. Cookies track your web activity – records the kind of sites you visit, the kind of products you buy, thanks to laptop and portable mobile devices, they can even track the places you go. While it has its own benefit – getting relevant advertisement, just the idea of anyone knowing so much about you is scary.


If you are among those people who don’t like being watched, the good news is we have lots of services to avert this. Let’s start things with your browser settings. Almost every popular browser features “Do Not Track “, an option to prevent the tracking. Chrome users can go to the settings (through the hot dog bar). Now one of the easiest way to bring all relevant results is by searching for “Do not” in the search box, locate “Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic” and make sure it is ticked. You can also disable many other features, but this much is enough.

Chrome Do not Track

Firefox users need to go to the settings (options), and under the Privacy tab, click on the radio button which says “Do not tell sites anything about my tracking preferences.”

Firefox Do Not Track

Alternatively you could also try its extension Do Not Track Me , or use Ghostery, an extension that does that same job. Disconnect me takes it to a whole new level by saving your bandwidth data in the process. We have previously written about how you can enable do not track on any browser.

Remove Flash Cookies

Cookies, as you know, store your information, Flash cookies are no different. To set restrictions on it, visit its settings page, navigate  to the left most tab named “Global Storage Settings”, under that, untick ‘Allow third-party Flash content to store data on your computer‘. You can also check on other tabs to see how it integrates with other components of your system.

Flash global settings

Enable 2-step authentication in your Gmail

This feature strengthens your account security by, as the name suggests, getting two factors, one the password, and the other is need to receiving a message on your mobile device to get access to your account. So suppose, even if some vicious mind figured your password, they will still be requiring physical access to your mobile device as Google sends you code without which you can’t access your account. To enable 2-step authentication in your account, go to the Account Settings from your Gmail account (or simply, head to this link.

How to enable 2 step authentication

Under 2-Step verification pane, click on Settings, and Getting Started in the page that follows. Google now will ask you to enter your phone number, and you will have to verify it by entering the code that you just received from Google as a text (or call) on your mobile device. Recently DropBox too added 2-Step authentication.

Get notifications from Facebook

Facebook is the home of notifications, but not all the notifications are important, or so to speak, require your attention right at the moment. But notifications about someone else trying to access your account are very essential. With social network hack becoming so mainstream recently, Facebook has rolled out this new feature where they send you a text message and email or both, whenever there is an unusual activity in your account.

To enable this feature, go to the ‘Account Settings’ and go to the Security tab. Click on the Notification key and tick your mobile or email or both depending where you want the notifications to arrive.

facebook login notifications

Stop Chrome extensions from knowing too much

If you use many extensions in your Chrome browser, you may want to know the kind of things your extensions are sharing with the world. For this go to the settings, and click on “Extensions” tab. Or, Just hit chrome://extensions/ in the address bar. If you are using the most recent version of Chrome you will need to click on each individual extensions, and there you will find the instructions to disable it. However, if you are using an older version of Chrome, click on permission or if required, disable the extension itself.

Chrome Extension Permission Check

Another interesting way to opt out of these web tracking technologies would be to use any proxy tools. Using such tools will change your geographic location, IP address and many other basic information that comes along with it. This makes a deceptive image of yours, filling up all wrong, still encrypted information. Here is our guide on how to surf internet anonymously without being tracked.

Because your online life is just as permanent as a tattoo

In his TED Talk “Your online life, permanent as a tattoo Juan Enriquez made some sparkling analogy of physical body tattoos with our life at virtual world. He says, the day has arrived when you can retrieve all the information about anyone without their consent. Take their picture, and services like Face.com will help you gather all their information.

The things we share on the internet, all the data we produce and the other data we are part of, will live longer than our bodies. Once you post something on the interwebs, it could be used again and again for or against you and it may end up defining you. It is high time you realize how important your privacy is.


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Author

Manish is pursuing a degree in Computer Science and Engineering but spends more time in writing about technology. He has written for a number of Indian and international publications including BetaNews, BGR India, WinBeta, MakeTechEasier, MediaNama, and Digit magazine among others. When not writing, you would find him ranting about the state of digital journalism on Twitter.