Time for a mid-year browser security check


We have reached the middle of 2022 and when it comes to security, I feel that we are not making much progress. I still see people reporting being scammed, ransomed and attacked on a regular basis – and for many users the browser becomes the most important part of the platform you use. So now is a good time to review your browsers and any extensions you have installed to boost security.

Note, I said browsers -plural. While businesses may want to standardize on a single browser for better control, for small businesses and individual users I recommend installing several. (I often use three different browsers.)

Why is this important? Because attackers (and trackers) prey on browsers. In fact, it’s good to think of your browser as a separate operating system and act accordingly to protect it. Although I’m primarily focusing on Windows issues, these guidelines and recommendations apply to Mac OS, Ubuntu, Mint, and others.

Basically, every browser should be checked for additional protection against malicious sites and advertisements. On platforms like macOS, you’ll need to focus on Chrome, Firefox, or WaterFox protections; if you have standardized on Safari, you will need to use Adguard.

Even now I see rotating malicious banner ads. If you don’t have endpoint protection or something similar, you can better protect yourself by deploying something like uBlock Originwhich blocks ads and unwanted content.

Be aware that uBlock and uBlock Origin are two different products, the latter being a fork of the former. They are maintained separately. I recommend uBlock Origin, which you can install and deploy as a standalone extension. Once installed, you can then create whitelists of sites you will allow and adjust other settings as needed. If you are new to ublock you can leave the defaults alone or review these posts for recommended settings. You can also click on the extension’s icon in your browser and select “Filter Lists”.

By default, some filters are already enabled, although you can seriously lock down your browser by enabling them all. Then, on another browser, leave the defaults alone for a more forgiving approach to surfing.

In a network setting, you can follow the same process and use PowerShell or Group Policy to deploy the settings to your network. Although I’m specifically focusing on Chrome, most major browsers work the same way. To deploy using Group Policy on Chrome, you need to download the Google Group Policy ADMX Templates and place them in the central policy store. Edit your Google Chrome GPO and go to Computer Configuration. Then go to Policies>Administrative Templates>Google>Google Chrome>Extensions. Enable the “Configure the list of forced installation apps and extensions” setting and make sure to link your group policy to an organizational unit that contains authenticated users or domain computers as security screening. If you prefer to test this before a full deployment, configure a specific security test group.

It’s a good idea to test uBlock first rather than deploying it widely; you may need to exclude a website. Invariably, you will need to whitelist a website using Group Policy tools. To do this, follow the instructions on deploy happiness.

As they note:

In your Chrome GPO, navigate to Computer ConfigurationPreferencesWindows SettingsRegistry and create a new registry preference. Leave the action type as Update. In the preference, set the following:

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE

Key path: SoftwarePoliciesGoogleChrome3rdpartyextensionscjpalhdlnbpafiamejdnhcphjbkeiagmpolicy

Value name: adminSettings

Value type: REG_SZ

Value data: {“autoUpdate”:true,”netWhitelist”:”about-schemenbehind-the-scenenchrome-extension-schemenchrome-schemenlocalhostnloopconversation.about-schemenopera-schemenWHITELISTWEBSITE. com”}

This valuable data has the default exclusions plus WHITELISTWEBSITE.com as an authorized website. Be sure to replace the last value (WHITELISTWEBSITE.com) with the website that needs to be whitelisted. Websites should always be prefixed with a n . If you were to add a second website, the value data would look like:

{“autoUpdate”:true,”netWhitelist”:”about-schemenbehind-the-scenenchrome-extension-schemenchrome-schemenlocalhostnloopconversation.about-schemenopera-schemenWHITELISTWEBSITE.comnSECONDWEBSITE. com”}

These changes will be active after a GPU update and after starting a new Chrome browser session. If you prefer to deploy the solution using PowerShell, you can do so in a in the same way to Group Policy.

You may need to be a little more adventurous with Chrome, Firefox, or Waterfox on the Mac platform. If you’re in a company with macOS workstations, you might need to use your remote tools or type in instructions to tell your users how to manually deploy protections if you don’t have management tools for your Apple hardware. .

You can also add third-party external websites that include filter lists. Examples of external lists include the following:

https://easylist.to/*
https://*.fanboy.co.nz/*
https://filterlists.com/*
https://forums.lanik.us/*
https://github.com/*
https://*.github.io/
https://*.letsblock.it/*

Note that the page break probability increases with the addition of new filter lists. So always test in a sample configuration before deploying to your network.

Attackers know that the browser is one of the ways they can access computers and networks and steal saved usernames and passwords. If you make sure your browser is as secure as possible, maybe the second half of 2022 won’t be as dangerous as the first part of the year.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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