Secure web browsing protects the communication between your computer and the web site you are visiting.
Cyber criminals know that one of the easiest ways to break into your computer is while you are surfing the web.
One simple step you can take that will considerably increase your computer security is making sure no one can read the communication between the web browser on your computer and the website you are visiting.
A website either:
You just have to take advantage of the secure communication option.
When you see "http://" in your web browser's address field, it means that the website is not secure.
When the website is not secure, the communication between the web browser on your computer and the website you are visiting is readable by anyone who has the ability to intercept it.
Your Internet provider - a cable company (Time Warner Spectrum, Comcast, Optimum, Cox) or a telecommunication company (Verizon, AT&T) - can easily snoop on your Internet web browsing. And it likely does.
Internet providers have been busy buying media companies. Verizon bought AOL and AT&T wants to buy Time Warner. They all want to compete with Google and Facebook.
And what does Google do? It records everything you do, it reads your e-mail (at least Gmail), and it sells your information to everyone else to serve you advertisements.
Facebook tracks you as you surf the Internet, even when you are not logged into Facebook. It then sells your Internet behavior to companies that buy advertisements that Facebook shows you.
You are the product that Facebook is selling. But this is a topic for another article.
Other companies want to be able to do this as well. They want a piece of the lucrative Internet marketing pie. Your security and privacy are at stake.
Because ALL your Internet traffic (web browsing, e-mail, Netflix, Amazon.com, everything) goes through your Internet service provider, they can see everything you do on the Internet.
Without secure web browsing in place, they can also read what you are reading. They can even hijack or redirect your connections, and you will never know.
Your provider already overcharges you for the Internet service, abusing the monopoly it enjoys. You probably cannot chose between more than one, maybe two, Internet providers in your area.
Why not keep your personal data and web surfing habits to yourself, and increase your computer security at the same time?
The beauty of the Internet is that it gives you the freedom to browse whatever and wherever you want. You can explore, learn and collaborate with anyone.
It is none of the Internet provider's business to snoop on you, or control your web surfing experience.
The power utility company does not tell you how much power to use for
what device. It does not sell your personal information to anyone. It is a utility - you use it, and pay for what you use.
Yet Internet providers want to control what you see and where you spend your time. They want to know everything about you, and then they sell this information to marketing companies.
Internet providers can - and probably do - get broken into by cyber criminals.
Once they break into an Internet service provider, intruders have access to all your personal information and your web browsing habits. They can see where you shop, bank, and work, and use this information to target you better.
The danger does not just lie with your Internet provider. Between your computer and the website you are visiting there are a number of computer and network devices.
The Internet is a large network, and your computer connection travels through many connecting network nodes to reach its destination - the website you are visiting.
Without secure web browsing, cyber thieves can intercept your web browsing communication at any of those network points.
They are also capable of advanced intrusion techniques that are hard to detect. Web browsers are getting better with time, but cyber thieves are getting better faster. You will never catch up to them - this is what they do for a living.
Our main computer security strategy is to use layered security, or defense in depth.
Not letting a third party - your Internet service provider or any other network node sitting between your computer and the website you are visiting - snoop on your Internet connection creates another obstacle that a cyber intruder has to work around.
The computers and the Internet are very complex. Technology is changing at a fast pace. There will always be something that you don't know and have no way of protecting against.
And then there are things you don't know that you don't know. Something you don't even know exists, or cannot imagine.
How do you protect against this? And how does this relate to secure web browsing?
Cyber criminals will always find new, creative ways to break into computers. Trying to predict their next step is impossible. They are the experts.
We will always be behind. That is the nature of offense and defense. They are on offense and we are on defense. We always play catch-up.
Playing catch-up in computer security means it may already be too late. Your computer may have already been broken into with a brand new (called zero-day) computer exploit that only the intruder knows about.
Playing catch-up is a losing game. If you always have to fix problems after they are found, eventually your computer will be broken into.
Instead of playing catch-up and worrying about all the dangers of using unsecured web communication, take a few simple steps to implement secure web browsing.
Secure web browsing means using the "https://" version of the website. Take a look at the screenshot below to see what a secure web address looks like.
Most websites still offer only insecure, "http://" version of their website.
A few offer only secure, "https://" version, which is ideal.
And more and more websites offer both secure and insecure version.
For websites that offer both secure and insecure version, they often first present you with an insecure version. In order to switch to the secure version of the website, you have to:
This is cumbersome and not a convenient way to surf the web.
Thankfully, good people at the Electronic Frontier Foundation created a web browser extension (plug-in) that does this work for you. It is called HTTPS Everywhere.
HTTPS Everywhere secures your Internet web browsing by encrypting (scrambling in a way that no third party can intercept) the communication between your web browser and the website you are visiting.
It is a web browser add-on that installs into your web browser.
Once you install it, for every website you visit, your web browser checks if there is a secure "https://" version of the website, and if there is then it switches to using the secure version instead of using the insecure "http://" version.
In addition, it stops your Internet service provider from snooping on you. The less third parties have the ability to read your web communication, the more secure you are.
HTTPS Everywhere works with the following web browsers: