How Private Web Browsers are Combating Modern Cybersecurity Threats?By Marcus Jackson
Last year researcher, well-known within the industry as mr.d0x, raised the issue of almost uncompromised faith in URLs only to bring it down describing a relatively new attack. Baptized as a newborn by the media, a browser in the browser attack (BITB) became a creepy story of its kind.
2022 was also a hungry Harvester for cyberattacks and especially government-aimed ones, as curious as it gets, this year is his proud follower.
But attacks on far-right media and governments are still special occasions, reality we live in is daily life danger to those without a huge team of programmers (or angry privileged men) behind their backs. People who are exposed to website security risks are the majority of daily Google search users or Starbucks customers. That’s why it is so crucial to find at least a good solid web browser that will care about their right to live in peace. Luckily enough, plenty of personal browsers emerged in the last decade and decided to make users and their safety the main priority.
But what are cybersecurity threats?
Contemporary a(r)ttack: Types of Cybersecurity Threats
Complex locks, doors, and alarms can’t prevent burglary completely, though they make it hard to go away unannounced. That’s what is grinding criminal ways into more sophisticated gems. The Internet and its perpetrators tend to lean toward a similar dynamic. The key specialty of mentioned interdependency is social engineering, meaning: it’s not only about good technique or knowledge of digital vulnerabilities but understanding human behavior online.
The mighty Internet containing your bank account or health insurance data, probably mental health appointments and diaries, private interests and conversations usually seem not so big as you can use just a browser window to sign in wherever you need. But that’s the point, using one tool for everything you need is great by the standards of comfort and an Achilles tendon of privacy and security. Because all successful attack requires — compromising a thing or two in the browser or what it contains.
Knowing what are these attacks that inhabited the modern internet is an eye-opener, because of the illusion of safety — before you know anything could happen already you are running still like the calmest waters. Website security threats or abracadabra, words cost nothing if you don’t know the subject. That’s true for most of the injustices.
So let’s reveal some of the security threat types.
Web plugins came into the picture from the need for additional functionalities to then straightforward and gatekeeping browsers. Adblockers, VPNs, download managers, debugging features, fonts improving reading abilities, all these tiny apps that proved to be useful showed users they’re good to go while being of help in decluttering space and improving the online experience. Downloads of the most popular plugins today reach millions in digits.
But that’s the blessing and the curse, to be positive of help, plugins need to have straight access to pretty sensitive information your browser is carrying. So, if someone plans on abusing this privilege, or for example, a plugin turns into a full-blown agent in the bat of an eye. Or for example, like last year’s accident with the WordPress plugin, an important and widely used one can be compromised.
Ranging from just annoying inconveniences to real-life damage, that can be violently destructive, this kind of attack is capable of a rich variety of actions. Download and installation of malware, binge-harvesting of the search and data forms, rerouting traffic, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Basically a Russian doll of browser attacks.
BROWSER IN THE BROWSER (BITB)
Rising star, which gave its first recognized performance in 2020 featuring Steam, makes even quite advanced users shiver in “What is going on?”. From targeting Counter-Strike players it moved to espionage real quick.
Famously referred to as a “phonebook of the Internet” the domain name system (DNS) function is to mediate the human-computer nature of the Internet. Meaning: domain names, that are familiar to everyone (like meetsidekick.com) serving as human-friendly side is translated into internet protocol (IP) addresses, numeric or newer alphanumeric (IPv6) identifiers readable for computers. So, we have here one of the fundamental parts of the Internet infrastructure, that can be also compromised in numerous ways.
Primarily it starts with the DNS cache that your device is collecting, target poisoning. Changing IP this attack simply redirects whoever became its victim to a different site. A point can vary, from a straightforward seeding of malware to less obvious sabotage of the specific server it’s really targetting — causing it errors or even shut down. Last, but not least, it can serve as censorship.
Is the Great Firewall its long-lost relative?
Structured Query Language (SQL) is a computer language responsible for managing data held, communicating, and manipulating databases. How can you harm anyone using it?
Oh, this attack is a playful one. A piece of code is injected taking advantage of vulnerabilities in web forms or corrupting cookies or HTTP posts. Then your browser is unknowingly executing the malicious code, while criminals are getting access to the database, modifying, deleting, or stealing sensitive data. The most unhinged part of this attack is possible — it’s almost exclusively the developers’ fault. Proper sanitizing of the code easily prevents SQL injection from happening, so it’s either a huge misfortune where only one page is left vulnerable or the recklessness of programmers.
CROSS-SITE SCRIPTING (XSS)
A subtype of the Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) attack that is limited to the browser traffic. Ways of performing it vary from phishing emails, and malicious downloads to exploiting security vulnerabilities in the user’s software. Frequently taking place while using unsecured networks. Malicious actors by any of mentioned means get access to the user’s traffic, while “being in the middle” of the server and browser. In stealth mode they intercept data, sometimes having access to modify the exchanged one with the website. For instance, consider a situation where the user is executing a financial transaction via online banking. The malicious software can manipulate the transaction details, replacing the intended recipient’s banking details with those of the hacker. Interestingly, this occurs without raising suspicion as the user continues to see the original, correct details displayed on their screen. And the challenger: MITB are not prevented by traditional security measures such as firewalls or antivirus software.
Imagine the moment you log into a website or web application — the host server issues you a unique identification card, your “session ID”. Like a backstage pass at a concert, this ID allows you to navigate various pages of the website, constantly communicating with the server to confirm your authenticity.
Now, envision this scenario with a slight twist — your session ID isn’t properly encrypted. This flaw can be the perfect opportunity for cyber rogues to seize your sessions, essentially starting a new authenticated session under your name. The consequences? You could find yourself locked out of your own account, witness purchases made in your name if a credit card is attached to the compromised account, or even fall victim to data theft that can further spur malicious attacks. All of this is possible, all because of a simple lapse in encryption. It’s a chilling thought, isn’t it?
Private Special: Browsing Security
Luckily, the burden of keeping ourselves safe from harm can’t and shouldn’t be placed solely on our own shoulders, and among different tricks and tools are these hidden in plain sight — private browsers. They employ some key strategies for protecting your information from intruders.
Encryption: welp, what can be better than a good scramble? The recipe is simple: we are taking data, heating up encryption, waiting for information to become a set of chaotically organized symbols, and voila.
Private browsers are leaning toward supporting different sophisticated types of secure encryption, like well-known SSL or E2EE. This way data that is sent over the internet can be read only by those having keys, becoming almost unreadable if intercepted. So, unauthorized parties are left hungry.
Cookie management: While cookies can enhance users’ experience by remembering personal preferences and login information, they can also be misused to track user activity and collect personal data. Private browsers can adopt different strategies of cookie management. For example, blocking third-party cookies, automatically clearing all the cookies once session is finished or suggesting cookies whitelisting/blacklisting.
Tracking prevention: Browsers also excel at preventing tracking. They can block tracking scripts that attempt to follow your digital footprint across multiple websites. By foiling such trackers, these browsers uphold the user’s privacy and restrict the collection of personal data. DNT (Do Not Track) sends a signal to websites to request that they do not track your activity. However, compliance with DNT is voluntary and not all websites honor its signal. Some features like Safari (though it’s not making it a private browser) intelligent tracking prevention (ITP) merge cookies management and tracking prevention. It also uses machine learning to understand which websites have the ability to track users across other sites and then restricts the storage access of the cookies from these identified domains, reducing their ability to track users across multiple sites.
HTTPS redirection: This one ****internet browser security strategy ensures that users are always on the secure version of a website, and robust anti-phishing measures to protect users from deceptive sites.
VPN: Some private browsers also offer virtual private network (VPN) integration, with Sidekick and Brave in the avant-garde of this market, adding an additional layer of security by masking the user’s IP address and geographical location if needed.
Sandboxing: A security technique used in web browsers to isolate processes and prevent malicious activities from affecting the broader system. By segregating each process within its own confined environment or “sandbox”, actions can be restricted and data access limited, preventing malicious or malfunctioning programs from damaging or snooping on the rest.
Auto Updates: While for many it doesn’t sound serious, it’s still crucial for keeping the tool safe to use. Browser vulnerabilities will always show themselves for better or for worse, so security patches can’t be ignored by a user’s inability to push the needed button straight from the oven.
User Education: Maybe it will sound odd, but due to social engineering being still one of the primal aspects of cyber attacks, educating your users is a valid and underrated strategy of browsers security. Having a great community with the opportunity of mutual aid and giving the best up-to-date information on existing cyber threats can make a huge difference.
Altogether these tactics, while keeping it simple for users, create a safer space. Plus, private browsers are softly pushing cybersecurity standards overall, isn’t it a win-win?
Modern-day is full of surprises, so the evolution of the Internet inevitably leads to newer and wiser cyber threats emerging. However, the situation isn’t hopeless, though can be dark from time to time. While computer security threats and solutions are liable to differ, help from private browsers is more universal. They have risen to the challenge, adopting a myriad of robust security measures to combat these threats. With features such as advanced encryption, intelligent cookie management, tracking prevention, automatic updates, and innovative strategies like sandboxing, these browsers are designed to guard our information against potential intruders. While the battle against cyber threats rages on, the empowering message remains clear: In the realm of online security, we’re not defenseless.
As we are discussing it, our Sidekick team makes everything to keep up to the standards we are laking about, to guard your right to private life and security need while having an opportunity to work effectively and in peace.
A private browser is designed to prioritize user privacy and security above all else. Unlike standard browsers, private browsers employ advanced features like encryption, intelligent cookie management, tracking prevention, sandboxing, and automatic updates to protect your data and maintain your privacy online.
Sidekick is a private browser that has made significant strides in enhancing online security. We are using multiple tools and strategies to enhance secure web browsing, giving advanced fingerprinting protection, supporting SSL, blocking cookies and a number of trackers, supplying you with our built-in VPN and the list goes on.
You don’t have to be a tech expert to protect yourself online. The first step is to use a private browser, which comes with many in-built security features. Also, avoid clicking on suspicious links, do not share personal information unless necessary, and always keep your browser updated to the latest version. Lastly, learn about these threats. Knowledge is power, and knowing what these threats are and how they work can help you stay safer online.
While private browsers are designed to offer a higher level of security and privacy compared to traditional browsers, no browser can guarantee 100% protection against all types of online threats. They can significantly reduce the risk of certain attacks by implementing encryption, tracking prevention, sandboxing, automatic updates, and other security features. It’s also important for users to adopt safe online practices, such as not clicking on suspicious links and keeping software updated.