Browsers Security

7 Mistakes You’re Making While Browsing the Web

Joel Lee 18-03-2015

Most of us spend hours on the Internet every day. If we’re going to dedicate that much time to an activity, doesn’t it make sense for us to make sure that we’re doing it right? As it turns out, you may be sabotaging your own web browsing experience with a few simple mistakes.


When I say sabotage, that means everything from slowing down your browser What Can You Do To Speed Up Your Browser? If you’re like me and you spend a huge portion of your day browsing the web then you understand how frustrating it is to have a slow, bloated browser that seems to be on its... Read More to leaving yourself vulnerable to viruses and hackers Which Browser Is Most Secure on Your Old Windows XP System? What is the most secure browser for Windows XP? We look at Firefox, Chrome, Opera and more to see if they are the best browsr for Windows XP. Read More . The sad truth is that “proper browsing habits” don’t require all that much effort, yet people still neglect them — and the only people they’re hurting are themselves.

Don’t be like them! A few tweaks is all it takes to maximize your enjoyment and safety when surfing the web. Less lag, less risk, and less inconvenience all around. Here are the mistakes you need to avoid.

Overlooking JavaScript’s Risks

These days it’s almost impossible to find a modern website on the web that doesn’t use JavaScript in some way. It’s necessary for things like visitor analytics Your Guide To Google Analytics Do you have any idea where your visitors are coming from, what browsers most of them use, what search engines they use, or which of your pages is the most popular? Read More , nifty visual effects, infinite scrolling, and updating page elements without refreshing the entire page itself.


For the most part, JavaScript is good! But JavaScript is also powerful, and that power can easily be misused and abused when wielded by the wrong hands.


We recently explored the dangers of JavaScript 3 Ways JavaScript Can Breach Your Privacy & Security JavaScript is a good thing for the most part, but it just happens to be so flexible and so powerful that keeping it in check can be difficult. Here's what you need to know. Read More and what could happen to your computer if you came across a malicious or overly ambitious chunk of code. It’s a threat to both security and privacy, which is why you need to know what JavaScript is capable of and how to keep it at bay.

Disregarding Browser Updates

You know the notice that pops up every once in a while asking if you’d like to update your browser to the next version? Chrome users probably don’t know what I’m talking about (Google handles it automatically in the background), but for the rest of us, that little notice is important.


Browser updates exist for two reasons: 1) to add new features and 2) to fix flaws in previous versions. Big features are normally added in major version updates, so most of the time these browser updates are minor tweaks and changes that can be applied in just a few seconds.


What kind of changes? Patching security vulnerabilities, for one. Another common example is improving on issues of user experience, such as memory leaks and performance bottlenecks.

Unless you have a good and purposeful reason for sticking with an older version — e.g. it’s the last version before a critical feature was removed — it’s always best to stick with the latest version of your browser.

Allowing Cookies From Everywhere

You’ve probably heard about cookies before, but maybe you don’t understand exactly what they are or why they’re so important. You can get by without knowing much about them, but if you want to best maintain your privacy while browsing the web, you should learn what cookies are What Is a Website Cookie? How Cookies Affect Your Online Privacy You've heard of internet cookies, but what exactly are they? What do they have to do with your privacy? Here's what you need to know. Read More .



In short, cookies are files created on your computer when you visit a website. These files are meant to store information that must be available from session to session — such as login data — and aren’t inherently harmful. However, they can be used in harmful ways like tracking your web behavior 4 Seemingly Innocent Online Activities That Track Your Behavior Read More .

What you should do is allow first-party cookies (which are cookies set by the actual site domain that you’re visiting) and disallow third-party cookies (which are cookies set by other domains, like advertising networks).

Note: Some sites might need third-party cookies to operate properly. For example, online banking sometimes require these cookies for user verification. A more mundane example is Disqus comments, which can break when third-party cookies are disabled.

The “It Won’t Happen to Me” Mindset

On the whole, security is more about mindset and attitude than it is the specific tools you use (though the right tools can certainly make it easier to stay secure). That is, you can do all the right things and still be at risk due to an arrogant approach to the web.


Want to stay safe and secure? Change your security habits Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Read More .


The first thing to do is install antivirus software if you haven’t already. There are plenty of free antivirus solutions Free Anti-Virus Comparison: 5 Popular Choices Go Toe-To-Toe What is the best free antivirus? This is among the most common questions we receive at MakeUseOf. People want to be protected, but they don’t want to have to pay a yearly fee or use... Read More out there, and while Windows Security Essentials isn’t the best choice Why You Should Replace Microsoft Security Essentials With A Proper Antivirus Read More , it’s still better than nothing — so turn it on!

The next thing to do is use a strong password. Learn the characteristics of a good password How to Create a Strong Password That You Will Not Forget Do you know how to create and remember a good password? Here are some tips and tricks to maintain strong, separate passwords for all of your online accounts. Read More and make sure you use a different password 6 Tips For Creating An Unbreakable Password That You Can Remember If your passwords are not unique and unbreakable, you might as well open the front door and invite the robbers in for lunch. Read More for every site to prevent the problem of a hacker who cracks one password gaining access to all of your accounts.

If password memory is a nuisance to you, consider using a password management tool 5 Password Management Tools Compared: Find the One That's Perfect for You Choosing some sort of password management strategy to deal with the huge amount of passwords we need is crucial. If you're like most people, you probably store your passwords in your brain. To remember them... Read More . They’re convenient and effective.

The last thing to do is watch out for scams. It’s incredibly easy to be tricked on the Internet, which is why you can never let your guard down. You’ve got eBay scams 10 eBay Scams to Be Aware Of Being scammed sucks, especially on eBay. Here are the most common eBay scams you need to know about, and how to avoid them. Read More Craigslist scams Taking the Battle to Craigslist Scammers: How to Avoid Scams on Craigslist Launched way back in 1995, Craigslist took the Internet world by storm with its innovative cross of classified ads with the web. But as with all Internet-based transactions, some users prefer to game the system... Read More Facebook scams How to Identify a Facebook Scam Before It's Too Late Facebook scams are all the rage, and they can sneak up on you. Here are some warning signs to look out for so you don't get caught in one. Read More , and even fake reviews The Scourge Of The Web: Fake Reviews & How To Spot Them "User reviews" are actually a pretty recent phenomenon. Before the prevalence of the Internet, user reviews were called testimonials, and you’d only see them on TV commercials and product pages. Nowadays, anyone can write anything... Read More plaguing nearly every online marketplace in existence.

Learn the warning signs. If an online offer ever seems fishy or too good to be true, don’t hesitate to turn the other direction. Even when everything looks legitimate, always verify everything two or three times.

Cluttering Up Space With Tabs

“Open now, read it later.” That’s been my web browsing motto for several years now. Whenever I come across interesting links, I open them all as new tabs. You can imagine how they pile up over time, filling up the browser with dozens of tabs that can impact performance.


The easiest thing to do is use tab groups. The tab group is a minimalist approach to tab overload on Firefox The Minimalistic Approach To Firefox Tab Overload Read More , allowing you to categorize tabs according to topic and only have tabs of a particular group open at any given time. Chrome users can emulate this behavior with the Tab Bundler extension.

Or you could always store it for later. We’ve compiled a list of web tools that make it easy to clip pages and websites 5 Better Alternatives to Pocket That Bookmark Anything for Later Pocket has long held the crown of being the internet's best digital bookmarking service. But is it time to scrap it and search for better read-it-later bookmarking alternatives? Read More that you can return to later, eliminating the need to keep tabs open until you get around to reading said tabs.

Using Horizontal Tabs

Speaking of tabs, you should consider switching from a horizontal tab bar to a vertical tab bar if you haven’t already. The tabs themselves stay horizontal, but they’re stacked vertically on the side rather than lined across the top.


The absolute best plugin for this is Tree Style Tab, which is one of several amazing plugins that are unique to Firefox 7 Extensions Firefox Users Love That No Other Browser Has Extensions aren't always supported across all browsers. Check out these beloved Firefox-only extensions that are so useful that you may be swayed over from whichever other browser you currently use. Read More . Chrome users can get similar behavior with an extension called Sidewise Tree Style Tabs, but it pales in comparison to the real deal.

Why do this? Because it’s a more efficient use of screen space. It will feel strange for the first few days, but it’s one of those changes that will make you wonder how it took so long for you to see the light.

Relying on Too Many Plugins

Despite all of the addons and extensions I’ve just recommended, keep in mind that you should actively avoid installing too many plugins on your browser. That goes for Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, and even Internet Explorer. Plugins will slow you down 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Install Lots Of Browser Extensions [Opinion] We all love our browsers, and we all love the extensions that you can install with them. We love browser extensions because they allow us to do what we want our browser to do that... Read More .


It’s a tough line to walk, however, because plugins are so darn useful. You’re probably using some form of adblock (please whitelist us It's About Ethics in Stealing Games Journalism: Why AdBlock Needs to Die A simple, free browser plugin killed Joystiq – and is ruining the Internet. Read More if you can!), right? Reddit fans can’t live without Reddit Enhancement Suite How To Use Reddit Like an Old Pro There are plenty of online communities which can be found on the Internet - Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube are easily the most popular and recognizable ones. However, there are plenty of other gems online... Read More . And that’s not to mention all of the security and privacy plugins Use These 6 Extensions To Improve Privacy & Security On Firefox You are being watched on the Internet – but if you use Mozilla Firefox, some of its great add-ons can help protect your privacy and security on the Web. Read More that are available.

My advice? Uninstall everything, figure out what you absolutely cannot live without, and keep it at that. Then again, if your computer is top-notch and can handle it, feel free to install whatever pleases your fancy.

What other mistakes do people make while browsing the web? Share your wisdom with us so that we might all benefit from a better web experience! The comments are right below.

Image Credits: Browser window Via Shutterstock, Web URL Via Shutterstock, Login Form Via Shutterstock, Man Shrugging Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Browser Extensions, Online Security.

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  1. dragonmouth
    March 21, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    "The problem with Firefox (and it’s like this with many programs) features are added that may or may not be useful to users and it isn’t always easy to remove or disable the extras."
    That is called "feature creep." It is a fact of life with ALL software. When I switched to Linux, most distros were in the 200-300 mb size range. Now it is hard to find distros smaller than 750 mb. Used to be that the user had a choice of which packages to install, making small, lean systems possible. Now, in the name of "convenience", every package contained in the .ISO file is installed. Afterwards some distros allow the uninstall of package while others take the positions of "You installed it, now live with it." I will grant you that we now have large enough hard drives that a few hundred megabytes of extra software is not even noticeable but why should I have language packs for 100 other languages installed when I will only use English? Why should I have to keep drivers for most of sound cards, printers and video cards ever made when I will only use one of each at a time?

    • Joel
      March 22, 2015 at 9:40 pm

      Yeah, it seems like feature creep is just the name of the game for all kinds of software. Once you stop adding features, users start wondering whether development has stalled and tend to jump ship to an alternative. Would love to see more lightweight and modular programs.

    • Gavin
      March 23, 2015 at 7:08 am

      The case is the same for OSes. It used to be that you could install Windows from a small number of stiffy disks, then the size was updated to use the 650/700MB CDs and now we're using 4gig DVDs. In the future, if we're still using optical media, the setup files will be on Blue-Rays or double layer DVDs.

      A number of softwares have a lite version where extra plugins can be added to increase the features. All software should be released in a lite version and a standard version and people can choose whether they want the common features pre-installed. Unfortunately this requires extra development time (creating the extra plugins and separating the installers).

    • Khauf Fadlilah
      May 29, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      Yes I agree, some extras not useful for many user, like languages (should I install alien language to? No, I shouldn't) some distro Linux has 4,1GB. Is much better I download puppy Linux.

  2. Michael Dowling
    March 21, 2015 at 1:15 am

    I have used Firefox for eons,but was unaware it wasn't good to accept 3rd party cookies.I have fixed that in Firefox options,thanks for bringing it up.

    • Joel
      March 22, 2015 at 9:39 pm

      Awesome, glad the article helped! :)

  3. Gavin
    March 19, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I have used Firefox 28 since 29 was released which was about in April last year, because I didn't like the UI changes and features that were added. I only recently upgraded to 36, as I decided to get used to the changes. I am still using Opera 12 because the later versions broke many of the things I use in Opera. Chrome is always up to date, but I only use it for Gmail and about 2 other sites.

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:41 pm

      I wish Opera didn't reinvent itself! I really liked the old Opera. But yeah, glad that you're up-to-date with Firefox now. How do you like it? Is it as bad as you thought? :P

    • Michael Dowling
      March 21, 2015 at 12:33 am

      You just have to remember to update your browser/email program and any others you run sandboxed OUTSIDE Sandboxie. No performance issues I can think of. There is a helpful forum for Sandboxie users. Oops,I just checked,and have found that Sandboxie is no longer free.I have had it for years,and have not been asked to pay yet!

    • Gavin
      March 21, 2015 at 9:36 am

      The problem with Firefox (and it's like this with many programs) features are added that may or may not be useful to users and it isn't always easy to remove or disable the extras. For example, I have no need for the Hello feature and there is a number of addons that I use that don't work anymore are not being updated.

    • Joel
      March 22, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      @Gavin: I agree with you 100%. I like to mix-and-match the features I want and would love to be able to remove some extraneous things. I'd argue that Chrome and Opera both have bloat of their own, so it's really a no-win situation right now (unless there's a completely modular browser out there that I haven't heard about).

      @Michael: If Sandboxie still offers a free version, I'll definitely check it out. I hope they do! Thanks a lot for the recommendation.

  4. Michael Dowling
    March 18, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    Makes me sound like the proverbial broken record,but surfing in a sandbox adds another layer of protection against malware.I use a free program called Sandboxie,and I can't remember the last time I had malware problems.I also run my email program sandboxed.

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:37 pm

      Oh, definitely a great idea for security. Thanks for bringing it up. Do you run into any performance issues doing that? Any workarounds that we should know about?

  5. Gene Baker
    March 18, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    "JavaScript is capable of and how to keep it at bay"

    Not sure what this means

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:35 pm

      Sorry. I meant that you need to know the extent of JavaScript's features so that you know its capabilities. Once you know that, you can take the right steps to make sure that JavaScript only does what you want it to do.

  6. cg
    March 18, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Always use Adblock. DNT, Third Party Cookies Off,

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:36 pm

      Quick note: I don't fault you for using Adblock because there are some nasty ads on the web. Hoewver, if you like the articles we write, please add us to your whitelist! Thanks. :)

  7. Mike Merritt
    March 18, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    If you're using Firefox and want to stay current with "Security" updates; but don't want continuous "Feature" changes (not all Feature changes qualify as improvements IMHO) - then you can run Firefox's "Extended Service Release" copy at:

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:31 pm

      Great idea, Mike, thanks for the input. I forgot about the ESR!

  8. YB
    March 18, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Great article. Very useful, but unfortunately most just don't have the time to be bothered with security, until they have an actual problem, or they fall victim to some online scam.

    • David
      March 18, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      Sadly I agree, it seems the only time it matters to people I know is after it's too late to do anything about it. It's a bad mindset to fall into and if possible I always try to convince family or friends why its important now rather than later. Sometimes they listen, but not very often.

      The hardest one to teach to people has been why they shouldn't believe everything they see online when it comes to free stuff, chances to win, and discounted offers. I have a relative who fills out surveys that go in a loop forever and he thinks he'll eventually be given a free video game once he gets to the end. Sadly no matter how I explain it he's determined it's real, after all they do have signs stating "Secure" and "Trusted" all over the sites.. completely legitimate.

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:31 pm

      YB and David, I agree with both of you. Most web users are very reactive instead of proactive; they don't realize that it's so much easier to prevent issues from popping up than risking it and dealing with them as they appear. I don't know what we can do except to keep educating people!

  9. JonGl
    March 18, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Unfortunately for vertical tabs in Chrome, none of the extensions actually move the tabs to the side--they only duplicate the top tabs. That's a huge bummer, because I miss my vertical tabs from my Omniweb days, and yes, I do have Tree-style Tabs for Firefox, but need Chrome for my main browser due to my MotoX phone. :-)

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:29 pm

      Ah, right. I remember the tab bar being a stubborn git back when I used to use Chrome. I'm so glad to be using Firefox again! Sorry that you're "forced" to use Chrome. :(