A whisper can be stronger, as an atom is stronger, than a whole mountain.”
~Louise Nevelson

Browser Privacy – IE

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Internet Explorer (“Edge” in Windows 10) is the browser that the operating system comes with.  There have been a number of successful lawsuits against Microsoft because they integrated the browser so tightly into the operating system that competing products such as Chrome and Firefox can’t completely replace it.  You can at least install the competition now, but you still can’t uninstall it.  Many operating system settings still integrate with IE settings, such as temp files and what happens when you open certain files in File Explorer.

With few exceptions, no technician or systems administrator uses Internet Explorer or Edge.  Those who do work in a Microsoft world and have to deal with Office365 or Azure so much that working with IE or Edge poses fewer issues since they’re working with Microsoft products all around.

IE / Edge doesn’t support the library of plugins Chrome and Firefox do and it accepts every vendor’s call to plant cookies or surrender your personal information to whomever asks for it, and that behavior can’t be effectively configured.  When it comes to privacy whether personal or business, “friends don’t let friends use IE” .

If you’re in a position you have to use IE you shouldn’t do anything you’re not comfortable putting on front page news, whether that’s check your email,  account balances, etc.

if you’re at home and looking to secure your browser, don’t even bother with IE or Edge.  Install Chrome or Firefox and read those articles for configuration recommendations.

You can do the following to at least keep IE / Edge tidy (directions for IE, though they apply to Edge too):

  • Select the gear at top-right, select Internet Options
  • Select Internet Options
  • General Tab: set home page to blank and select “Delete browsing history on exit”.  Click Apply.
  • General Tab: Browsing History – Settings : Temporary internet files : disk space to use, set to minimum (8Mb).  If possible, change the “current location” to a ramdisk (outside the scope of this article) by selecting Move Folder.
  • General Tab: Browsing History – Settings : History tab : 1-4 days history’s not bad, but it should be under a week.
  • General Tab: Browsing History – Settings : Caches and Databases : Disable “Allow website caches and databases”, it’s not needed or wanted.
  • Click OK
  • IE Options, Security tab : this can get messy and many sites have recommendations on these settings but I recommend no changes; this isn’t a secure browser anyway and most changes here will break sites.
  • IE Options, Privacy tab : For the most part, same as the Security tab but Never allow websites to access your location, turn on the Pop-Up blocker and disable toolbars and extensions when InPrivate browsing starts
  • By the way – don’t install toolbars, just don’t. There is not a single one that doesn’t add someone else’s software to your browser that you can’t do for yourself without introducing vulnerabilities.
  •  No further changes to IE options recommended, click OK
  • Select the gear at top-right, select Manage Add-Ons
  • You’ll see these add-ons aren’t anything like Chrome or Firefox’s, these are system-level browser extensions that allow flash player and Outlook plugins.  Go through this list and disable what you know you don’t need.  “XML DOM Document”, if you’re not sure then don’t disable it, but “Ask Toolbar” or “Lync Browser Helper” if you don’t have Lync – disable those.
  • Add-Ons : Search Providers : remove all you don’t use
  • Add-Ons : Accelerators : you’ll probably want to delete everything in here.
  • By the way: If you use Bing, stop using Bing and use duckduckgo.com or google.com (but don’t sign into Google when you do!). Bing is like fence rails on a cattle ranch and you’re the cattle: it’ll guide you where they think you should end up no matter what the subject. Google is not really better, DuckDuckGo is actually pretty darn good.
  • Add-Ons : Tracking Protection : This is a deceptive dialogue.  By default all tracking is allowed – select Settings and select “automatically block”, which it wasn’t before.  Change the “Show Content…” dialogue from 10 to 3.  Select OK.
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