If you’re one of the hundreds of millions of people who use Google Chrome to access the internet every day, you could be putting your computer’s security in danger and potentially leaving the door open to your most sensitive data.
The good news is that there are plenty of simple steps you can take to protect yourself.
Let’s start by checking that we’re running the latest version of Chrome. This is a vital first step because Google works fast to release security patches to protect you from known vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers.
This shouldn’t be a problem for most people. As long as you open and close your browser reasonably often, the latest updates will be installed automatically. But it’s worth double-checking under the ‘About’ section of the settings menu, in case there is an issue.
If you see that the Chrome menu icon in the top-right corner of your browser window has changed color to green, amber or red, then there is an update available. All you have to do is click on the menu then click Update Google Chrome. The change will take effect when you relaunch your browser.
Since we’re tooling about in the settings menu, there are a few things we can do here to add an extra layer of security.
Towards the top of the page, underneath the Sign in heading, you’ll see a button labelled ‘Advanced sync settings…’
Clicking on it will open a popup that allows you to dive deeper into your sync settings. What we’re interested in here are the ‘Encryption’ options.
As standard, Google only requires you to enter your regular credentials to sync your Chrome settings to a new device. That includes all those passwords you asked Chrome to remember for you!
It’s time to lock that down. Select the option to ‘encrypt all synced data with your own sync passphrase’. This will add an extra layer of security to prevent someone from taking your Chrome password and syncing all your data to their computer.
Most of us use a variety of Google services across various computers and devices. So, it’s a good idea to enter your Google account settings (this is not the same as your Chrome settings) to set up the various protection features it offers.
First and foremost, if you haven’t already enabled ‘two-step verification’, do so. This requires that any time you try to sign in to your Google account from a new computer or device that you enter both your password and a single-use code, which Google will generate and send to you by your preferred method – usually email or text message.
In the Sign-in & security section you can also set up ‘Security alerts settings’, which will send you a notification by email or phone if there is any suspicious activity involving your account.
Google’s Chrome Web Store has thousands of free extensions and apps to add to Chrome to personalize it to your tastes and improve its functionality.
Among the extensions on offer are a number that are designed to improve your security when you browse the internet. We recommend the following as a good place to start:
AdBlock Plus – With more than 50 million users, this is one of the most popular extensions around, and with good reason. It blocks obtrusive ads, such as popups, many of which lead to malicious websites.
Do Not Track Me – Every time that you use the internet your personal data is recorded and tracked by dozens of websites. This extension blocks these tracking attempts in order to protect your data.
Web of Trust – Web of Trust relies on feedback from its tens of millions of users to give you instantaneous advice on a site’s reputation and trustworthiness. It’s a great way to get a heads-up on sites that host scams and malware.
Download good antivirus software
As you can see, there’s lots you can do to tighten up your Chrome security without spending a single dime. But one area where you should seriously consider investing is on the purchase of reputable, high quality antivirus software that has the latest internet security features.
All of the antivirus software we’ve reviewed offer some form of internet security, although some are more comprehensive than others. You should be looking for features like safe browsing, which will warn you before you enter dangerous websites, and some type of real-time scanning, which will not only analyse any files you download, but will also scan files you access that are already on your computer.
Make sure all of your security holes are plugged by checking out our Top 5 Internet Security Software, where we rank the best antivirus software based on their online safety features.