How to Best Secure the Microsoft Edge Browser

Lance Whitney

Microsoft Edge already has some security tricks up its sleeve, but you can beef up the browser still further.

Windows 10 users, you’re probably using Microsoft Edge to surf the web. But how secure is the newest browser on the block? And how can you tweak it to make it more secure? Edge already includes or takes advantage of several features that enhance your security. But it also offers several options that you can enable or disable to better protect your privacy on the web and ensure that you’re practicing safe surfing.

You can make sure the SmartScreen filter is turned on to protect you from malicious websites. You can use InPrivate browsing so no cookies or other data are collected. You can opt to block cookies, especially ones from third-party websites. You can choose to clear your browsing history, especially whenever you shut down Edge. And you can remove your Bing search history.

First, let’s go over the security features already built into or used by Edge.

One item is SmartScreen. Initially developed for Internet Explorer 8, SmartScreen checks each webpage you visit and each file you download to make sure they don’t contain malware. The feature works by analyzing web pages for suspicious behavior and checking pages and downloaded files against a list of sites reported to be malicious. Over the years, Microsoft has enhanced SmartScreen so the feature can detect additional kinds of threats.

Another sign of security is the web page rendering engine developed for Edge. Known as Microsoft EdgeHTML, this engine supports a W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) standard called Content Security Policy (CSP), which can protect websites against cross-site scripting attacks that try to trick the browser into accepting malicious scripts. Microsoft EdgeHTML also supports HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), which requires that connections to web pages use the HTTPS protocol instead of the less secure HTTP.

Microsoft Edge also runs in sandbox mode, which isolates certain elements of the browser from the rest of your Windows environment. The purpose is to prevent any malicious content that hits the browser from affecting the rest of your system. Edge’s sandbox takes the concept further by always running various processes in “application containers” to isolate them from other processes, thereby providing an extra layer of security.

Okay, those are just a few of the security features employed by Edge. Now, let’s go through some of the options in Edge to see how you can tighten up the browser and protect your privacy.

SmartScreen – First, you’ll want to check the SmartScreen feature. To do this in Edge, click on the More button (the one with the three horizonal dots). From the dropdown menu, click on Settings and then click on the button for View advanced settings. Scroll to the bottom of the advanced settings screen and you’ll see the setting for SmartScreen, specifically “Help protect me from malicious sites and downloads with SmartScreen Filter.” Make sure it’s turned on.

InPrivate Browsing – This feature opens a website in an InPrivate window, which means your cookies, history, and temporary files are removed after you’ve left the site and closed the window. This is especially useful if you’re browsing on a public computer and want to make sure all traces of your activity are gone and forgotten. To open a webpage in an InPrivate window, click on the More button and then click on the command for “New InPrivate window.” Edge explains what InPrivate browsing means. You can now enter the address for the website you wish to visit.

Block Cookies – Cookies can be helpful in remembering that you’re logged into a specific website and storing your login credentials for sites so you don’t have to enter them each time. But they also benefit website owners and advertisers by collecting information about your browsing sessions. Many websites require that cookies be turned on, so you’re likely to bump into difficulties if you block them entirely. Cookies are also often triggered by third-party websites other than the ones you’re visiting. This can be done by advertisers that wish to gather information, so you may want to block these types of cookies.

To block cookies in Edge, click on the More button. From the dropdown menu, click on Settings and then click on the button for View advanced settings. Scroll down the screen until you see the section for Cookies. Click on the setting and you’ll see three options: Block all cookies, Block only third party cookies, and Don’t block cookies. Change the option to Block only third party cookies and see if you can successfully surf the web with that option enabled.

Clear Your Browsing History – You can clear your cookies, temporary files, browsing history, passwords, and other browsing data from Edge. This is another capability that’s helpful if you’ve been surfing the Web on a public computer, especially if you’ve logged in at password-protected sites. To clear your history, click on Settings. Scroll down the screen until you see the section for Clear browsing data. Click on the button to Choose what to clear. At a minimum, you should clear your browsing history, cookies and saved website data, and cached data and files. If you are using a public computer, you should also clear your download history, form data, and passwords. Check all of those options and then click on the Clear button.

If you want to clear your browsing history every time you shut down Edge, click on the checkbox for Always clear this when I close the browser.

Manage Your Privacy Settings – Edge contains other settings related to your online privacy. You may want to make sure your form entries are not saved. You might want to send Do Not Track requests to websites and advertisers to tell them not to collect your browsing data. And you may want to clear your search history from Bing if you use Microsoft’s search engine to find things on the Web. Managing these settings is important if you’re using a public computer, but you may also want to disable them on a laptop or tablet in case your device is ever lost or stolen. Click on Settings and then Advanced Settings. Scroll down the screen until you see the section for Privacy and services. If you wish to be extra safe and secure, turn off the settings to Offer to save passwords and Save form entries. Turn on the setting to Send Do Not Track Requests.

Scroll down further and click on the link to Clear Bing search history. At the Search History page that pops up in the browser, click on the X next to each search that you wish to delete.

Finally, you should read a Microsoft webpage called “Microsoft Edge and privacy.” The page explains how Edge handles your privacy and how you might want to adjust the browser’s various security settings.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2017-03-21: