Apple products have a much-deserved reputation for having robust protections against hackers, phishers, malware peddlers and other ne’er-do-wells of the online community. But when it comes to Apple’s web browser, Safari, it’s important to take the same steps to protect your private information as you would using any other browser. Fortunately, Safari comes with a host of tools to help you lock it down tight. Here’s how to take advantage of them.
Activate Fraudulent Website Checker
Like the other major browsers, Safari has the option to warn you when you’re visiting a suspicious website. It does this by taking advantage of Google’s Safe Browsing database, which is a continuously updated collection of unsafe websites. To activate the feature, simply go to the Safari menu, then Preferences, then the Security tab. Make sure there is a check in the box next to “Warn when visiting a fraudulent website” and you’ll be good to go. The browser will then pop up a warning before it loads a page that’s been reported as problematic and you’ll have the option to take your chances and continue, or back out of the navigation and avoid the site, like you probably should.
Adjust your website settings
Safari allows you to you specify settings for the way different websites delivery content and work with your computer. For example, some sites might ask you to install a plug-in that might be safe, but it might also be a way to gain access to your personal data. Other sites might ask to have access to your camera or microphone, which poses a clear privacy risk. However, if there is a site that you use to regularly make video calls, for example, you wouldn’t want to constantly answer a question about allowing that site to access your computer’s camera, so you’d want to give that site the proper permissions.
Permissions are generally set via a pop-up window from Safari when questionable content is being served. For example, if a site is trying to deliver a pop-up, Safari will ask you if you want to allow it or not. Once you click yes, that site will be added to the menu that can be found under Safari > Preferences > Websites.
By first choosing an option in the left column such as “Camera,” “Location,” or “Pop-Ups,” and then choosing an option from the drop-down menu next to each website, you can control which sites have access to what. If you don’t want Gmail to know your location, for instance, you can either choose the option to have the browser ask your permission if it is requesting that kind of access, you can grant it full-time access, or you can deny it outright.
But what about sites that aren’t in the list?
You can tell Safari what you’d like it to do more generally with websites by first choosing an option in the right column and clicking the drop-down menu next to “When visiting other websites” at the bottom right of the window. To maximize your security, you should choose “Ask” or “Deny” for each of the options (like Autoplay, Microphone and Camera). The same option should also be chosen for any plug-ins that you’ve installed, which appear at the bottom of the list on the left.
Turn off tracking
Safari makes it easy to limit how much information websites can store about you and how they can track your movement across the web. For maximum security, you’ll want to turn off all tracking and block all cookies. You can do this in the same preferences menu (Safari > Preferences > Website) by clicking on the “Privacy” option.
If you’ve ever shopped for an item on Amazon and then seen an ad for it later in the day on another unrelated website, you’ve experienced cross-site tracking. To turn off this usually irritating feature, simply check the box that says “Prevent cross-site tracking.” You might also want to turn off cookies here, to prevent the tiny bits of code that are stored on your computer by certain sites from being used. While this keeps you more anonymous on the web, it also can make things a bit harder to navigate. While cookies can provide small security risks, they also make browsing smoother by allowing websites to remember you (keeping something in your shopping cart for example), so turning this feature off will definitely affect your net navigations.
When considering security risks from cookies and trackers, it’s helpful to keep this bit of information in mind from Apple:
Also, you may note that there is the option to tick a box next to “Ask websites not to track me,” but Apple has indicated that it will be removing this mostly ineffectual option in the next release of Safari in favor of dealing with cookies and trackers in a more aggressive manner.
One other useful option to check out in the Privacy window is the “Manage Website Data” button. Clicking this will bring up a list of all the sites you’ve visited using Safari that already track your surfing. You can click the “Remove All” button to clear this data, but again, you might sacrifice some convenience.
If you’re truly concerned about having your movements across the net tracked, then the most secure step would be to always use Safari’s Private Browsing mode in which none of your surfing data including the sites you visit, any searches your conduct or any information you fill out in online forms will be captured. To activate the feature, simply go to File > New > Private Browsing window.
While taking these steps will give you greater control over your internet privacy while using Safari, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re using a very public platform with lots of companies and individuals very eager to get ahold of your data. Locking down security measures will help, but you may also want to consider using a VPN and/or a security monitoring program to take your protection to an even greater level.