Security features in Microsoft Edge browser
The new browser continues to carry the same Microsoft Edge name but offers better security for users:
- Microsoft SmartScreen
- Tracking prevention in Microsoft Edge
- Sandboxing the Edge
- Managing Edge Chromium extensions
- No support for ActiveX controls and BHOs
Read further for the detailed description.
1] Microsoft SmartScreen
While Chrome and most Chromium-based browsers use Google’s Safe Browsing security feature for security, Microsoft Edge relies on Microsoft’s Windows Defender SmartScreen security feature instead
SmartScreen plays an important role in protecting Edge users from phishing attacks. How? It performs a reputation check for the websites, users are trying to visit or open. If the website is not flagged, SmartScreen lets visitors connect to it but, if it finds anything suspicious, a warning message is flashed. Also, SmartScreen is integrated into Windows 10 shell for a reason. Some apps try to connect to websites on their own, bypassing the browser route. SmartScreen in Windows 10 Shell prevents Edge and other apps from adopting such a treacherous route. It ensures these websites and apps are screened before users can have access to it.
If required, Microsoft SmartScreen can be disabled easily via settings.
2] Tracking prevention in Microsoft Edge
Many websites rely on trackers to gather and store data about your browsing behavior. Some trackers even collect data about you across multiple sites. The new Microsoft Edge lets you detect and block such known trackers. In fact, the browser lets you configure which trackers should be blocked. By default, there are 3 levels of tracking prevention offered. All of them can block harmful trackers.
- Basic – Blocks trackers detected as cryptomining or fingerprinting. Trackers that intend to personalize content and ads are enabled.
- Balanced – Selected by default and so recommended configuration! It mainly protects you from potentially harmful trackers and trackers from sites you haven’t visited.
- Strict – This option blocks the most trackers and interferes with the opening of some websites, likely causing them to not behave as expected. For example, a video might not play, or you might not be able to sign in.
3] Sandboxing the Edge
The concept of Sandbox is like a ‘WALLED GARDEN’ i.e. a restricted range to which service gets limited. Browser sandboxing helps you protect your computer from the side-effects of browsing by preventing websites from hosting malicious code. So, if a website knowingly or unknowingly downloads any malicious code, it gets downloaded to the sandbox part of the computer. When the sandbox is closed, everything inside it is automatically wiped off and erased (including the malicious code) like a clean slate. Most mainstream browsers come with their own sandboxes to keep your computer safer. Edge too supports this!
When you start the Windows 10 Sandbox, you will get a new Desktop with only Recycle Bin and Edge shortcut. It shows Start Menu and other icons, but they don’t really work in this sandboxed operating system. You can open them in the main Windows 10 instead of sandboxed Windows 10.
Here, you can start Edge from this sandboxed Windows 10 environment for browsing with maximum security. When you disable this environment, no one can trace your activity on the Internet. Your ISP may create a log of what you did but no one can have access to the activities you performed using Edge in the sandbox. As with other data, if any website downloads malware to your system, the malware too would vanish when you close the sandbox.
Read: How to configure Tracking & Privacy Settings in Microsoft Edge.
4] Managing Edge Chromium extensions
Because the Chromium version of Edge allows Chrome extensions, it becomes essential to protect systems when you connect them to a network. The simplest way to ensure this is to manage them. The new Edge browser includes the setting ExtensionInstallAllowlist, which can be enabled through Group Policy or added to the Registry setting to set those extensions you approve in your firm.
Checking and understanding which browser extensions should be allowed and which not, will help you keep your network safe and secure. So, Plan ahead to vet and approve allowed extensions.
5] No support for ActiveX controls and BHOs
Lastly, Microsoft Edge doesn’t support ActiveX controls and BHOs like Silverlight or Java. Still, if you wish to run web apps that use ActiveX controls, x-ua-compatible headers, or legacy document modes, there’s a simple workaround. You’ll need to run them in IE11. IE11 offers additional security, manageability, performance, backward compatibility, and standards support.
Related read: Privacy and Security Settings in Edge browser.
Post updated in Jan 2020 to cover Edge (Chromium).