How to tighten your security in Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge logo on a computer screen.


Those of you using Microsoft Edge want to make sure your security is as tight as possible. And Edge offers a variety of settings to help you achieve that goal.

A SmartScreen option protects you from malicious websites and files. A potentially unwanted app option blocks downloads of suspicious or poorly viewed apps.

A typosquatting checker warns you if you’ve mistyped a URL, possibly leading you to a malicious website. And an advanced security option allows you to choose a specific security mode to protect your browser from malware.

To access the security options, click the ellipsis icon in the top right, select Settings, and then click the Privacy, Search & Services setting. Scroll down until you see the Security section.

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Edge security settings.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney

Options for tightening security in Microsoft Edge

The first option for Microsoft Defender SmartScreen tries to protect you from harmful websites and downloads. In general, this is a useful feature as it automatically stops loading websites and files that are considered malicious or suspicious. SmartScreen sometimes gets in your way with too many false positives, which is annoying when you’re trying to download a file you know is legitimate. But I would advise you to turn on the switch for this one. If you encounter too many false positives, you can at least turn it off temporarily.

The next option for Block potentially unwanted apps automatically stops downloads of potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) that can slow down your system, display unwanted ads or try to install additional software. The apps blocked by this option are usually not malicious but rather annoying and disruptive. Like SmartScreen, this one occasionally leads to a false alarm. But you’re better off leaving it enabled and then disabling it when you need to get past false positives.

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The third option for Typosquatting Checker warns you when you mistype a URL and are redirected to a potentially malicious website. In a practice known as typosquatting, cyber criminals set up malicious websites that mimic legitimate websites’ URLs, adding, deleting, or modifying certain characters. Enable this option and the typosquatting checker will warn you if you try to access any of these pages.

The fourth option for Enable website security services to get more information about the websites you visit provides details about your current website when you click the lock icon in the address bar. This option reveals information such as the security of the connection, the number of cookies used, and the number of trackers blocked, and is useful for both legitimate and suspicious websites. So you should enable them.

The next option for Use secure DNS to specify how to lookup the network address for websites is another one you should turn on. Skilled cyber criminals can perform a trick called DNS hijacking, where they use DNS queries to redirect your website requests to malicious websites. To protect against this type of exploit, many DNS providers use a feature called Secure DNS. By default, Edge uses the DNS of your current organization or your service provider, which may or may not use secure DNS. To protect yourself, enable this option and click the setting for Choose a service provider. You can then select a different DNS provider from the list, e.g. B. Google, NextDNS or OpenDNS, all of which use Secure DNS.

Security options in Edge security settings.

Configure edge security options.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney

Next, Edge offers an enhanced security mode to protect you even better against malware and other threats. Turn on the switch for Increase your security on the Internetand you can choose from three different tiers – Basic, Balanced, or Strict.

Basic turns on security protection for less-visited websites and works with all websites. Balanced enables security protection for websites that are not visited frequently and should work with most websites. Strict enables security protection for all websites, but may conflict with certain websites or parts of websites.

You might want to get started with Balanced and see if the sites you visit are still fully functional. When you encounter obstacles, there are two actions you can take. Go to the basic level or add the website that is not working properly as an exception by selecting the exceptions setting and adding its URL.

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Edge's enhanced security mode with the Balanced checkbox highlighted in Edge settings.

Use Edge’s enhanced security mode.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney

As the last option under Security, turn on the switch for Always use “strict” tracking prevention when browsing InPrivate if you want the strict level to be inherited when you open a website in an InPrivate window.

Aside from tweaking these security settings, there are two actions you can take while browsing the web. Click and select the ellipse icon at the top New InPrivate window. This allows you to open a website in InPrivate mode, which clears your browsing information and history after you close the window, discards your download history, and prevents searches in Microsoft Bing from being linked to you.

Drop-down menu to open a new window in an InPrivate window

Open a website in an InPrivate window.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney

Finally, click on the ellipse icon and select it New Application Guard window. Application Guard uses a hardware isolation tactic to launch websites inside a container. This process protects your operating system and computer from malware that may show up in Edge. Unless you’re using Edge in a corporate or business environment, this isn’t an option that you’d likely use very often. However, if you are concerned about visiting a suspicious website, you might want to open it in this mode.

Drop-down menu to open a website in an Application Guard window.

Open a website in an Application Guard window.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney

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