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Browser Security

The browser is the application enterprises can’t live without, but is a blind spot for common security controls. As the most widely used business application, the browser has become the primary target for threat actors. Browser security enables enterprises to safeguard their most critical enterprise asset.

Over the past decade, digital transformation has fundamentally changed the way we work. Critical business processes have landed in browser-based applications: everything from business communication, to supply chain management, to end user productivity happen in the browser. This increased browser usage of the browser has made it an attractive target.

Browser security proactively identifies and blocks internet-borne threats and eliminates risk before reaching the endpoint and gaining access to enterprise networks. It achieves this by providing real-time visibility and reporting into browser specific behavior and applying dynamic policy enforcement when necessary.  Because of these capabilities, browser security can eliminate browser-based attacks and improve IT efficiency by removing complex web access policies and mountains of support tickets.

Enterprise users spend up to 75% of their workday inside their web browser according to Forrester.  Threat actors now target the browser in eight of ten attempts to gain initial access into your enterprise.  Compromising the browser and the user or the end-user devices is often the first step in an attack on the larger enterprise network. This trend intensifies with the broad adoption of cloud services and software as a service (SaaS) applications and the growth of remote workforces. These changes further increased browser usage. As a result, enterprises face growing challenges to protect their browser, users, and data, due to an increasing browser attack surface. 

Current solutions are falling short in safeguarding enterprises. Too many organizations rely on existing network-based security controls to protect against evasive malware and zero-hour phishing attacks, but lack the visibility into browser-based activities, ultimately leading to vulnerabilities. What organizations truly need is a comprehensive browser security solution that addresses all facets of browser security, offering a more effective approach to counter the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

What is Browser Security?

 Browser Security refers to the measures and technologies implemented to protect web browsers from security threats such as malware, phishing attacks, and data breaches.

How does Browser Security work? 

The browser serves as the entry point for internet borne attacks, the exit point for data leakage, and the conduit for access to SaaS and private applications.  More than 98% of attacks originate from Internet usage according to Gartner, with 80% of those targeting end user browsers. To safeguard your browser effectively, it is crucial to prioritize your organization's specific requirements and grasp the key capabilities of Browser Security. This approach excels in addressing threats aimed at browsers, users, and applications on a larger scale. 

A strong browser security approach can be broken down into three pillars, each with key capabilities and use cases critical to protect the user, secure the enterprise, and maintain a good user experience for both the administrator and the end user:

  • Managing the browser
  • Protecting the user
  • Securing access and data

Managing the browser with flexible policy controls and reporting capabilities

Browser management is not a novel concept, but it has historically been a difficult job. Enterprises lack the tools and knowledge to effectively manage the browser with policy controls and visibility into browser activity. Policies have long limited access to websites and groups of undesirable URLs. Today browser support a wide range of additional capabilities that pose a risk and may not be needed for a user to perform their role. Prominent browsers, such as Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome expose hundreds of controllable parameters. Even with a centralized management tool, deep knowledge of this multitude of settings must be developed to effectively manage browser security.

Recently, some replacement browsers have arrived. These replacements seek to substitute for leading browsers and force users to change their work habits and business processes. These limited-purpose browsers are usually based on the same core technology as widely used browsers and they must be managed separately. Adding a replacement browser and increasing the scope of the manage task can complicate the need to manage the browser as an enterprise asset. Even security-aware enterprises typically focus on just a basic set of browser configuration parameters. Many just set requirements for browser software updates, which protect against local-browser vulnerabilities and nothing more. Sophisticated teams manage the allowed extensions, and they maintain the browser in a required configuration. Developing the optimal configurations takes work. Best practices in browser management recommend the configuration many parameters to optimize browser security. Generating and maintaining the minimal set is a big job. Enforcing security policies consistently across all the browsers that connect to an enterprise is crucial for maintaining a robust security posture, but the job is so big that many teams just don’t have time.

Protecting the user against all browser-based attacks

Safeguarding the user from the advancing spectrum of sophisticated threats is the core of browser security. Enterprises must protect users against any attack targeting browser vulnerabilities by providing visibility into every web session and enabling real-time dynamic policy enforcement. An effective solution must proactively thwart browser-oriented attacks: 

  • Exploitation of browser vulnerabilities
  • Evasive malware downloads, including ransomware
  • Phishing attempts, with a focus on zero-hour phishing protection

The introduction of new browser capabilities creates a new set of potential vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious actors. From November 2022 to November 2023, Google addressed 175 high and critical severity issues in Chrome. Microsoft Edge and its Enterprise Browser variant and replacement browsers rely on Chromium. These vulnerabilities affect the entire range of browsers. Some of these vulnerabilities allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code that is delivered from a malicious website. Attackers consistently probe the browser attack surfaces, uncovering dormant such vulnerabilities.

Despite the risks, over 25% of pages loaded by enterprise users today according to the Menlo Labs Threat Research team comes from browsers trailing two or more major releases behind the current Chrome version, exposing them to disclosed high severity vulnerabilities. Simultaneously, attackers are evolving their techniques in malware and phishing, requiring defenders to continually update their detection logic and signature databases as these evolving attacks favor web browsers as entry points. Protecting users from evasive threats targeting the browser has never been more critical in safeguarding the enterprise and user endpoints.

Securing the applications and data to prevent malicious activity and data leakage 

IT and security teams must protect applications and their associated data to prevent the leakage of sensitive information. They also must defend their own systems, application servers, and SaaS applications from malicious clients. Browsers and access to those applications that users require to do business pose an increased risk, but is required to operate a business. 

Legacy web applications and SaaS applications lack precise controls over sensitive data exposure, requiring an additional content-filtering layer. Configuring these controls can be challenging on a per-application basis, posing difficulties for security teams.

A browser-security solution can minimize a web-application’s exposure to untrusted or compromised endpoints while facilitating access for authorized users and protecting data. Such a solution can protect the application server from malicious clients that seek to exploit vulnerabilities by sending exploit payloads to these servers. Securing access to enterprise applications and their associated data is an important element of protecting your enterprise and maintaining a robust browser security posture, because these applications are how enterprises do business today.

Browser Security white paper

Finding the right approach to protecting the browser

How do I choose a browser security solution?

Securing the browser is a critical first step for safeguarding the anywhere, everywhere workforce. Incorporating browser security will provide enterprises with enhanced productivity, streamline workflows, and help reduce risk and simplify compliance efforts.  An effective browser security solution should be able to:

Address business critical use cases and board level issues

Browser security must allow users to work freely across any device and any browser while providing increases security:

Provide a seamless user experience to ensure optimal productivity 

Gone are the days when IT and security teams had to choose between acceptable use policy and user morale.  Legacy detect and respond solutions were built for a different world and are not suited to monitor browser behavior or identify evasive techniques used by modern threat actors.  An effective browser security solution must provide complete visibility and control for IT and security teams, while giving users the freedom to navigate across the web knowing all users are safe from internet-borne threats and accidental misuse of sensitive information, regardless of device or the browser they choose.

Ensure scalability and ease of management

Regardless of location or device, a proper browser security solution should be able to scale effortlessly to meet the growing demands of your hybrid workforce and improve IT efficiency.  Browser Security should enable enterprises to provide IT teams with complete visibility and protection for all users inside the browser with zero impact on end user performance or browser latency.

The secure cloud browser is but one component.

Browsers have fallen behind from a security and manageability perspective. Attackers know this fact and are actively exploiting browsers. Menlo Security eliminates the browser attack surface by allowing IT and security teams to properly manage their existing browsers, protect their users, and secure application access and enterprise data in order to provide a comprehensive browser security approach.

Menlo allows enterprises to secure their existing browsers by providing real-time dynamic policy controls to effectively stop evasive malware, zero-hour phishing attacks, and ransomware payloads from infecting your endpoints and enterprise systems.  Leveraging AI-based approaches, including computer vision, URL risk assessment, and web page element analysis, Menlo Security can determine in real-time whether a phishing site is attempting to steal user credentials or download malware. AI-based analysis contributes to browser security by identifying visually similar websites that are impersonating known brands. Computer vision driven by machine intelligence can relieve users from the burden of analyzing web pages and URLs by accurately and quickly putting “eyes” on content before a user looks at it.

Learn how to take the next step towards effective browser security and eliminate the browser attack surface for all users on any browser. Download the Menlo Security Browser Security Whitepaper for an in-depth exploration of browser security or schedule a personalized demo with one of our Menlo experts.