Details of a new Microsoft Edge feature that appears to mimic Apple’s iCloud Private Relay have emerged on an official support page.
Called the Microsoft Edge Secure Network, the feature aims to help keep users’ browsing sessions safe and private. It's currently available in ‘preview’, which Microsoft uses to let experienced users and developers trial experimental features before pushing them to its wider user base.
There are a number of key elements to Microsoft Edge Secure Network, the first of which is encrypted network traffic. Microsoft said users’ internet connections will be routed from the Edge browser, through an encrypted tunnel to create a secure connection, even if the website is unsecured itself, helping stop hackers browse data over a public Wi-Fi network, for example.
The second benefit is tied to the encrypted traffic which will also help prevent online tracking, similar to the key selling point of Apple’s Private Relay.
Microsoft said that encrypted network traffic means internet service providers (ISPs) cannot collect user browsing data, such as the websites they visit, thus preserving user privacy.
Microsoft Edge Secure Network is not officially being touted as a virtual private network (VPN), or a VPN-like product, but comparisons have been drawn by onlookers, nonetheless.
HCI 2.0 From HPE: How it can help your business thrive
Why SMBs need to accelerate digital transformation with HCI
While the new feature does offer the functionality of masking an IP address, browsing with a virtual one to further improve online anonymity, users are unable to pick a specific location from which they want to appear to be browsing.
The IP address masking used by Microsoft will replace a user’s geolocation with a similar regional address in a further bid to prevent online tracking from the likes of ISPs.
The feature is free for users, up to a point. In its early preview build, users can get 1GB of free data per month and there does not seem to be an option to purchase a greater limit at this time.
If Microsoft Edge Secure Network is made generally available, it’s likely that paid subscription tiers will be introduced, but Microsoft is just gathering feedback at this stage.
To enable the new feature, users running a preview build can simply head to Edge’s settings and click ‘Secure Network’. Microsoft will ask users to register for a Microsoft account if they have not already done so and then the feature will be activated.
Microsoft Edge Secure Network is being rolled out in partnership with leading web performance and security company Cloudflare which is providing a secure remote proxy for the browser.
Cloudflare said it will only collect limited amounts of data about the HTTP/HTTPS requests sent to the Cloudflare proxy by the Edge Secure Network and will delete temporary logs after a maximum of 25 hours.
Get the ITPro. daily newsletter
Receive our latest news, industry updates, featured resources and more. Sign up today to receive our FREE report on AI cyber crime & security - newly updated for 2023.
Connor Jones has been at the forefront of global cyber security news coverage for the past few years, breaking developments on major stories such as LockBit’s ransomware attack on Royal Mail International, and many others. He has also made sporadic appearances on the ITPro Podcast discussing topics from home desk setups all the way to hacking systems using prosthetic limbs. He has a master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield, and has previously written for the likes of Red Bull Esports and UNILAD tech during his career that started in 2015.