Microsoft Secure Network reportedly rolling out in Microsoft Edge Stable
Microsoft unveiled Secure Network in the company's Microsoft Edge web browser back in April of 2022. The feature was launched as a limited test to integrate a VPN-like feature into the Edge browser in May 2022.
Microsoft was not the first company to add a browser-VPN. Opera Software, for example, integrated a VPN into its Opera browser after shutting down a standalone Opera VPN mobile app.
A report by Dr.Windows suggests that Microsoft has started to roll out Microsoft Secure Network to select stable users of the company's Edge web browser. He bases this on a report by a German user who noticed that Secure Network was available in Edge Stable. The scope of the rollout is unknown at this point.
Microsoft Edge users may select Menu and check for the Secure Network entry in the menu that opens to find out if the feature is available on their devices.
Microsoft Secure Network
Microsoft Secure Network requires a Microsoft account. Users need to sign in to Microsoft Edge using a Microsoft account to activate the feature, but the Secure Network entry is displayed even when the user is not signed in to an account at the time.
Secure Network users get 15 Gigabytes of traffic per month during the preview. Microsoft has yet to reveal plans for what is going to happen after the preview ends. One, likely, scenario is that a free, limited version remains available and that some form of Pro version will become available as well. It could be that Pro is integrated into other Microsoft subscriptions or that it remains a standalone product.
Here is how Secure Network works in Edge
Secure Network activates itself automatically if the device is connected to a public Wireless network, insecure sites and in other scenarios, which Microsoft does not specify. The connected is encrypted when Secure Network is enabled. Microsoft explains: "When using Microsoft Edge Secure network, your data is routed from Edge through an encrypted tunnel to create a secure connection, even when using a non-secure URL that starts with HTTP".
It is designed to improve the security of the connection and limited certain forms of tracking online. The underlying infrastructure is powered by Cloudflare, and not Microsoft. Microsoft notes that Cloudflare is "collecting a limited amount of diagnostic and support data "acting as Microsoft’s data subprocessor in order to provide the services", and that the company deletes the data every 25 hours.
Secure Network is configured to run in optimized mode. It is a balanced mode that enables it automatically based on criteria mentioned previously. Streaming and video content is routed "outside Secure Network", to conserve VPN data.
Edge users may switch the default mode to Select Sites or All Sites instead. Select Sites gives the user fill control, as Secure Network is only activated when user specified sites and services are accessed. All Sites, on the other hand, enables the feature everywhere.
Microsoft Secure Network or a "real" VPN
Browser VPNs have certain limitations that regular VPN services do not have. Besides traffic limits, which most VPNs do not have, they are limited to browser traffic. Functionality is limited as well usually. Many VPN services offer advanced security and functionality features, such as malware protection or a kill-switch, which terminates Internet connections when the VPN connection dies.
Microsoft does not operate the infrastructure for its Secure Network. This means, at the very least, that users need to trust the privacy claims.
Microsoft Secure Network can be a useful feature in some scenarios. While it may not be useful in all, especially if a regular VPN service is available, it may be useful for Edge users who don't have access to one.
Now You: would you use the Secure Network feature of Edge?
I am still convinced that any VPN server that is financially based in a country that is not obliged to send all your data to the big 5 is a good choice.
The safest option is to use a VPN provider that is not financially based in a country that sends all your data to the big 5, and to always use the Tor browser when using a VPN.
Microsoft is really wanting that data huh? Not happening here.
Edge is going to be more bloated than Opera soon.