Ever since the internet became mainstream, a great debate has taken place both in and out of techie circles: which web browser is the best? In the past, positions have been chosen based on UI design, extension selections, and loading speeds, but these days it seems that the main criteria are security and privacy.
With new stories popping up every day regarding data harvesting, malware attacks, and government surveillance, it’s no wonder that more and more internet users are ditching their default apps and switching to a secure private browser – but what, exactly, does that mean, and which one is the best? From big names like Firefox to rising stars like Epic and Comodo Dragon, you’ve got plenty of choices. And depending on your specific needs, one is sure to be right for you.
Let’s take a look at the basics of browser security and find out why it’s so important to use a web browser that respects your privacy. Then we’ll go over the best – and worst – browsers, plus a few handy tips to help you stay secure no matter how you browse.
Before we get started, let’s quickly assess which internet browsers are in use around the world.
As is illustrated by StatCounter’s GlobalStats Browser Market Share Worldwide statistics above, as of May 2019, Google Chrome holds the dominant position in the global browser market share at 61%. The next closest competitor is Apple’s Safari browser at 15%.
Browser Security 101
When we think of online safety, several things usually come to mind: antivirus programs, firewalls, secure passwords, and trusted WiFi networks. But even with all of these protections in place, your privacy could still be at risk thanks to an unexpected weak link: your web browser.
Security Holes and Exploits
Coding and computer programming are becoming increasingly common skills in today’s wired world, a trend that has both good and bad implications. We’ve got more access than ever before to advanced apps and powerful programs, but we’re also more exposed to viruses, malware, and hacking, much of which is made possible by browser exploits.
Through creativity and computational prowess, today’s hackers work hard to identify and exploit coding mistakes and poor programming in web browsers. By doing so, they’re able to intercept user data, steal files, install malware on computers and wreak all sorts of havoc on unsuspecting web surfers.
Technologies are improving – most sites now use HTTPS to ensure a secure connection, and many browser developers work tirelessly to patch security holes as soon as they’re noticed – but the system isn’t foolproof yet.
SSL/TLS certificates can be faked, and malicious hackers keep their exploit discussions private so as not to alert the developers and the wider public until the damage has already been done.
Part of the problem is that many browsers require a weaker level of security for some of their features to work. Specifically, they don’t lock down your data because they intend to collect and distribute it to third parties. Which brings us to our next section.
Tracking and Data Harvesting
If you’ve ever viewed a product on an online store and then seen ads for that same product on every other website you visit, you’re familiar with web trackers. Companies use these for advertising and trend analysis purposes, but even if you manage to avoid corporate trackers, your browser itself could still be keeping tabs on you.
Rather than charging users to download their browsers, some developers make their money by collecting user data and selling it. Your IP address, location, browsing habits and search history can all be analyzed and used to paint a surprisingly detailed portrait of you – a valuable product for marketers, advertisers and others looking to capitalize on your web usage.
Some people don’t see data harvesting as an invasion of privacy, but as algorithms improve, so too does a company’s ability to draw astonishing conclusions about you and potentially even personally identify you. By turning you into a product rather than recognizing you as a person, tech companies can justify and expand their data collection practices, reinforcing the cycle and reducing your privacy even further.
Surveillance and Data Retention
Going hand-in-hand with data harvesting, many web companies, including browser developers, are now required by law to retain logs of user data in case they’re requested by law enforcement. Depending on the jurisdiction, this data retention period ranges from a couple of weeks to several years – that’s a long time for your private internet activity to potentially be used against you!
What’s more, many of the world’s most powerful nations – including the USA, the UK, Australia, and Canada – engage in mass digital surveillance with the help of tech companies. Some browser developers cooperate with government surveillance programs like the USA’s PRISM and the UK’s Snoopers’ Charter, allowing law enforcement and intelligence agencies to freely access targeted users’ web activity and browser history.
The Least Private Web Browsers
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: these browsers, many of which top the popularity charts, are not your friends when it comes to security and privacy. If you use one of these browsers, we recommend that you switch to a different one if possible; we’ll give our recommendations later in the article.
Microsoft Internet Explorer
For many a Windows user, Internet Explorer might as well be the internet itself. For many a web security expert, it’s the bane of their existence – Microsoft’s default browser for decades is buggy at best and broken at worst.
Microsoft itself is the root of many of Internet Explorer’s privacy concerns. The company is notoriously cooperative with government surveillance programs, particularly the NSA’s PRISM operation (read about PRISM and Five Eyes). Not only has it been reported that Microsoft voluntarily supplies the PRISM database with user data, but it’s also given the NSA unfettered backdoor access to its servers for live monitoring of everything from emails to supposedly-encrypted video chats.
Internet Explorer’s closed-source platform doesn’t help it in the trustworthiness department. By closing the source code, Microsoft ensured that nobody could steal Internet Explorer’s inner workings, but this also prevents benevolent coders from checking for bugs and improving security – in the world of code, community assistance plays a huge part in product quality, and Microsoft, by choice, gets none.
Browse through Internet Explorer’s settings, and you’ll find a couple of privacy-oriented features, including a pop-up blocker (standard issue these days) and the ability to send “Do Not Track” requests to websites (these are merely requests and may be ignored by the site). These features pale in comparison to those found on most other browsers and do very little actually to protect your data.
The real nail in the coffin for Internet Explorer is its obsolescence: Microsoft has stopped updating it and has recommended that users switch to its new browser, Edge. Without regular updates, any browser is vulnerable to newly-discovered exploits and attacks, making Internet Explorer a sitting duck.
Bottom Line: Don’t Use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Browser, Period
If you’re required to use Internet Explorer for work or school, use it only for those purposes and do the rest of your web browsing through a more secure browser. Otherwise, it’s best to let this browser simply fade away into memory – it was, and is a privacy nightmare.
Internet Explorer was bad, but if you thought its successor would be any better… well, you’d only be about 90% wrong. Edge is definitely faster than Internet Explorer, and it does have some shiny new features that claim to boost its security; unfortunately, these may be a smokescreen to obscure the fact that Edge is still far from safe.
Many Internet Explorer exploits involved the browser’s support for programming languages like VBScript and frameworks like ActiveX – features that added functionality to the browser at the cost of giving hackers a larger footprint through which to do their dirty deeds. Edge removes this support, theoretically making it more secure.
Edge also includes phishing detection features, extra website authentication, and a sandbox process architecture that prevents sites from controlling your system via the browser. However, Microsoft has done away with Internet Explorer’s tracking protection features, making it harder for users to stop websites from invading their privacy with cookies and targeted ads. Not even Edge’s private browsing mode offers the ability to disable trackers.
Some users will certainly find Edge’s Cortana integration helpful, especially Apple converts who are accustomed to letting Siri do their searching and scheduling for them. But Microsoft’s voice- and text-controlled personal assistant isn’t exactly a privacy protector; rather, it’s yet another means for the company to collect data under the guise of productivity enhancement.
Like Internet Explorer, Edge is closed-source, and it’s carrying on the exploit-ridden legacy of its predecessor as well. During the 2017 Pwn2Own hacking event – where white-hat hackers were given the opportunity to earn money by identifying security holes in major web browsers – Edge was hacked five times, more than any other browser.
Bottom Line: Microsoft’s Edge Browser Is a Step in the Right Direction, but It’s Still Not Ready for Prime Time
If you must use a Microsoft web browser, Edge is the obvious choice over the now obsolete, unsupported Internet Explorer, but it’s hardly the paragon of privacy. While some of its security features are a step up from its predecessor’s, Edge’s lack of privacy protection is concerning, as is its ever-growing history of exploits.
Google was everywhere even before it released Chrome; now it’s positively ubiquitous. With downloads available for just about every OS out there (in addition to its very own Chrome OS) and tech’s biggest name attached, it’s no wonder that Chrome is the world’s most popular web browser.
As far as security goes, Chrome is tough to beat – it regularly earns top marks in security tests and offers many safety features like download scanning, process sandboxing, and phishing detection. Though Chrome isn’t open-source, Google encourages hackers to find and report browser vulnerabilities, which are patched with regular automatic updates to ensure that all users have the most up-to-date exploit protection.
But for all of Chrome’s security features, its fatal flaw lies in its handling of user privacy. In fact, one could make the case that Chrome’s stated purpose as a web browser is secondary to its purpose as a data collection tool for Google.
Browser histories, search queries, timestamps, clicks – everything you do in Chrome is sent back to Google, where it’s analyzed and monetized to add a few more bucks to the company’s already massive financial coffers.
Privacy concerns regarding Google Chrome have gotten mainstream attention.
According to Washington Post columnist Geoffrey Fowler, Google Chrome has become surveillance software. He outlines in a recent article how Google tracks your online activity as well as the benefits of using alternative browsers for privacy.
It’s even worse with Chrome’s mobile apps, which add location information to the data potpourri. Even if location sharing is disabled, Google still receives location updates from certain actions like performing a search or updating your weather forecast.
Bottom Line: Use Google Chrome with Caution
Google’s ecosystem may be great for productivity, and Chrome may boast some of the most advanced browser security out there, but it’s simply not worth subjecting yourself to its data harvesting practices when there are much better alternatives available.
At first glance, Opera looks like a privacy proponent’s dream browser. With a built-in ad blocker, phishing alerts, malware detection and a one-click private data eraser, it certainly does boast many appealing security features.
By far the biggest draw, though, is Opera’s free built-in VPN. Requiring little to no configuration beyond selecting a region to redirect your traffic through, the Opera VPN holds a lot of appeal for users who are concerned about privacy but aren’t quite so computer savvy.
Unfortunately, much of the hype is overblown – the VPN offers no encryption other than SSL/TLS (the same type of encryption used by regular HTTPS websites), making it more of a proxy than a full-fledged VPN. The lack of encryption means that while your location and IP address will be masked, none of the actual data you send or receive will be any more secure than it would be over a standard HTTPS connection.
This misnomer may not make a difference for those using the Opera VPN to watch international Netflix, but it’s a big deal for those who use it with the expectation that it’ll encrypt their activity to a higher-than-normal standard.
Opera also collects user data such as search terms and histories for distribution to third parties. And its privacy policies don’t specify who these third parties are, but they do clarify that shared data is anonymized and contains no personally-identifying information. It’s not quite as expansive as, say, Chrome’s data collection, but it’s still an example of your browser turning you into a product.
If you don’t rely on the built-in VPN and don’t care if some of your data is anonymized and shared, Opera is actually quite a secure browser with several excellent privacy features. However, the misleading VPN and unnamed third-party data recipients are concerning enough to prevent Opera’s inclusion on our list of the most secure browsers.
If you’re able to look past a few flaws, Safari is surprisingly secure, both as far as Apple products go and as far as browsers in general go. But Apple isn’t known for its transparency or its privacy prioritization, and it’s demonstrated this in its handling of Safari browsing data.
Macs aren’t as vulnerable to viruses as other computers, but Safari doesn’t use that as an excuse to skimp on security. It blocks suspicious sites, runs each new tab as a sandboxed process and provides users with phishing alerts; there’s also a password generator and manager built into the browser.
Safari also sports several features intended to protect user privacy: tracking protection prevents advertisers from collecting your data, while a fingerprint masker obscures certain browser information from the websites you visit, preventing your unique “browser fingerprint” from being used to track you.
Although Safari does a great job at preventing third parties from harvesting your data, its protections don’t extend to Apple itself. The company has been caught storing browser history on its servers even after users deleted it; histories from private browsing sessions have also been collected and stored behind users’ backs.
Apple also participates in the NSA’s PRISM data collection program, though due to the secretive nature of the program, the full extent of this participation is unknown to the public.
As far as default browsers go, Safari is a pretty good one, but Apple’s sketchy privacy practices cancel out the browser’s security features. If you’re able to use a different browser, we recommend doing so.
The Most Secure and Private Web Browsers
Now for the good news: even though some browsers don’t respect your privacy, there are plenty that do. Here are our picks for the best secure private web browsers; give one of them a shot and enjoy the internet the way it was meant to be!
Chromium and Ungoogled Chromium
You may be surprised to see a Google product on this list, and who could blame you? Google isn’t exactly dedicated to user privacy, but its Chromium browser is an exception to the rule.
In essence, Chromium is the base upon which Chrome is built. Lacking features like automatic updates, Flash support and DRM handling (which are specific to Chrome), Chromium is more bare-bones than its more famous counterpart, but it makes up for it by offering users a private browsing experience.
Unlike Chrome, Chromium is open-source, meaning that anyone can look at the source code to check for vulnerabilities. This also means that there’s nowhere for Google to hide any of the data-harvesting code it’s so fond of including in its other products.
That’s right, Chromium doesn’t send any user data to Google – at least, not from the browser itself. As usual, anything you send to Google through one of its sites – search queries, emails, map locations – is associated with your Google account and stored for analysis, but browser data from Chromium doesn’t leave your computer.
Security-wise, Chromium sports the same protective features as Chrome, including phishing detection and download scanning. The big difference is that there are no automatic updates for Chromium, so you’ll have to be diligent about downloading each new release; stable builds are released every two to three weeks.
Although Chromium doesn’t send user data to Google, it still depends on some of Google’s web services to run properly. For a truly Google-free browser, try Ungoogled Chromium, a third-party Chromium variant that removes these dependencies and adds other security features, such as the option to use HTTPS by default.
Users who like Chrome’s aesthetic but not its privacy invasion should give Chromium a try; it can’t access DRM-dependent streaming sites like Netflix, but it can do just about everything else. Ungoogled Chromium takes the de-Googling one step further, giving users the Chrome experience without a trace of the tech behemoth.
Firefox, Waterfox and Pale Moon
Perhaps the best-known browser on this list, Firefox is developed by Mozilla, a company that’s made a name for itself fighting for a free and open internet. Firefox helps cultivate this ethos by offering users a privacy-friendly web browser with the latest security features.
If you want a testament to the benefits of open-source software, look no further than the thriving community of add-on developers and volunteer bug hunters contributing to Firefox’s versatility and safety. By sourcing input and knowledge from users, the Firefox team can stay on top of patching exploits and adding new features.
As far as security goes, Firefox is just about on par with Chrome, sporting malware detection, phishing alerts, and ad-blocking. It does all this while using up to 30% less memory than Chrome – the best of both worlds!
Firefox’s privacy features include the ability to block web trackers and the fact that it doesn’t sell user data to third parties. However, some telemetry data is still collected for bug reporting and product improvement purposes; Firefox may also run in-browser studies behind the scenes to test features and performance.
Telemetry can be disabled, but some evidence suggests that Firefox may still transmit some telemetry data even if users disable the option. In the past, Firefox has also installed add-ons without user permission; these add-ons were disabled by default, but some users still found it concerning that their privacy-conscious browser would secretly install unwanted add-ons.
Two popular privacy-focused Firefox variants are Waterfox and Pale Moon. They’re developed by third parties but utilize Firefox’s open-source code, which allows them to take advantage of Firefox’s superb security enhancements and stellar UI while implementing new features – and removing unwanted ones.
Waterfox operates on the premise of “complete anonymity” as far as browser tracking goes; developer Alex Kontos stripped all of Firefox’s telemetry and tracking from the code, resulting in a browser that never phones home with your data. Waterfox also lack’s Firefox’s sponsored content such as company profiles on the homepage.
Pale Moon does the same thing as Waterfox – removes Mozilla’s trackers and telemetry data collectors – but with a nostalgic twist, as it’s based on an older version of Firefox. The UI is more customizable than that of modern Firefox, giving it a lot of appeal for users who like to tweak their browser.
If you’re the kind of person who always clicks on “send bug report” and doesn’t mind sharing telemetry information with software developers, Firefox is a great choice – it doesn’t sell your data, it offers the latest security features, and it’s speedy to boot. Firefox is one of the world’s most popular browsers, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon. In fact, with privacy on everyone’s mind, it’s likely to keep gaining traction.
For those who are fans of Firefox but not of telemetry, Waterfox and Pale Moon offer the same browser experience minus the data collection. They’re a little slower to update than Firefox itself but provide greater peace of mind when it comes to privacy.
Brave’s foundation is Chromium, Google’s open-source web browser framework. As with Chromium itself, users shouldn’t fret about the Google association – open-source code means that there’s nowhere for any behind-the-scenes data harvesting to take place.
By running on Chromium code, Brave can boast the latest security features drummed up by Google’s world-class programming team as well as some that are exclusive to Brave, such as browser fingerprinting protection that stops the WebRTC data leaks that plague many other browsers. Brave also integrates HTTPS Everywhere into the browser itself; this tool redirects any HTTP websites through HTTPS before displaying them to the user, adding a layer of encryption and security where it would otherwise be absent.
But where Brave really shines is in its privacy enhancement. Much of Eich’s work has been dedicated to coming up with new ways to keep prying eyes away from your browsing activity.
Brave’s built-in ad and tracker blockers are some of the best around, reliably capturing both new and notorious trackers before they can lock onto you. There’s also the Tor tab feature, allowing users to seamlessly open new Brave tabs with all the privacy protections and anonymizing abilities of Tor.
One of Brave’s most unique features is also one of its most controversial: Brave Payments. Users can make microdonations of Basic Attention Token (BAT) cryptocurrency to publishers and advertisers whose content they enjoy; these users are also rewarded with BAT from a pool maintained by the Brave developers.
The feature is intended to encourage the production of useful and enjoyable content and ads, but some privacy advocates have criticized the system for incentivizing the viewing of ads in the first place. It’s also suspected that advertising agencies have purchased large amounts of BAT and are hoarding it in hopes that its value rises, defeating the purpose of Brave Payments.
Brave’s simple interface, speedy load times, and excellent privacy protections make it a great option for anyone who wants a browser that’s private and secure right out of the box. The controversial Brave Payments feature is available for those who want it, but participation isn’t mandatory, so you’re free to pass on it with no detriment to your browsing experience.
Epic Privacy Browser
Like a “private session” window from another browser but turned on by default, Epic Privacy Browser is another Chromium-based browser that takes privacy to a whole new level.
Epic’s proprietary features are closed-source, so there’s no way to see exactly what’s going on under the hood, but given the nature of these features and Epic’s strong reputation, it’s safe to say that what happens in your browser stays in your browser. Epic claims to block thousands of trackers and cookies, and users can view a running counter of each session’s blocked trackers on the browser homepage.
In many ways, Epic functions similarly to a VPN. All search queries are rerouted through Epic’s servers before being sent to the search engine, stripping each user’s IP address and disassociating each query from its originator; additionally, all sites not using HTTPS are redirected to provide them with the same SSL encryption as sites that do use it.
The VPN similarities continue with Epic’s encrypted proxy button – one click is all it takes to encrypt your traffic and redirect it through one of Epic’s global servers, obscuring your IP address and your location. It doesn’t offer the same high levels of encryption as a paid VPN and doesn’t work with geo-restricted streaming sites like Netflix, but it’s a handy way to add an extra layer of security to your browser on demand.
Because it doesn’t track or store any data, Epic isn’t for you if you depend on autocomplete, autofill, site preferences, and browser histories to navigate the web. However, the browser does support several helpful extensions, including LastPass and RoboForm, that securely manage form inputs and login credentials.
If the idea of an always-on Incognito mode appeals to you, you’ll enjoy Epic Privacy Browser. It sacrifices a bit of convenience (and, with the encrypted proxy enabled, a bit of speed) for the sake of extensive privacy upgrades and some of the easiest-to-use security features we’ve seen.
Comodo Dragon and IceDragon
You may have heard of Comodo thanks to its popular antivirus and firewall programs, but the web security company also develops two privacy-focused web browsers: Comodo Dragon and Comodo IceDragon. Dragon is based on Chromium while IceDragon is based on Firefox, allowing both Google and Mozilla fans to switch over without having to learn a whole new UI.
Both Dragon and IceDragon implement Comodo’s SiteInspector feature, which allows users to check if links are harmful before clicking on them. After scanning a link, Comodo displays a full breakdown of the results as well as information from the domain registry and historical scan data, providing a big-picture view of the site’s security.
Users of either browser can also take advantage of Comodo’s Secure DNS, which checks each page against a list of sites containing malware, phishing attempts, scams, spyware, and excessive advertising. The list is updated in real-time, so it’s always current, keeping you safe from the latest threats.
SSL certificates from HTTPS websites provide users with a sense of security, but not all SSL certificates are created equal. Comodo’s Domain Validation technology analyzes SSL certificates and informs users of each one’s strength and trustworthiness, unlike many other browsers which simply take each certificate at face value.
These features accompany Chromium and Firefox’s existing security and privacy enhancements, resulting in two browsers that make user safety the first priority.
Comodo Dragon and IceDragon are enticing alternatives to Chrome and Firefox; whether you prefer a familiar interface or want to try something new, you’ll be able to surf safely with one of these secure browsers.
Based on Chromium, SRWare Iron takes all the good parts of Chrome – the intuitive UI, the advanced security features – and packages them up without the bad parts – the extensive data harvesting and Google dependencies.
On the surface, Iron looks like Chrome, but underneath it’s surprisingly quiet, as the browser isn’t constantly sending data back to Google. URLs and searches you type into the address bar aren’t collected for suggestion purposes, nor are error logs transmitted for telemetry analysis.
Iron also prevents Google from receiving information about your network and computer, including your IP address and location, when you install or update the browser. Users can also easily alter their browser’s user-agent, allowing them to appear as if they’re using a different browser or OS to the websites they visit. Google’s base browsers don’t support this functionality.
Unlike Chrome and Chromium, Iron comes with a built-in ad blocker and the ability to add 12 (rather than 8) favorite websites to the new tab page. To prevent spam attacks that take advantage of DNS precaching, Iron disables this setting by default, whereas Google’s products enable it by default, leaving unaware users vulnerable.
SRWare Iron offers Chrome fans a simple alternative to their favorite browser – the Chrome experience without the unnecessary tracking and unfiltered ads. It’s perfect for those who aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel but rather to patch up the preexisting holes.
Fully open-source with great documentation, Iridium is a Chromium-based web browser with many privacy enhancements that divorce it from Google and protect users from third-party snoopers. It’s updated regularly, with new versions arriving around a week after each new Chromium release, so users are always up to date.
Iridium removes Chromium’s Google-contacting functions and adds several security features, including a longer RSA encryption key and system plugin disabling. Cookies and trackers are blocked by default, as is DNS prediction.
Passwords, addresses, credit cards, and other autofill data aren’t stored by Iridium, erasing this avenue for malicious sites and hackers to steal your information.
One Google feature remains in Iridium: Safe Browsing, which periodically transmits data regarding unsafe sites back to the Iridium developers to maintain a blacklist of dangerous URLs. This is the only phone-home feature in Iridium and can be turned off if the user chooses.
By default, Iridium uses the privacy-friendly Qwant search engine rather than Google’s data-hungry one. Users can also select DuckDuckGo as their default search engine if they wish.
With regular updates and a full-fledged privacy enhancement suite, Iridium is a fantastic option for those who enjoy using Chrome but don’t enjoy letting Google know everything about their web activity.
With a history stretching back over ten years, Dooble is an open-source browser that has a bit of a learning curve to it, as it’s not based on the familiar Chromium or Firefox platforms. But once you get the hang of it, there’s a lot to like about Dooble and its focus on user privacy.
The entire browser can be locked down with a password, rendering the program itself inaccessible except by those who know the password. If you’re not a fan of deleting your history every time you exit your browser, Dooble’s password protection offers a reasonable middle ground between erasing everything and leaving it all out in the open.
All user data, except settings and filetype associations, is locally stored and encrypted for maximum security. Dooble doesn’t engage in data harvesting and respects your right to retain and control your own browser data.
Dooble is a unique secure browser that holds a lot of appeal for those looking to try something new, as well as those who will utilize its built-in FTP browser or file manager. It’s also a great choice for coders in search of a new pet project thanks to its open-source codebase and active development.
Some know it as the browser you use to access the dark web, but Tor is much more than that. It uses the Firefox source code as a starting point to build a privacy-oriented web browser that’s used by activists and average citizens worldwide.
Tor is actually an acronym that’s short for The Onion Router, so named because it involves many layers of anonymizing and security.
Volunteers around the world offer their computers as waypoints for Tor traffic. When you attempt to access a website via Tor, your request is encrypted before it’s bounced around these volunteer machines. By the time it reaches the destination server, your IP address and other identifying information have been anonymized.
This relayed connection also prevents your ISP and your government from seeing which websites you visit, as your data is encrypted and sent to a random volunteer computer rather than the destination site itself. Activists, journalists and those from countries with harsh internet censorship rely on Tor to keep themselves safe from surveillance regimes and laws against free speech.
Although Tor is fantastic for privacy, it doesn’t have any built-in security features like malware blocking or phishing detection. Because all traffic is relayed several times, pages can be slow to load, and those with older computers might find their resources strained by Tor’s power-hungry processes.
If you’re serious about privacy, Tor is a must-have web browser, even if you don’t use it for your day-to-day browsing. Despite its slow speeds, it’s the safest browser for sending and receiving sensitive information, plus it’s the most popular way to access the dark web, should you ever want or need to do so.
Secure Browsing Tips and Tricks
Regardless of which browser you use, it’s never a bad idea to implement some extra precautions to keep your data safe and secure. Here are some easy ways to amp up your privacy whether you’re using Internet Explorer, Tor or anything in between.
Use Privacy-Enhancing Add-Ons
Many browsers support extensions and plugins that allow you to customize your internet experience. With the right plugins, you can lock down your unsecured browser and boost your privacy with hardly any effort.
HTTPS Everywhere is already built into many of the browsers on our list, but if you use one that doesn’t come with it, you can download the plugin and install it yourself. It’ll redirect all your unsecured traffic through a secure network, transforming it into HTTPS even if it didn’t originally use the secure protocol.
Internet Explorer users can’t use HTTPS Everywhere, but an alternative plugin called Zscaler Tools is available for IE 6 to 10.
If your browser doesn’t have a built-in ad blocker, you’ll have to use a third-party one. We recommend uBlock Origin – it’s available for most popular browsers and filters out all the annoying and invasive ads you stumble across while surfing the web.
Many tracker blocker plugins are available, allowing you to keep advertisers off your trail. These include Privacy Badger, Decentraleyes, Disconnect and uMatrix; each uses a different database of trackers to block, so consider installing multiple add-ons to maximize their coverage.
Compartmentalize Your Browsing
Each browser has its own privacy-related pros and cons, not all of which will apply to every site you visit. Maybe you’d prefer to keep your emails and online shopping as secure as possible, but you don’t really care who knows which news articles you read – if so, browser compartmentalization may be for you.
By dividing your online activity up into multiple browsers depending on the level of security you need for each site, you can take advantage of the features of less-secure browsers while keeping your sensitive information confined to the more-secure ones. You might use Chrome as your low-security browser, Comodo Dragon as your secure browser and Tor as your top-secret browser, giving you the best of all three worlds depending on what you need at the time.
Try an Anonymous Peer-to-Peer Network
Just as Tor decentralizes its network by outsourcing traffic among its users, so too do networks like Freenet and the Invisible Internet Project (I2P). These P2P networks anonymize users and encrypt data like Tor does, but they also open up new features like anonymous web hosting, encrypted cloud storage and instant messaging.
Anonymous P2P networks can be a little inaccessible to those who aren’t already technological pros, and they tend to run best on Linux. Mac and Windows have their own OS-level privacy issues that can prevent these networks from running optimally. If all you’re doing is surfing the web, stick with a secure browser, but if you want to go deeper, give a P2P network a try.
Get a VPN
Some of the browsers we reviewed offer built-in proxies and encryption, but these are no match for a full-featured VPN. With super-strong encryption and your choice of anonymizing servers around the world, a VPN provides you with the best possible security, keeping your identity and your data away from snooping governments, sketchy hackers and nosy ISPs.
Internet privacy doesn’t stop at your browser – there are tons of other things to learn! Take a look at these topics and find out how to step up your online security game.
How Do You Use Social Media Securely?
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – social media is everywhere, and although some have ditched it in the name of privacy, others find it harder to let go of the convenience and connectivity these sites provide. By using browser plugins and expertly navigating site settings, you can enjoy the benefits of social media while minimizing the privacy-invading aspects of doing so.
What is Browser Fingerprinting?
You may not think of your web browser as a particularly unique thing – after all, millions of people use the same one. But just like physical fingerprints, each installation of a browser has a digital fingerprint that consists of things like version, OS and even window size; this unique fingerprint is visible to the sites you visit and could potentially be used to identify you.