Looking for a secure browser? We’ve got a handy list for you.
Privacy and security have been the subject of discussion these past few years.
Protecting your privacy and anonymity on the internet is absolutely essential for staying safe online and keeping your data secure from third parties.
It is also arguably one of the hardest things to pull off considering that you’re browsing the web every day.
The internet has become a tightly woven web of advertising trackers monitoring your every move and actions.
Your every interest and material desire.
You hop on Messenger and tell a friend you want to know about the new Puma shoes he recently bought. Suddenly Amazon and eBay ads are beckoning your every move and every site you visit to order the shoes.
Yea, that happens and is scary sometimes.
Average consumers are becoming more and more conscious of their privacy and how their data are managed and used.
Some of the info and data at risk are:
- Browsing history
- Cookies and trackers
- Autofill information and
- Login credentials
So, lets’ rank some of the secure browser according to their ability to protect your security and privacy!
1. Tor Browser
Tor Browser is developed by The Tor Project in 2002.
It is primarily designed to provide secure access to the Tor anonymity network.
Tor browser is based on Firefox’s browser and a hardened version of Firefox built on Firefox 60 ESR (Extended Support Release).
It is configured to run on the Tor network (“The Onion Router”) by using the network’s series of relays, which are run by volunteers and are used to encrypt similarly to the layers of an onion and anonymize a user’s data connection several times, never revealing the original IP address.
Features of Tor Browser:
- Tor does not track your browsing history
- Clears your cookies after every session
- Anonymizes your browser activity
- Regularly patched to fix security issues
- Defeats browser fingerprinting
- Uses HTTPS Everywhere
- Blocks other browser plugins such as Flash, RealPlayer, and QuickTime
Note: You can harden regular Firefox in the same way manually.
However, there are some downsides to it too.
For instance, the default version may break the websites due to script blocking, a theory of malicious exit nodes, and slow speeds.
Beware: Although, they don’t know what you’re doing on it, but law enforcement and ISPs can see who uses Tor Browser.
Solution: For maximum security, I would recommend to connect to a VPN first, and then start up the browser.
Brave is a relatively new contender created in 2016 but is a fast, secure, and privacy-focused browser with a built-in ad blocker too.
It is an open-source based on Chromium instead of Firefox.
What is Chromium?
Chromium is the open-source code behind the Chrome Browser, with all the closed proprietary and privacy-abusing bits stripped out.
It is available for all of the major devices and operating systems- Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Here is a brief overview:
- Plenty of ways to customize your browsing experience
- Inbuilt Ad-blocker and trackers by default
- Tracking protection
- Automatically upgrades to HTTPS (HTTPS Everywhere)
- WebRTC leak protection
- Built-in script blocker, etc
But they help to fund itself via an ad-replacement program. It replaces the “bad ads” with “good ads” from its network partners and the option of its users taking a cut from the ad revenue.
Although participating in this program is opt-in and is a good way to generate income for its users and the company. But still, it compromises the company’s integrity to be fully secure.
3. Firefox (with additional hardening)
Firefox is the only mainstream open-source browser and the source code has been fully audited. It developed by the Mozilla Foundation.
It is available on most of the popular mobile and desktop and mobile devices.
Firefox in itself is a great all-around secure browser for both security and privacy with privacy protection features, excellent security, customization options, and regular updates with an active development team.
But there are some drawbacks which can be customized and hardened.
To make it more secure, you need to change some settings and install some privacy add-ons, etc
- End-to-end encrypted
- Syncing of tabs across browsers and devices
- Send tabs between devices
- Regularly updated to fix security issues
- Tracking Protection built-in to the interface
- SSL/TLS to protect web server communications via the HTTPS protocol
- Private Browsing feature
- Canvas fingerprinting and many more.
Read the Firefox privacy guide for more info.
Waterfox is another secure browser which is an open-source based on Firefox.
If you want the Firefox functionality, but without using standard Mozilla Firefox, Waterfox might be a good fit for that.
It still includes tracking protection and will sync with your regular Firefox account.
They also promise to erase all of your online information from your computer- passwords, cookies and search history, as well.
It also blocking trackers automatically without any extra add-ons.
Privacy and Security features of Waterfox includes-
- Disables Encrypted Media Extensions (EME)
- Removes Pocket
- Removes data collection
- Removal of Sponsored Tiles on New Tab Page
- Removes Telemetry and much more
But they have slower security updates.
From a privacy standpoint, Waterfox is a much better browser compared to Firefox by default.
5. Pale Moon
Pale Moon is a lightweight and highly customizable open-source fork of Firefox, based on the older version of Firefox (Firefox 38 ESR).
The look and feel a bit dated of an older browser justify that.
Efficiency and customization are it’s two biggest selling point.
Same as Waterfox, Pale Moon also strips out all of the dubious features of Firefox that effects and undermine the user’s privacy.
Features of Pale Moon:
- Open source & community based
- Highly customizable and lightweight
- Stays up-to-date with security patches
There are some cons to using Pale Moon.
Although Pale Moon does support some of the older Firefox add-ons, many of the newer extensions are not supported.
The opinions on Pale Moon are a mixture. Some really like their approach and product while other’s say that since it is based on an older code base, the sub-standard in terms of security might be outdated.
But overall, it is still a decent secure Browser in terms of privacy and security.
Opera is developed in 1995 by Hakon Wium Lie who is the creator of the CSS web standard.
It is based on the open-source Chromium browser and adopted much of Chromium’s code into it.
Opera also boasts several privacy features that will make your browsing experience safer and in fact, the browser does actually have several security-minded features that help protect its users.
The browser is available for all the major devices and Operating system such as- Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Features of Opera:
- Fraud and malware protection
- Blocking scripts
- Check Add-on that is insecure
- Cache your data
- Extra ways to customize your privacy and security
They have a free built-in VPN which does tracks bandwidth and logs usage.
There is a mixed call to it. So, it’s your choice to use the browser or not.
DuckDuckGo is not exactly a browser but is a search engine and an extension that emphasizes a great deal on privacy.
Since being founded in 2008, DuckDuckGo has hosted around 22 billion anonymous searches which don’t come as a surprise.
- They do not collect any personal information- Browsing history, habits, etc
- It doesn’t track or monitor your searches, the sites you visit
- They do not even have the concept of search histories.
As we humans are a curious being, then we may ask how does the company generate revenue.
They have been profitable since 2014 and this is predominantly from advertising.
But how? Didn’t you say they don’t monitor you?
Unlike Google who shows you ads based on your habits, search history, and shopping list, DuckDuckGo ads are based on individual search keywords rather than a personal profile or search history.
For example, if you search for ‘car insurance’ they might show a car-insurance related ad, knowing nothing about you or your interest as an individual.
Alternatives Worth mentioning
There are also a few other options which can seem like a secure browser that is worth mentioning, even though they are not recommended in the standpoint of privacy and security.
1. Epic Privacy Browser
The browser is a Chromium-based browser engine, which is also the basis for the Google Chrome browser.
In addition to its other security and privacy protections, the Epic browser also has a built-in encrypted proxy, similar to a VPN, which will both hide your IP address and also encrypts all your data.
Features include such as:
- Blocks ads and trackers
- Blocks Fingerprinting, Cryptomining, ultrasound signaling and more.
- Ability to Stop 600+ tracking attempts in an average browsing session
- Blocking tracking scripts and ads loads webpages as much as 25% faster than other browsers.
- Free VPN (servers in 9 countries)
- HTTPS version
It also shows a running count of how many trackers have been blocked during your current browsing session on the homepage.
It lets you spy on your spies.
See who’s tracking you in your other browsers and see the trackers Epic blocks at each website you visit.
Even if you are Blocking cookies and Using a VPN.
You’re still being tracked.
Of course, You’re not tracked with cookies but also via device fingerprinting, most prevalently image canvas data which Epic Privacy Browser claims to block.
Safari is another common name for the Mac OS and iOS users as it is the default browser in those devices.
Although there are a few privacy loopholes, Apple has been trying consistently to better with privacy.
It implements cross-site tracking protection and also by default blocks third-party cookies.
There has been some bad reputation for Safari in the past. For example, Apple was found to be collecting Safari history even when it is used in an incognito or privacy mode.
But Overall, Safari is a decent and not a horrible choice but not recommended in terms of privacy and tracking protection.
Extra measures to Secure Your Web Browsing
You can harden your privacy and security in addition to using a secure browser on top of that through the help of plug-ins and add-ons or adjusting the settings.
1. Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
VPN uses “virtual” connections routed through the Internet from the business’s private network to the remote site or employee by encasing it in a layer of encryption.
So, basically, if you are using a VPN — anyone intercepting the encrypted data can’t read it.
You are more vulnerable when you are using a public Wi-Fi hotspot, such as those found in coffee shops, hotels and other public locations.
So, by connecting to a VPN, it keeps you safe and protects your internet connection from prying eyes such as hackers, government agencies or even your own Internet Service Provider.
Another benefits of VPN worth mentioning are in case content may be blocked or restricted in your area or location. VPN comes in to save you from that.
It makes it appear as if you’re connected in another global location. So, you can access any web content.
There are many VPN which claims to provide security and privacy.
ExpressVPN tops the chart.
I have used personally and I would definitely recommend it.
2. HTTPS Everywhere
HTTPS Everywhere is an add-on and a free extension for the Firefox, Chrome and Opera browsers on Android mobile devices as well as on desktop.
It basically encrypts your communication with a large number of websites. Thus, making your browsing sessions more secure.
As the name suggests, it also forces websites to use a secure HTTPS encrypted connection (when available).
NoScript basically allows you to customize exactly which scripts run on the websites you visit.
It’s for advanced users and requires lots of customization, so if you don’t know what you are doing, It can break the site.
Disconnect is another browser extension that blocks web tracking, malware and “malvertising” while you roam the web.
After installing the extension, you will find it in the browser’s toolbar. On every website, you visit it will display the total number of tracking requests.
If the icon is gray, it means that some of the requests were not blocked and if it is green, it means that all tracking request are blocked.
It is available on all major browser platforms (Chrome/IE/Firefox/Safari) and also has an app for both Android and iOS devices.
Conclusion: Best Secure Browsers and Privacy
You may find in shock that some of the common browsers such as Chrome or Edge/Internet Explorer aren’t included in the list.
The majority of the browsers in the list are open source and provide much more privacy.
But even the most secure browsers still contain a vast amount of private data by default, which makes them a ripe target for exploitation.
If you are looking for the Utmost Privacy and online anonymity, then you need to harden by combining some two or three things.
- A secure browser – Any of the recommended browsers we have discussed above in this guide will do.
- Good VPN service- I would recommend ExpressVPN
- Use Cookie Autodelete- A plugin to automatically delete cookies that are no longer needed from your browser.
- An advertisement and script tracking blocker- Disconnect Extension will do the job fine.
Although there is no such thing as absolute privacy, we have to try our best.
Stay safe and secure!