A secure browser that protects your privacy is one of the most important things you can use to stay safe online and keep your information safe from other people. Do you want a browser that is safe and keeps your information secret? Well, you might be surprised by how much of your information is shared.
Many browsers these days are actually ways for advertising companies to gather information. This is true for Google Chrome, which is the biggest and most used browser. By getting information from your browser, these companies can make money through targeted ads from their advertising partners. This same business model, which invades people’s privacy, is used by search engines, email services, and even free mobile apps.
What do browsers track?
Most browsers have a lot of private information that can be used or just collected by third parties if they are not set up correctly:
- Browsing history: all the websites you’ve been to.
- Login credentials: usernames and passwords.
- Sites you visit put cookies and trackers on your browser.
- Autofill information, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.
And, as we’ll show you below, using “private” or “incognito” browsing won’t help you stay safe. Your IP address will still be visible, and third parties will still be able to keep track of everything you do. But you don’t even have to believe me. Here’s a headline that shows how far companies will go to get information about what you do online.
So, are there any solutions?
Even if your browser is locked down and hardened, there may still be ways to get your data and maybe even your identity. For example, Google Chrome told people about a severe zero-day bug that could let hackers run code on affected systems from afar. Our guides on browser fingerprinting and WebRTC leaks talk about other privacy issues and how to fix them.
But don’t let this stress you out. There are good tools and solutions that we’ll talk about in more depth below. In this guide to browser security and privacy, we will talk about the following:
1. Best safe browsers that don’t spy on you
2. Troubles with other browsers
3. Keeping privacy separate in browsers
4. Safe add-ons for browsers
5. “Private browsing” mode isn’t very private (and why you need a VPN)
How does VPN help?
Even if your browser is set to “private” or “incognito” mode, your actual IP address and location are still shown to every website, ad, and tracker that loads in your browser. Also, your Internet service provider can always see everything you do (ISP). And we just discovered that ISPs keep track of everything you do online and share that information with many others. So for essential online privacy, it’s important to use a good VPN.
Use a secure browser and a VPN to hide your actual IP address and online activities. This is the best way to keep your online activities and exact IP address private. This will hide your IP address and location and encrypt and anonymize your traffic so your ISP can’t see what you do online.
Which web browsers are safe?
In this section, we’ll look at the best browsers from two main points of view:
- Security: How well does the browser protect you from hackers, security holes, and other online attacks?
- Privacy: How much information does the browser itself gather about you? Who does it share this information with? How does the browser keep your private information safe?
Different points of view! Just like with Tor, people can have very different and often conflicting ideas about the privacy and security of browsers.
This guide isn’t meant to convince everyone that there is one browser that is better than all the others. Instead, it summarizes information about different web browsers that are good for both privacy and security. Choose the best browser based on your needs and your thoughts about threats.
Browsers that are the safest and most private
Brave is a browser that is easy to use and gives you privacy right out of the box. It is a browser based on Chromium that is fast, safe, and focused on privacy by default. In addition, it comes with a built-in ad blocker and protection against browser fingerprinting. You can also use a lot of add-ons and extensions. Brandon Eich, who used to work for Mozilla, is the main person who works on Brave. This browser, Brave, is based on the open-source Chromium, but it is set up to be more private. With the privacy settings and extra features that come with it, it works well. Here’s a quick run-down:
- Automatically blocks ads and trackers
- Prevents fingerprinting of the browser
- A built-in script blocker
- Stops any storage from a third party
- Changes automatically to HTTPS (HTTPS Everywhere)
- The Tor network is easy to get to
Firefox is a great browser for privacy and security in all kinds of ways. It has strong privacy protection features, a lot of ways to make it your own, great security, regular updates, and a team of people working on it. The latest version of Firefox is fast and light, and it gives you a lot of control over your privacy.
Firefox isn’t the best for privacy out of the box, but it can be changed and made more secure, and our guide on how to do that will show you how. Make sure to turn off telemetry in Firefox, which is a feature that will collect “technical and interaction data” and “install and run studies” in your browser.
There are many useful customization options for Standard, Strict, and Custom privacy settings in the Privacy & Security settings area.
Another great thing about Firefox is that you can use many browser add-ons that make your privacy and security better. We’ll talk about a few of these extensions in the next section. Firefox shows:
- Third-party-verified open source
- Changeable development
- Great privacy and personalization
- Supported many browser add-ons
- Hand-off telemetry and tracking.
- Other privacy and safety changes
The Tor browser is a revised version of Firefox that has been made more secure and set up to run leveraging the Tor network. This browser is a safe browser that protects you from browser fingerprinting by default but also has a few problems.
The Tor browser can have slow download speeds because it uses the Tor network, which sends traffic through three different hops. In addition, some sites may not work with the default version because it blocks scripts. Lastly, the Tor network has problems, such as malicious or dangerous exit nodes, high latency, reliance on US government funding, and some think it is fundamentally broken. Several websites don’t let IP addresses from the Tor network in. (Here are the good and bad things about Tor.)
You could also use the Tor browser but turn off the Tor network. This way, the Tor browser will be the same as the others we’ve discussed. You can also just let a VPN run in the background. A VPN will also encrypt your traffic and hide your IP, just like the Tor network, but it will do much faster.
But be careful when you change the settings for the Tor browser, as this could affect the built-in privacy and security features.