In past blog posts we’ve covered different ways to be safe when browsing the internet. We have covered how to create strong passwords in the article Safe Browsing: Passwords. We’ve talked about how to block unwanted ads and how to prevent tracking in the article Safe Browsing: Ad Blocking and Anti-Tracking Tools. We’ve also covered the topic of Safe Browsing Pt. 3: Other Privacy Tools and VPNs vs. Proxies.
There is another way to help insure a safe browsing experience, and that is by choosing a browser that offers you the type of privacy and security features that you feel would provide you the most desirable level of protection. There are many options when trying to decide what browser to use to view websites, and it can be difficult to decide which browser would be best for you based on the level of privacy and security you would like to have when surfing the internet.
What characteristics are worth considering when choosing which browser works best for your security and privacy needs? Though it might not seem obvious, a browser that regularly makes updates available is an important trait since online threats change frequently. A browser should also have security features to protect you online and provide you the means to protect your privacy to the degree you wish.
Currently the most popular browser is Google Chrome. It provides updates roughly every 6 weeks. It also provides security features such as the means to control what information web sites can use and what content they can show you, as shown above. One other way that Chrome provides security is through the various extensions available. Some examples of Chrome extensions that can help to increase security and privacy are the extensions HTTPS Everywhere, Privacy Badger, and AdBlock.
When it comes to ensuring their users’ privacy, Google has not done as well as it has with providing a good level of security, and has even ended up being brought before the Senate for potential violations of users’ privacy (as can be read about on CNBC news site). Google currently provides options that make it possible for users to have some privacy, but it is not easy to find these settings or easy to manage them. For example, if you want to be certain that Google is not tracking you, you would need to go to your Google account to pause the Web & App activity to ensure that you are not being tracked, as mentioned in an article by WIRE. You have to dig to locate this option, and it is not obvious that this is what you need to turn off in order to decrease Google’s ability to track your location and activity online. Overall, Google’s ability to provide privacy for their users may be seen as less than desirable.
Firefox is not as frequently used as some of its competition, but it is worth considering. This browser was created by a non-profit organization which means that the creators of this browser are not driven by a need to make profit. Firefox is open source and allows its users to view the source code for this app. This level of transparency is uncommon and potentially gives the user a level of knowledge about how the program works that is refreshing. It provides updates for it’s browser roughly every 7-8 weeks. It also provides many different security and privacy features such as Content Blocking which helps to prevent third party content that could track what you are doing online. It also offers users the ability to set Firefox to automatically delete cookies after Firefox closes and the ability to set permissions in terms of whether or not sites can send you notifications, as well as the option to say no if a site is wanting to use your camera, microphone, or see your location. Lastly, Firefox has built-in protection against malware and phishing.
From the standpoint of security and privacy, there aren’t a lot of downsides to Firefox. It only has a couple of shortcomings. It doesn’t update as frequently as Google Chrome, and it doesn’t have a built-in Virtual Private Network like the Opera browser has, which would be handy if you were using a public Wi-Fi network to browse online. However, overall it still has a lot to offer both in terms of the ability to customize it to suit your needs and in terms of the security and privacy features available with this browser.
Edge & Internet Explorer
Edge is Microsoft’s newest browser. It provides major updates and feature changes on a semi-annual basis, while providing security updates every 2 to 4 weeks. It provides many of the same options for customizing your level of security and privacy as Mozilla and Chrome. That being said, it doesn’t have quite the same level of options for extensions as Chrome and Mozilla, but overall in terms of level of privacy and security it does decently. One other thing to keep in mind is that Edge is not backwards compatible, so it may not work well with older websites.
Internet Explorer is Edge’s predecessor. It does make security updates available, but Microsoft is no longer providing major updates for it the way it does for its newer browser, Edge. Also the security updates that are being provided are only for the newest version of Internet Explorer. Microsoft doesn’t give any indication of how frequently these security updates are made available for this browser.
Internet Explorer provides users with a certain level of security and privacy, as well as the means to adjust this level of security and privacy as well. This browser provides users the means to prevent pop-up ads and control whether or not third-party cookies will be permitted. However, it doesn’t tend to provide great support for its add-ons and doesn’t offer much in the way of extensions that would make it possible to increase users’ security and privacy when online. Also, since this browser no longer receives major updates, you may encounter problems when using Internet Explorer to access newer websites.
As mentioned before, there are many browsers to choose from. Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Edge are some of the most well-known browsers for those wanting to access the internet, and they all have something to offer their users. In part two of this article, we’ll be exploring more browsers that users can choose from. We’ll be discussing Apple’s Safari browser, as well as Opera and TOR (The Onion Router). So if you would like to learn more about browser options, check out part two of this blog.