CryptoSmarts 3: Best Secure Web Browsers & Add-Ons
MintDice is proud to bring you the third part of the CryptoSmarts series, a 100% unbiased/non-affiliate paid article set that will focus on relatively simple ways you can boost your privacy, take power away from overbearing governments and corporations while also doing relative good for society all at the same time with minimal effort. Rest assured that anything suggested here is solely for your own benefit.
The majority of us spend a lot of time on the web. And that amount is growing every single day as our world becomes more interconnected to the internet. The primary proxy to the web is with web browsers. Given that a huge amount of one's life will be spent on web browsers, it's important to get it right. This means choosing the right web browser, getting the right add-ons and even ensuring that you have the right search engine to go along with everything. I would argue that not only is this good for your own personal privacy and security, but that it will also end up being a better user experience for you with less ad tracking, less advertising in general and an overall cleaner web browsing experience. So without further ado, let's get into it.
Secure Web Browsers for Desktops
When it comes to desktop browsers, the primary quality options are fairly simple; pick either Firefox or Tor. For most intents and purposes, Firefox will be the recommended browser that MintDice would suggest for it's users. Firefox is the bread and butter option and the far superior option to the more classic browser options used by most people which are commonly found to be Google Chrome, Apple's Safari or Microsoft's Edge.
Firefox is fully open sourced and managed by the non-profit Mozilla corporation. It's modularity and high technical capacity makes it a fan favorite among most privacy tech enthusiasts. Speaking of it's options, there are many switches that you can flip on to increase to make Firefox more or less private depending on your needs or tastes. We'll get to this later.
The other web browser that we mentioned earlier is Tor. Tor, otherwise known as The Onion Router, is an open sourced project that was first state sponsored by the US Navy. Tor's goal is to provide a nearly anonymous web browsing experience. While that sounds great in theory, it does come with many substantial costs. Most notably, Tor is a much slower alternative to Firefox or other ordinary browsers. Secondly, while it is far more anonymous, it is less secure, since all data is transmitted through exit nodes that can read your internet activity if they are malicious actors. As we've mentioned in the past, at the higher end of the equation for most applications, you are frequently going to experience trade offs. One platform is not necessarily better than the other, they each have their own pros and cons to deal with. In the case of web browsers, it will be anonymity or security.
For journalists in strict countries or others in need of extreme privacy, Tor becomes the obvious answer. But for most common internet users and cryptocurrency enthusiasts, Firefox will do just fine. And there are many options you can and should deploy to make your Firefox web browsing experience superior we'll get to shortly after discussing a few other platforms.
Secure Web Browsers for Mobile Devices
As far as Android and iOS devices are concerned, Firefox is still a completely viable option for both of these mobile devices, no different than for desktops. On the same token with Tor, there is Tor Browser available for Android and Onion Browser available for iOS.
There a couple of other options to consider however. For Android users, if you have a preference for Chromium technology (what Google Chrome's browser is based off of), look no further than the web browser app called Bromite. It comes pre-installed with many privacy enhancements to simply make it an easy alternative to Google Chrome. And for iOS users, DuckDuckGo has created a web browser of it's own called DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser. Similar to Bromite, it is another mobile web browser with built in privacy and security features for your own convenience.
If you'd prefer something to work straight out of the box so to speak, Bromite or DuckDuckGo should work just fine. If you want to completely customize your experience, you'll probably be better suited to using Firefox. And last, but not least, as we've already discussed earlier, if you need immense anonymity, Tor may work best for you.
Recommended Privacy Add-Ons
For most of you that have successfully migrated over to Firefox (or are planning on it!), or perhaps you already have Firefox, there are plenty of ways to increase your user experience by adding a variety of add-ons with only a few button clicks that can ultimately save you a bundle down the road.
The first add-on category is the "everyone should have these" category since they won't inhibit your browsing experience at all yet will boost your security and privacy. These add-ons are as follows:
- uBlock Origin - An ad blocker / tracker remover.
- HTTPS Everywhere - Ensure encrypted connections
- Decentraleyes - Blocking content delivery networks.
- Facebook container - If you have a Facebook, this will limit it's tracking capacity
- Privacy Badger - Block invisible trackers
All of the above are linked to their respective website where you can then get to an easy add-on download.
The next add-on category are more situational privacy add-ons depending on how seriously you need to take things. Some may apply to you or they may not. Some may also make the web browsing experience of lower quality by prohibiting certain actions. Whether or not that is worth it to you, you'll have to decide:
- ClearURLs - Remove tracking elements from URLs
- xBrowserSync - Synchronizes bookmarks and other browser data across devices
- ETag Stoppa - For Android users only, privacy features
- Cookie Autodelete - Remove all cookies automatically, all of the time
Privacy Respecting Search Engines
There are many search engines to pick out there. All of the major and famous ones will mostly be interested in data mining and tracking all of your search history to build up a profile to use against you one day. You can easily switch out your Google, Bing or other search engine for one of these privacy respecting search engines.
In order of most convenient and least private to the least convenient and most private recommended search engines:
1. (Most Convenient) - DuckDuckGo - Well known, but based in the USA, one of the five eyes.
2. StartPage - Also well known, based in the Netherlands. Long standing history of respecting privacy.
3. Qwant - Based in France with two principles: no tracking, no filter bubble.
4. (Most Private) SearX - Open source, self-hostable search engine. Sub-optimal results for difficult search quandaries.
Everything stated in this article is very easy to implement, so there's not too many excuses that one should give to not start with better web browsing practices. And with customizable options as far as Firefox or other platforms go, you can control the amount of privacy features or user experience that you wish to maintain depending on your lifestyle. It's most important that you are the one in the driver's seat that gets to make the decisions about your own data, rather than that of a global mega corporation or government entity that will do no better than sell you and your data off to the highest bidder the first chance they get.
If you enjoyed this article from MintDice on web browsers, I'd encourage you to check out our previous two CryptoSmarts articles on secure e-mail providers and secure messaging apps.