What is the Best Browser for Security and Privacy?
ISPs, websites, government agencies, and advertisers track your every move on the internet. The worst kinds of people are cybercriminals who try as much as possible to gain access to your private data, which they use to commit fraud.
We live in the internet age, it’s impossible to say we can avoid the internet; the only alternative we’ve is finding a safer and more secure way to surf the net. One of such technique in dealing with issues regarding internet privacy and security is choosing the right browser.
As easy as it sound, selecting a good browser can be a little bit complex since many of these browsers aren’t open about the data they gather and the settings you can activate to protect your privacy. The right browser should be able to prevent bar advertisers from tracking your online movements.
Now, if privacy is so important to you, you would definitely want to know which browser will keep your online activity private while still giving you remarkable browsing experience. Let’s take you through some of the best options.
Note that, to come up with this list, we evaluated different browsers based on available security features, the time between version updates; and included privacy tools. Take a look!
After Internet Explorer, which has now gone under the water in terms of popularity, Microsoft decided to make the Chromium-powered Microsoft edge it’s new and revamped browser version for Windows users. Only accessible on Windows 10, Microsoft Edge has an advantage over its predecessor when it comes to page load speeds. Let’s see how it improves on the precursor’s security and privacy:
Microsoft Edge seems to perform its updates only twice a year. While this is better than Internet Explorer, it is nothing compared to what more popular competitors are doing. In a world full of advanced malware and internet fraud, a regular update can make whole loads of difference.
In terms of security, Edge runs in a sandbox, which makes browser processes to remain contained. It has retained its predecessor’s SmartScreen Filter, which bars malicious sites that could contain ill-natured code. Because it limits extension support, Edge also restricts the number of potentially insecure extensions that you could unintentionally download. Still, Edge, just like Internet Explorer is slowly revealing its security loopholes.
When it comes to private browsing, Edge has unfortunately done away with its predecessor’s tracking protection feature, which helped prevent sites from circulating your browsing history. Therefore, Edge is not for those who want to browse privately.
Over ten years since its launch, Google Chrome still maintains its position as the undisputed market leader in browsers; at almost 80% market share. Available for Windows, Android Linux, macOS, and iOS this browser is convenient, functional, and popular, and all these can only be attributed to its good reputation for speed and the prevalence of its services including Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs, etc.
When it comes to how this browser performs in terms of security, Chrome has regular version updates, at almost every 42 days, which is rather high compared to some of its competitors. Chrome also delivers nightly builds!
Other than the frequent updates and the scanning for malicious downloads, Chrome is also automatically updated to the latest version, which means the users are always benefiting from the latest browsing features.
Chrome doesn’t, however, score well on privacy. While it offers the basic pop-up blocker and gives users the privilege of sending a “Do Not Track” prompt along with the browser traffic (which doesn’t do much to block sites from tracking you), we can’t all forget that Chrome actually belongs to Google (a company that makes money from knowing all about their customers).
Also, while Chrome boasts an extensive array of browser extensions that offer a number of additional functionalities, this comes at a cost— reduced privacy. Besides, Chrome being a closed-source browser makes it impossible for anyone to crack it open and see whatever might be hidden in the code.
Available for Windows, Linux, and macOS, Opera, which operates on the Chromium system, boasts of having numerous security features that make your browsing secure including fraud and malware protection and blocking scripts. When it comes to version updates, Opera lags a little, at every 4-6 weeks, instead of the ideal duration of every 4-6 weeks.
By the mere fact that it’s owned by a Chinese company, Opera cannot be trusted when it comes to browser privacy. This is because China as a country does not have the most desirable internet freedom and privacy protection. Also, Opera, just like Chrome monitors and collects user information, which they might share with third-parties.
The most questionable component though is Opera’s free built-in VPN that was bought in 2016. Like many free VPNs that come as extras, Opera’s free built-in VPN tracks bandwidth, and registers usage.
While this is a relatively new browser, its library of privacy and security features makes it one of the best fast-performing and privacy-focused browsers.
Since Brave is still rising to v1.0 for desktop browsers, beta builds tend to come out more often than its version builds, though it has still managed to beat most of its competition in this area.
Some of Brave’s notable security features include its ability to keep scripts and ads from loading, its automatic HTTPS connection upgrades, ability to manage cookies, blocking fingerprinting attempts, and the availability of a native password manager. Heck, you can even modify your security settings on a “per-site” basis. And, even if you are not keen on modifying your own settings, Brave’s default settings are still pretty strong as they automatically bar things like malware and phishing.
In 2018, Brave made a full transition to the Chromium codebase. Although this makes it effortless for users to restore their Chrome extensions, they should be cautious of what information third-party extensions do gather. Among the add-ons that came with this transition are password manager incorporation for 1Password and LastPass.
On the flip side, although Brave’s new Tor tab is private, it lacks Tor’s own privacy qualities with an adjustable window size that can be utilized to fingerprint your browsing.
Mozilla Firefox is popular for its ease of customization and has always been a preferred alternative to its counterparts from Microsoft, Apple, and Google. Its latest version—Quantum, has been thought to be the browser’s most privacy-focused update yet.
While it doesn’t update as often as Google, Firefox still updates at a regular time-frame. Since Mozilla was started by a non-profit, it’s good to see its coding philanthropists constantly working to ensure the browser is packed with the newest browsing and security features within weeks.
Some of the features that come with this browser include malware and phishing protection, the ability to warn users when a website is attempting to install add-ons, and the ability to report attackers/web forgeries.
Compared with its competitors, Firefox is rather lightweight. To further enhance privacy, Firefox also has a “Content Blocking” feature that allows users to bar all trackers that the browser detects. And, with its wide range of add-ons, the users of this browser have more than enough when it comes to more ways of enhancing their online privacy.
Most important though is the fact that Firefox is the only popular browser that is open-source. This means anyone can check Firefox’s source code, ensuring there are no fishy components (like tracking software) incorporated into the final product.
If security is your greatest concern while surfing the internet, then Tor could be the best browser for you. This browser takes your security concerns very seriously. (Yes, it will even warn you when you are trying to enlarge your browser window as doing so may make your computer screen vulnerable to tracking). The Tor network allows you to browse the internet anonymously as your identity and activity are concealed by Tor. It prevents unwarranted prying with the assistance of its hidden built-in relay servers, can run on a USB flash drive, and it comes pre-installed with security features.
When it comes to version updates, Tor updates after every 5 to 21 days, and most of its updates happen as a result of Firefox’s bug tune-ups and security patches.
Among other things, this browser is a perfect choice for circumventing fingerprinting. Simply don’t add extra add-ons, use the standard settings, and don’t change the default window size.
Tor’s privacy is facilitated greatly by its security. What’s more, Tor deletes your cookies after every browsing session and does not track your online activity. The process of relaying your data through several servers makes it extremely difficult for anyone to stalk you and your activity. However, it’s important to note that Tor is not entirely secure as ISPs and law enforcement can see everyone who uses Tor, even though they can’t tell whatever you’re doing on it.
Another shortcoming of this browser is the fact that it doesn’t come with anti-malware technology and bars plug-ins by design. Also, you need to be careful when changing Tor settings as you could interfere with its privacy.
Tor is available for Linux, macOS, and Windows.
The name Safari may not be familiar to most Windows end users, but this Apple web browser was surprisingly available on PC until 2012; it later became featured only on Apple devices.
Safari’s updates happen at very unreliable intervals, which is surprising since Safari was developed by the world’s biggest technology company. Compared to its competitors, Safari version updates are much slower.
While it’s true that Mac users are exposed to less online vulnerability compared to PC users, the irregular updates are still troubling.
While it doesn’t update often, Safari does a good job of protecting users by preventing dubious sites from loading and alerting you of possible danger. Since its web pages run in a sandbox, Safari is able to prevent harmful code on one page from accessing your data or affecting the whole browser.
Safari has some new features though, (password manager and generator) that work to discourage users from constantly using weak, old passwords. Note that Safari keeps these passwords, so you might want to have a separate password manager unconnected to your browser if you share the browser with other people.
In terms of privacy, Safari’s latest version update really refined its privacy features, from a new brilliant tracking protection service to the screening digital fingerprinting. The browser bars third-party sites from accessing your data, helping you stay private online. What’s more, Safari offers an array of useful extensions to guard your privacy. However, Safari is closed-source and its “Do Not Track” prompts do not really guarantee privacy. That means you cannot depend 100% on Safari for privacy.
Unlike the other browsers discussed herein, DuckDuckGo is only supported on mobile as it doesn’t have a separate desktop browser. This iOS- and Android-only browser is loaded with privacy features: ad blocking, forcing HTTPS encryption where possible, stopping third-party trackers, and analyzing the privacy features of every site that you visit with a certain letter grade. So, if you see a big fat “F” on a site you’ve visited, you better shift to a site that takes the privacy of its users seriously.
DuckDuckGo ensures your browsing records never leave your device. In fact, clearing your full browsing history is as simple as hitting a single button. And, if you feel you might forget to clear history, you can set the browser to routinely delete all of your data every time you restore the app.
As you can see, each of the above browsers has its own strengths and weaknesses, and may not offer 100 percent privacy. However, the security and privacy features provided by each one of them will help.
You can also further encrypt your connection if you download a VPN. It adds an extra layer of protection to your data and allows you to achieve ultimate security and privacy. Instead of twiddling with customized settings, you’ll simply hit the connect button and let the VPN safeguard your privacy and security as you enjoy your browsing—from any device.