In this guide, we will take a deep dive into the world of privacy and security via web browsers.
A secure web browser is absolutely essential for boosting your privacy and keeping your data and identity safe on the internet.
Third-party advertisers, hackers and snoopers alike are waiting for the low-hanging fruit in every nook and cranny of the internet.
If you haven’t taken the time to properly configure your web browser, then your data could easily be accessed by third parties.
We say this for two reasons. First, web browsers tend to hold a surprising amount of private information on their users.
If the user isn’t careful enough, there are a lot of people out there who would want to exploit that information.
Second, third-party entities are betting on users who are not serious about their privacy. Once they can identify that weak spot, they are quick to collect as much data on the user as is possible.
Some of the user data that modern web browsers store includes:
- Autofill information which consists of phone numbers, addresses and full names, along with a host of other types of data.
- Trackers and cookies. Every website that you visit places these on your web browser.
- Login credentials, which includes all of your stored passwords and usernames.
- Web browsing history, which has a record of all the websites that you may have visited in the past.
While it’s concerning that web browsers hold users’ sensitive data, perhaps what’s more concerning is the fact that hackers don’t have to work too hard to crack them and expose the user’s identity.
That holds true even if you use a VPN service. Though a VPN protects your privacy by hiding your real location and IP address, the way you browse the internet may end up revealing your true identity via methods such as web browser fingerprinting and WebRTC leaks.
It may be hard to believe, but there are actually very simple and effective solutions to all the problems we have mentioned above.
Some of the solutions we’ll cover in the upcoming sections include:
- Web browser add-ons that offer genuine security.
- Compartmentalization of web browser privacy.
- Secure web browsers that preserve user privacy.
If you choose the right web browser (and by “right,” we mean a web browser that gives due consideration to your security and privacy) for your system, you give yourself every chance of staying safe even in some gray corners of cyberspace.
A secure web browser is crucial if you want to make sure your private information stays private. Keep that in mind as we list some of the best secure web browsers available today.
What Are the Most Secure Web Browsers?
To kick off this guide, we want to bring up two key factors that indicate whether a web browser is good for you:
- Privacy – Many web browsers say they offer privacy features to users. The most important things to question about this claim are: Exactly how much data do they collect and who are they sharing that data with? A secure web browser has to be transparent about how it protects users’ privacy.
- Security – How much effort is the web browser making to protect users from online exploits, vulnerabilities and hackers? Are there regular updates to fix security bugs? These are important points to consider while you decide which secure web browser you want to use.
Opinions and opinions.
There is no single browser that is able to beat all other browsers on the market. For that reason, you should judge the following web browsers based on your own threat model and approach to protecting your privacy.
This guide will help you summarize all the information that’s available about different web browsers that offer different tools for protecting users’ security and privacy.
With that out of the way, here is a list of the most private and secure web browsers in 2019.
Mozilla Firefox is a popular, all-around web browser that is great for both security and privacy.
Mozilla Firefox offers users robust privacy protection options, along with good security and customization tools.
Apart from that, it has an active development team that rolls out regular updates.
In 2017, Mozilla took its web browser to another level with the introduction of the Firefox Quantum update.
Now, Firefox is not only lightweight but also fast, with a ton of customization options.
With that being said: As far as privacy is concerned, Mozilla Firefox is (out of the box) not the best web browser in the market.
The basic version of the browser is actually quite limited in its default state. You’ll need to modify and tweak your privacy settings to create a stronger safeguard against threats.
First off, you should disable features such as telemetry in Mozilla Firefox.
This feature collects interaction and technical data, and installs and runs different studies on the user’s web browser.
One of the benefits that Firefox offers to its users is the ability to use different browser extensions without having compatibility issues.
There are plenty of privacy and security extensions available on the Mozilla add-ons store (more on that later).
Some of Firefox’s main security/privacy features are:
- Modification options for better security and privacy
- Manual options available to disable tracking and telemetry
- Browser extensions support
- Good customization options and privacy features
- Frequent updates as a result of active development
- Third-party audited open-source code
For users who want to keep using old Firefox add-ons (the ones that Firefox Quantum does not support), then you can do that with the help of Firefox ESR or Extended Support Release.
In fact, many Firefox forks work with older add-ons. For people who want to focus on privacy more than the average user, there is Firefox Focus.
Another fork of Mozilla Firefox, GNU IceCat is a free software application project.
Of course, the definition of “free” is something that you shouldn’t take lightly. Click here to learn about what IceCat means when it says it is a free software project.
Apart from offering the standard Mozilla Firefox functionality, the IceCat web browser also comes with various privacy tweaks and default add-ons such as HTTPS-Everywhere, an extension that encrypts your browser’s communication with the sites you visit.
Some of the privacy protection options that you can access via IceCat web browser are:
- Anti-fingerprinting tools
If you go to the GNU IceCat website, you can read more about the features that this privacy-focused program offers to users.
Iridium is another secure web browser that is based on the tried-and-tested Chromium browser.
By default, Iridium is configured to provide extra privacy for people who care about that kind of stuff.
Anyone that wants a web browser that has support for Chrome extensions should consider the Iridium web browser as a decent option.
The Iridium website fully explains that the browser has a Chromium codebase.
The page also mentions that the Iridium team has implemented several modifications which enhance users’ overall privacy and security.
Some of these measures include preventing the automatic transmission of partial query, metrics and keywords to central services without the user’s permission.
Additionally, all of the Iridium web browser builds are auditable and have reproducible modifications.
This, according to the company, puts Iridium ahead of the rest of the competition in the secure web browser market.
The Iridium team tries to roll out builds for platforms such as macOS, Windows, CentOS, RHEL, Fedora, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu and Debian no more than a couple of days after they have released a version for the Chromium platform.
To make sure that the company is able to reach its goals more often than not, they regularly need help from organizations and individuals who carry the same goal.
At the time of writing this report, they’ve managed to keep the amount of time between a new release of Chromium and Iridium to just weeks.
This is another privacy-focused web browser that has managed to attract a lot of users largely because of the fact that it is a fork of Mozilla Firefox.
In basic terms, the Tor web browser is a hardened version of the vanilla Mozilla Firefox.
The web browser’s default configurations make sure that it is using the Tor network for all internet traffic made by the user.
The Tor browser makes sure that it routes the user’s internet traffic over at least three different hops.
While that is great for security and privacy, the user can experience slow download speeds. Sometimes you may not even be able to view a standard-definition video on YouTube.
If that sounds inconvenient, then you should also know that the Tor browser can (by default) break a lot of websites because of its script-blocking capabilities.
You can disable these tools from the menu, though.
You should also keep in mind is that the Tor network is not without its drawbacks. Apart from experiencing slow speeds, you may connect to a malicious exit node.
That never ends well. Some researchers have said that the Tor Network may provide a backdoor to the U.S. government as well.
Some even believe that on a fundamental level, the Tor network is completely compromised no matter how the user configures it.
The point we want you to understand is that even though the Tor network provides a good amount of privacy and security, just like any other application/service, it too has pros and cons.
You’ll need to study them both and then make the final decision whether or not you want to use the Tor browser.
It is best to use an un-Googled version of the Chromium web browser. We say that because there is only one 100% open-source project, and that is Ungoogled Chromium.
The chromium web browser provides all the goodness that one finds in Google Chrome and takes away all of the nasty Google privacy issues.
If you go to the official GitHub repository for the Chromium browser, you will not have to look too hard before realizing the fact that Chromium is everything that Google Chrome is except for Google Chrome’s integration features.
Just like all the other secure web browsers on this list, Ungoogled Chromium features some modifications which allow it to enhance user privacy, transparency and control.
Pretty much all the options that do the things we have mentioned above have to be enabled and/or activated manually.
Ungoogled Chromium pretty much retains the full Chromium experience.
This web browser is different from the vast majority of other Chromium forks in the sense that it doesn’t try to push its own vision on how we should all experience the internet. Essentially, Ungoogled Chromium is a perfect drop-in replacement for the default Chromium project.
Ungoogled Chromium also receives security updates at regular intervals.
You can check out the Ungoogled Chromium repository on GitHub.
Waterfox represents another open-source fork of the Mozilla Firefox web browser. People who want everything that Firefox has to offer but do not want to use the standard version of the software should give the Waterfox web browser a try.
Even though Mozilla Firefox has done a lot for the privacy and security of its users, it has also enabled telemetry options to collect user data.
It also uses Cliqz to collect user browsing history.
Waterfox, along with many other Firefox forks, offers more privacy than the standard version of Mozilla.
That is one of the reasons why it has remained a popular choice among people who want all the good that Firefox has to offer without some of the less-than-desirable traits.
Some of the Waterfox’s highlights are:
- The development cycle is slower and less active when compared to Firefox and Google Chrome
- Removes sponsored tiles, startup profiling, data collection, telemetry and tracking
- Based on Mozilla Firefox
You can read more on Waterfox’s website.
Brave is another Chromium-based web browser that is not only fast but also privacy-focused and secure.
The default configuration makes sure that Brave has an ad-blocker in place as soon as you install the product.
Mozilla Co-Founder Brandon Eich was the main developer behind Brave when he started the project a few years ago.
He now serves as the company’s CEO. If you’re looking for a decent out-of-the-box secure and private web browser, then you can’t really go wrong with Brave.
Just like the Iridium web browser, Brave gets its source code from the Chromium project.
Iridium and Brave both ensure that they strip out all the privacy-abusing preferences and features that come with the default version of Google Chrome.
Additionally, Brave makes it easy for users to change its default settings if they want to make use of more extra features and change privacy-enhancing default options. Briefly speaking, Brave offers users:
- Every time you try and open a website on Brave, it automatically upgrades your connection to HTTPS
- Comes with a script-blocker as a built-in feature
- Stops browser fingerprinting
- Blocks trackers and ads by default
The only problem that some users may have with Brave is that it has its own version of ads. Despite the fact that this web browser offers an ad-blocking feature, Brave introduced its own advertisement program in April 2019.
Brave’s ad program is fundamentally different from Google, though. The company has a revenue-sharing advertisement model where websites and users get a certain percentage of the revenue that Brave generates.
Brave users can earn Basic Attention Tokens (BAT) for viewing built-in advertisements.
Many have criticized Brave for this move, which they argue is hypocritical for a privacy-focused web browser.
To date, Brave is perhaps the only secure/privacy-focused web browser that has its own advertising program.
Another important thing worth mentioning: Like almost all Chromium-based web browsers, Brave is particularly vulnerable to WebRTC leaks.
When there is a WebRTC leak, it generally means that your real IP address has been exposed. Sometimes it can even bypass a VPN service.
With that said, we have to mention that almost all web browsers can be tweaked to protect against WebRTC.
However, with a Chromium-based web browser, you have to manually block WebRTC since, unlike Firefox, there is no way to completely disable the WebRTC feature.
If you want to guard against WebRTC leaks while surfing the internet on the Brave web browser, then you simply need to modify the value for fingerprinting protection.
Set it to “Block All Fingerprinting.” You have to keep in mind, though, that there are a lot of other factors that you need to take into consideration if you truly want to block all online fingerprinting.