This new and updated Secure Browser Guide provides an in-depth look at browser security and privacy topics. (Updated on June 7, 2019)
A secure browser that protects your privacy is critical to staying online safe and protecting your data from third-party protection.
Unless configured correctly, most browsers contain a large amount of private information that may be exploited or simply collected by third parties:
- Browsing history: all sites you visit
- Login credentials: username and password
- Cookies and trackers: These are the websites you visit on your browser.
- Autofill information: name, address, phone number, etc.
In addition to all the data mentioned above, the browser can also disclose your identity – even if you are using one of the best VPN services. In other words, even if you use VPN to hide your real IP address and location, your browser may display your identity through WebRTC leaks or browser fingerprinting .
Fortunately, all of these issues have relatively simple solutions, which we will cover in this guide:
- A secure browser that respects your privacy most
- Popular browsers to avoid
- Browser privacy
- Secure browser plugin
Choosing the right browser based on privacy and security considerations is critical because your browser can display so much private information. With this in mind, we will first check for popular browsers to avoid.
Protect browsers that respect your privacy
In this section, we will check the best secure browser based on two main factors:
- Security: How does the browser protect you from hackers, vulnerabilities and online attacks?
- Privacy: How much data is collected by the browser itself about your data and shared with it? How does the browser protect your privacy?
Like Tor , there may be significant disagreements and controversies about browser privacy and security.
This guide is not intended to sell everyone on a single “best secure browser” in 2019. Instead, it’s just a summary of the information about different web browsers that combine privacy and security.
What is the best secure browser?
In the end, no “best secure browser” is the same for everyone. Instead, you should be based on your unique needs and threat model that youchoose the most suitable for your security browser.
Here are the top security and private browsers for 2019:
1. Firefox (modify and adjust privacy)
Firefox is an excellent all-round privacy and secure browser. It provides powerful privacy features, customization options, and excellent security, and active development team regularly updated. Firefox Quantum, the latest version of Firefox, is fast and lightweight with many customization options.
Out of the box, Firefox is not the best privacy, but it can be customized and enhanced as described in my Firefox privacy guide. Make sure to disable telemetry in Firefox, a feature that collects “technical and interactive data” and “installation and operational research” in the browser.
Another benefit of Firefox is the ability to enhance your privacy and security with a large number of browser extensions. We’ll cover some of these extensions further below.
- Open source, but also by a third party audit of
- Active development that is frequently updated
- Excellent privacy features and customization options
- Support for many browser extensions
- Need to manually disable telemetry and tracking
- More modifications required for privacy and security
If you want to continue to use legacy add-ons that are no longer supported by Firefox Quantum, you can use Firefox Extended Support (ESR) or one of the Firefox discussed below. If you want a Firefox version that focuses on privacy, you can try Firefox focus .
For additional customization and privacy settings, check out the Firefox Privacy Guide.
2. Comet browser
Iridium is a secure browser, also based on Chromium, configured for more privacy. This may be a good choice for users who want to support Chrome extensions, and they have more privacy than the privacy they get from Chrome.
As explained on their official website :
Iridium Browser is based on the Chromium code base. All modifications enhance user privacy and ensure the use of the latest and best security technologies. Partial queries, keywords and metrics are automatically transferred to the central service and can only be prevented and only if approved by the user. In addition, all of our builds are repeatable, and the changes are auditable, setting the project ahead of other secure browser providers.
Our goal is to build versions for Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, Fedora, RHEL / CentOS, Windows and macOS within a few days of the new release of Chromium. To achieve this, we need individuals and organizations with the same intent to help. There are currently several weeks between the comet and the new version of Chrome.
Compared to Chrome, Iridium offers many security and privacy enhancements. You can see all the differences here . All source code can be found on GitHub .
3. GNU IceCat Browser
GNU IceCat is a branch of Firefox in the GNU Free Software Project. IceCat is completely “free software,” as defined here , and includes various privacy add-ons and tweaks by default. The following are the privacy features listed on the IceCat page:
- HTTPS – everywhere
- Fingerprint countermeasure
Learn more about IceCat on the official page below.
4. Tor browser
Next we have the Tor browser. The Tor browser is a hardened version of Firefox and is configured to run on the Tor network. By default, the Tor browser is a secure browser that protects you from browser fingerprinting , but it also has some drawbacks.
Because it uses the Tor network, which routes traffic through three different hops, the download speed using the Tor browser can be very slow. The default version may also damage the site due to script blocking. Finally, the Tor network itself has flaws, including malicious exit from the node , slow speed, relationship with the US government, and some believe it will be fundamentally compromised . (See Tor’s guide for more advantages and disadvantages of Tor and Tor browsers .)
Another option is to use the Tor browser and VPN service and disable the Tor network (as with any other standard browser). For a description of this, see the browser fingerprinting guide. However, be careful when adjusting the settings of the Tor browser, as this may compromise the privacy and security of your browser.
5. Ungoogled Chromium browser
Ungoogled Chromium is a 100% open source project that offers the Chromium browser without Google privacy issues:
Ungoogled-chromium is Google Chromium and has no integration with Google. It has also made some adjustments to enhance privacy, control and transparency (almost all of which require manual activation or activation).
Ungoogled-chromium keeps the default Chromium experience as much as possible. Unlike other Chromium forks with their own web browser vision, ungoogled-chromium is basically a direct replacement for Chromium.
Ungoogled Chromium receives regular Chromium security updates.
6. Brave browser
Brave is a Chromium- based browser with fast, secure and privacy features and a built-in ad blocker. The main developer behind Brave is Brandon Eich , who officially works for Mozilla. For out-of-the-box privacy and security, Brave is a good choice.
Like Iridium, Brave is also based on Chromium, where many privacy abuse features/preferences are stripped. Brave default privacy settings and extra features. The following is a brief overview:
- Block ads and trackers by default
- Prevent browser fingerprinting
- Built-in script interceptor
- Automatically upgrade to HTTPS (HTTPS Everywhere)
Brave now has an ad – despite providing “ad blocking” in the browser, Brave officially launched its own advertising program in April 2019 . The ads will be reviewed by Brave and have a revenue sharing model where users or certain websites can earn a percentage of revenue. Some people say the move is hypocritical because the “Privacy” browser has launched an advertising program – but it’s not too surprising.
WebRTC – It’s worth noting that all Chromium-based browsers are vulnerable to WebRTC leaks, and even if you’re using a VPN service , you can expose your real IP address. Although there is a WebRTC leak solution for all browsers , with Chromium, you need to block WebRTC because it cannot be completely disabled (for example using Firefox).
To prevent WebRTC from leaking in Brave, simply set the fingerprint protection option to “Block all fingerprints”:
But keep in mind that in order to effectively “block all fingerprints,” you may also want to consider other factors – see the browser fingerprinting guide. You can read more about Brave’s privacy and security features here .
7. Waterfox browser
Waterfox is a branch of the open source Firefox browser mentioned above. For those who still need Firefox but don’t use the standard Mozilla Firefox, it might be a good browser. After all, Mozilla has enabled telemetry options to collect user data using Quantum, while also collecting user browsing history through Cliqz .
The main drawback to Waterfox and other Firefox branches is that security updates are slower. In this view the latest version of Waterfox. However, from a privacy perspective, Waterfox is better than Firefox by default, and it is still a popular Firefox alternative for privacy-focused users.
- Based on Firefox (see the latest version )
- Open source
- Allows you to use older Firefox add-ons
- Tracking, telemetry, data collection, launch analysis and sponsored tiles have been removed
- Less active development and slower security updates than standard Firefox
8. Pale Moon Browser
Pale Moon is another open source branch of Firefox designed to improve efficiency and customization . When testing Pale Moon, it did provide good customization options and support for older Firefox add-ons and their own add-ons. The design feels a bit old, but it’s not too messy, and it’s very lightweight and fast.
Pale Moon is currently available on Windows and Linux, and other operating systems are under development. Unlike other Firefox forks, the Moon Browser runs on its own browser engine , Goanna , which is the Gecko fork (used by the Firefox browser).
The comments about Pale Moon can be quite complicated, but after testing and researching the browser in this guide, I am a fan. In the pale moon’s website has a lot of interesting information, here is what I found some useful links:
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- technical details
- Release notes
- route map
- Rumor Control (correcting incorrect information about Pale Moon)
In general, Pale Moon is highly recommended. While some people may find the browser a bit outdated, it is fast, lightweight, customizable, and protects privacy and security out of the box, and is regularly updated and actively developed.
Other browsers (not necessarily recommended)
While some browsers claim to be vulnerable to vulnerabilities, they may not be the best choice from a privacy perspective.
Google Chrome is a secure browser, but it also collects quite a bit of data. Although it is still the most popular browser on the market, Chrome is not the best choice for privacy.
2. Microsoft Internet Explorer / Edge
Edge is a product of Microsoft.
Just like Windows, it’s best to avoid using Microsoft products including Internet Explorer and its new browser called Edge. Internet Explorer and Edge are also closed source code, so I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, and they are not the best for privacy reasons.
3. Opera browser
Epic is a Chromium-based browser created by Hidden Reflex in India . Since 2014, Epic has always claimed that they will open source code, but it is still closed source code today. What happened behind the scenes? How do they manage Chromium and remove intrusive code? who knows.
A person analyzing Epic found that it connected to Google at startup . This means that Epic doesn’t actually go to Google as it claims.
There are many better Chromium-based browsers to consider, such as Iridium, Ungoogled Chromium, and even Brave.
Safari is the default browser for Mac OS and iOS devices. Overall, Safari is not a terrible choice for privacy and tracking protection – but it can’t be recommended for several reasons:
- Apple is a partner of the NSA PRISM program
- Apple was caught “hoarding” Safari browsing history – even if it has been deleted
- Even if you use Apple in private mode, you find that it is collecting Safari history
However, from a positive perspective, Apple’s performance in privacy is better than other big companies. The Safari browser blocks third-party cookies by default and also implements cross-site tracking protection.
Vivaldi is a Chromium-based browser that can be seen here . For example, it is less popular than other browsers and has fewer development activities than Firefox.
When you install the Vivaldi browser (“Vivaldi”), each installation profile is assigned a unique user ID that is stored on your computer. Vivaldi will use HTTPS to send a message directly to the Icelandic server every 24 hours, including the ID, version, CPU architecture, screen resolution and time since the last message. We anonymize the Vivaldi user’s IP address by removing the last octet of the IP address from the Vivaldi client, and then store the resolved approximate location after using the local geoip lookup. The purpose of this collection is to determine the total number of active users and their geographic distribution.
You can read more about Vivaldi here , but it is not recommended for privacy reasons.
Browser privacy and regionalization
A common problem with browser privacy and security is that people want to stay logged in to various accounts while still browsing the web. This is problematic because it allows these sites to track your browsing activity and link it to your identity.
A potential solution to this problem is browser partitioning . This is when you use different web browsers for different online activities. E.g:
- Browser #1 is only used to access an online account that requires a password.
- Browser #2 is only for web browsing, has various privacy configurations (private mode), and does not store cookies or history on the browser.
- Browser #3 can be fully locked for maximum privacy and security.
Depending on your needs and threat model, you can also use different browsers as needed to configure them according to your needs. The key is to make a strict distinction, not to undermine the rules/use of each browser.
Virtual Machines – With regard to partitioning themes, using virtual machines is also a good idea for privacy and security. You can easily run Linux VMs through VirtualBox (FOSS) on the host .
Password Administrator – It should also be noted that depending on the browser you are using, storing passwords in your browser can be risky, especially since browsers typically store passwords in clear text. A better option is to use a secure password manager such as Bitwarden , KeePass or LessPass .
Browser plugin for security and privacy
In addition to adjusting settings in the browser, you can install many different add-ons or extensions to increase the privacy and security of your browser.
Here are some different options, but the browsers you use may not all support them:
- uBlock Origin – This is one of the best browser-based ad blockers, it also protects you from tracking.
- HTTPS Everywhere – an add-on to the people from the Electronic Frontier Foundation , which will force the website to use a secure HTTPS encrypted connection (if available).
- Privacy 獾 – Privacy 獾 also comes from EFF blocking spy ads and trackers.
- Cookie Autodelete – This will automatically delete cookies that are no longer needed by the browser.
- Decentraleyes – This protects you from the content delivery network.
- uMatrix – This gives you control over all your requests (which require a lot of configuration) when accessing different websites.
- NoScript – NoScript allows you to accurately customize the scripts that run on the websites you visit. Like uMatrix, this works for advanced users and requires a lot of customization.
Warning : Use caution with third-party add-ons and browser extensions. Research is first conducted because add-ons can be used as third-party spyware and data collection tools. This is especially true for free VPN or browser proxy add-ons, even if they are highly rated on Google Play or the Apple Store.
Conclusion about secure browsers and privacy
When you browse the web using privacy, a well-configured, secure browser is critical to protecting your data.
In addition to using a secure browser configured to protect your privacy, you should also consider using:
- Ad Blocker – Ads are basically used as an advanced tracking and data collection tool for ad networks. Ads typically track your activity, which is used to build a data profile and then provide you with personalized ads. (See the Ad Blocker Guide.)
- VPN (Virtual Private Network) – VPN will encrypt and anonymize your Internet traffic, hide your real IP address and location, and unlock restricted content. With most Internet service providers recording your online activity (via DNS requests), using a good VPN service is now just common sense. (For a more in-depth overview, see the main VPN guide.)
In terms of privacy, you may also want to protect yourself from browser fingerprinting and WebRTC disclosure , even if you use a good VPN service.