The Best Privacy and Security-Focused Web Browsers
Your web browser knows a lot about you, and tells the sites you visit a lot about you as well-if you let it. We've talked about
which browsers are best for privacy before
Whether your preferred browser is Chrome or Firefox, you have a few options to help you browse more securely-assuming that is, you're ready to give up on the version everyone else uses and try something new. Here are some options worth trying out.
The Tor Browser is based on Firefox, open source, and comes preconfigured to access the Tor network. The vast majority of built-in plugins and services have been disabled or stripped out, and it's important that you leave them that way, or else data you mean to keep private can leak to the sites you're visiting. Available for
Epic Privacy Browser is based on Chromium, is open-source, and is available for Windows and OS X. We've
highlighted Epic before
All of these features are great, but the browser itself is fast and works smoothly. Of course, it doesn't support extensions or plug-ins (this is by design-the more you add to a browser the more potential holes you open up for your data to leak through), and it's a little heavier than your normal Chrome install, but once it's up and running you shouldn't have a problem actually using it. You'll also have to give up some of the conveniences you may be used to to save your privacy-autofill, address saving, password saving, history, cache-all of those things are either never stored, or deleted when you close the browser. Of course, your privacy is worth it, but they're all things to keep in mind if you want to use Epic as your daily driver, or even as a more secure option if you're working with sensitive data.
Comodo is an internet security company that's been in the business of protecting data for decades. You may know them best for Comodo Internet Security, their desktop antivirus and antimalware product, or Comodo Firewall, their lean, lightweight software firewall. Comodo also maintains three
Comodo Dragon (Chromium)
Comodo Dragon is a Chromium-based browser that was one of Comodo's first browsers. It incorporates a number of Comodo-branded tools into the browsing experience, like the company's own SSL validation, where every site you visit has its SSL certificate and identity validated by Comodo. You'll get a notification if everything is on the up and up or if Comodo thinks the site you're trying to visit is questionable. If you allow it to, Comodo will route all of your browsing through its secure, encrypted DNS, so you leave fewer traces of your movements around the web. Comodo Dragon also blocks third party tracking cookies, widgets, and other site components from loading. Of course, because it's branded by Comodo, it'll prompt you to use Comodo's other security products as well to compliment it, which is a little ironic if you're using a privacy-focused browser in order to not be sold to all the time. It's worth noting that Comodo says that Dragon will only run on Windows 7 and below (although we had no issues with it in Windows 8.)
Comodo Ice Dragon (Firefox)
Comodo Ice Dragon is another version of Comodo Dragon that's based on Firefox instead of Chromium. If you prefer the look, feel, or features of Firefox, this is the version you'll want to download. It offers the same level of protection, and like Comodo Dragon, it supports third party extensions. Also like Dragon, it'll scan pages for tracking elements and malware as soon as it loads, and warn you in advance if you're about to download something malicious. It does suffer from the same drawback as Comodo Dragon though-in the form that its branding can be a little aggressive. It supports Windows 7 and below (although again, we had no issues with it in Windows 8.)
Comodo Chromium Secure (Chromium)
Comodo Chromium Secure is a more up-to-date version of Comodo Dragon-if you want to ditch all of the branding, keep all of the protection, and go back to basics, Chromium Secure is the browser for you (and, if you're okay with a Chromium base, the one we recommend.) It looks and behaves like Chromium, and includes all of the best features of Comodo Dragon, including the on-site malware scanning, secure DNS, SSL and domain validation, and tracker blocking. It's just faster, strips out the Comodo branding (although it still suggests Comodo's additional products from time to time), and looks more like the Chrome you know and love, as opposed to a completely different and new browser.
Two Popular Privacy Browsers We Don't Recommend
These aren't the only web browsers promising to make the internet a safer place-but they are the ones we think are worth downloading. There are a few others however that we should call out but don't necessarily recommend:
- SRWare Iron Browser : Iron Browser is Chromium based and promises to keep your data secure through all of the usual methods. They were some of the first people to call out this notion that Chrome calls home to Google all the time (which it does, but only if you allow it to or enable features that do so), and they promised to be Chrome with all the Google stuff stripped out. The reality wasn't so pretty-they're supposedly open source (but haven't released their source for years), and the browser doesn't really offer much you can't get by tightening down Chrome's own privacy features on your own. We can't recommend it, and you can read more about it in this old post about how Iron got its start , and this post about its supposed "tracking protection."
- White Hat Aviator : Aviator has been heralded by some testers as "the most secure browser," even though it's both closed source (but based on Chromium, which is open source) and for a long time was only available on OS X. Aviator does have a lot to like-it defaults to Incognito mode, includes tools like Disconnect to block malicious ads and third-party tracking, blocks plugins like Flash until you enable them, defaults to DuckDuckGo instead of Google, and so on. On its face, that's all great-but again, it's nothing you can't do on your own, and as this Reddit thread notes , the browser has some serious issues. Some of those issues are technical, others are based on trust. Overall, it may be worth a shot, but you could roll your own Aviator so easily (and it offers less than some of the others above offer) that we can't really recommend it.
There's nothing really wrong with these privacy-focused browsers, but you do have better options available. Even so, they tend to come up when privacy is discussed, and they generally do what they promise they'd do. The problem however is that when it comes to privacy and security, if you're not able to look under the hood and make sure that what it promises to do is all it's doing, it's generally best to stay away. Trust between a user and a platform is critical, especially when it comes to privacy.
Alternatively: Tweak Chrome or Firefox for Privacy
If you're not terribly keen on the idea of downloading a brand new browser, moving all of your bookmarks, extensions, and other data over to it, and starting from scratch, don't worry-you can always just tweak Firefox or Chrome to be the browser you want it to be.
Of course, you can't remove some basic features like Google's built-in update engine for Chrome or Mozilla's engine for Firefox, but you can still do a lot. For example:
Tell your preferred browser to
start in incognito or private mode
- Change the default search engine to DuckDuckGo , Startpage , or Disconnect Search .
Install a tool like Disconnect or Do Not Track Me
that protects your privacy.
Use an ad blocker like
, AdBlock Plus , or previously mentioned uBlock
- Automatically clear your cache and history when you shut down your browser.
ou can .
Use a tool like
encrypt your DNS traffic
Use a VPN to encrypt all of your traffic
strong antivirus and anti-malware tools
These are just a few steps, but if you follow them, your privacy and security should be in good shape (as long as
you don't compromise it yourself
Even though those methods are more complicated, they're all good practices anyway, and it's better to familiarize yourself with them over the long run than trust a single application like a web browser to keep you safe-especially if you're not sure how it keeps you safe. Still, these are good starting points, and worth checking out if you're looking for a little extra protection.