Staying anonymous online is not easy. Even if you regularly delete cookies, there’s still a pretty good chance someone can end up with your private information. Browsers do little to help you maintain your anonymity, but there is a way to surf the web securely.
Concerned about your online privacy? Maybe it’s time to drop Google and consider these secure browsers instead.
I know — not the first thing you would expect on this type of list, but the old Firefox is a great all-around browser for security and privacy. Its newest version is lightweight and fast with many privacy customization options.
Not many people know but this browser offers robust privacy protection features with its customization options. In turn, you will get excellent security and a slew of regular updates from its active development team.
But if you want the best for privacy, Firefox kind of falls short. Still, you can harden it. Just make sure to disable telemetry in the browser, which is a feature that will collect “technical and interaction data” as well as “install and run studies” to your browser.
You will find many useful customization options within the Privacy & Security settings area available on different levels: Standard, Strict, or Custom. With Firefox, you can also use various browser extensions that improve security and privacy.
Another great benefit of Firefox is the ability to use numerous browser extensions that will enhance your privacy and security. We’ll go over some of these extensions further below.
Tor is essentially the more hardcore version of Firefox that is configured to run on the Tor network. The Tor Browser by default is secure in itself and protects you against leaving a mark on the internet, or browser fingerprinting. But like a lot of things, it has some downsides.
The Tor network routes traffic over three different hops, which means download speeds on its browser is remarkably slow. And because of script blocking, the default version may also break some sites.
The Tor network itself also experiences high latency and is riddled with malicious exit nodes. Furthermore, it is dependent on US government financing and some believe that the network has long been compromised.
But there’s an option to use the Tor browser without the Tor network. In this case, the Tor browser will work like the other browsers we’ve discussed above. And you can also use a VPN in the background if you like. Like the Tor network, using a VPN will hide your IP and encrypt your traffic. Only, it does it much faster.
A word of advice: be careful when adjusting the settings for the Tor browser. You may end up compromising the browser’s built-in security and privacy features.
Formerly known as GNU IceWeasel, GNU IceCat is a “free software” rebranding of the Mozilla Firefox web browser distributed by the GNU Project.
“Free software” means software that respects users’ freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change, and improve the software. Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”.
The browser includes privacy add-ons by default such as fingerprinting countermeasures, AboutIceCat, SpyBlock, HTTPS-Everywhere, and LibreJS.
Iridium is a stable browser that is designed for more protection and is based on Chromium. For someone needing a browser that supports Chrome plugins, this could be a decent choice, while still providing much more protection than you can get from Chrome.
Although Iridium supports Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, there is no alternative for smartphone users on iOS and Android devices.
The Chromium CodeBase is the basis of the Iridium Browser. All improvements boost the user’s protection and ensure sure the new and best secure solutions are used. Automatic delivery to central providers of partial queries, keywords, and metrics is avoided and only happens with the user’s permission.
Furthermore, all builds can be replicated and improvements can be audited, putting the project ahead of other stable browser providers.
Brave is a Chromium-based browser that is fast, stable, and privacy-focused by default. It has a built-in ad blocker and browser protection for fingerprinting.
The key developer behind Brave is Brandon Eich, who used to work for Mozilla. Brave is a decent choice for out-of-the-box privacy and security.
Like Iridium, Brave is based on open-source Chromium but is configured for privacy. It does well with its default privacy settings and added functionality.
Here’s a short overview:
- By default, hides advertisements and trackers
- Protects from browser fingerprinting
- Built-in script blocker
- Automatically switch to HTTPS (HTTPS Everywhere)
Brave now has advertising – after providing “ad filtering” to the browser, Brave formally released its own ad program in April 2019. The advertising can be reviewed by Brave and there is a revenue-sharing model for users or other websites to get a share of the revenue.
Here’s another open-source Firefox fork that aims towards productivity and customization. When trying out Pale Moon, it does also offer fantastic customization options, as well as support for older Firefox add-ons and its lineup of add-ons. The style feels a little dated, but it’s not too sloppy either, and it’s lightweight and fast.
Pale Moon is currently available on Windows and Linux, with other operating systems under development. Unlike other Firefox forks, Pale Moon runs on its own browser engine, Goanna, which is a Gecko fork (used by Firefox).
Ungoogled-chromium is Google Chromium, but without the dependency on Google’s web services. It also contains several tweaks to improve privacy, control, and transparency.
Ungoogled-chromium keeps the default chromium experience as similar as possible. Unlike other Chrome forks with their own web browser visions, Ungoogled-chromium is basically a drop-in substitute for chromium.
Ungoogled Chromium receives regular Chromium security updates.
Browser Privacy Advice
Your actual IP address when using “private” or “incognito” mode in your browser is still being exposed to every page, ad, and tracker that loads in your tab. The easiest way to gain real anonymity when covering your actual IP address and location is to use a VPN provider in combination with a good browser.