We’ve written extensively on the various attacks that your computer can experience simply by browsing the internet. If you type in the wrong address on your browser, you can get hit by a man-in-the-middle attack. Download the wrong file, and suddenly your browser, homepage, and ads all look different.
When it comes to keeping your computer secure, your browser is a clear weak point. It’s also a necessary weak point – there’s no way to browse the web without it (unless you’re a power-user who enjoys looking at command line interfaces). How can you, an ordinary consumer, choose a web browser that effectively defends your data, your computer, and your browsing habits?
Firefox: The Best Web Browser for Most Users
Firefox has recently updated itself to be faster and easier to use – but is it more secure? The answer to that question is a resounding “yes.”
First of all, Firefox is developed by the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation. As a nonprofit, Mozilla doesn’t care about making billions of dollars by selling your browsing habits to advertisers – it’s just not that kind of company. In addition, Firefox is open-source. Anyone can examine the source code of the Firefox browser and prove that there are no sneaky features that compromise your security.
The browser also had several built-in privacy features, most notably a content blocker that allows users to block all tracking cookies that it detects. You can also make sure that your browsing history and passwords are erased from your computer’s memory, meaning that an attacker can’t break into your social media and financial records if they compromise your browser.
Lastly, Firefox offers a vast menu of extensions that further enhance your browser’s functionality. Just navigate to the official Firefox add-on site and start installing useful plugins with a single click. We especially recommend uBlock Origin, HTTPS Everywhere, Privacy Badger, and No Script. These extensions will help you make your internet communications encrypted, un-trackable, and ad-free.
Runner Up: Chromium
Everyone knows about Google Chrome, but have you heard of Chromium? Chromium is another open-source browser project – it’s what Google Chrome is based on. It will also form the nucleus of the next browser for Microsoft Windows. It’s possible to use Chromium as a standalone browser, however.
The advantage of Chromium is that – once again – it’s open source. Experts have independently verified that Chromium is secure, because it’s possible for them to look at the entirety of the browser’s source code. In addition, Chromium, unlike Chrome, does not send all of your browsing data to Google for analysis.
The downside of Chromium is that it is not as polished as Chrome or Firefox. There are bugs and incompatibilities that make using Chromium a bumpier ride than another major browser. Finally, Chromium doesn’t update automatically, which means that unless you pay attention, you could end up using an insecure version of the software that’s several weeks out of date.
Best for Power Users: the Tor Browser
If you’re looking for the ultimate in privacy, the Tor Browser is what you need. This browser was designed for people to use when they suspect that they’re being targeted by hostile foreign governments – so it’s probably secure enough for you to do your online shopping.
Tor works so well because it shunts your internet traffic through several anonymizing hops before finally delivering it to your computer. If you’re in New York and trying to access a server in London, the Tor browser will first send your request to special nodes all around the world – Boston, Maine, Uzbekistan, etc. – in a random order that makes your traffic impossible to trace. These and other security measures make Tor one of the most secure browsers around.
With that said, there are a few drawbacks to keep in mind as well. First, Tor is far from a mainstream browser, and will lack some conveniences you take for granted in other browsers. Most of its updates have to do with privacy or security, not user experience. Finally, although the browser is very secure, it’s not totally secure. People have tried to use the Tor browser as an adjunct to commit serious crimes (something we would never endorse) and have generally ended up in prison. Don’t use Tor for crimes.
Augment Your Security with High-Quality Antivirus
A secure browser is great to have, but it won’t stop all internet threats on its own. You need a secure antivirus platform to back you up, block harmful sites, and prevent malware from infecting your PC from other vectors, such as your email. Make sure your PC is secured with reputable antivirus protection.