Secure Browsing

Secure BrowsingEveryone and his dog wants to keep track of your browsing habits these days, from advertisers to government snoopers and their methods are getting more and more sophisticated.

Most people are now aware of cookies and how to clear your browsing history and most browsers now support a private or incognito browsing mode which you can use.

Modern browsers also include a Do Not Track option. This instructs websites to disable tracking and cross-site tracking when you visit them and you can find out how to turn on Do Not Track requests here. However not all third parties respect these Do Not Track requests.

There are also now a range of browser add-on extensions you can use to make your browsing more secure and private. We list the best ones below:-

Browser Add-ons

Browser add-ons that protect your privacy either prevent third parties from tracking your movements or block ads and scripts.

AdBlock Plus (Firefox/Chrome) is a must have as it blocks banner ads, pop-up ads, rollover ads, and much more. It disables third-party tracking cookies and scripts and even stops you from visiting known malware-hosting domains. It’s very easy to use with easy to configure options for beginners and even more for expert users.

AdNauseam (Firefox ) works in conjunction with AdBlock Plus and will automatically click away at all blocked ads obfuscating the data the ad networks collect. So you’ve not only blocked the ads but sent the ad networks a whole load of bad data.

NoScript (Firefox) and ScriptSafe (Chrome, formerly ScriptNo) disable all scripts from running on pages without you specifically adding them to an allow list. This includes Java, JavaScript, Flash, and others. This is a very powerful tool and not for for beginners as it can break an awful lot of sites. Check out our Top 5 tips for using Noscript before using this add-on.

Disconnect (Firefox/Chrome/IE/Safari) blocks third party tracking cookies and gives you control over all site scripts and elements from a simple-to-use toolbar menu. It also protects you from tracking by social networks like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, which use your browsing even off-site to collect data about you. Its secure Wi-Fi and bandwidth optimization features area bonus.

Do Not Track Me (Firefox/Chrome/IE/Safari) shows you which tracking cookies and scripts have loaded on a site, and gives you the option to disable them entirely. It also leaves plug-ins and scripts enabled until you specifically turn them off. Disconnect is much more powerful and feature rich, Do Not Track Me might appeal to people who want to leave everything on and disable items selectively.

Ghostery (Firefox/Chrome/Safari/IE) blocks tracking cookies and scripts from running by default. It’ll also show you what it’s blocked, so you can see whether the items it’s blocked are harmless or intrusive. But it hasn’t been updated in a while and Disconnect’s features have surpassed it.

Privacy Badger (Firefox/Chrome) currently in beta from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) blocks third party invisible trackers and spying ads automatically in real time and unlike Adblock Plus, Disconnect and Ghostery, etc requires no complicated set-up or rely on blacklists. Instead it analyses web pages and monitors any servers which seem to be tracking across multiple sites and automatically disallows content from that third party tracker.

HTTPS Everywhere (Firefox/Chrome) is a must-have regardless of what other security tools you opt to use. Once installed, the extension will shunt your connection to SSL whenever possible, and will try to find secure versions of the sites you visit. It’s a great way to protect your browsing without really lifting a finger. It can break some sites that weren’t meant to work with HTTPS though.

Lightbeam: (Firefox) produces a real-time visualisation charting every site a user visits a site, and every third-party that operates on those sites that could be collecting and sharing user data.

Private Browsers

Another solution is to use a secure private browser in the first place. By default the browsers below enable many of the high-security and privacy settings that the add-ons above employ.

WhiteHat Aviator

Whitehat AviatorAviator is built on Chromium, the same open-source foundation used by Google Chrome but has many of the security and privacy settings that are optional in Chrome enabled by default.

So, it blocks ads and Internet tracking software straight ‘out of the box’. As well as removing ads Aviator also disables autoplaying of media files so you have to click to activate every piece of Flash on a Web page. Only the files you permit to run will do so.

Aviator also opens by default in private browsing mode (equivalent to Incognito in Chrome or Private Browsing in Firefox). This means that all your search history, passwords, etc will be deleted when you exit the browser.

Aviator blocks tracking software not by sending a “Do Not Track” request, which many websites do not comply with but simply does not allow the tracking pixels in the first place. HTTP referrers are also blocked so websites cannot track how you reached them.

Some of you may find Aviator a bit too obstructive and inconvenient but if you value privacy over convenience then give it a go.

Be aware also that Google have warned that coding issues mean Aviator isn’t as private or secure as claimed and that Whitehat dispute this.

Building a safe browser is a very hard thing to do so we welcome Whitehat’s efforts and we’ll keep an eye on developments.

Iron

Sware IronIron by German software company SRWare is also based on Chromium but with better security that removes browser tracking, search suggestions, as well as disabling Google’s URL tracker, crash reporting features and Client ID reporting.

It also comes with it’s own Ad blocker and is compatible with most Chrome extensions.

We should point out that it has come under fire in some quarters for the use of Google Adsense on it’s home page and even questions about it’s privacy claims.

Please add your comments below or in the related discussion topic of our forum.

Updated: February 24, 2015 by PrivacyPulp Admin

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