As we realize more and more people are watching our every move online, there is a point where we all must toss our hands in the air and say “enough is enough”. With data becoming the most profitable commodity across the world, even large companies can no longer be trusted to keep your private data secure and unseen. To make matters worse, even criminals have started to take their rackets to the online circuit. It is way more lucrative to hack into your credit card than it is to rob you in a dark alley.
While we can’t truly erase everything we do around electronics and the internet, getting a secure and anonymous web browser is a great way to eliminate the majority of spying that is taking place every day. There are multiple options to choose from and they each have their own advantages. In this article, we take a closer look at some of these offerings to let you know which one to install and trust with your private internet surfing.
1. Epic Browser
First up on our list is the Epic Browser available on both Windows and Mac operating systems. This handy web surfer automatically deletes a majority of the ways third parties use to track and store your data. The most basic way this does this is by not saving your browsing history. It is akin to always being in private or incognito mode on popular web browsers like Chrome and Firefox.
Next, there is no DNS prefetching making it way harder to trace your location. Companies use your exact location in order to customize what ads you see. Third party cookies are not allowed, which is what websites you to remember everything you did while visiting them. They can also be used to send you additional ads for the products you were looking at on their site. Similarly, it also doesn’t save a web cache, which stores your passwords for easy use later. While that sounds convenient, it makes them incredibly easy to hack into as criminals know to look there for everyone’s login info.
There is also no autofill feature, which programs use to learn more about your thought patterns and what you are prone to look up. When you close out each session, the associated databases, preferences, pepper data, and cookies are removed. Programs like Silverlight and Flash use these to sneakily flow data back to their respective companies. Since a majority of the internet runs on software like flash, removing the tools they use to track you is a must when trying to remain private.
It is also impossible to track visited URLs during browsing sessions. There is no ability to automatically translate text, which browsers like Chrome use to pilfer all kinds of data about what you are reading and thinking about. It also doesn’t record when you first downloaded the browser, which is a common feature among the many other browsers that don’t respect your privacy.
Overall, Epic Browser is a great first step to hiding your tracks online. While it may not be as fully featured as the next few items on this list, it automatically works in the background to give you way more safety than the standard browsers we all know. The nice thing is that is doesn’t significantly slow your browsing down, which can’t be said for the next browser we are about to look at.
2. Tor Browser
Tor is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux making it an incredibly versatile piece of software. The main goal of this browser is to give users truly anonymous communication. The communication is so hard to trace that Tor has become the go to browser for surfing the dark web. The untraceable communication bounces off so many proxies that it actually causes Tor to load noticeably slower than other browsers. However, the suite of security features more than makeup for the lag you face when searching the web.
You might be wondering how this all works. It all starts with a tool data miners use called Network Traffic Analysis. By looking at how you use the web, companies can give advertisers precise information about how to use their ads to target you best. They can even use price discrimination based upon your geographic location or how impulsively you have purchased other items in the past. This is especially rampant in the travel industry where airlines, car rental services, and hotels use your location against you when determining how much you will be charged.
Your location can also be used by criminals to track your physical movements in the event they want to silence or harm you. If you have ever made waves online via some controversial opinions, then protecting your whereabouts is a wise decision. When using basic encryption services like VPNs, experts in Network Traffic Analysis can still get access to you.
When data is sent over the internet, there are two main components to consider. The payload and header can both be used when collecting your data. The header helps data get to the intended location, such as a specific email address. It includes info about the source, timestamps, and size of the file. The payload is the actual data being sent, in this case, the contents of the email. Encryptions hide the payload of the content, but can’t mask crucial header details like the location and time it was sent.
Tor bounces around the header through so many relays and tunnels that the data become meaningless to anyone spying on it. Most internet communication goes in a straight line to reach the destination as quick as possible. Communication over Tor travels in a wild zigzag that turns into nonsense after a certain threshold of redirects. This is what makes Tor so private and also so slow.
Tor has a suite of features that are truly impressive. To access the network, you must download the browser. It doesn’t even need to remain on the hard drive, it is a portable piece of software that can easily run from a USB stick. This lets you travel quickly if you believe your location has been compromised. It’s so secure that even the military, police, and governments have started using it to aid in covert operations.
When using Tor, you will notice it is quite similar to browsers such as Firefox in terms of visual design. However, it comes with NoScript preinstalled. This prevents any unauthorized scripts from running in the background. Essentially, scripts are sequences of code that hackers and other data collectors use to spy on you or install trojans and other malware to track you later. While you can install a NoScript plugin on most browsers, previous scripts may have already infiltrated your system in order to create a backdoor for future scripts to break through. Also, some Tor users keep the browser open in window mode as some truly advanced hackers can break into the pc just by knowing the screen size you have. If you suspect some seriously powerful hackers are on the prowl, consider keeping your browser out of fullscreen mode as well.
Tor provides ample security and anonymity while browsing the web. However, initiating any downloads can open up your computer to more spying. Always know exactly what you are downloading and trust the source unconditionally before inviting new files onto your system. If your pc has any existing viruses or malware, be sure to clean those out before installing Tor. They can be used in a variety of ways to break into your security even after you install this software.
3. Comodo Dragon Browser
Comodo Dragon Browser is available on Windows and Mac. It is much simpler than Tor but still provides a nice feature list that will bolster your security and privacy. Plus it won’t slow your surfing down to a crawl either. It blocks all of the tracking cookies that are placed on your pc when browsing various sites online.
A hugely useful feature of Comodo is how it differentiates between weak and strong SSL certificates. A secure socket layer certificate is a global technology that allows for encrypted communication between a web server and the browser you are using. Anyone can get an SSL for their website, but they aren’t always as secure as a fully protected cert. By telling you which sites have a weak or strong SSL, you can make smarter decisions about which sites you share your personal info or credit cards with.
There is even a built in collection of anti-virus software built into Comodo. If you do accidentally visit a suspicious site or click the wrong download link, you can rest assured that the constantly updated malware tracker will isolate the unwanted files so you can remove them. This is an incredibly nice feature especially for anyone that doesn’t have existing virus protection. It is also a smart way to save money as similar security software is often quite expensive.
4. SRware Iron
If you are a fan of Google Chrome but are sick of them taking all of your data, check out SRware Iron, a free alternative that focuses on protecting your privacy. When you first install it, you will notice that the layout is almost identical to Chrome. This makes for a smooth transition and is quite the convenient design choice. But unlike Chrom, Iron doesn’t create a user specific ID that helps them track you at all times.
Iron does not send suggestions based on what you type in the address or search bars. Google will take everything you type and use it to formulate new suggestions when others start searching from their devices. There is also no data being sent went errors occur while browsing. Chrome uses crashes and bug as an opportunity to record everything about your pc and send it off to the highest bidder. Most people don’t even realize it since it is disguised as a user friendly bug report.
You also aren’t constantly giving your location away when you use Iron. Even if you opt out of location tracking on Chrome, Google still records when and where you first downloaded it before you can even check that box to prevent future tracking. Iron also doesn’t download any additional software onto your pc without you knowing. Google sneakily bundles in their updater whenever you download Chrome. This gives them a great backdoor to spy on the rest of your computer even when you are not browsing the web.
5. Brave Browser
This open source application is available on Android devices from the Play Store. Since more and more people are browsing from their phones, it is vital to also protect your privacy when out and about. The open source nature of this browser allows intelligent creators to add to the platform in a variety of ways. This gives a slew of customization options to the user while still shielding their data from outside eyes.
The best creations are chosen not by curators but by a system that rewards how much time users are spending on each add on by having it rise to the top of the featured page. This means that your fellow community members decide what is good just by putting attention on it. No agendas can get in the way of what actual users are gravitating towards.
It comes with an ad blocker built right in which can be more difficult to acquire on a mobile phone. This helps keeps annoying ads and potentially devastating viruses from popping up as you browse new sites. In addition to the battery saving properties of the browser, there is an additional charge preserved since they aren’t a ton of commercial videos and banners loading in the background.
The browser was created by a set of Mozilla developers that were sick and tired of having data siphoned from their phones. This lends an air of credibility to this app that many pieces of Android software can’t say the same about. There have been over 10,000,000 downloads solely due to how useful and unparalleled this browser is in the mobile space. The code is based on Chromium, so many phone users will already be accustomed to the layout. Overall, this app is a must for mobile phones and is arguably worth switching to Android if you have been using an iPhone and want more privacy.
Using any of the above browsers is a great way to eliminate a majority of the ways you are tracked online. If Tor is too complex and loads too slow, try Epic browser for your PC as a fairly passive solution for all of your security concerns. For your phone, using Brave is a no brainer and should be installed immediately after you finish reading this article. No matter what you choose, you can rest assured you are way more safe than you were with Chrome or Firefox.