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8 most secure web browsers

Your web browser is a gateway to the internet. With it, you can visit any website, search for any bit of information and more. 

If your browser isn’t secure, nefarious hackers can take advantage by accessing your machine, exploiting your privacy and stealing your personal and financial data. Sounds inconvenient, right? Also, threat actors are growing more and more sophisticated. 

If you’re browsing the web, it’s best to do so on a browser that prioritizes your privacy. A secure browser must defend against security and privacy threats, like phishing scams, malicious content and intrusive ad-tracking practices.

Keep in mind that some web browsers are more secure than others. 

For a web browser to be truly secure, it must come equipped with features meant to protect you. Your browser should also provide you access to advanced security and privacy features to ensure your data is protected. 

There are certain actions you can take to ensure your safety further while browsing the web. Consider using a VPN when browsing or employing an ad-blocking extension to protect your privacy by blocking cookies and other trackers.

If you’re ready to get the inside scoop on the most secure browsers of 2020, continue reading to learn which browser best suits your browsing needs.

Tor

When I became interested in protecting my privacy online, I was encouraged to check out Tor. Not only does Tor mask your identity by bouncing your encrypted internet traffic through multiple Tor nodes, but it also clears your cookies after every session.

Endorsed by Edward Snowden, Tor was also instrumental during the Arab Spring. Not only did it protect people’s identity online, but it also provided them with access to critical resources, social media platforms and websites their government blocked.

Tor Pros:

  • Security-centric features such as NoScript, HTTPS Everywhere and encrypted data make Tor a remarkably secure browser.
  • Tor is free to download and use. Users can also download the open-source project and peruse the code.
  • Tor can access the deep web. Unlike mainstream browsers, any site ending with .onion is visible when using Tor.

Tor Cons:

  • Tor bounces your connection off of several nodes, causing it to be much slower than other browsers.
  • Not all websites work on Tor. Tor blocks Javascript and tracking scripts, which will stop some websites from working. Though you can whitelist scripts, as needed, it could impact the browser’s security. 
  • Tor’s slower speeds aren’t ideal for streaming.

Brave

Brave is a pro at blocking data-grabbing ads and trackers. Using Brave Shields, this browser blocks most data-tracking ads, boasts automatic HTTPS protection and can load sites, like major news outlets, nearly six times faster than other browsers, including Chrome, Safari and Firefox, on mobile or desktop. 

Brave has also integrated Tor into its private browsing feature, so you can mask your location and hide your internet history.

What I find most interesting about Brave is its Brave Rewards program. Unlike most browsers, Brave users can earn Basic Attention Tokens (BAT) for viewing privacy-respecting ads. Users can currently only use these tokens to support web creators, but Brave claims users will soon be able to spend their tokens on premium content, gift cards and more.

Brave Pros:

  • Brave uses HTTPS secure connections, doesn’t collect or sell user data and automatically blocks ad trackers. 
  • The combination of ad and ad-tracker blocking enables Brave to load sites nearly six times faster than other browsers.
  • Brave is built on Chromium, the same source code used for Chrome.

Brave Cons:

  • While browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Opera offer plenty of extensions, Brave lacks many extensions, add-ons and plug-ins. Though some Chrome extensions will work in Brave, that’s not true of all Chrome extensions available in the Chrome web store.
  • If you want to trade-in your BAT tokens for real money, you’ll need a KYC-compliant bank account. For many, this defeats the point of using a secure browser.
  • Brave users can browse privately using Tor. Unfortunately, this feature is not yet available to mobile users of the browsers.

Epic Privacy Browser

According to Epic Privacy Browser, “Visiting the top 50 websites will install over 3,000 tracking files on your computer.” To combat this, Epic routes all web traffic through a proxy server that automatically blocks things like trackers and cookies. It also clears your browsing history at the end of each session. 

To further protect your privacy online, Epic also blocks certain types of real-time communications calls that have the potential to leak your IP address, even if you’re using an encrypted proxy or a VPN.

Epic Privacy Browser Pros:

  • Epic uses an encrypted proxy server to hide your IP address and encrypt your browsing.
  • Epic comes equipped with built-in protection against ad-tracking scripts, cookies, cryptocurrency mining scripts and third-party widgets.
  • Use Epic to “spy on the spies,” as they say. Unlike other browsers, Epic gives you an inside look at who’s tracking you and the trackers the browser has blocked throughout your browsing session.

Epic Privacy Browser Cons:

  • Unlike mainstream browsers, Epic offers no plug-ins. 
  • If you use a password manager, Epic may not work for you, as password managers work as plug-ins.
  • Epic claims to be open-source, but the user can’t download the browser’s source code. To obtain the browser’s source code, you must first reach out to the Epic team. 

Opera

Equipped with a built-in ad blocker and VPN, Opera shields your browsing history while also getting rid of the internet’s endless ads. 

Beyond its privacy protection features, Opera has a ton of other neat features. With Battery Saver enabled, you can browse up to 35% longer than heavier browsers like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge.

I find Opera’s Personal News feature the most intriguing. Functioning much like an RSS feed, Personal News collects news and displays it to you all in one convenient location.

Opera Pros:

  • Opera comes with a free VPN that reduces online tracking and protects your browsing history.
  • Built-in ad blocking means pages load faster. You can also easily unblock ads on any website.
  • Opera allows you to sync your bookmarks, tabs and passwords across multiple devices and keeps your information safe by using an anonymous token to identify you and sync your data.

Opera Cons:

  • Though Opera has become popular among many, it’s far less popular than mainstream web browsers, so website developers don’t always verify their website is compatible with Opera.
  • Extensions can be hard to find in Opera.
  • Opera is updated every four to six weeks, whereas Chromium, the basis of Opera, receives updates every two to three weeks. For Opera users, security problems discovered and patched in Chromium could remain in Opera for several weeks.

Vivaldi

Much like other browsers we’ve highlighted so far, Vivaldi blocks sites from tracking you as you peruse the web. It also comes with features like a built-in ad blocker and secure sync with end-to-end encryption.

Perhaps the most exciting features Vivaldi offers are tab stacking, tab tiling and vertical tabs. By providing such customization features, Vivaldi gives its users full control of how they group, display and interact with tabs within the web browser.

Vivaldi Pros:

  • Vivaldi offers secure sync with end-to-end encryption, making it easier and safer than ever to sync your bookmarks, passwords and extensions across each of your devices.
  • Vivaldi doesn’t store your web history, cookies and temporary files when you browse in a private window.
  • To make your private browsing safer, Vivaldi allows you to set a different default search engine when using a private window.

Vivaldi Cons:

  • There is an Android version of Vivaldi, but iOS users are out of luck for the time being.
  • Vivaldi isn’t the fastest browser out there. A tendency to freeze has also troubled enough users that it’s become somewhat of a common complaint.
  • Vivaldi includes links to websites in its default bookmarks. Vivaldi also receives shared revenue from some of the default bookmarks. Meaning, Vivaldi has made ad space out of its bookmarks space.

Mozilla Firefox

From its comprehensive security settings to nifty features like Firefox Lockwise, Mozilla Firefox makes nary a compromise when pleasing its users. Not only does Firefox block over 2,000 data trackers automatically, but the browser will also alert you if your personal information has been compromised as part of a corporate data breach

When it comes to features like Firefox Lockwise, you can also count on this privacy-focused browser to keep your passwords safe. Using 256-bit encryption, Firefox Lockwise allows you to access passwords you’ve saved in Firefox from anywhere.

Firefox Pros:

  • Features like Firefox Monitor can tell you if you’ve been part of an online data breach.
  • Firefox is a pro in ad blocking and touts itself for blocking 10,000,000,000 trackers each day for users worldwide.
  • Firefox collects data for development purposes but does so without including your browsing or search history. The data is also tied to a randomized numerical identifier rather than your name or user account. If you’d rather not share any information at all, you can also turn it off without affecting the browser’s performance.

Firefox Cons:

  • While Mozilla offers plenty of articles and FAQ’s for Firefox users in need of support, navigating its support system can be difficult. Not only does it require copious amounts of clicking, but the community forum doesn’t function reliably.
  • Firefox has several extensions, but it doesn’t offer nearly as many extensions as browsers like Chrome.
  • Firefox receives monthly updates. While that puts updates on a regular schedule, other browsers receive more frequent updates.

Google Chrome

Google isn’t exactly well known for protecting user data. However, Chrome helps protect its users from malicious sites and downloads that may steal your passwords or infect your machine. Chrome also updates every six weeks, providing its users with the newest security features and fixes. For more critical security bugs, Google sends out a fix within 24 hours.

To protect your data while using Chrome, consider adding DuckDuckGo to Chrome. With this handy extension, you can protect your data, internet search history and avoid pesky advertising trackers.

Chrome Pros:

  • Chrome is a speedy web browser and loads and displays pages very quickly.
  • Features like Google Safe Browsing will warn you if you attempt to navigate to dangerous sites or download malicious files.
  • With Chrome, you won’t have to worry about remembering all of your passwords. Instead, Chrome will generate a unique password for each site you visit.

Chrome Cons:

  • Google collects a significant amount of data as it relates to its userbase. Not only does the company track every search you perform, but it also tracks your location.
  • If you’re using Chrome across multiple devices, you can sync your search history, bookmarks, among other things. Unfortunately, you must first enable sync to take advantage of the feature.
  • While Google says it doesn’t sell user data, it does use it to serve up relevant ads in Google products, on its partner websites and in mobile apps.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge promises “world-class performance with more privacy, more productivity, and more value.” Designed to detect and block trackers, Microsoft Edge also comes readily equipped with Microsoft Defender SmartScreen. 

Microsoft Defender SmartScreen is turned on by default and helps protect you from websites containing malware. This feature also helps protect against phishing and will stop you from downloading potentially malicious files when surfing the web.

Microsoft Edge Pros:

  • Edge was built using Chromium, meaning you can use extensions from both Microsoft and Google’s web store.
  • Edge offers three levels of privacy protection. By default, the browser sets itself to Balanced, which blocks harmful trackers. To block all trackers, opt for Strict tracking prevention.
  • Edge allows you to sync your bookmarks, settings and passwords using your Microsoft account. Microsoft also plans to let users sync their history, open tabs, extensions and collections.

Microsoft Edge Cons:

  • Edge lacks many enticing features. While Brave users benefit from BAT and Opera users enjoy features such as Battery Saver, Edge users won’t find many fun or intriguing features.
  • Visit the website for Edge and you’ll find it has plenty of new features for users to enjoy. Unfortunately, many of these features aren’t available yet.
  • Edge doesn’t come outfitted with an ad blocker. Instead, you’ll have to choose an add-on ad blocker.

There are countless ways to protect your privacy online. Whether that means opting for one of the secure browsers listed above or adding an ad blocker or similar add-on to your current browser is up to you. 

In the end, the most effective way to keep yourself protected online is understanding when and how your data is being tracked and reading the privacy terms of the websites you’re visiting.

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5 Dark Web Browsers you can use to Remain Anonymous Online

A Dark Web browser allows you to access a huge portion of web content hidden from public view. Here’s a list of the top 5 Dark Web browsers.

We will get into our rundown of the top Dark Web browsers. But before that, let’s explore the difference between the “Dark Web” and the public web first.

The U.S. Defense Department’s ARPANET, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (1969), provided the foundation of today’s internet. Since then, it has evolved into a worldwide platform with fathomless depths.

Contrary to what you might think, the internet and the World Wide Web aren’t synonymous. Internet is the global hardware network made of all connected devices that allows you to access the WWW content.

But not all of the web content is visible to your average search engine. You can find only a small part of all web pages through traditional search engines such as Google.

The rest is part of what is called the “Deep Web” and the “Dark Web.”

Most use these two terms interchangeably. But they are not synonymous.

dark web browser meme
Image courtesy of Reddit user @deuscar

What is the Difference Between the Dark Web and the Deep Web?

Most people confuse the Deep Web and the Dark Web. And they both differ from, well, the regular web.

You’re using the Deep Web daily without realizing it.

Deep Web is the digital data that’s not indexed by conventional search engines and has limited access.

When you check your email, your Facebook profile, or your bank account balance, you’re in the Deep Web. It also includes user databases, web archives, company intranets, and other stuff that you can’t Google.

It’s estimated that the Deep Web is 400 to 500 times larger than the visible, or surface web.

The Dark Web is a part existing within the Deep Web as a network of encrypted websites.

Here, it’s all about anonymity and privacy. No IP addresses or DNS would allow the identification of sites.

They’re not all platforms where activities take place, though many Dark Web websites engage in illegal businesses.

Why Do People Use Dark Web Browsers?

The Dark Web isn’t necessarily for shady dealings. People could get into the Dark Web to seek anonymity, privacy, freedom of speech, knowledge-sharing, etc.

Political oppositionists, activists, whistleblowers, and many others can find in the Dark Web security they wouldn’t see otherwise.

The Dark Web also provides a refuge for ordinary people who are protective of their identity and personal information. Marketers can’t bombard them with “unethical” targeted ads on the Dark Web.

Within the Dark Web network, information flows in a complicated way, involving many traffic “nodes.”

Multi-layered encryption makes it hard to connect a user to any particular activity.

However, the Dark Web isn’t as dark as criminals would’ve liked it to be. The location, identity, and activities of the user aren’t 100% “safe.”

How to Surf the Dark Web

To access the Dark Web, you need a particular browser.

Your average browser won’t get you anywhere in this case. Instead of the usual TLDs such as “.com” or “.net,” Dark Web site URLs often come with “.onion.” Only Tor users can access these URLs.

The Dark Web isn’t inherently “evil” or illegal. It’s a tool whose potential harm or good is up to its users.

Below is a list of the top 5 Dark Web browsers:

1) Invisible Internet Project (I2P): Invisible Messages

To browse the Dark Web, there are many other solutions than Tor, like the Invisible Internet Project (I2P).

I2P is an anonymous network designed to secure the transfer of anonymous information between different applications. The communication is encrypted end to end. The I2P browser uses four layers of encryption to secure a message.

I2P The Invisible Internet Project
I2P The Invisible Internet Project | https://geti2p.net/en/

Through the I2P browser, you can access the Dark Web using a layered data stream to hide your real identity.

Users have their own I2P “router” complete with inbound and outbound “tunnels.” You can’t know for sure which inbound tunnel the message went through to reach the recipient through which outbound tunnel.

Clients can choose the length of their inbound and outbound tunnels according to their needs. The longer the tunnels, the more anonymity, but also the more latency. Unlike Tor, you can’t use I2P to access the public web.

2) FreeNet: Dark Refuge for Freedom of Speech

Introducing its project, Freenet quotes Mike Godwin from Electronic Frontier Foundation:

“I worry about my child and the Internet all the time, even though she’s too young to have logged on yet. Here’s what I worry about. I worry she’ll come to me and say ‘Daddy, where were you when they took freedom of the press away from the Internet?”

Like other dark web browsers, FreeNet is another anonymity-based dark network that uses free software to protect freedom of speech and fight censorship of information. Users can access websites, chat forums, and various types of content available only through Freenet’s network.

The decentralized approach to its design makes Freenet less vulnerable to attacks. Freenet works to ensure that the free flow of information, as a human right, continue without disruption.

The notion of copyrights has no place in FreeNet. As FreeNet claims, the reason is that enforcing copyrights usually entails the monitoring of communications, which compromises free speech.

The organization does, however, recognize the importance of copyrights. As an alternative to reward artists and right holders, FreeNet proposes a community-based patronage system.

3) Subgraph OS: Safe Dark Computing

Subgraph’s free and open-source platform was created from the vision that people should be able to communicate freely.

Using the same source code, Subgraph OS comes with a built-in Tor integration. It works like a desktop operating system but was designed mainly as an adversary-resistant computing platform.

How the Subgraph OS works | https://subgraph.com/sg
How the Subgraph OS works | https://subgraph.com/sg

In addition to multi-layer encryption, the network uses “sandbox containers” to eliminate any malware threat in the bud.

When Subgraph spots an at-risk application, it immediately activates its containment mechanism. This isolation system allows the strengthening of user security and prevents the jeopardization of the whole network.

4) TAILS: Leave no Trace

TAILS is another Darknet browser that helps you go incognito on the Dark Web. It is entirely amnesiac as to your deeds.

Released in 2009, TAILS, an acronym for The Amnesic Incognito Live System is a security-focused live OS based on Debian GNU/Linux. You can run TAILS independently from your everyday operating system using a DVD or USB stick.

Using Tails on a computer doesn’t alter or depend on the operating system installed on it. So you can use it in the same way on your computer, a friend’s computer, or one at your local library. After shutting down Tails, the computer will start again with its usual operating system.”

To ensure privacy and anonymity, TAILS forces every outgoing or incoming connection through Tor filters. Also, TAILS cryptographic tools make sure all files, emails, and messages are safe. Unless you explicitly ask it to, TAILS will keep no records of your connections.

A variety of built-in apps come with TAILS, all pre-configured with security and anonymity in mind. An OS, a browser, email service, instant messaging, office suite, and others all in one solution.

5) Tor: the Top Dark Web Browser

Last but not least, we have Tor.

There’s just no way to talk about and make a list of dark web browsers without bringing up The Onion Router (TOR).

Simply put, the TOR browser is in a league of its own. It is the first and most powerful Deep Web browser. It is also undoubtedly the most popular. Tor Browser is downloaded 100,000 times every day by either new or existing users.

Just like there are many layers to the real onion, the Tor network has many layers of encryption.

Free and open-source, Tor was created based on research by the U.S. Army. To this day, the Tor project benefits from the support funding of the U.S. government.

In the mid-1990s, the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL) was looking for a way to secure government communication. They came up with the concept of “onion routing” that now powers Tor.

Onion routing means sending information through a maze of user computers serving as nodes. The computer of the user requesting the information will be the “exit node.”

One would ask: why would the developers release such a tool to the broad public and compromise its efficiency? Well, it’s because of that — efficiency.

If government agents only used the Tor network, their actions would be more suspicious. Any connection coming from the Dark Web to the surface web would be easily red-flagged.

The more “ordinary” people use the software, the more they can blend in. Tor isn’t that anonymous, after all.

How to Use Tor Safely

Here’s how to use Tor the Dark Web browser to explore the onion network. Opening your standard browser and go to “https://www.torproject.org/download/.” Or type tor download in Google.

Click the download button after choosing your language and version (Windows, Mac, Linux). Tor is also available for iOS and Android.

Install the Tor software on your computer. Then click “connect.” The other option, “configure,” is reserved for users whose country of origin blocks Tor for any reason.

When you open the Tor browser, you’ll see it uses DuckDuckGo as a default search engine.

Before you start surfing the Dark Web, check if your computer is connected to the Tor network. In the address bar, type “check.torproject.org.”

It would provide you with your Dark Web IP address different from your usual one.

dark-web-browser
Tor browser

You can click on the icon, in the top right-hand corner, to request a “new identity.” This option will prevent your Dark Web browsing from being easily connected to your actual IP address. You can also have another layer of anonymity by using a VPN service along with Tor.

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Using Tor and Browsing the Dark Web

  • Tor isn’t an encryption tool for ordinary internet traffic. It’s a traffic router that anonymizes the origin of internet traffic and its trajectory. Don’t use Dark Web browsers like Tor with HTTP Websites, as opposed to HTTPS.
  • Even when surfing the Dark Web, you leave breadcrumbs of your activities all over the place. Specific websites you visited, a PDF document you viewed here, or a torrent file you downloaded there.  For maximum anonymity, when using a browser, you should use a VPN.
  • Don’t access any random .onion URL you find. Ensure URLs are accurate and keep a record of correct URLs. Tor doesn’t support caching. Be careful not to click whatever links you stumble on. Check the trustworthiness of an onion website address.
  • Use the latest Tor version. Make sure to always keep your system up to date. This includes your OS, Tor client, and Tor applications.
  • A Dark Web browser doesn’t secure data stored on your computer. For example, a hacker can still access your personal information through the internet. Then he has access to your Dark Web “identity.” If you like, you can use a specialized cryptographic tool to encrypt your sensitive data.
  • Based on your settings, Jave, JavaScript, Flash,  ActiveX controls, QuickTime, and other applications can access and share your data. You need to disable these applications for a higher level of data protection.
  • Some websites use cookies and local data to track you wherever you go, including the Dark Web. Delete cookies and site’s local data. You can use an automatic cookie-deleting tool.
  • Don’t use Google on the Tor network. Google is known for being all about data, particularly personal data. Try privacy-compliant alternatives like DuckDuckGo or Startpage.
  • Don’t use your real email or anything that gives away your real identity while on the Tor network. It’s like wearing a face mask with your name printed on the forehead.
  • Do use the Dark Web and Tor browser. It’s for anyone who wants to avoid tracking and hacking and protect their anonymity and privacy. For those who want to blow the whistle on corruption, to report abuse, or divulge sensitive information and fear for their lives.

Read More: Monero To Replace Bitcoin As Currency Of Criminals In Dark Web