Keep Trackers and Advertisers at Bay with these Browser Privacy Tips by@z3nch4n

Keep Trackers and Advertisers at Bay with these Browser Privacy Tips

Apple has made privacy a top priority in its products, including Safari. Mozilla and Microsoft have begun promoting privacy as a way to separate their browsers from Google Chrome. Chrome is flexible and open-source that has allowed developers to release privacy-focused extensions to avoid trackers. Apple announced “Enhanced Intelligent Tracking Protection” in WWDC 2021, Apple is also blocking trackers from locating a user’s IP address on Safari. Google researchers spotted how Intelligent Tracking Prevention itself could be used to track users.
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Zen Chan Hacker Noon profile picture

Zen Chan

Interested in Infosec & Biohacking. Security Architect by profession. Love reading and running.

Although privacy becomes a priority among browser-creators, they may not go that far as you think. You may want to be as anonymized as possible or fighting in any chance to avoid ads on the internet. So let’s take a look at how to tweak your browser settings to enhance your internet privacy.

Not long ago, I shared the data collection problems of Facebook. It has elevated privacy protection on the big tech companies’ priority list by revealing how companies compile data as you are online.

What’s their goal? To build a detailed user profile so that you can become the target of more accurate, clickable, and thus profitable advertisements.

In the last WWDC 2021, Apple has made privacy a top priority in its products, including Safari. What are the alternatives? For startup company Brave, privacy is their goal; And Mozilla and Microsoft have begun promoting privacy as a way to separate their browsers from Google Chrome.

You can give yourself a privacy boost for all of the browsers listed here by changing the default search engine. For instance, try DuckDuckGo. Although its search results may not be as valuable or extensive as Google’s, DuckDuckGo is a longtime favorite among the privacy-focused for not tracking user searches.

Other standard measures that boost privacy include:

  • disabling your browser’s location tracking
  • disabling search engine autocomplete features
  • turning off password autofill
  • regularly deleting your browsing history

In the meantime, here are some simple settings you can change in your browser to help keep you off from advertising trackers.

Chrome

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Sadly, the world’s most popular browser is also thought to be the least private when used with default settings. However, Chrome is flexible and open-source that has allowed developers to release privacy-focused extensions to avoid trackers.

In the Chrome Web Store:

  • Click Extensions on the left
  • Type the name of the extension you’re looking for into the search bar
  • Once you find the correct extension in the search results, click Add to Chrome.
  • A dialog will pop up explaining which permissions the extension will have for your browser.
  • Click Add extension to bring the extension into your browser.

If you change your mind, you can manage or remove your extensions:

  • Open Chrome and click the three-dot More menu on the right
  • Select More Tools and then Extensions
  • Click Details to see more about the extension

Here are four extensions to look at as you get started:

Another bonus tip is, use a “private window” or “incognito mode” to surf if you do not need to log in or do not want to leave traces. One thing I would typically do is do Google Search using a private window. It can prevent Google from mapping my Google account with my searches.

In the same three-dot menu in Chrome, you can also block third-party cookies by:

  1. Select Settings
  2. Scroll down to the Privacy and security section
  3. Click Cookies and other site data
  4. Select Block third-party cookies.

Safari

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Safari, by default, turns on its exclusive Intelligent Tracking Prevention tool. However, the tool hasn’t always worked as expected since its 2017 debut. Moreover, Google researchers spotted how Intelligent Tracking Prevention itself could be used to track users.

Starting from Safari 14, it will tell users which ad trackers are running on the website and give you a 30-day report of the known trackers. Safari will also record which websites those trackers came from.

In WWDC 2021, Apple announced Enhanced Intelligent Tracking Protection, which blocks unwanted trackers. In addition, in Safari 15, Apple is also blocking trackers from locating a user’s IP address on Safari. As a result, user activity associated with a fixed IP address (i.e., your home IP address) will no longer possible be used to build a “profile” about the user.

Cookies can be helpful, not just invasive. Still, you can block them all together for more robust privacy — both first-party cookies from the website publisher and third-party cookies from others like advertisers. To do so, check the box beside Block all cookies.

To check that blocking is on:

  • Open Safari and click Preferences
  • Click Privacy
  • See if the box beside Prevent cross-site tracking is checked.

On the same interface, you can also manually delete your cookies:

  • Click Manage Website Data to see which sites have left their trackers and cookies hanging out in your browser.
  • Click Remove next to any of the individual trackers, or
  • Remove the whole list by clicking Remove All at the bottom of your screen.

Privacy-focused extensions for Safari (install via App Store):

Edge

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Microsoft’s Edge browser is the default browser built-in from Windows 10. It includes some simplified privacy and tracker blocking options on its Tracker Prevention options. Unfortunately, simplified settings also mean that it is not much you can do.

To check your settings in Edge:

  • Select the three-dot menu icon in the top right corner
  • Select Settings
  • From the menu that then appears on the left, select Privacy and services
  • Microsoft provides three privacy settings to choose from: Basic, Balanced and Strict

By default, Edge uses the Balanced setting. Besides, Edge’s Strict setting may interfere with some sites functions but block the most significant trackers. For the Basic setting, it will still block trackers used for crypto mining and fingerprinting.

Privacy-focused add-ons for Edge:

Firefox

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Firefox’s default privacy settings are more protective than those of Chrome and Edge, and the browser has more privacy options, among others. Firefox is a popular choice and on the web for a while as it is fast and easy to use. In addition, it has built-in “trackers blocking” features and password vaults for users to protect their identity.

From inside Firefox’s main menu:

  1. Select Preferences
  2. Once the Preferences window opens, click Privacy & Security
  3. From here, you’ll be able to choose between three options: Standard, Strict, and Custom.

Standard, the default Firefox setting, blocks trackers in private windows, third-party tracking cookies, and crypto miners.

The Strict setting may break a few websites, but it blocks everything blocked in Standard mode, plus fingerprints and trackers in all windows.

Custom is worth exploring for those who want to fine-tune how trackers are being blocked.

To apply your new tracking settings, click the Reload All Tabs button that appears.

Privacy-focused Extensions for Firefox:

Brave

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Brave Web Browser is a newcomer in the browser arena. It does not store any record of people’s browsing history, making the browser the best privacy-preserving web browser. For example, Brave blocks all ads, trackers, third-party cookies, and fingerprinters by default while maintaining good performance.

Brave also offers a built-in Tor private browsing mode, a heavy-duty tracker blocking option, and a built-in VPN+Firewall for iOS users.

Inside Brave’s main menu:

  1. Select Preferences
  2. Select the Settings panel on the left
  3. Select Shields to see a list of privacy options on the right side of the screen
  4. Select the Advanced view, and you’ll be able to choose which kinds of trackers to block.
  5. By scrolling down, you’ll also be able to block login buttons and embedded content from Facebook, Twitter, Google, and LinkedIn.
  6. Explore Additional Settings on the left, and select Privacy and security for even more protection and privacy fine-tuning.

Another advantage of Brave is the support of the Chrome extensions. Therefore, you can switch from memory-hungry Chrome to this one.

Mobile Users

For Android and iPhone users, extensions or add-ons are not supported at this moment. So you’ll need to use alternative browsers like:

Prey Project supplement both iPhone and Android device’s built-in measures to track a lost or stolen phone. It aims to build on those capabilities with tools that help to track and recover a lost smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

The app provides a concept of control zones — specific areas on a map the device shouldn’t leave. We can configure a zone with security actions (for example, a lock ) that trigger when a device moves in or out of the area.

If a device is missing, you can:

  • lock the screen remotely
  • send an alert to contact the owner
  • set off an alarm that will ring like gangbusters so you could hear it if the stolen phone is still nearby.

When a device goes missing, Prey generates a report that includes:

  • GPS tracking coordinates
  • active nearby Wi-Fi locations, and
  • hardware information about the device (IP, MAC address, and serial number)
  • When available, the app will also take a photo of the perpetrator.

Remarks: A free plan lets you track up to three devices in a single control zone, take basic security actions, and receive evidence reports, but no data protection or reactive security.

Thank you for reading. May InfoSec be with you🖖.

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