Cyber security copy writer, tech support with a degree in political science
It is essential for every internet user to comprehend the importance of browser security capabilities to assure they browse the internet safely. Protecting your browser might mean limited functionality of some web sites, but it’ll shield your most sensitive information as well.
Even though web browsers may seem to be insignificant in protecting your data, they actually might be your first line of defense against online attackers. Keep in mind that your browser is the first thing that connects you to the web, and the way it is configured could allow or prohibit the entry of malicious online elements.
Below you can find a list of browser extensions that will help you maximize your privacy online as well as provide an extra layer of security.
Back in the days, the internet was wild and unencrypted, which led to numerous data leaks, credential thefts, and website infections. To improve online safety, a transition from HTTP to HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) started a couple years ago. However, some websites still did not implement the necessary modifications, and if you’re visiting them, you might be exposed to hacker attacks.
HTTPS holds three main benefits over HTTP.
Authentication. When establishing a connection between you and a website, this step assures you’re visiting the exact website intended, and not a shady mirror site designed to steal your data.
Encryption. This assures no one can spy on your activities online, thus significantly improving your privacy protection.
Data integrity. This is a prevention mechanism that does not allow any data modification or corruption during the transfer.
HTTPS Everywhere forces a secure transfer protocol on all websites that still work on old and insecure settings. This extension was developed collaboratively by The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, — two well-known collectives in the cyber security world. This extension is completely free and available on Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Brave, and Firefox for Android.
LastPass is a password manager that has been released in 2008 and since then has become one of the most popular services in its field. According to a study carried out by the National Cyber Security Centre of the United Kingdom the most popular password is still…”123456". It’s hard to understand the importance of long and complex passwords, but you can read my other article dedicated to this topic for a more elaborate explanation.
Human error is still considered the main reason behind various security breaches. It’s hard to remember one 16 symbols password with lower and upper case letters, numbers, and symbols; it’s even harder to remember a different strong password for each site. That’s where LastPass comes in handy.
This password manager safely stores your passwords in an encrypted vault, meaning you only have to remember one password, — the one to log in to LastPass. Furthermore, you will be able to autofill passwords instead of writing them down manually or copying them, making the browsing experience much more pleasant.
Regarding security, LastPass has a very strict policy. Your password vault is encrypted using Advanced Encryption Standard that is also used by the USA government. It’s military-grade encryption. However, what impressed me the most that the decryption process is done locally on the device level. Even LastPass themselves cannot decrypt your vault because the only decryption key holder is you.
You can use LastPass for free (though registration is required) or upgrade it to premium to receive some additional benefits, but both service levels offer the same high-level protection. Available on Chrome, Safari, Opera, Android 2.2 and later, iOS 6 and later, macOS, Linux, and even Windows XP.
Virtual Private Networks have been gaining in popularity and for a good reason. Primarily they were designed for businesses to provide safe access to their intranets. However, over the years, this software has evolved to fit the needs of a casual netizen. With the emergence of online geographical restrictions and privacy issues, it became paramount to have safe and anonymous access to the world wide web.
NordVPN allows you to change your IP address and that’s the first step towards anonymity online. This also helps to bypass geo-bocks, for example: if you’re from Europe but want to access USA Netflix library, you can choose an American IP address to unlock the content. In my opinion, that’s just a pleasant side effect when it comes to security.
Similar to HTTPS, this extension also allows you to browse safely even on HTTP websites. However, instead of forcing this protocol for specific websites, it encrypts all of your traffic, making it unreadable even to your internet service provider. Furthermore, it also disables trackers, protects against malware, and has an in-built adBlocker.
Be sure to keep in mind that VPN market is very competitive and constantly evolving. NordVPN is my recommendation, but there are many lists and reviews that frequently recommend these four providers: Ivacy, ExpressVPN, SaferVPN and CyberGhost. The last one is free, though it’s security features are debatable. All of them are available only on Chrome and Firefox with two exceptions: ExpressVPN is also available on Safari and NordVPN supports Chrome and Firefox Android versions.
Privacy Badger was developed by Electronic Frontier Foundation, the same people that worked on HTTPS Everywhere. This extension is primarily designed to disable as many trackers online as possible. Even though it has received some criticism, the software was steadily upgraded into what we now know as one of the most efficient tracker disablers.
Privacy Badger is unique because it uses heuristics model, which means that it does not have a pre-set database of blacklisted trackers, but learns about them while you browse. At first, it might seem that it is not working and many trackers still go through, but the more you use it, the more trackers it blocks. In layman’s terms, if Privacy Badger encounters the same tracker three times, it adds it to its list for future blocks.
Keep in mind that by disabling trackers this extension can break the web page and prevent it from loading, but they do have an option to disable the software for the page in question, and you can submit an error for them to review. It’s completely free and available on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Firefox for Android.
Cookies are text files that are stored locally on the device level. Sometimes they are called Access Tokens and are primarily used to identify the user. For example, when you visit Facebook for the first time you register and then log in, at this point, Facebook issues you a cookie. Next time you go to Facebook it will identify you as the same user by requesting to see your cookie. This is why you don’t have to log in each time.
Unfortunately, cookies can also be used for tracking. You can log in to other web pages using your Facebook or Gmail accounts and once again they will ask for the same cookie, thus tracking your activities online. Huge Facebook data leak that took place at the end of last year exploited a vulnerability that granted access to users cookies. This way hackers can access not only other peoples Facebook account but also any other page that allows logging in with the same cookie.
Cookie AutoDelete is a simple extension that you can easily turn off and on. The name is self-explanatory, it will automatically delete all the cookies after your browsing session. A nice feature is a white-list, that allows you to add exceptions for web pages that can store cookies on your device. The one I’m recommending is free of charge but available on Chrome only. However, there are lots of free alternatives for other browsers.
This completes the list of the best privacy and security oriented web browser extensions. I do want to point out that I picked the most famous (yet of highest quality) extensions, which I frequently use myself. I will be writing another piece on lesser-known and more specific browser extensions, so feel free to follow up or comment which service I should include.
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