What makes a browser secure or insecure in the first place? In today’s world, where personal information is traded back and forth by big tech companies and security breaches seem to happen every other day, what does it mean to have a secure browser?
The difference between privacy and security for an Internet browser ultimately comes down to the approach. Some browsers are designed to gather information from your browser, and often take a slightly more relaxed approach to Internet security as well. Security and privacy often go hand-in-hand, and tend to be sacrificed for speed and convenience - and, of course, for a browsing company’s ability to track your browsing habits.
Some companies strive for a different approach altogether. Brave re-imagines the browser, with a privacy-first approach that brings an array of enhanced security measures to your browsing experience. Default settings block phishing and malware, and trackers and malvertising are automatically prevented.
In this article, we’ll look a little more at what a secure browser is, what it does, and how it works - and why Brave makes a strong case to be considered the best of the bunch.
The basics of a secure browser
What do we mean by a “secure browser”?
What is a secure browser? Also called a safe browser, a secure browser is one that prioritizes security. Specifically, a secure browser carries extra security measures, such as blocking third-party activity while you browse. The idea is to prevent unauthorized activity or monitoring of your activity and to empower you to control exactly what goes on with your browser.
Security vs. privacy
Browser security and browser privacy are different, but they do work hand-in-hand. Security refers primarily to technical aspects. A browser with a strong emphasis on security might issue updates more frequently than normal to stay on top of emerging viruses and malware. Or, like Brave, it might upgrade website connections from http to https whenever possible
Browser privacy deals mainly with user data. Who can see your activities on the Internet, and can you control your own information. A private browser might try to anonymize your user data, or even use a built-in VPN to hide your geographical location.
Of course, many of the same measures that result in increased security, such as blocking third-party plugins and trackers, also give you increased privacy while browsing. You’ll frequently see a lot of overlap between a list of the best private browsers and the most secure browsers.
What about incognito mode?
Chrome popularized the idea of “Incognito mode,” which on most browsers works by telling your browser not to store info on your searches, websites visited, etc. Today, many browsers have some form of an Incognito mode, although not all such modes are created equal. Even Chrome’s Incognito mode doesn’t disable what the sites themselves track; if you toggle incognito mode and then log in to Amazon, the retailer will still know what you viewed during your visit.
For something with more security than “ordinary” Incognito mode, consider Brave’s Private Window with Tor. You get the anonymity of the Tor connection network and the usual advantages of an incognito mode.
Secure Browsing - Privacy and Data
Browsing history, cookies, and trackers
Every browser tracks your browsing history, including Brave. Tracking your browsing history isn’t necessarily malicious; after all, how often do you use your history to recover the address for that one recipe you looked at last March? Or the name of that band you looked up briefly between classes? Browsing history can be an incredibly useful tool. The real issue with that browsing history is who has access to it, and whether or not it can be tied to you, or if it has been safely anonymized.
Cookies are packets of information websites store directly on your computer; rather than having to log in again or switch languages when you visit a site, the information is stored on a cookie and retrieved when needed. In normal use, cookies are perfectly fine; third-party cookies, however, can be placed on one website by an entirely different website. This allows the third-party website to see your habits and tendencies without you ever visiting their site.
How your data is used by third parties
First-party cookies are generated by the websites you visit. These cookies are small data packets that work as shortcuts. While cookies aren’t bad by themselves, each one can add a tiny bit of information to each request when you visit a site, slowing things down by a small amount.
In essence, first-party cookies track you and recognize you when you visit their own site. In general, first-party cookies are not generally considered problematic. Third-party cookies, on the other hand, follow your activity across websites. They are most often used not by individual websites, but by advertisers who use them to build a digital profile on your viewing habits, and therefore on what you might be interested in for advertisements. Third-party cookies are also known as trackers. They’re the reason that you might spend some time visiting a site like VisitScotland one day, and then suddenly see ads for airline tickets to Scotland the next day.
Even in a case like that one, not all trackers are inherently malicious. Some are malicious entities that can use trackers to analyze your habits and attempt to steal login info. But aside from being a security risk, third-party trackers allow big advertising companies like Google and Facebook to customize ads for you. This assumes that you’re fine with anonymous entities following your every Internet move.
Why you should care about security and privacy
More and more people are becoming aware that the current Internet economy is built on surveillance and data brokerage. Advertising companies collect, buy, and sell your browsing data in order to create targeted ads and boost their own revenue. But is that the way the Internet should work? Or is it just the result of an entire Internet paradigm that has been taken for granted?
Third-party data and mobile browsing
The same basic principles apply to mobile browsing, although there’s an added security risk; since mobile devices connect to the Internet through wifi or cellular networks, there’s an extra layer of potential weakness. In addition, your mobile phone knows exactly where you are at all times; anyone who can gain access to it knows where you are also.
Browsing security - how to?
How do I browse securely?
Securely browsing starts even before you choose a security browser. It begins with smart Internet browsing habits. Don’t download questionable files. Don’t open suspicious links or emails. Don’t install risky extensions.
After you’ve developed basic Internet safety habits, then it’s worth looking for a good secure browser.
What features should a secure browser have?
Ideally, a good secure browser should do two things.
First, it should block a lot of third-party trackers automatically. Secure browsers should also try to stop digital fingerprinting and should safeguard your identity as much as possible.
Second, a good security browser should give you control over your own information. In this sense, a good security browser will look a lot like a good private browser. Both of them will give you the tools to control who can follow your Internet browsing habits, so it is not surprising that a browser like Brave achieves a high level of security as well as privacy.
In short, a good security browser should give the digital “you” a mask. You should be able to visit sites safely and securely as just another anonymous Internet user, without leaving telltale clues about your identity, your habits, and your personal information.
Which browser is the most secure?
There are different levels of Internet security and privacy. Some browsers, like Tor, use complicated but highly secure levels of anonymization and identity protection. These make it very hard for anyone to track you, but it does slow down your browsing experience.
You’ll have to decide how much security you want in your browser, or rather how much inconvenience you’re willing to put up with in order to protect your identity and habits.
How secure are the most popular browsers?
2. Microsoft Edge
3. Google Chrome
Chrome’s issues stem from the connection between security and privacy. While Chrome updates regularly and is supported by Google’s library of known threats and security issues, the browser is definitely a child of Google itself - one of the largest Internet advertisers out there. Google has a vested interest in tracking your habits to build more customized ads, so if you’re looking for a truly private and secure browser, you’d be better off looking elsewhere.
Apple’s proprietary browser offers a good range of security features and extensions, but as with all Apple products, the code and inner workings of the browser are opaque. That means it’s a bit difficult to get a read on exactly how secure Safari actually is. Regardless, if you’re looking for a dedicated security browser, Safari only works if you have a Mac - so you’re best off with another option.
While Opera offers a built-in VPN and some useful add-ons, there are some lingering questions. Opera takes an opt-out approach - you’ll need to change some of the default settings to the browser from caching your data, for instance - and in general, there’s not enough attention paid to prioritizing user security and privacy. And some reviews suggest the VPN is under-featured and under-powered, with dubious protection.
Brave - a secure browser with built-in rewards
Brave browser starts with the idea that your data is yours alone. Thus, it automatically blocks trackers and unwanted ads and provides anti-phishing and anti-malware protection. By taking a privacy-first stand from the start, Brave provides a depth of security most other browsers can’t without becoming cumbersome or slowing you down.
By browsing securely with Brave you’ll earn rewards for any ads you choose to view, in the form of Basic Attention Tokens (BAT). No other browser rewards you for being safe and secure on the Internet, but Brave reimagines the Internet as a place built on user privacy.
Download Brave today, and discover a more secure browser.