As Big Tech gets better and more sophisticated at collecting (and using) your data, finding a secure browser is as important as ever. While the Windows operating system (for PCs) comes pre-installed with Microsoft Edge as the default browser, Edge usually scores among the worst on user privacy and security. Many Windows users download an alternative browser.
In this article, we’ll give an overview of browser security and privacy, and review some of the most secure browsers for Windows. We’ll also consider speed, convenience, and ease of use.
Secure browsing with Windows
Using a secure browser is critical to protecting your browsing activity from prying eyes. If this info gets exposed, you may be more vulnerable to hackers and malware. In general, two main elements are necessary to browse safely: security and privacy.
What is browser security?
Browser security looks at the safety of your browser and the extensions you use. For example, it’s essential to consider how easy it is for a hacker to access the data stored in your browser, including credit card data, app passwords, and more. Browser security ensures your online data is harder to gain access to.
What is browser privacy?
Browser privacy considers how a browser uses and stores your data, and who can see that data. Browser privacy encompasses things like ads & trackers, HTTP vs. HTTPS, fingerprinting and more to understand if Big Tech or other apps could see your browsing and search behavior, collect it, and use this data for targeted advertising.
How secure are the most popular Windows browsers?
Security and privacy are different elements of safe browsing, but they go hand-in-hand. The most private browsers tend to be the most secure, and vice versa. With this in mind, let’s look at the overall safety of the most popular browsers for Windows PCs.
Since phasing out Internet Explorer (IE), Edge has become the default Windows browser for PCs. While Edge has a number of security enhancements over IE, it still permits a significant number of third-party trackers. These trackers help advertisers and other Big Tech build a profile of your browsing history.
While Edge does get regular updates and patches, significant privacy concerns remain based on the core of how Edge is built. The browser stores non-anonymized diagnostic data, which allows Microsoft to identify the devices of Edge users.
Because a non-profit organization maintains Firefox, the application has fewer financial incentives to collect and sell your personal information to third-party brokers. Like other browsers, Firefox developers release regular updates that include features like phishing and malware protection alongside content tracking that prevents apps like Facebook from seeing your online activity outside of their platform. Overall, Firefox is a reliable browser that attracts many users because of its more pronounced focus on security and privacy.
As a Google product, Chrome is the most popular browser available today. It offers users a highly personalized experience, fast browsing speeds, and regular software updates that protect against security threats. However, while it’s generally safe to use the Chrome browser, you should also consider that Google is an advertising company: They make money by selling advertising space on Google Search results and on nearly every web page you visit.
It’s to Google’s benefit to collect your browsing activity and use it to sell highly targeted ads. If you log in to Google services (e.g. Gmail, Docs, or Meet) in Chrome, Google can track all of your browsing habits and monetize this data with personalized third-party ads.
Ads, trackers, and third-party cookies are three of the biggest ways Big Tech invades your privacy, and rather than block these things, Google uses them nearly everywhere. It’s core to their business.
Brave: the most secure browser for Windows
Unlike the above browsers, Brave takes a different approach to online security. It blocks all ads and trackers by default with Brave Shields, ensuring you stay private online. The Brave browser also integrates a native VPN and privacy search engine. With Brave, you keep ownership of your data—it can’t get monetized, because it’s not collected in the first place. This ad blocking also makes Brave much faster than other browsers.