The most important lesson we can take away from the past year is that our data and identities are not safe on the internet. With almost a quarter of the world’s population on the internet, this is a massive security concern, not just for users, but also governments and authorities.
Yet, when we think of making our online experience more private and secure, we often ignore the primary vector — web browsers.
Browsers are the vessels that transport us across and through the vast expanses of the World Wide Web, and a crack in the hull can spell disaster for users. Compromised websites and Trojan-infected “free” software downloads stealthily deliver malware to computers via web browser downloads. In the event of a cyber attack, web browsers are one of our first lines of defense.
Privacy is another issue on the front lines of the browser wars. Major companies have acknowledged this, and taken some measures to set users at ease — but that is barely enough to call those products "safe." Case in point, Apple and Microsoft . Microsoft effectively enabled its 'Do Not Track' feature by default in Internet Explorer 10, and Apple quickly followed by disabling Third-party cookies in their Safari Browsers. A good first step, but only a first step. There’s a lot more to be done to further secure browsers.
With personal or corporate information on the line, users will naturally place a premium on security? But which browser should one choose when there are hundreds available? What features should be looked for in a secure browser? Difficult questions, but not impossible to answer. Here is a painstakingly evaluated listed of the top five most secure browsers, and all you need to know about each of them.
5 Google Chrome - Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS, Android
There's a lot to like about Google Chrome and its privacy features. With the recent speculation that Google was allowing third-parties and security agencies access to user data, it might be hard to believe that Google Chrome actually ranks in the top five "secure" browsers.
Speculation aside, its built-in security features, unique sandboxing functions, and privilege restrictions make it ideal for a secure browsing experience. Even small (but important) touches like auto-updates and incognito browsing mode play a strong role in protecting users from malware and hackers.
Google Chrome also works well with many anti-virus and anti-spyware software offerings to pre-emptively warn users of suspicious websites and infected downloads. This is a neatly-packed feature that makes it seamless to use Chrome’s security features, even for those who aren't seasoned techies.
Google offers several security features across its product line (Gmail, G Drive, and even YouTube) that are built right into Chrome. Two-factor authentication, password storage, and Chrome sync help users better control and protect their online presence, especially when it comes to Google Plus and Gmail accounts. You should definitely consider using Chrome, if you yearn for better security and regularly use multiple Google services.
4 Maxthon Cloud - Windows, OSX, iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Maxthon is a cloud-powered web browser that aims to make web browsing an un-tethered experience, the exact same across devices and operating systems. Not only are there tools that we'd come to expect in the era of browser "wars," but it also has innovations like a screen capture tool and night mode. Maxthon boasts a sister web service that lets you download files directly to cloud storage rather a local disk drive.
Using unsecured WiFi networks can be a scary experience, because with every click and tap, you're passing unencrypted requests to the web, which can be easily intercepted – this could include personal information and conversations. Maxthon automatically encrypts every HTTP request over to a robust AES 256 standard.
In a blog post earlier last year, Maxthon addressed the burning topic of user privacy and security. It even made illustrious claims to have taken multiple steps toward increasing security, including hashing and encrypting data in such a way that it would be impossible to decrypt without physical possession of the device, and also said that Maxthon granted very few personnel access to the physical server hardware that stores small chunks of this user data.
If you want to ensure that your online presence is safer, and aren’t averse to giving something unconventional a spin — download Maxthon today, for free.
3 Apple Safari - OSX, iOS (Windows Outdated)
Safari is a flagship Apple product, and that means it comes with a trademark attention to detail and extra privacy and security options. Apple has always valued user safety, and this ideology is apparent in Safari.
Safari comes with a "Private Browsing" mode, and doesn't allow third party cookies by default. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer took this a notch higher, the company extending this feature to enable "Do not track" services by default — it is worth mentioning that Safari does not enable "Do not track" by default.
In its 6.1 build version, Apple rolled out patches for 21 vulnerabilities to improve its web browser security. The Safari update addresses a number of Webkit flaws that may lead to information disclosure and cross-site scripting attacks, as well as a Safari vulnerability related to arbitrary code execution.
2 Mozilla Firefox - Windows, OSX, Linux, Android
In its Firefox browser, Mozilla has implemented a comprehensive multi-layered security model that delivers sturdy protection against security risks to its users. Being open source, like Google Chrome, these browsers have an added advantage over their proprietary counterparts.
All its builds have been noted for their relative increases in speed, better memory use, and now, in its 26th version, the browser adds support for WebRTC (so web pages can access the camera and mic), and has multiple extensions to tinker with the browsing experience.
Mozilla Firefox has a great many additional features, like pop-up blocking, dubious website alert, sandboxing, AES 256 bit encryption, and more. There is no doubt that Firefox is less of a security risk than most browsers, in particular for Windows users who still use older versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
1 WhiteHat Aviator - OSX
WhiteHat Aviator is a browser made by WhiteHat Security, a Web security company based in Santa Clara, California. With almost three dozen web browsers already available freely for the Mac OS X platform, it was released at what might seem like an odd time. That being said, the Aviator is the only browser on this list that was built around the ideology of user privacy and online security.
Borrowing from the company’s expertise in the field of web security, this browser is powerful, adept at detecting and repulsing attacks. It has some advanced features that are missing in even the most popular browsers, like allowing users to view at a glance what of their personal information is being tracker, and an immediate kill-switch styled 'Disconnect Plugin.'
When asked about his thoughts on this browser, Robert Hansen, who announced WhiteHat Aviator to be available for public use, took an aggressive stance towards the big guns in the browser game:
"The answer is simple. Browser vendors (Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft) choose not to make these changes because doing so would run the risk of hurting their market share and their ability to make money. You see, offering what we believe is a reasonably secure and privacy-protecting browser requires breaking the Web, even though it’s just a little and in ways few people would notice."
An interesting quirk which has puzzled many experts is the fact that WhiteHat security products tend to be Open Source, but the Aviator is a closed source application released for Mac OS X only.
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