Privacy-first browser extensions to choose from
Digital privacy is a war zone, and your browser is one of the troops standing guard. However, default mechanisms are not sufficient enough to triumph over the pervasive ad industry trackers. Besides tweaking settings, netizens have the right to fine-tune programs with browser extensions. You are welcome to reinvent your browsing and be free of an abundance of the online lifestyle’s daunting drawbacks. Let’s see how you can bypass those barriers with some privacy-focused extensions.
Introduction to browser extensions
A browser extension is a small but mighty addition to your online venture. It integrates new features or sprints to refine existing functions. Mostly all mainstream browsers support extensions, with many add-ons produced in-house. Typically, extensions assist in experience optimization or evasion of less pleasant web traits.
Add-ons also usually operate on a sole purpose, which limits their functionality to one specific aspect. For instance, an upcoming trend is the online shopping assistants in the form of extensions. Their objective is to scour the internet for sales or coupons that could help the shopper save money. The same routine applies to privacy-first add-ons. They specialize in specific areas, like blocking cookies or ads.
However, most extensions belong to third-party companies or enthusiasts offering browser-retouching options. This domination facilitated the need for close inspection, with varying degrees of success. Extension audits are not foolproof barricades against malicious extensions, as seen on numerous occasions. One of the recent incidents included an immediate removal of over 100 Chrome add-ons. The downright villainous extensions could take screenshots, retrieve key logs, and perform other intrusive actions. Hence, selecting a reliable browser extension is your responsibility, especially regarding add-ons for privacy.
Best browser extensions for preserving your privacy
We categorize the most popular privacy extensions depending on the role they take.
- Privacy Badger. Introduced by Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy Badger is an add-on that reveals its real superpowers in the long run. The organization does not operate with a pre-set list of content to block. Instead, the free extension adapts to specific users by examining the cookies and trackers. If you are not in any rush, Privacy Badger is a viable option, especially with support from the reputable EFF.
- Ghostery. This freemium browser extension seems to do it all. It blocks ads, trackers, and even contributes to minimizing loading times. Additionally, it notifies users of specific content blocked, or which ones diminish speed. Its owners offered the privacy-first browser called Cliqz. Sadly, due to COVID-19 turbulence across the globe, the browser is no longer available.
- uMatrix. This add-on has always been a preference for a more in-depth analysis of the content online. The tool presented neat lists with cookies, CSS, images, media, scripts, XHR, frames, and other unclassified information. Then, users could choose or set general guidelines for which content to block. According to reviews, people were able to improve loading times thanks to uMatrix significantly. While you are welcome to try it, bear in mind that the developer recently archived its source code. Since the program it is no longer in active development, detected issues won’t receive patches. There is still hope as other developers could take over.
- Adblock Plus. You cannot go wrong with this browser extension. As suggested by its name, this add-on is first and foremost for preventing intrusive ads. You do need to apply sets of filters to block promotions. After that, the extension should effectively block detected content. If you like to add more elbow grease, you can customize the add-on with custom filters.
- AdBlock Ultimate. As proclaimed by its owners, this add-on does not play around. Its purpose is to get rid of all the repetitive ads you see. It will remove display ads, pop-ups, video commercials, and more. You are free to craft lists of websites that will have the privilege of presenting ads to you.
- PoperBlocker. Your go-to adblocker does not seem to block pop-ups, pop-unders, scroll pop-ups, and overlays? PoperBlocker has got you covered. It complements other similar add-ons splendidly and gives options to review your blocking stats.
Managing cookies and browsing hygiene
- Cookie AutoDelete. Most cookies have an expiration date, but why wait? This browser extension automatically terminates cookies you deem unfit. It can remove site data from closed tabs and allows whitelisting. For instance, you can exploit the GreyList feature, keeping cookies active for that browser session.
- Click&Clean. This add-on seems a powerful solution to preserving a clean browsing environment. It lets you quickly remove history, cache, cookies, and even saved passwords. It can also wipe clean most of the data accumulated during your Incognito sessions. Click&Clean could be extremely useful if you need an inclusive tool to clear information with just a few clicks.
- HTTPS Everywhere. This EEF browser extension has pleased users for a decade now. It represents an effortless and obtainable practice of rendering more private online. The add-on works by encrypting communications with the web. More specifically, it transforms unsecured HTTP domains into reliable HTTPS versions. Since not all websites follow the new industry standard, HTTPS Everywhere is a must.
- Bitwarden. Allowing browsers to remember passwords can be dangerous. Hence, it is best to have a safe vault for all your credentials. Bitwarden is a free option, giving you enough secure space to store all your login details. The add-on encrypts all content, giving users sole access to it.
- minerBlock. While AdBlock Plus can block coin mining scripts, you might consider using a more specialized add-on. minerBlock will prevent cryptocurrency miners from secretly using your resources. While traditional script-blocking focuses on pre-set guidelines, this add-on takes a more in-depth approach. It analyzes loaded scripts and looks for potential mining cues. If detected, the extension terminates those scripts.
Many browser extensions complement each other brilliantly, meaning that you do not need to choose just one. Of course, overlapping might occur, so you might not use several add-ons for the same singular purpose. As long as you select reliable providers, pay attention to required permissions, read descriptions/reviews, you should avert suspicious extensions.
With your browser tweaked with outstanding add-ons, there is one step left. A VPN is a necessity for anyone aiming for privacy online. Nowadays, anonymity can be low-hanging fruit: Atlas VPN reassures that your browsing activities remain private, and geo-restrictions no longer diminish your experience.
Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.