Friday, February 26, 2021

Secure Web Browsers

In 2017 Plinthos posted on the benefits of using search engines other than Google.

Here is an article on alternative web browsers. Tor looks great.

Top 8 Most Secure Web Browsers in 2021

Jan Youngren
Jan Youngren | Security researcher
Last updated: February 22, 2021
Most Secure Browsers

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Which one is the most secure web browser in 2021? The quick answer is: “None of the ones most of us use.” And yet, during these trying times, when working from home has become a norm, and companies have difficulties maintaining the pre-pandemic security level, we all need to stay safe online more than ever.

To find the most trustworthy browser, we evaluated a bunch of them based on the following criteria:

  • Security features – are you protected from hackers and vulnerabilities?
  • Privacy options – how much of your data is collected? Are there any tools to protect your privacy?
  • Number of available secure extensions and add-ons
  • Multi-platform support

Neither of the safe web browsers is without its cons. Some offer great security and privacy but support few extensions. In the meantime, others check all the boxes but work on desktop only. Therefore, we encourage you to check out the full list and see which secure browser is the best fit for you.

But first, let’s see how the best private browsers rank from the #1 most secure to the one you shouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.

Safest web browsers

BrowserSecurity & Privacy
1. Tor browser🥇⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
2. Mozilla Firefox🥈⭐⭐⭐⭐
3. Brave🥉⭐⭐⭐⭐
4. Ungoogled Chromium⭐⭐⭐⭐
5. Apple Safari⭐⭐⭐
6. Google Chrome⭐⭐
7. Opera⭐⭐
8. Microsoft Edge

Most secure private and mainstream web browsers in 2021

Below is the combined list of the most secure mainstream and private browsers in 2021. Naturally, we find only the private ones at the top of our list, but that doesn’t mean that a mainstream browser cannot provide you with decent security and privacy.

Securing your browsing is not enough
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1. Tor Browser – the king of private browsers

Tor Browser logo

+ Pros:

  • Excellent security and privacy
  • Access to the Deep Web
  • Preconfigured with security extensions

– Cons:

  • Slow
  • Your ISP sees if you’re using Tor
  • Blocks JavaScript

Often hailed as the undisputed king of private browsers, Tor is an open-source Firefox-based web browser that comes with a plethora of security features that protect against browser fingerprinting. As the name implies, it runs on the Tor network. On top of that, it’s regularly updated to deal with all of the new security issues.

  • Security rating: very high. By default, Tor blocks all scripts and runs in the private browsing mode. When you close your browser window, nothing is saved. This includes cookies, history, and passwords. Thus, Tor provides a less streamlined but more secure browsing experience. Flash and Quicktime are also blocked by default to prevent anyone from hacking into your device using their security vulnerabilities.
  • Privacy rating: very high. Tor is built with privacy protection at its very core. By using a vast network of “relays” to bounce traffic around the world, Tor makes it virtually impossible to track and identify what you’re doing online. And the HTTPS Everywhere integration ensures that your data is encrypted whenever you connect to a website. These features and more make Tor the absolute champion of secure browsers in terms of out-of-box privacy.
  • No of secure extensions: average
  • Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android

On the negative side, the Tor browser blocks scripts that may result in websites loading erratically. What’s more, Tor significantly slows down your connection because of the multiple layers it uses to hide your traffic. We also don’t recommend it for novice users as tweaking the Tor browser’s settings can easily leave you vulnerable.

Tor is so secure and privacy-friendly, leading many to believe it’s all you need for protection. This may be true in many cases, but you should consider supplementing Tor with a secure VPN service for maximum security.

2. Mozilla Firefox – the safest mainstream web browser

Mozilla Firefox Browser logo

+ Pros:

  • Very high security and privacy
  • Plenty of browser extensions
  • User-friendly

– Cons:

  • Update cycle could be shorter
  • Requires customization
  • Dependable on third-party extensions

Although Tor may be the most battle-ready private browser out of the box, Firefox has such massive plugin support that you can configure it to compete for the top spot. Like Tor, Firefox is also open-source. Unlike Tor, it’s been fully audited and doesn’t suffer from speed losses.

  • Security rating: high. If you download a few privacy plugins, Mozilla Firefox can be your answer to online dangers. The main reason why Firefox is a great alternative to Tor is that you can use it for secure browsing and easily switch to full-featured browsing. Besides, there’s a privacy-oriented Firefox Focus browser for Android and iOS.
  • Privacy rating: high. Like Tor and unlike Google’s Chrome browser, Firefox doesn’t track your browser history. It’s also updated regularly to deal with new security threats. Unless you’re looking for hardcore security, Mozilla Firefox is your best choice.
  • No of secure extensions: high
  • Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS

Mozilla Firefox is mostly based on customization and is perfect for those who want a completely personalized browsing experience. Remember that it can take a fair bit of time to find all of the right plugins that you require, so make sure you’re willing to invest the time needed to make Firefox the perfect browser.

You can learn more about its security and privacy features by reading our full Mozilla Firefox review.

3. Brave – lightweight and secure browser

Brave browser logo

+ Pros:

  • Fast
  • Very high security and privacy
  • Great for novice users

– Cons:

  • Shows ads
  • Few secure extensions
  • Tor mode is a lackluster

While Brave is a relatively new Chromium-based private browser, it already supports all major platforms – something that Tor and Ungoogled Chromium are yet to achieve. Mainly developed by Brandon Eich, a former Mozilla contributor and JavaScript creator, Brave is lightweight, secure, and made specifically with privacy in mind.

  • Security rating: high. Out of the box, Brave blocks browser fingerprinting, scripts, and cookies by default. It also has a solid ad-blocker and provides the HTTPS Everywhere integration, as well as relatively frequent security updates.
  • Privacy rating: high. With a completely de-Googled codebase and customizable private windows, Brave further boosts its credentials with its complete lack of privacy scandals and/or concerns. That said, it’s still a work-in-progress. Until Brave adds more entries to its collection of secure add-ons, it’s difficult to recommend it as the most secure browser available.
  • No of secure extensions: low
  • Supported platforms: Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, iOS

Overall, Brave is an excellent choice for those who don’t mind using an experimental piece of software and don’t struggle with minimalist functionality. Its only downside is its comparatively low number of supported browser extensions. Some users may also not like the introduction of ads as a means to support the initiative.

4. Ungoogled Chromium – no Google privacy concerns

Ungoogled Chromium browser logo

+ Pros:

  • Very high security and privacy
  • Plenty of extensions
  • Frequent updates

– Cons:

  • No mobile version
  • Requires customization
  • Manual updates

Google Chrome is an open-source project, and Chromium is its less intrusive version that still offers most of Google’s products. But there’s also an ungoogled version that removes all links to the company and sits high on our secure browsers list while still allowing to install Chrome Store extensions. It also benefits from the regular Chromium security updates and has a nice feature of forcing all pop-ups into new tabs.

  • Security rating: high. While Chromium already scores high in the security department, the ungoogled version takes an extra step, removing background requests to all web services. It also removes pre-made binaries from the source code. Ungoogled Chromium uses HTTPS when possible, disables automatic URL formatting in Omnibox, and disallows pinging an IPv6 address.
  • Privacy rating: high. To keep your privacy protected, ungoogled Chromium cuts all ties to Google and its products by removing all code specific to Google web services. This means you can say goodbye to Google Host Detector, Google URL Tracker, Google Cloud Messaging, and so on. Finally, it disables WebRTC, which was impossible in Chromium without a third-party add-on or VPN.
  • No of secure extensions: high
  • Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux

Users should be aware that most settings require manual activation, making it not that friendly to those less familiar with cybersecurity. Being portable and requiring no installation, Ungoogled Chromium only partly solves your secure browser’s mobility problem as there’s still no support for mobile devices.

5. Apple Safari – the most secure default browser

Apple Safari browser logo

+ Pros:

  • Very high security
  • Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP)
  • Runs separate sandboxes

– Cons:

  • Supports Apple products only
  • Few extensions
  • Privacy concerns

Since Google’s Chrome exploded onto the web back in 2008, pretty much every default browser has suffered in its wake. Safari is no exception – its Windows version has been discontinued since 2012, making it available only to Apple users. That said, we still consider it a fairly secure browser in general and probably the most secure default browser despite its sluggish update delivery.

  • Security rating: high. Safari runs websites in a sandbox, preventing unauthorized data access and malicious code from one of your tabs from taking over your entire browser. This is done by separately quarantining each open tab. Other cool features include a built-in password manager, protection from phishing and fake websites, as well as a private browsing mode.
  • Privacy rating: medium. Although Apple is known to have been accused of data collection in the past, the company’s decision to have users opt into data gathering techniques has made Apple’s products a lot more attractive from a privacy standpoint. Still, its creators are part of the NSA’s PRISM program, were hoarding Safari browsing history, and even collected it when users were in private mode.
  • No of secure extensions: low
  • Supported platforms: macOS, iOS

To learn more,  check out our in-depth Apple Safari review.

6. Google Chrome – secure but short on privacy

Google Chrome browser logo

+ Pros:

  • Very high security
  • Fast update cycle
  • Plenty of extensions

– Cons:

  • Hardware-hungry
  • Hard to customize
  • Privacy issues

Over a decade since its introduction, Google Chrome is now the most popular web browser on the planet. While it scores exceptionally high in terms of security because of frequent updates and an abundance of useful features, many (including us) would hesitate to call Google Chrome a “secure browser.” Here’s why.

  • Security rating: high. With features like automatic download scanning, automatic updates, automatic phishing and malware website warnings, Incognito mode, and sandbox tabs, Chrome is certainly no slouch when it comes to security. Not to mention the fact that Chrome has been the back-to-back winner of two Pwn2Own hacking events. Despite trying their hardest to find vulnerabilities within the browser, hackers just couldn’t crack its defenses.
  • Privacy rating: low. All the privacy options in the world couldn’t make us recommend Chrome as a privacy-friendly browser. The primary reasons for that are Chrome’s interaction with your Google account and the Sync feature, which automatically collects your data and sends it back to Google, including things like your browsing history, website permissions, and search history. What’s more, the mobile version of Chrome provides Google with your location data as well.
  • No of secure extensions: high
  • Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome OS

If you want to learn more about Chrome’s privacy concerns and its security features, check out our full Google Chrome review.

7. Opera – the lack of plugins is its Achille’s heel

Opera browser logo

+ Pros:

  • Very high security
  • Great ad-blocker
  • Anonymous sync

– Cons:

  • Built-in “VPN” logs data
  • Opera Turbo now mobile-only
  • Privacy issues

For a long while, Opera was a fairly underrated browser. Launched back in 1995, Opera has been considered one of the faster and more secure of the non-default browsers for decades. Sadly, if including a dubious VPN that tracks bandwidth and usage wasn’t enough, it was acquired by the China-based Golden Brick Capital company, continuing to raise concerns about its privacy practices.

  • Security rating: high. Opera has built-in features, such as the ability to route your traffic through their servers and a very robust ad-blocker. It’s also very good at compressing your traffic, so it might be great if you have a slow connection.
  • Privacy rating: low. As we mention above, a pre-installed VPN that logs your online activity and a bunch of opt-out tracking options pretty much speak for themselves. If you want to keep your browsing private, don’t use Opera.
  • No of secure extensions: average
  • Supported platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS

The main problem with Opera is that it needs plugins to be completely secure. This may not seem like a huge problem for Firefox or Chrome users, but due to its low popularity, finding the right plugins for Opera is much harder.

If you’re still undecided, read our full Opera review to learn more about how Opera compares to other secure browsers on the market.

8. Microsoft Edge – avoid it at all costs

Microsoft Edge browser logo

+ Pros:

  • Fast
  • Three privacy levels
  • Plenty of extensions

– Cons:

  • Lacks features
  • Security concerns
  • Privacy issues

Leaving Internet Explorer and its numerous vulnerabilities behind, Microsoft built Edge on the Chromium platform and upped the ante in terms of technical security. That said, its sparsely timed updates and lack of tracking protection features still put it behind most browsers.

  • Security rating: medium. Running your tabs in a sandbox, Chrome-style, limiting extension support, and adding the SmartScreen Filter from Internet Explorer is all well and good. However, Edge’s long list of vulnerabilities knocks it down a couple of notches when it comes to security.
  • Privacy rating: low. For some weird reason, Microsoft Edge has not included any tracking protection features in its InPrivate browsing mode, which means you’re being tracked and monitored even when you think you’re “incognito.” On the bright side, there 3 pre-made privacy levels to choose from, each balancing protection and usability.
  • No of secure extensions: high
  • Supported platforms: Windows 10, macOS, Linux (beta), Android, iOS, Xbox One

Secure your browser with a VPN

No matter which browser you choose, securing your connection with a VPN is still a must.

A VPN routes your traffic through a remote server, encrypting your connection and hiding your IP address in the process. This means that anyone trying to spy on you will only see that you’re connected to a VPN, not knowing which websites you’ve been visiting or where you’re connecting from.

We recommend choosing from our best VPN services for securing your browser and other online activities. All of them will provide you with military-grade encryption, no-logs, and good connectivity.

What’s a secure browser, anyway?

Secure web browsers are ones that don’t track your activity and do their best to avoid vulnerabilities that might allow hackers to exploit loopholes in their coding. Contrary to popular belief, today’s mainstream browsers are no longer the easiest of targets for attackers to compromise.

Built-in security features like download protection, malicious website detection, and automatic “do not track” requests made mainstream browsers like Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome a lot “safer” from a security standpoint.

On the other hand, mainstream browsers that enable you to browse in so-called “private” windows can still track your activity and send your data to third parties. That’s why your best bet is to choose any of these secure browsers:

However, if you don’t want to stay too far from the mainstream browsers, try Mozilla Firefox. It’s the safest and most private choice, leaving others like Google Chrome or Apple Safari far behind. And with a little bit of tweaking, Firefox can be the best private browser overall.

Understanding private browsers

As we understand them today, private browsers are focused on giving users more control over their online privacy.

With that in mind, private browsers like Ungoogled Chromium and Brave usually come with additional protective features or simply without Google integration and can better address the privacy needs of more demanding users.

These are browsers built specifically for privacy aficionados and are usually designed to block all manner of trackers and potentially hazardous scripts. Tor browser comes as the most extreme example of this approach because it sacrifices performance and user-friendliness for the sake of providing maximum protection.

With that said, there are mainstream browsers like Mozilla Firefox that offer very high privacy and security while still thinking about the average user. As a result, this private browser list aims to balance between the hardcore and the readily-available options.

Using more than one secure browser

For online safety, we recommend using more than one browser. Most of us want to browse the web while being connected to multiple accounts. This is convenient, but it also makes it easy to track your activities and link them to the same identity.

The solution here is to set the rules for using each browser. For example, you may want to use Mozilla Firefox for your daily tasks that require logging into the email and other accounts. The second browser, e.g., Brave browser, can be reserved for browsing in private mode while being logged out. Finally, the Tor browser can be reserved for tasks that require maximum privacy and security.

Feel free to create your own set of rules and use different browsers, just make sure not to break them. And when it comes to logging in, never save your passwords in the browser. If you have too many of them to remember – it’s high time you started using a password manager.

Safest browser for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS in 2021

Unfortunately, not all safe browsers are available on every operating system or device. What’s more, resource-heavy options like Google Chrome may not be suitable for mobile users that don’t have the latest smartphone.

Below you will find the safest browser for each platform in 2021. Since Tor browser is aimed at advanced users, we do not include it in this list.

Safest browser for Windows – Mozilla Firefox

It’s hard to recommend anything else but Mozilla Firefox for Windows users. It offers great out-of-the-box protection and, at the same time, allows in-depth customization for privacy aficionados. It also has plenty of browser extensions, such as HTTPS Everywhere and DuckDuckGo, to further increase your online safety.

Safest browser for Mac – Mozilla Firefox

Once again, we recommend Mozilla Firefox. While Mac users might feel inclined to use Safari, which is not a bad option by any means, Firefox offers much more privacy and add-ons. However, if you don’t care that much about data collection even when you’re in private mode, Safari can still be a great choice.

Safest browser for Linux – Tor browser

We’re recommending the Tor browser for Linux users simply because most of them won’t feel daunted by the number of available options. If you’re not new to online security and privacy tools, then there’s no reason to look for another browser. And if you’re not doing anything that requires extra protection, Mozilla’s Firefox or Ungoogled Chromium might just do the trick.

Safest browser for Android – Opera

Some of you may be surprised to see Opera as the best secure Android browser. However, the reasoning behind is simple – Opera actually has three different versions that cater to specific tastes of the heterogeneous Android community.

In addition to the main browser app, you can choose Opera Mini for fast and data-saving browsing or Opera Touch designed to be used with one finger. All of them have an ad-blocker and are generally privacy-focused.

Safest browser for iOS – Brave

While Safaris no slouch, Brave is the safest browser for iOS. It’s faster than Chrome or Firefox and successfully blocks pop-ups, trackers & ads. Some users may not like Brave’s native advertising, though. In that case, try Mozilla Firefox instead.

As you’ve probably figured out already, a lot depends not on the browser itself but on the available extensions. That’s why popular safe web browsers have the edge over the likes of Safari or Opera.

Below is a list of Top 10 popular safe web browser add-ons in no particular order that should help enhance your security and privacy, given that your browser supports them.

  1. uBlock Origin – probably the best ad blocker for browsers that also comes with tracking protection and serves as a better alternative to Chrome’s Safe Browsing.
  2. DuckDuckGo – an alternative to Google Search, grades each website according to its trustfulness.
  3. Ghostery – a popular ad and tracker blocker.
  4. – a shortened URL may hide a malicious link. This add-on gives you a chance to decide whether you really want to open it.
  5. Disconnect Facebook – stop the social media giant from tracking you around the web even when you’re not using it.
  6. Click&Clean – a truly one-click solution for deleting your browsing history. It works even for the incognito mode!
  7. HTTPS Everywhere – this add-on forces websites to use a secure HTTPS encrypted connection whenever it’s possible.
  8. Decentraleyes – fights to track via content delivery networks (CDN).
  9. Cookie Autodelete – deletes unused cookies automatically.
  10. Privacy Badger – effectively blocks spying ads and trackers.

While these add-ons are tried and tested, always be cautious when installing any third-party applications, especially if they are free. Trusting a high Google or App Store ranking is ill-advised – you should always search for an external review from an authoritative source.

Bottom line

After looking at the most secure web browsers in 2021, we can say that the Tor browser still holds the #1 spot. Available on all major platforms save for iOS, it provides the best possible security and privacy, even without much tinkering. However, it’s slow speed means that users need another option for daily use.

Our tests have shown that Mozilla Firefox is the best safe web browser for the average user. It’s simple to install use and can be easily customized. What’s more, Firefox comes with a number of add-ons that will further increase your online protection.

We’ve also shown that a lot depends on your device too. That’s why mobile users on strict data plans should choose no other than Opera browser or its Mini version.

So when you need the best private web browser, check if it fits your individual needs first. And most importantly, remember that you can’t have full protection without a reliable Virtual Private Network.

What are your thoughts on secure web browsers? Do you agree with our lineup for 2021? Let us know in the comments below!

In the meantime, you can also check our other articles:


What is the most secure Web browser in 2021?

The most secure web browser is the Tor browser. It offers unprecedented security and privacy and, at the same time, is arguably the best option for surfing the deep web.

Which browser is the most secure for online banking?

The most secure browser for banking is Mozilla Firefox. It beats the Tor browser because the latter is too restrictive for such a task. In the meantime, Firefox will make sure your connection stays private and protected from third-parties.

What is the best browser in 2021?

The best browser in 2021 is Mozilla Firefox. It has excellent security and privacy, supports all main platforms, and has plenty of add-ons to further bolster your online protection.

What are the fastest web browsers in 2021?

Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari, and Google Chrome are the fastest web browsers in 2021. However, Opera is the fastest web browser for mobile users.

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