Browse the web with privacy and security with these best secure browsers. Protect your privacy online with the eight best secure browsers you can use in 2016.
What does the idea of a secure browser mean in 2016? The world is now more complex than it was in 2010 when we last looked at the contenders. People are more oriented to mobile devices running under very different conditions while a range of security features such as URL filtering, download protection and do not track have transformed mainstream desktop browsers such as Chrome, IE and Firefox. In a sense all browsers could now plausibly claim to be ‘secure’ browsers.
If that’s the case, what has happened to what were once considered secure browsers? One answer is the specialised products are now more focused on the issue of user privacy, of handing back control to the user and opting out of data collection systems of the sort that underpin firms such as Google.
It is perfectly possible to tweak Chrome, Firefox or IE, fine tuning them for security and privacy if that’s important. Each now has a privacy mode – which might or might not convince the sceptic of course. But the philosophy behind the true secure browser is to eschew the notion of platforms and plug-ins, stripping back every non-essential feature to create a more minimalist experience.
The following five (OK, plus one plug-in) achieve this is in different ways. This list is not intended to be exhaustive, merely an indication of what’s on offer from ones that caught our eye. Privacy usually requires compromises so they won't be for everyone.
Best Secure Browser: Epic privacy browser
Based on Chromium, Epic is the perfect example of a browser that strips out every conceivable feature to maximise privacy. It’s rather like using a minimalist Google Chrome with the Google. Cookies and trackers are eliminated after each session, all searches are proxied through the firm’s own servers (which means there is no way to connect an IP address to a search), and it attempt to prioritise SSL connections wherever possible., useful for open Wi-Fi connections. It does not collect data about its users and comes with excellent built-in ad blocking.
For a fully-encrypted connection, it includes a one-button proxying feature that does slow down browsing but will appeal to some users (it can’t necessarily be used as a regional bypass proxy because Epic’s servers are based in the US). Despite eschewing plug-ins a handful are available to make life a bit easier, for example password manager LastPass.
Downsides? Epic doesn’t seem to include the malware or anti-phishing protection now found on popular browsers.
Best Secure Browser: Comodo Dragon/Ice Dragon
Comodo has continued to improve its Dragon secure browser, forking it into two version based on Chromium (Dragon) and Firefox (Ice Dragon), sort of remixed versions of the standard browsers that add features while removing some potentially undesirable ones. Which one you choose would depend on your current investment in either Chrome or Firefox because each aims to maintain compatibility with thing like plug-ins, stored passwords, and favourites if desired.
Features? Probably the first one is the ability to choose whether to use Comodo’s SecureDNS servers for either Dragon or all applications (or not at all), which potentially offers privacy and security compared to a user wanting to bypass their ISP’s infrastructure. This incorporates a domain filtering system designed to limit exposure to problem domains of the sort used by malware
Probably the most intriguing feature is the browser’s ‘virtualised mode that isolates it from the host system. This is a free feature but requires the user to install Comodo Internet Security (CIS), a free version of the company’s anti-virus software. Not everyone will want to do that but the added security of this approach is worth considering.
Comodo also includes SiteInspector, a system for filtering suspect URLs as they are accessed.
Downsides? Comodo is set up as a parallel world to Chrome or Firefox minus some of the tracking and with some extra added layers of security. Impressive as this sounds it’s almost the polar opposite of Epic’s minimalism - worth experimenting with perhaps.
We should also mention that the recent controversy that engulfed Comodo over its promotion of tools such as PrivDog does not, according to the company, affect Dragon.
Comodo also now offers something called Chromodo. As far as we can tell it is identical to Dragon but with a more standard (i.e. non-Comodo branded) look and feel.