It’s never been more important to ensure you have the most secure browser on your device. Today, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about what makes for a secure browser, how to identify the best choice for your system, and how to bring your Internet privacy to the next level with a VPN.
Every time you connect to the internet, the first thing you do is open a web browser. These unassuming pieces of software are our portal to the online realm. They can also make or break our anonymity and privacy, making them a key target for hackers and malware developers.
With security gaining prominence in the public eye, a number of browser developers have begun focusing on creating a more private environment in their products. We’ve collected the most secure of these browser below, ensuring you stay safe no matter which device you use.
What Makes a Browser Secure?
The most secure web browsers put a premium on our privacy. They block malicious scripts, they prevent ads from tracking us, and they can even encrypt our data to make sure no one can follow our online activity. There are a few main areas browsers focus on to help keep us safe on the web, including the categories below.
Most modern browsers have a robust security section in their configuration page. These come with a few basic privacy features that help keep you safe online, including things like Do Not Track requests, password managers, cookie settings, and so on. A few offer malware and phishing protection through third party services, but this feature is far from standard.
Third party extensions provide services and features browser developers can’t include on their own. Some of them are useful, some are just for fun, and some turn your standard web browsing into a powerhouse of online security. Most modern PC browsers based on a Chromium or Firefox core will accept extensions by default. You can use them to add new security features like encryption, ad blocking, script blocking, or VPN protection. Make sure you only access reliable third party extensions, however, as they can also be used to steal your data and compromise your security.
RELATED READING: Are VPN Browser Extensions Safe?
Preventing User Error
Simple user error is the biggest cause of privacy breaches, things like leaving your web history intact or forgetting to log out of an account on a public device. Browsers usually can’t do anything about this issue, though there are some that include incognito or privacy tabs that help keep your activity safe from local attacks.
LEARN MORE: 5 Essential Tips for Safer Browsing
Better Browser Security with a VPN
Virtual private networks can help you take your online security to a new level. They provide base-level encryption for all your internet activity, and they also protect your identity by routing traffic through a non-local server network. Using a VPN with the above browsers is an incredible way to lock down your data so you never have to worry about your privacy ever again.
We took a look at some of the most popular and well-respected VPN services on the market, evaluating each one for speed, security, and ease of use. Below are our top picks for the best VPN to use for general web browsing. Some even include browser extensions you can install for premium protection.
The ExpressVPN service is fast, friendly, and easy to use, making it one of the best VPNs around. The service’s software is designed for quick one-click access to a high speed connection, no fussing around with ugly menus or complicated configuration pages. You also get to take advantage of 256-bit AES encryption, a zero-logging policy on all traffic, and both kill switch and DNS leak protection.
ExpressVPN’s 3,000+ servers cover 140 locations in 94 different countries. This means better speeds and lower latency scores no matter where you live, work, or travel. Many of ExpressVPN’s apps even offer built-in speed tests so you can verify you’re getting the fastest connection possible.
ExpressVPN comes with browser extensions for three major platforms: Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. You can install it on any browser built on the same core as these products, as well.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime
- Super fast servers (minimal speed loss)
- Torrenting allowed
- No logging policy well enforced
- 24/7 Live Chat.
- Power-users configuration options.
NordVPN has stayed near the top of the VPN lists for years, all thanks to the company’s incredible network of servers. The list is always growing, but right now it sits at just around 5,700 servers in 60 countries, the largest in the industry. This massive number of nodes means you’ll never have a hard time getting fast downloads, no matter where you live. NordVPN also delivers strong 256-bit AES encryption for all connections, offers kill switch and DNS leak protection, and deploys a thorough zero-logging that covers timestamps, traffic, DNS logs, and more. NordVPN also has dedicated servers for added DDoS protection, onion over VPN routing, and double encryption, making it one of the most secure VPN providers around.
NordVPN offers VPN proxy services compatible with all major browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer (Edge). There’s no dedicated extension or plug-in app, but it’s a great way to double up on your browser’s security.
Read our full NordVPN review.
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- Different IP addresses aervers
- Connect up to 6 devices at once
- “Double” data protection
- Great support (24/7 chat).
- Some servers can be unreliable
- Apps can sometime be slow to connect.
Looking for more features from your VPN service? PureVPN is the way to go. This unusual provider goes far beyond the usual encryption and geolocation options to provide a ton of added security benefits for subscribers. Ever wanted virus protection, malware shields, app blocking features, or DNS level website filtering? PureVPN’s got it all, each one integrated into the service for easy and complete online safety.
PureVPN’s dedicated VPN features are nothing to ignore, either. The company offers 256-bit AES encryption, a zero-logging policy on all traffic, DNS leak protection, and an automatic kill switch, all backed by a sturdy network of over 2,000 servers in 140 different countries for fast connections worldwide. You can even install PureVPN using Chrome and Firefox extensions.
Read our full PureVPN review.
IPVanish offers a superb balance of speed and security, features most other VPNs struggle to get right. The service is ideal for video streaming, torrents, and anyone who enjoys Netflix, YouTube, or Kodi. IPVanish keeps you safe and secure with 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection, and an automatic kill switch, along with smart privacy practices that include a zero-logging policy on all traffic. IPVanish also operates a network of over 1,300 servers in 60+ different countries, meaning you’ll get a fast connection and incredibly low latency no matter your location.
Read our full IPVanish review.
The Most Secure Browser for PC
Mobile devices have been growing in popularity over the past decade, but they still haven’t surpassed desktop web browsing in terms of raw use. Desktop browsers have more features, better performance scores, and are generally more secure than mobile browsers, making most of them a better choice when you need privacy.
When it comes to raw security and privacy, nothing can beat the Tor Browser. Nothing. The browser is built upon a Mozilla core that leverages onion routing and the Tor Network to encrypt every packet of data that leaves your device, no VPN required. Data is then passed through a series of nodes that send packets back and forth to obfuscate the origin, making it practically impossible for anyone to tell where a packet came from. This means everything you do in the Tor Browser is about as anonymous as you can get.
Apart from its built-in encryption and onion routing, the Tor Browser also comes with a host of default security features that eliminate possible breaches of identity. Technologies like Flash, Java, or embedded applets are disabled by default, as they’re known to pass private information to external servers regardless of your browser settings. Preventing access to these means a lot more security, but it also cuts down on overall web usability.
Browsing with Tor means sacrificing a few other features, as well. For starters, the Tor developers suggest you never log into private accounts on the Tor Browser unless you have to, as there’s always a slim chance something could go wrong and your privacy becomes compromised. When you do log in, you’ll find onion routing slows your connection to a crawl, a fact that makes complex tasks painfully frustrating to complete. And even though you can install some Firefox-compatible add-ons on Tor, doing so will likely break your anonymity, so you shouldn’t.
READ ALSO: Does My ISP Know I’m Using Tor?
The Tor Browser is by far the most secure browser you can use. It’s not made for everyday internet activities, however, so you shouldn’t make the switch unless you need top shelf privacy at all costs.
Overview of Tor:
- Built-in encryption, anonymizing onion routing, and incredibly strong privacy settings by default.
- Security comes at the cost of speed and usability features, making it less than ideal for daily browsing.
- Download for Windows, Mac, and Linux from the official site.
Brave is an open-source browser project launched by the original co-founder of Mozilla. Its entire purpose is to deliver a secure, lightweight web experience without sacrificing usability. It’s loosely based on the Chromium engine, which powers Google’s Chrome browser, but it comes with a number of added features that make everyday web use more secure, no extensions or configurations required.
The team behind Brave thinks online advertising has gotten out of control. It’s like a zoo, and what’s the most fearsome animal at the zoo? A lion, which just happens to be Brave’s mascot. The most controversial feature in Brave is its built-in ad blocker, turned on by default. Website owners and online advertisers hate it, but if you want true privacy and security, you simply can’t let these ad publishers have access to your activities.
Apart from its built-in ad blocking feature, Brave also delivers phishing and malware protection, script blocking, browser fingerprinting protection, and HTTPS Everywhere. All of these added security features are available under the browser’s “Shields” configuration page, making it easy to switch things on or off.
If you need easy security and aren’t willing to sacrifice web usability, Brave is an excellent choice. It’s one of the most secure PC browsers by design, and it’s fast and highly customizable to boot.
Overview of Brave:
- A newer browser built with security in mind. Includes smart privacy features by default, and works with many Chrome extensions, as well.
- Only a few years old and doesn’t include as much polish as some users would like.
- Download for Windows, Mac, and Linux from the official site.
Most Secure Browsers for Android
The Android marketplace is flooded with free browsers, many of which promise speed, security, and a ton of free features, including VPN protection. The vast majority of these fail to deliver on most of those fronts, unfortunately, and some go the opposite direction and steal your data while browsing. Part of staying secure is using software you can trust, which is why we made our selections below.
The tagline says it all: “Browse like no one’s watching.” Firefox Focus is a streamlined version of the mobile Firefox browser developed by the same team at Mozilla. It blocks a wide range of web trackers and ads by default, making your mobile browsing faster and more private without you having to lift a finger.
The innovative feature in Firefox Focus is clearing your browser history at every opportunity. Typed URLs, visited pages, cache content, and related information can be removed with a single tap. No need to navigate through a ton of menus, just erase it and forget about it. It’s kind of like having incognito mode always on. When coupled with the browser’s other security features, you’ve got the makings of an incredibly useful mobile app.
Overview of Firefox Focus:
- Lightweight, easy to use, and incredibly straightforward. Some of the best default privacy setting in any browser on any platform.
- Some websites fail to render properly, forcing you to keep a backup browser, just in case.
- Download for Android via Google Play.
Like its PC counterpart, the Brave browser for Android is built around the concepts of privacy and security without sacrificing usability. You get all of the features from the main product, including built-in ad blocking, HTTPS Everywhere, script blocking, and tracking prevention, all easily accessible from a mobile interface. Mobile exclusive features include battery and data optimization to help keep your phone in tip top health, no matter how heavy you use the browser.
Overview of Brave:
- Blocks everything from pop-ups to cookies and trackers, all by default. Excellent for base-level mobile browser security.
- Offers privacy features but doesn’t switch most of them on by default.
- Download for Android via Google Play.
Ghostery started out as a script blocking extension for PC browsers. The team eventually expanded to the mobile browser market, bringing their characteristic blue ghost mascot with them. The Ghostery browser’s philosophy is to block everything that might track your activity or invade your privacy by default. It comes with Ghostery’s incredibly powerful security tools integrated into the main interface, making it easy to toggle features in case a website doesn’t load as intended.
Overview of Ghostery:
- Simple privacy from a trusted source, all in a single convenient package.
- The app itself isn’t quite as fast as other mobile browsers.
- Download for Android via Google Play.
Orfox – Tor Browser
Built from the code that powers the Tor Browser, Orfox offers the same high level encryption and onion routing features as its PC counterpart, all in a surprisingly fast mobile interface. Orfox blocks everything from scripts to trackers to ads, and it comes with security extensions like NoScript and HTTPS Everywhere by default. Traffic is encrypted and routed through the Tor network to provide unparalleled anonymity and security. You’ll notice a bit of a connection slowdown, but if it’s privacy you want, Orfox delivers more than all the other browsers combined.
Overview of Orfox:
- The gold standard in web browsing privacy and anonymity.
- Security features often break websites and slow down your connection.
- Download the Orbot Proxy first (required), then the Orfox Browser via Google Play.
Most Secure Browser for iPhone
The iOS platform has a shaky reputation with the online privacy community. While Apple goes to great lengths to ensure content featured in its walled garden is safe to use, these measures also prevent stronger security apps from reaching the iPhone audience. A number of developers have worked around these limitations, however, providing excellent privacy for iOS device owners.
The Onion Browser for iOS brings the benefits of Tor encryption and onion routing to your iPhone. It’s developed by a third party source, not the same team behind the Tor Browser, but it has a reputation for being fast and reliable. With the Onion Browser you can encrypt and anonymize all of your web traffic with ease. External sites never see your real IP address, and you can even use .onion domains without the need for extensions.
Overview of the Onion Browser:
- Top level security and identity protection made easy to use on your iOS device.
- Onion routing makes it slower than most browsers.
- Download on iOS via the iTunes App Store.
Brave for iOS
Surprised to see this here? You shouldn’t be. Just like its counterparts on PC and Android, the Brave browser for iOS goes to great lengths to provide a fast and secure web browsing experience that doesn’t compromise usability. It comes with ad blocking and anti-script features turned on by default, preventing things like trackers and nasty pop-ups from interfering with your online time. You’ll also find handy things like HTTPS Everywhere and malware protection, all enabled and ready to keep you safe.
Overview of Brave:
- Incredible security that blocks everything from cookies to trackers to ads.
- Known to be somewhat buggy and unreliable on iPhone and iPad.
- Download for iOS via the iTunes App Store.
Make Any Browser More Secure
You don’t necessarily have to ditch your current browser to gain a little security. While the software above is better than most options by default, there are a number of incredible extensions you can install to enjoy a safe, private internet experience on a wide variety of browsers.
Each of the extensions below is available for most modern browsers, including Chrome, Opera, and Firefox. Many include mobile counterparts for Android and iOS, as well. Follow the links for more information.
- HTTPS Everywhere – An extension made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that forces websites to use a secure connection.
- Disconnect – A powerful privacy tool that helps prevent data leaks and keeps your information safe.
- Privacy Badger – Another add-on made by the EFF. This one blocks invasive ads, spying trackers, and helps discourage browser fingerprinting.
- NoScript – A phenomenal anti-tracking add-on for Firefox browsers. A good alternative to Privacy Badger with a few extra features.
- DuckDuckGo – Most search engines track your data and share it with other websites, even with tracking features disabled by the browser. To ensure your privacy, use DuckDuckGo, the site that never tracks your activity.
Browsers are the focal point of most of our online activity. Making sure your software is safe, anonymous, and secure is vital to your web privacy. You can improve your current browser by adding the right extensions, or go with a new app that puts privacy front and center. Either way, staying safe online is something we all have to think about, even if we’re just checking our e-mail.
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. ExpressVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.