Set Up Privacy and Security Extensions in Browser
DAY 9: Set Up Privacy and Security Extensions in Browser
Welcome to Day 9 of my 30 day security challenge, the month long challenge I created to help you gain control of your privacy and security online. You can follow along with the security challenge via my blog at snubsie.com, where you can skip ahead or download a checklist of the challenge. Each video will also be curated into a playlist so it'll be easy to follow along from Day 1 all the way through 30 here on Youtube.
Today we're going to talk about privacy and security extensions in the browser. Firefox and chrome specifically have special apps that you can download and customize to make your browsing experience better. These apps are available on Firefox and chrome websites respectively, and are kinda like apps that you'd download on your phone, these just happen to be ones that work on your browser.
I'm going to go thru some of my favorites and why I like 'em, and give you some pro tips at the end.
First off is HTTPS Everywhere. This extension adds an additional layer of security to each site you visit without the need to think about it. You'll usually see HTTP in the search bar at the beginning of the website address. The S at the end stands for security, and is a better protocol than simple HTTP. HTTP can be thought of like screaming at the top of your lungs exactly what you're doing on each site. It's not secure, so if someone else is on that network and watching the action on devices in that network, they could see what you're doing. HTTPS makes it harder for someone to do that. Sure, they'll still see data on the network, but that data will be encrypted. In this case, it'd be like screaming at the top of your lungs, but in a language that no one understands. Luckily many sites have implemented HTTPS on login pages and such, but HTTP is still prevalent on many smaller sites. Using the HTTPS Everywhere extension automatically applies the S so you don't have to.
Privacy Badger was created by the Election Frontier Foundation and continues to be an excellent choice for privacy. It stops third parties and advertisers from tracking your activity across the web. Privacy badger has a simple interface and color codes trackers so it's easy to distinguish which sites have embedded third party code that tracks you. It won't outright block ads unless those ads seem to be tracking you. There's a few alternatives to Privacy Badger too, including Ghostery and Disconnect, both of which work quite well.
AdBlock is the go-to option for blocking ads on websites. This one, when enabled, will look for third party ads on websites and automatically block them while loading the site. But, some sites have an alert to keep an eye out for ad block, because those sites make money with ads! You can whitelist sites to never be blocked if you can't access them with AdBlock turned on.
Why would you want to block ads? Surely you want to support news sites and YouTube videos. It's a conundrum for me. I'm supported through YouTube ads but embedded ads on websites can sometimes be malicious and load bad code without your knowledge. So I try to block ads where I can then support creators in other ways, like Patreon or by buying their merchandise.
Some alternatives to AdBlock include AdBlock Plus and uBlock Origin, both of which offer similar blocking capabilities. Some folks prefer one over the other but since they all work in similar ways I'll leave that decision up to you and your preferences.
Cons? Sometimes running these apps may screw up browsing. I've had to disable AdBlock time to time so it would load a website correctly, because a site would be alerted that I'm running it. But I leave HTTPS Everywhere on 24/7. I would also not recommend running all of these extensions at once. Choose HTTPS Everywhere, plus a third-party tracking blocker, and an ad blocker. That's all you need, as running every single one I mentioned could really break websites, as they'll all be trying to do the same things and conflict with each other.
Pro tip? You could upgrade to a browser that offers built in privacy and security against HTTP vulnerabilities or automatically block ads. Brave Browser does this in a cool way. They block the ads from a site before the site tries to load on your phone or computer, and as such, sites won't be alerted that you're using an extension, so they won't block you from access. Brave Browser also offers a way to support creators via the browser as well.
Why not just recommend a browser like that from the start? Because of convenience. I know I'm willing to forfeit some convenience for better security which is why I run Brave on my phone. But if you don't want to, these two past days will make you more secure in popular browsers, as well as give you options for alternatives.
There are other browsers built from the ground up with security in mind, and Brave is definitely not your only option. I've linked a site below that lists some awesome extensions as well as clean browsers that you may want to consider.
Day 9 is done! Tomorrow I'll chat about using proper internet hygiene. But first, make sure to subscribe on youtube and hit up snubsie.com for the downloadable checklist and to skip ahead on the 30 day security challenge. Again, I'm Shannon Morse and I'll see you tomorrow for day 10!