- You can block hundreds of trackers during a typical browsing session using a popular secure web browser such as Tor Browser or Epic Privacy Browser.
- It's quick and easy to download private browsers, and most are compatible with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. Many browsers request donations to support privacy efforts or permit free downloads.
- Private browsing modes for search engines are less secure than private web browsers, but they are an option for tasks like casual business surfing.
- This article is for business owners who want to improve network security by implementing a private web browser.
Browsing the web can open your company to an assortment of security dangers. In a typical browsing session, by visiting even a well-known site such as CNN.com, you can reveal your search preferences, enable cookies (and other tracking methods), and expose sensitive data stored on your computer.
Most business users do not take any steps to protect themselves – or their company – when they're using the internet, and most rely on widely available browsers, such as Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. These browsers are fast and reliable; however, even if you use the "secure" mode in popular browsers, your data is still exposed, along with your IP address and your location.
The following browsers' search engines (and privacy modes) are designed to alleviate those concerns.
Key takeaway: Private web browsers can significantly boost the security of your network, providing an extra layer of defense while your employees surf the web.
1. Tor Browser
Here's the main takeaway about private browsing: If you don't download the browser itself, it's probably not secure. Adding a Chrome add-on or using a private search engine like the ones mentioned below help, but you could still be exposing your company's private data. Tor Browser makes sure that is not possible. Tor Browser uses a distributed network to anonymize your IP address. A downside of Tor, however, is that it is not as compatible with or as reliable as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
Censorship rules can also prevent you from securely downloading Tor Browser, depending on where you are located. If you cannot download Tor through the provided website links, an error message pops up, stating "Tor is censored in my country." Another potential issue with download errors is an incorrect system clock. Set the clock correctly to fix this issue, and get started using this popular and secure search engine.
2. Epic Privacy Browser
An alternative to Tor, Epic Privacy Browser is secure because it uses a private VPN, or virtual private network (which has servers in eight countries). This is significant because Epic provides free VPN access. The company claims that Epic blocks as many as 600 trackers in a typical session. Epic blocks all ads, trackers, saved sessions and your IP address to ensure your activity on the web is secure.
Epic is available on Mac, Windows and Android systems for one-click download. One concern with Epic, though, is that the host is unknown and is based outside the United States. And although the browser is advertised as secure, there is a possibility that user data can be compromised.
Easily the most popular secure search engine, DuckDuckGo (which is also available as a Chrome add-on) never saves any of your browsing history. It also blocks cookies and trackers, and ensures that your searches are never saved or sold to third parties. Because the site doesn't use trackers, it is not attached to your browsing session either. When you visit other sites, your data is never saved or tracked after you leave the site.
Unlike the safe modes in other browsers (which don't track searches locally but do track them in the cloud), DuckDuckGo doesn't track anything. And unlike most privacy programs, DuckDuckGo doesn't require the user to download a new search engine. Instead, users enter a private browsing mode that blocks phishing and tracking attempts. The add-on is free to install and ready for secure browsing immediately.
Ecosia does not sell your search results to third parties or use trackers to determine which sites you visit. And for every search you do on Ecosia, you help plant a tree somewhere in the world. The popular, secure search engine has made a global impact by helping underserved communities through user donations.
Each week, search traffic for users is anonymized, which means it isn't saved or tracked. Another bonus is that because searches are not tracked, the sites you visit cannot identify how you arrived there. It gives you a little more peace of mind, at least for web searches.
An add-on for Chrome is available for increased convenience. One downside is the lack of transparency. Although the company claims to have planted 100 million trees as of 2020, Ecosia is not a public company, so there have been no independent audits conducted to verify these numbers.
5. Google Chrome incognito mode
Google's Chrome browser is popular and reliable, and if you insist on using it in a business setting, the smarter approach is to use incognito mode.
As mentioned earlier, incognito mode is not actually secure; your IP address is still tracked. However, this private browsing mode provides some extra security in that your search preferences are not stored locally. If someone were to hack into your computer, they would not see an archive of every site you've visited, and they would have a harder time tracking your website visits.
Tip: Additional browsers have added private browsing modes, including Safari and Microsoft Edge. When using a business computer, you may not be able to download the software, but a private browsing mode conceals your browsing history from employers.
Additional tips for surfing the web safely
In addition to using one of the above browsers, there are additional precautions you can take to browse the web more safely at work:
1. Update your browser and any plugins regularly.
Web developers frequently release updates, plugins, and patches to ensure users can easily and safely browse their preferred sites. Because cybercriminals tend to exploit vulnerabilities in web browsers, ensuring your browser and any plugins are up to date can lessen the chances of your data being compromised.
2. Look into a password manager.
It is dangerous to use the same password across multiple accounts or websites – think of it as having one key to unlock every single door you use. With the frequency and impact of password leaks, having unique passwords on every website can help limit the impact of a leak.
If it's difficult to remember strong passwords for every login, consider using a password manager. A password manager stores all of your passwords, and other important information, which you can access with a single master password. This program will create and recall secure, unique passwords for each of your accounts.
3. Block unwanted pop-ups.
Pop-up ads are than just a nuisance; they can also maintain inappropriate content and malicious links. It is recommended to go into your browser's settings and select "block pop-ups," if this setting is not already enabled by default. You can then manually enable pop-ups for trusted sites.
You may use an ad blocker as well, which prevents web pages from showing you ads. However, keep in mind that this will prevent those sites from gaining ad revenue. If you want to support a certain site, it is recommended that you add it to your list of allowed sites.
4. Clear your browser cache and cookies.
Many websites track your browsing data. Regularly clear your browser cache, and delete your cookies. Not only does this prevent unwanted ads from appearing as you browse the web, but it also ensures that you are seeing the most updated version of the web page.
5. Consider using a VPN.
If your business does not already have one, invest in a VPN. VPNs boost privacy by creating an encrypted connection between a device and the public internet. The encrypted data is sent to the VPN server, then decrypted before reaching the intended website. This ensures that sites, advertisers and internet service providers cannot track your data or link it back to you.