In this guide, we look into the most secure browsers around with good performance that also respect privacy. First know, security begins by securing your ‘endpoints’: Servers, smart phones, desktops, laptops, workstations, Internet of things (IoT) devices...
An endpoint is any remote computing machine that talks with networks. We haven’t listed web browsers in the above bullet point list, but with the role they play in dealing with apps and info, it’s about time they were.
You can think of an endpoint as a key vulnerable access point for cybercriminals.
And a key way to protect yourself is to secure your endpoints. Make it difficult for crooks to get into your personal information – right from the beginning!
Best Secure Browser 2021
- For super-value VPN protection: see our SurfShark review.
- And there’s no excuse not to have an antivirus: best free antivirus software list.
Onto the review...
We’ll show you what to choose, what to avoid and why.
Whether: the best secure browser for android 2021; the best secure browser for Mac, the best secure browser for Windows 10; the best secure browser for iPhone; the best secure browser for PC; the best secure browser for Linux – we’ve got you covered!
Best Secure Browser – Top 5
WORST Secure Browser – Bottom 5
Comes With Integrated Privacy Tools 🕵️
These guys have been around since 2002, crafted based on Firefox’s browser.
Their mission statement was to allow users to surf anonymously using the Tor network. While surfing, your activities and personal identity is disguised, and your traffic encrypted in a minimum of three layers.
This isn’t quite a fast enough solution if you want to do a lot of media streaming, but it would be great for private activity such as online banking. Just be prepared to have a number of delays – as it can take a lot longer than traditional browsers, to do typical stuff.
Overall, not browser if you want high-performance but certainly something if you want hardened online security AND privacy.
Note that this isn’t a completely secure solution and it can be tracked by government bodies. Use this in conjunction with a top cheap VPN and you’ll maximize the security/privacy.
Tools and Features
Essentially, this web browser provider has thought about security and privacy from more angles than almost any other.
They handle your security and privacy worries down to the smallest minutiae. Even if you try to maximise your browser window, Tor browser will notify you that this increases the odds of your computer screen size being tracked, and recommends you changing it to the smaller size!
If you are wondering how to stay anonymous and safe on the web, check out our online privacy guide.
You may find some sites are not accessible because it blocks certain scripts. Once again: for maximum security, use this with a VPN.and, if you want to boost how fast it works, disable the Tor network – and use the VPN to handle the encryption side of things (such as hiding your IP address).
The Best-Looking Browser Around 💄
Firefox has been around since 2002 – a very reputable company, with massive integrations, capabilities and a mission statement based on helping users surf securely and privately (whereas Google has a business model based on making money via ads).
This means they’re not going to sell your data!
They’ve been around longer since chrome, known for a slick user interface, very fast speeds, customisations and synchronisation features.
Also use Google Chrome extensions to expand the functionality of the Firefox browser. If you want to do secure and safe online browsing– particularly if it involves streaming high-definition content – Firefox is probably superior to Tor, which is rather slow.
Just make sure to use this with a VPN! (even if you use the browser’s private browsing mode, unless you use a VPN, your ISP and government agencies can STILL see what you are getting up to – and who you are!)
Tools and Features
We love the ad free reading modes, the automatic deletions of cookies when you are using private browsing, the commitment to security and privacy, integrated because via video or voice, and plugins that integrate you with social networks.
Overall, Firefox isn’t on Tors level when it comes to privacy, but you can increase (Harden) the level. In the dialogue box you can see above, you can customise this in the Privacy and Security settings area.
Another recommended thing is that you disable telemetry, which collects different types of data to do with studies/technical interactions. Very capable, secure browser.
Offers Alternative Ways for Advertising 🛍️
This company was developed by Brave Software Incorporated, based on the Chromium web browser.
Grab this and – without fiddling with the settings – right out-of-the-box find yourself with a solution that blocks website trackers, ads, and malicious scripts.
This is a very new company, only around since 2019 and released for iOS, android, Linux, Mac OS and Windows. They partner with DuckGuckGo as their main search engine – and the founder is the former CEO of Mozilla Corporation, responsible for Firefox.
Choose this option if you want a web browser that you can use to increase your level of online privacy without having to tweak the settings. Just download it and get moving.
Tools and Features
Tor has loads of cool features to keep your browsing activities private. There is a default ad blogger that stops ads from keeping track of your online activities – as well as the ability to encrypt websites with HTTP as if they’re unsecured!
(Warning ! – while this is a cool feature, it’s probably best to avoid unsecured websites, as they haven’t taken due diligence. This increases the chances that they are among the ones with malicious intent.)
While it’s arguably a con that Brave started using their own ads, you can tweak settings so as to block them – alongside other advertisers.
There’s also a password manager native to it. If you want to get this aspect of your security down properly, check out our best password manager guide.
Based on the Chromium Project 🚧
Another web browser that uses Chromium as a template. This is an excellent alternative to chrome – is open sourced and does not work on an advertisement driven business model. Instead, they’re dedicated to protecting your online privacy and security.
The security level is 2048 bit, using RSA. This could easily have been number two in this list, next to Firefox. Like that was in the company, it can access Chrome extensions, while giving you much superior privacy than Chrome does.
Iridium can’t be used on mobile, but does work on Mac OS, Linux and Windows. Here’s an insight into the mission statement of this company (this is from the official website):
Key statement: “All modifications enhance the privacy of the user”.
Tools and Features
Expect fast loading times, letting you render very complex web pages at super speeds. Because it's based on Chromium, this is very secure and private, although it does work with the Google search engine.
A top, secure web browser. Use this right out of the box without needing any special knowledge or to fiddle with settings:
#5 GNU IceCat
Completely Free Software 🆓
GNU IceCat Review
These guys used the source code of Mozilla Firefox to create IceCat. You can get a long list of free extensions and extra security features that you can’t get in the main Firefox browser.
Think of this as a rebranding of Firefox. The company, GNU, has actually been around since 1983. It’s a type of operating system. In general, there’s a long history – so this isn’t a random company out of nowhere.
Let’s get into what security and privacy features this browser offers…
Tools and Features
While HTTP-Everywhere secures any website that you visit, even those without SSLs. A spy block feature blocks privacy trackers even when you are browsing in normal mode. Any third-party requests are also blocked.
Choose your favourite default search engine from the home screen.
The IceScan feature warns you about any of the browsers tools that might break websites you are visiting, causing them to not load properly. You can enable or disable them as you go along, if this happens.
And fingerprinting countermeasures are in place from the moment you download and run this software. This all comes under percent free just like Firefox. There’s no spyware and this is overall a project championed by creators who are fanatics about privacy and security.
Non-Secure Browsers to Avoid 2021
We’ve gone through the best secure browsers. Next, these names may be well known but have little known privacy and security weaknesses that make them a poor choice for users that care about those things.
Let’s begin with number one:
Edge - #1
The same goes for Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Overall, we recommend you avoid Microsoft posts products where possible. The old browser is Internet Explorer and the newer one is called Edge…
Both are closed-sourced, so who knows what data they are collecting behind the scenes – not recommended for privacy.
Chrome - #2
Sure, Google Chrome is enormously popular – in fact, there is no other browser that comes close to it.
Very slick but anti-privacy.
Problem is, it’s a massive data collection tool. Of course, this makes a poor choice for anyone who wants privacy.
There’s no doubt that Google Chrome actively connects and saves your preferences, which is used to target you via advertisement.
Opera - #3
Overall, this is a very untrustworthy company. They offer a great free VPN (read why we think free VPNs are a terrible idea .) the VPN actually fails to encrypt your traffic and actually collects data whenever you use it.
This is a sign of how poor this company is with transparency.
Vivaldi - #4
Vivaldi is Chromium based. They have some suspicious activities when it comes to data collection and unique IDs:
If you read the policy and privacy pages, you will notice more of the same – at a minimum, an approximate estimation of your location will be stored.
And a unique user ID will be attributed to your specific computer.
Safari - #5
While this is the last, it isn’t the least of secure web browsers.
You get safari as your default browser when you purchase an iOS or Mac OS device.
This Isn’t a terrible choice, but there are a few reasons why we don’t recommend it:
This is not all bad… Apple does have superior privacy than many other large corporations. For instance, the Safari browser blocks third-party cookies by default and protects you against cross-site tracking.
Buying Guide 📚
Is Online Banking Safe?
If you online bank, you’re not alone. As early as 2012, a comScore report showed that around 29% of all Internet users globally have used online banking services at some point.
That’s around 400 million people. The highest percentage was in North America, where almost half of Internet users have used banking websites.
Because of this increased number of online banking, hackers are targeting it more. Major banks have increasingly become the number one target for cyber attacks.
As early as 2011, Citigroup showed that 360,000+ bank accounts were hacked, with 3,400 accounts losing a total of $2.7 million.
More publicised attacks since then has increased concerns about the security and safety of online banking transactions. Should we bank online? Should you check your balance from a banking website? Are online transfers safe...?
Technically, consumers are protected
Even if somebody manages to steal money from your account, you will likely be protected via redundancy. The bank will likely compensate you for any losses, something that the company Bankrate confirms.
Make sure you report stolen funds as soon as possible – in some cases, you will not be reimbursed if you report after 60 days of the attack!
Risks of Online Banking
#1 - Phishing
The fact that you have an online account means you may be preyed on by phishing schemes.
Phishing is where you’re lured into clicking a link or downloading an application via an email message. The email may take you to a fraudulent website, where they capture sensitive information such as pass codes and usernames.
They may even gain access to your email. Or simply install malware on your computer that tracks your activities and keystrokes.
Do not open emails that you do not recognize. And always check all of the different heading lines (from, to, outbound, inbound): best email marketing tools.
#2 - Key Logging
We mentioned keystrokes above. A fraudulent email isn’t the only way that you can become targeted by this kind of cyber attack (key logging is when the specific keys that you type in your keyboard or phone’s keyboard are tracked by third-party).
Let’s say that you set yourself up in our public Wi-Fi network such as in the airport or Internet cafe. It’s possible that a cyber attack could be recording each keystroke and using records of these two break into your accounts.
Online banking may not be wise on a public Wi-Fi network – but a strong VPN may hide your activities.
#3 - Identity Theft
More than a cyber attack knows about you, the border the range of attacks that they can carry out. For instance, applying for a loan in your name.
In other words, not all attacks are directly stealing money from your bank account.
They may be able to track you using phishing and accumulate different forms of sensitive information such as social security numbers (US), national insurance numbers (UK) and other bits of confidential information.
#4 - Pharming
While this is more rare and complicated to carry out, hackers do achieve it. This type of cyber attack happens when a third-party is able to intercept your bank’s URL and plant a redirect piece of malware that sends you to a fraudulent website that mimics the real deal.
This is why multiple pieces of safety precautions like two factor authentication, strong password managers, quality firewall providers AND a VPN provider is sensible (keep in mind that some banks do not like VPNs, so you may want to check with them first, to see if it’s wise to use it when doing online banking).
Read the above paragraph – use multiple levels of online security, rather than only relying on the one safeguard of a great, secure browser.
How to Make Online Banking Safer
There are lots of new online banking services popping up by the minute. This is because people are increasingly transferring resources online.
There is less need for a brick and mortar institution in order to have a livelihood.
The risk of this as you may encounter a fraudulent provider who looks good on the surface.
Check the regulatory body of whatever banking provider you are using. For instance, in the UK, the financial conduct authority (FCA) and Prudential regulation authority are two of the biggest bodies overseeing any banks in operation on the UK mainland.
For each country, there are different authorities that you should look up and make sure that your bank is under their jurisdiction… these bodies put pressure on banks, each year dishing out fines in the multiple millions of pounds where misconduct was deemed.
The next step is to be very aware of copycat websites (phishing) made to look like the real thing: for instance Barklays.com or LloydsTZB.com.
Particularly, when you get an email that is supposedly from your bank, do not click any of the links in the content. Instead, type in your bank’s URL in a new tab and log in.
If your bank really is trying to get into contact with you, you should see a message in your inbox or when you first login.
There are no shortcuts – if you’re still unsure, call your bank and check on the latest transactions to make sure there’s nothing erroneous.
Consumers are protected by banks, as we said earlier. But it’s still your responsibility to make sure that you deal with any site suspicious activities quickly. Call your bank if unsure!
Educate yourself about your bank’s security infrastructures. This will give you some more clues about what’s going on in the background when you are making transactions and logging in.
The more you know, the more likely you are to detect any anomalies…
For instance, any online banking website should have a secure favicon next to the URL. This might look like a padlock or a key, letting you know that your transactions are being encrypted.
You may need to use multiple pieces of sensitive data when you first login: pins, passwords, security questions and two factor authentication. Final reminder: don’t give out anything confidential via email. There’s no reason for your bank to ask you for personal data via email!
One key aspect of cybercrime and security against it is ‘endpoint security’.
An endpoint is basically a computer or machine. So… One endpoint during a session of you logging in to the Internet would begin from your phone.
A second endpoint would be the server of the website you;re trying to access (which contains multiple computers speaking to each other), and so on.
VPN services create anonymous endpoints that shield you from outside eyes (like being in the tunnel). VPNs are not 100% effective but make it that much harder for hackers to view who you are, where you are accessing the Internet and what info’s being transmitted.
You want to protect your computer and any devices that you used to do online banking, regardless of if you use a great, secure browser:
Update Software Regularly
This will ensure the latest security updates are patched– it is especially important, even when using the best malware scanning software.
Don’t “Remember Your Computer”
This seems convenient but the Homer Simpson approach doesn’t work well with online banking. If you select that banking websites should “remember your computer”, this lets that website bypass security questions in the future.
This means, if someone accesses your device, they could possibly login to your account because the bank recognises your IP address and assumes you. Even smarter hackers can spoof your IP address, making them think that the hackers computer is actually yours.
The long and short of it is don’t allow this option. Sure, you will end up typing in more security information each time you login, but you will be more secure.
Is It Safe to Bank on Your Phone?
While your bank is doing everything it can to protect your money, identity theft, fraud and hacking are still big issues.
What Is a VPN?
Help you to access the Internet securely, privately and safely. Sensitive data is encrypted before it even leaves your computer or device. Even if an Internet service provider knows that a VPN is being used – hackers, snoops and the ISP will be able to see the actual traffic (in theory).
You shouldn’t trust too much on a VPN, and make sure you have a quality firewall in place. But this is a great way to use a different IP address to your actual device (which reduces the chances of IP spoofing) and location (if you want this).
Is VPN Good for Online Banking?
Yes. The general wisdom is that a VPN is the most important security measure you have against data snoopers and hackers.
In theory, it makes it impossible for a cyber criminal to see the information you are dealing with one online. That’s because a VPN creates a secure data tunnel that encrypts and anonymizes all of your connections to the Internet.
When should I use a VPN for online banking:
Online Transactions / Sensitive Info
You work incredibly hard to earn your money, or perhaps you are dealing with employee salaries.
If your bank account is compromised, this could be tragic. VPN greatly reduces the odds that anyone but will be able to see sensitive confidential data such as bank details, passwords, usernames – the sort of thing cyber criminals will attempt to steal.
If traffic is encrypted, stole away from prying eyes. Choose a VPN provider that has a strict no-logs policy, such as NordVPN. This lets you know that your online dealings will never be surveilled or shared with third parties.
Banking Safely When Using Public WI-Fi
One of the most necessary times to use a VPN, even with a great secure browser.
Public Wi-Fi can be risky when the network has no password in particular. Hackers can set up shop on that network and attempt to break into devices.
Smarter hackers will even create copycat Wi-Fi networks in public places that mimic what looks like free Wi-Fi, e.g. free airport Wi-Fi. In actuality, you’re using a fake network – the hacker is as a result being given a gateway to your device.
Make sure you use a VPN if you ever need to use public Wi-Fi for online banking or to enter sensitive information. This will hide your IP address and location. Hackers will even be able to locate you, or to hack into your machine. This is even if they connect on the same network!
Always use a VPN when you use Wi-Fi hotspots, such as hotels, airports and restaurants. This gives you an extra layer of protection.
If you can avoid using public Wi-Fi for online banking altogether, DO SO. Choose your cylinder network instead. This furthermore decreases the chances of you being hacked.
Doing Mobile Banking
A lot of questions there. Mobile devices are harder to hack than computers are. But they can still be (and are) targeted by malware, trojans and hackers. So you need to be wary if you use mobile banking apps – also if you use it to do transfers.
Installing a VPN on your mobile (with NordVPN, one membership protects you for up to 6 devices) – so this gives you peace of mind that your connection is safe regardless of whether you’re using an iPhone, tablet, Mac or android.
Online Banking While Travelling
This one has frequently been a huge personal headache for me!
If you’re a frequent traveler or even doing it intermittently, online banking can be held. Some banks track the IP address of the users, and flag any changes as suspicious.
If you’re travelling, chances are that you need access to your funds as you have less creature comforts. But the very fact that you have a different IP address can lead to your account being blocked.
For travelers – a good VPN (ExpressVPN is great at bypassing censored states) will let you connect to servers in your country of origin, keeping the bank content and preventing you from getting locked out of your account.
Ways of Securing Your Online Bank Account
Make sure that your password is long and complex enough. A powerful password will have symbols, letters and numbers and read as a random string that is hard to remember at first, second or even third sight.
Don’t Lose It
Try not to lose your phone! Somebody manages to get in, with the same still intact, though have direct access to your mobile banking apps. Install recovery and anti-theft apps, so that you can lock your phone remotely or even wipe out all the data if it gets stolen. Iris and fingerprint scans are also reliable ways of making logging into your phone unique.
Avoid Free Vpns
We’ve previously written about why free VPNs are terrible. The long and short of it is that they track lots of data and oftentimes try to steal confidential info,as well as installing malware and adware onto your device. They also have IP address leaks, long loading times – and more…
However much you earn, think of your VPN as insuring you against somebody taking that money.
Even if you use a VPN but visit a website that has a HTTP in the URL instead of HTTP, the chances that that website is infected with malware that could compromise your machine increases dramatically. Those sorts of websites are not secured and very easily expose your information to hackers.
However, its quite helpful to know how to block websites manually, so you can block potentially harmful websites.
Avoiding Antivirus Software
Malware scanners and antivirus software are a very important aspect of good Internet protocol. VPN is awesome but not keeping you antivirus up to date, using an old operating system, or ignoring antivirus notifications increases your odds of being hacked.
Is Firefox More Private Than Chrome?
Chances are you’ve heard the scandals around data privacy in Europe and the US. It might seem a hopeless feat to protect yourself on the Internet.
Giant corporations all trying to feed on your personal data, preferences and time.
The short answer is that Firefox keeps your data safe, while Google Chrome stores and collects your data. Overall, Mozilla has a different motivation set than Google.
Mozilla is a non-profit organisation while Google is profit driven, earning much of the money based on an advertisement business model.
Use Google Chrome, and you’re more likely to find ads that follow you everywhere you go on the Internet… Firefox is opposite and even recently came out with a mobile browser called Firefox Focus which has made its private browsing mode a full browser of its own.
Each screen has an “erase” button, letting you instantly delete the history with a single tap.
Is Mozilla Owned by Google?
No, but they are affiliated – and when Mozilla began in 2007 (before Google Chrome) – it was commonplace to hear about Google employees speaking well of Firefox.
Since, there has been some conflict between the two companies, with Google Chrome ads popping up next to Firefox search terms. Some Firefox employees suspect Google of foul play, such as creating false incompatibility blocks against Firefox, for demo websites.
The original deal between Google and Firefox was around about 2005 (this deal expires in 2011), when Mozilla and Google agreed to have Google search as the default web search engine in the Firefox engine. Google paid Mozilla just under $1 billion for a three year contract.
In 2011, 85% of the Mozilla Corporation’s income came from the deal with Google. Since then, they have increased in their yearly earnings, while completely removing the proportion of income that Google generates.
Does Firefox Track You Like Chrome?
Firefox is the only major browser that does not allow advertising networks to follow what you are getting up to.
Does Incognito Mode Work?
“Private browsing” modes don’t keep you private!
People assume that – when they use private browsing in their browser – they’re hidden from the outside world. But this isn’t true…
This mode actually only blocks the history, passwords and cookies. Your Internet provider can see everything you’re getting up to and your IP address and location are visible too (trackers, sites and ads can see all of this even in private mode).
The privacy mode in Firefox uses “origin referrer trimming”, which automatically deletes data to do with websites you are visiting.
But if you want proper privacy, the only solution is to use a quality VPN service (NordVPN review). Here are the benefits:
#1 Your Internet traffic is encrypted
Even your ISP cannot see what you are doing online. (Your ISP will only be able to see that there is data that has been encrypted, and not what the actual data is.)
#2 Your IP address and location will be spoofed by the VPN
So prying eyes won’t know what location you’re visiting websites from the world – or who you are / the specific device you are using.
#3 You can also get access to geo-restricted content
Such as streaming Netflix with a VPN – no matter where you are in the world.
Final Thoughts 💡
If you want max security/privacy – use the TOR browser in combo with a VPN. Consider turning off the Tor network and relying on the VPN for encryption (otherwise, it can be very slow).
For security/privacy with high-performance – use Firefox with a quality VPN for Netflix and streaming such as NordVPN.
And the dark-horse in this guide is Brave, which is ready to go once you start it up (also works on phones)... Overall, assuming you want good privacy, make sure to avoid any Microsoft browsers (yes, that includes Chrome!).