Firefox Plugins for Safer Browsing

Photo by Ruth Suehle for opensource.com

Photo by Ruth Suehle for opensource.com

 

I have always been interested in computer security, particularly with all the issues out there these days and how much we do online now.  I recall writing a paper back in the 90s when I was much younger on information privacy and computer crime.  For as much as things change so much still stays the same and we are generally not so great at security these days.  I know I’m guilty sometimes, things are much harder to get right as lots of things are so much more sophisticated and there is so much more to lose as well.

As part of my site I always had a mind of technology related things too.  So I’m going to test out writing more computer / tech  posts as well.  Let me know what you think.  Should I do more/less?  It is worth testing out anyway.

I’ll try to write one for Chrome as well, but I’m looking for a few plugins still to do some of the things that are fairly easy to get done in Firefox.

 

Noscript

If you have to pick any plugin to use, please make it this one.  It blocks scripts from running on a page thus helping to alleviate cross scripting attacks.  You can decide which websites and scripts run from pages which is a huge step in the direction of protecting both your security and privacy.  It has saved me on more than one occasion during those “Oh s%i!” moments when you click something you really wish you hadn’t.

 

Adblock Plus

Would you really think that Ad blocking software could also help your security and privacy?  There is a lot of things that go behind a lot of these ads in terms of tracking you and also in terms of exploiting you.  It is well known that one of the best ways to hack a website or any business is to go after its weakest link and often these happen to be the ad networks since they generally contract these ad networks out.  Not only will it allow you a cleaner browsing experience, but perhaps a safer one too.

FireFox Plugins

Privacy Badger

This is a relatively new plugin from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that I’ve been testing out.  You know how there was all this big news a couple years back on “Do Not Track” from websites?  Yeah well it should come as no surprise that making it voluntary for a website to follow meant most business basically just didn’t care to honor people’s wishes.  And now with Yahoo also saying they are no longer going to honor DNT (they partially blamed Microsoft for making it on by default in IE), you can expect the DNT to be as useless as we all feared it would be.  This blocks the tracking across multiple domains by advertisers.

Of note, Privacy Badger is actually based on Adblock Plus code, although they do slightly different things.

 

HTTPS Everywhere

From the same folks who created Privacy Badger above, one of their earlier plugins was HTTPS everywhere.  This makes use of HTTPS on sites where it is available.  Granted a lot of websites don’t have support for HTTPS but there are actually quite a few that do, but either don’t implement it fully or don’t default to HTTPS.  This forces your browser to use HTTPS where available thus increasing security and privacy across more websites than you probably had it in the past (or at least would have had to do more work to achieve).

 

Ghostery

This is a really slick website and a bit scary too once you start learning all the information and who is tracking you!  install ghostery and it will show you all the cookies and trackers you didn’t know were there on all the websites that you have been visiting.  In addition with their database of information they will give you info on which companies are tracking you and information including opt out info and other useful stuff.   You then have the power to decide who tracks you and where.  I love this because it gives the power back to the individual.

 

Better Privacy

There are also those types of cookies out there LSO (commonly known as flash cookies).  These are a type of “super cookie” in that they can stay indefinitely as they are generally set to never expire.  They also track a lot more data of the user too which is a huge concern to safety and privacy.  These are a bit sneaky compared to other cookies in that they are not easily or possible to be managed from the browser and tricky for the user to know about or manage.  Better Privacy allows you to decide which cookies to keep and which ones to delete and even control when and if they are on or off.

 

Browser Protect

Browser Hijacking is a serious issue in computer security and it seems to be more and more common these days. Often the users is unaware that settings have been changed and then they surf or get redirected to malicious sites.  This helps prevent users from having different aspects of their browser (search engines, home pages, etc) from being redirected without the owners knowledge.  This will help protect not only from malicious actions but also ones that may not be malicious but still frustrating none the less.

 

Web of Trust

Web of Trust is a reputation based plugin that helps to categorize and rate websites based on their trustworthiness.  This is a constantly updated database from a world wide community of millions of users.  There are lots of services like this and corporations then to use premium paid version and this allows an individual to get some of that knowledge and security as well.  This protects you from more than just the viruses, tracking, and other malware above.  This helps prevent and protect you from deceitful sites, bad information, scams, etc.  It provides a great compliment to the other technical stops by giving you the “man in the loop” factor in terms of rating and protection.

 


Conclusion:

I hope this help some folks with some better browsing and security whether at home or on the road.  These days everyone and everything is connected and it takes more vigilance to protect yourself against more and more sophisticated threats.  This helps prevent a lot of the common issues you will find out there when browsing online.  Note though, nothing is foolproof so you do need to have some level of caution still when you are surfing websites.

P.S.  Let me know if you think I should try to do more technology, security, etc. posts or stick with just the traditional travel posts? Did you find this helpful? Do you have other plugins you use / recommend as well?

Comments

  1. says

    Very interesting post, Anwar. It’s always good to get some tips like this. And to answer you, I’ve also been unsure in the past as to whether it’s a good idea to branch out to other areas in blogging. Perhaps you could do a weekly feature, on a particular day. Just an idea.

    • says

      Yeah that’s a good idea, thanks Andrew. It’s hard to think about where to expand vs. what is useful to your audience. Is it better to make another site with those specific topics or add in a section for those topics. Decisions, decisions! But I like the idea of making a regular feature perhaps weekly or monthly and see how things go. I have a few ideas for features, so I will have to see what works!

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