Featured image of post Private Browsing

Private Browsing

Using a private browsing mode can help you to do a lot of things, but maintaining total privacy isn’t one of them.

What is Private Browsing?

Private browsing is a setting that allows you to surf the web without leaving a record of where you’ve been on your device (computer, tablet, or smartphone).

When you open a private window, your browser won’t save:

  • the address (URL) of any sites you visit (history)
  • text you enter on any web forms (passwords, name, address)
  • permissions you’ve given (to use a camera, microphone)
  • save any cookies on your device

Cookies?

A quick explanation of cookies, as I always have people asking me why there are cookies in their computers. :)

Cookies are small text-based files generated by the sites that you visit. They are full of information, such as your preferences for that specific site, that a web server generates and sends to a web browser.

Web browsers store the cookies they receive for a predetermined period of time, or for the length of your session on a website. Cookies are a necessary evil, as the internet would be nutty without them. However, cookies can track you (advertisers for example).

Which browsers have it?

The most popular browsers have a private browsing mode. But each have a special name for it:

  • Google Chrome = Incognito Window
  • Mozilla Firefox = Private Window
  • Apple Safari = Private Window
  • Microsoft Edge = InPrivate Window

What Private Browsing Doesn’t Do

Although private browsing mode is helpful on shared computers, so that another person won’t see your browsing history. It does not make you private to the outside world.

You are always being tracked:

  • Your internet service provider (ISP) can see everything you do online.
  • Websites can see your IP address. This unique address identifies your device on the internet. Which gives a a clue to your physical location.
  • Your employer, or an educational institution, can see everything you do online if they supplied your device or control the network you are using that device on.
  • Did you download any files?
  • Did you save any bookmarks or favorites?

If you thought that private browsing was enhancing your privacy on the internet, it doesn’t. Nor does it provide any security against a possible attack or someone attempting to access your private information.

How to Browse the Web Privately

In addition to using a Private Browsing mode, here are some tips to help keep your online activites and information private.

Use a VPN

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN creates a secure “tunnel” between your device and your VPN provider. So you can browse and communicate freely over a secure private network connection.

A VPN protects you in two key ways:

  1. Concealing your IP address, protecting your identity and location.
  2. Encrypting your traffic between you and your VPN provider so that no one on your local network can decipher or modify it.

I highly recommend ProtonVPN. A high-speed Swiss VPN that safeguards your privacy.

Use a safe and secure browser

If I were looking for a web browser to use in 2022, there are three primary things I look for in a web browser:

  1. Privacy
  2. Security
  3. Functionality

There are only two browsers I recommend to clients, no matter what computer they are using (Linux, Mac, or Windows) and that is Mozilla Firefox or Brave.

Mozilla Firefox is a convenient, fast and lightweight browser. It is the only mainstream open-source browser, and its code has been thoroughly researched and scrutinized by the community. Firefox offers a private browsing mode that includes tracking, malware and phishing protection, pop-up blocking, and anti-fingerprinting protection. Firefox can automatically upgrade your connection to a HTTPS, which is the only way to surf. Firefox also has an impressive collection of security-focused add-ons that can be used to make its experience safer. I’ll post a seperate article on my favorite Firefox add-ons, stay tuned! :)

Brave is a Chromium-based (the same “engine” as Google Chrome) privacy browser that I recommend to folks who need to use a “Google Chrome”-like browser without having the big brother effect of Google. It’s lightweight but offers many features. The Brave browser also can automatically upgrade your connection to HTTPS. Brave can use Chrome extensions as well.

Use a private search engine

On Google, your searches are tracked, mined, and packaged into a data profile for advertisers. With this information, advertisers can follow you around the Internet through annoying banner ads and Google’s massive advertising networks across millions of sites and apps.

To keep your searches private and out of data profiles, the government, and other legal requests, you need to use DuckDuckGo. They don’t track you at all, regardless what browsing mode you are in.

They don’t store anything that can tie your searches to you personally, or even tie them together into a search history that could later be tied back to you.

What are you waiting for? Switch to DuckDuckGotoday!

Use HTTPS for all sites

No matter what you are doing in a web browser, there will always be a web address that gets you there. At the beginning of this web address you’ll usually see either a “http://” or a “https://” (without quotes of course).

HTTP stands for hypertext transfer protocol, and it basically refers to the way that we communicate on the Internet.

HTTPS stands for hypertext transfer protocol secure. Which means the information contained on a website, or information entered into a website, is secure. Most financial sites and online retail stores will use HTTPS in order to keep your account or payment information secure.

When a website uses HTTPS, it is using a secured socket layer (SSL) to help encrypt the data that is either being provided on the site or entered into the site. This encryption will keep your information safe so that it does not fall into the hands of a hacker.

Frequently scan your computer for Malware

Malware is bad for your copmuter and your privacy. Malware can enable unauthorized access to your device and steal sensitive data.

I always recommend to my clients, Mac or Windows, to use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. I also urge every client to upgrade from Free to the Premium so the software takes care of the computer automatically.

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