The NSA’s collection of phone records was recently ruled illegal by the U.S. Appeals Court. Security has been a big buzz word for the past few years and these kinds of rulings remind us that we can never, ever be too careful.
In fact, think about the browser you’re using to view this article right now. Is it safe? Is it secure? How many websites are pulling information about you without your knowledge? And what is your browser doing to stop it? You’d be surprised by those answers.
Let’s forget about browser benchmark comparisons for a second. Firefox is the only true open source browser of the major five — IE, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari — and if you have no trust in browser companies at all, it’s the one you’ll want to use.
But an open source browser isn’t enough on its own. You need to bulk up with a handful of powerful addons. We’ve covered Firefox security addons in the past, but a lot has changed since then. Here are the modern-day essentials that you need.
HTTPS Everywhere is the king of all privacy addons. It’s developed as a collaboration between the Tor privacy project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is an organization that fights for rights in a digital world.
But what is HTTPS? In short, it’s a more secure web-browsing protocol that encrypts all of the web data that’s transmitted between the server and your browser using SSL/TLS. So, even if someone intercepts your connection, they won’t be able to read the data.
HTTPS Everywhere forces HTTPS all the time. Even if a particular web page doesn’t support encryption, the addon can get around it by rewriting the requests behind the scenes. It’s a must-have Firefox security addon. Don’t skip it.
Ghostery is one of the big three security addons that some consider to be evil, at least from the perspective of a content producer. Long story short, it blocks web trackers so that companies like Facebook and Google can’t track your activity.
One thing to note is that Ghostery has recently come under fire as a somewhat deceptive addon. While it does block web trackers from gathering your personal information, it also has an opt-in feature (“Ghostrank”) that anonymously sends your information to advertisers.
If you don’t opt in, no harm done, so feel free to install it and disable Ghostrank. However, it’s easy to see why some people are up in arms about this potential conflict of interest, so they may advise that you stay away from Ghostery for good.
Like Ghostery, Disconnect is an addon that blocks web trackers from gathering your personal information. It’s so good that Popular Science even named it as one of the top 100 innovations in 2013. If that doesn’t earn it a good dose of credibility, I don’t know what will.
Because it blocks tracking elements from over 2,000 sources, Disconnect claims to speed up page loading by upwards of 27%. That’s a pretty significant gain, especially because it’s on top of the security and privacy it already offers in the first place. Definitely a keeper.
NoScript is a Firefox security addon that we’ve been recommending since 2008. As the name implies, this addon prevents active scripts from running on websites unless you grant permission to them. Marginally inconvenient, yes, but massively more secure in the long run.
uMatrix is a relative baby when compared to the rest of the addons on this list, but it’s one worth looking into if you want an edge in security. Simply put, it’s a dynamic firewall that allows you to toggle various defenses whenever you want.
These firewall options show up as a colored red-and-green matrix and all you have to do is click on the features you want to toggle. It’s a bit more advanced than a straightforward blocker, but the steeper learning curve allows for more power and flexibility in the end.
Formerly known as DoNotTrackMe, Blur is one of the best addons for protecting your data. Not only does it block companies from collecting information about you, it also manages and protects your sensitive details like password credentials and payment information.
Regarding passwords, Blur will one-click generate touch-to-crack combinations and will immediately encrypt and store them safely for later.
Regarding payments, Blur lets you purchase online without ever giving away your credit card information by providing disposable masking credit cards through Abine, Inc. This feature is only available for premium users, which can be purchased for $5 per month.
Most modern browsers have built-in password management, but they’re rarely as good as dedicated solutions. Take KeeFox for instance, which is the browser variant of the renowned password manager, KeePass. Start using it if you aren’t already.
In essence, KeeFox is a full-blown replacement for the built-in Firefox password manager. Just be aware that KeeFox will not work correctly if you have Firefox set to clear passwords every time it closes.
LastPass for Firefox is a well-known alternative to KeeFox and it works great as well. However, KeeFox is open source and completely free, so it’s the one I prefer. Feel free to use whichever one you think suits you best.
When you visit the addon page for BetterPrivacy, you might notice that it hasn’t been updated since early 2012. Don’t let that turn you away. Despite being three years in limbo, this addon still works just as it’s supposed to.
What does it do? It combats the long-term super-cookies, also known as Flash cookies, that companies use for perpetual tracking of your web activity. BetterPrivacy lets you view and destroy these super-cookies, which is something most browsers won’t do on their own.
As far as regular cookies are concerned, most browsers offer a primitive “clear all cookies” function that can be done manually or whenever the browser closes. What if you want a bit more flexibility? Then you should install Self-Destructing Cookies.
This addon allows cookies to persist until you close the tab. When a tab is closed, all relevant cookies are destroyed right on the spot. This method of dealing with cookies is especially effective against Zombie-cookies and Evercookies. If there are any cookies you want to keep, you can whitelist them.
Are you tired of email spam? Starting today, you can kiss email spam goodbye thanks to the advent of the Bloody Viking! addon. Look past the strange name and you’ll see a wonderful tool: one that makes it easy for you to use temporary email addresses when signing up for websites.
Using services like 10MinuteMail and AnonBox, this addon provides you with a limited-time inbox where you can accept confirmation emails without risking the sanctity of your actual inbox. After a given period of time, the provided inbox implodes and disappears.
Lastly we have Clean Links, a humble little addon that’s been in development since 2011. Its premise is simple: whenever it detects an obfuscated or nested link — such as you might find with shady redirection or affiliate products — it replaces it with the clean, straight version.
Not much else to say about this one except that you can now rest easy when clicking on links, knowing that you’ll be able to catch dodgy links before you actually click on them.
Share Your Favorite Addons
This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as Firefox addons are concerned. In fact, you should check out our Best Firefox Addons page to beef up your browser even more, but be aware that too many addons can actually slow down your browser quite a bit.
We know that there are plenty of other addons out there that you love but we missed. Tell us about them! Which security addons are your favorite? Which have proven most useful to you?