Ciphers have been used throughout history to maintain secrecy and security for sensitive pieces of data. Instead of leaving important information out in the open and available to anyone for reading, these ciphers kept knowledge and messages locked away behind puzzles. At one time, those ciphers may have been simple, but now we have extremely powerful forms of encryption.
Think about all of the sensitive data you transmit on a day-to-day basis through your browser – emails, instant messages, credit card purchases, usernames and passwords, personal information, etc. If this data isn’t encrypted, then anyone can snoop around on your Internet (especially if you use WiFi) and intercept that data.
Fortunately, there are a lot of Firefox encryption add-ons that aim to encrypt your most sensitive information. Check these out.
HTTPS is a special protocol that layers SSL/TLS on top of the ordinary HTTP protocol, thus resulting in a more secure connection when browsing websites. If that made no sense to you, don’t worry. All you need to know is that HTTPS stands for HTTP Secure and it’s always preferable when you have the option because of the added security.
HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox addon (not an official one) that forces your browser to connect using HTTPS whenever the option is available. The convenience cannot be overstated because some websites, even when they offer HTTPS, make it difficult to use.
The sad thing is that not every website offers HTTPS. Even sites that do offer HTTPS will often have third-party content that isn’t available through HTTPS. When HTTPS is missing, the possibility of “man in the middle” attacks becomes more prevalent. This can have terrible consequences in some situations.
Note: HTTPS Everywhere is not available in the official Firefox addons library. Downloading and using this program is entirely your responsibility should something go wrong.
LastPass is often lauded as one of the best password manager programs in existence. Not only is it free to use, it’s easy to use. It’s available on many platforms and it just works. For the uninitiated, LastPass is a program that stores all of your username/password combinations for various sites, allowing you to access all of them by using a single master password.
LastPass stores all of your passwords in an encrypted database, so you can rest assured that all of your passwords are hidden behind a secure layer. The only danger is that if you forget your LastPass master password, it may be difficult (or even impossible) to recover – a terrible experience if you end up using the addon for so long that you forget your real passwords!
Nonetheless, it’s a fantastic addon that truly deserves your attention. Give it a try at least once.
Although there are protocols that will encrypt your connection (e.g., HTTPS), maybe you want to specifically encrypt a certain message. This is particularly useful when dealing with sensitive emails and documents as you may not want prying eyes to accidentally open a file and glean your deepest, darkest secrets.
That’s where the Encrypted Communication addon comes in. With it, you can highlight blocks of text anywhere within a text input field in your browser and “encrypt” them into a jumble of unintelligible gibberish. This encryption is locked with a password, so when you send that encrypted email, the recipient can unlock the message (i.e., return it to comprehensible text) by using the same password.
Of course, the downside to this addon is that both sender and recipient need to have the Encrypted Communication addon installed. It’s not that much of a hassle, though, and it can be very useful in fields that necessitate higher levels of confidentiality.
Now let’s talk about bookmarks. Suppose you have a number of fishy bookmarks that you want to keep on your browser but don’t want anyone peeking into. One solution would be to use an online bookmarking service, but they’re never 100% reliable and can sometimes be a pain in the butt.
The other option? Link Password, which encrypts individual bookmarks behind passwords so that only you can access them. With it, you can hide certain links and even rename them so that nobody can view them – unless they figure out the password, of course. Perfect for hiding those gifts that you want to buy for your significant other.
Cryptocat is the firefox encryption add-on for users who love user-to-user instant messaging or general group chatting. It’s an open-source addon that allows Cryptocat users to congregate and discuss things over an encrypted network using the OTR messaging protocol.
The great thing about Cryptocat is that it’s so easy to use. You go to the website, type in the name of the chatroom and your desired chat name, and that’s it. No registration required. Obviously, users who want a more persistent way to chat with more features (like user profiles) will need to look elsewhere, but if you only want a quick way to chat with encryption, Cryptocat is awesome.
There are plenty of ways that you can keep yourself safer and more secure through Firefox encryption add-ons. As you can see, a lot of your day-to-day Internet data should be encrypted if you don’t want anyone else looking at it: emails, chat, passwords, and even your bookmarks. Use these addons and you can worry just a little less about someone sniffing around where they shouldn’t be.
Know of any other Firefox addons that tack on some great encryption-based features to the browser? Please share them with us in the comments!
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