Love Chrome, But Love Your Privacy And Security Even More? Try Aviator

Matthew Hughes 29-04-2014

We live within our web browsers. You’re reading this article in a web browser. You probably check your email in a web browser. I order my groceries in a web browser. I buy books in a web browser. Web browsers are pretty important.


But we never really think about them within the context of security and privacy. And yet, for anyone so inclined, the browser presents an enticing target. Indeed, at the annual CanSecWest conference in Vancouver, Canada has the Pwn2Own contest, where hackers try to target cell phones, computer operating systems and (most crucially) web browsers, in order to win prizes and kudos.

With that in mind, imagine my delight when I discovered the Aviator web browser, by WhiteHat Security. This is a powerful, secure and private web browser, built upon Chromium. And it’s really good. Here’s why.

A Pedigree To Be Proud Of

We’re all familiar with Google Chrome. Whilst there are a number of privacy concerns with using Google’s flagship web browser, there are a number of advantages too. The security issues which have plagued Internet Explorer and Firefox simply aren’t resent in Chrome and Chromium, due to the sandboxing of each browser tab, thus making it drastically more difficult for malicious code to escape the browser.

Furthermore, Chrome is fast. How fast? Really fast. Like, so fast, the JavaScript engine lead to the creation of a plethora of high-speed JavaScript web development frameworks, such as Node.js and Express What is Node.JS and Why Should I Care? [Web Development] JavaScript is a just a client-side programming language that runs in the browser, right? Not any more. Node.js is a way of running JavaScript on the server; but it's so much more as well. If... Read More . That fast.

But what of WhiteHat Sec? They’re a titan of the security field, having specialized in web application security and made a name for themselves in that arena. Safe to say, they know their stuff.


The Perks Of Using Aviator

So, why should you use Aviator? Admittedly, for a huge segment of the Internet population, Aviator represents… Well? Overkill. However, for a number of privacy and security focused individuals and companies, Aviator has quite the compelling value proposition.


It runs on any Intel version of OS X, as well as Windows 98, upwards. Yep, you read that right. Windows 98. Those still clinging on to Windows XP, even after Microsoft killed it off will find that it still works on their dusty, moribund machines.

However, there is a trade off. Aviator is a few iterations behind mainstream Chrome, and runs the version 31. We’re currently on version 35. As a result, you can expect some of the more bleeding-edge HTML5 APIs and Chrome features and functionality to be conspicuously absent.



But what of the browser itself? Well, it comes with a number of cool features. Do-not-track is switched on by default, and a lot of the privacy-invading Google services have been either completely excised, or replaced with alternatives, such as using Duck Duck Go Get A Better Search Experience With Duck Duck Go It seems that there are a couple of services and Linux distributions (such as Linux Mint) that are switching over to Duck Duck Go as their default search engine. So why the heck are they... Read More rather than Google itself.


They also block advertisements. Whilst some unscrupulous companies use adverts as an avenue to invade people’s privacy, I’m also conscious of how a huge swathe of the Internet depends upon advertising to survive Are Ad Blocking Browser Extensions Killing The Internet? One of the reasons for the Internet’s surge in popularity is the cost of most online content – or rather, the lack of cost. That’s not to say the content is free, however. Almost every... Read More . Adblocking software directly affects this important revenue model. Thankfully, this functionality can be switched off, if you so desire.


Aviator can also prevent malicious websites getting access to internal networks by preventing access to certain domains. For corporate users, this is a huge plus, as it mitigates the risk of internal web applications being owned with an XSRF attack.

It also defaults to incognito mode. This means that whenever you close the browser, all remnants of your activity are wiped. Incognito isn’t just for accessing smutty websites or (ahem) buying your better-half a gift.

Finally, Aviator adds an extra (albeit flawed) way of obfuscating Internet activity from a malicious third-party, which is handy if you are accessing any sensitive information through your browser.

More Than A Pared-Down Google Chrome

I’ve been using Aviator on-and-off for the past few days, after learning about it from a friend. And you know what? I really like it. I can really see how this would have some applications in public Internet kiosks and in corporate environments. Despite coming configured out of the box for security and privacy, I found that my browsing experience wasn’t especially hamstrung. There wasn’t really anything I couldn’t do using Aviator. Indeed, even though I was using an older build of Chrome, I didn’t find that it limited what I could do.


In short, don’t think of Aviator as a pared-down Google Chrome. It’s much more: a privacy focused browser, built upon excellent foundations by a motivated team of security experts.

Will you be giving it a go? Drop me a comment and let me know.

Related topics: Online Privacy, Online Security.

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  1. Crazie Flawed N
    May 17, 2014 at 2:17 am

    dumb question but seeing as I have scrolled is there a link in the article ? (and yes i am aware I am just in uber lazy mode)

  2. Fadhili
    May 2, 2014 at 7:06 am

    Since Snowden revelation i have tighten up my security at home and work from mobile phones to computers for friends and family for free since this is AFRICA "hakuna matata" (no worries) getting AVIATOR will add more to what i know.
    Thank you Matthew for makeusof

  3. Michael R
    May 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    No Linux version?

  4. Will
    May 1, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Hm, ever heard of IRON? This 'german' stripped down version of Chrome, for the more privacy conscious (
    Been available for a few years now, pretty similar to Chrome

  5. Richard
    April 30, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    I would very much like to try Aviator !! I have used many others as well but always go back to Chrome..

  6. Rick
    April 30, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Are users able to import bookmarks from Chrome?

  7. David B
    April 30, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    for those talking about epic browser here is a link ..

  8. Alan W
    April 30, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    I have tried most browsers but not this one, up to now that is. Just installing and going to give it a run through.

    • Matthew H
      April 30, 2014 at 7:05 pm

      Let me know how you find it. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

  9. Omar E
    April 30, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    There is another great chromium based browser called Epic, you should check it out

  10. Paul
    April 30, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    I located it pretty quick with a web search. I found it posted at [Broken Link Removed]

  11. Davey126
    April 30, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Recent versions of Opera are also built on Chromium and have largely kept pace with Chrome. I like the interface and lack of bloat that sometimes encumbers Chrome. It has many of the same security features as mainstream browsers but you may have to toggle some settings as noted by a previous poster. Most extensions in the Chrome store run fine on Opera. Just another option for those seeking a bit more separation from Google while sticking with a mainstream offering.

    • Matthew H
      April 30, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      I'm quite of fond of 'New Opera'. In fact, I even wrote a review of Opera 15 when it first came out. :)

  12. Prabhu B
    April 30, 2014 at 9:49 am

    There's another "privacy" oriented browser which is called "Epic Privacy Browser". I have been using it and it's good.

    • jon
      April 30, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      I have used Epic for over a year and it is perfect and private ... does everything I need to do and then some ... I'm not sure... but I think it is based on chrome ?? ...

    • Matthew H
      April 30, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      Never heard of it! I'll have to give it a go. Thanks for your comment!

  13. Andy
    April 30, 2014 at 4:22 am

    Any views on how Aviator compares to Comodo Dragon?

    I've been pleased with Dragon, but I feel like giving Aviator a go.

  14. dragonmouth
    April 29, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    The plane at the head of the article looks like it is put together from parts of other planes. I hope Aviator was not built in the same manner. /grin/

    There is no version for Linux. Quel domage!

    • Matthew H
      April 29, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      Yeah, but who needs Aviator when you have Lynx, amwrite?

  15. David B
    April 29, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    I like the sound of this one and will give it a try but would you add a link to the download for it please

    • Matthew H
      April 29, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      Apologies. The link is here: [Broken Link Removed]

  16. ReadandShare
    April 29, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    I use Chrome with the following:

    - Ghostery - set to block 'everything' except whitelisted items
    - AdBlock
    - ClicknClean - deletes all history and cookies except whitelisted items
    - Chrome settings - mostly follow 'recommended' settings - disallow 3rd party cookies

    I don't use 'icognito mode' by default but since I live alone, there's little worries about anyone snooping my PC.

    Can I assume that the above is just about as 'secure' as using Aviator?

    • Matthew H
      April 29, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      I think security is pretty subjective. Your setup resembles Aviator very strongly, however. Although, Aviator comes with a very specific configuration which protects against XSRF attacks against websites available to your internal network.

      So... Not sure. ;)

    • Ben C
      April 30, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Also, ReadandShare, Ghostery sells its information if you have GhostRank enabled:
      Disconnect is much more above-board than that.

  17. Lou
    April 29, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    @ jack

    I tried to post the link, seems I am not allowed.

    Try whitehatsec dot com/aviator

  18. Lou
    April 29, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    @ jack

    [Broken Link Removed]

  19. jack
    April 29, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Is there a link to install aviator browser?

  20. Lou
    April 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    OK, Thanks, Matthew! I will give it a try.

    Thanks also for this great suggestion.

  21. Lou
    April 29, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    I use SRWare Iron for years, which is also built upon Chromium but, it still needs a few extensions added to be completely safe.

    I would love to try Aviator. Correct me if I am wrong, I think I would have to pay to keep using it. I am right?

    • Matthew H
      April 29, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      I don't believe so, no.

  22. Ben S
    April 29, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    I've never heard of this one before; I'm going to give it a shot. I like Disconnect being integrated.

    • Matthew H
      April 29, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      Let me know how you find it!

    • Drew Crawford
      May 16, 2014 at 3:32 pm

      Definitely giving it a shot! As good as Google can get, they're too damn invasive when it comes to my privacy!