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Chrome or Firefox: Which is More Secure?

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Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are two of the most popular web browsers available today. Although Chrome has a greater market share (a whopping 69.28% compared to Firefox’s 7.48%), Firefox has more going for it when it comes to privacy. Let’s take a look at how these two browsers stack up concerning privacy and security.

Privacy vs security

Before we compare Chrome and Firefox, let’s talk about privacy and security. These two terms are used interchangeably, and they are indeed connected and may overlap sometimes, but privacy and security aren’t necessarily the same thing. Privacy refers to information that you have control over and choose to share or not to share with others. Security is about how your information is protected, either by yourself or others.

A good example that illustrates the difference between privacy and security is online banking. When you sign up for a bank account, you must give the bank some of your personal information, such as your name, address, or Social Security number. When you sign into your online banking platform, your information is no longer private, because you shared it with the bank. It is secure, however, because your bank protects it with its own security measures. If your bank experiences a data breach, then your personal information would no longer be private or secure.

Concerning security, Chrome and Firefox are pretty much neck and neck. Concerning privacy, however, Firefox pulls ahead a bit. Let’s go into more detail by looking at different privacy and security features these web browsers have.

Cookies

A cookie is a small piece of data stored on your computer by your web browser when you visit websites. Cookies are supposed to record your browsing activity so websites can remember your information. Browsers that allow third-party cookies raise privacy concerns, as there are entities you can’t identify tracking your web browsing history.

By default, Firefox blocks third-party cookies. It only saves cookies that are necessary for the websites you’re visiting. Chrome does not block third-parties from setting cookies, allowing entities to store info on your computer. Chrome has announced that it will phase out third-party cookies by 2022, however.

Password management

Both Firefox and Chrome have native password managers, allowing users to store passwords for their various online accounts safely. Firefox’s password manager uses a master password which “unlocks” the rest of your saved passwords, whereas Chrome just saves each password. Requiring a master password prevents others from logging into your accounts if they happen to have access to your device or browser, making Firefox’s password manager a bit more secure.

Sandboxing

Chrome was the first browser to implement “sandboxing,” a feature that separates sites on your browser from your computer. It puts each tab on your browser into its own container known as a sandbox. Doing so prevents websites from attempting to make changes to your computer. Firefox also does sandboxing, but it hasn’t offered this feature for as long as Chrome has, so it’s not as robust.

Open-source

Firefox is open-source, whereas Chrome is not. That means anyone can look at Firefox’s code and potentially find bugs which Mozilla can then quickly resolve. Open-source products and software tend to be favored by cyber security experts because they’re open for vetting by the general public.

Updates

Updates are crucial for online security, as any vulnerabilities can easily be found and exploited by hackers. Chrome checks for patches every five hours, and Firefox’s checks take less than one day. Firefox users can track the browser’s security updates, but it doesn’t check for updates as quickly as Chrome does.

Blocking malicious websites

Both Chrome and Firefox warn users when they’re about to enter what appears to be a malicious website. Sites like these can automatically start malware downloads or prompt you to enter login credentials, which are then stolen. This feature is about equal for the two browsers, with a slight leg up for Firefox, which updates its lists of malicious websites every 30 minutes.

More secure web browsers

Firefox and Chrome are popular choices, but there are other browser options out there for those who want more security or privacy:

  • Puffin: Puffin is one of the most secure browsers around, as it doesn’t allow websites to store any code on your device and stores it instead on Puffin’s servers. That means malware won’t get downloaded to your computer, but to their servers. This approach makes most browser security features moot, making Puffin an ideal choice for users who want maximum security. The downside with Puffin, however, is that it’s not free to get the fully functional version.
  • Tenta: Tenta comes with HTTPS Everywhere and a VPN built in, and protects browsing history data with AES 256-bit encryption. This security-minded browser has some great features, but it’s only available on Android and the speed is average.
  • Brave: Like Tenta, Brave has HTTPS Everywhere built in natively to the browser. It also blocks pop-ups and ads by default, and you can check exactly what’s being blocked on each website you’re visiting with the shields menu. Despite some great security features, Brave doesn’t release updates nearly as often as other browsers (once every three weeks) which is problematic for security.

Chrome vs. Firefox: who’s more secure?

When it comes to security, Firefox and Chrome are on a level playing field. Considering that Firefox is owned by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation and Chrome is owned by Google, which relies much more heavily on ad revenue, privacy tends to be better with Firefox. If you want a browser that protects you as you surf the web, either Firefox or Chrome will work. If you want a browser that doesn’t follow you around on the web to create an advertising profile of you, then go with Firefox.

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