Configuring Mozilla Firefox for Security and Privacy

Configuring Mozilla Firefox web browser for security and privacy is straightforward and easy. Firefox is highly customizable, and by changing a few options you will substantially improve your Internet web surfing security and privacy.

Mozilla Firefox has powerful configuration options and you can configure it to fit your computer security needs. From changing the web browser colors and using various themes, to boosting your privacy and security, configuring Mozilla Firefox improves both your web surfing experience and safety.

Unlike the other mainstream web browsers, Firefox is an open source product and supported by a non-profit organization (Mozilla). By using Firefox you are not only surfing the web with high level of privacy and security, you are actively contributing to a better Internet society.

Although this guide is for configuring Mozilla Firefox on Windows 10, Mac and Linux are very similar. Some naming conventions may be different, but overall, it is still the same web browser.

Configuring Mozilla Firefox on Windows 10

Since Firefox is supported by a non-profit organization, it is not limited by the incentives other mainstream web browser have: to make money selling your personal information to companies serving you ads, or to bundle the web browser with the operating system to gain competitive advantage.

Firefox is free to focus on what matters the most - your security and privacy - without any conflict of interest or fear that protecting their users from the dangers of the Internet may jeopardize its business model.

Configuring Mozilla Firefox only takes ten (10) simple steps. After you're done, you will have a robust web browser that cares about your data and protects your privacy and security on the Internet.

1) Open Firefox Configuration Options

Open Firefox, then click on the "hamburger" icon (upper right corner), and select "Options".

2) Make Firefox Your Default Web Browser

Step 1:

  • "General" (left menu)

Step 2: Under "Startup":

  • Select "Always check if Firefox is your default browser"

Step 3: To the left of the "Firefox is not your default browser"

  • Click the "Make Default..." button

A "Default apps" Windows Settings window will pop up. Follow these quick instructions to change your default web browser to Firefox. Then come back to this configuring Mozilla Firefox step.

Your default Windows web browser is now Mozilla Firefox. Make sure it is:

Step 1:

  • "General" (left menu)

Step 2: Under "Startup":

  • It should say "Firefox is currently your default browser"

3) Let Firefox Automatically Upgrade Itself

Step 1:

  • "General" (left menu)

Step 2: Under "Firefox Updates":

  • Make sure that your Firefox is up to date. If it is not, click on the "Check for updates" button on the right, and update your Firefox to the latest version. Then come back to this step to continue configuring Mozilla Firefox.

Step 3: Under "Allow Firefox to":

  • Select "Automatically install updates (recommended)"

Step 4: Then just below:

  • Select "Use a background service to install updates"
  • Select "Automatically update search engines"

This way you don't have to keep checking if your Firefox or its search engines are up to date, this will be done automatically for you.

4) Set Opening New Windows and Tabs to "Blank Page"

There is a fine line between good security and practical usability. "Turn on" too much and you lower your security. "Turn off" too much and you are not be able to do what you have to do.

With this in mind, I use the "Blank Page" setting for my Firefox Homepage, new windows and tabs. You're welcome to configure this section for your personal preference.

Step 1:

  • "Home" (left menu)

Step 2: Under "New Windows and Tabs":

  • Select "Blank Page" from the pull-down menu for "Homepage and new windows"
  • Select "Blank Page" from the pull-down menu for "New tabs"

Now when you start Firefox, open a new window, or a new tab, Firefox will not try to fetch a web page - it will open a blank page instead.

This is safer than letting Firefox automatically open a web page every time you start it, or every time you open another window or tab. It protects you from additional third party tracking by companies that are trying to build a more accurate profile of your online behavior. 

In addition, new Firefox windows and tabs open faster because you don't have to wait for a website to load every time.

5) Configure Firefox Home Content

This section configures the content you see on your Firefox Home screen. This is the screen you see when you start Firefox or open a new Firefox window or tab.

Like in the previous step, configuring Mozilla Firefox home page content is guided by personal preference. I turn it all off, because I know what sites I visit the most, and don't need any "great content from around the web" pushed to me. If I need information, I go and get it.

I also feel these additional "conveniences" further decrease my privacy. If I really needed them, I may consider using them, but I don't.

But if you find these options useful, there is nothing inherently insecure about using them. I will show you what I do, and you configure them the way that works for you.

If you set your Firefox Home Page to "Blank" in the previous step then whatever you do in this section will not matter - you will still get a blank page when you start Firefox or open a new window or tab.

However, this step provides additional assurance that your Home Page will stay blank. Remember, computer security is about defense in depth - multiple layers of security.

Step 1:

  • "Home" (left menu)
  • "Firefox Home Content" (right side)

Step 2: Under "Firefox Home Content":

  • Deselect "Web Search"

Step 3: Under "Firefox Home Content":

  • Deselect "Top Sites"

Step 4: Under "Firefox Home Content":

  • Deselect "Recommended by Pocket"
  • Deselect "Sponsored Stories"

Step 5: Under "Firefox Home Content":

  • Deselect "Highlights"
  • Deselect "Visited Pages"
  • Deselect "Bookmarks"
  • Deselect "Most Recent Downloads"
  • Deselect "Pages Saved to Pocket"

Step 6: Under "Firefox Home Content":

  • Deselect "Snippets"

6) Strict Browser Privacy Protection

Step 1:

  • "Privacy & Security" (left menu)
  • "Browser Privacy" (right side)

Step 2: Under "Content Blocking":

  • Select "Strict" protection

This may cause some web sites to not display properly. I've never had any issues, but you should be aware that it is possible. If it does happen, it will most likely be with very complex websites or web forms.

If you run into issues, you can always come back to this step of configuring Mozilla Firefox and decrease the browser privacy protection strictness.

Or you could skip the badly designed and insecure website that doesn't display properly and surf on to another one!

7) Additional Privacy & Security Configuration Options

When you close Firefox you don't need the cookies any longer, so why not delete them?

And saving passwords in a web browser is not a good idea. Use a password manager like Sticky Password instead.

Step 1:

  • "Privacy & Security" (left menu)
  • "Browser Privacy" (right side), scroll down

Step 2: Under "Do Not Track":

  • Select "Only when Firefox is set to block known trackers"

Step 3: Under "Cookies and Site Data":

  • Select "Delete cookies and site data when Firefox is closed"

Step 4: Under "Logins and Passwords":

  • Deselect "Ask to save logins and passwords for websites"

8) Use Custom Settings for History

This step configures Firefox to clear the browsing history when you close it.

Step 1:

  • "Privacy & Security" (left menu)

Step 2: Under "History":

  • Select "Use custom settings for history" from the pull-down menu.

Step 2: Also under "History":

  • Deselect "Always use private browsing mode"

Step 2: Finally, still under "History":

  • Select "Remember browsing and download history"
  • Select "Remember search and from history"
  • Select "Clear history when Firefox closes"

9) Configure Firefox Permissions

These options may already be in place. If not, select them.

Step 1:

  • "Privacy & Security" (left menu)

Step 2: Under "Permissions":

  • Select "Block websites from automatically playing sound"
  • Select "Block pop-up windows"
  • Select "Warn you when websites try to install add-ons"

10) Deceptive Content and Dangerous Software Protection

Even though Mozilla (the non-profit organization behind Firefox) is unlikely to abuse any data that Firefox may send it via technical and crash reports, it is best to be safe and turn these off.

Step 1:

  • "Privacy & Security" (left menu)

Step 2: Under "Firefox Data Collection and Use":

  • Deselect "Allow Firefox to send technical and interaction data to Mozilla"
  • Deselect "Allow Firefox to send backlogged crash reports on your behalf"

Step 3: Under "Security" and then "Deceptive Content and Dangerous Software Protection":

  • Select "Block dangerous and deceptive content"
  • Select "Block dangerous downloads"
  • Select "Warn you about unwanted and uncommon software"

That's All Folks

Congratulations, you're done!

  1. Mozilla Firefox
  2. Configuring Mozilla Firefox