Mozilla Firefox Web Browser

Mozilla Firefox is a free and open-source web browser with a focus on robust security, strong privacy protection, active development and regular updates. It is light-weight and fast, and available for desktops, laptops, smart phones and tablets.

There are quite a few good mainstream web browsers available today: Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Apple Safari. While they are good for browsing the web, they do not provide adequate security and privacy protection for your computer and personal information.

The best web browser for surfing the web with high level of security and privacy is Mozilla Firefox. In addition to being an excellent browser that follows the web standards and works well on a variety of computers and mobile devices, Firefox is highly customizable, giving you additional control over the security and privacy you seek.

If you are already familiar with all the great Firefox features and want to start using it, here are a couple of simple guides:

Otherwise continue reading to find out how Firefox can improve your computer security and privacy.

Mozilla Firefox Gives You a Choice

Being an independent open source project and a part of the non-profit Mozilla organization, Firefox is more transparent than other web browser applications.

As a non-profit project Firefox can focus on building new products and features without any hidden agendas.  Examples include privacy tools like Private Browsing with Tracking Protection, something that a commercial web browser that makes money by selling advertisements - like Google Chrome - cannot do.

Read the Mozilla Manifesto to learn more about the values and principles that guide the pursuit of their mission.

Mozilla and Firefox do not sell access to your online data, because it is not part of their business model.  This means you are in control over who sees your search and browsing history.

Mozilla Firefox Data Collection OptionsMozilla Firefox Data Collection Options

By using Mozilla Firefox you are exercising your rights to computer security and privacy while sending greedy corporate powers a message, and helping the Internet stay open and accessible to all people no matter where they are and what computer they use.

Mozilla Firefox Has Many Features

Mozilla Firefox runs on Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS and Linux desktop and laptop computers. It is also available for Android and iOS smart phones and tablets.

Firefox is a stable and secure web browser. It has all the standard features that many other web browsers have, including:

  • Tabbed browsing
  • Spell checking
  • Private browsing
  • Incremental search
  • Live bookmarking
  • Smart Bookmarks
  • A download manager
  • Location-aware browsing (geolocation)
  • An integrated search system with the ability to configure your own search engine

You can add additional functionality by installing third-party add-on applications (also called extensions) that further increase the security and privacy of your web browsing.

Mozilla Firefox ExtensionsMozilla Firefox Extensions

You can also change the appearance of the browser by creating your own themes or downloading existing ones from third party websites.

Mozilla Firefox Has Excellent Security

Firefox supports HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) protocol that uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) - which uses cryptography - to protect the communication between your computer and the website you are accessing.

When there is a choice between using HTTP (http://smartcomputersecurity.com) or HTTPS (https://smartcomputersecurity.com), always use HTTPS.

There is a freely available Mozilla Firefox add-on called HTTPS Everywhere that enforces HTTPS even if you first connect to the website using HTTP. The add-on works by checking if there is HTTPS available - and if there is, then Firefox will use it instead of HTTP.

For safety and security reasons, third party add-ons (extensions) that provide additional functionality like ad-blocking have to be signed by Mozilla in order to be used in Firefox.

Before they can be signed, add-ons have to be reviewed by Mozilla, and are subject to software code analysis. Code analysis can expose insecure add-ons, which can then be blocked or disabled. Blocked or disabled add-ons cannot be installed in Firefox.

The Mozilla Foundation has a bug bounty (bugs are software defects, often related to security) reward program that awards money to computer security researchers who discover serious security problems in Firefox.

If and when severe Firefox vulnerabilities are found, Mozilla prefers to have the opportunity to fix them before they are released to the world, in order not to give computer criminals an advantage in creating ways to abuse them. If Mozilla is given a chance to release an updated version of Firefox before criminals can develop exploits, the world will be a safer place.

Firefox tabs are isolated from each other and from the rest of the computer system. The way we use tabs is to have one website open in each tab. With tab isolation, if a bad website (that has malicious software within it, for example malicious ads) attacks your computer it will have less chance to break the computer security.

Firefox also has an advanced security and privacy feature called DNS over HTTPS (DoH).

Domain Name System (DNS) is used to translate website names (like https://www.smartcomputersecurity.com) into a numerical address (like 11.22.33.44) that computers use to connect to each other. Usually your Internet service provider (Verizon, Comcast, Spectrum, etc.) provides this service.

This means that your Internet service provider can see which websites you are connecting to. If you are using HTTPS (instead of HTTP), the service provider cannot read what you are reading in your web browser, but they can still see what websites you are connecting to, because they provide the name-to-numerical-address translation for you, and they see the translation requests your web browser is making.

With DNS over HTTPS (DoH), the name-to-numerical-address website lookup process bypasses your Internet service provider, and is encrypted (scrambled, so no one can read the lookup request and the answer). This gives you privacy protection from your Internet service provider.

In addition, your computer security is improved because it is less likely that your web surfing connection can be redirected to an malicious website - if someone can hijack your name-to-numerical-address website lookup procedure, they can send you to the wrong (and dangerous) address/website.

Firefox can also block scripts (scripts are a sequence of short and simple computer instructions) that use your computer's processor (CPU) to mine cryptocurrency (digital "money", like bitcoin).

Mozilla Firefox Protects Your Privacy

Firefox is a Mozilla Foundation (a non-profit organization) project and its goal is not focused on making money by selling your personal information and data. This alone means that Firefox is an excellent choice for secure and private web browsing.

Mozilla Firefox Privacy OptionsMozilla Firefox Privacy Options

In addition, Mozilla Firefox has many options to increase your privacy, and it adds new ones from time to time. Some of the options that you can change for additional privacy include:

  • Disallowing Firefox to send technical and interaction data to Mozilla
  • Automatically blocking content that tracks the sites you visit and profiles you
  • Leaving "Do Not Track" request disabled (to reduce fingerprinting)
  • Disallowing Firefox to send backlogged crash reports on your behalf
  • Disabling your IP address (unique network address that your computer has) exposure when sharing video, voice chat and P2P through your browser
  • Preventing tracking you across multiple domains
  • Increasing Firefox resistance to web browser fingerprinting
  • Disabling geolocation tracking
  • Blocking websites from being able to track the microphone and camera status of your computer, smart phone or tablet
  • Various options to block cookies

Web browser fingerprinting is technique of identifying your computer in a unique way by looking at your exact web browser configuration. Even if you block all the ads and cookies, web sites can still fingerprint your browser. Web browser fingerprinting is very difficult to avoid.

Mozilla Firefox Privacy and Security Add-Ons

Firefox has a number of good add-ons (browser extensions) that further increase your security and privacy:

  • HTTPS Everywhere (Converts HTTP to HTTPS)
  • uBlock Origin (Blocks ads)
  • Privacy Badger (Blocks web trackers)
  • Facebook Container (Isolates your Facebook activity from other web activity)
  • Firefox Multi-Account Containers (Separates your web identities with tabs)

Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Apple Safari

What about the other mainstream browsers? How do they protect your privacy?

Google Chrome

Google Chrome is made by Google. Google is in the business of selling your personal information and data, and serving you ads that use your personal information and data.

Google likely reads your Gmail email in order to serve you ads.

Google tracks you with all their products (Search, Gmail, YouTube, Maps) and across all their products, and then sells that information to third parties.

I could go on and on but hopefully this illustrates why, if you are concerned about privacy and security, you should not use Google Chrome.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft is not well known for protecting your privacy. Microsoft Edge is snooping, but not as much as Chrome.

In addition, Microsoft is in the middle of building a new web browser that will replace their Edge browser that comes with Windows. The new browser is based on Chromium, the same software that Google uses to create Chrome.

Microsoft is also aggressive with pushing their own standards and not playing well with others. It is a better choice than Chrome, if you are unable to use Firefox.

Apple Safari

Safari only runs on Mac, and does its own thing. Some of it is good and some if it is not. It doesn't give you much choice in what you can or cannot do, and there is no flexibility in configuring security and privacy options.

It is a better choice than Chrome, if you are unable to use Firefox.

Firefox Rapid Release and Extended Support Release

There are two versions of Firefox, Rapid Release and Extended Support Release (ESR).

Firefox Rapid Release

Rapid Release is the normal version of Firefox. It receives major software updates every six weeks and minor updates such as crash fixes and security fixes as needed during those six weeks.

This version of Firefox delivers the latest features and improvements more often. For example, DNS over HTTPS (DoH) feature will come to the rapid release Firefox version much sooner than to ESR version.

Firefox Extended Support Release

Mozilla Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) receives major updates on average every 42 weeks with minor updates such as crash fixes, security fixes and policy updates as needed, but at least every six weeks.

It is created for large enterprises like corporations and universities that need to set up and maintain Firefox on a large scale. As such, it is more conservative but doesn't get the latest features as often. This gives other people more time for testing and Mozilla more time to work out any issues.

Since the web browser is a relatively important piece of software on your computer, it makes sense to be more conservative unless you are a computer professional.

If you are not sure which one to use and you and you are not an advanced computer user, use the Extended Support Release (ESR) Firefox version.

Ready to get started using Firefox? Here are a couple of simple guides:

Enjoy!

  1. Computer Security
  2. Mozilla Firefox