Five Best Browser Security Extensions

You share and access some of your most sensitive data through your web browser, so it doesn't hurt to add a little extra security to your browsing session. Here's a look at five of the best, most popular security extensions out there.Image courtesy pong.

Unlike most Hive Fives, you can simultaneously use every one of the extensions below if you prefer.

AdBlock Plus (Firefox/Chrome)

AdBlock, as its name would imply, blocks certain scripts serving advertisements on a website. But instead of more general script-blocking, like NoScript (below), ABP focuses on blocking just advertisements. As we've mentioned before, you can tweak ABP for added security benefit by using a "malicious ad" blocklist. You can, of course, whitelist sites you want to support (ahem), but ABP also provides the more obvious aesthetic benefit of a web less cluttered with ads.

HTTPS Everywhere (Firefox)

HTTPS Everywhere from the Electronic Freedom Foundation will help you to secure the connection between your browser and the servers it is connecting to. It helps to encrypt your connection when possible, even when the default setting on the web site does not offer the added security. A good example is Twitter. The username and password input boxes are encrypted, but after that all text coming to or from the server is sent in the clear. (Very recently, Facebook added an option to always turn on HTTPS. Here's how to do that.) HTTPS Everywhere even helps to protect against hacking tools such as Firesheep.

LastPass (All Platforms)

LastPass secures another vector that hackers can use to try to gain access to your personal information - your password. When you use the LastPass browser plugin, it stores your password, encrypted, for you and also allows you to easily generate a complicated and hard-to-crack password that is unique to a site. LastPass has plugins available for every browser under the sun. If you're just getting started with LastPass, here's our introduction to LastPass, our intermediate guide, and a guide to auditing and updating your passwords with LastPass.

NoScript (Firefox)

NoScript is a Firefox-only plugin that does one thing and does one thing well—it blocks scripts such as JavaScript, Flash, Quicktime, and more from loading in your browser window. (Chrome users may want to check out the similar Chrome extension, NottScripts.) The reason it works so well for security purposes is that malicious web sites can use these scripts as attack vectors in order to cause a browser crash and to gain access to your computer. By blocking these scripts you can make yourself significantly safer on the web.

Keep in mind that for most of us, blocking all scripts would result in a fairly broken internet, given that many websites, such as Google, Gmail, Twitter, Lifehacker and others rely on JavaScript to load their pages. NoScript allows you to block 3rd-party scripts or even just from unsafe domains. You can manage these settings in detail, giving you the maximum security with minimum inconvenience.

Web of Trust (All Browsers)

Web of Trust is another plugin that does something different than the above. Instead of halting any attack vectors, it lets you know when the website you are visiting is trustworthy or not. That way if you happen across a website that you think is trustworthy and even looks it, you get a warning that you should not submit your personal information to the site.

They rely on user-ratings to rate their site and in my experience it has been very accurate and useful.

Supplemental Reading

We recently highlighted a few easy steps for securing your online life, some of which employ a few extensions here. For an even more secure browsing experience, here's how to encrypt your entire browsing session.

Have another favourite extension that didn't make the cut? Let us know why you think it deserves to be installed in the comments below.


    Oddly enough, I've used all 5 of these, and am still currently using 2.

    Ad-Block Plus is a must have extension for any brower I use on a semi-regaular basis. I have no issue with ads per se - however many websites just aren't reasonable in the amount of ads they display and how they display them. I seldom click through ads anyway (if an ad has any effect on me, its more likely to make search for the product myself, not click the ad) - so I don't feel too guilt riddled about this one.

    HTTS Everywhere was great when I was using Firefox. I just wish someone would port this extension over to Chrome. It just sat in the background and worked, without me every consciously knowing it.

    LastPass is (so far) the best password management software I have come across. It does have a few little annoyances with it, but none that have been so servere that I've gone looking for a new alternative. The main frustration I do have with it, is the more you use it (for generating and storing passwords) the more you depend on it (I have no chance of remembering 99.9% of those generated passwords).

    No Script I used for a brief period. The extension may have been in its infancy at the time, because I remember it to be overbearing and made my browsing experience horrible.

    Web of Trust I was using briefly until a few weeks ago, when I removed it. While its a nice idea in principal, the little coloured circles it adds to every link to get frustrating, particularly when they begin to reformat a webpage and destroy its layout. Annoyingly there did not seem to be a way to turn these off, or switch them to a mouse-over popup (which would be a much better design). WOT doesn't really tell me a great deal that using my own common-sense doesn't anyway, so it soon got the flick.

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