How to Secure Your Firefox Browser

Stay safe while browsing the web

There was a time when Firefox was a target for hackers. Now, though, it's considered one of the most secure browsers around. In fact, it's used as the basis of the ultra privacy-focused Tor Browser. That said, Firefox is something of a blank canvas to start with. Depending on the level of security you want, you'll need to put in a bit of work locking it down. Thankfully, Firefox makes configuration a breeze, so it doesn't take long to get the secure browser you want.

Enable Do Not Track

The first, and probably most basic, thing you can do is enable Firefox's built-in Do Not Track protection. Do Not Track has been around for a while, and while it's pretty good, it's not foolproof. In fact, plenty of sites, including the malicious ones, ignore it altogether. Even still, it's a good thing to have enabled by default.

  1. Open up Firefox, and select the main menu icon in the upper right corner of your screen.

    Firefox's More menu
  2. Select Preferences from the resulting menu.

    A screenshot of Firefox with the Preferences option highlighted
  3. Choose Privacy & Security from the left side of the screen.

    Privacy & Security in Firefox settings
  4. Select Always under Send websites a "Do Not Track" signal...

    The Always setting for Do Not Track

Increase Your Tracking Protection

The latest versions of Firefox, which you should always be using for better security, include their own built-in tracking protection. The standard protection provided by Firefox is good, but you can take it a step further.

  1. While you're still on the Privacy & Security tab, scroll up to the Enhanced Tracking Protection section.

    Firefox tracking protection
  2. You can leave the Standard protection selected, but for more control, scroll down and select Custom.

  3. Leave everything checked. Next to Cookies, use the drop-down to choose All third-party cookies.

    The option does warn that some sites may break, but in truth, that's very rare.

  4. Then, next to Tracking content, use the drop-down to select In all windows.

Install Add-Ons

Add-ons are always something of a double-edged sword. In the past, malicious add-ons have been used to target Firefox, but now, there are fantastic security add-ons that make a huge difference in keeping your browser safe.

  1. Start by opening up the Firefox menu again. This time, select Add-ons.

    The Add-ons options
  2. You'll arrive on the Firefox add-ons tab. Use the search at the top of the page to look for "HTTPS Everywhere."

    The Add-Ons search bar
  3. Select it from your search results.

    Firefox add-on search results
  4. Then, on the add-on page, press Add to Firefox.

    The Add to Firefox button
  5. A pop up will open asking you to confirm the add-on install. Press Add.

    The Add button
  6. Firefox will install HTTPS Everywhere. The add-on automatically redirects you to the encrypted version of a website, if one's available.

  7. There are a few more highly recommended add-ons that you should install to protect yourself. The process is exactly the same as the one you just walked through. Repeat the steps for each of the following add-ons.

  • Privacy Badger: Privacy Badger monitors the sites you browse for any that appear to be tracking you and blocks them.
  • uBlock Origin: uBlock Origin is a powerful ad blocker.
  • NoScript: NoScript prevents your browser from running potentially malicious JavaScript.
  • Cookie AutoDelete: Cookie AutoDelete automatically deletes the cookies stored from browsing tab as soon as you close it.
  • Decentraleyes: Decentraleyes prevents tracking through content delivery networks(CDN).

Enable Containers

Firefox container tabs help you compartmentalize your browsing to keep cookies and trackers from following you between sites. This feature is built by Mozilla, the makers of Firefox, and helps contain notoriously invasive sites, like Facebook. Actually, Firefox has a separate dedicated container to keep Facebook under control. With containers, you can more easily compartmentalize your browsing and keep any one site or potential attacker from following you from one place to the next.

Firefox Facebook Container add-on page

Change Your Search

Finally, this one isn't specific to Firefox, but you may want to change your search provider. Google makes their fortune from tracking people and selling ads. That doesn't exactly make them the most trustworthy, in terms of privacy or security. Thankfully, Firefox lets you change your default search provider to a number of more privacy-focused options.

  1. Open the main Firefox menu again, and select Preferences.

    A screenshot of Firefox with the Preferences option highlighted
  2. Now, choose the Search tab from the left.

    The Search tab
  3. Scroll down to Default Search Engine and Use the drop-down menu to choose a new search engine. Of the default options, DuckDuckGo is the most secure and private.

    Default Search Engine options in Firefox
  4. Once your default search is set, all of your searches through the address bar and your new tabs will go through that engine. There are other options that you can get through add-ons. A couple good options are:

  • Startpage: A private search engine that doesn't track you
  • Ecosia: A moderately private engine that uses its profits to plant trees