In this Webopedia article we discuss the popular and trusted choices in privacy and security browser extensions for Chrome. Includes top picks for VPNs, ad blockers and general browsing security.
A quick Google search or a few minutes in the Chrome Web Store will show you dozens of good, free extensions that promise to enhance your privacy and security when browsing online. Browser security extensions can be quite different from one another some may focus on blocking ads and scripts while others may provide encrypted browsing or secure Wi-Fi options.
For the most part users need to understand a bit about the different types of privacy security extensions and determine which tools best fit their own use. Are you looking to block specific types of information or to simply improve your Web browsing by making it faster? Lastly, you’ll need to review each extension to decide if the free version offers enough protection and if not, which ones are you willing to pay for?
Block and Unblock Sites with Secure VPN Extensions
In a nutshell, a virtual private network (VPN) is a network that is constructed using public wires, usually the Internet. Using encryption and other security mechanisms, users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted. If you re interested in learning more about VPNs and how they work, check out this Study Guide article.
VPN browser extensions are typically a free proxy server that you can use to encrypt your connection and block (or unblock) websites like Facebook or Netflix on the fly, as you browse. The VPN extensions will allow you to bypass firewalls and browse anonymously while providing additional Wi-Fi hotspot security.
The downside to using Free VPN browser extensions for Chrome is that you may find that the overall browsing speed is a bit slower and at some point you’ll be directed to an ad page for upgrading to the premium service every so often. Top Chrome VPN extensions (based on user reviews) include the following:
1. Hotspot Shield lets you access any blocked sites from around the world, unblock Facebook and keep your browser activities safe & private. (Version: 1.0.1, February 29, 2016)
2. SurfEasy VPN for Chrome protects your online privacy, unblocks websites, protects your security on Wi-Fi hotspots, prevents ad tracking, and encrypts all of the data in and out of your browser with one easy to use extension. (Version: 1.3.6, January 30, 2017)
3. ZenMate VPN encrypts all of your traffic and hides your IP address so that you can surf the internet anonymously. The free version allows blocking from four locations Upgrades available to unblock additional features. (Version: 5.10.5, August 1, 2017)
Image Description: ZenMate VPN encrypts all of your web traffic.
Recommended Reading: Webopedia s 5 Free VPN Services article.
Limit Pop-ups and Scripts with Ad Block Extensions for Chrome
Pop-up blockers and ad blockers are generally designed to improve your browsing experience by limiting the ads and types of advertisements that appear on pages while you browse. Some ad blockers may try to close all ads, some may remove all advertising from a site, and still others may help you choose which ads you want to prevent from loading using a block list feature. In most cases, this category of Chrome extensions will also block tracking and potential malware threats.
The downside to using ad block extensions for Chrome is that many Web publishers today can only offer free content because revenue is earned via the advertisements on the site. It’s important for users to learn a bit about the pros and cons of ad blocking, and then find an extension that will support the needs of both readers and publishers. For those interested in learning more, EAVI provides an overview of the issues surrounding the topic of ad blocking so you can make an informed decision on your own.
Top Ad Blocking Chrome extensions (based on user reviews) include the following:
4. Fair AdBlocker makes it easy to block annoying ads, popups, malware and tracking (even on Facebook & YouTube) so you can browse faster and protect your privacy. You can block the most annoying of ads including pop-up and under ads; auto-play video ads overlay ads and more. Fair AdBlocker supports whitelists so you can allow certain types of ads from websites you wish to support. (Version: 1.404, Updated: July 4, 2017)
5. Ghostery is an all-around privacy tool that helps users to make informed decisions about the types of data they share online and who they share this information with. Not only can you control your data with Ghostery but you can also block ads and types of content and tracking to significantly speed up your browsing. A simple click will allow ads and tracking from websites you trust and support. (Version: 188.8.131.52, August 9, 2017)
Image Description: Ghostery is an all-around privacy tool.
6. uBlock Origin loads and enforces thousands of filters without slowing down your system. In addition to the pre-loaded lists, users can access customization features to add your own block lists or change filtering and more. Also worth a mention is that uBlock Origin is free and open source. (Version: 1.13.8, Updated: July 23, 2017)
General Privacy and Security Tools
Other privacy and security extensions that can make surfing the web safer include malware blockers, Facebook privacy controls, password blockers and more. Here are four general security extensions worth considering if you use the Chrome browser:
7. The Blur Chrome extension is designed to help you keep online passwords and payment details private. You use the extension to create strong encrypted passwords and Blur saves, encrypts and then organizes the passwords allowing you to log in quickly to your sites and accounts. The masked cards feature lets you shop online without ever giving out your credit card information. Features are also available for auto-filling real encrypted credit card, billing and address details. (Version: 7.6.2384, August 24, 2017)
Image Description: Blur keeps online passwords and payment details private.
8. J2TeaM Security is a Chrome browser extension that claims to block phishing and malware websites with real-time protection. The extension also secures you from other common malicious website elements such as clickjacking with hidden buttons. Also included are Facebook privacy controls that allow you to block typing indicators, active time in chat and more. (Version: 0.1.37, August 23, 2017)
9. LastPass is a well-known and free password manager. The Chrome extension can be used to save passwords and provide secure access from every computer and mobile device you use. Using LastPass you’ll need to create one strong master password that will allow you access to all saved usernames and passwords. You can use LastPass to auto login to your sites and sync your passwords everywhere. (Version: 4.1.63, August 22, 2017)
Recommended Reading: 65 Password Security Tips
10. Privacy Badger is a browser extension designed to protect you from trackers as you browse the web. The extension will block third party trackers that load invisibly when you browse the web. The extension works by sending the Do Not Track header with each request and evaluates the likelihood that you are still being tracked. If the algorithm deems the likelihood is high, your request is automatically blocked from the domain. (Version: 2017.7.24, July 24, 2017)
This article was originally published on August 29, 2017