Sites and companies make money just from gathering your browsing data and using it to target you with relevant ads as you go from site to site. It’s not uncommon to encounter hundreds of trackers just from two or three websites. Sadly, these can also sometimes lead to malware due to malicious ads. To avoid such pitfalls and keep your browsing safe and private, we recommend using the following Chrome security and privacy extensions.
Ghostery is a powerful and popular Chrome security extension designed to block trackers and anonymize browsing data to prevent your browser from creating a browser fingerprint. The default settings are perfect for most users, which block trackers and use smart ad blocking to only allow specific types of ads. It’s updated regularly and is simple to customize. With fewer trackers loading, websites also load faster.
- Blocks ads
- Blocks trackers
- Anonymizes browsing data
- What to block can be customized (such as allowing non-intrusive ads on trusted sites)
- Some websites that depend on ads won’t load if Ghostery is enabled
A premium version is available for $4.99/month, but the free version does more than enough for most users.
Blur is a powerful password manager and digital wallet. Quickly generate hard to crack passwords that are heavily encrypted. Block trackers for more private browsing. If you upgrade to premium, you can mask your credit card information, email address, and phone number. Instead of using your real information, unique fakes are generated to protect your information. Sites get this other data and store it on their servers. So, if there’s a breach, your information doesn’t get stolen.
- Password management
- Creates strong, unique passwords to log you in automatically
- Masks credit card data so sites never get your real data
- Blocks trackers
- Works across multiple devices, platforms, and browsers
- Credit card masking is only available in the premium version (starts at $2/month)
Click&Clean is designed to make clearing your browsing history, cookies, and temp files as easy as one click. The colorful menus in the extension make this a breeze to learn and use. You can also manage certain system and Chrome settings from within the extension’s menu. Everything is free, but donations are welcome. The developer is also responsive to feedback, regularly updating the extension based on user suggestions.
- Can delete full browsing history, cookies, and more with one-click
- Scans for malware
- Creates backups of browsing history sites
- Customizes cookies to stay logged in to specific sites
- Collects some usage data but claims to keep user data anonymous
4. DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials
DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials brings the privacy of the DuckDuckGo search engine to Chrome. It helps boost Chrome security by blocking trackers and giving you a rating for websites based on security and privacy practices of the site. This helps you tell if a site is safe or not. You can search directly through the extension. The only issue is that you’re forced to switch to DuckDuckGo as your default search engine.
- Rates website security and safety
- Blocks trackers
- Offers ability to search with DuckDuckGo
- Some sites may not have a rating, especially new or low-traffic sites
- Automatically switches your default search engine to DuckDuckGo
Disconnect is a strong extension designed to improve your privacy on Chrome. While you can upgrade to a premium version to get a VPN and more customization features, the basic tracking protection extension is free, though donations are welcome. The graphical interface is a nice touch to let you see how much is being blocked at a glance along with the different types of trackers.
- Blocks trackers
- Boosts page loading speeds
- Allows you to choose sites to whitelist
- Displays lists of what’s trying to track you
- Some sites won’t load unless Disconnect is turned off
6. Cookie AutoDelete
Cookie AutoDelete is a simple, yet highly effective tool for clearing your cookies automatically. Easily select sites to whitelist to avoid auto deleting cookies or greylist sites to keep cookies (even after you close a tab) until you close your browser. You can also import and export settings to other browsers or computers to avoid having to set up everything again.
- Auto-delete feature for deleting cookies
- Delete cookies for tabs or entire session
- Whitelist and greylist sites
- Manual cleanup
- Auto-delete isn’t set up by default
7. HTTPS Everywhere
HTTPS Everywhere forces sites to use HTTPS, which helps encrypt data sent between your computer and the website. Many browsers, including Chrome, have a version of this built-in. This is a stronger version, which makes it ideal for improving Chrome security. The only major downside is that it won’t work with all websites, though you’ll still see a warning icon in your address bar to let you know HTTPS isn’t available. If it’s a trusted site, you can whitelist it.
- Automatically switches many HTTP sites to more secure HTTPS sites
- Allows you to disable on sites if necessary
- Create manual rules for websites
- Doesn’t work on all sites
8. WOT Website Security & Browsing Protection
WOT Website Security & Browsing Protection gives you a scorecard for a website to let you know about how safe it is. Users leave reviews to give you more details. It’s one of the more popular Chrome security extensions because it’ll also warn you of potential malicious sites that are known for phishing scams and malware threats. With the premium version, you can get advanced device and email scanning too. While you can’t search a URL before opening it in the extension, you can use the WOT website to check.
- Get a score rating for websites along with user reviews
- Receive warnings before a site fully loads if it’s potentially malicious
- Can’t check a site before visiting it within the extension
9. Privacy Badger
Privacy Badger doesn’t have the customary list of trackers to block like most tracking blocker extensions use. Instead, it relies on the behavior of trackers to automatically block them. This works well for identifying new trackers that might not be on lists just yet. However, during the learning phase, you may still have to deal with trackers. Also, in comparison with others, it didn’t block as many trackers until after a few days of use.
- Identifies trackers based on behavior
- Useful trackers receive placeholders, such as video players or comment sections
- Improves tracker blocking the more you use it
- Can manually choose to block or allow an entire domain
- Doesn’t block as many trackers from the start as other Chrome privacy extensions
- The learning algorithm can allow sites to know more about you
Unshorten.It! helps you see what’s really behind those shortened links on social media and article sharing websites. It’s all too common to click a link and be taken to a phishing site or even end up downloading malware instead. All you have to do with this is right-click any link and select “Unshorten this link.” You’ll be taken to a new webpage with details about the link, including the safety scorecard, when it’s available. With so many shortened links online, this could easily be one of the most useful Chrome security extensions.
- Shows full link and website for any shortened links
- Works with almost all link-shortening services
- Includes WOT safety scorecard details when available
- WOT safety scorecard doesn’t always appear, even on popular websites
11. Netcraft Extension
The Netcraft Extension goes above and beyond to help improve Chrome security. Click the extension on any website to see an overview of the site. Any sites flagged as malicious or suspicious will generate a warning to help keep you safer. You can view full reports by clicking the Site Report option in the extension. This shows you where sites are registered, as well as rank, country of origin, how long the site’s been active, security measures, and more.
- See full details for a website (site rank, where it’s registered, IP addresses, etc.)
- Get notified of potentially malicious sites
- Report malicious or suspicious sites
- Protect payment details on suspicious sites
- The extension depends upon user reports, so some malicious sites may not have a warning yet
Unshorten.link does exactly what the name says: unshortens shortened links. It works with a list of over 300 link-shortening services to help you see what’s behind those cryptic shortened links. This one works a little differently than Unshorten.It! because it’ll automatically take you to a safety report page. You don’t need to right-click first and can change the filter rules to allow trusted sites to bypass the safety report screen.
- Directs you to Unshorten.link report immediately upon clicking a shortened link
- Gives you safety report and shows full link
- Custom settings to choose what to filter
- Sometimes loads an error page when you click a link
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it okay to use multiple Chrome privacy extensions at once?
Yes. However, try to avoid having two extensions that do exactly the same thing. This usually doesn’t offer any benefit. You could use two at once to compare results, but pick the one that works best for you. Ideally, choose a security extension that blocks trackers, another for shortened links, and another to delete cookies.
Otherwise, if you install too many extensions, you could actually slow down your browsing experience. There are actually some extensions designed specifically to speed up Chrome.
2. My antivirus, VPN, or other software comes with Chrome security extensions. Should I use those instead?
Many VPN and antivirus tools come with their own browser extensions. For example, Malwarebytes automatically scans and blocks malicious sites with Malwarebytes Browser Guard. NordVPN has an extension to switch the VPN as you browse.
I didn’t list any of these types of extensions, as you have to first buy the software and/or log in to the corresponding desktop app to use them. However, if the software/app you trust has a security extension, definitely try it.
3. Why don’t some sites load when I use a tracker blocker extension?
Many websites depend solely upon ad revenue and/or third-party trackers to run. As a result, they require you to turn off any tracking and ad blocker extensions before their site loads. For example, Forbes used to show a message requiring you to either become a paying subscriber or whitelist their site. Ironically, they also got hit with malicious ads at the same time, causing users to no longer trust visiting the site without an ad blocker.
The only way to load these sites is to turn off your extension while visiting that site. If it’s a trusted site, you can whitelist it.
4. Is it better to use free or premium extensions?
Typically, free Chrome security extensions work well enough for most users. Some do offer additional or advanced features in premium versions. For instance, Blur’s credit card masking is a neat feature that’s only available in the premium version. However, judge for yourself whether these features are worth the extra money.
As far as safer credit card purchases online, consider using a digital wallet, which encrypts your data for safer transactions.
5. What if I switch to a different browser?
Most browsers that support extensions have a variety of security and privacy extensions. For example, Firefox has several great privacy addons to try. And, any Chromium-based browsers typically have access to the Chrome extension store, too.
Image credit: Unsplash
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