Category: Browser (Page 2 of 2)

Paywalls & Private Browsing

Last month, I posted the basics about Private Browsing, but I skipped mentioning one of its important uses: Bypassing paywalls. When a website insists that you pay for access, Private Browsing can sometimes get you in without payment or logging in.

This most commonly works for news websites and other pages that offer you “5 free articles this month” before requiring you to sign up and buy a subscription. If you really need to read an article behind a paywall, you can try to right-click the link to the article and open the link in a Private Browsing/Incognito window. Or, you can copy the URL to the article, open a separate Private Browsing window, and paste it onto the address bar.

This works based on the cookies and other temp files placed on your computer by the website in question. When you switch over to a Private browsing window, the website cannot detect or place cookies on your computer. Having no cookie access, the website cannot know if you’ve viewed 1 or 5 or any number of its articles. So it may treat you as a new visitor & just let you in.

I have hesitated to broadcast this, as I don’t want to encourage Not Paying For Journalism. Many news media companies are suffering financially, and I don’t want to add to their financial woes. So I would like to ask that you consider using this tip as comparable to taking a free sample at Costco. If you find yourself returning again and again, for many free samples, please consider paying for what you are viewing. That company you are taking from needs your support!

Private Browsing

These days, all web browsers offer a function called Private Browsing. Let’s go over what Private Browsing is and isn’t.

Private Browsing allows you to use the internet so that no traces of your surfing are saved or left behind on that computer. Whatever you do while Private Browsing disappears from that computer as soon as you close the Private Browsing window.

You should use Private Browsing if you are at a public computer. For example: At the library, you should always use Private Browsing! Check your email, use Facebook, etc. and when you close your private browsing window, your logins and other website traces vanish. The next person to use that computer will see no evidence of where you surfed, and your passwords will not be saved.

You might also use Private Browsing if you’re borrowing a computer from a friend or employer. That way, when you return the computer, you won’t have to worry about others seeing your internet history or login information. Also, if you’re doing some holiday shopping and worry that your spouse might get nosy, you can use Private Browsing to hide your tracks.

Private Browsing does not anonymize or conceal your internet behavior, outside of the computer you are using. Your activity is still traceable beyond the computer being used to surf the internet. Most ISPs keep logs on what their users visit and do on the internet, and Private Browsing does not prevent that.

As an example, let’s say someone starts a Private Browsing and commits a crime on the internet. Someone will (hopefully) report that crime. A competent investigator will trace the crime to an IP address, which will lead him to an Internet Service Provider. The ISP will (often quickly) cooperate to offer a physical location for that IP address. And then an officer is dispatched to knock on soeone’s door with questions and possibly an arrest warrant.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I will implore you: Do not commit crime over the internet. Treat other people on the internet as you would in meat-space.

Each browser calls their Private Browsing tool something different. So that you can learn the name and usage for your browser, here are some help articles and details for the most common browsers:

Microsoft Edge: InPrivate Browsing

Google Chrome: Incognito Browsing

Safari: Private Browsing

Mozilla Firefox: Private Browsing

Opera Browser: Private Mode

Safe Browsing Protection in Google Chrome

The Chrome browser offers a choice of protection as you surf the net. If you use Google Chrome, you should review your level of protection, and change it according to your needs.

If you go to this website, Google will tell you the steps to follow, in order to check your “Safe Browsing” setting. Make sure to click your device type (Computer, Android, or iPhone & iPad) to get appropriate directions.

Once you find this setting on your device, you have 3 choices: No Protection, Standard Protection or Enhanced Protection. Read the descriptions and make a choice based on what’s best for you.

If you have privacy concerns and don’t want your extra browser info sent to Google, just choose Standard Protection. If you need all the help you can get against malware and bad websites, set it to Enhanced Protection. If you’re a web developer or advanced user, perhaps No Protection will interfere with your work the least.

Color Blindness & Using Color Filters

If you are color blind or have any other vision sensitivities, check out the color filters in your computer. Most operating systems offer these built-in tools, to make your screen easier to see and use.

In Windows 10, go to Start -> Settings -> Ease of Access -> Color Filters.

On MacOSX, go to Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> Accessibility -> Display – Color Filters.

Besides color deficiency-specific filters, you’ll also find others for inverting colors and switching to greyscale. These can all be turned off and on without harm or needing to reboot.

On a Chromebook, you would have to install an extension from the Play Store. Dalton looks to be the best one I can find right now. And if you want to apply color filters to your Chrome browser only, I imagine you can install Dalton on any PC or Mac, as well!

Sync Your Browser Bookmarks

Whichever browser you choose, make sure it is syncing your bookmarks. This is useful for two reasons. The first is that if you are syncing to multiple devices, your browser will show you the same bookmarks, from computer to phone to tablet. Add or delete a bookmark, and that change hops to all of your devices.

But if you only have one computer, it’s still a good idea. Syncing your bookmarks means they are backed up to the cloud somewhere. So if something bad happens, you’ll have a good chance of getting them back, when you sync again on a new device or a reinstalled browser.

In Chrome, syncing happens when you sign in with your Google account. If you didn’t do that when you first installed Chrome, you can sign in at any time using the bubble icon to the upper-right. And you can check your syncing status if you click the 3-dots button and go to Settings.

With Firefox, it’s very similar. If you click the hamburger icon to the upper-right, one of the first options is for syncing/signing in to Firefox. But you may have to create a unique Firefox account before you can turn it on.

Microsoft Edge syncs through your Microsoft account. If you sign into your computer with one, then sync is probably already set up. But you can always check it, just like in Chrome: click the 3-dots button, then go to Settings.

Safari syncs its bookmarks through iCloud, so if you need to check on that, you would go into the System Preferences panel and then go to iCloud. If you’re properly signed in, there should be a few categories of what’s being backed up, one of which is Safari.

And with some browsers, the syncing doesn’t just duplicate your bookmarks on all devices. Some browsers also sync your saved passwords, extensions and other customizations. It can be really handy, if you’re the type to bounce between computers all day.

Bitdefender Trafficlight

bitdefender trafficlight

Bitdefender Trafficlight is a free extension for your browser, that will help you when you use a search engine.

Scammers exploit search engine results. When you search the internet for something, the bad guys are trying to predict what you’re looking for. If they can game the system well enough, they rise to the top of certain search results so that you’ll encounter their poisonous websites during your searches.

There are many free helper programs that will check your search results, as you use a search engine. I like Trafficlight the best for this, as it is light on your system, and free. After you add this to your browser, it will block many fraudulent websites as you search, and it will put a ratings marker next to all of your search results. A green checkmark means it is a safe enough website to visit. But a yellow or red warning marker means you should avoid that item.

Trafficlight should work with most search engines and changes very little on your computer. There are others like it out there, with similar protection. Norton Safe Search and DuckDuckGo also have browser extensions you can try out. Just understand that they will change your default search engine to theirs as you install them.


Internet ads are not only annoying, but dangerous. Blocking ads to protect your computer just makes sense. Nowadays, I consider an ad-blocker as your second layer of protection, after your antivirus.

There are many ad-blocking extensions out there, but things work best if you install only one at a time. AdBlockPlus is freely available for almost every computer-based browser and for limited use on smartphones:

After you install AdBlockPlus, it’s important that you tweak its settings for maximum protection. Find the ABP stop sign icon in the corner of your browser, and right-click it. Go into its Options page, check all of the boxes under Free Features, and clear the checkbox for Show Acceptable Ads.

This should suppress most ads on websites you visit. Now, your web-surfing may be more pleasant, faster and safer!

What’s the Safest Browser to Use?

I’ve always preferred Google Chrome, but nowadays, there’s a lot of secure browsers to choose from. Most browsers are now Chromium-based, meaning they’re running the same engine and code as Google Chrome. So broadly, you’re going to be just fine using Chrome, Edge, Vivaldi, Brave or Opera.

Mozilla Firefox is one browser that stands apart from the Chromium bunch. And it also has a good security track record, so when a customer is looking to avoid Google tech, I steer them to Firefox. When I think of my customer base, I can generalize that 2/3 are running Chrome, 1/6 are running Firefox and 1/6 are using Edge.

I’m not yet convinced that Safari is on par with these browsers, but Apple does continue to improve and tighten things up with their browser. For now, though, I do encourage Mac users to try either Chrome or Firefox as their primary browser, to keep safer.

Opera appears to be a great browser, but people keep reminding me that it got bought up by a Chinese search/security firm. Does that impact its privacy or safety? I can’t tell, I have to leave it up to the users to ponder.

And I urge everyone to stop using Internet Explorer. Microsoft has not updated that thing in years, and it is the least safe browser to use. I realize that some of you are forced to use it, as certain (out-of-date) government websites won’t work with modern browsers. In those rare cases, use Internet Explorer *only* for those websites, and immediately return to Chrome or Firefox for all other browsing.

Once you’re on a modern browser, security updates for your browser should come in automatically. An up-to-date browser is critical to keeping you safe on the internet. If ever your browser alerts you that it is out-of-date, treat that as a serious problem and address it ASAP!

The next component to safe web-browsing is using add-ons or extensions to improve your browser. More on that in a future post!

Google Chrome:

Mozilla Firefox:

the new Microsoft Edge browser (for Windows 7-10 only):




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