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Should we stop using Google Chrome ?Published on
A true symbol of Google’s monopoly in the digital world, Chrome is omnipresent in our daily lives. With this powerful weapon, the Mountain View firm holds nearly 70% of the market share. Multi-platform and extremely practical, this browser has many qualities that can, paradoxically, also become defects.
Is Chrome too popular?
The browser is used by hundreds of millions of Internet users around the world. Like all popular products, it is a prime target for cybercriminals who are always looking for opportunities to trap the greatest number of victims.
Web browser market shares by Statcounter (January 2019 to January 2020)
What are the dangers for users?
One of the most edifying examples is the posting of false notifications or updates that lead Internet users to download malware or adware. If you’re an accomplished Internet user, you’ve obviously already been confronted with these notifications or sites.
Other hackers will prefer to use exploits that allow them to execute malicious code on the user’s operating system and take control of the user’s machine remotely. As recently as last November, Kaspersky published a report on the discovery of a zero-day vulnerability in Google Chrome. The latter could be used to launch sophisticated attacks.
What does Google do?
Rest assured, as a general rule, these vulnerabilities are quickly plugged by Google when they are detected. An update is then published in the wake to limit the risk of large-scale use of the flaw, but the threat is real.
To fight against malicious sites, Chrome is equipped with technology that automatically blocks sites deemed fraudulent. So when the user tries to visit a potentially dangerous page, he is warned and the site is blocked. It is not a panacea, but this system is relatively effective. Nevertheless, the biggest flaw of Google’s bulldozer forager is undoubtedly its privacy pitfalls.
Privacy: More than just a caveat
Chrome is not just a browser. It is at the heart of Google’s ecosystem, on mobile, tablet, computer or television. The idea of centralizing all of one’s personal data, be it web browsing or passwords, in a space managed by a sprawling company that governs the web advertising market is clearly not reassuring.
For my part, I start from the principle that one should never put all one’s eggs in one basket, especially when it comes to personal data that can be used in “free” services. Despite its efforts and the opening of a global centre for personal data protection in Germany in May 2019, Google is not really reassuring and neither is its browser.
For example, Chrome still does not offer a feature to protect passwords saved in the browser using a master password. A feature already available in Firefox. At the time of writing this article, anyone with your Windows session password can retrieve all of your credentials and codes stored in the browser by going to its settings.
Google Chrome settings
Finally, Chrome uses the WebRTC programming interface that serves as a software anchor for communication, audio, and video applications. As far as the user is concerned, this natively integrated tool allows him to access many features without having to install third-party extensions (streaming, instant messaging, VoIP, etc.).
The catch is that WebRTC, which is still under development, is quite “permeable”. In fact, a flaw in the tool makes it possible to reveal the IP address of an Internet user, even when the latter uses a VPN. In other words, if you are browsing on Chrome and you are using a VPN software, you should know that it is possible to recover your IP address and make you anonymous.
So, in the name of comfort, are you ready to make concessions on your privacy?
Google is everywhere, even among its competitors
The heart of Chrome also drives many of its competitors. Indeed, Chrome is based on Chromium, an open source project also used by other browsers. This means that some of Chrome’s competitors contain elements thought by Google. The Chromium project is, whatever one says, very good in terms of usability and user experience.
It’s no coincidence that other developers use it at the heart of their browsers. However, this can have perverse effects in the medium/long term, such as Google’s ability to make rain or shine. As you can see, the browser market looks like a dictatorship.
The best browsers to replace Chrome
Let’s not get into demagoguery either. Be aware that a browser with Chromium, even if it depends on Google, can do without it to some extent. Here is a selection of alternatives to Chrome.
Brave Browser is a very young browser that has made advertising its hobbyhorse. The software comes with its own Brave Shield advertising content blocker. A powerful anti-tracker is also integrated to allow you to browse without targeted ads disrupting your experience. Brave gives you the ability to disable WebRTC, and has an ultra-secure mode allowing you to use ToR directly in its interface and access the famous Darknet.
Vivaldi is also part of the young sailors’ guard. Developed by the former CEO of Opera, it is much more complete than Chrome in terms of functionality. Despite its many settings, it remains very easy to use. Regarding security and privacy, Vivaldi also integrates an anti tracker but does not offer an ad blocker. The browser also offers an option to disable WebRTC.
Opera’s an old-fashioned one. It differs from Chrome by its integrated VPN and user experience oriented features. Among the latter is the ability to directly connect its instant messaging applications to chat directly in the browser interface. Opera has its own ad blocker, its homemade anti-tracker and offers an option to disable WebRTC.
Firefox is the second browser on the market. Its commitment to the protection of personal data is well established. It integrates many features to fight against advertising tracking, fingerprinting or even minors of cryptomonnaies. Easily customizable, it also offers to define a master password to protect the personal identifiers stored in the browser. The only downside is that Firefox does not offer an option to disable WebRTC. It is necessary to go through a web extension.
ToR, for The Onion Router, is a separate browser. Optimized for privacy by default, it is your best option if you want to remain anonymous while browsing the web. Based on a technology capable of hiding your real IP address across a network of servers, it is not vulnerable to the WebRTC flaw. Note that ToR allows access to Deepweb and Darknet and does not keep any browsing history.
Edge Chromium is Microsoft’s newest browser. This new Chromium-based version, as its name indicates, replaces the old version only offered on Windows 10. The new browser is quite promising despite the lack of certain features such as disabling WebRTC or the use of a master password. Another drawback is that using Edge Chromium also means entrusting your data to another GAFAM. But this new browser is quite young and new features in favor of privacy protection will certainly appear soon.
Finally, if you want to try a Chrome experience without all Google services, you can also install Chromium. Beware, it is almost identical to Chrome and therefore has the same flaws.
One last word
You will have understood it, it seems rather complicated for the average user to completely ban Google and its Chrome browser, so much the ecosystem developed by the Mountain View firm has taken an important place in our daily life. You should know that there are other alternatives than the ones we have cited in this article. These are usually more or less successful variations of Firefox or Chrome. In any case, we invite you to take into account the criteria of security and privacy before choosing your default browser and saving your personal data.
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