It’s up to each of us to be proactive about security and privacy; it’s risky to trust a company to manage your privacy in a manner that benefits you the most and not them. If you could have a browser that offered security, privacy and speed for free, then why not try it?
WhiteHat Security originally developed Aviator as the company’s in-house browser, but eventually released Aviator web browser in two flavors, OS X and Windows. It is billed as “the web’s most secure and private browser.” Users simply install the browser and it’s setup to maximize privacy and security safeguards by default. Unlike Chrome or Firefox, you don’t need to get add-ons or extensions to configure privacy and security. Those protections are built into Aviator, but since the browser uses open-source Chromium code, it does support “tens of thousands of extensions.”
Unlike Google with Chrome, Microsoft with Internet Explorer and even Mozilla with Firefox, which profit from online advertising, WhiteHat has no advertising partners and does not sell your data. You are not a product being sold in exchange for free software.
Aviator comes configured with the Disconnect extension, meaning bye-bye “privacy-destroying tracking.” Aviator’s search engine choices also come with Disconnect, meaning you are using a “privacy-enhanced default search engine.” It also comes with the User-Agent Switcher extension; websites identify browsers by user agents, but this extension allows you to appear as if you are browsing via Chrome, IE, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Firefox, Opera or Safari.
When you surf to a page that contains cookies, you will see cookies with a red X on it, which indicates “This page was prevented from setting cookies.” Plugin has a similar red X, blocked on the page by default, but you have options to always allow the plug-in, run plug-in this time, and manage plug-ins.
The security and privacy benefits are why I like Aviator. The browser launches in “protected” (private) mode, protecting your privacy by default by not logging your history, cookies, or browser cache. Ads and other hidden online trackers are blocked; this also protects you from malvertising (malicious advertising). Third-party cookies are also not allowed and Aviator automatically cleans locally stored data when you exit the browser. In WhiteHat’s words, “There is no need to constantly make it your mission to keep from being invisibly tracked and spied on.”
Why are Ghostery, Adblock Plus or Privacy Badger not also default extensions? Robert Hansen, aka @RSnake, Vice President of WhiteHat Security’s WhiteHat Labs was kind enough to answer my questions.
Robert Hansen: Ghostery and Privacy Badger are mostly redundant, and Adblock Plus allows ads from companies like Google, which totally defeats the purpose of the software. But if you want a feature from one of those plugins or feel that Disconnect is missing something, yes, of course you can install any plugin you like.
Are there any plans for Aviator to be offered as a mobile browser for iOS or Android?
Robert Hansen: It's unlikely in the near term. Though, that is always an option. The major hurdle is actually the manufacturers who don't like mobile browsers.
Might you offer a security/privacy-minded suggestion for a mobile browser?
Robert Hansen: Disconnect offers similar functionality to their browser extension on mobile - that is probably the best option available, though not as feature rich from a privacy/security standpoint as Aviator is which combines their technology with a number of our own techniques.
You can find more about Disconnect here; the free mobile app for iOS can be downloaded from iTunes and from Google Play for Android where it is lovely to see “Disconnect Search does not require any special permissions.” (There is also a Disconnect Secure Wireless app.)
If you are curious how Aviator stacks up against other browsers in a simple HTML5 test, then Aviator scored 492 out of 555 points, compared to 475 using Firefox 34, 512 using Chrome 39, 376 using IE 11 and 429 using Safari 8.
Do something good for yourself security-and-privacy-wise. If you haven’t tried Aviator yet, then I encourage you to “take flight” and start 2015 right.