Top 3 Firefox add-ons for security enthusiasts in 2012

Security is time consuming and often just plain inconvenient, but there are a handful of plugins that make being secure much easier. I give you the top 3 security add-ons for Firefox that I personally use.

(PS: In terms of ratings, 1/5 refers to the least and 5/5 to the most.)

1. HTTPS Everywhere

Easy of use: 5/5, Convenience: 5/5

This plugins basically has a list of popular sites programmed in it, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. that offer a secure https connection. Whenever you visit one of those sites, it forces Firefox to use the secure connection instead of the standard (http) one. Https is a protocol that encrypts data between you and the website you’re interacting with. If you were wondering what the little “s” after http stands for, the answer is “secure” 🙂 .

The only note I have about this is that one of the websites on that list is Netflix, and even though Netflix supports logging in securely, it doesn’t properly work when trying to manage your queue, so you may have to disable it just for that site. Other sites may exhibit problems as well, but I haven’t come across any of them yet.

2. NoScript

Easy of use: 4/5, Convenience: 3/5

This plugin is a lifesaver. Most malicious things on a website, whether it’s a fake security warning that your PC is infected or something that tries to hijack your browser, are created by using scripts, or more specifically, JavaScript. This add-on basically prevents all scripts from executing without explicit permission from you. The problem is, most websites use and rely on scripts. Scripts in themselves aren’t dangerous at all, they are quite useful, it just depends on what they do. So blocking all scripts on all websites is not the solution.

The purpose of the add-on is to block them by default and then you specifically allow the scripts you need. This sounds very complicated and it is at first, but after a while you’ll be able to recognize what seems legitimate and what not. My approach is this: I try to use a website the best I can without scripts. If something doesn’t work, I enable the most obvious ones first. If I’m on Yahoo!’s website for example, I’ll enable scripts from yahoo.com first, then try it again, and if it still doesn’t work, I’ll enable other scripts. I’ll probably have to create another post down the road that explains what the “other scripts” are in more detail.

In it’s most simplest form, if you don’ know anything about scripts, enable them all on the sites you trust, however, often you’ll find yourself googling a topic of interest and you may visit many unfamiliar and untrusted websites when following those search results. For those sites, always block all scripts. If the site doesn’t come up or something looks weird, leave the site and try another result.

3. Web of Trust (WOT)

Easy of use: 5/5, Convenience: 5/5

How great would it be to know whether a website is dangerous or not before you visit it? Imagine a little circle next to all links that could have one of three colors: green (this website is safe), yellow (this website may be suspicious), and red (this website is dangerous). Would be awesome, right? Well, someone’s thought of that.

I give you the Web of Trust add-on. That’s exactly what it does. With it installed, for example, you’ll see little colored circles on all the links in a Google search result and that will tell you whether you should go to that website or not. On top of that, even if you click on a website that doesn’t have a circle and it was rated dangerously or maybe it was red and you accidentally clicked it, an intermediate screen will appear asking you to confirm whether you really want to visit that website or not. The great thing is that WOT is community based, so it takes other people’s reviews in consideration when rating websites.

Sometimes sites aren’t rated (like this one here), which is indicated by a gray circle and a question mark. It’s up to you whether you want to visit it or try another site.

There you have it, the 3 best add-ons for Firefox in terms of security. If I missed something or there’s another great add-on you can recommend, leave it in the comments below.

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