3DSC 2.8: Adjust Firefox Settings for Security

Yesterday we began to shift our focus outward from the local system.  Today we will continue this shift by installing Firefox and modifying some of its settings.  Browser security and privacy settings play a big role in how easily websites can track you.  Firefox gives you the maximum flexibility to control these settings to your benefit.  It also has one other huge benefit that other browsers do not, and we will discuss this tomorrow.

Adjust Firefox Settings for Security

Difficulty: Easy
Active Time: 10 Minutes
What it Protects You From: Online tracking

The first step in this process is to download Firefox if you do not already use it.  Next, install the program on your computer. Once it is up and running, open “Preferences”.  To access Preferences click on the “hamburger icon” in the upper left of the interface. The Preferences menu will have eight tabs listed down the left-hand side of your screen.  This tutorial will go through the ones that make the biggest impact to security and privacy.

Firefox General Settings

There are a couple of important settings under the General tab. The first is to ensure that Firefox always checks to see if it is the default browser. The default browser is the one that will be opened when you click a link, so the default should be your most private and secure browser. Next, select your default file download location. I recommend choosing an encrypted location. If your entire hard drive is encrypted this is less important, but you should still choose your location carefully. My default download location is a large VeraCrypt volume.

Firefox Settings

Firefox Search Settings

Use a search engine that doesn’t track you. Change the default to DuckDuckGo.

Firefox Privacy Settings

This is where most of the real work will happen to increase browser security and privacy.  First, under Tracking, uncheck the box labeled “Request that sites not track you”.  Though checking this box would allow Firefox to send a Do Not Track request to websites, the sites you visit have no obligation to honor this request.  I do NOT recommend that you leave the Tracking Protection box checked.

Firefox Settings

Next, go to the History section.  The changes made here are incredibly important.  After modifying these settings, Firefox will not save anything between browsing sessions.  This makes it much more difficult for sites to track your browsing behavior, and minimizes the browsing history that is stored locally on your computer.  Under “Firefox will:” drop-down, select “Use custom settings for history”.  This will allow you to choose exactly what Firefox “remembers” or purges when you close it.  Choose the settings that mirror those shown in the image below.

Finally, click the “Settings” outlined in red in the above image.  This will open an additional dialogue allowing you to choose specific items to be purged when you close Firefox.  I recommend that you check all of these options as shown below.

Firefox Settings

Firefox Security Settings

Set up these settings to mirror the image shown below.  Ensure to check “Warn me when sites attempt to install add-ons” (add-ons will be discussed tomorrow).  Uncheck both “Block reported attack sites” and “Block reported web forgeries”.  Both of these protections require that your browsing data be available to Mozilla for review.  I do not feel that this is in the best interest of your privacy.

Next, uncheck “Remember logins for sites” and “Use a master password”.  Because we now use a password manager it is unnecessary for Firefox (or any other browser) to remember our logins.  Firefox does not store this information securely.  If you have used this feature in the past you may wish to click “Saved Logins” button.  This will allow you to view these logins and migrate them into your password manager.  Once you have done so, delete all of them from Firefox.

Firefox Settings

Firefox Advanced Settings

Under the Advanced settings, click the “Data Choices” tab. Each of the three options under this tab allow data to be shared with Mozilla. To be fair, I trust Mozilla as much as I trust any internet service or product (read: I’m still as careful as I can be). I recommend that you uncheck all three options here.

Firefox Settings

Today you have taken huge steps to increase your internet browser security and privacy.  Over the next two days we will take some additional steps to increase this even further, making you much more secure and private online.

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