A browser is a browser is a browser, right? Almost. But not quite. Browsers across all the major platforms may number into the dozens or even hundreds, but they’re not all created equal. Some browsers can hurt you.
For most of us in the good old U.S. of A., our browser choices are somewhat limited, and considered mostly safe. Mostly, as in vulnerabilities and exploits are fixed regularly in Safari, Google’s Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox, whatever Microsoft is using these days, and who knows about the safety of other homegrown browsers? My question is, “Are browsers safe?” And, the obvious: “Are browsers from China safe?”
Consider The Source
I ask those questions because I have a new browser. Well, actually, it’s an older browser. Opera has been around since the early days of the public internet and while it doesn’t have usage to match Apple’s Safari, Chrome, or Firefox, it does have a few hundred million faithful users worldwide, and is growing rapidly in its home country. China.
Wait. What? China? Yes, Opera, the little browser that could (from Norway) is now the browser owned by a Chinese consortium (as pointed out by a reader from my recent article “The Mac Browser To Replace Safari.”
Is that a bad thing? After all, investors in China have money. Opera’s owners wanted money for their investment. Don’t ask me about the browser business model; most of them are free, but only the most popular browsers get money from Google for search engine results.
A number of issues here require me to consider the source. Barely a year ago the China-based Maxthon International was accused of using the popular Maxthon browser to send user information back to China. When it comes to hacking attempts, China doesn’t have a good record for upholding privacy and security rights.
Maxthon’s browser is based upon Google’s Chromium project. Opera’s latest version, now owned by businesses in China, is based upon Google’s Chromium project. Coincidence? Chromium is free, hence a gazillion developers that use it as their base code, but can add or subtract from it as they see fit; including privacy and security options. Security experts have found similar privacy and security breaches in other popular China-based browsers.
Is Opera 2017 safe?
Only the developers at Opera know for sure, but the worldwide community watches such things closely, responds loudly, and it should be obvious that China wants to cultivate a better record of trust elsewhere in the developed world. Maxthon didn’t help.
I do not trust Google with my privacy and security because culling information about me and my online activities is the company’s business model. I trust Apple more, but Apple is complicit with Google to a certain extent because it derives revenue from Google searches and Google is the default search engine. Opera has a very handy VPN (virtual private network) built into the newest browser, but I’ve take the precaution of beefing up Little Snitch to ensure a more secure ride on the popular browser from China.
Remember these two notions. First, only the paranoid survive. And, second, if everyone is out to get you, paranoia is the right attitude to have.