You use one of the major browsers, such as Google Chrome or Firefox, and you want to keep your online activities private and protected. Those browsers offer certain security and privacy features, but to get the ultimate protection you may want to take the Brave browser for a spin. By default, Brave offers built-in ad blocking, secure HTTP, third-party cookie blocking, and browser fingerprint protection, among other features.

SEE: How to protect against 10 common browser threats (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Like Chrome, Brave is built on the Chromium browser and Blink engine, so it looks and feels like Chrome and even supports Chrome extensions. Brave offers an incentive to you and to content publishers: You can earn rewards by viewing ads that respect your privacy and pass on those rewards to publishers and content creators.

Brave is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. For this article I’ll focus on the Windows desktop flavor, but the features are consistent across the different versions.

How to use the Brave browser

Browse to the Brave website to download the program. The Windows and Mac editions invite you on a welcome tour. The tour is helpful and interactive, so I recommend it.

At the first screen on the tour, Brave asks if you want to import your bookmarks and settings from another browser. Click the Import button, choose the other browser, and then select the settings you wish to import (Figure A). Click the Import button to import the settings you chose.

Figure A

Click the Welcome To Brave tab to return to the welcome tour. At the next screen, you can change the default search engine–click the Settings button to do so.

At the next screen, you can change the color theme for Brave. To do that, click the button to Choose Your Theme. You can switch between a light and dark theme or download a full theme from the Chrome Web Store.

At the next screen on the welcome tour, Brave explains that you can adjust the level of protection against unwanted ads and trackers, which we’ll do separately.

And the final screen on the tour explains that you can earn rewards by viewing privacy-respectful ads and pass along your rewards to content creators. We’ll look at this option later. Click Done to end the tour.

Now, open a new tab in Brave and surf to a variety of different websites. Afterwards, return to the Brave home page–notice that the page provides stats on your web browsing. The first number tells you how many ad trackers Brave has blocked in your current session. The second number shows the total number of ads that have been blocked. The third number tells you the number of times that Brave upgraded a website connection from HTTP to the more secure HTTPS. And the fourth number tells you how much time was saved loading pages without ads (Figure B).

Figure B

Now, click the hamburger icon in the upper right. One way to protect your privacy in Brave and other browsers is by opening a private or incognito page, which prevents cookies, browsing history, search history, and other content from being saved. Brave offers two options here: New Private Window and New Private Window With Tor (Figure C).

Figure C

Next, you can view the privacy and security settings in Brave. Click the hamburger icon and select Settings. Scroll down the Settings page to the section for Brave Shields Defaults. The default settings provide the optimum level of privacy and security, so you should leave them alone unless you run into trouble with specific websites not working.

  • Under Ad Control, you can block ads or allow ads and tracking.
  • Under Cookie Control, you can block third-party cookies, block all cookies, or allow all cookies.
  • Under Fingerprinting Protection (which prevents websites from capturing information about your computer, operating system, and software), you can block third-party fingerprinting, block all fingerprinting, or allow all fingerprinting.
  • You can turn HTTPS Everywhere off if necessary.
  • And you can block websites from running scripts (Figure D).

Figure D

Scroll down further and click the link for Advanced. Under Privacy And Security are several individual settings that you can view and tweak. You can enable or disable Safe Browsing, send Do Not Track requests to websites, and clear your cookies and other data (Figure E).

Figure E

Next, you can beef up Brave with extensions. Click the hamburger icon, move to More tools, and select Extensions. Click the link for Web store to open the Chrome Web store with extensions you can add to Brave. Select an extension and click the button to Add To Chrome, and the extension is installed in Brave (Figure F).

Figure F

Finally, you can opt to receive and pass along rewards for viewing ads that are mindful of your privacy. Click the hamburger icon and select Brave Rewards. Click the down arrow for How It Works to learn more about this process. To try it, click the button for Yes, I’m Ready (Figure G).

Figure G

At the next screen, you can tweak the settings to automatically contribute rewards to content creators and add funds to your virtual wallet via Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency (Figure H).

Figure H

To learn more about the Brave browser and exchange ideas and information with other users, check out the Brave Community.