UR Browser Blog

Privacy and security with UR Browser

Category: UR News (page 1 of 2)

Small team, great achievements and even bigger ambitions for 2019!

privacy browser vpn

2018: Guerrilla Anti-Tracking and Embedded Virtual Private Network Shielding

We are still a start-up and even though we are a small team, and do not always get to address all your messages and needs, they do concern us and we do listen to them! Thank you for that!

We are sharing all of them with our product team who is prioritizing each of those along with our planned features and improvements, so that they will be eventually addressed.

For the past year, we had to reduce the communication efforts in favor of focusing more on the product and achieving some major milestones:

  1. Improve stability and security with UR 61 release, (do we want to link to an old version in this post vs. just having a reference to it in plain text?) adding anti-fingerprinting capabilities and improving the HTTPs enforcing;
  2. Introduce a unique feature in the browser: a full VPN client with UR 62, not only to protect the browser traffic but all your device’s traffic;

We will not talk about the first one as we already have on the blog and it’s already too old, we are already working to bring UR to Chromium 71.

We do want to share with you more about the latest VPN feature and why we considered it such an import part of the puzzle.

Why does a browser need a VPN?

For those of you who are not aware of what a VPN is and why you should use one here is a short intro.

By its’ meaning a Virtual Private Network is an internet security service that allows users to access the Internet as though they were connected to a private network. This encrypts the Internet communications as well as providing a strong degree of anonymity. Some of the most common reasons people use VPNs are for location anonymity, the right to online privacy, to protect against snooping on public Internet connections, to circumvent Internet censorship, or to connect to a business’s internal network for remote work purposes.

Generally, when users create an Internet connection to visit a website or to access an online service, most Internet traffic is unencrypted and very public. The device that initiates the request through a browser or another app, will connect to their Internet Service Provider (ISP), and then the ISP will connect to the Internet to find the appropriate web server to fetch the request website or service. Information is exposed with every step of the Internet request. The IP address is exposed throughout the process, the ISP and any other intermediary can keep logs of the user’s browsing habits and interests. Moreover, the data flow between the user’s devices and the webservers is unencrypted, which creates opportunities for malicious actors to spy on the data or perpetrate attacks on the user, such as a man-in-the-middle attack.

When using a trusted VPN service to connect to the Internet, users gain a higher level of security and privacy by:

  • The VPN client connects to the ISP by creating an encrypted connection
  • The ISP connects the VPN client to the VPN server, maintaining the encrypted connection
  • The VPN server decrypts the received data from the user’s device and then connects to the Internet to access the web server in an unencrypted communication, exposing only the IP address of the VPN server and masking users’ IP

How VPN works. What is a VPN.

This is known as a ‘VPN tunnel’ the encrypted connection between the VPN Client and VPN server passes through the ISP, blocking the ISP and/or malicious actors from seeing a user’s activity.

 

Beware, VPN and Proxy extensions are not enough!

In the past UR explored, as did other competitors, the so-called ‘VPN extensions’ or ‘proxy-extensions.’ They offered a similar service as a VPN but with a few important drawbacks like: not fully encrypted communications and solely browser request protection, excluding by its tech limitations the requests issued by any other apps running on the device.  A potential negative effect of this lack of coverage could be – the location was masked while surfing websites w

ith UR, yet other local apps/services would expose user’s location when communicating with their servers on the Internet. To avoid such scenarios users would have had to subscribe in addition, to other VPN services, requiring the installation of an additional software: a VPN client.

We stopped that type of service a while ago when such weaknesses surfaced.  However, many players in the space continue to proposes ‘proxy-like’ features advertised as VPNs, while not offering true VPN protection.

Leveraging open-source, with the power of Open VPN and a great partnership (don’t want to promote another solution and took out the links), we have built a powerful and multi-faceted privacy took that combines the utility of a browser with the protection of a VPN.

In addition to standard private browsing features, UR Browser now offers the same level of protection as other stand-alone VPN clients. And as usual, we’ve made it extremely simple to use so that not only tech savvy users can benefit from it.

If this solution is appealing to you, check it out now ! (currently available only for Windows)

2019: Let the real privacy battle begin!

Still in beta but improving rapidly, here are some key updates you can expect from UR in 2019:

  • The latest Chromium patches (on Windows, and as soon as possible on Mac too)
  • Upgraded privacy and anti-tracking features
  • An improved browser anti-fingerprinting technology (more on browser anti-fingerprinting here)
  • A bunch of under-the-hood and functional fixes (for example online streaming services and translations services had been disabled due to privacy concerns, now will become optional)
  • A VPN build for Mac
  • New features like secure account synchronization, improved bookmarks and offline web content management
  • Integrated private Search engine

We are considering opening our source code too while mobile and Linux versions are in planning as well, and should go into development later this year.

These are some of our resolutions for 2019, wish us good luck to achieve the most!

 

 

May you have a happy, successful and more private year!

Browser, VPN, privacy, security, internet browsing, internet security, digital identity

We should all be aware by now that 2018 was a watershed year for digital privacy and data protection, marked by one Facebook or Google scandal after another.

Leading with Facebook Cambridge Analytica fiasco, Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony, a massive hack, and revelations of corporate smear campaigns were only the tip of the iceberg. (Refer also to: A bug may have exposed the unposted Facebook photos of millions ; Facebook is using your two-factor-authentication phone number to target ads ; Facebook has been collecting call history and SMS data from Android usersUK Parliament publishes Facebook secret documents showing ‘whitelisting’ firms in return for access to data)

The Facebook privacy issues revealed last year should not overshadow other important revelations like: Strava’s heat map exposing military locations; The giant Marriott hack or Google’s already obsolete Google+ bug that may have exposed private data from millions to its third-party apps;

It’s important to acknowledge the above and understand that some tech companies, and unfortunately some of the most trusted ones, not only harvest gazillions of users’ data but also employ flawed systems to use, share and profit from it. The zenith of privacy invasion played out in a report that alleged both Facebook and Google partnered with banks and bought financial data in secret, trying to get access to yet another sensitive category of private user information.

The aforementioned tech companies, and many other less well known, put their profits before your privacy, and actually built business models that demanded it. In addition, there is nothing FREE and we the users are often the product being monetized.  By itself there is nothing wrong with a consumer getting a free service and enabling profit for the service provider through some element of behavior and/or identity, as long as the profiting entity makes disclosures around business practice, doesn’t abuse the user’s trust by violating their own terms, and has no hidden tradeoffs that a user only finds out about after the fact.

So, what is next for 2019? It could continue with other giants like Microsoft, Amazon or Apple, especially with the latest digital assistant trend, but at this point it would only be speculation.

In any case, we should keep protecting our devices and be aware of which free or paid services we use. Put simply, we must be aware of and take action around our own digital identity.

To that end, great things happened as well, in the context of privacy, during 2018. Moreover, we salute and support initiatives like Europe’s GDPR law, trying to get back more privacy for consumers, but currently far from perfect in practice. It is still worth supporting and following how it will succeed in combating the most sophisticated tracking methods, like browser fingerprinting. Besides the European Union, many publications and organizations, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, started drawing attention to the ways Google, who owns the most used browser and largest tracking network in the world, uses its power to protect its own interests rather than protecting its users.

 

The good and the bad around privacy, in 2018, further validated the need for privacy awareness and tools, therefore fueling our conviction around UR Browser, including the addition of more simple-to-use privacy features.

URBrowser update/
Chromium 61 release

urbrowser chromium 61 update

The core of your favourite browser, URBrowser, has just been updated to Chromium 61. Continue reading

Introducing The Privacy Suite

With 3 Levels of Privacy To Protect You

We are pleased to introduce the Privacy Suite, a built-in tool that lets you easily control your level of privacy, site by site.

high privacy level in privacy suite

In High Privacy, UR turns black and you can browse online without traces.

Continue reading

Ninja Mode: Private + Normal Tabs, All in The Same Window

>> Version 55.1.2883.X (PC/Mac) <<

Privacy improvements

  • Websites forced to use HTTPS where possible
  • Search bar suggestions removed
  • History and cookie import from previous browsers removed

Advanced Privacy Mode

  • Ninja Mode (private browsing) now lets you have Ninja tabs next to normal tabs
  • Websites you often visit in Ninja Mode can be added to the Ninja List
  • Any website in the Ninja List will automatically load in Ninja Mode, so no search or browsing history is saved
  • UR logo and Ninja tab turn black for easy recognition

Continue reading

UR Reaches 1M Downloads

Less than a year after our beta release, we are thrilled to announce that UR has been downloaded more than one million times!

UR team celebrates 1 million downloads!

The UR Team and Nounours (Teddy) celebrate 1 million downloads at our Paris headquarters.

In June 2016, we released UR in an open beta. Nearly ten different countries, in Europe and South America, spread the word about the small and determined team behind UR that wanted to go up against the internet giants.

We began to receive lots of feedback via email, social media and in person. Many of you expressed the unsettling feelings you had in trusting your data with the giant corporations that dominate the internet ecosystem.

Since last June, we have listened to feedback, re-evaluated the market and trusted our gut. One thing is for certain: you, internet users, are very concerned about privacy and security. So are we.

With several features already in place focused on these concerns (Shield, VPN, AdControl), we made the decision to further develop these features and create new ones to keep your data safe and private.

And so, less than a year later, UR has reached one million downloads! There is still work to be done, but as we continue on this path, we know it’s the right one. Our focus is, and always will be, giving you the right to control your data online.

You deserve to tell your story. Not your data.

We have a large update coming soon that will give you even more tools to control how your data is (or isn’t!) used online. Everyone at UR thanks you for your continued support!

Download the UR beta to protect your data and to support us!

Privacy Update Now on Mac

mac promo shot

Mac update! 🍎

We told our beta testers back in January that we were shifting the focus of UR and concentrating on privacy and security features.

Our goal is to build a web browser that gives you easy-to-use tools to protect your privacy and keep your data safe.

This beta version is a big step forward in our vision of a browser built to protect users. More to come in the near future!

>> Version 55.1.2883.X (PC/Mac)

Please uninstall your current version of UR and re-install this one.

Privacy Features
Qwant as default search provider
• All reporting to Google’s servers has been removed
• Third party cookies blocked
• Built-in ad blocker and VPN (500Mb free/month)
• Privacy settings by default

Security Features
• Virus scanner
• Alerts for suspicious websites
• Doubled RSA key encryption

For the nerds: check out the exhaustive list of privacy features.

Test UR for its privacy features!
Panopticlick is website run by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that shows you how safe (or unsafe!) your browser is against tracking. See how UR stacks up and share it!

Join the beta newsletter here: https://www.ur-browser.com/en-US/Press

Connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Big Privacy Update

Version 55.1.2883.X. (PC)

This beta is filled with tons of privacy improvements and security upgrades. This update effectively cuts off all third-party tracking and reporting to Google that is native to Chromium.

To get the new beta, please uninstall your current version of UR and download the new beta from the website. (PC only – Mac version coming soon!)

Quick backstory: Google created Chromium, an open source browser project. Lots of browsers are built with this code because it’s very secure and frequently updated with security patches.

There’s a catch, though…Chromium began as an open source browser project within Google (this code is also behind many other browsers: Chrome, Opera, Yandex and more). Because of this, there are lots of built-in features, monitors and services that report back about you’re doing and where you are—and often. Your browsing data can then be used to serve you more targeted ads and to track you as you surf the web.

In this update, UR has cut out all tracking and reporting so you can enjoy a secure browser all the while protecting your privacy. Generally, browsers “out-of-the-box” purposely leave reporting on by default. UR has made privacy the default mode—anything that could compromise your privacy is disabled by default. You can, of course, change this in the Settings.

New features in this beta:

  • Third-party cookies blocked by default
  • Site data (cookies, local storage, etc.) only kept until exit, by default
  • Passwords not stored by default
  • Autocomplete prediction service disabled
  • RSA keysize increased to 2048 bits for self-signed certificates
  • Qwant is now our default search provider
  • Always send “Do-Not-Track” header

See the exhaustive list here.

 

Exhaustive List of Privacy Features in UR

UR is based on Chromium, a secure and continually-updated code that we know well. However, it calls home to Google a bit too much for our liking. We’ve fixed that!

Here is the exhaustive list of modifications we have made to Chromium to protect your privacy while you browse:

Privacy improvements

  • Block third-party cookies by default
  • Passwords not stored by default
  • Site data (cookies, local storage, etc.) only kept until exit, by default
  • Disable autocomplete prediction service when typing in Omnibox
  • Always send “Do-Not-Track” header
  • Disable “Use a web service to help resolve navigation errors”
  • Disable by default Network/DNS prediction
  • Disable by default input form autofill
  • For IPv6 probes, use a DNS root server instead of Google
  • Disable cookies for Safe Browsing background requests
  • Disable autofill download service
  • Disable the battery status API

Other privacy features

  • Qwant is default search provider
  • Let user confirm downloading translation dictionaries from Google
  • Don’t ask to send settings to Google by default on profile reset

Other disabled features

  • Disable background mode
  • Disable EV certificates, so they are shown just like “normal” certificates
  • Disable Google cloud printing
  • Disable Google hot word detection
  • Disable Google experiments status check
  • Disable Google translation service
  • Disable Google promotion fetching
  • Disable Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) status check
  • Disable Google Now
  • Disable automatic update check
  • Disable profile-import on first run

Networking Changes

  • Link auditing (<a ping=”…”>) disabled by default
  • Network/DNS prediction disabled by default

Security Improvements:

  • RSA keysize doubled to 2048 bits

 

This post will be updated to reflect the current development of UR. 

Update: Homescreen, Qwant & News

Beta 51.1.2704.52

Homescreen:

  • Updated UI: minimalist theme, easier to navigate
  • Sidebar replaced with buttons in upper right corner
  • News widget redesigned—now with infinite scrolling!
  • Customization widget now lets you change wallpapers without going to the full catalog

News:

  • UR News page is now live—the news widget on the Homescreen pulls stories from here. All news agencies have been screened, and the news only comes from reputable sources (BBC, Agence France Presse, Reuters and more).

Search:

  • Qwant is now the default search engine—another company that respects user privacy!

Downloader:

  • You can now see where your downloads are located – simply click on the folder icon.

+ Lots of bug fixes

UR should roll out the beta updates automatically, but if you want to be sure to have it, uninstall your current version and go to the website to re-download the beta.

Got a problem? Contact us in our beta tester group, on our Facebook page or on Twitter.

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