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:
- 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;
- 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
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!