8 essential privacy extensions for Firefox

Protect your online life from prying eyes with these key Firefox privacy add-ons.

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KeyScrambler Personal

One of the more insidious threats bad guys can throw at you is a keylogger, a tiny piece of software that invisibly captures every keystroke you make and sends it back to its home base. Your stream of keystrokes can provide cybercrooks with personal information like your Social Security number or credit card numbers, and of course your log-in information for Web sites, applications and your computer itself.

KeyScrambler Personal Firefox extension
KeyScrambler Personal foils keyloggers by encrypting everything you type into Firefox.

QFX Software's KeyScrambler Personal offers a clever way to defeat keyloggers -- as you type, it encrypts the keystrokes at the driver level and then decrypts them in the browser. Any keystroke-logging malware on your computer will capture only the encrypted signal, which it will see as gibberish.

KeyScrambler Personal for Firefox, IE and Flock is free; there are also paid versions -- Pro ($29.99) and Premium ($44.99) -- that extend protection to other browsers, e-mail clients, password managers and many other applications.

Note that KeyScrambler works only with Windows; we don't know of any comparable protection for Mac users. If you know of a similar extension for Macs, please let us know in the article comments.

NoScript

The NoScript extension by Giorgio Maone prevents JavaScript, Java and other executable content from running on any Web page you haven't expressly allowed to run scripts. This is crucial protection against cross-site scripting (XSS), where hackers insert code into Web pages using vulnerabilities in the various scripting languages the sites use to deliver content. Hackers use XSS to install arbitrary code on users' machines for keylogging, hijacking passwords or phishing; it's currently one of the most effective methods of delivering malware.

NoScript Firefox extension
NoScript lets you selectively allow scripting from sites you trust and block scripting from sites you don't.

NoScript is also effective in blocking an emerging form of user tracking called browser fingerprinting. A recent study by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) showed that even without cookies or malware, Web sites can pull enough information about a user from the browser itself to build up a profile that can be used to track the user from site to site. The EFF singled out NoScript as an effective safeguard against this kind of tracking.

Since so much of the Web relies for basic functionality on the scripting languages that NoScript blocks, an Options button at the bottom of the browser window pops up a menu with options that you can use to temporarily or permanently allow scripts on sites you trust.

Tor-Proxy.Net Toolbar

The Tor Project is an anonymizing service that tunnels your Web traffic through a network of random routers to make it virtually impossible for an outside observer to track any Web activity back to your computer. You can install the Tor program on your computer and route all your Web traffic through Tor, but because your packets are bounced off servers around the world, you will experience much slower Internet response.

Using the Tor-Proxy.Net Toolbar, though, you can choose to use Tor on a case-by-case basis, visiting chosen sites anonymously while maintaining non-anonymous connections in other Firefox tabs. Just enter the URL of the site you want to visit into the Tor-Proxy.Net Toolbar instead of Firefox's own address bar and click "by Tor."

Tor-Proxy.Net Toolbar Firefox extension
Use the Tor-Proxy.Net Toolbar to route your Web surfing through the Tor anonymous network.

The toolbar also offers two other options: You can click "by JAP/JonDos" to use the less popular JonDonym service, which offers slightly better performance but slightly weaker anonymity, or you can click "by Express-Service" to use Tor-Proxy.Net's own anonymizing server. It's a little quicker than the others but isn't as secure, since it's not an established anonymity service.

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