The Invisible Pirate - Privacy Tweaks for Firefox


This edition covers several methods of improving your privacy with Firefox. It includes selected extensions, a toolbar that you can use to manage your privacy, and it assumes that you are running Firefox with no privacy extensions installed. I also recommend checking for new Firefox extensions daily, either manually or by subscribing to the Firefox RSS feed.

Install the following Firefox extensions:

All-In-One Sidebar: Allows you to easily manage your extensions and gives you an Opera-like sidebar that keeps your screen clear.

CookieCuller: An extended cookie manager, you can protect/unprotect selected cookies and delete them on startup or manually.

CustomizeGoogle: Allows you to enhance Google search results and your privacy.

NoScript: "Extra protection for your Firefox: NoScript allows JavaScript execution only for trusted domains of your choice (e.g. your home-banking web site). This whitelist based pre-emptive script blocking approach prevents exploitation of security vulnerabilities (known and even unknown!) with no loss of functionality."

Objection: Allows you to manually clear Flash cookies. (Local Shared Objects) Note: This extension is not from the Mozilla website.

Petname Tool: Allows you to label your trusted, secure (SSL connection) websites to thwart phishing and spoofing attempts.

PwdHash: Generates website-specific passwords as needed.

SecurePassword Generator: Generates secure passwords, one at a time.

ShowIP: Shows the IP of the website you are viewing; it appears in the status bar.

SwitchProxy Tool: Allows you to surf anonymously when using a high anonymous proxy server. See "Surf Anonymously." The label of the selected proxy also appears in the Status bar.

Configure the Extensions

CookieCuller: Protect all of the cookies that you want to keep (Tools > CookieCuller), delete all of the rest, then "Delete unprotected cookies on startup." (Tools > Extensions > Display installed extensions > right-click on CookieCuller > Options > check the box > OK.)

CustomizeGoogle: "Anonymize the Google cookie UID." (Tools > CustomizeGoogle Options > Privacy > check the box > OK)

NoScript: Do not select "Javascript globally allowed" because doing so will defeat the purpose for installing NoScript.

Objection: Clear Flash cookies (LSOs) manually. (Tools > Options > Privacy > Local Shared Objects > Clear)

SecurePassword Generator: (Tools > SecurePassword Generator) The default is 16-character (strong, 128-bit) passwords. Caution: Many websites do not allow passwords longer than 8-10 characters and some also restrict which characters may or may not be used. Pay attention to their rules.

Install MetroPipe Privacy Bar

"The PrivacyBar toolbar offers a complete set of privacy and security tools with Easy Access, providing Instant Security Controls with a mouse click. No more digging in preferences menus or editing complicated configuration screens. Just point to the toolbar, select the privacy and security options you require: light to paranoid, and surf."

Download it, install it, and use it to very easily configure Firefox. Hide it when you don't need it, keeping your screen clear.

Privacy Cleaner (the eraser): Clears selected information.

Disable Options (the padlock): Disable all of the following: Cookies, Java, and Referrer. (Some web pages will require these to work correctly.)

Check IP (button): Checks your IP.

Configure Firefox

Select Privacy Options: (Tools > Options > Privacy) Set all of these options the way you want them, clear them as desired. In general, less is better here. Build a whitelist (exceptions) for desired website cookies (if any) since you just disabled cookies above. (Tools > Options > Privacy > Cookies > Exceptions)

Allow websites to install software: (Tools > Options > Web Features > Allowed Sites) Build your whitelist of trusted websites, if desired.

Enable Javascript: (Tools > Options > Web Features) NoScript will override this Javascript selection, allowing you to selectively enable Javascript on trusted websites, by right-clicking and selecting your preferred option, one website at a time.

Note: If a web page appears to not be working, it's because it requires Javascript (or cookies) to be enabled to function correctly, but some web pages may not tell you this. If you temporarily enable Javascript using NoScript (right-click on the page > select temporarily) and then reload the page, it should work correctly. (Permanently enabling Javascript for a website adds it to the Javascript whitelist.) If the web page still doesn't work correctly, you may need to add the website to the cookie whitelist (exceptions). You may be pleasantly surprised to discover how few cookies you really need to surf normally. Still other websites require Java to be enabled, but they are relatively rare. In general, leave Java disabled until you need it, then disable it afterward.

Summary: Disable Cookies, Java, and Referrer. Install the NoScript extension and use it to enable Javascript for trusted websites only, either temporarily or permanently. Build whitelists for trusted websites for cookies and installing software. Anonymize the Google cookie UID.

You can easily customize your Firefox toolbars (right-click on the main toolbar > customize > drag items as desired) to get almost everything you need on the main toolbar, leaving nothing at all on the Navigation and Bookmarks toolbars. That allows you to hide both of them, leaving your screen clear. The All-In-One Sidebar stays well out of your way, but it is instantly available when needed.

The following displays will appear in the Status bar: ShowIP, SwitchProxy Tool, and NoScript. (I also run ForecastFox in the Status bar, with plenty of room to spare.)

Whenever you logon to any website with a Secure mode option, use it! This enables an SSL connection to the website server while you are logging on, thereby protecting your username and password from interception. Yahoo! email offers a Secure mode option for logging on, then it switches back to Standard (not secure) mode.

Some privacy services (like HushMail and AnonMail) require enabling Java and Javascript, but you should disable Java again when you are done using them.

All of "The Invisible Pirate" articles are available here.

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Joe Blow is a privacy advocate with proven subspecialties in strategic planning.  Note: Pirate Poop is now a free newsletter, available by email only. Send all subscription requests to