Browsers and Search Engines – 2022

It’s always worth reviewing which search engine you should use, as it is the browser of choice to “surf the web”. The reasons you might wish to consider which search engine you might wish to use are greater privacy, enhanced security, minimise adverts being displayed, or to get more meaningful pages being displayed, but first we’ll look at the web browser you might want to use.

First things first. If you’re using Internet Explorer you must seriously consider moving to Edge as Microsoft are removing support for Internet Explorer and one day you’ll find it just doesn’t work. If you’re using the initial release of Edge you should also upgrade to the latest version. It’s faster, more stable and uses the same code base (which is the open source Chromium) as some of the other browsers I’ll talk about later.

The next thing to remember is that Google is not a Browser. If you have a Google app on your smart device, it’s just Google’s “convenient” way of getting you to use their search engine and capture lots of useful marketing data from you! Google’s browser is called Chrome, and it uses the same code base as Edge (as mentioned above) – others include Brave, Opera and Vivaldi.

Chrome is by far the most popular browser accounting for more than 80% of the internet browser traffic, it has a wide range of useful extensions, and if you can be bothered to create a Google account and navigate through the preference screens, you can make it reasonably private – but you may wish to install the AdBlock Plus extension – an advert blocker, to stop intrusive adverts appearing on your web pages. [Another way of doing this is to look for Reader View, created for users with visual disability originally, which simplifies the view of a page on your browser screen.

But why use Chrome when you can use another browser which has built-in privacy. I’m talking about Brave. You can deploy many of Chrome’s extensions in Brave and virtually everything you see looks like Chrome, but without tying you to Google. I seriously recommend you look at Brave.

If not Brave, why not Microsoft Edge. The complete re-write of Edge using Chromium and with the support of Microsoft behind it makes this an excellent choice for those who use a lot of Microsoft applications (eg Office 365 which you can run in the browser, just as you can run the Google apps in Chrome) and is growing fast in popularity even if it’s Preferences menus are a bit tricky to work your way through.

If you’re an Apple user, I suggest you look no further than Safari, although all of the others can run on MacOS. It’s optimised for the Apple platform and integrates well with the other apps in the Mac/iPhone/iPad ecosystem.

That leaves two “outliers”. Firefox was one of the first browsers growing out the original work done on Netscape, it’s open source and has a huge and committed user-base. I have nothing to say against it, and nothing much to say for it either. It’s a good solid internet browser.

A couple of references to follow this up then …

The best web browsers for 2022 – ranks them under various categories.

The top ten internet browsers for 2022 – reviews the pluses and minuses of various browsers.

So we turn to Search Engines. You want to find something out on the internet – you just google it, don’t you? Well you can, but there are other choices as well, and this is where privacy concerns might suggest you might want to look at an alternative.

I’ll be upfront. I’ve been using DuckDuckGo (often in combination with Brave) for a couple of years now. I value the fact that my activity on the internet isn’t tracked and the results that are returned are not slanted towards my prior search history, and most importantly my activities are not farmed off to marketing agencies.

There’s nothing wrong with Google Search – it’s the most popular on the internet, but that’s by default rather than choice. The results are presented well, but there is a slant towards promoted results and results based on previous searches. You can change your search preferences a bit, deploy an ad blocker (see above), but why should you haver to!

DuckDuckGo is now presented as an alternative search engine in most, if not all, browsers and exists as an app on smart devices as well. Give a try! It’s my default search engine on my Apple devices.

The only real alternative to Google Search and DuckDuckGo is Microsoft’s Bing. The service has its origins in Microsoft’s previous search engines: MSN SearchWindows Live Search and later Live Search. Bing is now the code base for Yahoo’s search facility as it is for Ecosia – an ethical green alternative. Ecosia importantly doesn’t use any third-party tracking tools, meaning that any search made on the service won’t be seen by any party other than Ecosia. Furthermore, any search made on Ecosia becomes anonymized after one week. In contrast, Google and Bing will hold onto bits of search data (such as the device or date), even after deleting browser history and cookies.

That’s about it, some references then …

The ten best internet search engines of 2022 – a review, like the one above that highlights strengths and weaknesses of the various search engines.

Stolen phone & SIM locking

A rather disturbing incident involving a stolen phone and credit cards and the ability of a fraudster/thief being able to reset a user’s password/pass-number for a high-street bank occurred in September involving a journalist called Charlotte Morgan. She described what happened to her (and it transpired others) when her phone and credit cards were stolen from a locker in her local gym.

The incident was covered by the BBC and and also in the papers.

The incident was described by the FT Adviser in two reports – firstly the incident, and then (belatedly) Santander’s response.

Charlotte chose to broadcast her experiences on twitter and got a range of helpful and supportive pieces of advice.

So we start with the first piece of advice – keep your phone and your credit cards separate. Don’t store/keep them in the same place. Maybe, if you follow the advice that follows later you should just keep the credit card details only on your phone and dispense with using plastic. For Apple that involves storing the card information in your Wallet.

And this is the security loophole that the thief was exploiting. The default setting when you get your new phone, and insert the SIM is to leave the SIM unlocked. This means that the SIM can be taken out of the phone with your network details (and more), and inserted into another phone. Not really what you want, is it? So, lock the SIM to your phone, and by doing that, if the SIM is taken out – it is of no use in another phone. You will need to remember the new PIN you create which you will have to supply when you power-up your phone, or when you change it for a new/replacement. This is obviously an important piece of information to remember!!! There is no way of recovering the SIM PIN if you forget it!!!

So what actually happened. This thread explains it well …

So what do you do? On an iPhone or Android …..

But what are the default SIM PINs that network operators use?

This link will be useful as it lists the default SIM PINs for the major network operators. These are the ones you need to change to your own personally chosen PIN.

It really is quite important. Change your SIM PIN and keep your credit cards separate from your phone.