The best free video players to use in 2021

With the best free video player for your PC, you won’t have to worry about needing to download additional codecs or plugins to play your movies and shows. Unlike the video player software that comes pre-installed on your computer, the right free video player skips all the headaches of downloading codecs and plugins, and lets you start watching immediately.

a woman sitting at a table: The best free video player© Provided by TechRadar The best free video player

Luckily, there are some great free video players to choose from. There are simple players that streamline the loading and watching process, and there are also highly advanced programs offering a wide suite of play settings at your disposal. So, whatever kind of experience you want, you’ll find a video player that will offer it to you without costing you a dime.

Our best pick is currently the VLC Media Player, an open source player that has not failed us yet in playing a video file that we throw at it. With its heavy customization features and compatibility on almost every operating system, it’s a reliable app to use for virtually any video file.

We’ve rounded up five of the best options and will share what we love about each of them.

  • VLC Media Player is the go-to free video player if you’re looking for a software that can handle whatever videos you throw at it. This extremely versatile software can play 360-degree videos, movies and clips up to 8K resolution, and videos in compressed file formats. The real challenge isn’t getting files to play with VLC Media Player – it’s finding videos that this software won’t play.

This free video player also offers an impressive array of tools and controls. You can tweak your video settings to improve the playback or audio quality, as well as add filters to change the look of individual clips. VLC Media Player also works with synchronous subtitles, which is helpful for watching movies with the sound turned off.

The only major big downside to note about VLC Media Player is that the interface hides a lot of these tools. There’s a significant learning curve to accessing and applying some of the more advanced features.

GOM Player offers a lot of advanced functionality for playing back videos. The software can handle 360-degree and 8K videos, as well as offers the option to play Youtube videos on your desktop. The settings for tweaking video playback aren’t quite as extensive as what you’ll find in other software options, but they’re much friendlier to use when you’re just getting started with the video player.

Among the best free video players right now, it comes with a wide variety of codecs, but it also has a searchable codec library so you can play back just about any type of clip. The player is compatible with synchronous subtitles, and you can even import entire playlists using a file type such as *.pls or *.asx.

GOM Player also supports screencast, so you can connect your computer to your television or a projector and play on a larger screen.

Just be aware that the download comes with several additional programs bundled in the installer. You’ll need to be prepared to dismiss them if you decide you only want the video player.

5KPlayer is one of the more comprehensive free options for not just watching videos, but managing your entire video collection. The software allows you to add your entire computer video library, so you can select videos from within 5KPlayer rather than searching your hard drive. On top of that, you can stream videos right from Youtube and use Apple’s AirPlay to display videos across multiple devices.

The player supports just about every type of video format you’re likely to come across, including 360-degree and 8K videos. The settings for managing your audio and video playback are pretty versatile, although they don’t quite stack up against the controls you’ll find in VLC Media Player.

The one thing to watch out for with 5KPlayer is that the free model is supported by ads. They won’t show up while you’re watching a video, but they can be annoying while you’re searching your library or tweaking settings.

Among the best free video player out there, Pot Player is an incredibly powerful program. It has a massive array of codecs built in and offers support for not only 360-degree and 8K videos, but also 3D videos. If you throw a file format at this software that it doesn’t already support, Pot Player will automatically download the needed codecs for you.

You wouldn’t know if from just looking at the user interface, but Pot Player also contains a free screen recorder and free video editing software under the hood. The options for customizing video playback are very impressive, while hotkeys allow you to access your most-used settings without a hitch.

As if all that weren’t enough, Pot Player is surprisingly lightweight software. It loads faster than just about any other video player, free or paid, and uses up relatively few computer resources even when playing back large movies.

Media Player Classic – Home Cinema is the updated version of the old Windows standby. It’s come a long way since it first launched over a decade ago. In fact, the newest version is not only a strong competitor to the likes of VLC Media Player and other free playback options, but also one of the best free video players to hit the shelves.

What really sets Media Player Classic – Home Cinema apart is the fact that it has customizable toolbars. This makes it significantly easier to access and use the wealth of playback customization options. While the user interface as a whole is pretty sparse, the menu layout makes it relatively simple to find the controls you need.

Helpfully, this software is also very lightweight. It’s designed to work on the same computers that the original Media Player Classic worked on, which means it takes very little processing power. Still, it supports almost every type of media file, including 360-degree and 8K videos.

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‘Worst I’ve seen in 20 years’: How the Epik hack reveals every secret the far-right tried to hide

Mikael Thalen

A large-scale breach of the domain registrar and web hosting company Epik has exposed a massive trove of data, including the names of individuals behind some of the far-right’s most notorious websites.

graphical user interface: anonymous mask worn by man in epikfail hack© Provided by Daily Dot anonymous mask worn by man in epikfail hack

The data, as first reported by independent journalist Steven Monacelli on Monday, was released as a torrent this week by the hacking collective Anonymous.

In a press release on the hack, dubbed Operation EPIK FAIL, Anonymous claimed that it was able to obtain “a decade’s worth” of information, including domain registrations and transfers, account credentials, and emails from an Epik employee.

“This dataset is all that’s needed to trace actual ownership and management of the fascist side of the internet that has eluded researchers, activists, and, well, just about everybody,” the release alleges.

A compressed version of the torrent was later released by the journalist collective DDoSecrets, which plans to upload and host the data for reporters and researchers.

Epik’s customers include social media sites such as Parler and Gab as well as far-right forums like TheDonald. A pro-life website that urged Texas residents to report women seeking abortions to the authorities in the wake of the state’s abortion ruling was also temporarily a customer of Epik.

In a statement to Gizmodo on Tuesday, an Epik spokesperson claimed that the company was “not aware of any breach.”

Epik CEO Robert Monster sent an email on Wednesday to customers acknowledging “an alleged security incident” but did not provide specifics.

“Our internal team, working with external experts, have been working diligently to address the situation,” Monster wrote. “We are taking proactive steps to resolve the issue. We will update you on our progress.”

“You are in our prayers today. We are grateful for your support and prayer. When situations arise where individuals might not have honorable intentions, I pray for them,” Monster added. “I believe that what the enemy intends for evil, God invariably transforms into good.”

The Daily Dot attempted to reach Monster for comment, whose phone number and Skype username were listed in emails from the breach, but did not receive a response.

Analysis of the data by the Daily Dot revealed the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of those who registered web domains for a range of sites related to everything from the QAnon conspiracy theory to forums for supporters of former President Donald Trump. The data was also verified on Wednesday evening by the Record.

The Daily Dot spoke with an individual listed as the registrar for TheDonald, an offshoot of a pro-Trump forum banned from Reddit last year, that operates from the domain Patriots.win. The individual confirmed that the information listed in the breach was his but claimed that he had distanced himself from the site.

The original TheDonald subreddit, which boasted nearly 800,000 members, was removed by Reddit for repeatedly violating the platform’s rules against harassment, hate speech, and content manipulation.

The forum’s replacement at Patriots.win has also found itself embroiled in controversy following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol after members were found to have discussed hanging and beheading politicians.

Another individual listed as running a knockoff version of 8chan also confirmed to the Daily Dot that the information listed in the breach was accurate over the phone.

A Linux engineer tasked with conducting an impact assessment on behalf of a client who uses Epik’s services told the Daily Dot that the breach was one of the worst he had ever seen. The engineer did not have permission to speak about the breach by his employer and was granted anonymity by the Daily Dot.

“They are fully compromised end-to-end,” they said. “Maybe the worst I’ve ever seen in my 20-year career.”

The engineer pointed the Daily Dot to what they described as Epik’s “entire primary database,” which contains hosting account usernames and passwords, SSH keys, and even some credit card numbers—all stored in plaintext.

The data also includes Auth-Codes, passcodes that are needed to transfer a domain name between registrars. The engineer stated that with all the data in the leak, which also included admin passwords for WordPress logins, any attacker could easily take over the websites of countless Epik customers.

The Daily Dot was unable to confirm the claims made in the press release by Anonymous that every single one of Epik’s customers were exposed in the breach.

As noted by the Record, analysis of the data suggests that hack could have taken place on February 28. The data’s release comes just days after hackers aligned with Anonymous defaced the official website for the Republican Party of Texas over the state’s new restrictions on abortion.

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    Microsoft unveils mega security update, so update now

    The monthly edition of bug fixes from Microsoft addresses over 60 vulnerabilities in products from Microsoft’s stable, and another 20 Chromium security bugs in Microsoft Edge.

    a close up of text on a black background: security threat© Provided by TechRadar security threat

    Microsoft’s September Patch Tuesday impacts over a dozen products including Azure Open Management Infrastructure, Azure Sphere, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Windows DNS, Visual Studio, BitLocker, Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), and more. 

    Importantly however, the release also patches the recently disclosed zero-day vulnerability in Internet Explorer’s browsing engine MSHTML/Trident that was being exploited in the wild.

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    • “The Zero Day vulnerability in MSHTML (CVE-2021-40444) has been resolved this month. Microsoft’s original mitigation guidance released on September 7  can be disabled once you have updated all Windows OSs this month,” Chris Goettl, Vice President of Product Management for Security at Ivanti shared with TechRadar Pro.

    Patch without delay

    Analyzing all the patched vulnerabilities, 27 are privilege escalation vulnerabilities, 16 could enable remote code execution, 11 are information disclosure vulnerabilities, eight are spoofing vulnerabilities, two could help bypass security features, and one could cause denial of service.

    Goettl adds that in addition to the MSHTML vulnerability, the update includes a couple more that are of note.

    One of them, tracked as CVE-2021-36958, is a Print Spooler vulnerability that was initially addressed last month, but has been updated this month to address some additional concerns that were identified by researchers beyond the original fix.

    “The vulnerability has been publicly disclosed and functional exploit code is available, so this puts further urgency on this month’s Windows OS updates,” stresses Goettl.

    The third vulnerability that Goettl points out is the elevation of privilege vulnerability in Windows DNS. Tracked as CVE-2021-36968, the vulnerability applies to the legacy Windows OSs, which is what makes it particularly attractive to threat actors.

    “Public disclosure gives threat actors a bit of a jump start on developing a working exploit. In this case, they could find the fact that this only affects legacy OSs as attractive, banking on the fact that companies are still running on the legacy OSs but not continuing with ESU support from Microsoft,” he shares, urging businesses still using legacy Windows releases to either migrate off these platforms or at least subscribe to Microsoft’s extended security update (ESU) program.

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    How to back up your iPhone with or without iCloud

    Yes, of course you want to back up your iPhone — as we all know, despite phone cases and Gorilla glass and careful engineering, disaster — in the form of cracked displays, lost devices, and three-year-olds who think it’s fun to sit on your latest phone — can happen. When that happens, you want to have all your data backed up.

    a close up of a blue table© Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

    The easiest way to go is to back up using iCloud, which is not only simple to set up, but makes it just as simple to set up a new phone if your old one is no longer available. (You can also back up to other services, such as Google Drive, but it isn’t nearly as convenient.) Or, if you’re an iPhone user who is steadfast about retaining your privacy, you can back up your iPhone to your Mac or Windows computer and retain full control of your data backups.

    Here’s how to back up to iCloud or your laptop / desktop.

    Back up to iCloud

    • Tap on “Settings” > [your name] top button > “iCloud” > “iCloud Backup.”
    • If “iCloud Backup” is switched off, toggle it on. If it’s already toggled on, and you’re preparing to wipe your old iPhone, you may want to tap “Back Up Now” just in case.

    Back up to your desktop

    • Connect your phone to your computer using its charging cable.
    • Fire up iTunes if you’re using Windows or a Mac with macOS 10.14 or earlier; use Finder on a Mac with macOS 10.15 Catalina or later.

    If you’re using Finder, open a Finder window (by either clicking on the Finder icon in your dock or selecting “File” > “New Finder Window” in the top Finder menu bar), and look for your iPhone in the left-hand menu under “Locations.”

    graphical user interface, text, application, email: Using Finder to change your backup from iCloud to local.Using Finder to change your backup from iCloud to local.

    • In iTunes, you should see a small iPhone icon in the upper left corner; select that. (If you don’t see it, you may need to authorize your system. Go to the top iTunes menu and select “Account” > “Authorizations” > “Authorize This Computer…” and follow the instructions.)

    graphical user interface, text, application, email: Look for the phone icon in iTunes.Look for the phone icon in iTunes.

    • After that, the process for either iTunes or Finder is much the same, although the look of the pages and the language will be slightly different.
    • If this is the first time you’ve done this, when you click on the phone icon, you may be asked if you trust the phone, first on the computer and then on the phone itself.
    • First-timers may also be asked if you want to set your phone up as a new device or restore it from a previous backup. In this case, select the first.
    • Select the “General” tab on top and look for the category labeled “Backups.” Select “This computer” (in iTunes) or “Back up all of the data on your iPhone to your Mac” (in Finder).

    graphical user interface, text, application, email: Using Finder to set up a computer to back up your iPhone.Using Finder to set up a computer to back up your iPhone.

    • You’re going to want to encrypt your backup for increased security. Check “Encrypt iPhone backup” (in iTunes) or “Encrypt local backup” (in Finder) and enter a password. Don’t lose that password; otherwise, you’re going to lose access to your data.
    • Once you set the encryption, it’s probable that the backup will start automatically. Otherwise, click on “Back Up Now.”

    graphical user interface, text, application, email: Using iTunes to change your backup from iCloud to this computer.Using iTunes to change your backup from iCloud to this computer.

    If you need to restore your backup, just go to the same page and click on “Restore Backup…”

    Note that you can either manually back up your iPhone, or you can also have it automatically back up each time you connect it to your computer. Look for “Options” just below the “Backups” section, and select “Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected.”

    Once you’ve set up your backup to your computer, you may want to delete any backups you’ve made to iCloud.

    To do this on your Mac:

    • Click on the Apple icon in the top corner of your system.
    • Select “System Preferences” > “Internet Accounts” > “iCloud.”
    • Select the “Manage” button in the lower right corner of the window and then “Backups.”

    graphical user interface, application: Select a backup to delete, then click on the minus icon in the lower left of the window.Select a backup to delete, then click on the minus icon in the lower left of the window.

    • Select a backup to delete, click on the minus icon in the lower left of the window, and select “Delete.” This will both delete all your backups from iCloud and turn off any further backups.

    To do this on your iPhone:

    • Go to “Settings” and tap your name.
    • Select “iCloud” > “Manage Storage” > “Backups.”
    • Tap on “Delete Backup.”
    • Tap on “Turn Off & Delete.”

    graphical user interface, application: Select “iCloud” > “Manage Storage” > “Backups” Select “iCloud” > “Manage Storage” > “Backups”

    graphical user interface, application: Tap on “Turn Off & Delete” Tap on “Turn Off & Delete”

    And you’re done!

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    Microsoft wants to try and kill off deepfakes for good

    Microsoft could be set to boost its security protection for photos and videos uploaded by customers following news of a major new investment.

    a close up of a person in glasses looking at the camera: Deepfake© Provided by TechRadar Deepfake

    The computing giant’s M12 venture capital arm has announced it is investing in Truepic, which offers photo and video verification services.

    Microsoft says such systems could be a significant step in helping to identify and cut down on the rising threat of deepfakes – computer-generated or manipulated images that can be used for a range of nefarious purposes.

    • Extra safety

    Truepic, which Microsoft’s James Wu called, “the pioneer of provenance-based media authentication”, looks to authenticate images using its Vision digital inspection platform, which promises to quickly verify trusted images.

    It claims to have already verified millions of photos and videos captured from over 150 countries globally using its Controlled Capture camera technology.

    This platform brings together several high-integrity data fields for every file, which are then analyzed for any traces of manipulation, before being protected with cryptographic hashing. The system then seals all the data, along with auxiliary metadata to maintain what Wu called a “chain of custody” that passes the files along a verification pipeline stress testing the file to ensure it stays safe before, during and after capture.

    When it comes to deepfakes, this means that any manipulation, whether of the image itself or the metadata associated with the image, should be instantly flagged to the user.

    The rise of deepfakes and democratization of sophisticated image editing software have put both news outlets and technology companies under pressure to address the spread of disinformation and visual deception,” Wu noted.

    “A gamut of technologies, ranging from cheapfakes to synthetic media, have lowered the barrier to create believable content to the naked eye.”

    The company also offers Truepic Vision, an online library of “trusted visual documentation” for businesses, with the likes of Equifax, Ford, and Transunion already signed up as customers.

    As part of M12’s investment, which led Truepic’s Series B funding round, Wu will join Truepic’s board.

    Truepic and Microsoft have already worked together in 2021, forming part of a new alliance that aims to cut down on online content fraud.

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    Urgent iPhone update issued after spyware discovered that gives hackers access

    Apple on Monday advised all users to update their devices after researchers warned that the Israeli spyware company NSO Group had developed a way to take control over nearly any Apple computer, watch or iPhone.

    a bird flying in the sky© Provided by NBC News

    “It’s absolutely terrifying,” said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at The Citizen Lab, which recently discovered the software exploit and notified Apple about it. The group published a report about it Monday.

    The malicious software takes control of an Apple device by first sending a message through iMessage, the company’s default messaging app, and then hacking through a flaw in how Apple processes images. It is what’s known in the cybersecurity industry as a “zero-click” exploit — a particularly dangerous and pernicious flaw that doesn’t require a victim clicking a link or downloading a file to take over.

    People whose devices have been exploited are extremely unlikely to realize they’ve been hacked, Scott-Railton said.

    “The user sees crickets while their iPhone is silently exploited,” he said. “Someone sends you a GIF that isn’t, and then you’re in trouble. That’s it. You don’t see a thing.”


    As is often the case with NSO Group hacking, the newly discovered exploit is both technologically remarkable but likely only used on people specifically targeted by governments who use the company’s software.

    NSO Group creates surveillance and hacking software that it leases to governments to spy on individuals’ computers and smartphones. For years, it has insisted that its primary product, Pegasus, is a vital tool to stop terrorists and other criminals, and that it merely leases its technology to legitimate governments in accordance with their own laws. It has also insisted it can’t be used to target Americans’ phones, and that it revokes usage from countries that misuse its products.

    But Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity research center at the University of Toronto, has repeatedly found instances of Pegasus software used against journalists in Mexico who investigated cartels and Saudi Arabian dissidents, including associates of the slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

    In an emailed statement, an NSO spokesperson said that “NSO Group will continue to provide intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world with life saving technologies to fight terror and crime.”

    While Pegasus isn’t known for surveilling large numbers of people, governments often use it to target individuals who don’t appear to be violent criminals, said Bill Marczak, a Citizen Lab senior research fellow. Citizen Lab was only able to identify this exploit because it was examining the phone of a Saudi dissident who so far has not given permission to share his name with the public, he said.

    “In this case, it’s pretty clear that this person was targeted for being an activist and not for any other reason,” Marczak said.

    Apple published technical notes with a new software update available Monday that addressed flaws identified by Citizen Lab. The company noted that “this issue may have been actively exploited.”

    In an emailed statement, Apple’s head of Security Engineering and Architecture, Ivan Krstić, thanked Citizen Lab for alerting the company to the exploit.

    “Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals,” Krstić said.

    Updating to the latest version of iOS or Mac OS will keep users from being newly infected with this particular exploit, Scott-Railton said.

    “This will prevent you from being infected with this exploit going forward,” he said. “But what we know is NSO is always trying to find other ways to infect people’s phones, and they may turn to something else.”

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    Millions of Microsoft servers are running on vulnerable legacy software. Everyone is too CHEAP to UPGRADE

    Researchers from CyberNews say they have identified over two million web servers powered by outdated, unmaintained, and vulnerable versions of Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) web server.

    a close up of text on a black background: security threat© Provided by TechRadar security threat

    According to the researchers, since the legacy IIS releases versions are no longer supported by Microsoft, threat actors can easily compromise them to inject all kinds of malware, and even exfiltrate visitors’ data, which could include login and payment information, depending on the nature of the website it powers.

    Microsoft IIS is reportedly the third most-popular web server in the world, powering over 50 million websites for a market share of just over 12%.

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    • “While Microsoft keeps the newer versions relatively safe by releasing security updates and vulnerability hotfixes, older IIS versions from 7.5 downwards are no longer supported by the company. And like other types of outdated server software, all legacy versions of Microsoft IIS suffer from numerous critical security vulnerabilities,” CyberNews explained.

    Outdated servers galore

    Armed with this information, Cybernews researchers identified five different IIS versions and subversions that weren’t maintained and had publicly known vulnerabilities.

    It then searched for these vulnerable IIS installations, and while a majority turned out to be honeypots, over two million were found serving genuine use cases.

    While all legacy IIS versions were susceptible to attacks, version 7.0 with 17 known vulnerabilities emerged as the most harmful. Surprisingly, it was found running on over 47,000 web servers.

    Upon further investigation, with more than 679,000 vulnerable IIS servers, China emerged as the country with the most number of susceptible installations. Surprisingly though, the US with over 581,000 unprotected IIS servers wasn’t far behind in second place.

    CyberNews security researcher Mantas Sasnauskas believes the situation is further aggravated by the fact that the web servers that host public websites would also be broadcasting their outdated IIS versions for everyone to see.

    “This means that running these servers on visibly vulnerable software is tantamount to extending an invitation to threat actors to infiltrate their networks,” Sasnauskas sums up.

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    Older versions of Outlook to lose ability to connect to Microsoft 365 soon

    a close up of a screen: Outlook Windows© Windows Central Outlook Windows

    It’s time to move from Outlook 2007 and 2010 to a more up-to-date version of the service.

    What you need to know

    • Older versions of Outlook will not be able to connect to Microsoft 365 services after November 1, 2021.
    • Only Outlook 2013 Service Pack 1 or later will be supported after this date.
    • Microsoft is working with tenants to make sure that organizations move away from Outlook 2007 and 2010 before the deadline.

    A deadline is quickly approaching for connecting Outlook for Windows to Office 365 and Microsoft 365 services. After November 1, 2021, older versions of Outlook will no longer be able to connect to these services. Only Outlook 2013 Service Pack 1 and later will be able to connect to Microsoft 365.

    This deadline has been known for months, but Microsoft is giving people another heads up to make sure that they can move to a newer version of Outlook in time. The company explains that its customer support team is reaching out to tenants that still use Outlook 2007 and 2010.

    Microsoft is cutting off support for older versions of Outlook to improve the security of the service. Support for basic authentication is ending as Microsoft 365 moves to more modern authentication protocols. These newer protocols are more secure but require up-to-date versions of Outlook.

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    Your browser privacy stinks. Change these settings in Chrome, Firefox, Brave and more

    Privacy is now a priority among browser-makers, but they may not go as far as you want in fighting pervasive ad industry trackers on the web. Here’s a look at how you can crank up your privacy settings to outsmart that online tracking.

    a screen shot of a computer keyboard: James Martin/CNET© Provided by CNET James Martin/CNET

    Problems like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal have elevated privacy protection on Silicon Valley’s priority list by showing how companies compile reams of data as you traverse the internet. Their goal? To build a richly detailed user profile so that you can become the target of more accurate, clickable and thus profitable advertisements.

    Apple and Google are in a war for the web, with Google pushing aggressively for an interactive web to rival native apps and Apple moving more slowly — in part out of concern those new features will worsen security and be annoying for users. Privacy adds another dimension to the competition and to your browser decision.

    Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai are posing for a picture: Google and Apple are feuding over the future of the web . A CNET series is looking into the details. James Martin/CNET© Provided by CNET Google and Apple are feuding over the future of the web . A CNET series is looking into the details. James Martin/CNET

    Apple has made privacy a top priority in all its products, including Safari. For startup Brave, privacy is a core goal, and Mozilla and Microsoft have begun touting privacy as a way to differentiate their browsers from Google Chrome. It’s later to the game, but Chrome engineers have begun building a “privacy sandbox” despite Google’s reliance on ad revenue.

    For all of the browsers listed here, you can give yourself a privacy boost by changing the default search engine. For instance, try DuckDuckGo. Although its search results may not be as useful or deep as Google’s, DuckDuckGo is a longtime favorite among the privacy-minded for its refusal to track user searches.

    Other universal options that boost privacy include disabling your browser’s location tracking and search engine autocomplete features, turning off password autofills, and regularly deleting your browsing history. If you want to take your privacy to the next level, consider trying one of the virtual private networks CNET has reviewed that work with all browsers. (You can also check out our roundup of browser-based VPNs to try.)

    In the meantime, though, here are some simple settings you can change in your browser to help keep a good portion of advertising trackers off your trail.

    Chrome browser privacy settings to change

    a screen shot of a computer keyboard: James Martin/CNET© Provided by CNET James Martin/CNET

    The world’s most popular browser is also generally thought to be one of the least private when used straight out of the box. On the plus side, however, Chrome’s flexible and open-source underpinnings have allowed independent developers to release a slew of privacy-focused extensions to shake off trackers.

    text: Brett Pearce/CNET© Provided by CNET Brett Pearce/CNET

    In the Chrome Web Store, click Extensions on the left and type the name of the extension you’re looking for into the search bar. Once you find the correct extension in the search results, click Add to Chrome. A dialog will pop up explaining which permissions the extension will have for your browser. Click Add extension to bring the extension into your browser.

    If you change your mind, you can manage or remove your extensions by opening Chrome and clicking the three dot More menu on the right. Then select More Tools and then Extensions. From here, you’ll also be able to see more about the extension by clicking Details.

    Here are four extensions to look at as you get started: Cookie Autodelete, uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere.

    If you’re on Android, sorry: extensions don’t work. So you’ll have to switch browsers altogether to something like DuckDuckGo’s app.

    In the same three-dot menu in Chrome, you can also block third-party cookies by selecting Settings, then scrolling down to the Privacy and security section and clicking Cookies and other site data. From here, select Block third-party cookies.

    Safari browser privacy settings to change

    a screen shot of an open laptop computer sitting on top of a table: Angela Lang/CNET© Provided by CNET Angela Lang/CNET

    By default, Safari turns on its proprietary Intelligent Tracking Prevention tool to keep you a step ahead of privacy pests. Even so, the tool hasn’t always worked smoothly since its 2017 debut. Google researchers spotted how Intelligent Tracking Prevention itself could be used to track users, though Apple buttoned down the problem.

    Safari 14, announced in June and arriving later in 2020 with new MacOS Big Sur, will be able to tell you which ad trackers are running on the website you’re visiting and give you a 30 day report of the known trackers it’s identified while you were browsing. It’ll also tell you which websites those trackers came from.

    To check that blocking is on, open Safari and click Preferences, then Privacy. The box beside Prevent cross-site tracking should be checked. While you’re there, you can also manually delete your cookies. Click Manage Website Data to see which sites have left their trackers and cookies hanging out in your browser. Click Remove next to any of the individual trackers you’re ready to get rid of, or just nuke the whole list by clicking Remove All at the bottom of your screen.

    logo© James Martin/CNET

    Cookies can be helpful, not just invasive, but for stronger privacy you can block them altogether — both first-party cookies from the website publisher and third-party cookies from others like advertisers. To do so, check the box beside Block all cookies.

    If you’re still looking for another layer of privacy, you can also install helpful extensions from the App Store like AdBlock Plus or Ghostery Lite for Safari.

    Edge browser privacy settings to change

    a body of water with a mountain in the background: Microsoft© Provided by CNET Microsoft

    Microsoft’s Edge browser includes some simplified privacy and tracker blocking options on its Tracker prevention screen. Within Edge, select the three dot menu icon in the top right corner and select Settings. From the menu that then appears on the left, select Privacy and services.

    You’ll be offered three settings to choose from: Basic, Balanced and Strict. By default, Edge uses the Balanced setting, which blocks trackers from sites you haven’t visited while still being lenient enough to save most sites from some of the loading problems that may come with tighter security. Likewise, Edge’s Strict setting may interfere with how some sites behave, but will block the greatest number of trackers. Even the Basic setting will still block trackers used for cryptomining and fingerprinting.

    Read more: Microsoft Edge privacy settings to change right away

    Firefox browser privacy settings to change

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    Firefox’s default privacy settings are more protective than those of Chrome and Edge, and the browser has more privacy options under the hood, too.

    From inside Firefox’s main menu — or from inside the three lined menu on the right side of the toolbar — select Preferences. Once the Preferences window opens, click Privacy & Security. From here, you’ll be able to choose between three options: Standard, Strict and Custom. Standard, the default Firefox setting, blocks trackers in private windows, third party tracking cookies and cryptominers. The Strict setting may break a few websites, but it blocks everything blocked in Standard mode, plus fingerprints and trackers in all windows. Custom is worth exploring for those who want to fine tune how trackers are being blocked.

    To apply your new tracking settings after you’ve selected your level of privacy, click the Reload All Tabs button that appears.

    Read more: With Firefox, stop leaking your data across the internet

    Brave browser privacy settings to change

    icon: Brave© Provided by CNET Brave

    When it comes to anti-tracking tools, Safari’s latest privacy updates are still short of most of those found in the Brave browser. By default, Brave blocks all ads, trackers, third-party cookies and fingerprinters while still achieving blazing speeds. Brave also offers a built-in Tor private browsing mode, a heavy-duty tracker blocking option, and added a built-in VPN for iOS users.

    Inside Brave’s main menu, select Preferences to reveal the Settings panel on the left. Select Shields to see a list of privacy options on the right side of the screen. By selecting the Advanced view, you’ll be able to choose which kinds of trackers to block. By scrolling down, you’ll also be able to block login buttons and embedded content from Facebook, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn. For even more protection and privacy fine tuning, explore Additional Settings on the left, and select Privacy and security.

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    Windows 11 Upgrade

    I’m reading article after article from the tech world  journalist crying about their outrage of every old computer not being able to upgrade to Windows 11.  These are the same journalists who wrote that Microsoft was forcing you to upgrade to Windows 10 six years ago.  Now they are demanding that every computer to be upgraded. They claim that Microsoft is forcing you to buy a new computer.

    Car companies are offering a new technology called Electric.  If you want one of those you must buy a new car.  No one is forcing you and if your existing car is still worthwhile you are welcome to continue too use it  for many more years.

    Here are some of my opinions on the upcoming upgrade to windows 11.

    Most people in my experience have no idea what operating system they are running and couldn’t care less.

    If you have a computer three years or newer your computer will upgrade automatically to windows 11.  The only advantages to windows 11 are entirely security based and require the newer hardware.

    If your computer does not qualify you will remain on windows 10 with full updates and security patches for the next five years at least.

    The advantages of Windows 11 on older equipment will not be available.

    They’re are a couple of cosmetic differences, such as the centered taskbar.  This moves the start bottom from the left corner to the center right.  Something most people in fact will not like.

    All of these writers are trying to create a completely made up conflict.  Please don’t be fooled by someone trying to create clickbait.

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