The privacy and anonymity of users’ online communications has been at the forefront of many discussions in the tech community and the general public in the last year as more and more information has leaked out about the NSA’s methods and how the agency collects vast amounts of user data. Keeping Web sessions private and secure can be a daunting task, especially for users who may not be so familiar with how to lock down their browsers, but WhiteHat Security is trying to make that process simpler with the release of a beta version of its Aviator browser for Windows.
Aviator is built on the Chromium code base, like Google Chrome, and is designed with security, privacy and anonymity in mind from the beginning. The browser, by default, doesn’t allow any tracking of users’ movements on the Web and WhiteHat doesn’t have any partnerships with advertisers or tracking companies. It also has DuckDuckGo set as the default search engine, a major change from most other browsers, which typically have Google or Bing as the default. DuckDuckGo doesn’t save any search history data from users or perform any tracking.
The disconnection from ad networks is a big part of the security and privacy model for Aviator. The browser doesn’t simply block ads, the way that many browser extensions do. Instead, the browser doesn’t make any connections to ad networks at all, which stops a large part of the tracking done on Web pages and also prevents potentially malicious ads from running. This difference also makes the browser faster than many of the other major browsers.
“We’re going to do some tests to see exactly what the difference is, but it doesn’t make all of those outbound connection requests so you can tell how much faster it is when you use it,” said Robert Hansen, director of product management at WhiteHat.
WhiteHat released a Mac OS X version of Aviator in October, and it has since been downloaded tens of thousands of times, company officials said. But users immediately began asking for a Windows version, along with Android and other platforms. Aviator was developed as an internal project at WhiteHat for employee use, and eventually the company made the decision to release it to the general public. Because the browser doesn’t include ads or partnerships with ad companies, WhiteHat is considering different revenue models for the browser.
“Therefore, some of our efforts will also be directed towards determining how to sell this in a way that does not involve profiting from our users’ information as many other browsers are in the unfortunate business of doing. As the saying goes, ‘if you aren’t paying for it, you’re the product’,” Hansen wrote in a blog post.
“That said, we want to make sure that all of our existing users of WhiteHat Aviator know that they will continue to get the browser for free, forever.”