Is Opera’s New Browser (Reborn 3) REALLY More Secure?

Last Updated by Chase Williams on July 16, 2019

Opera Reborn 3 (Opera 60) boasts several noteworthy features, including a borderless user interface, dark and light themes, and a crypto wallet. But the one thing that Opera really wants you to associate with this new release is security.

With Reborn 3, Opera claims to be “setting the new standard in modern browsing” by improving the “quality, privacy and security” of your online experience. Opera is even celebrating its latest release with a short scifi film set in a technology-controlled dystopia.

Features such as a built-in Virtual Private Network (VPN) and crypto-jacking protection are certainly likely to appeal to more privacy-conscious users.

But does Reborn 3 really represent an advancement in internet security?

Let’s see how the technology behind Opera’s new browser stacks up against the company’s marketing messages.

Opera reborn 3 vpn

Opera’s Security Credentials

Opera sits sixth in the rankings of the most popular web browsers. Promoting security and privacy have clearly become a big part of Opera’s efforts to increase its tiny market share.

But Opera isn’t the only browser to make much of its security credentials. Opera’s challenge when competing in this increasingly-crowded corner of the market is to offer something that other privacy-focused browsers cannot.

With this release, Opera is clearly keen to tout its browser’s free integrated VPN as a unique selling point. It’s worth noting, however, that Reborn 3 is not the first version of Opera to include a VPN, which has been a feature since 2016.

Opera free vpn

Integrated, Unlimited, and Free

A properly-configured VPN can provide a highly secure and confidential connection. But as with all network technology, the user must ensure they can trust the service provider.

There are so many tried-and-tested VPNs available on the market. So what makes Opera’s VPN a good option?

There are some obvious benefits:

  • It’s integrated into the browser, and could not be easier to use
  • It’s unlimited, so you can use as much data as you want
  • It’s free

These are positive factors. But they would not justify compromising your privacy.

Does Opera Reborn 3 Offer a True VPN?

Reborn 3 offers much of what you would expect from a VPN:

  • It disguises your originating IP address
  • It encrypts your data – with 256-bit AES encryption, no less
  • It allows you to access geographically restricted content
This provides an extra layer of security and functionality compared with most other browsers. But – and this is a big “but” – it’s not technically accurate to describe Opera’s offering as a VPN.

With the “VPN” feature turned on, Opera’s browser allows you to connect to a proxy HTTP server over HTTPS. This is a relatively secure browsing method, but it lacks the packet-level redirection you would expect from a “true” VPN.

Therefore, Opera’s VPN is more accurately described as a proxy server.

It’s also important to remember that the desktop version of Opera’s VPN does not tunnel data from any application or process other than the browser itself. This is a drawback when compared to applications that secure a computer’s entire connection.

Data Logging

Privacy and security mean anonymity. To maintain true confidentiality, a VPN shouldn’t log your online activities or true IP address.

Opera has long claimed not to log user data. There have been concerns, however, that Opera’s Privacy Policy contradicted this claim.

The April 2018 version of Opera’s Privacy Policy did state that the company collected data such as IP address and location. The context in which this collection took place was not entirely clear.

The most recent version of the Privacy Policy, however, is emphatic:

When you use our built-in VPN service, we do not log any information related to your browsing activity and originating network address.”

Taken at face value, this is reassuring.

Crypto-Jacking Protection

Crypto-jacking involves the unauthorized use of your computer’s resources for the mining cryptocurrency, achieved via JavaScript. Opera Reborn 3 features integrated crypto-jacking protection using its built-in adblocker.

Again, this is not a new feature, having been part of Opera browser since the release of Opera 50 in 2018.
Opera Crypto Wallet vpnCrypto-jacking protection is not unique to Opera. It’s offered by various anti-malware extensions and security suites. But it’s great to see Opera offering this as an out-of-the-box feature of its browser.

Who Owns Opera?

You might be considering using Opera Reborn 3 to avoid your data being intercepted by the NSA or scooped up by your network carrier as part of the Prism Program.

But there’s little point redirecting your connection through a third party unless it’s one that you can trust.

Opera started life as a Norwegian company, with its VPN running through a Canadian subsidiary named SurfEasy. Opera decided in 2018 to start using its own data centers for its VPN.

If you’re very privacy-conscious, you may have concerns about your data being handled by a company based in either Norway or Canada. Both countries are part of the “Nine Eyes” intelligence-sharing program.

Perhaps even more alarming is the news that parts Opera (including its browser) were recently acquired by a Chinese consortium.

None of this necessarily means that your data is not secure when using Opera Reborn 3. But the location of data centers and the obligations on service providers under national law are factors that many people do consider when choosing a VPN

Summary

Opera Reborn 3 has some great security features built into the application by default. You’ll struggle to find another browser that combines an attractive and intuitive user interface with crypto-jacking protection and an integrated VPN (or at least, something resembling a VPN).

Remember, though, that Opera only actually provides a secure connection to an HTTP proxy server. This might represent a higher level of security than is offered by other browsers, but it’s a lower level of protection than is provided by other “true” VPNs.

Integrating security features into a browser is an elegant cybersecurity solution. But, ultimately, you could achieve a higher level of privacy and protection by using a collection of standalone applications and browser extensions.

Chase Williams
Chase is an experienced web security expert. He has researched and written extensively on a variety of online security topics