Privacy Guides recommends the browsers Tor, Mullvad, Firefox + Arkenfox, and Brave. Firstly, I have heard that Firefox + Arkenfox is very similar to Mullvad, but more convenient? In other words, there seems to be overlap between the two, so would it not be redundant to use both browsers?
Basically, I would like to know more information about when I should use each browser, and specifically the difference between Firefox and Brave, which are described here as: “Firefox for casual internet browsers looking for a good alternative to Google Chrome, and Brave if you need Chromium browser compatibility”. From this description, I do not understand the differences between Firefox and Brave, as their descriptions appear to be very similar.
So, I would like to know more information about when each browser should be used i.e., their use cases, so that I am able to integrate them to address my threat model.
Many thanks, to one of the most friendly communities out there!
While Firefox+Arkenfox is similar to Mullvad browser, the biggest differnece (to my knowledge) is that Mullvad browser provides more advanced fingerprinting protection. This is becuase Mullvad browser impliments a hide amongst the “crowd” anti-fingerprinting technique; and thanks to the collaboration between Mullvad and The TOR Project Mullvad browser essentially shares a crowd with TOR browser users.
It should be noted Mullvad browser cannot access the TOR network, it simply gains some fingerprinting protection from other mullvad and tor browser users.
Personally I find Arkenfox is to clunky to keep updated and configured. This is why i prefer browsers like Mullvad, or brave that are reasonably configured for privacy and security out of the box.
I do still use firefox with some minimal configuration as a fallback browser, but brave hase been my go to lately. I’ll have to give Mullvad Browser another shot one of these days though.
Most people who use multiple web browsers will use Mullvad Browser for generally reading the internet and visiting sites which they don’t have an account with, and Firefox (or Brave) for visiting the sites they do log in to, checking their email, social media, etc.
Mullvad Browser and FF + AF differ mostly in their goals/priorities. The main distinction is that Mullvad Browser is explicitly focused on anti-fingerprinting, this is one of its primary goals and distinguishing features. Think of it like Tor Browser without Tor. Both TBB and MB enforce uniformity, with the goal of making all users look similar to one another. This goal is important for certain threats and threat models, but is somewhat out of scope other browsers on the list.
FF + AF does, not take anti-fingerprinting nearly as seriously. In it’s reference configuration, it will make fingerprinting more difficult but doesn’t go to the same extent that Mullvad or Tor Browser does, defeating advanced fingerprinting is out of scope for probably all of the recommended Browsers apart from Tor and Mullvad and even then only partially. This is because defeating advanced fingerprinting has a high cost, with respect to usability, customization, convenience, and so on.
The way that I think through the choice of Browser is by asking the question “is it important to be an anonymous face in the crowd for this?” if yes, then TBB or MB, if no then hardened Firefox, Brave, Librewolf are reasonable options. (other people have their own rules of thumb that differ from mine, another popular rule of thumb is to use MB for general browsing, and another option for browsing where you log in to accounts or otherwise don’t need to blend in to a crowd, this is stricter than my tule, it is more private, but less convenient).
An additional reason we encourage using Mullvad Browser in this case even though it’s “stricter” than necessary given your individual threat model is that the anti-fingerprinting protections provided by Mullvad/Tor Browser only work against advanced fingerprinting tactics if enough people use Mullvad/Tor Browser in the first place.
Making usage more commonplace overall is what enables this browser to be used when it’s important for you “to be an anonymous face in the crowd” in the future. Thus, the “use it when you don’t log in” advice.
You probably know this, but I’m noting it for anyone else reading
Great point. There is a communal benefit to using MB or TBB even when you don’t strictly need to (both in creating a bigger crowd to blend in with as well as in de-stigmatizing using these types of tools (the latter applies more to TBB than MB))
Thus, the “use it when you don’t log in” advice.
I earnestly tried and continue to try, it is still the approach that I aspire to. But for myself personally, so far, the convenience penalty has been too high, I haven’t been able to adapt my browsing habits to adjust to switching between browsers every time I want to login to an account. In part because logging into accounts isn’t something that is rare for me, I’m usually logged in to 3-4 accounts most of the time, so haven’t quite figured out a convenient way to keep this browsing separate from everything else without introducing a lot of friction. If anyone has tips on reducing the pain points/friction I would be grateful.
You probably know this, but I’m noting it for anyone else reading
I think it is always worthwhile to mention the communal and social benefits of a strategy or tool. Too often we overlook the non-individual benefits/costs. So I am glad you brought it up.
I’m not sure, maybe it’s just not compatible with what you do online. When I’m online what I’m mostly doing is searching the internet and reading articles, two things which don’t require authentication. If you’re mostly doing work in web apps (or doing less productive things like using social media lol) then maybe you just don’t do things other than that enough to warrant using a second browser.
I see these 3 options as roughly equivalent. I would encourage you to use one of the two Firefox based options, but that is somewhat of personal preference (plus the marginal communal good that comes from supporting a truly independent browser that is better insulated from Google’s shenanigans upstream).
There are really two separate questions contained withi nyour question:
Should you use Firefox or Brave?
If you use Firefox, should you configure yourself, use a ‘template’ for a stronger configuration like Arkenfox, or a derivative Browser like Librewolf or Mullvad Browser.
Do you have a preference for Firefox or Brave (in general)? If you have no strong preference choose Firefox (for the reason@HauntSanctuary pointed out as well as other reasons).
If you chose Firefox,then decide, whether you want to start with a profile that is pre-configured for very strong privacy and security (arkenfox) or you want to start with a default Firefox profile and harden yourself to your liking… (note that this second question does not need to be an either/or choice. Arkenfox is just a browser profile, you can have profiles for both vanilla Firefox and Arkenfox side by side in the same browser)
Ok, so I might use Firefox with your recommended Firefox configuration, minus Arkenfox, and Mullvad for read-only purposes. I assume when you say for websites that need to be logged in, this includes purchasing an item online, thus, I would use Firefox and not Mullvad in this scenario.
If Arkenfox can be used for logged in websites without issues, then I don’t see why I would not use it. But I will probably not understand how it works, aside from it adjusting settings.