LibreWolf: Review and tips on the browser that wants to be more secure than Firefox

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Like the ProjectLibre program, LibreWolf has nothing to do with LibreOffice – but with data protection. We subjected the application to a critical look.

The relatively young software “LibreWolf” has nothing to do with LibreOffice, but is related to Firefox: both are open source; LibreWolf is based on Firefox. The new browser wants to be more discreet in crucial places.

Surf the web with a high level of data protection

If you want to surf the web with a high level of data protection, Firefox is the right choice. This is not the case with other web browsers such as Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge – especially since both are proprietary, i.e. closed in the source code and therefore not open source. Firefox has sensible privacy features and profiles and doesn’t have the extensive data leaks reportedly experienced by Google Chrome in particular. Google already has a lot of information from Internet users, in addition to details supplied by the search engine, there are also details transmitted by the browser. Microsoft Edge, like Firefox and Chrome, is relatively safe due to security gaps in terms of malware protection that have been closed quite quickly. But the privacy of web surfers is also not very important to Microsoft: Similar to Google Chrome, data leaks to the provider. Although not to Google, Microsoft de-googled the Chromium fork “Edge”. However, Microsoft incorporates a piece of the data cake – keyword telemetry. The Firefox web browser stands out positively and has the better reputation here.

Firefox isn’t perfect

The Germans are said to consider data protection to be particularly important. And in this country Firefox is more common than in other countries. Both go well together. But Firefox isn’t perfect either: Mozilla does a lot of things right, but doesn’t fully exploit the privacy focus in terms of settings. The Google search engine is rooted here, which is typical for browser providers, and other points are added. By default, the search represents a gain in convenience, but alternative services often offer more protection. Google doesn’t do it any better with Chrome with its own search as the default search engine in the URL bar, the Brave Browser, for example, does not rely on Google, but on Brave Search (as with the Chrome provider, the service is used in-house ). Microsoft’s Bing in Edge, like Google, is not particularly privacy-friendly.

Increased surfing protection with LibreWolf

LibreWolf wants to make a better Firefox in terms of discretion: The application is based on the user’s favorite for web navigation. The creators of LibreWolf implement some things differently. The differences to the browser mainstream make it clear: the new client doesn’t want to howl with the wolves. The saying goes that one joins the crowd (of people or products) to avoid trouble. Such an adaptation is not the case here. With the internet companion, you get increased surfing protection, but you have to swallow a few convenience toads.

Maybe they aren’t that bad? And where exactly are the advantages and special features of the web client? We have asked the application to a test computer and highlight some important points below. To spoil the spoiler: LibreWolf is more privacy-conscious than Firefox, but those who don’t want to get used to it won’t see it as the better browser. As a second website display solution, the Firefox fork is usually more than just useful. The situation is similar with Opera or the Tor browser, which in turn is based on Firefox ESR and enriches the code basis of this company browser with IP anonymization and the “NoScript” protection add-on.

Features of LibreWolf

  • Privacy and Security Features
  • Anti-fingerprinting
  • Ad and tracker blocking
  • WebRTC leak protection
  • First-party isolation
  • HTTPS Everywhere
  • DNS over HTTPS

LibreWolf in the test: A good web browser?

Firefox is in German, LibreWolf is in English. Both browsers are based on the 64-bit architecture. Running in parallel at the same time is not a problem, so you (and we for this article) can better compare the siblings. In terms of surface, the applications look alike at first glance, like identical twins. Anyone who has been able to use Firefox so far will not face any usability challenges with LibreWolf, despite its language localization, and the handling should go smoothly.

But wait, there is a subtle divergence: New tabs websites (they act as the start page and are visible when you press Ctrl-T) show content sponsored by Firefox and websites recommended by the Internet service Pocket. LibreWolf omits that. With Firefox, you may see the whole thing as a quality-of-life feature if you don’t view the enrichments as fundamentally negative. Anyone who views all this critically can get rid of it with Firefox; In this case, LibreWolf shines by not bothering you in the first place.

Enter a search term in the address bar, search Firefox with Google (can be changed), LibreWolf uses the alternative DuckDuckGo, which is considered data protection friendly. The service often also displays good search results. DuckDuckGo is not completely impractical, but it is likely to be even more of a thorn in the side of those who struggle with something new than LibreWolf’s foreign-language user interface. The search can be changed in the browser settings, a drop-down menu gives you the choice of whether you want to be content with Wikipedia, DuckDuckGo Lite, MetaGer, SearXNG or StartPage instead of DuckDuckGo. In particular, it is impractical that primarily Google and Bing are missing and secondarily Yahoo is left out. These are data octopus search engines, but they have their staunch followers. Retrofitting Google is not self-explanatory and could be the motivation for some to uninstall LibreWolf.

Unlike Firefox and its Google, LibreWolf does not show any auto-completion for search queries in the URL bar: DuckDuckGo obviously does not receive any data that you type in for research and then perhaps discard, since you do not send it explicitly because you did not press the enter key.

A practical convenience feature: You can turn on the insertion of text by clicking the mouse wheel. This puts LibreWolf on par with Linux Ubuntu and Kubuntu as well as the Chromium-based Cent Browser.

 LibreWolf is like Firefox minus a pinch of Mozilla and Google

The LibreWolf settings (about:preferences) use the same URL syntax as Firefox with the text after the hash sign, but do without the Firefox settings menu items “Synchronization” and “Mozilla more”. Nevertheless, Firefox Sync is on board, i.e. the familiar Firefox function for synchronizing browser configuration data (bookmarks, add-ons, history) over the Internet from PC to PC. This allows you to surf on different devices with an identical data set. Sync must be explicitly switched on here, after which a LibreWolf restart is required.

In the LibreWolf settings (about:preferences#general), the language can be changed to German in the “Language” area via the drop-down menu without having to retrofit an add-on. Among other things, there is a factory setting (about:preferences#privacy) that LibreWolf should delete cookies and website data when the application is closed. Firefox leaves this content by default. Website pop-up blocking is enabled in both Firefox and LibreWolf, but the HTTPS-only mode that enforces TLS transport encryption is only enabled in LibreWolf (Firefox can be touched up by putting a dot).

Sending a general do-not-track request, i.e. asking websites not to track you, is not pre-enabled in either Firefox or LibreWolf; each of which can be remedied.

The default configuration is not dramatic here or there, since the omission of tracking is voluntary anyway and the “please don’t” request turns out to be a mostly toothless tiger.

Far advanced tracking blocking ambitions

The makers of LibreWolf turn on advanced tracking protection. Firefox has three levels against snooping website elements: “Standard”, “Strict” and “Custom”. LibreWolf leaves you no choice here and already pulls out all the stops “out of the box” like Fort Knox. In contrast to Mozilla, the LibreWolf developers have deactivated Firefox’s own password manager. According to experts, web surfers are better off with external solutions anyway; the disabled switch in question is called “Ask to save logins and passwords for websites”.

Firefox add-ons can be installed, which is useful for NoScript, for example. LibreWolf already has an extension on board: uBlock Origin – suitable for keeping page tracking elements and drive-by downloads away. The Brave Browser and Opera are equipped with a comparable function.

While Firefox makes use of Google Safe Browsing for phishing filters, namely “Block dangerous and fraudulent content”, LibreWolf does not have an equivalent menu item in the “Privacy & Security” settings segment. On librewolf.net, those responsible state that they regard disabling Safe Browsing as a censorship concern. Apart from that, Safe Browsing is still a good security tool and Mozilla’s implementation respects privacy.

If browser add-ons such as McAfee WebAdvisor do not filter something like this, the browser will take care of it with the right setting. Firefox did that in the test, LibreWolf didn’t. Tip: Alternatively, use one of the various add-ons from antivirus providers that also block malicious websites from loading; see the article “Browse antivirus protection: antivirus plug-ins”.

LibreWolf in the test: summary and alternatives

We have collected a few short facts about the browser in this list:

  • Confidential enough to not worry about the security of personal data
  • For the full implementation of “your security” you need to configure the browser
  • There are all the necessary technologies and functions for a complete technology stack.
  • Not popular enough
  • Something between Mozilla Firefox and Tor browser
  • Slightly inferior in terms of convenience to popular browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Brave. Chromium
  • A fairly niche product that will “find” its user.

LibreWolf isn’t all that different from Firefox. It is therefore quite pleasant to work with. Restrictively selected protection settings ex works, paired with a relevant alternative web search (DuckDuckGo), result in a respectable overall package after changing the language of the application. Adjusting the original Firefox to achieve a similar level of security is no longer necessary. Disadvantages are the lack of phishing protection and (as with the Chromium fork “SRWare Icon”) no auto-updates. Experts who don’t mind and update manually or with a package manager may warm to LibreWolf. Package manager means in the case of Windows 11: Winget. So you enter “winget upgrade –all” in a command line, and the OS will update all supported applications, including LibreWolf, silently – i.e. conveniently via the Internet, since there is no additional user interaction.

How safe is LibreWolf?

How safe is LibreWolf? If you take care of updates, you should be safe online from malware. The application implements security features convincingly, as a browser comparison such as https://privacytests.org/ shows. Some competitors perform significantly worse there.

PC professionals may feel attracted to LibreWolf, beginners prefer to avoid the project due to security flaws (auto-updates and phishing protection are missing). Firefox expert Sören Hetzschel’s criticism was devastating.

An alternative is the Tor Browser

An alternative is the Tor Browser, which exchanges your IP (at a lower surfing speed) and does not even create a history; LibreWolf deletes them when the browser is closed. Another alternative to LibreWolf, at least in relation to its configuration: soften the protection a bit for more convenience. Setting changes make it possible.

So don’t use the client as it is ready-made, but rather with a Google search (subjectively better than DuckDuckGo). You can add Google in the about:preferences#search settings section or in the drop-down menu there by going to https://www.google.com/homepage/search/sp-firefox.html in LibreWolf Right-click in the address bar and select “Add Google”. The difficulty of changing some settings in LibreWolf is an advantage: a computer layman can hardly look out for configuration switches that would tear holes in the protection – experts can do this. The latter know what to do and what to look for in the graphical configuration menu in order to specifically increase comfort.

Incidentally, the Linux distribution “Garuda Linux” based on Arch Linux comes with a LibreWolf blend at the start. The fork software is called “FireDragon” and is based on LibreWolf. For Windows users, using the separate LibreWolf download is more viable.

FAQ

Q. Is LibreWolf completely free?

A. Yes, LibreWolf is completely free and open-source.

Q. Can I import my bookmarks from another browser?

A. Yes, you can import bookmarks from other browsers by going to the “Bookmarks” menu and selecting “Show All Bookmarks.” From there, you can select “Import and Backup” and choose “Import Bookmarks from HTML.”

Q. How do I enable DNS-over-HTTPS?

A. To enable DNS-over-HTTPS, go to the “Preferences” menu and select “General.” Scroll down to the “Network Settings” section and click “Settings.” Under the “Enable DNS over HTTPS” option, select your preferred DNS provider.

Summary

LibreWolf is a privacy-focused web browser that offers many advantages over other popular browsers. Its built-in privacy and security features, as well as support for Firefox add-ons, make it a great choice for anyone who values their online privacy. By following our tips and best practices, you can enhance your online security and stay protected while browsing the web. Give LibreWolf a try and experience the benefits for yourself!

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