What is Brave?
Brave is a free and open-source privacy centred browser used for surfing the web securely. Many people have begun to move away from the likes of Google Chrome, Opera and Microsoft Edge due to the fact that they collect a lot of data on their users and don’t offer many options for privacy.
Brave blocks all ads on every website and shows you how much loading time you have saved to date. For anonymity on the web, Brave also offers and option to browse the web using TOR in an incognito window. While this does offer increased security, if you want to be absolutely anonymous, you should use the TOR browser itself with a VPN and not through Brave.
Brave also includes the option for you to view their own ads while you browse, for which they will pay you. While they don’t pay much, literally a few cent here and there, it all adds up and it’s nice to get paid for viewing ads for a change. Today we will be reviewing Brave’s firewall and VPN option, which is a premium feature, and whether it is worth upgrading. This feature is currently only available to IOS users.
I have been using the Brave browser for a year now, and personally I love it. While it does lack features found on older browsers such as Chrome or Firefox, if makes up for in privacy controls. Brave blocks all trackers by default and sends “Do not track” along with all your browsing requests, which causes sites to load quicker due to the absence of trackers. Brave’s shield, which is the anti-tracker icon feature included in the browser, can be fully customized so you can block of allow as many features of a site as you like. This is useful as when visiting some sites, if the shield is blocking some scripts from running it may break the sites functionality. It is easy to turn on and off these features using an easy to access icon at the top right of the browser.
Brave claims to come with a built-in password manager, but really it is the same as any other web browser. Brave will save your login details for a site and autofill them for you next time you go to login to that site. This is a very basic feature and there are much better password manager solutions out there which can be integrated with Brave, I personally use LastPass.
A nice feature offered by Brave is the ability to import your settings from your old browser when changing to Brave. This will allow all of your old profiles to appear in a list, which saves time having to re-enter all that information if you’re like me and have multiple accounts.
Brave’s Firewall and VPN option offers the following features:
- Block all trackers across all apps
- Some examples of trackers blocked include cookies, ads, fingerprint attempts of your device or operating system, attempts from sites to use your devise sensors, scripts and cross site trackers. This is quite an extensive list and I can testify that it does a good job of blocking this list of trackers.
- Secure all online connections
- All online connection are secured using Guardian’s VPN service, meaning that any malicious actors listening on your network or even your service provider won’t be able to see your activity online.
- Fast and unlimited up to 100Mbps
- For those of you who may be new to networking, 100Mbps refers to the speed at which you can receive data to your computer not the total amount of data that you can receive under the VPN deal. 100Mbps is very fast and is more than fast enough for 99% of internet users.
- 24/7 support
Brave’s VPN and Firewall Security
While this is not a comprehensive review of Guardian’s VPN or Firewall offering, I think it is worthwhile to quickly go over the main security features in place since Brave relies on them for both their Firewall and VPN services.
One of the main things I like to see from a VPN provider is a no logs policy, and this can be seen with Guardian’s VPN. A no logs policy means they don’t track any of your online activity that you conduct while using their VPN servers. For privacy conscious people like me, this gives me piece of mind knowing that my data isn’t stored on any server. Guardian uses automatically generated identities to connect to their servers using the digital receipt stored on your device which means they use none of your personal information to establish the connection to their VPN servers.
Another feature I look for in a VPN provider is the kill switch feature, which can also be found with Guardian. The kill switch feature ensures that if the VPN connection drops for any reason, Guardian will cut off your internet connection on your computer immediately so that your real IP address doesn’t leak. This is an optional feature which can be enabled and is peace of mind that your real IP address is safe.
Connection through the Guardian VPN is encrypted using IKEv2/IPsec using 256- bit AES. This is the same level of security used by the military. Overall, I can’t fault their security and they seem to be reliable.
Why should I consider Braves Firewall and VPN?
Having a firewall and VPN is highly recommended in this day and age, especially with the increasing number of cyber security attacks.
A VPN encrypts all your traffic sent over a network so that any attackers listening on the network will not be able to see any of your data. This is especially useful when using public Wi-Fi where anyone can listen on anyone’s traffic. It is also very useful for placing your location in other countries, which can unlock content which may be restricted in your country such as BBC iPlayer or some Netflix shows.
A firewall is an essential piece of software for any computer. Most Antivirus solutions come with a firewall included, I personally use MacAfee which includes a firewall with their Antivirus offering. Since having some type of Antivirus software installed on your computer is necessary to keep your data safe, it begs the question as to whether you need to pay for Braves Firewall and VPN solution. If you already get a firewall with your Antivirus and there are cheaper dedicated VPN options available with more features, why pay for Braves package?
The bonus of using the Brave VPN is that it is much faster than Chrome or Safari, up to 8 times faster according to Braves website. Their site explains that they achieve these speeds by blocking ads and tracker from loading. Brave has a little icon on the browser which shows you how many trackers it has blocked. It is really eye opening how many trackers and cookies websites include in your browser when you visit them. After just 5 minutes of browsing Brave had blocked over 100 ads, trackers and cookies. Their site claims that by reducing page loading time and performance, battery and data consumption is reduced.
Brave also shows you how much time it saves by preventing these ads from loading. It’s interesting to see the most nefarious sites which include the most ads and trackers when you visit.
Another useful feature offered by Brave, the browser will also attempt to upgrade your connection to HTTPS if you attempt to connect to a site through HTTP. This is especially useful for sites which require users to enter login information or other sensitive data. While there are very few sites which connect using HTTP, it is useful in the case that you come across one.
How it works
The Brave Firewall and VPN is built into the Brave iPhone and iPad browser app, which means once you upgrade it is simple to turn on these extra protections. Once users subscribe, they will see a setting to enable the firewall in the app. Brave have created the firewall and VPN so that it not only works in the Brave browser, but also in any other app customers use on their iPhone or iPad. This is an interesting feature and a very useful one at that. This allows for a convenient layer of security across all of a user’s online activity which easy to turn on and off. Some applications may not work when using a VPN such as online banking, for security reasons, and so it is useful to be able to easily turn the VPN on and off.
The Brave Firewall and VPN is powered by Guardian, one of the top 10 VPN providers on the market. Brave say on their website that they chose Guardian due to “their strong stance on protection user privacy, its performance and its traffic accountability”.
Brave sends a user’s mobile traffic via an encrypted VPN connection to Guardian’s servers. Brave also state that customers will be able to connect to VPN servers without either Guardian or Brave learning about your identity. The way they do this is by using a “pseudonymous digital receipt” via the App Store to give users access to the VPN using “randomized, rotatable EAP identifiers to connect to VPN servers”.
The combination of a no logs policy, which doesn’t store any of your online activity, and the anonymous connection method to Guardian’s servers ensures complete privacy for your online activity.
Brave Browser Firewall and VPN Pros and Cons
- Privacy browser, VPN and Firewall all in one solution
- Secure VPN from a trusted provider
- Decreased loading times for webpages
- Blocks all trackers and ads
- Expensive for what they are offering
- VPN and Firewall limited to maximum of 5 devices
- Currently only works on IOS devices
While there is a 7-day free trial, the Firewall and VPN package is a premium feature which is available for $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year, which is a saving of 16%. This package can be purchased via an In-App purchase from the Brave iPhone/iPad app. The package allows the Firewall to be used on up to 5 devices at a time. Availability for this package on other platforms such as Android and Windows, is set to be rolled out later this year.
On Guardian VPN’s website the cheapest package they offer comes in at £3.95 for one device. If you got this VPN, used the brave browser and have an Antivirus installed which includes a firewall offering (which most of them do), you would have the same level of protection for better value. The total cost might be a bit more expensive if you are paying for an Antivirus plan, but it is much better value for money as you get a full Antivirus suite, which isn’t included with Brave.
If however you want a family plan for a VPN, Brave’s package does work out cheaper. Based on Guardian VPN’s site their family plan comes in at £12.95 a month if you want to use the Guardian VPN on more than 2 devices. In this case, it works out cheaper to go with Brave’s package for VPN coverage on five devices.
Another thing to consider is the firewall coverage offered by Brave. Depending on your VPN provider, they may not offer firewall protection for Android or IOS devices. If firewall coverage for mobile devices is important to you and you are looking for a VPN, then the Brave package might be the one for you.
I feel this is quite expensive for a Firewall and VPN package. In this day and age, with an increasing number of sophisticated cyber-attacks, everybody should have an Antivirus installed on their computer for protection. Many Antivirus vendors also include a Firewall as part of their security package. Since everybody should have an Antivirus installed on their computer, paying for a brave upgrade to use their firewall is a bit redundant. Some Antivirus vendors, such as MacAfee, also include a VPN option with their plans. While it won’t be the fastest or most comprehensive VPN, it is included in their plan and may be sufficient for most people.
Another thing to consider is that Guardian VPN currently offers their VPN for any operating system, whereas Brave’s offering only works for IOS at the moment. While there is an update to Brave so that it works on all platforms coming later this year, if you are looking for a VPN for your Android or Windows device now, it could just be easier to buy a separate dedicated VPN and use it alongside the Brave browser.
On the subject of the VPN option of the Brave browser, there are a number of great dedicated VPN providers with much more features included in them. I use Surfshark VPN and I find them fantastic for available servers, the number of available countries which you can change your location to and network speeds. I bought Surfshark for 3 years for €60, which is €20 a year. This plan allows me to use the VPN on an unlimited number of devices. For the price of a year of using Surfshark, you would only be able to use the Brave VPN for 2 months.
Overall, while Brave is a great choice for a secure and privacy centred browser, I don’t believe it is worth subscribing for their premium Firewall and VPN package.