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Mozilla VPN Review | PCMag

The best argument for the Firefox browser (besides it just being, you know, a good browser) has always been that it has no profit motive. Mozilla, the company that owns Firefox and associated projects, is a nonprofit and can, in theory, put user privacy first and fight back against surveillance capitalism. That theory is put to the test with Mozilla VPN, a repackaging of Mullvad’s excellent VPN. With Mozilla VPN, you get strong privacy protection, and your fee supports one of the internet’s good guys in the process. The catch is that costs significantly more than Mullvad VPN, and Mozilla VPN doesn’t have any of that service’s additional privacy features. Still, if all you need is a guilt-free, solid VPN, then Mozilla’s offering does just fine.

How Much Does Mozilla VPN Cost?

In terms of functionality, Mozilla VPN does what all VPNs do: It encrypts all your internet traffic and pipes it securely to a remote server. This means that anyone watching your online activities, including your ISP, won’t be able to see what you’re up to. VPNs also help preserve your privacy by hiding your IP address (and thus your physical location), which makes it harder for advertisers to track your movements online.

Mozilla VPN is not, strictly speaking, wholly a Mozilla project like Firefox. Instead of building and maintaining the infrastructure required for a consumer VPN, Mozilla found another company to partner with. During Mozilla’s earliest forays into the world of VPNs, Mozilla courted Editors’ Choice-winner ProtonVPN. The final product, dubbed Mozilla VPN, is actually powered by another Editors’ Choice winner: Mullvad VPN. Mozilla is not alone in making this kind of arrangement. Bitdefender, for example, partnered with Hotspot Shield VPN for its VPN product.

A monthly account with Mozilla VPN costs $9.99 per month. That’s a good price coming in just below the $10.11 per-month average we’ve seen across the VPNs we’ve tested. It’s still a bit too pricey to be considered one of the best cheap VPNs, however. Froot VPN and Kaspersky Secure Connection are tied for the most affordable for-pay monthly subscription, at $4.99 per month. Mozilla’s is, interestingly, also quite a bit more than Mullvad’s €5 price tag.

Most VPNs offer a discount for longer subscriptions, and Mozilla is no different. A six-month Mozilla VPN subscription costs $47.94, and a one-year subscription just $59.88. That’s significantly less than the $70.06 per year we’ve seen across the services we’ve reviewed. We advise against starting out with a long-term subscription and instead suggest that readers try a short-term plan to make sure the VPN will work with all the sites and services they frequently use.

Note that Mozilla VPN was initially on sale for $4.99 per month, but that price is no longer available. Customers who enrolled before the pricing change can continue to pay that monthly rate, but new customers aren’t so lucky. Mozilla pointed out that the annual subscription works out to $4.99 when divided across 12 months, but it still requires up-front payment for the whole year.

VPN is connected

There are some free VPNs worth considering. Most, like the Editors’ Choice-winning TunnelBear VPN, place a data limit on free subscribers. ProtonVPN, on the other hand, places no data limit on free users and has an affordable, tiered pricing system that takes some of the pain out of upgrading.

Purchasing a Mozilla VPN subscription is a bit different than with other VPNs. First, you’ll need a Firefox account, even if you don’t plan on ever using that vulpine browser. Editors’ Choice winners Mullvad and IVPN don’t require any personal information and use randomly generated numbers to identify accounts for added privacy. Those services also let you purchase a subscription anonymously, with cash sent to their respective HQs, while Mozilla VPN limits you to major credit cards. Mozilla also does not support payments made via cryptocurrency.

What Do You Get for Your Money With Mozilla?

A Mozilla VPN subscription lets you use up to five devices simultaneously. That’s the average across the services we’ve reviewed, but a growing number of services are doing away with this limitation entirely. Avira Phantom VPN, Encrypt.me VPN, Ghostery Midnight, IPVanish VPN, Editors’ Choice winner Surfshark VPN, and Windscribe VPN place no limit on the number of simultaneous connections. 

Editors’ Note: Encrypt.me and IPVanish VPN are owned by J2 Global, which also owns PCMag’s publisher Ziff Davis.

Given Mozilla VPN’s association with Mullvad VPN, it’s surprising to find that it has few additional features. For example, Mozilla VPN does not provide push-button access to the Tor Anonymization network. A VPN isn’t required to access Tor, which is a free service, but it is convenient. Mozilla VPN also does not support multi-hop VPN connections, which route your web traffic through a second VPN server to ensure that your data is secure. 

Speed chart

On Android, Mozilla VPN supports split-tunneling. This lets you define which apps send their traffic through the VPN connection and which do not. It’s useful for high-bandwidth, but low-security activities like streaming media or gaming. Unfortunately, this feature isn’t yet available on other platforms. Notably, Editors’ Choice winners NordVPN and ProtonVPN are the only VPNs we’ve reviewed that offer multi-hop, split tunneling, and access to Tor.

Many other VPNs block ads and trackers to some extent, but Mozilla VPN does not. Considering that Mozilla’s Firefox has excellent ad and tracker blocking built-in, this is less of an issue. We recommend using both the privacy features of your browser and a stand-alone tracker blocker such as the EFF’s Privacy Badger.

Increasingly, VPN companies are expanding their offerings into larger suites of security and privacy products. Hotspot Shield VPN, for instance, now offers an antivirus tool in addition to several other privacy services. Mozilla has always emphasized open-source standards and respecting customer privacy, even in non-security projects like the storied Thunderbird mail client and the Hubs VR meeting space. After Firefox and Mozilla VPN, the company’s most explicitly security-focused products are the Lockwise password manager and Firefox Monitor, which warns you if your personal information appears in data breaches. 

It’s important to remember that while VPNs are useful tools for protecting your privacy, they aren’t the solution to every problem. We highly recommend enabling multifactor authentication wherever it’s available, using a password manager to create unique and complex passwords for every site and service, and installing standalone antivirus software on your machines.

VPN Protocols

VPNs are not a new technology, and several methods for creating a VPN connection have been developed over the years. The OpenVPN protocol has long been our preferred VPN protocol as it is open-source and can thus be scrutinized for vulnerabilities. The latest open-source hotness is the WireGuard VPN protocol, which has newer technology and promises faster speeds. We’re glad to see this innovation in the VPN space.

Mullvad VPN has fully embraced WireGuard and Mozilla VPN likewise supports WireGuard on all platforms.

Servers and Server Locations

Mullvad VPN, and, by extension, Mozilla VPN, has VPN servers in 37 countries. That’s below the average among services we’ve examined, and the list of locations isn’t as varied as we’d like to see. For example, there’s only one server location for all of South America and none for the entirety of Africa. If you plan on using a VPN in those (enormous) chunks of the globe, you’ll have to connect to a very distant server, which can potentially degrade the quality of your connection. Mozilla VPN has servers in Hong Kong, but not other countries with repressive internet policies such as Russia, Turkey, and Vietnam. ExpressVPN does a far better job covering the globe with its server fleet.

Server list

The Mozilla VPN product site refers you to Mullvad’s list of servers, which is actually an excellent decision. This interactive list shows every server, where it’s located, whether it’s owned or leased, and much more. It’s a simple act of transparency that other VPN companies should emulate.

Mozilla VPN currently offers 400 servers, which is far fewer than most competitors. It’s even fewer servers than Mullvad VPN, which boasts 764 total, and far fewer than the 7,000-odd servers from CyberGhost. That said, a large fleet of servers does not necessarily ensure good performance. If we had to guess, we’d say that Mozilla’s modest offering has a lot more to do with being a relative newcomer, with fewer subscribers.

Virtual servers are software-defined, meaning that a single hardware server can play host to numerous virtual ones. A virtual location is any server that’s been configured to appear as if it were somewhere other than where it is physically located. Neither is inherently problematic, but we prefer services that are transparent about where their infrastructure is located. Mullvad told us it only uses dedicated servers, not virtual ones, and that none of its locations are virtual.

Mullvad does not use RAM-only servers (also called diskless servers). As the name implies, these are servers that do not store any information to disk. The company says this is not an issue since it gathers no information about customers. Other companies, such as NordVPN and ExpressVPN, made the transition on the grounds that these servers are resistant to tampering.

Your Privacy With Mozilla VPN

If a VPN company desired, it could intercept all the information that passes through its servers and then hand that information over to the highest bidder, or it could be compelled to give it to law enforcement. That’s why it’s so important to understand the privacy protections of any VPN service you’re considering using. 

In the process of reviewing Mozilla VPN, we read through the company’s privacy policy. We found it to be surprisingly clear and readable as well as remarkably thorough. When we reviewed Mullvad VPN, we wrote, “Mullvad tackles the thorny issue of privacy with radical transparency, setting an example for others to follow in its privacy policy.” This is still true, and it speaks to the quality of privacy and transparency customers should expect from Mozilla VPN, as well.

What’s more obscure is how these services work together. For example, Mullvad has virtually no information about its customers because of its account system that requires no personal information, it just issues you an account number. Mozilla VPN builds on Firefox Accounts, which requires a verified email address and retains such information as the devices where you are using any Mozilla service connected to your Firefox account. It’s possible that in a few areas at least, you should expect more privacy from using Mullvad on its own than with Mozilla VPN, but many other VPNs use systems similar to Mozilla’s. NordVPN, for instance, now has a suite of products available under Nord accounts.

But the difference between Mozilla VPN and Mullvad VPN may be negligible since Mozilla is no slouch when it comes to privacy. A company representative told us that Mozilla does not gather or share customer’s network activity. Nor does it sell customer data. That’s excellent.

Disconnected VPN

In its privacy policy, Mozilla explains that user IP addresses are received during account creation and when customers use Mozilla VPN. This is to find the user’s approximate location, because Mozilla VPN is not available in every country. A Mozilla representative told PCMag, “GeoIP results are not stored and are computed at run time using a Geo-IP database.” We appreciate Mozilla’s transparency and that it explains how this temporary information is used.

Mozilla VPN is owned by the Mozilla Corporation, which is part of the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. It is based in the US and operates under US law. Mullvad is owned by Amagicom AB, is based in Sweden and operates under Swedish law. Because the Mozilla Foundation is a nonprofit, it publishes extensive information on its internal process and governance.

Mozilla issues a transparency report for all of its products and does acknowledge providing some information to law enforcement when compelled by subpoena. While it’s disappointing that any information is provided, it’s far less than other major tech companies. A representative described the information retained by Mozilla as scant. “As Mozilla VPN does not log, track, or share your online activity, the information that we do collect only allows us to provision the service to our customers and understand how our customers as a whole interact with the product.” This is similar to other VPN products.

Many VPN companies have begun issuing the results of third-party audits in order to establish their security and privacy bona fides. TunnelBear VPN is a stand-out example, issuing extensive audits annually. Audits are imperfect tools, but we believe they are a valuable demonstration of a company’s commitment to privacy. Early in 2021, Mullvad released the results of an audit of its infrastructure, meaning that Mozilla VPN customers should have the same assurance. A Mozilla representative told us that the company is currently working toward a third-party audit of its apps, which would complete the overall picture. We look forward to those results, but the Mullvad audit provides adequate information.

Hands On With Mozilla VPN on Windows

We had no trouble installing Mozilla VPN on an Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) desktop running the latest version of Windows 10. Getting started with Mozilla VPN required first logging into our Firefox Account. That’s very different from Mullvad VPN, which uses a randomly generated code to identify users and doesn’t bother with a password. Mozilla tells us its VPN is available for Android, iOS, macOS, Ubuntu Linux, and Windows.

The app is extremely simple, built around a grey window with bold accent colors that are reminiscent of Firefox’s current design and branding. We dig the bold pinks, purples, and oranges, which give the app a lot of visual sizzle in the same-y world of VPN apps. It’s a great improvement over Mullvad VPN’s weirdly cramped desktop app. That said, TunnelBear still has the market cornered on friendly design with its simple interface, bold yellows, and friendly bears.

A toggle in the center of the window gets you online quickly. Once you’re connected, the app transforms to a striking purple, so it’s easy to tell when the VPN is active. Click this central card and the app displays your current network activity. The colorful chart is not particularly useful, but it is nice to look at.

Clicking on Select Location brings up a list of available server locations is organized by country, and you can expand each option to see the available cities. You can’t actually choose a specific server—just a region—which is disappointing. Mullvad VPN does allow you to drill down to individual servers.

One quirk is that the app displays all the devices where you’ve logged in to Mozilla VPN. Most VPNs limit you to simultaneous connections, but Mozilla limits the overall number of installations. We’re not fans of this model but it’s easy to free up slots and does allow you to easily log out of devices remotely.

List of devices

Given that Mozilla VPN has so few additional features, it’s not surprising that it has few settings. In fact, there are only two options: Enable IPv6 (on by default) and Local Network Access (off by default). The latter is useful if you want to connect your device to other machines on your network, like a streaming box or a network printer. In our testing, we confirmed that Mozilla VPN changed our public IP address and hid our ISP information.

Netflix is notorious for blocking access from VPNs, presumably to protect its regional streaming arrangements. In our testing, we found that we could only stream Netflix Originals content while connected to a Mozilla VPN server in the US. That’s disappointing, but it could also change at a moment’s notice. Streaming Netflix over a VPN is tricky.

Network settings

Speed and Performance

Using a VPN will almost certainly reduce your upload and download speeds and increase your latency. To get a sense of that impact, we run a series of Ookla Speedtest tests with and without the VPN running. We then find the percent change between the median result of each set. You can read more about our processes in our article on How We Test VPNs.

Editors’ Note: Ookla is owned by J2 Global, which owns PCMag’s publisher Ziff Davis.

In our testing, we found that Mozilla VPN reduced download speeds by 26.5% and upload speeds by 20.9%. Those are both strong scores. Its latency performance was less impressive, but by no means bad: Mozilla VPN increased latency by 57.1%. 

Because of our limited access to the PCMag Labs, we’ve decided to move to a rolling testing model and update readers with a running list of results as we test VPNs. You can see the latest results in the table below, as well as the current median result for each category.

Keep in mind that speeds can vary greatly, depending on location, time of day, and many other factors. Our speed testing is intended as a snapshot for comparison between services, not as an overall evaluation of a service’s performance. We also discourage readers from focusing on speed. Features, price, and privacy protections are far more valuable.

A Worthy Cause

Like its Firefox browser, Mozilla VPN is eminently accessible to anyone. It’s cheaper per month than most New York City cocktails and has a snazzy but straightforward design that’s easily grasped. Someone without any technical knowledge can get online fast with full VPN protection. But, while Firefox is simple, it’s also extremely powerful and customizable software, and Mozilla VPN isn’t. Mozilla’s VPN lacks the advanced privacy features found among the best competitors. Even Mullvad VPN, the company that provides Mozilla VPN’s infrastructure, offers more features, at nearly the same price.

While it is assuredly a good VPN, Mozilla VPN’s best qualities lie in its associations. Mozilla has, for decades, been an outspoken proponent of privacy, open-source technology, web standards, and the concept that the benefits of the internet should be shared by everyone. It’s also a nonprofit, removing it (somewhat) from the muck and grime of both big tech and the VPN industry. Like all companies, Mozilla is not perfect and has received fair criticism at times. Still, it’s as close as you can get to knowing that the money you spend on a VPN is going toward a good cause.

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