Technology has connected us in ways that we never imagined, but it also has made our privacy more vulnerable than ever. Our personal information, confidential documents and private conversations can be intercepted by online fraudsters, large corporations and government organizations. Although they have different purposes when accessing this data, what really matters is that they are all invading our privacy. Unfortunately, that is not the only concern for internet users. Censorship is another enemy of online freedom and it affects us all in one way or another.
You may live in a country where access to internet is limited by local authorities, or you ISP may apply filters that prevent you to access certain websites and services. A VPN is a powerful weapon in the fight against online censorship and surveillance, but it is important to choose wisely. While you will find many options that claim to protect your privacy and to give you freedom to access any website you want, there are only some VPN services that truly live up to these promises.
Mullvad is a Swedish provider that aims to offer the most reliable solution for keeping your privacy protected and unblocking content online. Although data retention laws apply in Sweden, VPNs are not subject to these regulations. More importantly, Mullvad is committed to safeguard the anonymity and online freedom of their customers. These are only a few reasons to consider Mullvad and we will go through them in this review.
Mullvad is supported by a small team, but that doesn’t mean that their service is less efficient or dependable. While they provide a solid VPN solution, their approach is very simple and this is noticeable in many aspects, starting with the website. Instead of trying to attract customers with a fancy website, Mullvad has opted for a plain, easy to navigate site that keeps the focus on the service itself. Simplicity is also a crucial part of the setting up process and since you are not required to enter your name or email address, your anonymity stays intact.
To sign up for Mullvad, you just need to complete a CAPTCHA verification and an account number will be automatically generated. This number is the only information you need to access Mullvad and you have the possibility of trying the service for free for three hours. All you have to do is to download the client software that suits your Operating system (there are options for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux) and you will be able to start your free trial. Instructions are also available to set up their service on Android and iOS devices.
The protocols supported by Mullvad are OpenVPN, the best technology to use when the security of your data is your main concern and PPTP, which is not as secure, but it works well for mobile devices and tasks that require better speed, like streaming. The website provides useful instructions to configure the service according to the right option for your needs. Apart from being compatible with Windows PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android tablet and phone, Mullvad can also be set up with a DD-WRT router. You can connect to up to 3 devices at the same time, using the same account.
The custom clients are based on the same open source code, which would make them able to work with any platform. The desktop version of Mullvad includes features like internet kill switch, which automatically closes download applications in case the VPN connection is lost. DNS Leak protection ensures that your actual IP address is never revealed. The tests carried on Mullvad showed that it offers effective defence against DNS leaks, even if the option is not active. In addition, Mullvad offers IPv6 tunnelling and Port forwarding, which is an effective solution to bypass firewalls.
One month of service costs €5 (around $6) and there is a variety of payment options available including Bitcoin, another great way to preserve your anonymity online. You can even send cash in an envelope addressed to Amagicom AB’s (the company behind Mullvad) headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden. This is another measure used by Mullvad to help you to keep your true identity protected. Mullvad gives you flexibility to decide for how long you want to use the service. You can set up a subscription for a full year, or pay only for a week, or a month.
In terms of security, Mullvad aims to offer a solid method to prevent that your personal data is intercepted by third parties. It uses 128-bit Blowfish-CBC encryption, using 2048-bit keys and SHA-1 hash authentication. While this would be generally safe enough, it is not the highest standard of encryption and will disappoint those who won’t settle for anything less than top level protection for their data. That being said, the fact that Mullvad is strongly committed to safeguard your privacy is something that cannot be dismissed.
Since data retention laws are not applied to VPN providers in Sweden (only ISPs and phone companies are subject to them), Mullvad is not required to keep any kind of logs. The provider doesn’t hold information about its customers’ identity and doesn’t monitor their online activity, which means that even if they received a legal request to hand over data, they wouldn’t be able to do so. There are not records to share at all, making Mullvad an ideal solution for anyone who wants to remain anonymous online to protect their privacy.
Location and Performance.
Unfortunately Mullvad has a very limited selection of servers and locations. Currently, Mullvad users can only connect to servers in Germany, United States, Netherlands and Sweden. While these locations will support most services and will allow you to change your location to protect your identity, you would not be able to access content from BBC iPlayer or 4oD, as they are only available in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, although P2P is supported, you shouldn’t connect to servers in Germany or The US while using torrent applications. This means that your online experience will be less versatile than with other providers.
Mullvad is mainly focused on providing a VPN service that can effectively protect your privacy. While the security technology is not the most advanced, it offers a good level of defence against eavesdropping. Mullvad’s service is quite basic and compared to other options, it is not as versatile, which may hamper your experience if you are mainly looking to download or stream content online. Nevertheless, Mullvad is strongly recommended for users who want a reliable VPN provider that does everything in its power to enable you to remain truly anonymous online.