2022 Review: Mullvad VPN
What is Mullvad VPN?
A VPN is a service that creates an encrypted tunnel between the device and the provider's server, protecting all your traffic from prying eyes along the way like your ISP or whoever owns the router (think public Wi-Fi, for example). After reaching the provider's server, your traffic continues on to your desired destination like normal. Mullvad is one such service, very popular in the privacy community for their low price and lack of required data at signup.
Why Do You Need a VPN?
You may not, to be honest. I recommend you check out IVPN's site “Do I Need a VPN?” here). A lot of people really hype VPNs as one of those absolutely, must-have, life-changing things that will solve all your problems. In all honesty, while I do believe that VPNs are an essential piece of your privacy strategy, there are many other free or low-cost strategies that will give you significantly more protection. A VPN these days pretty much only has two purposes: changing your IP address and protecting your traffic from local snoops. Changing your IP address is a valuable part of avoiding tracking, but it’s just one way and a VPN won’t protect you against those others like browser fingerprinting, tracking pixels, cookies, and more. Likewise, while it can be great to protect your traffic from your Internet Service Provider or a local cybercriminal, from a security perspective you’re already pretty well covered so long as you enable your browser’s HTTPS-Only mode and make sure you’re using the correct sites and not spoofed or phishing sites. Having said all that, I do still consider a VPN to be a critical part of your privacy and security posture if you can afford one. It can bypass censorship, stop your ISP from selling your browsing data, help obscure your IP address from tracking and logging, and protect your traffic from local attackers.
Why Not Tor?
Some people prefer Tor over VPNs. Tor is definitely right in certain situations, but not all of them. For one, many essential services – like banks – block known Tor IP addresses to prevent fraud and abuse, making using those services nearly impossible. Second, Tor loses almost – if not – all of its anonymity once you login to something. If you login to your email and then your Reddit account in the same session, they’re now tied to together and you’ve lost your anonymity benefit. For this reason, I recommend reputable VPNs for any services that are tied to your real identity or sensitive and Tor for random searches or accounts that are not tied to your real identity.
Mullvad has a lot of things to like. For starters, they require absolutely no identifying information to sign up. You are assigned a randomly-generated account number, you add however many months you want to your account (or sign up for an ongoing, indefinite account), and you download the app for the device you wish to protect. That simple. When it comes to buying time, you can pay with Bitcoin, Monero, privacy.com cards, or even cash!
The price is another popular selling point for many people. Most VPN providers offer tiers that give you different features for different prices – access to more servers, better speeds, or things like P2P servers for using Bittorrent and other services, for example. Mullvad doesn't do this. They offer only a single plan at a (in my opinion) very reasonable €5/month. Most people reading this have €5/month to burn, and the fact that Mullvad is committed to offering a full-service VPN at a consistent price point is admirable. They never do sales and they don't do any kind of a. Five Euros, no matter what. I admire that level of consistency.
Mullvad is based in Sweden. This is a double-edged sword in my opinion, but let's start with the good stuff. Sweden gone out of their way to build in strong consumer privacy laws. In addition to being accountable to the GDPR, Sweden has also determined that VPNs do not count as telecommunications providers and therefore are not subject to the usual wiretapping and surveillance laws and practices. Mullvad has an entire page here outlining all the various legal protections in place that make Sweden a good thing for VPNs.
Mullvad offers servers in 38 countries, and (as far as I can tell) uses very strong, state of the art security measures (see “The technical stuff” here). In a speedtest, I saw a ping of 34ms, a download speed of 76.73 Mbps, and an upload speed of 177.98 Mbps. Your results will vary based on your harware, ISP, and plan.
Truthfully there's not much bad to say about Mullvad. My biggest concern with the service is their base of operations: Sweden is part of the 14-Eyes intelligence sharing agreement. Even if they do have good privacy laws in place, they as a country have – by entering into that agreement – expressed a level of comfort with secret surveillance intelligence sharing at the expense of the right to privacy for their citizens. In my opinion, it's that tone that makes it a bad thing when a country is part of a surveillance agreement. I trust that Mullvad wants to protect the privacy of their users, and I hope that if Sweden ever took a more invasive turn that Mullvad would respond accordingly. The choice to stay in Sweden should not be a dealbreaker for those considering Mullvad, but it does mean you should be keeping up-to-date on current events. Though personally, I think that's true of any service. Either way, Sweden is a country who has expressed a degree of comfort with surveillance, and that can never be overlooked or forgotten, no matter how strong the laws are right now. Laws can change.
With all my reviews, I try to use the product personally for at least a few weeks before publication, and at this time I have nothing bad to say about Mullvad and no negative experiences. Everything worked as expected, speeds were what I'm used to (given that I always use a VPN anyways), there was no real change in my internet experience after the switch. All that to say, there's a reason Mullvad is such a darling in the privacy community. If you're looking for a VPN, you'd be remiss not to consider Mullvad. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you've got nothing to lose.
You can learn more and sign up for Mullvad VPN here. No affiliate link available.