Mozilla and the Firefox browser have been around for a while now. Throughout the different versions, they have done their best to provide protection to users of their browser, all for free. However, the next logical step in their user protection is to protect the members by having them connect to a VPN (Virtual Private Network). For the first time ever, Mozilla has partnered with the VPN company, Mullvad, to offer a paid product for device level protection. They call it the “FPN”. As you can guess, that stands for Firefox Private Network. Mullvad apparently has the same level of dedication to protecting the privacy of the users. At the time of this review, the paid version is only available for desktops on Windows 10. However, other platforms are coming soon. Both the browser level protection (basically a proxy) and the device level protection are still in their infancy, so we will provide you with as much information as we can.
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The FPN comes in 2 versions. One is effectively a free proxy, while the other one offers full-device protection is available for a cost of $4.99 a month and you have to join a waiting list first. It is unknown if they plan on offering the VPN for a longer service period than just one month at a time. Keep in mind that if you are going to use the browser extension, you are limited to 12 -1 hour sessions and you have to create a Mozilla account. Of course, that is as long as it is in beta.
Now, we will talk about what you get in the browser-level and full-device products. Again, these products are still new so there are bound to be things that do not work fully. For the browser level product, you do need to create a Mozilla account if you do not already have one. After that, you add the extension to your Firefox browser. Once you have done so, you click on the icon we point to with the red arrow. That will bring up the screen you see on the right. To start the process and use one of your hour long passes to test it out, simply move the slider to the right to activate it. At the time of the writing, the proxy does do what it is supposed to do. However, we were able “break” the proxy when we performed a test. As soon as we ran the test, the proxy shut down. Surely that will be fixed, but you may encounter the same issue, at least in the early stages. The full device protection is a different story. It is the product of the partnership with Mullvad VPN. Some of the features include:
- Ability to connect up to 5 devices simultaneously
- 30+ countries available
- Wireguard encryption
- Custom mobile apps
You can see that even the FPN client is simple to use. Once you select a server in one of the 30+ countries, you simply move the slider to the ON position. While the features of client are great, the “Wireguard Encryption Protocol” is an interesting choice for an encryption technique. As security minded as Mozilla is, to use a relatively untested and unaudited protocol over tried and true methods is extraordinary. That said, there are some advantages that Wireguard has over the gold standard (OpenVPN). The code to write Wireguard is significantly lighter weight than OpenVPN. In theory, that should make it faster and perform better. Additionally, it uses fewer resources on your computer. That way, you can do more things without experiencing lag. One big question we have is what protocols are planned for the mobile versions? At this time, there is a question of how well the technology will work on other platforms besides Windows.
Firefox Private Network Browser Speed Test
Speeds are very important with any VPN or proxy. Since proxies do not really encrypt traffic only re-route it, it should not really be a surprise that there is only a tiny bit of loss in speed. Of course, as we are able to test the full-device version, we will show you the results of that test as well. Here is our speed test from the browser version. When we tested the FPN VPN client, our results were not quite as favorable. In this image, you can see a noteable speed loss. Of course, it is still fast, but it was more than a 75% speed loss.
Why you should use a VPN
Since so many establishments now offer free WiFi, you will want to use a VPN when you conneect. While WiFi is great, the cybercriminals think it is great as well. By connecting to the server of your choice, you create a secure and encrypted connection. That way, you greatly reduce the risk that criminals or cybertheives will steal your private information.
Another reason to use a VPN is to help you get around geo-restrictions. No matter where you are, connecting to a server there will help. That is because it makes the blocking software think you are located somewhere else. That can be a real advantage if you are trying to access certain regions or you are being blocked from viewing content. Simply connect to a server and you can start browsing or viewing the content you want to access.
Does it Leak?
When answering this question, again, you have to look at how new the service is. We performed leak tests from 2 different websites. Unfortunately, we were not able to perform a test from our favorite site because as soon as we ran the test, it knocked the proxy offline. On the other website, we were able to perform a test. As you can see in the image below, yes, it does leak. We were not expecting that result because more established proxies do not show this sort of leakage. If Mozilla is going to release the FPN browser or the full-device product, they will need to fix that issue for sure. That said, we had much better luck when using the actual app. Instead of finding multiple servers like the proxy, it showed up as a single server. Additionally, we had luck with the other test. As you can see in this test, the only thing that shows up is a high number of hops. At this point, it is not known if you can adjust the number of hops (servers that the traffic is routed through) or not. Since it shows 11 hops, it says that it could possibly indicate proxy or VPN usage. Reducing the number of hops would increase the speed of the service and lower the suspicion of anyone that thinks the number is too high.
Should I Use this VPN?
To look at the full device version specifically, we find the service to still perform well, despite the speed losses. It will definitely protect your privacy and help you get around geo-restrictions. At the time of this review, we did not have any issues accessing content from other regions. The service may not offer all of the bells and whistles you might expect from other services, but at $5 a month, it works well and will definitely help you accomplish your goals. We say yes, the service provides a good value and will protect your privacy.
Final Thoughts About Firefox Private Network
The FPN browser and full VPN service have quite a bit of promise given the reputation of the Mozilla team. However, there are some issues that, at the time of this review, need to be fixed before we can provide you with a solid answer on it. Only time can tell if the factors that concern us will be addressed and how the Firefox Private Network will play out. In the meantime, Windows 10 users in the United States can sign up for the Firefox VPN beta to gain access to their network. The cost is $4.99 a month with credit card as the only payment option.