freedom of speech.
They then impressed us more by backing up this rhetoric with cast iron encryption, a client that boasts features such as and DNS leak protection and blocking your internet connection in the event of disconnection from the VPN server, as well as acceptance of Bitcoin and even cash by post payments.
It is therefore a great shame that Mullvad stumbled somewhat in the execution,as although the core service worked fine, important aspects (as we will discuss below) basically just failed to work. Nevertheless we like Mullvad, and wish them the best in resolving what we hope are just teething problems.
Prices and Features
Fitting its somewhat bare-bones ascetic, Mullvad offers only one plan at a flat €5 (approx. $6.50) per month. For this you get a simple but secure OpenVPN connection. Mullvad also supplies PPTP for devices that don’t support OpenVPN, and for easy setup on Android and iOS devices. There are servers available in Sweden, Germany, Netherlands and the US.
The Websites and Customer Support
The Mullvad website is again a no frills affair, but it explains what is on offer well enough, and has a FAQ that covers all the most important questions we normally like to ask. In general you are left with a positive impression that Mullvad know what it is doing.
Other than the FAQ and some setup guides, Mullvad doesn’t do much hand-holding, although it does provide an email address to contact them. We do like the fact that the owners are happy to identify themselves by name, and provide a bricks and mortar contact address which is unusual in the often slightly shadowy world of VPN, inspiring confidence in Mullvad and a belief in the owner’s sincerity.
Privacy and security
Privacy is the raison d’etre of any serious VPN company, and Mullvad clearly does take it very seriously. On a technical level the 2048-bit RSA and 128-bit Blowfish OpenVPN encryption will stop any attempts to spy on user’s data, and the inclusion of DNS leak protection and an ‘internet kill switch’ in the client ensures that no data is likely to be accidentally divulged.
With strong statements about standing up to internet censorship, surveillance and data retention, Mullvad keeps no logs of any kind, and encourages the use of Bitcoin payments (together with providing links on how to ensure these payments are truly anonymous). It also encourages the use and anonymous email when registering and will accept cash payment in the mail! All of which leads us to like Mullvad very much.
Mullvad comes with a ‘free trial’ although for how long is kept secret until you install the software. As it turns out, it’s for 3 hours – not long, but enough to try the service out and see how it performs.
No personal information is asked at all for the trial, and if you choose to carry on and subscribe then you are issued an ID number so that, depending on your chosen payment method, you cannot be identified.
The basic client interface is so simple that you need do nothing at all to get in running other than click install! The client connects automatically to a server of its choice with zero fuss. If you want to change the country of the server you are exiting from, then the settings can be accessed by right-clicking the Task Bar icon.
From the Settings window you can also turn on DNS leak protection, manage port forwarding, and ‘block internet traffic on connection failure.’
However, we did run into problems when trying to connect to any server outside Germany. This was very disappointing, and is likely due to their server being too busy.
Unfortunately we could only test our connection speeds to Germany. We used a 10 megabyte UK broadband connection.
Mullvad provides OpenVPN clients for Windows, OSX and Linux, plus setup instructions for Android (using OpenVPN for Android and PPTP) and iOS (using PPTP). In addition to this, they provide source code files which should allow the client to run on any platform.
Setting up OpenVPN for Android
We decided to give the Android instructions a test run. They are a little sparse and not really intended for beginners.
We were nevertheless ready to get stuck in, but where thwarted but the fact the link to the config. files didn’t work! Not to let a little thing like that get in our way, we tried downloading the ‘plain OpenVPN’ files but this didn’t work either, so we gave up…
- Good OpenVPN encryption
- Accept Bitcoin and cash payment
- Great overall dedication to privacy and anonymity
- Fast connection
- Easy to use client with some great features that we wish more VPN’s would include
We weren’t so sure about
- Could only connect to server in Germany
- Links to OpenVPN files didn’t work
So we should probably put not being able to connect to most of the servers, and the fact that the OpenVPN config files were missing, in the ‘We hated’ category, but cannot bring ourselves to do it! Mullvad is clearly a small enterprise with limited resources, and in light of the clear dedication to users’ privacy it displays, together with an impressively easy to use and fully featured VPN client and low monthly cost, we are willing to give Mullvad the benefit of the doubt (for now). Hopefully these are just teething troubles, and given that the core VPN service worked well, we think it worth the more adventurous VPN user who is willing to give an underdog a try (and maybe provide some feedback to help them resolve their issues) giving the service a go.
Update (18/06/13): We decided to go back to Mullvad to see if they had ironed out the issues we encountered, and we are pleased to say that all issues seem to have been resolved. We now give Mullvad our whole-hearted endorsement!