Mullvad Browser was released in early April, the latest entry in the web browser market, and one focused on protecting the privacy and security of its users.
Mullvad is well known for its VPN service, being one of the few VPNs worth the money and the one WPN consistently recommends. The company has a long record of transparency, passing third-party audits, and generally providing exactly the security and privacy it promises.
The company has built on that success with its very own web browser, developed in partnership with the Tor Project, to help people take their online security and privacy to the next level. The company explained the thinking behind the partnership:
The Tor Network offers great protection for privacy and the Tor Browser is, in our view, the best privacy-focused browser you can choose. The problem is, for those who prefer to run a VPN instead of the Tor Network, there hasn’t been a good browser alternative. Until now.
When we reached out to the Tor Project, our goal was to give VPN users the browser quality of the Tor Browser – paired with the benefits of using a VPN. And all to give people more alternatives for privacy. So, here we are. The result: a Tor-developed browser produced to minimize fingerprinting and tracking. Without using The Tor Network. To free the internet from big data gathering.
So what is Mullvad, and how does it stack up to the competition?
What Is Mullvad?
At its core, Mullvad Browser is a heavily modified version of Firefox. This is a good thing for a couple of reasons:
- Basing Mullvad Browser on Firefox is good for the internet. With the rise of Chrome and browsers based on Chrome’s engine, there is a real threat of the web becoming another duopoly, with web browsers split between Chrome-based and Apple Safari-based. Using Firefox as Mullvad Browser on Firefox is a small step toward supporting web browser diversity.
- Although it’s not nearly as popular as it once was, Firefox is still popular enough that most people are familiar with its settings, making it easy to dive into Mullvad Browser.
- Given the sheer number of Chrome vulnerabilities, basing Mullvad Browser on Firefox is a wise choice, especially for an application specifically designed for security and privacy.
How Does It Work?
Advertising and data mining companies try to build a profile of an internet user based on numerous categories, including their device hardware, operating system, web browser, and more. This process is known as “fingerprinting.”
To protect user privacy, a web browser must help thwart the fingerprinting process. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) explains that this can be done in two different ways, either with a fingerprint that is:
- so common that a tracker can’t tell you apart from the crowd (as in Tor Browser), or
- randomized so that a tracker can’t tell it’s you from one moment to the next (as in Brave browser).
Needless to say, given the partnership with the Tor Project, Mullvad Browser uses the first option. Based on the EFF’s test results, the browser does quite well at offering the level of protection it promises.
Mullvad Browser has Private Browsing enabled by default. That means that no data is saved from one session to the next. While this can be inconvenient since it means you will be logged out of any sites you logged into the previous session, it also means that trackers won’t be able to learn anything from you based on saved cookies.
While Firefox may not send a lot of telemetry back to Mozilla, it does still send some information designed to help Mozilla improve Firefox’s performance. Mullvad disables all telemetry by default.
Mullvad Browser also includes the excellent uBlock Origin extension to help block ads and trackers.
Using the browser with a VPN completes the security and privacy protection, although users do not have to use Mullvad’s VPN. The browser is designed to work with any VPN.
Mullvad explains the difference between using Mulvad Browser with a VPN and using a Tor browser:
The short explanation: if you use the Mullvad Browser, you are using a Tor-developed browser without using the Tor Network. Instead, the Mullvad Browser is intended to run with a VPN. That’s the main difference. Sure, there are a few calibration differences between the two browsers – but the differences are there for only that reason; to handle the browsers’ different ways of connecting to the internet.
Should You Use Mullvad Browser?
For anyone interested in protecting their online privacy and security, Mullvad Browser should be an important tool in their repertoire.
Could you duplicate Mullvad Browser’s features in other browsers? For the most part, yes. But Mullvad has done all the work for you, delivering a solid application that lives up to what it promises…much like their VPN.
Will most individuals use the browser as their primary? Probably not. For many users, remaining logged into their favorite sites is probably too much of a convenience to use Mullvad Browser — or any browser in private mode — full-time.
Nonetheless, when doing anything online when privacy is paramount, Mullvad Browser is hard to beat. It offers near Tor-like privacy and anonymity in a convenient, easy-to-use application that virtually anyone will be comfortable with.
Mullvad Browser is available on Linux, Windows, and macOS. The Linux version can be downloaded via the Mullvad website or installed via Flatpak.
Anyone concerned with online privacy and security should download and install Mullvad Browser immediately.
5 out of 5 stars