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Mozilla’s Firefox web browser has 250 million users worldwide. A year ago, it had 300 million, so people are switching to other browsers, but 250 million is still a lot of users and many of them need the kind of protection a VPN can give (even if they don’t yet know that they need it), so this post is concerned with which VPNs work best with Firefox.
When attacks against browsers are as frequent and as technically advanced as those we see now, any web browser needs to have inbuilt protection and to update it regularly to combat new threats. Firefox meets both requirements. It has enhanced protection against tracking and allows third-party trackers to be blocked as a routine matter. More than two and a half thousand domains that track browsers are on the automatic block list and that is even more effective than it might sound because some of those domains are host to multiple cookies – blocking one domain might prevent twenty cookies being embedded on computers whose owners don’t want them. What that does for the most part is to put an end to the huge numbers of advertisements that appear on websites – it doesn’t affect the cookies you want, which means those that make login easier and those that record where you were when you last visited the site.
You can make your Firefox browser even more protected by adjusting the settings but Mozilla accepts that most users never get around to doing that and even most of those who do never go back to update their settings as online trickery advances.
Firefox has also done a very good job of combating the tracking that most Facebook users don’t even know is happening, even though they are constantly bugged by the results.
In a sense, what Firefox has done could be described as making privacy the default position and it’s possible to wish that every browser – and, indeed, every app – worked the same way. Given this level of security, the question must be:
And the answer is that that is: It isn’t Firefox that needs the security of VPN. It’s you, the user. The Internet has become such a dangerous place that VPNs ought to be the standard, and not something that only a quarter of Internet users implement. A VPN can keep you safe from ID theft, hackers and fraudsters. It can also allow you to access content that is blocked to you simply because of where you are. VPNs help computer users keep private what they want to be private. Even if releasing the data would not in itself expose the user to cybercrime, why should someone else know things about you that you have not chosen to tell them? And so this post will discuss why users need a VPN, and which VPN is best for those whose web browser is Firefox.
The things we take into account before recommending a VPN are both simple and obvious. The first is that the VPN should work well with Firefox. That’s fairly obvious, and it may seem that every VPN should work equally well with every web browser but that isn’t actually the case.
The second requirement is that the service should be reliable – you don’t want it breaking down at critical times – and FAST. Wherever you are in the world and however far you are from the server you have chosen to connect to, you want a very high-speed connection. If you’re using a VPN to stream a Netflix video that isn’t available where you happen to be, you want the streaming to be fast enough that watching the video is as pleasant an experience as it would be if you were sitting in a movie theater.
Next comes security. Data is encrypted before it leaves your computer and decrypted when you get it back. You want that encryption to be state-of-the-art because, if it isn’t, someone else is likely to be decrypting it before you do.
Then there’s the question of logs: There mustn’t be any. If your VPN provider keeps records of where you have been in your web surfing, then those records will have to be surrendered to the authorities in the provider’s country should they so demand. And there’s also the dreadful possibility that the provider may be hacked. If a hacked provider has no logs recording where you have been on the web, the hacker can’t obtain that information. But if the logs exist, you are exposed. So: A sine qua non is that there must be no logs.
Customer support must be fast, high quality and ideally available in not one, not two but three different forms: email; chat; and remote help allowing the help Desk to take charge of your computer to find out what’s going wrong and fix it.
When VPN apps first arrived, cracking streaming sites was a piece of cake, but those sites have developed ways of detecting when someone is attempting to watch a video from a location outside the authorized range of the server. They developed lists of suspicious servers and banned them. To be recommended by us, a VPN must have servers that have been shown to be able to fool the obvious streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, the BBC and so on.
Occasionally, any network connection will drop, and that includes a VPN connection. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens – and, if you are online at the time, you will be exposed and so will the website you are looking at. To prevent this, any VPN we recommend as an automatic kill switch that disconnects it the moment the VPN connection fails. Finally, there is DNS leak prevention. DNS stands for Domain Name System and DNS leak prevention is there to ensure that no information about websites you happen to surf to or land on becomes visible to a third party.
Another word for extension is “add-on”; whichever term you use, it is something added to a web browser that provides VPN protection (to a larger or, occasionally, lesser extent) when you are surfing. Some VPN providers offer extensions separately from the full app and this raises the question: Is an extension all you need?
Using only an extension will only appeal to people who want to use the VPN to gain access to geo-restricted content – that is, to be able to stream or otherwise access videos, movies and other content that would normally not be available in the part of the world in which they live. So the first thing that needs to be said is that, if you believe you when ever want to use VPN to hide where you are and what you are doing for any purpose other than to stream, for example, Netflix videos, then the extension will not be enough for you. You need the full app. And if, right now, you’re not sure, then perhaps the way to go is “Better safe than sorry.” On the other hand, an extension will take up less of your device’s resources than a full app and, if this is a consideration for you, it might be the justification for using only the extension.
What VPN providers are actually giving you is a proxy – something that is pretending to be you. A browser extension will use either an HTTP or an HTTPS proxy. The former should only be used in conjunction with a full VPN if you hope to have anything like adequate privacy and security. An HTTPS proxy, on the other hand, encrypts your data and gives you access to geo-restricted sites. (Although, in fact, it’s the content and not the site that is geo-restricted). Even with HTTPS proxies, not all of them will hide a DNS request and, if you use one that does not, then you are not going to have full privacy protection.
What it comes down to, then, is this. If all you want to do is access geo-restricted content – that is, to stream video or other content that is not supposed to be available in your geographic location – then a Firefox extension may well be all you need. If you’re looking for more privacy and more protection, then you need the protection that the whole VPN app can give you. So let’s briefly remind ourselves what’s at stake here.
As we’ve just said, sometimes the only reason for using a VPN is to stream content you shouldn’t have access to. Sometimes, though, the need is much greater. If you have a computer, a tablet, a smart phone or an android device, you can bet your life that people are attempting to spy on you. They are not doing it with your welfare in mind. They want to steal your passwords and gain access to your bank accounts. They want to steal company secrets – the names and contact details and packages of key employees, the details of new products under development, your price files together with details of costs so that they know how low you can go, and the terms you have agreed with your key customers and key suppliers. They want access to everything you know about other people so that they can steal not just your identity but the identity of others. It is a very nasty world out there and it’s getting nastier by the day. Levels of ingenuity exercised by people with fraud in mind are astonishing – so astonishing that it’s clear that the same people, if they turned their minds to honest endeavor could make a legitimate fortune. There are countries in which it is possible to take a degree in online fraud and there are other countries where the government encourages (and sometimes requires) spying and data and identity theft by companies and organizations in their countries.
And that is why you really do need the protection a VPN offers.
Just before we get into this, we like to remind you that the problem most frequently reported to VPN providers is caused by not turning the VPN app on. It doesn’t run automatically. You have to turn it on first. Forgetting that simple fact has caused a great many people a lot of embarrassment.
The first recommendation is ExpressVPN. It’s fast and it has a browser extension for Firefox but note that this does not work on its own. You can only have a working Firefox VPN extension with ExpressVPN if you install the whole of the ExpressVPN app. It’s easy to install an easy-to-use. There’s a wide range of locations around the world so you should be able to find the right one to connect to for whatever it is you want to download. This makes it very good for accessing sites that are “geo-blocked” – that is, blocked for the territory in which you currently are (but that should apply to all of the recommended VPN apps). Security is very good, and the kill switch is automatic – and there are no logs and no tracking. There is good support by email and live chat. If ExpressVPN has any drawback at all, it is only that this is not the cheapest VPN – but, as we’ve already said, choosing a VPN purely on price is a mistake.
Unlike ExpressVPN, NordVPN does have a stand-alone extension for Firefox and it works well. However, if you only install a VPN browser extension, and not the whole VPN app, you’re missing out on a number of other things that VPN can do for you. What’s more, if you do restrict yourself only to the Firefox extension in NordVPN, you won’t be able to choose whichever server location you want. This VPN has all of the usual security features but also has what it calls CyberSec which will block a suspicious website and malware. There are, of course, some users who are using a VPN because suspicious websites are the ones they want to access. If that applies to you, then all we can say is: You know who you are. You can choose a location that will allow you to get whatever Netflix and similar services you’re interested in; geo-blocking doesn’t trouble NordVPN at all. Price, by the way, is very competitive. If we had to find something negative to say about this app, it would be that the video streaming is not the best available. Customer support, on the other hand, could not be better.
CyberGhost it is a well-established VPN that you can actually download free of charge if all you want is the Firefox extension. That will give you a basic level of security – but, as you will understand from what we already said, going for the browser extension on its own is rarely a satisfactory solution. Installing the whole CyberGhost VPN app gives you much more security and a lot more functionality. Security is good, there are no logs, you have the automatic kill switch that we have described as essential and you also have DNS leak protection. It’s also possible to configure CyberGhost so that VPN connection is automatic, which can be of great help to the forgetful users. 4800 servers in 61 countries mean that finding one in a country that has the streaming sites you want to access will never be a problem. Live chat customer support is high quality.
There is a full app as well as a proxy extension, and while the extension gives you good protection and high-speed access to sites normally protected from you by geo-blocking, we as always recommend the full app. There are no logs, there is DNS leak protection, and there are more than 800 servers in 50 countries. There is an ad-blocker built in and set up is even easier than with most of our other recommended apps. Support by email and live chat is 24/7. If it has a disadvantage it is that the coverage could be wider – but this is a relatively new VPN (based in the British Virgin Islands) and that may well be on the way.
SaferVPN does everything for the others do and also has a Firefox extension. It’s fast, but if you go to the extension on its own you may not get the level of security that the app as a whole provides because your data is encrypted using an HTTPS proxy. It’s great for streaming from, for example, YouTube and Netflix, but if you expect to be visiting more questionable sites then use the whole app and not just the extension. That way you get military grade encryption, DNS leak protection, and an automatic kill switch. Either way, there’ll be no logs. The only real disadvantage is the same as that for SurfShark – that is, that coverage could be wider. If you’re mostly interested in sites in America and the UK, you shouldn’t have a problem, but if you want to go further afield then difficulties could arise.