Mullvad vs Private Internet Access | #linux | #linuxsecurity


We’re going head-to-head with two low-cost, security-conscious VPN services: Private Internet Access, better known as PIA, and Mullvad.

A consumer VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a service that provides an extra layer security, encrypting all your online traffic and sending it via the VPN provider’s servers.

This makes it impossible for your ISP or someone on your local network to see what DNS queries or traffic you’re sending or receiving, hides your real IP address by assigning you one belonging to the VPN provider, and can make you appear to be accessing the internet from an entirely different country. For more information on how this all works, see our what is a VPN guide.

Mullvad and PIA regularly appear in our best free VPN guide, thanks to competitive competitive pricing that makes them ideal for anyone who just wants a cheap VPN to add extra security, without any need for extras like dedicated endpoints.

Pricing and availability

Mullvad goes out of its way to have the simplest, most approachable pricing scheme on the market. It costs £4.15 (€5) a month, with no ongoing payment commitment. That’s the only option, and it works out a very reasonable £49.80 a year. You also get a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Private Internet Access actually works out cheaper than this, but only if you commit to a one- or two-year subscription.

PIA is generally among the cheapest privacy-oriented consumer VPN providers. A subscription will cost you £8.99 per month, £32.34 per year, or £43.94 for two years which works out at £2.37 a month. New two-year subscribers also get an extra two months free, but two-year subs renew as one-year subscription at whatever the annual fee is at the time of renewal.

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Both offer payment options that can help enhance your online anonymity and privacy. You can pay using cryptocurrency, which can help to keep your identity secret as long as it’s carefully used alongside other operational security measures.

Better still, Mullvad allows you to sent an envelope full of cash along with the identifier of the account you wish to add it to.

Private Internet Access takes a variety of gift cards for anonymous payment, but they’re all from US retail companies at this time.

Performance

VPN Provider UK Netherlands United States Average
Mullvad 388.00 Mbps 472.80 Mbps 197.60 Mbps 352.80 Mbps
Private Internet Access 263.20 Mbps 157.60 Mbps 72.58 Mbps 164.46 Mbps
Reference Group Average HTTP 310.77 Mbps 306.83 Mbps 194.52 Mbps 270.71 Mbps
Reference HTTP without VPN 489.60 Mbps 532.80 Mbps 490.40 Mbps 504.27 Mbps

Run across an ultra-high-speed fibre connection at a London data centre, our speed tests aim to showcase the fastest speeds we can get out of each service during any given testing period. They’re designed to show the upper performance threshold of each service, but if your ISP gives you speeds below these, then that’s not necessarily going to be relevant to you. While a VPN can sometimes improve connection speeds to distant countries, you can’t exceed the speed of your connection to your ISP.

As shown in the table above, Mullvad is consistently faster than Private Internet Access, by a large margin, as well as beating the average of all the services we tested together as part of this group.

PIA is consistently below average, but is nonetheless fast enough to smoothly carry out any task you’re likely to need to carry out over a high-speed connection, with the possible exception of its US throughput, which topped out at 72.58 Mbps in our last test. Be aware that we’ve also seen slower US speeds from PIA, so it’s not a great choice if you want to move lots of data.

With a few very rare exceptions, longer distances between you and the endpoint location usually mean slower speeds – you’ll notice that both Mullvad and the group average are slower to for the US than for either the UK or Netherlands.

Security and transparency

Private Internet Access is headquartered in and operated from the USA, although it’s now a subsidiary of a British tech firm. PIA had well-founded reputation for security under previous ownership and it continues to operate in the same spirit. It’s currently owned by Kape Technologies, which also owns rivals CyberGhost and ExpressVPN, among other VPN services.

PIA has a clear and explicit no-logging policy. The US doesn’t currently have any mandatory data retention laws in place and encrypted traffic passing through a VPN isn’t accessible to logging devices in data centres.

When served with an FBI warrant to hand over VPN logs, PIA didn’t have anything to give investigators, making it one of the few VPN providers whose no-logging claim is known to have been publicly tested. However, as PIA hasn’t been publicly dragged into court since it was bought by Kape Technologies, we don’t have proof that it’s continued its no-logging policy under new ownership, although I have no reason to suspect that anything would change here.

PIA publishes bi-annual transparency reports – we’d prefer these to be a more regular occurrence, but it’s need to see numbers regularly ticking up to show that no logs get handed over. The company had not had an independent audit carried out of its infrastructure, security and no-logging policy.

Based in Sweden, Mullvad has made privacy its mission statement and is very clearly about its no-logging policy. Although local law isn’t as privacy-friendly as that of some other jursidictions, Mullvad says that it’s committed to its no-logging policy and details exactly which laws could cause potential problems. Its commitment to transparency is admirable and it regularly publishes the results of third-party audits of its apps and infrastructure.

Even though it doesn’t publish a warrant saying it had no logs to hand over every time a request is made, Mullvad’s commitment to having its policies and systems audited are something we’d like to see PIA follow.

Specifications

As with all the VPNs we recommend, Mullvad and PIA both have critical features such as a configurable kill-switch to prevent you from accidentally sending any data across the internet if you’re accidentally disconnected from the VPN.

PIA has support for split tunnelling built into its apps. This allows you to route some of your traffic via the VPN while specified apps on your system continue to use your ISP’s connection without going via the VPN.

Mullvad doesn’t currently offer split tunnelling in its client applications, but you can configure it manually.

Both Mullvad and Private Internet Access have partially deployed RAMdisk servers across their infrascture, in the form of PIA’s Next Generation Network and Mullvad’s diskless infrastructure beta. By running the entire operating system in RAM, there’s no data left to retrieve if the server is powered off, which helps to protect against data loss in case of seizure.

Mullvad’s Bridge mode is designed to obfuscate that fact that you’re connected to a VPN, using ShadowSocks to help conceal your activities from state or corporate deep packet inspection. PIA also has an Obfuscation option in its settings to produce the same effect.

Private Internet Access supports the OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, SOCKS5 Proxy and WireGuard protocols. Mullvad only uses OpenVPN and Wireguard, but these are definitely the protocols you should be looking at for a modern, fast and secure VPN connection.

Mullvad lets you have up to five simultaneous connections, and publishes offical clients for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS, as well as a Firefox browser extension.

Private Internet Access lets you have a genreous 10 connections, and also releases clients on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS

Both provide configuration instructions for connecting other devices.

Private Internet Access has endpoints in 77 countries, while Mullvad only covers 36 difference regions, making PIA the better choice for those who want a VPN with broad geographic options.

Verdict

For speed, regular auditing and ease of cancellation, Mullvad just about takes the edge over Private Internet Access. Its privacy features are well-considered and its commitment to transparency is admirable. If you need a no-frills VPN for everyday security enhancement then its the one we’d recommend as a result.

However, Private Internet Access is cheaper if you want a longer subscription, it has a lot more endpoints and lets you connect 10 devices, which makes it better if you want to run lots off devices from one VPN provider.

Get 83% off on PIA VPN + 3 months free

Get 83% off on PIA VPN + 3 months free

PIA are now offering an additional 3 months for free with their 3 year VPN plan.  This works out to just £1.67 per month, saving 83%

  • PrivateInternetAccess
  • save 83%
  • £1.67 per month

View Deal



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