Although we have collected scores of data over the years that we’ve been testing regular VPNs, the process is different when it comes to VPN extensions.
While a full VPN app might stream US Netflix easily, its browser extension might not be as effective. Furthermore, encryption may be different, and there could be other restrictions and differences that aren’t obvious and the user isn’t aware of.
That’s why we start from scratch and test all of the Firefox extensions independent of how the full VPN performs with its own unique rating system.
For Firefox extensions, we ask these key questions:
- Is the Firefox extension a proxy or a fully featured VPN? If its a VPN, which we favour, we find out the standard of its encryption.
- How well does the extension perform in streaming tests independent of how the regular VPN performs? We test the extension on popular platforms like Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
- How many server connections are available? The more the better.
- Are there any additional security features on the browser extension that are useful to those surfing the web? This can include ad blockers, tracker blockers, anti-malware technology, WebRTC leak blocking, aor geo-spoofing.
How impressively each VPN answers these questions make up its final score. Below you can see how much of the overall score these key testing areas make up.
1. VPN Encryption: 40%
Minimum Requirement: An extension that encrypts traffic.
We Recommend: Industry-standard encryption of traffic and a clear logging policy.
VPN encryption is what sets a browser extension apart from a low-level proxy, or spoofer. It’s what makes it a VPN, essentially.
While proxies can unblock websites by changing your IP like a VPN does, a VPN is different (and superior) because it works at a device-level and encrypts all the data flowing through your device. Proxies leave your data open to prying eyes.
We look for encryption protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard and ciphers like AES-256. Those that offer less robust encryption like SSTP score lower but are still preferable over a proxy.
You can read more about the differences between VPNs and proxies in our in-depth guide.
2. Streaming Access: 20%
Minimum Requirement: Unblocks US Netflix with minimal fuss.
We Recommend: Unblocks multiple Netflix libraries on multiple servers with ease.
While privacy is our most important value, we’re aware that browser extensions are hugely popular as most people want to access geo-restricted streaming services.
That’s why we’ve attached 20% of our overall score to a Firefox extension’s ability to access streaming services otherwise restricted.
We test each VPN extension on Netflix to see whether it can unblock the many different libraries across the globe. The more it can access, and the speed and ease with which it does it, the higher we score the VPN extension.
This is particularly important for extensions, which often perform differently to the full VPN app.
3. Number of Servers Locations: 20%
Minimum Requirement: At least three countries, including one at home.
We Recommend: No difference between the full VPN and the browser extension.
The more locations available to establish secure connections the better.
While it isn’t essential to have hundreds of available countries if you simply want to spoof your IP at home, we reserve praise for VPN extensions that are as close to its full app as possible.
It also allows the possibility to connect to more streaming libraries from across the globe.
4. Security Features: 20%
Minimum Requirement: WebRTC blocking.
We Recommend: Additional tools useful for secure Firefox browsing, such as an ad blocker or geo-spoofing.
Firefox is known to cause VPNs to leak WebRTC. This is a security risk whenever you use voice or video chat in your browser.
Therefore, we want to see Firefox extensions with WebRTC leak protection.
Beyond that, features like an ad and tracker blocker provide additional value. Best of all is a HTML geo-blocker to prevent real location reveals.