A look at NordVPN's browser extensions

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 8, 2018
Firefox, Firefox add-ons

NordVPN is a fairly popular VPN service provider that supports many of the features that users come to expect from a service of its kind this day and age.

It claims that it has a strict no logging policy, allows P2P traffic, offers servers in a lot of countries and regions, and does not restrict user bandwidth.

The company released an add-on for the Firefox and Chrome web browsers which customers may install and use. While one could argue that there is no need for a browser add-on if NordVPN is installed on the computer and running, there are cases were an add-on may be preferred by users.

To name a few: you may not be able to install NordVPN in restricted environments, but may be able to use the browseradd-on. Using the extension gives you an option to connect to a different server, and even use some sort of double-connection to NordVPN if you are connected using the desktop program as well.

The NordVPN extension

NordVPN is compatible with Firefox 42 or later according to the extension's profile page on the Mozilla website. It is fully compatible with recent stable versions of the web browser and should install fine as well when you run Firefox ESR.

Chrome users can download and install the Chrome version of the extension for all supported versions of the browser.

The extension adds an icon to the browser's toolbar that you interact with. You need to sign in using your NordVPN username and password. Doing so can be a bit tricky if you copy and paste information, as the interface closes itself when the browser window loses focus.

You may then select one of the available server locations to connect to. The connection process works well but the interface opened with a delay when I tested the extension in the most recent Firefox and Chrome stable versions.

It took a second or two to open; now, I'm not sure if this was caused by another extension running in the browser or an app on the system, but it is definitely annoying even though you won't open the interface a lot usually.

The icon indicates the connection status, and you may configure the extension to connect to a server automatically on browser launch.

The extension comes with two additional features:

  1. WebRTC blocking -- enabled by default. It prevents IP address leaks by WebRTC in the web browser.
  2. CyberSec -- disabled by default. The feature protects against many forms of advertising, malware, phishing, DDOS attacks and other unwanted threats when enabled.

I ran a series of leak tests and performance benchmarks. The extension protects the device IP address; leak tests picked up the VPN server IP address and not the actual IP address of the device.

Benchmark returned good results for the most part; the performance of nearby servers was better usually than the performance of servers halfway across the world. Performance depends on a number of factors though including server location, the actual server, time of day, the computer's Internet connection, the responsiveness and speed of servers you connect to, and more.

Reviews on the Firefox add-ons website indicate that the add-on causes connection issues. Several users reported connectivity issues to VPN servers after some time which stopped all Internet traffic in the browser. Only a reconnection helped to regain connectivity.

I noticed this issue as well but not regularly (also in the NordVPN desktop client).

Closing Words

The NordVPN extension for Firefox and Chrome has some uses even if you connect to the VPN service using the desktop application that it provides. The extensions suffer from the connectivity issues that you may experience while you run it but it is unclear how widespread the issue really is.

The browser extensions offer similar functionality but development is not synchronous. The Chrome version's last update date is listed as February 15, 2018, the last update date for the Firefox extension is listed as March 7, 2018.

Now you: Do you use a VPN network?

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  1. Stefan said on March 9, 2018 at 4:54 am

    Everyone says: Use VPN, use VPN…. Why ? Wasn’t this hacked by NSA a few years ago ? If not, they go after those who use VPN. I have stopped to care, one way or another these spyorganizations can follow Your every move online anyway ! This has started to become ridicilous and some sort of propaganda…..

    1. John Fenderson said on March 9, 2018 at 11:20 pm


      “Wasn’t this hacked by NSA a few years ago ?”

      “VPN” is not a single thing that can be hacked once and done. It’s a class of software, and some flawed implementations have been hacked, some have been subverted (but not broken — that’s an important distinction), and some are secure.

      Also, being secure from the likes of the NSA is not the only (or even the most important) thing to be secure against. A VPN — even a flawed one — gives additional security against the rampant spying being done by ISPs, corporations, hackers, and other attackers.

      Whether or not this is important to you is a personal call, of course. I would argue it this way — I lock the front door to my house even though it won’t stop professional spies (or even nonprofessional thieves willing to throw a rock through a window) from entering, because security is not a black-and-white thing where if it’s not 100% effective then it’s not worth doing.

      The first natural law of security is that it’s impossible to achieve 100% security. If there’s a legal way to access something, there is an illegal way, always. The goal of security is to make illegal access difficult enough that it’s not economical to do it, not to make it impossible.

      Personally? I use a VPN with my mobile devices and with my WiFi at home. However, I run my own VPN service, not a third party one. This doesn’t protect me against my ISP, but it does protect all of my wireless connections from eavesdropping and spoofing.

    2. ShintoPlasm said on March 9, 2018 at 8:20 am

      I find VPN useful when connecting to unsecured public Wifi networks. At home, using your own secure router, I admit it makes less sense – unless you’re a bit paranoid.

  2. InGSoC said on March 8, 2018 at 8:28 pm


    Okay Vivaldi Version 1.15.1111.3 plays thee Video HTML5 all correctly, sorry Mozillas, u done it i dumb.

    I am off to FF, cos all other do it well as u see Opera, Chrome Vivaldi, even better, see?

    Greets, InGSoC. And it was tested under same Circumstands,.. :)

    Bye bye FF, ty for trying but others do thee very better

    1. Tom Hawack said on March 9, 2018 at 5:42 pm

      Insufficient data concerning InGSoC to profile the user as an enthusiast, a passionate or a speedy :=)
      But I feel indulgence grab me when I encounter a user who sometimes gives the impression he’s lost in a monologue as this published introspection is one I often deal with myself. Like right now!

      1. InGSoC said on March 9, 2018 at 6:01 pm

        Yupp, sorry for the mess, will think twice before i do a post in the fututre, to keep it more compact and ur welcome.

        Greets, InGSoC :)

    2. ShintoPlasm said on March 8, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      Mate, what language do you speak?

      1. Rick A. said on March 9, 2018 at 5:34 pm

        @ShintoPlasm – lol.

  3. InGSoC said on March 8, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    P.P.S.: Nope , seeemsa no way to get FF work perfectly, changing to Vivaldi to see HTML5 work

  4. InGSoC said on March 8, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    P.S.: Found a way to get HTML5 Videos work in Firefox Beta 59 again.

    Go about:config, choose HTML5, set 120 to 30, just fits good again.

    Greets, InGSoC. :)

    Seems to reactivate HTM5 Vidoes to play straight, just a Tip. :)

  5. InGSoC said on March 8, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    Therefore all i can say is,….


    We salute you.

    Greets, InGsoC.

  6. Tom Hawack said on March 8, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    My only experience with a VPN has been throughout Firefox with a dedicated extension which happened to be ‘Hoxx VPN Proxy’ (so many proxy/vpn extensions that choosing ‘Hoxx’ was more tied to users’ comments at AMO than on a deep objective search).

    Hoxx runs (ran) excellently. Simple DL/UL test speeds showed the VPN had no more than, say, a 10% impact (~190/18 Mbps here, nominal). But unfortunately the extension’s privacy policy is disastrous : they don’t hide anything, it’s too privacy invasive to imagine they could hide anything worse. That was the end of my experience. I’ve never been fond of the very VPN concept otherwise than required by country censorship so perhaps this lack of motivation together with Hoxx’s privacy invasive policy inevitably led to a farewell.

  7. ShintoPlasm said on March 8, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    The NordVPN extension solves most issues with accessing BBC iPlayer through their VPN – just using the app to connect is often insufficient.

  8. ULBoom said on March 8, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    I use Air, Windscribe and Mullvad. Three of them as tests of which work best; best meaning quick connections and fast throughput. If leaks are present, a VPN is worthless. Mullvad doesn’t work well at all for me, the other two do, although Windscribe connects much faster than Air and has similar throughput. I tried Windscribe’s FF add on and it performed very poorly, if at all. Not sure of the advantage of browser extensions when the desktop versions work fine.

    Why such differences exist among the three VPN’s, IDK, none are based in my country and all have multiple servers in it. I have lifetime Windscribe through ghacks store (thank you!), the other two for shorter periods. Trying out a few VPN’s at once seems to have been a good idea. All three are considered good but user location makes a difference in performance.

  9. George P. Burdell said on March 8, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    “It took a second or two to open … it is definitely annoying”

    Martin, not to accuse you of being impatient, but I personally have still not gotten over my “gee whiz” and “that’s amazing” feeling, when I can send and receive information of all sorts on a planet-wide basis in less time than it took Ferdinand Magellan to reach Bora-Bora!

    What an amazing world we live in, even compared to the 1960’s, never mind the isolation that Marco Polo must have at times felt on a long camel ride away from all known Wi-Fi hot spots!

    Put me down as a fellow who is happy to wait a couple of seconds now and again just for the privilege of being part of this supernal network of people, places, music, art, finance, news, humor, scenery and wonder.

    1. poe said on March 9, 2018 at 5:39 am

      You made me remember the time when accessing internet need me to hear 1 minute of dialing tone. Now we have always online internet!

      Well, people will never be satisfied.
      Firefox decided to remove advanced customisations for 0.5s faster loading speed.
      Gotta go fast!

    2. VioletMoon said on March 8, 2018 at 11:20 pm

      @ Mr. Burdell–I find the above reponse succulent with a Utopian fragrance of Emersonian pragmatism. Whatever happened to our “self-reliance”?

      While driving across an arid land of barren sage today at 80 miles per hour, I thought about early pioneers who drove the same terrain in wagons, mules, horses, and ropes. No comparison. No return. Thoreau said that man could not and will never again be able to enjoy, appreciate, and drink in the vibrancy of Nature because of the Industrial Revolution.

      The “addiction to speed” may or may not be an existential problem insofar as facticity is involved; however, I do find slow loading sites, browser failure, VPNs harvesting data, etc. to be such a nuisance that it was easier and faster and cheaper to set up a personal VPN on AWS.

      As always, the problem is the solution.

      I shall return to my meditation and mindfulness practice.


    3. chesscanoe said on March 8, 2018 at 5:05 pm

      Super comment George. If memory serves correctly, I recall in 1985 with an AOL dial up 56kb line, a 16 color 640*480 image downloaded a pixel at a time as you watched the screen slowly develop the image. I think some bulletin boards only connected at 16 kbps. Today is, relatively speaking, a miracle age for sure. It’s hard to imagine what our grandchildren will experience.

      1. George P. Burdell said on March 8, 2018 at 5:53 pm

        @chesscanoe: Thanks for the kind words!

        If it helps put your imagination in gear, you could begin by imagining your grandchildren living in caves and bunkers, hunting with javelins, atlatls and sticks. Depends on whether humanity as a whole sees its many man-made dangers, both environmental and weapon based, and then deftly avoids them.

        Personally, I would not mind returning management of the planet to the insects and the grasses, who did a much better job than we humans do. Our species invents its own IQ tests, and declares itself the best and smartest, but this is a pretty one-sided and biased way to measure fitness to manage.

      2. Tom Hawack said on March 8, 2018 at 7:04 pm

        Super comments indeed, George. That concerning our addiction to speed, that concerning past and future human behaviors especially in the area of computing, the cyber world.

        No need to point out that the digital era has far more future than past: we are the pilgrims of a 30 year old land. What is our future in this topology? What I believe is that future times cannot be apprehended in a whatever deductive reasoning based on the present nor in an approach which would consider that history repeats itself and that similar causes produce similar consequences.

        Remains our imagination. I ‘believe’ is therefor not the correct word ; I’d say I can imagine that focus will continue to be put on ethics but, contrarily to a collectivist consideration of equality which has proven to be unsuccessful (given nothing is possible without liberty), our individual consciousnesses : we would (imagination!) progressively realize that there is no better alternative on the long term than that of fairness. It wouldn’t be political nor even religious but simply the development of this area of consciousness which shares its sens of good and evil with our rational brains which would understand that our consciousness is right as well in terms of our personal advantage. Reconciliation so to say between rationalism and humanism.

        We’ll see!

  10. 9192631770 said on March 8, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    For more information about NordVPN:

  11. Rune Rebellion said on March 8, 2018 at 2:34 pm
    1. gh said on March 10, 2018 at 8:58 am

      Thanks for posting the link. It is an eye-opening read, and the author does provide hyperlinks to verify his claims / observations.

      1. Rune Rebellion said on March 10, 2018 at 11:23 am

        you are welcome.

        @martin: do you test vpn providers as well?

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