NordVPN makes its Meshnet private tunnel free for everyone

NordVPN’s Meshnet private tunnel feature for Windows, macOS, and Linux is now free for everyone, even users who do not have a subscription to NordVPN.

Meshnet was first launched by NordVPN in June 2022 as a paid feature, allowing users to create private, encrypted tunnels between devices they trust to pass network traffic, essentially creating their own VPN (virtual private network) servers.

For example, Meshnet allows someone to route their network traffic from their smartphone through their home computer while away on holiday, making it appear like they’re browsing from their usual location.

The user’s traffic may also be passed through a secure tunnel on a friend’s or a relative’s computer as long as they are using the Meshnet app and have been invited into their friend’s Mesh.

NordVPN's Meshnet client app
NordVPN’s Meshnet client app
Source: BleepingComputer

This feature can help users access geo-restricted platforms and secure user data when using risky, unsecured WiFi access points.

Even more helpful, the Meshnet private tunnel feature allows you to access internal devices while you are on vacation, traveling for work, or simply on the road as if you were in your office or home without opening ports on your firewall.

For example, the Remote Desktop feature of Windows is handy for accessing your computer while out of your home or office. However, you should never expose Remote Desktop to the Internet as it’s commonly exploited for ransomware attacks, and for home users, it’s not always easy to deploy a dedicated VPN.

However, with Meshnet, you can install the NordVPN software on both the remote desktop computer and a laptop and configure them to be part of the same Mesh. Then, from your laptop, you can connect to the IP address assigned to the RDP server by MeshNet and access the Remote Desktop computer as if you were within the network.

BleepingComputer tested this feature for doing exactly that today, and it worked well and was easy to set up.

MeshNet is not only useful for work but also for gaming, as you can invite friends to your Mesh so they can access internal, private gaming servers, no matter the physical distance between them, and without opening ports on your firewall.

All users on the Meshnet can restrict what access others have to their network, providing decent, but not perfect, control over shared resources. However, it would be better if NordVPN added more granular security permissions, such as specific IP addresses and ports that can be accessed and bandwidth limits.

Connectivity customization options
Connectivity customization options (BleepingComputer)

Today, NordVPN has announced that the system will be available to everyone for free, while the Linux client for the service is being open-sourced for increased transparency.

To celebrate this move, NordVPN’s engineers also introduced a new feature to Meshnet that allows users to share files of unlimited size with their friends securely.

Also, both users must consent to the transfer so the system minimizes the risk of unwanted malicious file transfers.

The library used for sharing files, Libdrop, and the library used for network communications, Libtelio, have also been open-sourced.

NordVPN says you’re not the product

NordVPN is one of the largest VPN service providers with an  record in security. Yet, some people may still find it hard to trust their network data to a private company.

Concerns are further magnified when the offered product is free, but NordVPN assures that Meshnet users are not the product.

As the company explains in the press release, Meshnet is inexpensive to operate, requiring a tiny portion of the company’s massive global infrastructure (5,000 servers in 59 countries).

Hence, making it available to everyone will not result in a notable financial burden for NordVPN.

“Opening it up to a wider audience doesn’t require us to develop new systems and invest more than we already have,” reads  announcement.

At the same time, NordVPN says this move aligns with its core value of helping make the internet a safer place for all users, regardless of whether they can afford a subscription to its products.