Surfshark even offers a lot of useful features to customers. For instance, CleanWebTM adds ad-blocking, tracker-blocking and malware protection to your VPN connection, which enhances your overall browsing experience. It even offers an immensely useful MultiHop feature. This can allow you to bypass your internet through two different servers around the world to keep your identity hidden. Add this to Surfshark’s diamond-strong protection and users can feel assured to stay safe online at all times.
Private Internet Access, or PIA, is one of the most visible, privacy-focused VPNs available. Because of its reputation and advocacy concerning online privacy and security, it has also been a Wirecutter staff pick. But whether you prioritize speed and performance or trust and transparency, our top pick is a better bet. If you find PIA attractive because of its low price, note that spending just a little more on TorGuard will buy you much better performance.
We checked Google Searches and other metrics to learn that ZenMate exists as one of the most popular choices for most VPN users. As such, we obviously had to review the provider, which took us around 24-hours. We tested its performance for facets relating to privacy, P2P/Torrenting and streaming/unblocking. Overall, we would say that the Berlin-based provider is definitely upping its game, preparing to compete with other hit services.
Since the VPN connection works by connecting a network to a private server and the encryption of the data needs time, every VPN connection is at least marginally slower. The speed of the connection depends on both endpoints, often an overloaded or far away located VPN server is responsible for the performance loss. Paid VPN services usually guarantee a certain bandwidth in their SLAs.
Some users will also want to research a VPN provider’s peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing policies. There are VPNs that block torrents. Others turn a blind eye to them, but will sell you out in a heartbeat should you be up to no good. P2P is not our main focus here, but we will note in each review whether a particular provider allows file sharing or not.
Our VPN-issued IP address was never blacklisted by websites like those of Yelp and Target, but we were unable to access Netflix and BBC iPlayer while connected to TorGuard. No VPN offers a reliable way to access these streaming services, though: All of the VPNs we tried were blocked by Netflix, and of the four that could access BBC content on the first day, two were blocked the next.
VPN services are offered to give you the mandate to surf the Internet with ease of knowing you are safe. Today, VPN is more popular with people who are looking to have anonymity and keep their activities in secret. Most of the people have gone to the extent of having top VPN app that will guarantee them online security and conceal their online activities. VPN services are essential for keeping malicious people and hackers from accessing your information during your Internet session. There are frequent cases of people getting their personal information in the wrong hands or either unsuspecting hackers accessing your Wi-Fi device either at work or home. In simple terms, VPN is the remote server that encodes and routes all received and sent information. After going through the VPN server identification and successfully passing the authorization process, its algorithms hide your identity and your real geolocation.
OVPN was regularly the fastest VPN in our tests regardless of the time of week or location. We also liked the app’s clean design and its simple and well-labeled settings pane. But OVPN is a small startup with a limited server network: At this writing, the company has servers in just seven countries, none in Asia. That makes it less versatile for finding less congested routes or geoshifting. OVPN also hasn’t released an Android app yet, so even non-iOS device owners will have to resort to the clunky, third-party OpenVPN Connect app on their phones. When we reached out for details about the company’s operational security, founder and CEO David Wibergh was open to questions and gave us answers that led us to believe that the company acted in the best interest of its customers’ privacy and security. He noted that after an uptick in data requests from local authorities in Sweden—all of which OVPN responded to by explaining that it lacked any pertinent data—the company published a blog post to detail just how little information it keeps.
Crucially, a VPN works more at the operating system level than the application level. In other words, when you’ve set up a VPN connection, your operating system can route all network traffic through it from all applications (although this can vary from VPN to VPN, depending on how the VPN is configured). You don’t have to configure each individual application.
In conjunction with information security experts at The New York Times (parent company of Wirecutter), we reached out to our finalists with questions about their internal security practices. We asked how they handled internal security access, how they communicated securely with customers, in what ways they collected reports on security bugs, and of course whether their statements on logging policies matched their marketing and privacy policies. We also considered which companies had public-facing leadership or ownership, and which ones openly supported projects and organizations that promoted Internet security and privacy. (For a full breakdown of trust and VPNs, check out the section above.)
Mullvad gives users the added bonus of using the OpenVPN protocol on the famous TCP Port 443. This allow you to route through the Transport Layer Security (TLS) used in HTTPs. Not only does this boost your protection in regressive countries, but it also makes it hard for firewalls and other technologies to spot you. This option will protect you even if snoopers are using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI).
PPTP. A consortium of vendors, including U.S. Robotics, Ascend Communications (now part of Lucent Technologies), 3Com, and Microsoft, developed PPTP. VPN software implementations are more likely than hardware implementations to use PPTP, although some VPN hardware vendors (e.g., Lucent in its MAX and Pipeline communication products and Nortel in its Contivity products) use it. PPTP software implementations can't handle high volumes of traffic, but PPTP hardware implementations can. PPTP 1.2 had major flaws, but version 2.0 fixed most of the problems. However, even this version 2.0 as Microsoft has implemented it is weak cryptographically because it still relies on the user's password to generate keys. In addition, PPTP's design and heavy promotion by a few large vendors such as Microsoft have made it suspect in some quarters.
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Your ISP may already be involved in some of these spying operations, but there's an even-newer concern. The FCC has rolled back Obama-era rules that sought to protect net neutrality, and in doing so allowed ISPs to profit off your data. The ISPs wanted a slice of that big data monetization pie that has fueled the growth of companies like Facebook and Google. Those companies are able to gather huge amounts of information about users, and then use it to target advertising or even sell that data to other companies. ISPs now have the green light to bundle anonymized user data and put it up for sale.
No company came closer to being a pick than ExpressVPN. It has a huge server network that performed well in our tests, plus easy-to-use applications on tons of platforms, and strong security technologies in place. A representative answered all our questions about company operations at length—except one. As noted in a PCWorld review of the service, ExpressVPN chooses not to disclose the company’s leadership or ownership. The company representative told us that this policy enabled ExpressVPN to build a private and secure product without compromise. “We think that this approach has been effective until now and that coupled with a stellar VPN product, we have succeeded in gaining a solid reputation in our industry. We are fortunate to be trusted by the many users worldwide who choose ExpressVPN.”
You don't have this same level of choice when it comes to your ISP, which controls your home's gateway to the entirety of the internet. While there are alternatives to Google and Facebook, most Americans have limited home ISP alternatives. Some areas have only one ISP offering wired internet access. That makes recent changes that allow ISPs to sell data from their customers all the more troubling. It's one thing to opt into a shady system, it's quite another to have no choice in the matter.
Torrents get a bad rap, and if we’re honest, that’s for good reason. Using torrents is the number one way to download pirated material including movies, TV shows, music, and games. But that’s not all there is to torrenting. It’s a very efficient way to download legitimate software such as Linux distributions and authorized content from sites such as BitTorrent Now.
OpenVPN: OpenVPN is very secure, open-source and widely used. Most VPN services support it, but except for Chrome OS and Linux, few operating systems do. This protocol can be used in either TCP (web) or UDP (streaming) mode; the latter is sloppier but faster. You'll need either the VPN service's client software or one of the many free alternatives. Either way, you'll still need to pay for the VPN service.
Internet service providers are an adversary that collects your browsing information and passes this along to third parties, including government agencies. In the UK, internet browsing history can and is used as evidence in prosecuting people for various crimes. In the US, your browsing history can be sold to advertisers and other third parties, which has been perfectly legal since March 2017. Regardless of where you’re at, you should simply assume that your internet provider is logging your activity.
Companies even implement policies preventing employees from having access to master keys used for the decryption process of the channeled data in real time. In order to provide our readers with the most secure VPN services for 2018, we have carefully examined the companies that excel in the VPN business and have outlined their advantages and disadvantages in terms of providing a secure and stable service.
We asked TorGuard detailed questions about the company’s internal policies and standards, just as we did with five other top-performing services. TorGuard CEO Benjamin Van Pelt answered all our questions, as he has done for other outlets multiple times since the company launched in 2012. Though TorGuard’s answers weren’t as in-depth as some other companies’ responses, Van Pelt is a public figure who has been willing to talk about TorGuard’s operations at length. In 2013, ArsTechnica got a close look at TorGuard’s engineering and network management skills as the company rebuffed repeated attacks on its servers. Even though the company’s marketing is wrought with overreaching claims about being “anonymous”—an inaccurate boast that makes some experts cringe—the technical and operational standards of the company are focused on protecting customer privacy. In one interview with Freedom Hacker, Van Pelt notes that if there were problems on a server, such as someone using it for spamming, the company couldn’t restrict a single user. “Rules would be implemented in that specific server which would limit actions for everyone connected, not just one user. Since we have an obligation to provide fast, abuse free services, our team handles abuse reports per server – not per single user.”
The second thing that happens is that the web application you're talking to does not get to see your IP address. Instead, it sees an IP address owned by the VPN service. This allows you some level of anonymous networking. This IP spoofing is also used to trick applications into thinking you're located in a different region, or even a different country than you really are located in. There are reasons (both illegal and legal) to do this. We'll discuss that in a bit.
Let's talk about what happens when you use a VPN app on your computer or mobile device. Any VPN app will require an existing network connection to be able to connect to the VPN service provider. This means that even if you set your VPN app to automatically launch when your device boots, there will be a period of time when your computer is connected to the internet directly, not through your VPN.
Like most VPN services, the program will prevent websites from viewing your personal IP address, thus preventing others from identifying you or your geographic location. From offshore email to unlimited server switching between over 3,000 servers across the globe, TorGuard offers some pretty impressive scaling. Skilled geeks and professionals alike should take a look at the service, along with the discount bundles that come packaged with hardware.
No one-size-fits-all VPN exists. Ambiguity in the standards and differences in feature sets from vendor to vendor make the decision process fairly complex. Several factors, including your organization size, privacy requirements, and user sophistication, determine which VPN solution might suit your needs. The right product and operational procedures can securely open your network borders, increasing worker productivity while still letting you sleep at night. If you keep in mind these considerations when purchasing a VPN solution and follow a few recommendations about how to securely run it, you can achieve the Private in your Virtual Private Network without pulling out your hair in the process.
TorGuard was consistently one of the fastest services we tested. When we averaged three tests performed at different times of the week with Internet Health Test, TorGuard was the fastest service when connecting in the UK and Asia, the second fastest in the US, and the third fastest in Central Europe. OVPN was the next most consistent, but that company’s small network doesn’t have any servers in Asia, and it ranked fifth in the UK. Our top pick, IVPN, was the third most consistently fast after TorGuard and OVPN. However, we tested with each app’s default settings—since we expect most people won’t change them—and TorGuard’s default 128-bit encryption gives it an advantage in speed tests over VPNs that default to 256-bit encryption, as most services do. Still, we think 128-bit encryption is fine for most people who prioritize speed, and TorGuard’s consistency makes it a good value as our budget pick.
When you connect to the internet, your IP address and system information are sent along with each packet. Those requests go through the DNS servers of your internet service provider and are routed to the domains they’re requesting. During that time, the government and network snoopers can spy on your connection and log the data you’re transferring.
DNS servers are a bit like the phone books of the Internet: You can type in “thewirecutter.com,” for instance, and one of the many DNS servers behind the scenes can point you to the IP address of a server hosting the site. Most of the time, your DNS requests automatically route through your ISP, giving the ISP an easy way to monitor your traffic. Some VPN services rely on third-party DNS servers, but the best ones keep DNS servers in-house to prevent your browsing history, or your IP address, from getting out.
NordVPN’s customer service is also quite good. They offer 24/7 live chat support directly through their website and many support guides and tutorials. Right now NordVPN is extending the 75% discount price exclusively for three-year plans. All subscriptions come with a 30 day money-back guarantee, allowing you to try the service risk free. [Learn more >]
Hotspot Shield depends on a custom VPN protocol that's not been publicly analyzed by independent experts. We don't know how private or secure it really is. The company has been accused of spying on users (it denies the allegations), and complaints abound online about Hotspot Shield software installing on PCs without users' permission. All this, and the company's U.S. location, may scare away customers who want to protect their privacy.
Hide My Ass! is one of the more expensive VPN providers going. On a rolling monthly basis, you’ll be paying £7.99 a throw, while a £59.88 annual subscription is equivalent to paying £4.99 a month. As we said above, if you need a VPN service with a huge number of endpoints across the globe, then Hide My Ass! is the VPN for you. Otherwise, you might be better off looking elsewhere.
You are probably now aware how important conducting a DNS Leak Test is for providers. You would not want to sign up with a provider that fails to meet the most basic demands of users. If you analyze the DNS Leak Test below, you will notice VyprVPN’s Australian server utilizes four different DNS addresses. However, none of them reveal any information of us being based in the US. In fact, if you look closely each address has the “AU” initials.
As YouTube and Netflix make more money, the distribution models become more complex. For example, Annihilation — an instant sci-fi classic, according to your writer — was released in theaters in the U.S., but released exclusively through Netflix in the U.K. and Australia. Similarly, season four of Better Call Saul aired on AMC in the U.S., while new episodes in the U.K. aired on Netflix.
The process of determining the anonymity of a VPN does not just end by a WebRTC leak test. Users need to make sure the provider they select, offers maximum privacy and anonymity. As a result, there should be no DNS leaks. The results below reveal a single DNS server, which is located in the UK. This means, our identity is completely secure, as there are no signs pointing to our official US location!
If you download and upload content, movies, and games on a daily basis, PureVPN is a choice with notably fast downloading and uploading speeds. Compared to other VPNs that get the same speed (like Astrill), it's considerably more affordable. PureVPN has more than 500 servers spanning across 140 countries and impeccable access in China — and may be the only option available in some places. Pure VPN is also extremely accessible when it comes to devices: It's compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chrome, and Firefox, as well as apps for media streaming devices like Android TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, and Kodi. So, if nothing else, it's one of the most versatile of the bunch. Though Mashable dubbed it one of the best due to its speed and how many things it can do, Reddit users insist that it is not a trustworthy choice. Multiple Redditors claim that PureVPN lies to users about not logging their information or search history when they really do. Some also believe that PureVPN uses spammers and claim that a lot of positive feedback about PureVPN on Reddit are from fake accounts. Reddit user cloudhat writes:
The well-publicized case of the intruder who cracked Microsoft's VPN, accessed the corporate network, and almost made away with the company's precious source code should be a warning. VPNs offer many benefits but also open a hole into your network, usually bypassing your firewall or going right through it. So, you need to carefully consider which VPN product to choose and how to install and run it.
This was technically #8 in the ranking, but after we saw it mentioned positively so many times in Reddit discussions, we decided to bump it up. Private Internet Access VPN, otherwise known as PIA, attempts to give off reliability vibes with its home page (children on bikes was an interesting choice), which some might feel conned by. However, we've gathered that Redditors believe that this wasn't a farce, and that it's actually a super trustworthy option. It was Mashable's top choice too, due to the fact that it comes with a ton of user-friendly features and doesn't kill your device to install. However, it's not the most aesthetically pleasing interface of the bunch, and some users mention that they had to switch VPNs simply because of that. But if you don't care about the looks so much as server reliability, variety of features, and speed, it's a good choice. Reddit user KaiForceOne writes:
However, the VPN’s reputation has suffered a little. Its Android software made an appearance in the list of “intrusive or malicious” apps. This is of course, a rare instance for a service of this stature. Nevertheless, the VPN still ranks among the greatest and safest choices online, especially for engaging in P2P activities. The monthly pricing starts at $11.99, which is quite expensive.
Nobody wants to sign up with a provider that fails to offer the most basic facet of a VPN: PRIVACY. If there is even the slightest chance of your WebRTC is leaking, you will reek so bad. Everyone between your ISP and Copyright Trolls will be able to sniff you from miles away. Lucky for you, ZenMate passed the test, upon connecting to a Switzerland server. As you can see, there were no errors found, as your local IP and IPv6 address are both invisible.
IPVanish has a clear no-logging policy and is based in the USA, which doesn’t legally require logging of user activity. By the same token, there’s few data protection requirements and, in 2016, when it was owned by its previous parent company Highwinds, IPVanish handed over detailed connection information for use as evidence by the US Department of Homeland Security, even though it claimed to keep no logs at the time. Current owner StackPath says it intends to honour its no logging policy, but it’s not clear whether any technical changes have been implemented to ensure this.
If you are listening to music with one of these streaming apps, you are most likely using a mobile device. When choosing a top VPN like Ipvanish or VPN express, you will want to be sure that your premium VPN service also offers coverage for mobile and if you are a Windows user, make sure you go for a VPN for windows. A mobile VPN will cover you on the go, so you never have to worry about your online privacy, whether you’re on your desktop computer, smartphone, or tablet.
Whereas most providers say they log nothing, that’s not always the case. Some record very little data like the day you subscribed, the amount of data you’ve consumed, and delete those logs when you end the session. Other providers log your IP address, the servers you used, and store those logs. If they’re based in the US, UK or any other country with data retention laws, they can be compelled to hand over that data to law enforcement.
Before anything else, understand that if you want to use a VPN you should be paying for it. Free VPNs are either selling your browsing data in aggregated form to researchers and marketers, or giving you a paltry amount of data transfer every month. Either way, a basic rule of thumb is that a free VPN will not protect your privacy in any meaningful way.
Not all mobile VPN apps are created equal. In fact, most VPN providers offer different services (and sometimes, different servers) for their mobile offerings than they do for their desktop counterparts. We're pleased to see that NordVPN and Private Internet Access provide the same excellent selection of servers regardless of platform. These apps received an Editors' Choice nod both for desktop VPN apps and Android VPN apps.
Through years of reporting and the Snowden leaks, we now know that the NSA's surveillance apparatus is enormous in scope. At one point, the agency had the ability to intercept and analyze just about every transmission being sent over the web. There are jaw-dropping stories about secret rooms inside data infrastructure hubs, from which the agency had direct access to the beating heart of the internet. With a VPN, you can rest assured that your data is encrypted and less directly traceable back to you. Given the mass surveillance efforts by the NSA and others, having more ways to encrypt your data is a good thing.
IPVanish is continuously emerging in different reviews, charts and news traveling from mouth to mouth. IPVanish is located in the United States and its Chief Technology Officer is Josh Gagliardi, who works at Highwinds, which is a subsidiary of the cybersecurity giant StackPath. IPVanish provides speeds almost as close as a person’s original Internet connection speed.
Though PIA doesn’t list its leadership on its website, that information isn’t hard to find. The founder, Andrew Lee, has been interviewed by Ars Technica; the CEO, Ted Kim, is also on the record; and privacy activist and Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge is listed as Head of Privacy on the company’s blog. PIA can also point to court records showing that when approached by law enforcement for detailed records, the company had nothing to provide. PIA boasts a huge network of servers and locations around the world, and though the PIA app isn’t as polished as those of some competitors, it is easy to use. Like our top pick, IVPN, its iOS app also added OpenVPN support in mid-2018. But in our speed tests, PIA was just okay, not great. When we averaged and ranked all of our speed tests, PIA came in fifth, behind our top picks as well as OVPN and ExpressVPN.
The IVPN app’s default settings are great for most people, who should be happy just smashing the Connect button and not fiddling with settings. The desktop app defaults to a secure OpenVPN connection with AES 256-bit encryption (what we consider the standard at this point), and the mobile app can (and should) be toggled to OpenVPN as well. Our budget pick, TorGuard, defaults to the weaker (but also acceptable) AES 128-bit encryption unless you manually change it, and hasn’t added OpenVPN support on its iOS app.
IPVanish wasn't the top performer in our 2017 round of testing, falling in about the middle of the pack. But it was one of the most reliable VPN services, connecting smoothly and staying connected every time we used it. IPVanish has excellent client software, although you can connect to the company's servers manually, and a decent array of about 850 connection points in 50 countries. However, its subscription price is kind of high, and its U.S. base may be a negative for some potential customers.