However, we run comparative tests on each service from a London-based connection that typically sees speeds of over 10MB/s (80Mbit/s). We tested multiple servers from each provider in three locations: the UK, the Netherlands and the USA. Our table shows the best results we were able to obtain during a large file download via FTP, but these figures are a snapshot of performance at a single point in time, rather than being fully representative.
The Overplay Smart DNS service, on the other hand, routes internet connection using a different DNS to give the illusion that one is located in a different country, without significant speed reduction. This is very useful to those who want to access sites that are blocked in their own countries. The service supports PCs, Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, Wii, PS3, XBOX360, among other devices.
Do you want to watch your favorite sports teams? A VPN for streaming sports is your solution. The lucrative nature of sports licensing means that television channels are forbidden from showing games that are outside of their region or license. VPNs like Express VPN are a great way to watch your favorite teams securely and privately because you will be able to stream games at high-quality and top speed. A simple VPN download can hence save the day for you.
Tip for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera users: A feature called WebRTC can, in some Web browsers, inadvertently cause your true IP address to leak out even when you’re connected via a great VPN. WebRTC assists with peer-to-peer connections, such as for video chatting, but could be exploited in some cases. You can manually disable this function in Firefox, or use an extension to block most instances of it in Chrome or Opera. For more details and instructions, check out Restore Privacy.
Put simply, a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a group of computers (or discrete networks) networked together over a public network—namely, the internet. Businesses use VPNs to connect remote datacenters, and individuals can use VPNs to get access to network resources when they’re not physically on the same LAN (local area network), or as a method for securing and encrypting their communications when they’re using an untrusted public network. Photo by Pavel Ignatov (Shutterstock).
A “kill switch” goes by many names, but the term describes VPN software that shuts off all network traffic in and out of your computer if the encrypted connection fails. A hiccup in your Wi-Fi or even with your ISP can cause a VPN to disconnect, and if you then maintain an unsecure connection—especially if the VPN software doesn’t alert you that it’s no longer protecting your traffic—that wipes out all the benefits of your VPN. We considered kill switches to be mandatory. And although we looked for apps that made it easy to add rules about when to activate kill switches, we considered special config files or manual firewall tweaks to be too complex. (iOS doesn’t support any kill-switch features; we address a few iOS-specific problems that apply to all VPN services in a separate section.)
That attitude to the safety and privacy of personal data creates an enormous risk when it comes to online security. Public Wi-Fi networks, which are ubiquitous and convenient, are unfortunately also highly convenient for attackers looking to compromise your personal information. How do you know, for example, that "starbucks_wifi_real" is actually the Wi-Fi network for the coffee shop? Anyone could have created that network, and they may have done so in order to lure victims into disclosing personal information over it. In fact, a popular security researcher prank is to create a network with the same name as a free, popular service and see how many devices will automatically connect because it appears safe.
However, the law states that fines cannot be artificially high, so damages that copyright holders can exact are capped. Early in 2018, Netherlands’ privacy watchdog, Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens (AP), gave permission to Dutch Filmworks to collect IP addresses of anyone illegally downloading content. The company can hand out fines to users and have decided on a fee of 150 Euros per film.
Pay attention to server load: Just like a regular computer, the VPN server is bound by the laws of physics and the more that is being asked of it, the slower it will become. Many VPN clients will show you the load being placed on any given server as a percentage of its capacity. Choosing a server that is not under load will often yield faster speeds.
Another great bonus when using a private network is that your browsing habits will remain confidential. In simple terms, this means that if you want to visit websites without having your IP address logged, or if you want to avoid your details being harvested by pesky spam bots, advertisers, and other irritating databases, a private network will keep all of these things at bay.
IVPN also performed well in our speed tests. Though it wasn't always the fastest in the 54 measurements we took on each service, it ranked near the top on many servers at different times of the week—especially compared with the most trustworthy services. Private Internet Access, one of the most visible, privacy-focused VPNs, had slower speeds when connecting to most servers and less reliable connections than IVPN. For US servers (which we expected to be the fastest locations because we tested from California), IVPN ranked behind only OVPN and TorGuard. We liked OVPN—especially its speed results—but we thought that company's small team and small selection of servers and locations were too limiting for some people.
A powerful VPN service, SaferVPN is very useful in hiding users’ IP addresses. It also allows access to blocked websites or safely share information. Privacy is also ensured as the service uses high security protocols. It offers a unique Automatic Wi-Fi Security feature which instantly activates a secure and encrypted VPN connection as soon as someone’s device connects to an unsecured Wi-Fi connection — automatically protecting them from public Wi-Fi threats. Likewise, it features single-click applications for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Chrome.
The app likewise prevents websites from collecting users’ private data, allowing for safer and more secure web browsing. To make things even better, the solution automatically connects whenever an unsecure Wi-Fi connection is detected, ensuring constant protection. It connects to the nearest server, resulting in optimum speeds. But one can also connect manually and be able to choose a preferred server.
For torrenting purposes, Private Internet Access is an established competitor that provides a great balance between security, performance, and price. It also has additional features like DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and multiple device support. For subscription plans of a year or more, Private Internet Access comes in at an impressive $3.33/month.
A Mobile VPN is a worthwhile tool to have since it increases privacy, user satisfaction and productivity, while also reducing unforeseen support issues caused by wireless connectivity problems. The increasing usage of mobile devices and wireless connectivity make it more important to ensure that your data is being transferred through a secure network. It will allow you to access the internet, while staying safe behind a firewall that protects your privileged information.
Secure remote access provides a safe, secure way to connect users and devices remotely to a corporate network. It includes VPN technology that uses strong ways to authenticate the user or device. VPN technology is available to check whether a device meets certain requirements, also called a device’s posture, before it is allowed to connect remotely.
In the past, some VPN services would offer different pricing tiers, each of which offered a different set of features. One way to separate these pricing tiers was to limit the bandwidth (how much data you can transfer). With premium services, this practice is now almost unheard of, and all of the services we have listed do not limit their users' bandwidth. Bandwidth limits live on, however, in free VPN services.
These services offer many ways to connect, including without the service's client software; support operating systems and devices, such as routers or set-top boxes, beyond just the "big four" operating systems (Windows, Mac, Android and iOS); have hundreds, or even thousands, of servers in dozens of countries; and generally let the user sign up and pay anonymously.
We really like PrivateVPN’s user-friendly desktop client but the mobile apps leave a lot to be desired when it comes to configurable options, although this probably won’t affect the majority of users. It can be made to work in China at a push, however there are much more reliable options available for that purpose. In terms of striking a balance between privacy and performance, PrivateVPN does a brilliant job.
Hide Your Browsing Activity From Your Local Network and ISP: If you’re using a public Wi-Fi connection, your browsing activity on non-HTTPS websites is visible to everyone neraby, if they know how to look. If you want to hide your browsing activity for a bit more privacy, you can connect to a VPN. The local network will only see a single, secure VPN connection. All the other traffic will travel over the VPN connection. While this can be used to bypass connection-monitoring by your Internet service provider, bear in mind that VPN providers may opt to log the traffic on their ends.
Inside the Preferences pane, you can also tick boxes to automatically launch or connect the app when you boot your device. Anyone using the Windows or macOS app should tick the box to autoconnect “when joining insecure WiFi networks.” You can also tag individual Wi-Fi networks as trusted or untrusted, to make sure you’re always protected even if you forget to connect the app manually. These network rules—not offered on most apps, including IVPN’s mobile apps or any of TorGuard’s apps—will make sure you don’t forget your VPN when you need it the most.
In recent times, VPN services have made giant leaps in growing from niche online products hidden away in a dark corner of the internet to almost must-have services for anyone with an internet connected device. VPN is very much in the mainstream now and luckily that broadened appeal has done wonders for the usability of the services themselves - there are some brilliant options available in 2018.
Cost: There's a 3 day free trial you can grab but you'll still need to enter your credit card. Otherwise, you can pay for VyprVPN every month for $9.95/month (or buy a year at once to bring that down to $5/month). Additional, there's a Premium plan for $12.95/month (or $6.67/month when billed annually) that lets you use your account on up to five devices at once, plus it supports Chameleon.
Ideally, every VPN service provider would subject itself to independent audits to verify that it logs and operates as it claims. Right now, audits aren’t common practice in the VPN industry, though there’s a push to change that. Joseph Jerome, policy counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told us about that group’s efforts to bring transparency to the VPN industry: “We would like to see security audits released publicly so security researchers can review them and attest to their veracity, as well as learn from the issues being identified.” The few companies we found that currently performed these types of audits had other dismissal-worthy failings, despite their valiant efforts toward transparency. And while such reports may increase your confidence when you’re shopping, there’s no guarantee that an audit makes a VPN service trustworthy: In other industries, conflicts of interest have led auditors and rating agencies (PDF) to miss or ignore major problems.
In addition to blocking malicious sites and ads, some VPNs also claim to block malware. We don't test the efficacy of these network-based protections, but most appear to be blacklists of sites known to host malicious software. That's great, but don't assume it's anywhere near as good as standalone antivirus. Use this feature to complement, not replace, your antivirus.
Another great VPN service for torrenting is NordVPN. NordVPN is a Panama-based VPN provider with a strict no logs policy and a nice lineup. It performed well in testing for the review and continues to offer one of the best values for your money with the 66% discount coupon. While there is some variability in the network speeds, NordVPN still offers solid performance for torrenting and P2P downloads.
When we tested other aspects of IVPN's performance, it also satisfied our requirements. On the default settings, our real IP address didn't leak out via DNS requests or IPv6 routing, let alone a standard IP address checker. The DNS-requests check indicated that the app was using the company's internal DNS servers and that they were correctly configured. None of the 12 services we tested disclosed our true IP address (though some showed mismatched IPs).
The globetrotter. This person wants to watch the Olympics live as they happen, without dealing with their crummy local networks. They want to check out their favorite TV shows as they air instead of waiting for translations or re-broadcasts (or watch the versions aired in other countries,) listen to location-restricted streaming internet radio, or want to use a new web service or application that looks great but for some reason is limited to a specific country or region.
Like NordVPN, it also has all the must-have features for P2P traffic, but with one caveat: if you want more than the standard 256-bit encryption you’re going to have to mess with the configuration files yourself. Doing so can up your encryption as high as 4096 bits (that’s ridiculously secure), but it does require getting your hands a little dirty.
There are three variables to consider depending on your needs. If you love bypassing regional locks and want to view Netflix without borders, only a handful of VPNs can successfully bypass the watchful eye of Netflix. The second variable is P2P access. Some VPNs specialize in optimizing P2P service, so that’s something to consider if you regularly transfer large files on torrent sites.
Here’s how a VPN works for you, the user. You start the VPN client (software) from your VPN service. This software encrypts your data, even before your Internet Service Provider or the coffee shop WiFi provider sees it. The data then goes to the VPN, and from the VPN server to your online destination — anything from your bank website to a video sharing website to a search engine. The online destination sees your data as coming from the VPN server and its location, and not from your computer and your location.
Windscribe, one of the best free VPNs out there, is definitely a user favorite. While its adblocker and firewall can be a little aggressive, Windscribe’s generous data allowance and commitment to privacy easily make it one of our top free picks. Not only does it allow 10 GB of data month, you get an extra 5 GB for tweeting about the service, and an extra 1 GB every time you refer a friend.
An internet kill switch is a must have feature in any safe torrenting VPN. It ensures that a user’s IP address is never disclosed on the internet, in case the VPN connection drops (disconnects). To ensure identity protection, it immediately kills the internet connection when your VPN accidentally disconnects, allowing no traffic to flow through your network.
A P device operates inside the provider's core network and does not directly interface to any customer endpoint. It might, for example, provide routing for many provider-operated tunnels that belong to different customers' PPVPNs. While the P device is a key part of implementing PPVPNs, it is not itself VPN-aware and does not maintain VPN state. Its principal role is allowing the service provider to scale its PPVPN offerings, for example, by acting as an aggregation point for multiple PEs. P-to-P connections, in such a role, often are high-capacity optical links between major locations of providers.
If you choose NordVPN for your iPhone, you’ll get an intuitive app that is very easy to use, even for VPN newbies. Its eye-catching interface includes the ‘quick connect’ widget with details such as the closest server, availability, server load, etc. The provider has a large number of servers spread across 62 countries, guaranteeing a solid performance.
Given the aggressive pricing and marketing of other services that don’t measure up to our picks, IVPN’s most obvious downside may look like its price: At the time of this writing, the regular price for an annual IVPN subscription is $100 (about $8 per month). Promotions regularly bringing that down to $70 to $80 per year, but some services have regular pricing of half that. But you shouldn’t pay for a VPN you can’t trust, or one so slow or confusing that you avoid using it at all. We think IVPN’s combination of trust, security, and performance is worth the price. But if it’s too expensive for your needs, consider our budget pick instead.
If you’re going to bother with a VPN, you should spend money on a good one—don’t trust a free VPN. Security and privacy cost money, and if you aren’t paying for them, the provider has an incentive to make money from marketers at your privacy’s expense. Though price doesn’t always equal quality, a few dollars a month more for a better experience is worth it for something you’ll use on a regular basis.
Then you find a VPN service that has a setup for your router. Many of them do. Even better, if you have a router that's supported by DD-WRT, flash your router with that and then put the VPN info in your newly flashed router and you can have 60 computers go through your router, all being protected by your VPN. That way you aren't breaking the VPN services rules by trying to use more than the one or two 'allowed' devices to go out through the VPN.
VPN services, while tremendously helpful, are not foolproof. There's no magic bullet (or magic armor) when it comes to security. A determined adversary can almost always breach your defenses in one way or another. Using a VPN can't help if you unwisely download ransomware on a visit to the Dark Web, or if you are tricked into giving up your data to a phishing attack.