Early this year, the U.S. Congress rolled back Internet privacy rules, giving service providers free reign to track, store and sell browsing data. In July, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) issued a warrant to DreamHost, asking for a list of everyone who visited DisruptJ20.org — a site used to plan protests at President Trump’s inauguration. Both events raise important questions about online privacy, and many consumers are turning to Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
Mullvad is not that easy to use, with a bare-bones desktop interface and, unlike every other VPN service we've reviewed, no mobile client apps. (You do get instructions on how to manually set up OpenVPN apps.) This service's network speeds were far from great in our tests, and it's fairly expensive, with no discount for paying yearly instead of monthly.
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 differs in the types of users that will appreciate it the most. It has a lot of special features, like IP address cycling and a Kill Switch, but these come at the expense of a clunky and unattractive user interface. This makes it less friendly for beginners or users who want something simple and effective, but can provide more options and configurations for the truly technical user. It also allows connection from up to 5 devices simultaneously, adding to its appeal as a robust product.


However, you've got no choice but to run TunnelBear's client software (unless you use Linux), which may concern some privacy-minded users, and there's no option to set up TunnelBear connections on routers or other devices. Last but not least, this tiny Canadian firm is now owned by U.S. antivirus giant McAfee, which may mean TunnelBear is subject to U.S. search warrants.
This is all great, you may be thinking, but a VPN seems like a bit much. As long as you don’t do anything illegal online you having nothing to worry about, right? Unfortunately, it is that kind of thinking that enables legislators to continue to create laws that violate your online rights. As long as there is valuable data to harvest from online activity, someone is willing to put your information at risk.
VyprVPN is a powerful contender if you’re after performance and security. It boasts great speeds due to a staggering network of 700+ serves and more than 200K IP addresses. They own and manage their servers, which translates into reliable uptime, lag-free performance, top-notch support and great speeds. Add in unlimited bandwidth and P2P support, successful handling of Netflix and Steam geo blocks, and you can check all your VPN must-have features right off the bat.
VPNs are primarily used to keep a shred of privacy while navigating the internet in an age where your every move is monitored. Search engines love to keep track of you for marketing purposes, and your ISP might even be using your browsing history to make a bit of profit. A VPN effectively blocks that from happening, and it can even help get past government restrictions if you're living in a less-than-free country. If you travel or frequent coffee shops, Wi-Fi hotspots can be easily compromised, but a VPN will keep your data safe.
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.
If you frequent ThePirateBay, uTorrent, RARBG, Putlocker or KickassTorrents, however, chances are what you download from these torrenting sites is not legal. Government authorities can fine you for committing a civil offense, while ISPs and copyright holders will threaten and in some cases follow through on legal action. While it’s unlikely that a record company will take someone to court, they might seek damages through settlements.
One of the most popular VPN services in the market, HideMyAss has a myriad of features that are sure to attract anyone who wants online anonymity. It uses a variety of servers that work with any operating system or mobile device. Aside from PPTP and OpenVPN protocols, the service supports L2TP, which is more difficult to block. Ideal for getting around censorship and firewalls.
Cross platform device support is on offer from VyprVPN, along with a free trial and affordable monthly tariff ($5) for unlimited data and three concurrent connections. Or you might upgrade to their VyprVPN Premium service, at $12.95/month, which offers five simultaneous connections. With desktop and mobile apps, VyprVPN might prove particularly useful to you used in conjunction with OpenELEC/Kodi powered media centers.
The latter benefit is one of the main reasons that initially leads people to invest in virtual networks. Whenever you log on to the internet, your computer or mobile devices display their own unique IP address. If this address attempts to view content or multimedia that is restricted to particular regions (such as on Hulu, for example), then it will not be allowed access.
We summarize the protocols above, and look at them in detail in VPN Encryption: The Complete Guide. Although L2TP/IPsec is fine for most purposes, we only really recommend OpenVPN and IKEv2. OpenVPN is very secure if properly configured. Indeed, Edward Snowden’s documents showed that even the NSA can’t crack well-implemented OpenVPN. It is also supported by almost every provider.  But it is relatively slow. The newer IKEv2 is much faster and is considered secure, but has not been battle-tested in the way that OpenVPN has. It is not as well supported at present, although it is increasingly popular with providers thanks to its speed advantages over OpenVPN.

Security-wise, ExpressVPN is impressive, with strong 256-bit AES encryption and support for lots of VPN protocols. The company offers a strict no logging policy, which means no tracking or storing of personal data and that data is encrypted and hidden from all eyes, even ExpressVPN's. There’s a handy kill switch and DNS/IPv6 leak protection. A split tunneling feature for Mac and Windows allows users to protect their torrent client only, leaving other activities such as gaming unaffected by the VPN and not suffering a drop in speed. There’s also TOR compatibility for serious users and the company is registered in the British Virgin Islands, which means there are no data retention laws. 


The best VPN services of 2018 allow you to enjoy private, encrypted browsing along with worldwide access to your favorite sites and apps, free from surveillance and unwanted data collection. You can rely on our choices to be capable of buffer-free streaming and super-fast downloads thanks to our proprietary speed test tool that allows us to constantly monitor speeds in several popular locations across the globe. To see which VPN we recommend for a specific purpose, free of bias, choose an option from the dropdown menu below, or read on for the best overall picks for 2018.
TorGuard is considered one of the best torrent VPN providers in the industry for offering high torrent speeds and great online protection. They welcome torrent traffic on their network and keep zero records on all VPN servers. Your data is encrypted by using different encryption protocols. Evidently, the company goes a long way in protecting customers’ online privacy. Furthermore, they support Stealth VPN, offer a free anonymous email account, allow 5 simultaneous connections, and provides unlimited speeds and bandwidth.
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.
Multi-hop cascades + NeuroRouting – Perfect Privacy’s apps give you the ability to create multi-hop VPN cascades across up to four different servers in the network. This protects you against the possibility of a rogue data center logging traffic, targeted monitoring, and other threat scenarios. Additionally, the NeuroRouting feature takes this concept further by dynamically routing all traffic through multiple hops in the server network, corresponding to the location of the site you’re visiting. (No other VPN offers this.)
As we previously noted, we don’t recommend relying on our picks to get around geographic restrictions on copyrighted content. The practice is likely illegal, and it violates the terms of service of your ISP, VPN, and content provider. On top of that, it often doesn’t work—we couldn’t access Netflix over any of the services we tried, and of the four streams we loaded on BBC iPlayer, only two worked a few days later.
You may have heard about net neutrality. It is one of the hottest issues regarding internet regulation to come up in recent years. Net neutrality refers to the concept that every page on the internet should be treated the same. This means that internet service providers (ISPs) cannot charge users differently based on what content they view or what websites they use. It is often debated whether this is a fair practice (mostly by ISPs), but still remains standard policy for the internet in the United States.
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.
Most VPN providers advertise some version of a “no-logging” policy, and many are quick to say that because privacy is their business, they adhere to that policy in every way technically feasible. But some companies that have proudly claimed a no-logging policy have seen that disproven in a courtroom. A bad actor like that could easily turn your VPN connection into a huge log of personal information, which is why we think it’s so important that a VPN be trustworthy.
As a bonus, access to Netflix and other popular services is rock solid thanks to dedicated streaming servers. The apps are innovative but there are easier-to-use alternatives available. Customer support is friendly and helpful with fast live chat and email responses. At $2.75 on an 18-month plan though, it’s incredible value and easy to overlook the shortcomings.

A traditional VPN can affect the user experience when applied to wireless devices. It's best to use a mobile VPN to avoid slower speeds and data loss. A mobile VPN offers you a high level of security for the challenges of wireless communication. It can provide mobile devices with secure access to network resources and software applications on their wireless networks. It's good to use when you're facing coverage gaps, inter-network roaming, bandwidth issues, or limited battery life, memory or processing power.
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