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.

The more locations a VPN provider houses servers, the more flexible it is when you want to choose a server in a less-congested part of the world or geoshift your location. And the more servers it has at each location, the less likely they are to be slow when lots of people are using the service at the same time. Of course, limited bandwidth in and out of an area may still cause connections to lag at peak times even on the most robust networks.

That's a bit of a hodgepodge, and I am disappointed that Hide My Ass doesn't provide OpenVPN on all platforms. That said, some of the issue is with the platforms. Apple requires developers to jump through additional hoops if they want to include OpenVPN in an app, but many are beginning to move in that direction. I would like to see Hide My Ass do the same, across the board.
Pricing is quite flexible, with a three-day plan available for just $2. But for those who want to avail of the complete service and support, A basic plan of $5 per month, a solid plan of $10 a month, and dedicated plan of $25 per month are also available. These packages offer users access to Proxy.sh servers in different countries and unlimited bandwidth. Custom plans can be arranged, all one has to do is contact support.
The service supports torrenting through its zero logs policy. It supports PPTP, Open VPN and L2TP connections, with each going up to 256 bits except for PPTP. To further increase security, IPVanish uses shared IPs, making it even more difficult to identify users. This also ensures that even the vendor could not furnish agencies with your information even if it wanted to.
Advanced leak protection – Perfect Privacy offers very secure apps to ensure you are protected against any and all leaks. In the Perfect Privacy review I discuss the three different levels of the kill switch and DNS leak protection. Users are also protected from IPv6 leaks because Perfect Privacy offers full IPv6 support across their server network (giving you both an IPv4 and IPv6 address for all your devices).
The only downsides to Private Internet Access are that you can't select your own username — you've got to stick with an assigned random ID — and that you've occasionally got to reinstall a balky driver in Windows. (There's a button to do this.) Selecting Private Internet Access as our VPN service of choice was almost a no-brainer, but because it's based in the U.S., anyone wary of the FBI may want to consider another service.
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.

Max Eddy is a Software Analyst, taking a critical eye to Android apps and security services. He's also PCMag's foremost authority on weather stations and digital scrapbooking software. When not polishing his tinfoil hat or plumbing the depths of the Dark Web, he can be found working to discern the 100 Best Android Apps. Prior to PCMag, Max wrote... See Full Bio
Think about it this way: If your car pulls out of your driveway, someone can follow you and see where you are going, how long you are at your destination, and when you are coming back. They might even be able to peek inside your car and learn more about you. With a VPN service, you are essentially driving into a closed parking garage, switching to a different car, and driving out, so that no one who was originally following you knows where you went.
Avast SecureLine is also expensive, and based on current speed results for the UK and U.S., you’re probably better off shopping around for a better deal; SecureLine works out at £49.99 a year for a single device (equivalent to £4.17 a month). If you want to connect more than one computer or mobile device, a five-licence account will cost you £64.99 a year.
Netflix blocking paying customers might seem odd, but it's all about regions and not people. Just because you paid for Netflix in one place does not mean you're entitled to the content available on the same service but in a different location. Media distribution and rights are messy and complicated. You may or may not agree with the laws and terms of service surrounding media streaming, but you should definitely be aware that they exist and understand when you're taking the risk of breaking them. Netflix, for its part, lays out how that it will attempt to verify a user's location in order to provide content in section 6c of its Terms of Use document.

Tunnel endpoints must be authenticated before secure VPN tunnels can be established. User-created remote-access VPNs may use passwords, biometrics, two-factor authentication or other cryptographic methods. Network-to-network tunnels often use passwords or digital certificates. They permanently store the key to allow the tunnel to establish automatically, without intervention from the administrator.
Torrenting/P2P Support – Many individuals use a VPN to download torrents and perform P2P networking. Although we do not encourage piracy, the conscientious personal use of copyrighted files is a bit of a legal and moral gray area. To maintain freedom and neutrality on the web, torrenting should be supported and available to users. As such, support for P2P networking is a feature that the best paid VPN must possess.
The concept of tunneling a connection through a remote server originated as a way for workers to access their office computers from home. The same technology, it was discovered, could allow users to tunnel their connection through a secure encrypted server, thereby hiding their online activity. While both uses are very popular, VPNs have become best known as a way for private individuals to surf the internet safely.
The best VPNs offer a solid balance of features, server location, connectivity protocols, and price. Some are great for occasional use, others are geared towards getting around the location restrictions companies put on their apps and services, and others are targeted at people who do heavy downloading and want a little privacy while they do it. Here’s what you should look for.

Over the course of four months, we scoured articles, white papers, customer reviews, and forums to compile the pros and cons of VPN services and different VPN protocols and encryption technologies. That One Privacy Site and privacytools.io stood out as two of the most thorough and unbiased sources of information. We interviewed Electronic Frontier Foundation analyst Amul Kalia about government surveillance and VPN efficacy. We also got answers from Joseph Jerome, policy counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology’s privacy and data project, about how accountable VPN providers are for their policies and terms of service, and how that relates to trustworthiness. Alec Muffett, a security expert and software engineer, also shared his views on the usefulness of VPNs to protect against various threats.
If you're of the iPhone persuasion, there are a few other caveats to consider for a mobile VPN. Some iPhone VPN apps don't use OpenVPN, even if the VPN service that made the app supports the protocol. That's because Apple requires additional vetting if a company wants to include OpenVPN with its app. VPN app developers have slowly started jumping through those extra hoops and are bringing support for protocols such as OpenVPN to iOS.

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.
Technical: HMA utilizes various VPN technologies such as OpenVPN (UDP/TCP), PPTP and L2TP/IPSec. Each VPN server has a set number of IP addresses; each time a customer connects to one of HMA’s VPN servers, they are assigned a sheared IP address. HMA does not NAT customer connections, meaning the total amount of simultaneous connections they can support is the total amount of IP addresses that they offer, which is 2,800 + IP addresses.

IPVanish’s virtual private network is one of the best available. The service offers one of the most streamlined and efficient experiences around, no matter what their location. Users can log in from anywhere around the world and experience the same fast speeds and quality servers. IPVanish offers subscriptions at a very low price, with options to personalize IP locations and secure your Wi-Fi connection from hackers.
Remote-access VPNs come in two forms. One is a network access server (NAS), which is a dedicated server, or an application running on a shared server. In this case, users need to connect to the NAS over the Internet to access the VPN. Users key in their credentials to access the VPN, which is validated by the NAS either by using a separate authentication server or its own authentication process.
IPVanish’s virtual private network is one of the best available. The service offers one of the most streamlined and efficient experiences around, no matter what their location. Users can log in from anywhere around the world and experience the same fast speeds and quality servers. IPVanish offers subscriptions at a very low price, with options to personalize IP locations and secure your Wi-Fi connection from hackers.
Corporate and Exit Locations: Depending on what you’re using a VPN for, your service’s location—and the exit locations you can choose—are important to consider. If you want to get around a location restriction and watch live TV in the UK, for example, you want to make sure your VPN service provider has servers in the UK. If you’re concerned about privacy or state-sponsored snooping, you may want to pick a service operated outside of your home country. Similarly, if the service is based on the US, they’re subject to US laws, and may be forced to turn over usage data to the authorities upon request. Many people make more of this than they should (we’ve seen overseas services turn over their data to friendly governments without any hesitation repeatedly), but it’s important to make sure a VPN has servers in multiple locations—or at least the location you’re interested in—when shopping.
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Cost: You have three pricing options depending on how often you want to pay. The cheapest IPVanish plan is to buy a full year at once for $77.99, making the monthly rate $6.49/month. If you pay for three months at once for $26.99, the monthly cost comes down to $8.99/month. However, to subscribe on a monthly basis with no commitment, it will cost $10/month.
I consider the download speed tests to be the most important of the bunch, and Hide My Ass did not disappoint. It slowed download speeds by only 6.9 percent, not far from the best score in these tests. That's held by TorGuard VPN, which reduced download speeds by only 3.7 percent. That success was short-lived, as Hide My Ass lowered international download speeds by 77.1 percent. In these tests, AnchorFree Hotspot Shield Elite had the best score, reducing speeds by 39.9 percent.

Hotspot Shield is a strange combination of quality online protection and complex installation. It has recently hit the headlines for its logging practices, and questions have risen over its placement of advertisements in its free version. Despite this, Hotspot Shield still has many very happy users and provides access to numerous geo-restricted streaming sites.
Mobile VPNs are designed and optimized to ensure a seamless user experience when devices are switching networks or moving out of coverage. It generally has a smaller memory footprint, and because of that, it also requires less processing power than a traditional VPN. Therefore, it enables your applications to run faster while the battery pack is able to last longer.
It usually relies on either Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to secure the connection. However, SSL VPNs can also be used to supply secure access to a single application, rather than an entire internal network. Some VPNs also provide Layer 2 access to the target network; these will require a tunneling protocol like PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) or L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol) running across the base IPsec connection.
In very simple terms, a VPN connects your PC, smartphone, or tablet to another computer (called a server) somewhere on the internet, and allows you to browse the internet using that computer’s internet connection. So if that server is in a different country, it will appear as if you are coming from that country, and you can potentially access things that you couldn’t normally.
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.
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.
You may be considering going with one of the handful of free VPN services available. Why pay for something you can get for free, right? Unfortunately there’s a ton of limitations and risks with using a free VPN. Most offer tiny bandwidth allowances, limited server locations, even capped speeds, as they want to convert you into a paid customer to unlock the full product. You shouldn’t expect to be able to stream more than a few YouTube clips, that’s for sure.
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When you connect to a VPN, you create a secure, encrypted tunnel between your computer and the VPN remote server. The data is essentially gibberish to anyone who intercepts it. Your ISP, government or hackers won’t know which websites you visit. And conversely, the websites you visit won’t know where you are. Typically, logging in to a VPN is as easy as entering a password and clicking a button on a VPN client or a web browser extension.
HideMyAss works well. The UI is fantastic and the service is fast, which would probably make it more appealing to users unfamiliar with VPNs. Unfortunately, the service is not without some significant downsides – it is expensive, at just under $10 per month if you go by the one-year package, and as much as $16 per month if you go one month at a time. Perhaps even more importantly is that it has logging policies that allow it to track some user data, which is a big no-no in a field that is meant to be all about anonymity.
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