The VPN space is crowded, and there are many options that excel where Hide My Ass merely meets expectations. TunnelBear is an Editors' Choice winner that has bright colors and bears, as well as an excellent privacy and security pedigree. NordVPN is another winner that combines well-designed apps with powerful technology and a robust network of servers. And Private Internet Access is an Editors' Choice winner that skimps on appearances to offer a powerful security tool at a bargain-basement price. Consider these three, in addition to your friendly security donkey.
IVPN doesn’t have as many server locations as larger services like ExpressVPN do. When we initially recommended the service, IVPN was limited to 13 countries, compared with ExpressVPN’s 94. But in the months since, IVPN has doubled that to 26, including two additional locations in Asia (Tokyo and Singapore). We’ve yet to test the new servers though, and in the past, IVPN’s single location in Asia—Hong Kong—was slower than competitors.
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.
With all that being said, be careful if you’re tempted by any of the free VPN apps for either Android or iOS. There’s research by a team of specialists (from CSIRO’s Data61, the University of New South Wales, the International Computer Science Institute and the University of California Berkeley), going through more than 280 free Android apps that use Android VPN permissions. The research reveals that 38% of those apps include malware, 84% leak users’ traffic and 75% use tracking libraries. So there’s that.
For two years running, Private Internet Access has performed the best in our network tests and remained the cheapest full-fledged VPN service we've tried. It has more than 3,000 servers worldwide, supports platforms ranging from Windows and Mac to open-source routers, and lets you customize your tunneling and encryption protocols. You can pay in bitcoin, and you don't have to provide your real name.
I don't believe it is possible to make a determination about the benefits of a company based solely on its location. However, it is important to understand the laws and policies at work in a company with such intimate access to your information. I encourage readers to consider this information, and choose a VPN service with which they can feel comfortable.
Private Internet Access (or PIA to those of us into acronyms) has no beef against decentralised file-sharing. Heck, their insanely large network of 3342+ servers in 24 countries includes multiple VPN gateways built specifically for the purpose of torrent traffic (and all of them offering the usual 256-bit military-grade encryption). PIA also delivers further peace of mind in the form of an in-app kill switch as well as secure DNS leak and IPv6 leak protection.
Windscribe VPN is a Canadian VPN provider that has made a dent in the low-end VPN market. They claim not to keep any logs of activity, and their software is quite good. Windscribe is also one of the last remaining VPNs that works reliably with Netflix without generating the dreaded 'proxy error'. (Hint: NordVPN is another that works flawlessly with Netflix).
One of the leading complaints about VPN services is that they slow your browsing experience to a crawl. HideMyAss, however, gives you a high-speed browsing experience while allowing you to access servers in over 190 countries. Browse like a local practically anywhere on Earth, while securing your privacy and eluding prying eyes. It's no surprise HideMyAss was named one of PC Mag's Best VPN Services of 2016.
Despite leaks and disclosures about government data-collection efforts in recent years, it’s hard to determine the exact reach of current operations and how vulnerable encryption technologies like VPNs are to those efforts. Given the more immediate threats to security and privacy from other avenues, none of the experts we interviewed highlighted government data collection as the foremost reason for most people to get a VPN. A VPN could help prevent some types of passive data collection—and a trustworthy VPN certainly can’t hurt—but there’s no guarantee against government tracking.
Secure IP Binding (Kill Switch): We love this functionality. From this window, you can set a list of applications that cannot connect to the Internet unless the HMA VPN is active. IP binding prevent accidental information leaks like, for instance, if you have applications that update automatically. The update could start at a time when the VPN is off, and so your data is unprotected. IP binding will prevent that not allowing the application to go online unless the VPN is active.
When it comes to servers, more is always better. More servers mean that you're less likely to be shunted into a VPN server that is already filled to the brim with other users. NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and TorGuard currently lead the pack with well over 3,000 servers each—NordVPN is at the forefront with 4,875 servers. But the competition is beginning to heat up. Last year, only a handful of companies offered more than 500 servers, now it's becoming unusual to find a company offering fewer than 1,000 servers.
Even TunnelBear's network performance and pricing are just about average compared to other services we've reviewed, except that you can pay anonymously with cash. The company takes security and privacy seriously, explaining its policies and protocols in plain English, and you can read the results of two third-party security audits on the company website.
However, HMA is a little tricky when it comes to torrenting. They state that “although HMA! Pro VPN does support Torrent as this is a legitimate technology for sharing data over the Internet, we do not support the use of Torrent to share copyrighted material illegally. If you use our VPN service for such activity, you will probably cause us to receive DMCA notices from the copyright holders, who monitor Torrent trackers.”
HotSpot Shield is a product that has had some ups and downs in terms of our editorial coverage. Back in 2016, they picked up some very positive coverage based on founder David Gorodyansky comments about protecting user privacy. Then, in 2017, a privacy group accused the company of spying on user traffic, an accusation the company flatly denies. Finally, just this year, ZDNet uncovered a flaw in the company's software that exposed users. Fortunately, that was fixed immediately.
If your ISP blocks BitTorrent, or throttles video streaming from a competing service, as some have been reported to do, it could also decide to throttle all traffic that looks like a VPN on the off chance that the VPN is being used to circumvent its restrictions. Since the FCC rolled back net neutrality rules, there’s nothing to stop ISPs from throttling or prioritizing different types of Internet traffic, as long as they disclose that they do so somewhere in their fine print. At the time of this writing, we don’t have evidence that such policies are widespread, but there’s no guarantee that VPNs, even when disguising their traffic, will be able to keep the spirit of net neutrality alive.
Speed – Every VPN will have a negative impact on your download speed, so the challenge is to find one that has as negligible an impact as possible. BestVPN.com is the only VPN comparison site to run a fully automated speed-testing platform. Our servers are running 24 hours a day, analyzing VPNs to ensure we only recommend the fastest products on the market.
There are also those countries where certain websites, apps, and content is strictly banned. In China, for example, Facebook, Youtube, Google, certain news outlets and many other websites are strictly out of reach. China is also known for closely monitoring its population’s internet activities. For anyone who wants to access these banned sites and steer clear of governmental watchdogs, then a VPN is the only way to go.
Sirs: I've been using Strong VPN for years now and they are a very good service. 1st They don't store your data or spy on you. Not so sure about the others on your list though. 2nd. They haven't slowed my access down or dropped my connection frequently. 3rd. Their support is excellent. In the past when I've had a problem they are quick to respond. I'll be sticking with them since you only find out about a service's problem(s) after you set it up and use it and lose your old service in the process. I believe the adage "you get what you pay for" is never truer than when applied to a VPN service. Sometimes "cheap" isn't so cheap. It might even be translated as a "headache"!
To verify that each service effectively hid our true IP address, we looked at a geolocation tool, DNS leaks, and IPv6 leaks. When connected to each service’s UK servers, we noted whether we could watch videos on BBC iPlayer, and using US servers we noted whether we could stream Netflix. We also visited the sites of Target, Yelp, Cloudflare, and Akamai to check whether our VPN IP addresses prevented us from accessing common sites that sometimes blacklist suspicious IP addresses.
VPN.ac is another great VPN for torrenting. It was created by a team of network security professionals with a focus on security and quality. Their server network is composed entirely of dedicated bare-metal servers offering excellent bandwidth and security. (Check out their real-time bandwidth stats by selecting VPN Nodes Status at the top of the site.)
The solution is downloadable and supports platforms such as OS X, Windows and Linux. Mobile systems like Android and iOS are also supported. These capabilities enable users to use the product on desktops, laptops, smartphones or tablet computers. The software can also be downloaded onto network routers, ensuring that all devices connected to such routers enjoy the same level of protection.
To get a sense of the impact from each service, I use the Ookla internet speed test tool. This test measures latency, upload speed, and download speed, so those are the three areas that I focus on as well. (Note that Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, which also owns PCMag.) I first run a series of tests without the VPN active, drop the lowest and highest results, and then average what remains. By comparing those results to ones taken when the VPN is active, I can find a percent change between the two. I then perform this comparison again, but using a VPN server in Australia and an Ookla test server in Anchorage, Alaska to see how the VPN performs when connecting to distant servers.
That said, using a VPN service may help keep your data from being captured by some types of passive data collection, and in countries with less sophisticated and less well-funded intelligence agencies, a trustworthy VPN service is better than nothing. We asked Kalia if the standards that most VPNs use are secure against government intrusion. He outlined three ways that VPN traffic could be vulnerable:
We didn’t find any problems when we tested other aspects of TorGuard’s performance. Each time we checked our location via IP address, it accurately resolved to the location of a TorGuard server. Neither our true IP address nor our location was exposed when we tested for DNS leaks and IPv6 leaks. TorGuard runs its own DNS servers—a requirement for all the VPNs we tested—so the routing that happens when you go to a website isn’t released to your ISP, Google, or anyone else. And since TorGuard doesn’t support IPv6, the app disables it completely, just like IVPN.
If you are a privacy-focused user, NordVPN has many features you may be interested in. These include double-hop VPN configurations, VPN-over-Tor servers, and a well-designed ad-blocking feature that is built into the VPN apps. Whether you are using NordVPN for torrenting, accessing Netflix, or just basic internet browsing, it remains a great all-around VPN at a very affordable price.
You’ve probably heard that we’ve run out of IP addresses and that’s technically true. IPv4 consists of 32 bits and can support 4.29 billion addresses. All of those available addresses have been allocated, but not all of them have been used and the overwhelming majority of internet addresses are IPv4 addresses. The latest IP version, IPv6, uses 128-bit addresses and can support 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 addresses. Now that IPv6 is available, we won’t have to worry about IP address scarcity again anytime soon.