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.
Mobile Apps: If you’re going to spend money on a VPN service provider (or even if you use a free one, frankly), you should be able to get a consistent experience across all of your devices. Most prominent providers offer desktop and mobile solutions for individual users, and while corporate and school networks may be a bit behind the curve here, they’re catching up too. Make sure you don’t have to use two different VPNs with two different policies and agreements just because you want to secure your phone along with your laptop.
For one thing, it prevents anyone lurking on your local network from monitoring or intercepting your activity. While the airport or coffee shop Wi-Fi network looks safe (it might even be password-protected) it's not really safe unless you're using a VPN. For another thing, a VPN can prevent your Internet Service Provider (ISP) from gathering information about your online activities so it can sell anonymized user data to the highest bidder.
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:
Although HideMyAss!’s logging policy states that the network does, in fact, keep data logs, it is important to mention that these logs are for diagnostic purposes only, meaning they record your connect/disconnect activities as well as bandwidth usage – not the websites you’ve visited nor the data that’s been transferred! Without getting too technical, it simply means your internet service provider (ISP) won’t know what you’ve downloaded or streamed, nor whom you’ve emailed or the content of your correspondence.
Many VPN services also provide their own DNS resolution system. Think of DNS as a phone book that turns a text-based URL like "pcmag.com" into a numeric IP address that computers can understand. Savvy snoops can monitor DNS requests and track your movements online. Greedy attackers can also use DNS poisoning to direct you to bogus phishing pages designed to steal your data. When you use a VPN's DNS system, it's another layer of protection.
IPSec – Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) can be utilized with Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) or Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2). While it is not open source, it does do well in the performance category and can be used natively (without apps) on most operating systems. IPSec/IKEv2 may be the best protocol to use with some mobile devices (iOS), which do not work as well with OpenVPN.
BitTorrent has an unsavory reputation, one that is oddly both unfair and yet richly deserved. At its best, BitTorrent addresses the bottleneck created when too many people try to download the same files from a single source at the same time—be they bootlegged movies, hot music tracks, DRM-free books, or photos of cats. BitTorrent turns a file's popularity into a benefit, instead of a bottleneck, by having each of the downloaders distribute pieces of the file to every other downloader. Best of all, it's decentralized, with no main server that might choke under the burden of traffic. There's no doubt that torrenting is a clever solution. While it can be used for legitimate purposes, its distributed, uncontrolled nature also makes it ideal for illegally sharing copyrighted content online.
What that means in practice is that VPNs are fine for bypassing geo-blocks, for protecting your online banking and for keeping business communications free from interception. However, if you’re using the internet to fight repressive regimes or to do anything else that could attract the attention of the authorities where you live, a VPN is not a magic wand that’ll make you invisible.
We have often said that having to choose between security and convenience is a false dichotomy, but it is at least somewhat true in the case of VPN services. When a VPN is active, your web traffic is taking a more circuitous route than usual, often resulting in sluggish download and upload speeds as well as increased latency. The good news is that using a VPN probably isn't going to remind you of the dial-up days of yore.
Beyond those two factors, it’s difficult to make blanket statements about what makes a trustworthy VPN. At the bare minimum, a good VPN provider should not collect and keep any logs of its customers’ browsing history. If it does, that puts your privacy at risk should someone access (or even release) those logs without authorization. But deciding when to a trust a logging policy isn’t easy. As the EFF points out, “Some VPNs with exemplary privacy policies could be run by devious people.” You don’t need to have done anything illegal to prefer that law enforcement and criminals alike not have access to a browsing history that may include your bank, medical websites, or that one thing you looked at around 2 a.m. that one time.
While some networks, either deliberately or as an incidental result of not permitting certain protocols, may also block VPN connections, this is unusual. However, as an extra security feature for those who need to hide the fact that they’re using a VPN, a number of service providers have implemented methods of obfuscating their encrypted traffic, such as TunnelBear‘s GhostBear mode and VyprVPN‘s Chameleon mode.
Additionally, Hide.me includes support for the SoftEther protocol. It's the first VPN I am aware of that uses this particular technology, which the company says is designed to be hard to detect and block. Other VPNs offer similar features that seek to disguise VPN traffic in order to circumvent VPN blocking. TunnelBear, for instance, calls this feature GhostBear.
VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, allow users to securely access a private network and share data remotely through public networks. Much like a firewall protects your data on your computer, VPNs protect it online. And while a VPN is technically a WAN (Wide Area Network), the front end retains the same functionality, security, and appearance as it would on the private network.
If you plan on using a VPN while torrenting, consider the ramifications of the Kill Switch. This feature, found in most VPN services, prevents apps from sending data via the internet when the VPN is disconnected. The idea is that it prevents any information from being transmitted in the clear. The avid BitTorrent downloader needs to decide if they want total and complete protection, or would rather not have their download interrupted.
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.
Many sites will tell you that the chances of facing legal action as a result of pirating copyrighted material are slim. That’s bad advice. While it’s true that copyright holders have bigger fish to fry than the guy that just wants to watch Age of Ultron a few weeks before it comes out on Blu-Ray, you’d be surprised how many people face at least the threat of legal action.
NordVPN is a trustworthy company that comes in at a reasonable price point, which gets better the longer you sign up for. It is widely regarded as the most secure VPN available – not only do they have a no-log policy, but also feature automatic double-encryption. Since security is a major concern when it comes to the world of torrenting, Nord is a popular choice among users who anticipate downloading a lot of media and files.
Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)/IPsec: The L2TP and IPsec protocols combine their best individual features to create a highly secure VPN client. Since L2TP isn't capable of encryption, it instead generates the tunnel while the IPSec protocol handles encryption, channel security, and data integrity checks to ensure all of the packets have arrived and that the channel has not been compromised.
Part of why you don't want a VPN storing a lot of information about you and your activities is that the company could be compelled to hand over that information to law enforcement. Hide.me explains the company's stance this way: "If a court order is received from a recognized legal authority with jurisdiction over hide.me then the company shall comply with that order. However, the company cannot be compelled to hand over information which it does not have."
The main reason to use a VPN is security - in theory, the data that travels across your VPN should be impossible for anybody else to intercept, so it can protect your online banking or confidential business communications - but there are other benefits too. VPNs can make it much harder for advertising to track you online, and they can overcome geography-specific blocks that prevent you from accessing some country-specific services such as online video.
What is notable is that Hide My Ass will store this data for two to three months, while VyprVPN stores it for only 30 days. Other services hold even less information, or they dispose of it immediately. Hide My Ass says that it retains this data for this period of time in order to improve performance, prevent fraud, and prevent bad guys from using the VPN to send spam. The company, notably, also lists file sharing as one of the illicit activities it requires this information to prevent, despite the company being fine with the use of BitTorrent on some servers.
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.
That's not to say a VPN makes you invisible to spies or law enforcement. Your traffic could still be intercepted in any number of ways. A VPN does make it harder to correlate online activities to you, and adds a layer of encryption during parts of your online traffic's journey. A determined, well-funded adversary that has singled you out for surveillance will likely find a way. But VPNs and widespread adoption of HTTPS make it much harder for mass surveillance to work as it has in the past.
Since we're living in a connected world, security and privacy are critical to ensure our personal safety from nefarious hacks. From online banking to communicating with coworkers on a daily basis, we're now frequently transferring data on our computers and smartphones. It's extremely important to find ways of securing our digital life and for this reason, VPNs have become increasingly common.
On top of all that, with a VPN, you don’t have to worry about being hacked. You can watch your favorite shows from anywhere in the world and smoothly bypass government censorship. In short, you’ll need a VPN to protect your online activities and for unrestricted internet access. A VPN is the only way to gain access to the full scope of the world wide web.
Insist on a VPN that has Kill Switch protection. There is a security vulnerability that can reveal your private information if your VPN connection is lost, even just for a few seconds. The solution is to be sure that you’re protected by a Kill Switch. A Kill Switch stops all data from being sent to the internet until a secure VPN connection has been re-established. If your VPN software does not have a Kill Switch, your computer might be leaking your private information without your knowledge
Torrent is like a bucket full of gold. I remember the time when I downloaded Transformers, Wolf of Wall Street and Ironman from the torrent, until I received this copyright infringement notice. I searched the internet to continue using the torrents as I can’t afford spending hundreds of dollar on movies. So, I came up with VPN, VPN has enabled me to download unlimited movies on monthly basis. Thanks for sharing such a good post!
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.
With multiple clients, rich with different features, it’s no wonder this VPN service handles more than 10 million users. It covers Microsoft’s and Apple’s operating systems, but also iOS and Android. The interface is not the best out there and could definitely use some work, but these disadvantages are easily overshadowed by the awesome features this VPN offers.
Local download speeds typically topped a 178Mbps (peaking at an incredible 334Mbps in Paris) with local uploads almost as fast. While not as fast as our top picks, this is perfectly adequate for torrenting. A strict zero logs policy and first-party DNS servers mean no data even exists to identify you, while privacy features like the kill switch are ideal for torrenting.
Using a VPN with Netflix will allow you to watch all the content you want wherever you are located in the world. The other thing to keep in mind when streaming content is the potential for copyright violation issues. A VPN can help protect you by anonymizing your online activity, which prevents third parties from snooping your activities or acquiring your IP address. (This is also why it’s important to use a VPN for torrenting.)
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).
One of the most popular VPN software out in the market today, NordVPN has over 550 servers in 49 different countries. These servers aid users in different needs, which include encryption of both incoming and outgoing data, sending all traffic through a Tor network to safeguard user anonymity and protection against DoS attacks, which are usually done by malignant hackers.
VPN performance is affected by such a wide range of factors that it’s not possible to produce conclusive test results. The speed of your own internet connection and user load on your selected VPN endpoint server, as well as the server you’re connecting to beyond that all make a difference. Due to the sheer number of frequently-rotated servers provided by most VPN services, comprehensive testing isn’t possible.
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).
VPNs can seem overwhelmingly complicated to newbies, but CyberGhost boasts a simple interface with simple language to explain all its features, making it way less daunting. It’s fast to set up — claiming to be a "one-click solution for your digital needs" — and has intuitive apps for a variety of popular devices. There’s friendly support via chat or email and lots of troubleshooting guides if anything goes wrong. Despite this accessible approach, it still packs a punch by anyone’s standards.
Yet Mullvad is worth a look because it's extremely private. It asks nothing about you when you sign up. Instead, it assigns you a random number that will be your combined username and password. You don't have to provide an email address, and you can pay by mailing cash to the company's headquarters in Sweden. (Mullvad also takes credit cards, PayPal, bitcoin and wire transfers, and offers 30-day money-back guarantees for those.) Unexpectedly, it was pretty versatile at streaming Netflix from overseas — it didn't always get through, but in no country we tried was it always blocked.
Cost - VPNs aren't too pricey, but they vary from vendor to vendor. If your main concern is price, then go with something inexpensive, or free - like Spotflux Premium VPN or AnchorFree HotSpot Shield Elite. By all means, try a free server but they do have a few drawbacks since they attract a lot of users. Free servers are often slower, and since most are ad-supported, they place adverts on the online pages you access. Others can even limit the speed of your connection, as well as your online time or amount of data transferred.
Anonymity and Privacy: In like manner to a web proxy, the VPN service is also a hit for customers who wish to gain a measure of anonymity on the internet and also protect their identity and privacy. However, unlike a web proxy, the VPN service affects all applications on your computer, not just your web browser. This, therefore, enables users to protect their entire internet connection and not just their web browser traffic.
Thank you for compling this list. awesome site, and great informative topic, one of which is always top of mind for me. I learned a good deal from the article and the kind folks who shared their uses. I was (and have been in other - though not as thorough, and well-written) surprised not to see more about (if anything about AirVPN) - thought as the previous poster as of this writing, notes it. I have been using it for years too. I needed absolute security, and legitimately based. Written by hackers in Spain after a conference, I feel comfortable using their services. Legally, they stand up, and anonymity are valued. They have solid legal backing pretty bullet proof from what I understand. I do feel that this is an excellent service and have never had any issues with it and in fact, feel it is just another excellent layer of steps to protect my right to privacy. Not that I need to hide anything -- well, everyone says that :) - I do feel that these guys know what they are doing. Service is excellent, and I certainly don't mind paying for it - great service. I like that I can - go anywhere in the world and pick and choose various servers. They don't keep log files, and what they do and how they do it is legit. They also have been recognized as the previous poster state been around for a few years indeed, and that is something that further is something, if I were newer to this to consider. Free VPN, I'm not knocking it - it is good, and I will check these other players out. This was a top contender for privacy in a security/'hacking' in a very 'paranoid' legit review of privacy/security services including VPN. SpiderOak was in that review, a while back as well for cloud based storage, which also is encrypted, and pretty damn secure- they don't know who I am ok with that. Better not lose your pw through, they won't help you - seriously.SImilarly to your discretion to a large degree is true with AirVPN, your privacy is valued at least I feel so, you can be as transparent as you wish or obscure as you wish. Thanks for a stimulating and informative article folks and author!!!! Great one to research for sure!
Modern encryption algorithms work on this principle, with the second step being very complex and worthy of doctoral- level research. What you need to look for is your data being encrypted with the AES algorithm of at least 128 bits. Many of the top VPNs out there go a step above that and offer AES-256 encryption, including ExpressVPN (review), NordVPN (review), and Buffered (review). If you’re interested, you can learn more about AES encryption.