Another thing to consider when choosing a VPN is data leaks. An encrypted tunnel is not foolproof and your activity may be exposed. This is known as a domain name system (DNS) leak. If a website you visit requests your IP address and what’s returned is your original IP address, you have a DNS leak. A quick Google search can point you to a resource listing leaky VPNs.
One major limitation of traditional VPNs is that they are point-to-point, and do not tend to support or connect broadcast domains. Therefore, communication, software, and networking, which are based on layer 2 and broadcast packets, such as NetBIOS used in Windows networking, may not be fully supported or work exactly as they would on a real LAN. Variants on VPN, such as Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS), and layer 2 tunneling protocols, are designed to overcome this limitation.
There are several different VPN protocols, not all of which are used by all of the VPN services we reviewed. Most operating systems have built-in support for at least one of these protocols, which means you can use that protocol — and a willing VPN service — without client software. The full-fledged VPN services have online instructions for how to do this, as well as how to set up routers to connect directly to the services.
If your connection to the VPN server drops for some reason then the killswitch will immediately sever your internet connection, so it’s best to keep an eye on your torrents. There’s a few different types of killswitch, such as those that a firewall-based, either using your device’s built-in firewall (if it has one) or via their own rules. Make sure you understand how your killswitch works to avoid being caught out if your app crashes for example.
VPNs can make your browsing private, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re anonymous. VPN services can and do log traffic (even the ones that say they don’t log do need to log some information, or they wouldn’t be able to function properly), and those logs can be requested by the authorities. Think of a VPN as being like curtains: people can’t peek through your curtains if you’ve got them closed, but curtains won’t hide your house.
When you surf the web, your internet traffic isn't necessarily secure. Someone could be lurking on the same network as you, monitoring your activities. That's especially true when you're using a public Wi-Fi network. Clever attackers can even create bogus Wi-Fi networks that impersonate legit ones, tricking you into connecting and exposing your personal information.
Security begins at the network, where your computer touches the wilds of the internet. To protect your devices, you need a virtual private network, or VPN, such as Hide My Ass. The name is very direct and so is the service, with an excellent, straightforward interface. This VPN makes a good impression, but it's on the more expensive side and lacks many of the bells and whistles we have come to expect. If you're taken by Hide My Ass's bright and friendly design (and its donkeys), you'll probably appreciate Editors' Choice winner TunnelBear (and its bears), or its co-winners NordVPN and Private Internet Access.
This has obvious advantages if you want an extra layer of security when it comes to, for example, keeping your browsing habits private. This is particularly important on public Wi-Fi networks, where you have no way of being sure how secure your connection is. It also means services that may throttle or even block your connection based on what kind of data you’re sending, such as some office, mobile and public networks, won’t be able to do so.
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.)
A VPN client on a remote user's computer or mobile device connects to a VPN gateway on the organization's network. The gateway typically requires the device to authenticate its identity. Then, it creates a network link back to the device that allows it to reach internal network resources -- e.g., file servers, printers and intranets -- as though the gateway is on the network locally.
Logging: When you connect to a VPN, you’re trusting the VPN service provider with your data. Your communications may be secure from eavesdropping, but other systems on the same VPN—especially the operator—can log your data if they choose. If this bothers you (e.g., you’re the privacy/security advocate or the downloader), make absolutely sure you know your provider’s logging policies before signing up. This applies to location as well—if your company doesn’t keep logs, it may not matter as much where it’s located. (There’s a popular rumor that US-based VPN providers are required to log, in case the government wants them. This isn’t true, but the government can always request whatever data they have if they do log.) For a good list of VPN providers that don’t log your activities when connected (and many that do), check out this TorrentFreak article.
Many companies proudly display “warrant canaries” on their websites. These are digitally signed notices that say something to the effect of “We have never been served a warrant for traffic logs or turned over customer information.” Law enforcement can prohibit a company from discussing an investigation, but in theory, it can’t compel a company to actively lie. So the theory goes that when the warrant canary dies—that is, the notice disappears from the website because it’s no longer truthful—so does privacy. The EFF supports this legal position, though other highly regarded companies and organizations think warrant canaries are helpful only for informing you after the damage has been done. Such notices may provide a nice sense of security, and they are important to some people, but we didn’t consider them essential.
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.
All connections are securely encrypted, and you can even opt to obfuscate traffic using a special “Scramble” feature that disguises OpenVPN connections. DNS leak protection and a kill switch are built into the apps. StrongVPN has long been a favorite among users in China, and its recent upgrades make it appeal to a wider audience including torrenters.
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.
By now, you must have decided which VPN providers you want to go with, therefore I think it is about time we discuss VPN protocols as well. However, if you are new to VPNs and protocols, think of them as the fuel that drives the engine. In short, protocols are responsible for all the data transmission that takes place between you and the VPN server.
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.
When we test VPNs, we use the Ookla speed test tool. (Note that Ookla is owned by PCMag's publisher, Ziff Davis.) This test provides metrics for latency, download speeds, and upload speeds. Any one of these can be an important measurement depending on your needs, but we tend to view the download speed as the most important. After all, we live in an age of digital consumption.
Despite Proton’s strong reputation for privacy with both its VPN and Mail services, we previously dismissed ProtonVPN without testing because it didn’t offer native applications for major operating systems. Instead, the service relied on third-party applications that could be clumsy to set up and lacked important features. Now that ProtonVPN apps are fully supported on Windows, Mac, and Android, we’re looking forward to testing the service for the next update.
When the Internet was first conceived, the dream was that of a global information-sharing system that would optimize research and communications in a zone that was free of national and political boundaries and regional restrictions. Naturally, about 17.2 seconds after public access was granted, the first text-based role playing game was uploaded, probably another 14 seconds before the first X-rated image file appeared, and 27 seconds before banner ads showed up.
I tried Froot VPN for about 8 months, hoping that the service would improve. It never did. They are extremely disorganized. I would get slow responses to my ticket from a couple of different people, with no help other than the stock responses. I tried leaving a message on their Facebook page, which got a faster response, but again, no help other than the usual responses. I finally told them that I wanted to close my account and that I wanted my money back. I was told that I had gone beyond their 30 day money back policy. I posted on Facebook saying that their service and support was awful. We went back and forth, the guy said there was no record of my previous complaints that he could find, made disparaging remarks about me and my promise to recommend people avoid Froot VPN. I told him to keep the money, that his response was illustrative of an obviously very big problem, and that I would happily continue to not recommend Froot VPN to anyone.
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.
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.
Wi-Fi attacks, on the other hand, are probably far more common than we'd like to believe. While attending the Black Hat convention, researchers saw thousands of devices connecting to a rogue access point. It had been configured to mimic networks that victim's devices had previously connected to, since many devices will automatically reconnect to a known network without checking with the user. That's why we recommend getting a VPN app for your mobile device to protect all your mobile communications. Even if you don't have it on all the time, using a mobile VPN is a smart way to protect your personal information.
ExpressVPN is both the best all-round VPN and our pick for torrenting, due to its rock solid reliability for both speed and privacy. No other VPN offers such consistently fast speeds across its entire network – up to 201Mbps down and 163Mbps up with very low latency on local connections is ideal for P2P activity. If you also like to stream then uninterrupted access to Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other popular services is another big selling point.
Using a VPN is a little trickier for ChromeOS users, however. While Google has worked to make it easier to use a VPN with a Chromebook or Chromebox, it's not always a walk in the park. Our guide to how to set up a VPN on a Chromebook can make the task a bit easier, however. In these cases, you might find it easier to install a VPN plug-in for the Chrome browser. This will only secure some of your traffic, but it's better than nothing.
You can download torrents on all IPVanish servers. This is a huge advantage since users are not restricted to particular servers which may be slow or in different locations. Since the online privacy provider offers an unlimited bandwidth, users are able to download content at blinding speeds. The servers also allow a variety of encryption protocols when connecting, so users can choose their security level and torrent speeds. File sharing is allowed using both uTorrent and BitTorrent protocols. T
Since we last tested VPNs, we've given special attention to the privacy practices of VPN companies and not just the technology they provide. In our testing, we read through the privacy policies and discuss company practices with VPN service representatives. What we look for is a commitment to protect user information, and to take a hands-off approach to gathering user data.
IVPN goes further than the other leading candidates we considered by being transparent about who runs the service and is responsible for your privacy. The company lists its core team on its website, and its small team has an online presence on a variety of platforms. In contrast, only one employee at ExpressVPN has a public face: VP of marketing Harold Li gave us detailed answers to questions about policies and internal security, but couldn’t tell us much about who else worked there. (We discuss ExpressVPN in more detail in the Competition section—that company was almost our top pick but for this issue.)
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.
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.)
As we discussed previously TunnelBear is a particularly good way to enjoy US-only web content Access US-Only Websites Internationally For Free With TunnelBear Access US-Only Websites Internationally For Free With TunnelBear If you’re living outside of the United States, here’s a familiar scenario for you. You’re reading your favorite tech blog, and suddenly see a post about the latest and greatest in web services. Maybe it’s... Read More , including video and audio. Easy to use, there’s also a $9.99/month option, if an annual subscription is out of your budget range. A free version is also available, detailed below. Check our full review of TunnelBear TunnelBear: The Easiest VPN For Protecting Your Privacy TunnelBear: The Easiest VPN For Protecting Your Privacy TunnelBear aims to simplify the VPN, making it useful for everyone. Its commitment to protecting your privacy online makes it a great provider. Read More for more details.
If you’re on a heavily managed Internet connection, be it government censored or just college Wi-Fi, standard VPN connections may be blocked or throttled due to deep packet inspection, a way for providers to analyze what type of traffic is passing over a network even when they can’t see the actual contents. IVPN’s desktop apps include a checkbox for Obfsproxy, which disguises your traffic as more ho-hum data to get it past those types of blocks—like kids stacked in a trenchcoat to pass as an adult, but more convincing. Our budget pick, TorGuard, and competitor ExpressVPN use different methods to disguise traffic, but we couldn’t find documentation on equivalent features from our other top performers.
Hide.me is a well-known name in the VPN industry, known for speed, security, and transparency. They do not keep logs, which makes their VPN very reliable. Also, with apps for almost all major platforms, they are a favorite among millions of users. Hide.me uses a wide range of protocols: IKEv2, PPTP, L2TP, IPsec, OpenVPN, Softether, SOCKS, and SSTP. The le...
ProtonVPN is a VPN from Switzerland. The software is easy to use and provides all the features necessary to keep your data secure both at home and while on public WiFi. Servers are located around the world, and because ProtonVPN uses a Secure Core network of servers – it will provide fantastic speeds for streaming. Proton permits P2P for torrenting on some of its servers. In addition, it can be installed and used on five simultaneous devices. That means you can protect all your devices with one account. The VPN is zero logs (it never stores IP addresses) and the time of your last session is deleted every time a new session is started.
From a broader perspective, there are several factors that demand the use of a solid VPN while torrenting. First of all, you do not want your privacy to be compromised during torrenting. Specifics of your personal information, your IP address, your location, and even the browser you are using should stay with you only. Then, there is the question of speeds. Depending on the nature of the VPN you are using, you could feel like there is a rise or drop in the speed of downloads and uploads (learn more about this in our pros and cons to VPNs).
SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol). This is another Microsoft-built protocol. The connection is established with some SSL/TLS encryption (the de facto standard for web encryption these days). SSL’s and TLS’s strength is built on symmetric-key cryptography; a setup in which only the two parties involved in the transfer can decode the data within. Overall, SSTP is a very secure solution.