We also dove deeper into the desktop apps of the top-performing services. Great apps have automatic location selection, easy-to-use designs, and detailed but uncluttered settings panels. We set up each service's Android app on a Samsung Galaxy S8 running Android 7.0 Nougat. We took into account how easy each one was to set up and connect, along with what options were available in the settings pane.
The encryption and decryption processes depend on both the sender and the receiver having knowledge of a common encryption key. Intercepted packets sent along the VPN connection in the transit network are unintelligible to any computer that does not have the common encryption key. The length of the encryption key is an important security parameter. Computational techniques can be used to determine the encryption key. Such techniques require more computing power and computational time as the encryption key gets larger. Therefore, it is important to use the largest possible key size.
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.
PPTP is undoubtedly one of the fastest VPN protocols that are pre-installed in major operating systems and consoles. The only downside of PPTP protocol is its low encryption method that is a prime concern of VPN users who take serious notes on privacy. It supports 128-bit encryption that is somewhat less secure than other VPN protocols. However, if your goal is to use VPN for streaming then using PPTP is a way to go. PPTP protocol is also considered as the fastest VPN protocol because it is very easy to setup, and you can get high-speed VPN connection in just a few clicks and taps.
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.
The second thing that happens is that the web application you're talking to does not get to see your IP address. Instead, it sees an IP address owned by the VPN service. This allows you some level of anonymous networking. This IP spoofing is also used to trick applications into thinking you're located in a different region, or even a different country than you really are located in. There are reasons (both illegal and legal) to do this. We'll discuss that in a bit.

Every service we tested accepts payment via credit card, PayPal, and Bitcoin. That’s plenty of options for most people, and you can always use a prepaid debit card if you don’t want your billing information tied to your VPN account. IVPN and OVPN are the only ones to accept cash payment through the mail, if you really don’t want to make a payment online. Private Internet Access and TorGuard accept gift cards from other companies—IVPN doesn’t, but that option isn’t worth the additional hassle for many people when other secure, private methods are available.
Our next pick for best VPN of 2018 is IPVanish. The service permits torrenting and throws in a free Smart DNS service for all customers. The biggest downside is that it’s based in the US —not an ideal location since the NSA is notorious for its intensive and often illegal surveillance. To combat this, IPVanish doesn’t keep logs and does provide DNS leak protection. Despite being a little stripped-down, works very well.

HMA Pro (reviewed here) is slightly more complicated, but it’s far from difficult to understand. If you want to select your desired virtual location click the Location mode tab, click on the location name, and then choose your preferred location from the list. Once that’s done, click the slider button that says Disconnected. Once it flips to Connected, you’re ready to roll.
Yet Mullvad is worth a look because it's extremely private and secure. 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.)
The free account is limited to a single user, while the premium account enabled unlimited bandwidth for up to five computers or mobile devices. TunnelBear doesn’t list the total number of servers on their site, but they do offer servers in 20 countries. Their Windows and Mac OS X client is based on OpenVPN and their mobile VPN system uses L2TP/IPsec. Unlike the previous two recommendations, however, TunnelBear has a firmer stance against file sharing activities and BitTorrent is blocked. Their speeds also aren’t quite as fast as the others, so you might experience a slower connection with TunnelBear.
When we test VPNs, we generally start with the Windows client. This is often the most complete review, covering several different platforms as well as the service's features and pricing in depth. That's purely out of necessity, since most of our readers use Windows (although this writer is currently using a MacBook Air). We currently use a Lenovo ThinkPad T460s laptop running the latest version of Windows 10. We periodically upgrade to a newer machine, in order to simulate what most users experience.
These folks have been around since 2010, and don't log anything. They provide a generous five connections, a connection kill switch feature, and some good online documentation and security guidance. Our one disappointment is that their refund policy is 7-days instead of 30, but you can certainly get a feel for their excellent performance in the space of a week.
Servers – IPVanish has a moderately-sized server network of 1,000 servers. Geographically, it covers 60 regions around the world. Although this is relatively small than the VPNs provided above, this is still better than many other VPN providers. IPVanish provides a lot of control to the user when it comes to selecting a server. You can filter VPNs by country, city, and latency. The best thing about it is that IPVanish is remarkably fast in establishing a connection with any server location of your choice.
Required only when the VPN server is acting as a VPN client (a calling router) in a site-to-site VPN connection. If all traffic from the VPN server is allowed to reach TCP port 1723, network attacks can emanate from sources on the Internet using this port. Administrators should only use this filter in conjunction with the PPTP filters that are also configured on the VPN server.
Even though Tor is free, we don’t think it’s the best option for most people. If you aren’t familiar with Tor, this handy interactive graphic shows how it protects an Internet connection, and this series goes into more detail about how Tor works. Runa Sandvik, a former researcher with The Tor Project who is now part of the information security team at The New York Times (parent company of Wirecutter), described it as “a tool that allows users to remain anonymous and uncensored.” When we asked expert Alec Muffett about whether he personally used a VPN, he told us he actually spent most of his work time using Tor. But Tor has a reputation for slow connections, can be blocked by some websites, and isn’t suitable for some peer-to-peer applications like BitTorrent.
There is a PPTP control connection between the IP address of the PPTP client using a dynamically allocated TCP port and the IP address of the PPTP server using the reserved TCP port 1723. The PPTP control connection carries the PPTP call control and management messages that are used to maintain the PPTP tunnel. This includes the transmission of periodic PPTP Echo-Request and PPTP Echo-Reply messages to detect a connectivity failure between the PPTP client and PPTP server. PPTP control connection packets consist of an IP header, a TCP header, a PPTP control message, and a data-link trailer and header as shown in the following figure:
Overplay is easy to install and even easier to use. Its simple user interface is suitable for those who do not want complex features. All one needs to do is run the app and choose the country you want to connect to. It offers a very good speed, with any speed reduction hardly noticeable. As the software has server locations in 48 countries and over 14,000 IP addresses, anonymity is assured.
The VPN server can be configured to use either Windows or Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) as an authentication provider. If Windows is selected as the authentication provider, the user credentials sent by users attempting VPN connections are authenticated using typical Windows authentication mechanisms, and the connection attempt is authorized using the VPN client’s user account properties and local remote access policies.

A virtual link is a logical point-to-point connection between an ABR of an area and an ABR that is physically connected to the backbone area. For example, a virtual link is configured between the ABR of Area 2 and the ABR of Area 1. The ABR of Area 1 is physically connected to the backbone area. Area 1 is known as the transit area, the area across which the virtual link is created in order to logically connect Area 2 to the backbone.
Our software and staff are relentlessly committed to security and our customers’ rights to protect their online information and activity. TorGuard’s VPN service comes with unlimited bandwidth and upload/download speed, 247/365 customer support for any setup problems or other issues you might have, and the peace of mind to enjoy the internet stress free. Our software is easy to install on any OS including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS. We also fully support VPN routers like DDWRT, Tomato and pfsense firewalls.
One of the most important skills any computer user should have is the ability to use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect their privacy. A VPN is typically a paid service that keeps your web browsing secure and private over public Wi-Fi hotspots. VPNs can also get past regional restrictions for video- and music-streaming sites and help you evade government censorship restrictions—though that last one is especially tricky.
If you’re a Mac user, don’t trust the software developer so blindly and take your cybersecurity in your control, the best way to control your digital life is using the best Mac VPN. All the above-mentioned VPNs have dedicated Mac apps and are potential enough to bypass geographical restrictions, access blocked content, and keep your Mac protected without compromising your connection speed. We suggest you go with ExpressVPN rather than others.
ProtonVPN offers both free and premium versions. It is remarkably fast for a free VPN and provides excellent security to boot. You can connect to your favorite servers in a matter of a few seconds. It rarely disconnects once the connection has been established and provides good stability. Although not as fast as the leading brands, it still beats dozens of other providers out there. You can read more about the provider in ProtonVPN review.
IP / DNS Leak Test – Security is another crucial factor in my best review process since one of the main purposes of a VPN is to enhance the security of users. Some poor VPN services leak the IP or DNS of the user, which can expose their activities and identity online. It goes without saying that such VPN services are a waste of money and must be avoided at all costs.

When choosing your VPN, do your research and mind the legal aspects. Countries like Germany, France or Japan are cracking down on copyright infringement, while the members of the 14 Eyes treaty have draconian data retention laws and extensive surveillance. So, if you’re looking to maximize your privacy, you might want to avoid connecting to servers in those countries.
Let's talk about what happens when you use a VPN app on your computer or mobile device. Any VPN app will require an existing network connection to be able to connect to the VPN service provider. This means that even if you set your VPN app to automatically launch when your device boots, there will be a period of time when your computer is connected to the internet directly, not through your VPN.
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.
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