Osama is a staunch believer in the inalienable right of every citizen to freedom of expression. Writing about online privacy and security without regard to political correctness is his answer to the powers that be threatening our freedom. Deeply curious about Nature and the Universe, he is fascinated by science, intrigued by mathematics, and wishes to play guitar like Buckethead in some alternate version of reality.
Windscribe has always been one of our favorite free VPNs. Compared to other free services, Windscribe gives you more – 10GB data allowance per month! This is pretty amazing because Windscribe is actually trying to encourage people to buy its premium service. What’s more, this VPN has strong encryption and keeps zero logs – making it fantastic for privacy. With unlimited simultaneous connections permitted, this VPN is truly outstanding.

Of course that brings up another problem. Since there are so many services to choose from, how can you tell which ones are worth using? PCWorld has taken care of much of the legwork with its Best VPN services roundup. [Spoiler alert: It found Mullvad to be a great all-around VPN for its above-and-beyond commitment to user privacy, and NordVPN to be the current choice for watching U.S. Netflix from abroad.]
If you’re going to use torrents, however, life is easier if you use a VPN—especially if the network you’re on blocks torrenting. There are many VPNs among our top picks that could be used for downloading torrents, but our preferred choice is Private Internet Access. This no-frills VPN has an absolute ton of servers, good speeds, and a nice amount of country locations to remain relatively anonymous. (Read our full review.) The price is right at less than $40 a year, and its privacy policies have been tested in court. Plus, advanced users can adjust their level of encryption for data encryption, data authentication, and handshake.
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.
EAP-TLS is an IETF standard (RFC 2716 in the IETF RFC Database for a strong authentication method based on public-key certificates. With EAP-TLS, a client presents a user certificate to the server, and the server presents a server certificate to the client. The first provides strong user authentication to the server; the second provides assurance that the VPN client has reached a trusted VPN server. Both systems rely on a chain of trusted certification authorities (CAs) to verify the validity of the offered certificate.
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
The software supports Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices. It also has plugins for browsers such as Chrome and Opera. This feature basically protects any device that can run a browser. Installation takes only seconds and does not require additional tweaking. The app’s Vigilant Mode prevents data from leaking while TunnelBear is reconnecting. The solution can also disguise VPN traffic as normal HTTPS traffic. As for security, the platform provides a list of Wi-Fi network that can be trusted.
Before anything else, understand that if you want to use a VPN you should be paying for it. Free VPNs are either selling your browsing data in aggregated form to researchers and marketers, or giving you a paltry amount of data transfer every month. Either way, a basic rule of thumb is that a free VPN will not protect your privacy in any meaningful way.
Also important is the protocol the VPN service uses. Connecting to a VPN service using the OpenVPN protocol generally yields a faster, more reliable experience. Plus, OpenVPN is, as the name implies, open-source. That means it has been picked over for flaws and exploits by thousands of volunteers. If you're concerned about speed and security, selecting a service that supports OpenVPN and makes it available by default is important.
Though TorGuard’s support site offers in-depth information, finding specific info is harder, and the site is not as easy to follow as those for our top pick or ExpressVPN. TorGuard provides helpful video tutorials, but they’re two years old now and don’t show the latest versions of the company’s apps. As with most of the VPNs we contacted, TorGuard support staff responded to our help ticket quickly—the response to our query came less than half an hour after we submitted it on a weekday afternoon. Still, if you’re worried about getting lost in VPN settings or don’t like hunting for your own answers, IVPN is a better fit.
Central America isn’t the first place you’d think of when it comes to cutting edge technology, but NordVPN is up there with the best VPN services in 2018. It has 1015 servers in 59 countries, supports up to six devices simultaneously, runs 2048-bit encryption and has a feature list including an automatic kill switch, dedicated IP addresses, strong DNS leak protection and the ability to pay in Bitcoin. For relatively short connections performance was superb, although we did notice a little latency creeping in from time to time for very long distance connections. However, browsing remained snappy and performance wasn’t degraded significantly. We’d recommend hunting the site for its free trial and if you like it, signing up for the 3-year plan which is currently going for just $99!

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 a third-party security audit on the company website.


Trust and transparency issues are the foremost concerns in choosing a great VPN, and if a service doesn’t have enough locations to be useful to you, all the security features won’t make a difference. But after those concerns have been satisfied, we recommend that most people use connections based on the OpenVPN protocol, because of security flaws and disadvantages in the PPTP and L2TP/IPsec protocols. (Experienced users may consider IKEv2, but because it has its own debated pros and cons, we ruled it out.) Though AES 128-bit encryption is fine for most purposes, we prefer services that default to the more-secure 256-bit encryption and still offer good performance.

However, you've got no choice but to run TunnelBear's client software (unless you use Linux), which may concern some privacy-minded users, and there's no option to set up TunnelBear connections on routers or other devices. Last but not least, this tiny Canadian firm is now owned by U.S. antivirus giant McAfee, which may mean TunnelBear is subject to U.S. search warrants.
Torrents get a bad rap, and if we’re honest, that’s for good reason. Using torrents is the number one way to download pirated material including movies, TV shows, music, and games. But that’s not all there is to torrenting. It’s a very efficient way to download legitimate software such as Linux distributions and authorized content from sites such as BitTorrent Now.

Some users will also want to research a VPN provider’s peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing policies. There are VPNs that block torrents. Others turn a blind eye to them, but will sell you out in a heartbeat should you be up to no good. P2P is not our main focus here, but we will note in each review whether a particular provider allows file sharing or not.
Avast SecureLine VPN offers good overall performance and steady connections, and it was the best of the limited-feature services we tested in 2017. But at $80 per year for software installation on five devices, it's more expensive than any full-fledged VPN service that doesn't limit installations. A single Mac or PC license is $60, while iOS or Android licenses are $20 each.
Perfect Privacy’s network is composed entirely of dedicated, bare-metal servers that provide you with fast speeds, more security, and plenty of bandwidth at all times (you can see real-time server bandwidth here). Like ExpressVPN, Perfect Privacy has also passed real-world tests that verified their no logging claims, when one of their servers were seized by Dutch authorities (customer data remained safe).
The router could be running outdated and compromised firmware. The router could actually be malicious and actively sniffing packets and logging your data. The router could be improperly configured and other users on the network could be sniffing your data or probing your laptop or mobile device. You never have any guarantee whatsoever that an unknown Wi-Fi hotspot isn’t, either through malice or poor configuration, exposing your data. (A password doesn’t indicate a network is secure, either–even if you have to enter a password, you could be subject to any of these problems.)
CHAP is an improvement over PAP because the clear-text password is not sent over the link. Instead, the password is used to create a hash from the original challenge. The server knows the client’s clear-text password and can, therefore, replicate the operation and compare the result to the password sent in the client’s response. CHAP protects against replay attacks by using an arbitrary challenge string for each authentication attempt. CHAP protects against remote-client impersonation by unpredictably sending repeated challenges to the remote client throughout the duration of the connection.

Since we all know the great benefits attached to VPN technology, it is also imperative to understand why our internet speed throttles when we connect to a VPN. A VPN is designed with consideration to protect our identity from hackers and allow us to access the geo-restricted content on the web. To do this, it adds highly encrypted protocols and other security mechanisms to make the technology efficient, and a right fit for netizens.
Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) can tunnel an entire network's traffic (as it does in the OpenVPN project and SoftEther VPN project[8]) or secure an individual connection. A number of vendors provide remote-access VPN capabilities through SSL. An SSL VPN can connect from locations where IPsec runs into trouble with Network Address Translation and firewall rules.
In recent times, VPN services have made giant leaps in growing from niche online products hidden away in a dark corner of the internet to almost must-have services for anyone with an internet connected device. VPN is very much in the mainstream now and luckily that broadened appeal has done wonders for the usability of the services themselves - there are some brilliant options available in 2018.
There was a time when using a VPN required users to know about the built-in VPN client for Windows or universal open-source solutions such as OpenVPN. Nowadays, however, nearly every VPN provider has its own one-click client that gets you up and running in seconds. There are usually mobile apps as well to keep your Android or iOS device secure over public Wi-Fi.

Even if none of the above really sound right to you, you can still benefit from using a VPN. You should definitely use one when you travel or work on an untrusted network (read: a network you don’t own, manage, or trust who manages.) That means opening your laptop at the coffee shop and logging in to Facebook or using your phone’s Wi-Fi to check your email at the airport can all potentially put you at risk.
When we say that in theory VPNs can’t be intercepted, that’s because VPNs are like any other form of security: if you use them on a device that’s already been compromised by malware such as keyloggers or other security threats then they can’t do their job properly. If you’re on Windows, then good quality, up to date anti-virus software isn’t a luxury. It’s absolutely essential.
As we previously noted, we don't recommend relying on our picks to get around geographic restrictions on copyrighted content. The practice is likely illegal, and it violates the terms of service of your ISP, VPN, and content provider. On top of that, it often doesn't work—we couldn't access Netflix over any of the services we tried, and of the four streams we loaded on BBC iPlayer, only two worked a few days later.
Once you switch on AVG Secure VPN and connect your Windows device to the internet you’re instantly protected. How? Well, when you connect our VPN software for Windows we give you one of our IP address instead of your own (your IP is the unique code that identifies your device). Which means if anyone comes snooping they can only see our server address. Pair that with military grade encryption levels of 256 bit AES standards and there you have it. Instant online privacy at the click of a button. VPN. It’s as easy as 123. Simply switch on our VPN software for Android and connect your device to the internet. We’ll then connect you to one of our worldwide servers (you can even choose where you want to appear) and bingo – you’ll have an instant 256bit AES encrypted internet connection. That’s the same strength used by governments and banks to secure their data. Which means you can surf the web using VPN for Android securely and privately. VPN. It’s as easy as 123. Simply switch on our VPN software for Android and connect your device to the internet. We’ll then connect you to one of our worldwide servers (you can even choose where you want to appear) and bingo – you’ll have an instant 256bit AES encrypted internet connection. That’s the same strength used by governments and banks to secure their data. Which means you can surf the web using VPN for Android securely and privately. Internet privacy at the click of a button? We’ve got you. Once you switch on our VPN software for iPhone your internet connection becomes encrypted instantly. And not just any old encryption, we’re talking 256bit AES encryption levels – the same standards used by banks and governments. You can then choose to appear anywhere in the world with one of our global servers which makes censorship and content blocks a thing of the past. Welcome to internet freedom with VPN for iPhone. Once you hit that VPN button on your Mac AVG Secure VPN connects you to one of our worldwide servers and instead of using your own IP address (think of it as a unique zip code for your device) we’ll give you one of ours. Team that with our 256bit AES encryption levels (yep the same ones used by governments and banks) and our VPN software for Mac ensures you become instantly anonymous and secure online. VPN - easy as 123.

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.
At $7.50/month and $58.49 for a year, they're obviously trying to move you towards their yearly program. We awarded the company points for Bitcoin support, and their money-back guarantee. We're a little disappointed that they only allow a 7-day trial, rather than a full 30-days. The company is generous, with five simultaneous connections. They also picked up points for their connection kill switch feature, a must for anyone serious about remaining anonymous while surfing. 
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:
We wouldn’t want you to have to put up with any of that, so we tested over 100 free VPNs to see which ones are the best of the best. We’re happy to say we found several that meet our strict security standards. Are they the perfect solution? Definitely not, but if you’re looking for a free VPN that can get the job done, you should be able to find one here that can suit your needs.
For inbound traffic, when the tunneled data is decrypted by the VPN server it is forwarded to the firewall, which employs its filters to allow the traffic to be forwarded to intranet resources. Because the only traffic that is crossing the VPN server is traffic generated by authenticated VPN clients, firewall filtering in this scenario can be used to prevent VPN users from accessing specific intranet resources.
To choose the best VPN for you, don’t just look at the price, not least because many services offer massive discounts if you take out a longer term subscription. Start with the basics: how many simultaneous connections can you have? Are there particular security protocols you want to use? Does the provider have servers in the places you’ll want to use it from and the places you want to connect to? How much data will they log about you, and how long do they keep it for?
In an overcrowded VPN market, ExpressVPN continues to stand out from the rest and remains the top recommendation at Restore Privacy. It is based in the British Virgin Islands and offers secure, user-friendly apps for all devices. Extensive testing for the ExpressVPN review found it to be very secure, with exceptional speeds and reliability throughout the server network.
When we initially researched and tested VPNs for this guide in early 2018, technical and legal reasons prevented app developers from using the OpenVPN protocol in apps released through Apple’s iOS app store. During 2018, both the technical and licensing hurdles were removed, and VPN providers started adding OpenVPN connections to their iOS apps. We’ve already noted that our top pick, IVPN, has added it, as have ExpressVPN and PIA. In a future update, we’ll specifically test these upgraded iOS apps, but in the meantime the updated IVPN app has worked as promised for several Wirecutter staffers who use it regularly. Because this OpenVPN support makes it much easier for anyone with Apple devices to create a reliably secure VPN connection, we wouldn’t recommend a service without it to anyone with an iPhone or iPad.

The first runs in the VPN client app on your computer, so if the VPN connection fails while the VPN client app is running, that VPN client app can turn off the computer or mobile device's internet connection. However, if your VPN connection has failed because the VPN client app itself crashed, then the kill switch may not work, and your IP and data may leak onto the internet.
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.
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.
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