Over the course of four months, we scoured articles, white papers, customer reviews, and forums to compile the pros and cons of VPN services and different VPN protocols and encryption technologies. That One Privacy Site and privacytools.io stood out as two of the most thorough and unbiased sources of information. We interviewed Electronic Frontier Foundation analyst Amul Kalia about government surveillance and VPN efficacy. We also got answers from Joseph Jerome, policy counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology’s privacy and data project, about how accountable VPN providers are for their policies and terms of service, and how that relates to trustworthiness. Alec Muffett, a security expert and software engineer, also shared his views on the usefulness of VPNs to protect against various threats.
TunnelBear is the undisputed best free VPN service available today. It's a serious VPN that's serious about customer satisfaction, privacy and security. So the upside is that you're getting a VPN that works, and can be trusted not to hold loads of data on you and sell you out at the earliest opportunity! The downside is that the free tier of TunnelBear only gets you 500MB bandwidth each month. That means for many people having it always-on will leave you caught short well before the end of the month, and absolutely rules out using it to stream endless episodes of Rick and Morty on Netflix. The free VPN tear at TunnelBear is certainly designed as a gateway to the paid tier which offers unlimited data but will cost you real money. If you're going to pay for a VPN we'd suggest getting a premium one like Express, but if you're only interested in a free option then TunnelBear is the one for you unless you need loads of bandwidth.
With the increasing use of VPNs, many have started deploying VPN connectivity on routers for additional security and encryption of data transmission by using various cryptographic techniques. Home users usually deploy VPNs on their routers to protect devices, such as smart TVs or gaming consoles, which are not supported by native VPN clients. Supported devices are not restricted to those capable of running a VPN client.
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 IVPN app’s default settings are great for most people, who should be happy just smashing the Connect button and not fiddling with settings. The desktop app defaults to a secure OpenVPN connection with AES 256-bit encryption (what we consider the standard at this point), and the mobile app can (and should) be toggled to OpenVPN as well. Our budget pick, TorGuard, defaults to the weaker (but also acceptable) AES 128-bit encryption unless you manually change it, and hasn’t added OpenVPN support on its iOS app.
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).
IPVanish is one of the most recognisable names among all the VPN services out there. They've been going for years and if you've read about VPNs in the past you've probably seen some of their ads! IPVanish certainly isn’t going after the budget market here but it's still a bit cheaper than ExpressVPN. Like Express, IPVanish doesn’t offer a free trial (although there is a seven day money back guarantee if the service doesn’t live up to your expectations). It promises to be the world’s fastest VPN, with more than 40,000 IP addresses, 850 servers in 60 countries, unlimited peer to peer sharing and up to five simultaneous connections. That's certainly a bonus over ExpressVPN which only offers three connections at a time - IPVanish could be the better option for you if you want to get the whole family on one plan, for example. There’s a no logging policy, too, which means the service isn’t gathering stacks of data about what you’re doing.
Our Free VPN Service is built on the cornerstones of freedom of speech and a basic right to privacy – We believe that every individual should have access to the internet without fear of an invasion of these rights. You should be able to surf the web, download files, and chat to your friends freely without reprisal. The internet is a vast wealth of information which should be readily available without restrictions. With a great understanding of these rights and beliefs, we have created an all-encompassing VPN service that provides you with the security you deserve.
In addition to blocking malicious sites and ads, some VPNs also claim to block malware. We don't test the efficacy of these network-based protections, but most appear to be blacklists of sites known to host malicious software. That's great, but don't assume it's anywhere near as good as standalone antivirus. Use this feature to complement, not replace, your antivirus.
Jurisdiction – PureVPN has a fairly strong jurisdictional advantage. Hong-Kong is far from the watchful eyes of European governments and the 14 Eyes alliance. The state of the Internet in Hong Kong is one of the freest in the world. The government in Hong-Kong does not sweep online content under the rug of censorship. However, acts like distribution of child pornography are criminalized (as they should) by law and fall under the cloak of censorship. So, the jurisdiction of PureVPN should be a reason enough to compel privacy-conscious users to get this 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.
The VPN server can be managed using industry-standard network management protocols and infrastructure. The computer acting as the VPN server can participate in a Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) environment as an SNMP agent if the Windows Server 2003 SNMP service is installed. The VPN server records management information in various object identifiers of the Internet Management Information Base (MIB) II, which is installed with the Windows Server 2003 SNMP service. Objects in the Internet MIB II are documented in RFC 1213 in the IETF RFC Database.
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.
The globetrotter. This person wants to watch the Olympics live as they happen, without dealing with their crummy local networks. They want to check out their favorite TV shows as they air instead of waiting for translations or re-broadcasts (or watch the versions aired in other countries,) listen to location-restricted streaming internet radio, or want to use a new web service or application that looks great but for some reason is limited to a specific country or region.
You want to skip PPTP if at all possible. It’s a very dated protocol that uses weak encryption and due to security issues should be considered compromised. It might be good enough to secure your non-essential web browsing at a coffee shop (e.g. to keep the shopkeeper’s son from sniffing your passwords), but it’s not up to snuff for serious security. Although L2TP/IPsec is a significant improvements over PPTP, it lacks the speed and the open security audits found with OpenVPN.
Final Verdict – ExpressVPN is a powerful tool that can pass through almost any website anywhere in the world. In fact, ExpressVPN is one of the few providers that work in the censorship-stricken country like China. If you want to have that complete Internet freedom, where you can open any content at a click without facing restriction, then ExpressVPN is the best option for you. Add top-notch security and excellent logging policy to the mix, and you have a complete VPN package right in your hands.
TorGuard was consistently one of the fastest services we tested. When we averaged three tests performed at different times of the week with Internet Health Test, TorGuard was the fastest service when connecting in the UK and Asia, the second fastest in the US, and the third fastest in Central Europe. OVPN was the next most consistent, but that company’s small network doesn’t have any servers in Asia, and it ranked fifth in the UK. Our top pick, IVPN, was the third most consistently fast after TorGuard and OVPN. However, we tested with each app’s default settings—since we expect most people won’t change them—and TorGuard’s default 128-bit encryption gives it an advantage in speed tests over VPNs that default to 256-bit encryption, as most services do. Still, we think 128-bit encryption is fine for most people who prioritize speed, and TorGuard’s consistency makes it a good value as our budget pick.
We contacted each of our finalists with simple questions about its service and troubleshooting. Most VPN companies provide technical support through online ticketing systems, meaning you'll need to wait for a response. This means that self-help support sites are even more important, because waiting for a reply while your connection is down can be frustrating. Response times to our support inquiries ranged from 20 minutes to a day.
TorGuard also lacks extra features that are nice to have, like automatically connecting to the VPN when you’re on an unknown Wi-Fi network (which IVPN offers) or split-tunneling to choose which apps do and don’t route through the VPN (which ExpressVPN supports). And it offers no option to automatically connect to the fastest server, a feature our top pick lacks as well. But if you have above-average knowledge of networking, you’ll appreciate TorGuard’s more in-depth settings pane, which allows you to add scripts or kill specific processes when the VPN disconnects—neither our top pick nor popular services like Private Internet Access allow that kind of control.
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.
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.