Opera VPN works only through the Opera web browser, and it shouldn't be used for sensitive communications. Once very fast, Opera's VPN connections were painfully slow in our most recent tests. The Opera VPN mobile apps, which were full-fledged VPN services that performed decently in our 2017 tests, unfortunately closed up shop at the end of April 2018.
Tunneling protocols such as PPTP and L2TP are implemented at the data-link layer of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) reference model and provide data security by helping to create secure tunnels. In contrast, the IPSec protocol is implemented at the network layer and helps secure data at the packet level. IPSec provides two security protocols: Authentication Header (AH) and ESP.
Using the methods above does not prevent unwanted traffic if a malicious Internet user is remotely controlling the VPN client computer. To prevent this, ensure that the VPN client computer has a firewall enabled (such as Internet Connection Firewall in Windows XP) and an anti-virus program installed and running with the latest virus signature file installed. These are also settings that can be enabled and enforced when using Network Access Quarantine Control.
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.
Classless static routes are implemented using DHCP scope option 249. Using classless static routes, each DHCP client can be configured with the route to any destination on the network, and the subnet mask can be specified. Because each scope represents a physical subnet, the scope can be viewed as the start location for any message that is to be sent by a client to another subnet. The parameters used to configure option 249 are Destination, Mask, and Router. One or more static routes can be configured with option 249. All DHCP-enabled clients on the network can be provided with routes to all other subnets using option 249.
CyberGhost gives Mullvad some stiff competition in the speed department, especially for locations in North America and Europe. It does a good job protecting user anonymity, too—requiring no identifying information and using a third-party service for payment processing—albeit not to the same degree as Mullvad. Add to that CyberGhost’s unique, easy-to-use interface, good price, and streaming unblocking (although not for Netflix), and this VPN is a solid choice. (See our full review of CyberGhost.)
To access your own home network, you want a VPN server running on either your home router or an attached device (like a Raspberry Pi or even an always-on desktop computer). Ideally, you’ll run the VPN server at the router level for best security and minimal power consumption. To that end, we recommend either flashing your router to DD-WRT (which supports both VPN server and client mode) or purchasing a router that has a built in VPN server (like the previously reviewed Netgear Nighthawk and Nighthawk X6 routers).
ExpressVPN has a wide range of client software, a dedicated proxy service for streaming media and its own DNS service. But in our 2017 tests, it dropped many connections and its overall performance was in the middle of the pack. It also allows only three devices to be connected simultaneously per account, and it's one of the most expensive services we evaluated.
PIA didn’t score super high. Total was really fast when I first tested it, probably because it had few customers and the servers weren’t congested, but since then the service has taken a nose dive both on the performance and the customer service front. We had a never-ending stream of comments on their review about poor billing practices and other major issues, so we can no longer recommend it.
PrivateVPN is a zero-logs Swedish provider. It features a firewall-based system Kill Switch and application-level kill switch, which is great. Full IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leak protection is also built-in to its client. We have been particularly impressed by PrivateVPN’s high level of customer service, which even features remote installation for technophobes! A cracking 6 simultaneous devices, port forwarding, HTTPS and SOCKS5 proxies all make PrivateVPN a very enticing option for those that want to get the most out of their VPN.
While you're connected to a VPN, all your network traffic passes through this protected tunnel, and no one—not even your ISP—can see your traffic until it exits the tunnel from the VPN server and enters the public internet. If you make sure to only connect to websites secured with HTTPS, your data will continue to be encrypted even after it leaves the VPN.