Consider a public Wi-Fi network, perhaps at a coffee shop or airport. Usually, you would connect without a second thought, but do you know who might be keeping tabs on the network traffic? Can you even be confident the hotspot is legitimate, or might it be operated by a criminal who's hunting for your personal data? Think about the passwords, banking details, credit card numbers, and just any private information that you send every time you go online.

When we looked at just iPhone VPNs last year, our results yielded a very different breakdown. In our tests on iOS, we found that Hide My Ass, Golden Frog Vypr VPN, KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, NordVPN, and PureVPN were the top performers. Hide My Ass and PureVPN dominated in the download speed tests, improving speeds by 10.1 and 6.8 percent, respectively.
We also like how easy it is to connect, and how clear and accessible the settings are, on all platforms when using the IVPN app. (ChromeOS has an option to use a less-secure VPN protocol with most providers, including IVPN. But TorGuard, our budget pick, supports the more secure OpenVPN on Chromebooks and tablets.) If you do want to tweak some settings, IVPN has easy-to-understand checkboxes for most options. For example, the kill switch (labeled “firewall”) has an easy on/off toggle. Anytime it’s on and the app is open, all traffic in and out of your computer will cut off if you forget to connect to the service or the secure connection drops for some reason.
The problem with anonymity is there are so many issues to consider—most of which are beyond the scope of this article. Has the government surreptitiously installed malware on your PC in order to monitor your activity, for example? Does the VPN you want to use have any issues with data leakage or weak encryption that could expose your web browsing? How much information does your VPN provider log about your activity, and would that information be accessible to the government? Are you using an anonymous identity online on a PC that you never use in conjunction with your actual identity?

That said, many VPN providers are based outside the US, which complicates enforcement. Jerome continued: “Users can file complaints in a local jurisdiction, and local data protection laws may have more effective enforcement mechanisms. For example, privacy and confidentiality of communications are fundamental rights in the European Union. Data protection authorities in EU-member states are empowered to handle complaints brought by individuals and then provide users with information about the outcome of any investigation. But it is unclear how effective any of these remedies will be.”
VPN use, for example, allows an IBM employee to work from home in a Chicago suburb while accessing the company intranet located in a building in New York City, as if he was right there on the New York office’s network. The same technology can be used by consumers to bridge their phones and laptops to their home network so, while on the road, they can securely access files from their home computers.
Mobile VPNs are designed and optimized to ensure a seamless user experience when devices are switching networks or moving out of coverage. It generally has a smaller memory footprint, and because of that, it also requires less processing power than a traditional VPN. Therefore, it enables your applications to run faster while the battery pack is able to last longer.
Because few VPN companies offer live support, we appreciate when they at least provide easy-to-follow resources on their websites. Detailed setup guides with step-by-step instructions are available for every platform IVPN supports, and it breaks down troubleshooting advice into language that’s easy to understand. ExpressVPN also has clear, helpful support articles, but other services aren’t as straightforward. It’s harder to find the right information on TorGuard’s support site, and its articles aren’t as novice-friendly. If you need to submit a ticket for a specific problem, you can expect a quick response from all the companies we tested—IVPN and TorGuard both responded to us in minutes, and PIA took the longest at one day. ExpressVPN was the only one of our finalists that offered tech support over live chat. (Other companies provide live chat only for sales and signup support.)
Consumers use a private VPN service, also known as a VPN tunnel, to protect their online activity and identity. By using an anonymous VPN service, a user's Internet traffic and data remain encrypted, which prevents eavesdroppers from sniffing Internet activity. VPN services are especially useful when accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots because the public wireless services might not be secure. In addition to public Wi-Fi security, a private VPN service also provides consumers with uncensored Internet access and can help prevent data theft and unblock websites.
You heard us right on that last bit: a number of VPN providers have systems in place where they will accept gift cards from major retailers (that are totally unrelated to their business) like Wal-Mart or Target in exchange for VPN credit. You could buy a gift card to any number of big box stores using cash, redeem it for VPN credit, and avoid using your personal credit card or checking information.
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. 

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.
Some virtual networks use tunneling protocols without encryption for protecting the privacy of data. While VPNs often do provide security, an unencrypted overlay network does not neatly fit within the secure or trusted categorization.[citation needed] For example, a tunnel set up between two hosts with Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) is a virtual private network, but neither secure nor trusted.[23][24]
Our VPN-issued IP address was never blacklisted by websites like those of Yelp and Target, but we were unable to access Netflix and BBC iPlayer while connected to TorGuard. No VPN offers a reliable way to access these streaming services, though: All of the VPNs we tried were blocked by Netflix, and of the four that could access BBC content on the first day, two were blocked the next.
When a VPN server is in front of a firewall and connected to the Internet, inbound and outbound packet filters on the VPN server need to be configured to allow only VPN traffic to and from the IP address of the VPN server’s Internet interface. Use this configuration if the VPN server is in a perimeter network, with one firewall positioned between the VPN server and the intranet and another between the VPN server and the Internet.
There’s currently only one scenario where you would entertain using L2TP/IPsec instead of OpenVPN and that’s for mobile devices like iOS and Android phones. Currently neither Android nor iOS supports native OpenVPN (although there is third-party support for it). Both mobile operating systems do, however, support L2TP/Ipsec natively and, as such, it’s a useful alternative.
Hotspot Shield VPN does not log your browsing activity. Almost all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) track your browsing history. So when you use a VPN like Hotspot Shield, there is no record of the websites you have visited and which apps you use. This prevents hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities in these websites/apps to get to your personal information.
The main drawback with VyprVPN is their connection log policies. They keep connection logs for 30 days, but usage/activity logs are never kept. Another slight drawback is that they do not permit torrenting on their network. But on a positive note, they are very honest and straightforward about their policies, unlike some VPNs that falsely claim to be “no logs”.
As stated previously, most implementations of PPP provide a limited number of authentication methods. EAP is an IETF standard extension to PPP that allows for arbitrary authentication mechanisms for the validation of a PPP connection. EAP was designed to allow the dynamic addition of authentication plug-in modules at both the client and authentication server. This allows vendors to supply a new authentication scheme at any time. EAP provides the highest flexibility in authentication uniqueness and variation.

Ivacy is a Singapore-based VPN service. It is on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of the speeds it offers. Nonetheless, it has strong security mechanisms such as DNS leak protection and AES 256 bit encryption. Its servers are located in more than 100 countries in the world. Find a comprehensive review about Ivacy VPN for pros and cons of the service.
IP / DNS leak test – IPVanish does not suffer from any DNS or IP leak problems. This is a sign of the strong security and encryption protocols that IPVanish uses. As such, you can download torrents through IPVanish and rest assured that your IP won’t be leaked. However, in spite of the solid security, I still wouldn’t recommend going the torrent route with IPVanish for reasons highlighted below.
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.)
We really like PrivateVPN’s user-friendly desktop client but the mobile apps leave a lot to be desired when it comes to configurable options, although this probably won’t affect the majority of users. It can be made to work in China at a push, however there are much more reliable options available for that purpose. In terms of striking a balance between privacy and performance, PrivateVPN does a brilliant job.
A firewall uses packet filtering to allow or disallow the flow of specific types of network traffic. IP packet filtering provides a way for administrators to define precisely what IP traffic is allowed to cross the firewall. IP packet filtering is important when private intranets are connected to public networks, such as the Internet. There are two approaches to using a firewall with a VPN server:
Anonymous internet access: Anonymity is preferable for many when surfing the web. We do not like the idea of someone watching our every more and monitoring our actions. We have a basic right to privacy and free VPN will help you achieve this. Using the VPN service, you can enjoy a trouble-free private browsing session with no traceability. Learn More
We considered native apps for Windows, Mac, and Android to be mandatory because they’re easier to use than open-source or third-party VPN apps like Tunnelblick; that in turn makes it easier to stay secure. For more-advanced users, adding VPN connections to Wi-Fi routers can help secure all connections on a home network without having to manage devices individually.
OVPN was regularly the fastest VPN in our tests regardless of the time of week or location. We also liked the app’s clean design and its simple and well-labeled settings pane. But OVPN is a small startup with a limited server network: At this writing, the company has servers in just seven countries, none in Asia. That makes it less versatile for finding less congested routes or geoshifting. OVPN also hasn’t released an Android app yet, so even non-iOS device owners will have to resort to the clunky, third-party OpenVPN Connect app on their phones. When we reached out for details about the company’s operational security, founder and CEO David Wibergh was open to questions and gave us answers that led us to believe that the company acted in the best interest of its customers’ privacy and security. He noted that after an uptick in data requests from local authorities in Sweden—all of which OVPN responded to by explaining that it lacked any pertinent data—the company published a blog post to detail just how little information it keeps.

VPN was not the first technology to make remote connections. Several years ago, the most common way to connect computers between multiple offices was by using a leased line. Leased lines, such as ISDN (integrated services digital network, 128 Kbps), are private network connections that a telecommunications company could lease to its customers. Leased lines provided a company with a way to expand its private network beyond its immediate geographic area. These connections form a single wide-area network (WAN) for the business. Though leased lines are reliable and secure, the leases are expensive, with costs rising as the distance between offices increases.

Borders still exist on the web, in the form of geographic restrictions for streaming content. The BBC iPlayer, for example, lets UK residents watch the Beeb to their heart's content. The rest of the world, not so much. But if you were to select a VPN server in the UK, your computer's IP address would appear to be the same as the server, allowing you to view the content.
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.
IPSec NAT-T enables IPSec peers to negotiate and communicate when they are behind a NAT. To use IPSec NAT-T, both the remote access VPN client and the remote access VPN server must support IPSec NAT-T. IPSec NAT-T is supported by the Windows Server 2003 Microsoft L2TP/IPSec VPN Client and by the L2TP/IPSec NAT-T Update for Windows XP and the L2TP/IPSec NAT-T Update for Windows 2000. During the IPSec negotiation process, IPSec NAT-T-capable peers automatically determine whether both the initiating IPSec peer (typically a client computer) and responding IPSec peer (typically a server) can perform IPSec NAT-T. In addition, IPSec NAT-T-capable peers automatically determine if there are any NATs in the path between them. If both of these conditions are true, the peers automatically use IPSec NAT-T to send IPSec-protected traffic.
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.
For the Routing and Remote Access service, MPPE encryption strengths are configured on the Encryption tab on the properties of a remote access policy to use 40-bit (the Basic setting), 56-bit (the Strong setting), or 128-bit (the Strongest setting) encryption keys. Administrators should use 40-bit MPPE encryption keys to connect with older operating systems that do not support 56-bit or 128-bit encryption keys (this includes older Windows operating systems and operating systems from companies other than Microsoft). Otherwise, use 128-bit encryption keys. Encryption strengths for L2TP/IPSec connections use 56-bit DES (the Basic or Strong setting) or 168-bit 3DES (the Strongest setting).
Is using the web safely one of your concerns? Maybe you know someone who has been hacked or you’ve experienced it yourself. Have you ever wanted to purchase something or book travel but found it to be more expensive when you revisited it? Do you ever want to download a file but are unsure about your internet security? Or perhaps you’ve wanted to speak to family and friends but feel uncomfortable about how private your connection is. If one or more of these statements are concerns of yours, there is a solution — use a VPN, a way to disguise your IP address and add extra encryption to your data.
IP / DNS leak test – PureVPN’s security mechanisms are based on the AES 256 bit encryption. This is the modern industry-standard of encryption that every VPN worth buying uses. Together with this mode of encryption and PureVPN’s DNS protection features, the possibility of IP or DNS leaks is all but completely ruled out. With security becoming a matter of utmost importance for users all over the world, PureVPN delivers just the right combination of speed and security for the users’ peace of mind.
This could be bad. I'm not terribly concerned if Comcast discovers my secret passion for muscle cars and I get more ads for car customizing kits. It might be annoying, but I'm not doing anything I really want to hide. Where the problem could occur is if ISPs start inserting their own ads in place of ads by, say, ZDNet. That could cut off the revenue that keeps websites alive, and that could have very serious repercussions.

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
If you are a torrent lover, you know speed matters. Torrent lovers usually get foiled with slow internet connection and end up finding alternatives. With fastest VPN service, you can enjoy the top-notch downloading experience without any restrictions. High-speed VPNs not only give you the best torrenting experience but also anonymize all your activities. To be in a win-win situation, use fast VPN service today and not only increase your torrent speeds but encrypt all your data and get rid of ISP throttling. We have also covered a detailed post on how to download a torrent file safely on your  PC and mobile devices, have a read!
One of the most popular VPN services in the market, HideMyAss has a myriad of features that are sure to attract anyone who wants online anonymity. It uses a variety of servers that work with any operating system or mobile device. Aside from PPTP and OpenVPN protocols, the service supports L2TP, which is more difficult to block. Ideal for getting around censorship and firewalls.
The Shiva Password Authentication Protocol (SPAP) is a reversible encryption mechanism employed by Shiva Corporation. A computer running Windows XP Professional uses SPAP when connecting to a Shiva LAN Rover. A Shiva client that connects to a server running Routing and Remote Access also uses SPAP. Currently, this form of authentication is more secure than plaintext but less secure than CHAP or MS-CHAP.
Consumers use a private VPN service, also known as a VPN tunnel, to protect their online activity and identity. By using an anonymous VPN service, a user's Internet traffic and data remain encrypted, which prevents eavesdroppers from sniffing Internet activity. VPN services are especially useful when accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots because the public wireless services might not be secure. In addition to public Wi-Fi security, a private VPN service also provides consumers with uncensored Internet access and can help prevent data theft and unblock websites.
We have tested each of these services in as repeatable a manner as possible, but it's worth remembering that networks can be fickle. To get the clearest picture of a VPN's performance, we would have to perform these tests many more times, at different locations and different times of day. We think of these tests as more of a snapshot of performance that establishes a replicable metric for measuring each service. Your mileage with these services will almost certainly vary somewhat from mine.
We spent more than 130 hours researching 32 VPN services, testing 12, interviewing the leadership of five, and consulting information security and legal experts. We found that a VPN shouldn’t be your first step toward online security, but for protecting your info on public Wi-Fi (and in some other cases), IVPN is the most trustworthy provider that offers fast, secure connections and easy setup.
Whether you’re you’re sick of your ISP throttling your connection, you want to secure your browsing sessions while on the road, or you just want to download whatever the heck you want without the man on your back, there’s no substitution for a securely deployed Virtual Private Network. Now that you’re armed with the knowledge necessary to pick a good VPN (and with three solid recommendations at that), it’s time to secure your internet traffic once and for all.

We tested NordVPN and found that it works well with Netflix and other streaming services that block most other VPNs. It is compatible with all devices, does not retain logs, and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee (it's real, we checked). With a price so low, it's no wonder NordVPN is the most popular VPN out there, used by technology experts all around the world.

CyberGhost’s popular free tier might not offer amazing speeds, but its paid Pro tier is a real contender.  It proved to be both quick and consistent in our speed tests. An “extra speed” feature can be toggled before you connect for an extra boost. Setup and use are novice-friendly, and live chat with customer support is available if you need a hand. Military grade encryption ensures all your data is safely tunneled to the VPN server, and CyberGhost does not store any logs of user activity or other identifiers.
While VPNs are an important tool, they are far from foolproof. Let’s say you live in an oppressive country and want to evade censorship in order to access the unrestricted web. A VPN would have limited use. If you’re trying to evade government restrictions and access sites like Facebook and Twitter, a VPN might be useful. Even then, you’d have to be somewhat dependent on the government’s willingness to look the other way.
We have often said that having to choose between security and convenience is a false dichotomy, but it is at least somewhat true in the case of VPN services. When a VPN is active, your web traffic is taking a more circuitous route than usual, often resulting in sluggish download and upload speeds as well as increased latency. The good news is that using a VPN probably isn't going to remind you of the dial-up days of yore.
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