For features, they offer multi-hop VPN cascades, advanced firewall configuration options (DNS and IP leak protection), port forwarding, NeuroRouting, Socks5 and Squid proxies, obfuscation features to defeat VPN blocking (Stealth VPN), and a customizable TrackStop feature to block tracking, malware, advertising and social media domains. They also give you an unlimited number of device connections and offer full IPv6 support across their server network.
Then there’s the widespread surveillance by local and foreign governments. Through the Snowden leaks and years of follow-up reporting, we know that the worldwide surveillance structure is vast in scope and reach. While it would be illegal for police officers to search your home without a warrant, your browsing activity, messages, social media content, and other online information can be monitored, retained and shared among various government agencies, including across country borders.
Using a VPN will prevent most kinds of DNS attacks that would redirect you to a phishing page, but a regular old page made to look like a legit one in order to trick you into entering your data can still work. Some VPNs, and most browsers, are pretty good about blocking phishing pages, but this attack still claims too many victims to be ignored. Use common sense and be sure to verify that websites are what they say they are by looking carefully at the URL and always visiting HTTPS sites.
As we said above, there are plenty of drawbacks to free VPN services. If you need a full, trustworthy service with unlimited bandwidth you're going to need to sign up to a full, paid service. The best VPN right now is ExpressVPN. Prices start at just $6.67 per month - that's about the price of a pint of beer in the UK! And for that you get the best VPN in the world, without any security concerns, with 24/7 customer support, guaranteed access to Netflix US, almost constant uptime and a 30-day money back guarantee (no questions asked) if you change your mind. Check out ExpressVPN!
The student/worker. This person has responsibilities to attend to, and uses a VPN provided by their school or company to access resources on their network when they’re at home or traveling. In most cases, this person already has a free VPN service provided to them, so they’re not exactly shopping around. Also, if they’re worried about security, they can always fire up their VPN when using airport or cafe WI-Fi to ensure no one’s snooping on their connection. Photo by Ed Yourdon.
The country connections, meanwhile, matter most to those who want to spoof their location; however, non-spoofers should also make sure there are connections in their home country. If you live in Los Angeles, for example, and want access to American content, then you’ll need a VPN that provides U.S. connections. It won’t work to try and watch Amazon Prime Video over a Dutch VPN connection, because as far as Hulu’s concerned your computer is in the Netherlands.
Some VPNs will also let you define the specific context in which the VPN functions. TunnelBear VPN, in particular, lets you mark a network as trusted and will only activate when you're not connected to one of these trusted networks. This will protect you from bad guys, but it will leave you open to tracking and surveillance by governments and your ISP when you're on trusted networks.
Prices – PIA offers monthly, yearly, and two-year subscription plans. The two-year plan is the cheapest at $2.91/month. PIA is a personal favorite VPN of mine that falls in the cheap category because it is easy to trust this VPN. It does not make any exaggerated claims: everything about the VPN is transparent. Its reliance on physical servers only (which are far more costly than virtual servers) also makes it an appealing choice with its low-priced subscription.
Mullvad is not that easy to use, with a bare-bones desktop interface and, unlike every other VPN service we've reviewed, no mobile client apps. (You do get instructions on how to manually set up OpenVPN apps.) This service's network speeds were far from great in our tests, and it's fairly expensive, with no discount for paying yearly instead of monthly.
CyberGhost’s popular free tier might not be amazing at speeds, but the paid Pro tier is phenomenal. It proved to be quick and consistent in our speed tests, scroll down. Want more? You can boost your speed with its “extra speed” feature; toggled before you connect. Use and setup are novice-friendly, and live chat is also available if you need a hand.
Even if a company is at fault for deceptive marketing practices, it still has to comply with legal requests for whatever information it does have. Jerome told us, “In the U.S., however, there is a big difference between a request for data regularly stored for business purposes and a demand that a company retain information. VPN providers are not required to keep records just in case law enforcement might need them some day.” That means many companies could provide a list of their customers, but if they practice what they preach when it comes to no-logging policies, innocent customers looking for privacy shouldn’t get swept up in these requests.
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.
As part of our research, we also make sure to find out where the company is based and under what legal framework it operates. Some countries don't have data-retention laws, making it easier to keep a promise of "We don't keep any logs." It's also useful to know under what circumstances a VPN company will hand over information to law enforcement and what information it would have to provide if that should happen.
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.)
What that means in practice is that VPNs are fine for bypassing geo-blocks, for protecting your online banking and for keeping business communications free from interception. However, if you’re using the internet to fight repressive regimes or to do anything else that could attract the attention of the authorities where you live, a VPN is not a magic wand that’ll make you invisible.
If you are interested in an added level of protection, there are intriguing gadgets called Tiny Hardware Firewalls. These devices range from about $30 to $70 and connect via a network port or a USB slot to your laptop. They make the initial network connection, and so your computer's communication is always blocked before it calls out to the internet.
StrongVPN has exit nodes in 43 cities, 20 countries, and supports PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, IPSec, and OpenVPN protocols–you’ll be hard pressed to find a device you can’t configure to use their service. There are no bandwidth caps, speed limits, or restrictions on protocols or services (torrenting, Netflix, you name it, they don’t care). Additionally, StrongVPN maintains no server logs.
The available speed for each client is unlimited since VPN Express does not impose any restrictions. It is important to clarify that the speed obtained in the navigation will vary according to different parameters such as the own internet provider or the actual physical distance between the client and the chosen server. In terms of downloads, it can be said that they are also unlimited and the provider supports P2P.
Are you so used to your data traveling over Wi-Fi that you've stopped worrying about the security of that data—and about who else might be spying on it, or even stealing it for nefarious purposes? If so, you are—sadly—in the majority, and you ought to consider using a viritual private network, or VPN. In fact, when PCMag conducted a survey on VPN usage, we found that a dismal 71 percent of the 1,000 respondents had never used a VPN. Even among those who support net neutrality—who you might think would tend to be well informed on technology and privacy issues—only 45 percent had used a VPN.