Tip for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera users: A feature called WebRTC can, in some Web browsers, inadvertently cause your true IP address to leak out even when you’re connected via a great VPN. WebRTC assists with peer-to-peer connections, such as for video chatting, but could be exploited in some cases. You can manually disable this function in Firefox, or use an extension to block most instances of it in Chrome or Opera. For more details and instructions, check out Restore Privacy.
Bandwidth restrictions might not have been a big deal in the pre-streaming era, but now that everyone is streaming videos, music, and more, the bandwidth burns up really fast. Avoid VPNs that impose bandwidth restrictions unless the bandwidth restrictions are clearly very high and intended only to allow the provider to police people abusing the service.
The table below will give you, at a glance, all the high-level information on what I consider to be the top VPN providers. For each service, you will also find links to a full review, multi location speed tests and a complete list of servers. If you need a bit of help knowing what to look for, please take a look at my article on how to choose a VPN.
Free VPN Providers are more likely to log your activities and serve contextual ads while you’re connected. They’re also more likely to use your usage habits to tailor future ads to you, have fewer exit locations, and weak commitments to privacy. They may offer great features, but if logging and privacy are important to you, you may want to avoid them. However, if you just need quick, painless security while traveling on a budget, they’re a great option.
Cost: There's a 3 day free trial you can grab but you'll still need to enter your credit card. Otherwise, you can pay for VyprVPN every month for $9.95/month (or buy a year at once to bring that down to $5/month). Additional, there's a Premium plan for $12.95/month (or $6.67/month when billed annually) that lets you use your account on up to five devices at once, plus it supports Chameleon.
Privacy features – The privacy features you want/need really varies for each person and depends on your threat model. For a higher level of online anonymity, you could use a multi-hop VPN, or possibly chain different VPN providers together. This could be done by using one VPN on a router, and then connecting through a second VPN on your computer. This can also be accomplished using virtual machines.
Because the firewall does not have the encryption keys for each VPN connection, it can only filter on the plaintext headers of the tunneled data, meaning that all tunneled data passes through the firewall. However, this is not a security concern because the VPN connection requires an authentication process that prevents unauthorized access beyond the VPN server.
If the VPN server is behind a firewall, packet filters must be configured for both an Internet interface and a perimeter network interface. In this scenario, the firewall is connected to the Internet, and the VPN server is an intranet resource that is connected to the perimeter network. The VPN server has an interface on both the perimeter network and the Internet.
IVPN also performed well in our speed tests. Though it wasn’t always the fastest in the 54 measurements we took on each service, it ranked near the top on many servers at different times of the week—especially compared with the most trustworthy services. Private Internet Access, one of the most visible, privacy-focused VPNs, had slower speeds when connecting to most servers and less reliable connections than IVPN. For US servers (which we expected to be the fastest locations since we tested from California), IVPN ranked behind only OVPN and TorGuard. We liked OVPN—especially its speed results—but we thought that company’s small team and small selection of servers and locations were too limiting for some people. (Read more in the Competition section.) Though TorGuard edged out IVPN in this test, the difference wasn’t big enough to affect our everyday browsing. And because we tested each application at its default settings, TorGuard’s faster speeds were partially thanks to its default 128-bit encryption; IVPN offers only more secure, but often slower, 256-bit encryption.
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.
Unlike the separate tunnels created for each voluntary client, multiple dial-up clients can share a tunnel between the FEP and the tunnel server. When a second client dials into the access server (FEP) to reach a destination for which a tunnel already exists, there is no need to create a new instance of the tunnel between the FEP and tunnel server. Instead, the data traffic for the new client is carried over the existing tunnel. Since there can be multiple clients in a single tunnel, the tunnel is not terminated until the last user of the tunnel disconnects.
Ping Rate: Ping rate is the time it takes for your connection to communicate with a desired server. The faster response time between your PC and the server, the more responsive is your connection. Ping rate is measured in milliseconds (ms) and is critical for applications where timing is important. Therefore, you should select a VPN that offers the lowest ping rates.
Access to restricted websites: Some websites and streaming content may only be accessed in certain countries. For example a TV program might only be broadcast in the UK – Trying to stream this program outside the country will return an error. Through the masking of your IP address, and thus your physical location, free VPN will allow you access to this restricted content and make it appear that you are located in the required region. Learn More
In conjunction with information security experts at The New York Times (parent company of Wirecutter), we reached out to our finalists with questions about their internal security practices. We asked how they handled internal security access, how they communicated securely with customers, in what ways they collected reports on security bugs, and of course whether their statements on logging policies matched their marketing and privacy policies. We also considered which companies had public-facing leadership or ownership, and which ones openly supported projects and organizations that promoted Internet security and privacy. (For a full breakdown of trust and VPNs, check out the section above.)
Two networks can be connected over an intranet using a site-to-site VPN connection. This type of VPN connection might be necessary, for example, for two departments in separate locations, whose data is highly sensitive, to communicate with each other. For instance, the finance department might need to communicate with the human resources department to exchange payroll information.
If you’re going to bother with a VPN, you should spend money on a good one—don’t trust a free VPN. Security and privacy cost money, and if you aren’t paying for them, the provider has an incentive to make money from marketers at your privacy’s expense. Though price doesn’t always equal quality, a few dollars a month more for a better experience is worth it for something you’ll use on a regular basis.
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. On a desktop or an Android device, the company supports only the OpenVPN protocol we recommend and uses AES 256-bit encryption (what we consider the standard at this point). Our budget pick, TorGuard, defaults to the weaker (but also acceptable) AES 128-bit encryption unless you manually change it.
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.
That attitude to the safety and privacy of personal data creates an enormous online security risk. Public Wi-Fi networks, which are ubiquitous and convenient, are unfortunately also highly convenient for attackers looking to compromise your personal information. How do you know, for example, that "starbucks_wifi_real" is actually the Wi-Fi network for the coffee shop? Anyone could have created that network, and they may have done so in order to lure victims into disclosing personal information over it. In fact, a popular security researcher prank is to create a network with the same name as a free, popular service and see how many devices will automatically connect because it appears safe.