A “kill switch” goes by many names, but the term describes VPN software that shuts off all network traffic in and out of your computer if the encrypted connection fails. A hiccup in your Wi-Fi or even with your ISP can cause a VPN to disconnect, and if you then maintain an unsecure connection—especially if the VPN software doesn’t alert you that it’s no longer protecting your traffic—that wipes out all the benefits of your VPN. We considered kill switches to be mandatory. And although we looked for apps that made it easy to add rules about when to activate kill switches, we considered special config files or manual firewall tweaks to be too complex. (iOS doesn’t support any kill-switch features; we address a few iOS-specific problems that apply to all VPN services in a separate section.)
In the configuration shown in the following figure, the firewall is connected to the Internet and the VPN server is another intranet resource connected to the perimeter network, also known as a screened subnet or demilitarized zone (DMZ). The perimeter network is an IP network segment that typically contains resources available to Internet users such as Web servers and FTP servers. The VPN server has an interface on the perimeter network and an interface on the intranet.
Jurisdiction – ZenMate is based in Germany, which is a country with one of the freest Internet in Europe. Online freedom is protected in the country and it does not have a history of persecution against bloggers and social media activists. Nonetheless, it is still part of the 14 Eyes alliance, which implies that users should be careful when considering ZenMate.
Every VPN will tell you it is does not track your internet activity or is a “zero logs” VPN. In reality, delivering high performance across an extensive global network is impossible unless you are monitoring at least some connection details of your users. You could read a ton of privacy policies and terms of service to find out exactly what’s collected and for how long it’s stored or let us do that for you and just check the logging policy section of our review that explains this in plain language. Ideally you want a VPN that does not log your IP address at all and limits timestamp logging to just the date of your connection.
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.
L2TP for Windows assumes the availability of an IP network between an L2TP client (a VPN client using the L2TP tunneling protocol and IPSec) and an L2TP server (a VPN server using the L2TP tunneling protocol and IPSec). The L2TP client might already be attached to an IP network that can reach the L2TP server, or the L2TP client might have to use a dial-up connection to a NAS to establish IP connectivity as in the case of dial-up Internet users.
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.
The bad news for anyone used to free services is that it pays to pay when it comes to a VPN. There are tons of free options from reputable companies, but these are usually a poor substitute for the paid options. Free services usually allow a limited amount of bandwidth usage per month or offer a slower service. Tunnel Bear, for example, offers just 500MB of free bandwidth per month, while CyberGhost offers a free service that is significantly slower than its paid service.
VPNArea is one of the few providers that offers dedicated IP addresses in various countries around the world, as listed on their website. It also allows account sharing (six simultaneous connections permitted). VPNArea continues to improve and remains an excellent choice for privacy-focused users. Check out their discount pricing for annual plans. [Learn more >]
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.
Perfect Privacy holds the top spot as the best VPN for advanced online anonymity. While it may be overkill for basic users, this is a powerful VPN with advanced online anonymity features you will not find anywhere else. It is a well-regarded service that has earned high praise from the tech community for exposing vulnerabilities and flaws other VPN providers.
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.
Also, do be aware that some broadcasters have developed increasingly sophisticated methods to determine whether the IP address you represent is the IP address where you're located. The VPN may be able to protect your original IP address from being seen, but there are characteristics of proxy communications (like a slightly longer time to transfer packets) that can be used to identify users who are trying to bypass watching restrictions.
The VPN services market has exploded in the past few years, and a small competition has turned into an all-out melee. Many providers are capitalizing on the general population's growing concerns about surveillance and cybercrime, which means it's getting hard to tell when a company is actually providing a secure service and when it's throwing out a lot of fancy words while selling snake oil. In fact, since VPN services have become so popular in the wake of Congress killing ISP privacy rules, there have even been fake VPNs popping up, so be careful. It's important to keep a few things in mind when evaluating which VPN service is right for you: reputation, performance, type of encryption used, transparency, ease of use, support, and extra features. Don't just focus on price or speed, though those are important factors.