When we initially researched and tested VPNs for this guide in early 2018, technical and legal reasons prevented app developers from using the OpenVPN protocol in apps released through Apple’s iOS app store. During 2018, both the technical and licensing hurdles were removed, and VPN providers started adding OpenVPN connections to their iOS apps. We’ve already noted that our top pick, IVPN, has added it, as have ExpressVPN and PIA. In a future update, we’ll specifically test these upgraded iOS apps, but in the meantime the updated IVPN app has worked as promised for several Wirecutter staffers who use it regularly. Because this OpenVPN support makes it much easier for anyone with Apple devices to create a reliably secure VPN connection, we wouldn’t recommend a service without it to anyone with an iPhone or iPad.

Like Avast, Avira got into the VPN business to complement its antivirus offerings. Phantom VPN is easy to use and gives you up to 1GB of data per month for free, making this service ideal for vacation travelers who just need to check email. Its unlimited paid plans are reasonably priced, but it had slow downloads and dropped connections in our 2017 tests.
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.

Let's talk about what happens when you use a VPN app on your computer or mobile device. Any VPN app will require an existing network connection to be able to connect to the VPN service provider. This means that even if you set your VPN app to automatically launch when your device boots, there will be a period of time when your computer is connected to the internet directly, not through your VPN.
Extensible Authentication Protocol-Transport Layer Security (EAP-TLS) is an EAP type that is used in certificate-based security environments. If smart cards are used for remote access authentication, EAP-TLS is the required authentication method. The EAP-TLS exchange of messages provides mutual authentication, negotiation of the encryption method, and encrypted key determination between the remote access client and the authenticator. EAP-TLS provides the strongest authentication and key-determination method.
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.
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.

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.


Over the course of four months, we scoured articles, white papers, customer reviews, and forums to compile the pros and cons of VPN services and different VPN protocols and encryption technologies. That One Privacy Site and privacytools.io stood out as two of the most thorough and unbiased sources of information. We interviewed Electronic Frontier Foundation analyst Amul Kalia about government surveillance and VPN efficacy. We also got answers from Joseph Jerome, policy counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology’s privacy and data project, about how accountable VPN providers are for their policies and terms of service, and how that relates to trustworthiness. Alec Muffett, a security expert and software engineer, also shared his views on the usefulness of VPNs to protect against various threats.


If you’re on a heavily managed Internet connection, be it government censored or just college Wi-Fi, standard VPN connections may be blocked or throttled due to deep packet inspection, a way for providers to analyze what type of traffic is passing over a network even when they can’t see the actual contents. IVPN’s desktop apps include a checkbox for Obfsproxy, which disguises your traffic as more ho-hum data to get it past those types of blocks—like kids stacked in a trenchcoat to pass as an adult, but more convincing. Our budget pick, TorGuard, and competitor ExpressVPN use different methods to disguise traffic, but we couldn’t find documentation on equivalent features from our other top performers.
After the tunnel is established, data can be sent. The tunnel client or server uses a tunnel data transfer protocol to prepare the data for transfer. For example, when the tunnel client sends a payload to the tunnel server, the tunnel client first appends a tunnel data transfer protocol header to the payload. The client then sends the resulting encapsulated payload across the network, which routes it to the tunnel server. The tunnel server accepts the packets, removes the tunnel data transfer protocol header, and forwards the payload to the target network. Information sent between the tunnel server and the tunnel client behaves similarly.
HotSpot Shield is a product that has had some ups and downs in terms of our editorial coverage. Back in 2016, they picked up some very positive coverage based on founder David Gorodyansky comments about protecting user privacy. Then, in 2017, a privacy group accused the company of spying on user traffic, an accusation the company flatly denies. Finally, just this year, ZDNet uncovered a flaw in the company's software that exposed users. Fortunately, that was fixed immediately.
VPN technology was developed to allow remote users and branch offices to securely access corporate applications and other resources. To ensure security, data would travel through secure tunnels and VPN users would use authentication methods – including passwords, tokens and other unique identification methods – to gain access to the VPN. In addition, Internet users may secure their transactions with a VPN, to circumvent geo-restrictions and censorship, or to connect to proxy servers to protect personal identity and location to stay anonymous on the Internet. However, some Internet sites block access to known VPN technology to prevent the circumvention of their geo-restrictions, and many VPN providers have been developing strategies to get around these roadblocks.
Usually, it's the free services that throttle your usage in these ways. Some paid services will offer a trial, where you can transmit up to a certain data cap before being asked to sign up as a paying customer. That's actually pretty cool, because it gives you a chance to try out the performance of their service before paying, but it also gives the vendor a chance to make the money necessary to operate the service.
For building applications for mobile macOS and Windows platforms, the OEM VPN Unlimited SDK allows users to build feature-packed custom apps or beef up their existing applications with new functionalities. Meanwhile, VPN Unlimited White Label allows for an easy VPN market entry, as KeepSolid will cover the infrastructure, development, and maintenance while supercharging your network security. Lastly, OEM VPN Unlimited Router API enhances network security by shielding your wireless network on an impregnable router, allowing you to save from purchasing multiple VPN subscriptions and giving your customers peace of mind when engaging with your business.
Being in the industry for long, HideMyAss needs no introduction. It is unfair not to include them in our fastest VPN speed test, and with no surprise, they made it to the list! HideMyAss offers a wide range of servers in over 190 countries (I’m sure they will have all 196 soon) with over 930 VPN servers. Their fast VPN servers are optimized in a way to deliver top speed to cater all type of VPN needs. HIdeMyAss works on all the internet-connected devices and also offer simultaneous connectivity packed with high-speed VPN connection. HideMyAss VPN is easy to use and you don’t need any technical knowledge to operate their VPN connection. 30-day money back guarantee is also an advantage as they promise to give you money back if you are satisfied with their service. Read our complete HideMyAss VPN review here to get an in-depth understanding of the VPN provider. Here are the VPN speed results we gathered during the test:
Auto-static refers to the automatic adding of the requested routes as static routes in the routing table. The sending of the request for routes is performed through an explicit action, either through Routing and Remote Access or the Netsh utility while the demand-dial interface is in a connected state. Auto-static updates are not automatically performed every time a demand-dial connection is made.
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.
ExpressVPN sets the bar when it comes to download speed. It’s always near the top of the rankings, albeit never at the peak. Consistency is a defining factor of Express; volatility is rarely an issue that affects the outcome of test results. Connections drop a little more often than we’d like them to, but the company has done a remarkable job considering the size of the network it manages.
ProtonVPN is a superb service provided by the developers of Proton Mail. It is a secure VPN provider that lets people use the service on an unlimited basis. This makes it perfect for privately surfing the web on a daily basis. On the downside, it throttles free-users’ bandwidth. This means that the free ProtonVPN service will not provide the speeds necessary for doing data-intensive tasks such as streaming in HD. ProtonVPN is a superb VPN that many people may find useful for unblocking censored news.

Many VPN services claim that if you pay their fee, they'll provide you unlimited data transmission and won't throttle your speeds. Generally, this is true, but I'll give you my standard official "unlimited" warning: It's been my experience that when a vendor says something is "unlimited," it's almost always limited. Somewhere, there will be a note in the fine print or terms of service that allows the vendor to limit you in some way. It pays to read those agreements.

A powerful VPN service, Hotspot Shield is ideal for those who enjoy using public Wi-Fi. It is basically a free VPN that comes in the form of an application or as a browser extension. Security is assured as the service uses OpenVPN , which makes use of the same encryption as HTTPS does. This feature is particularly effective in protecting credit card information during online purchases.
VPN servers work by routing traffic through a series of external servers before they reach the server, and a traffic flow from one server to another is called a “hop.” To maximize the connection speed, you want the least hops possible. If you do not have a specific reason to connect through another country, your best course of action should connect to the server closest to your current location. For many, it means choosing your country home (and closest to the city,) if you are in a country with multiple VPN servers available. For others, i.e. selecting the country closest to your own.

Whether the VPNs you’re familiar with are the ones offered by your school or business to help you work or stay connected when you’re traveling or the ones you pay to get you watch your favorite shows in another country as they air, they’re all doing the same thing. For much more detail on what VPNs are, how they work, and how they’re used, check out this How Stuff Works article.

Since VPNs route your traffic through another network, you can also make it appear as if it’s coming from another location. That means if you’re in Sydney, Australia, you can make your traffic appear to come from New York City. This is useful for certain sites that block content based on your location (like Netflix). It also allows some people (we’re looking at you, Australians) have to deal with insanely high import taxes on software that see them paying twice (or more) what US consumers pay for the same products.

Update: We’ve received some feedback that 10Mbps is too slow to get good test results. We would argue that 10Mbps is quite average for home internet across the world, and we run tests for average people.  While our tests might not be a good indication of speed if you’re paying for a 50 Mbps or 100 Mbps connection, the results are varied enough to get a statistically significant indication of overall performance. Furthermore, all the VPNs on the list officially offer unlimited bandwidth, so if you happen to be on an uncongested nearby server, chances are you’ll still be able to max out your available bandwidth. Finally, there is no point in having a fast VPN if it is unstable, doesn’t protect your privacy, doesn’t unblock the content you want, or doesn’t have a good range of servers to connect to. We excluded providers like TotalVPN which were very fast but had awful customer service, for example.
A number of vendors that sell dial-up access servers have implemented the ability to create a tunnel on behalf of a dial-up client. The computer or network device providing the tunnel for the client computer is variously known as a Front End Processor (FEP) for PPTP or an L2TP Access Concentrator (LAC) for L2TP. For the purposes of this reference, the term FEP is used to describe this functionality, regardless of the tunneling protocol. To carry out its function, the FEP must have the appropriate tunneling protocol installed and must be capable of establishing the tunnel when the client computer connects.
All that being said, some VPNs are still faster than others. During the process, we’ve tested over 45 VPN service providers to share our findings with you. Below you will find the top five fastest VPNs that offer feature-rich experience packed with the high speed. For sure, speed is one of the crucial things we look for before purchasing a VPN, especially when every other provider claims to be the fastest, so consider these providers who managed to cut our speed tests; you can thank us later!
Traditional VPNs are characterized by a point-to-point topology, and they do not tend to support or connect broadcast domains, so services such as Microsoft Windows NetBIOS may not be fully supported or work as they would on a local area network (LAN). Designers have developed VPN variants, such as Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS), and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocols (L2TP), to overcome this limitation.

The first step to security is usually a firewall between the client and the host server, requiring the remote user to establish an authenticated connection with the firewall. Encryption is also an important component of a secure VPN. Encryption works by having all data sent from one computer encrypted in such a way that only the computer it is sending to can decrypt the data.


Speedify the third and final free VPN service that we recommend thinking about signing up to. It's a little different than the two options above in that it's designed from the ground up to absolutely maximise your connection speed. So if you're on a laptop with ethernet and wifi connections, it'll utilize both to pull bits out of the internet to the max. If you're on a phone it can use your 4G and WiFi connections at the same time to do the same time - to maximise throughput of data, improving download speeds and render times. In our tests this all proved to be more than just hot air - it really did work to speed up our download and browsing speeds. At the same time it's doing all the things you'd want from a VPN, ecrypting and obscuring, so you're private, safe and anonymous. The catch here is that you only get 1GB of free data. You get 4GB in the first month but that drops down to 1GB after that which just isn't enough if you're planning to use it a lot.

How to overcome? Choose one of the best gaming VPN and boost your gaming skills in two ways; route your web traffic through uncongested pathways to allow data packets to flow freely and connect to a closest VPN server and shorten the distance between you and the gaming server. Choose none-other than ExpressVPN and connect to its fastest server near you and reduced ping time.


The solution is downloadable and supports platforms such as OS X, Windows and Linux. Mobile systems like Android and iOS are also supported. These capabilities enable users to use the product on desktops, laptops, smartphones or tablet computers. The software can also be downloaded onto network routers, ensuring that all devices connected to such routers enjoy the same level of protection.
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.
PureVPN has servers in more than 140 countries and can be very inexpensive if you pay for two years up front. It also lets you "split-tunnel" your service so that some data is encrypted and other data isn't. But PureVPN was at or near the back of the pack in almost all of our 2017 performance tests. In October 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice disclosed in a criminal complaint that PureVPN had given the FBI customer logs in reference to a cyberstalking case, which kind of negates the entire point of using a VPN.
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.

Perfect Privacy’s network is composed entirely of dedicated, bare-metal servers that provide you with fast speeds, more security, and plenty of bandwidth at all times (you can see real-time server bandwidth here). Like ExpressVPN, Perfect Privacy has also passed real-world tests that verified their no logging claims, when one of their servers were seized by Dutch authorities (customer data remained safe).
When we test VPNs, we try to get a sense for the impact a service has on internet performance by finding a percentage change between using the VPN and not using the VPN for several speed measurements. First, we run several tests without the VPN active, discard the highest and lowest results, and find the average of what remains. This is our baseline. We then do the same thing, but with the VPN active.
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.
For VPN connections, however, IP datagrams sent across the Internet can arrive in a different order from the one in which they were sent, and a higher proportion of packets can be lost. Therefore, for VPN connections, MPPE changes the encryption key for each packet. The decryption of each packet is independent of the previous packet. MPPE includes a sequence number in the MPPE header. If packets are lost or arrive out of order, the encryption keys are changed relative to the sequence number.
You may be considering going with one of the handful of free VPN services available. Why pay for something you can get for free, right? Unfortunately there’s a ton of limitations and risks with using a free VPN. Most offer tiny bandwidth allowances, limited server locations, even capped speeds, as they want to convert you into a paid customer to unlock the full product. Don’t expect to be able to stream more than a few Youtube clips, that’s for sure.
To narrow the hundreds of VPN providers down to a manageable list, we first looked at reviews from dedicated sites like vpnMentor and TorrentFreak, research and recommendations from noncommercial sources such as That One Privacy Site and privacytools.io, and user experiences and tips on various subreddits and technology-focused websites like Lifehacker and Ars Technica. We settled on 32 VPNs that were repeatedly recommended. From there, we dug into the details of how each one handled issues from technology to subscriptions:
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.
Usually, it's the free services that throttle your usage in these ways. Some paid services will offer a trial, where you can transmit up to a certain data cap before being asked to sign up as a paying customer. That's actually pretty cool, because it gives you a chance to try out the performance of their service before paying, but it also gives the vendor a chance to make the money necessary to operate the service.

Torrenting/P2P support – PureVPN supports P2P networking and torrents, including the uTorrent, the most popular p2p client. The importance of protection against DNS leaks increases for users that are active on torrents. If your IP leaks during torrenting and you are living in a country with strict anti-piracy laws like the US, you can find yourself in big trouble. PureVPN reduces the likelihood of that happening considerably.


When using the OpenVPN protocol, many VPN apps will give you the option of using either the TCP or UDP protocol. TCP is the protocol that you normally use to browse the web and download files. UDP is more common for streaming applications such as video, music, and gaming. The difference is in how computers and servers send network packets, the unit of data used to exchange information over the internet.
ProtonVPN is a superb service provided by the developers of Proton Mail. It is a secure VPN provider that lets people use the service on an unlimited basis. This makes it perfect for privately surfing the web on a daily basis. On the downside, it throttles free-users’ bandwidth. This means that the free ProtonVPN service will not provide the speeds necessary for doing data-intensive tasks such as streaming in HD. ProtonVPN is a superb VPN that many people may find useful for unblocking censored news.

TunnelBear has some strong supporters among Wirecutter’s staff. The company has a public history of transparency, staff listings, and the clearest privacy policy of any VPN service we’ve found, plus TunnelBear is one of the only VPNs to release a public audit of its system. But the service was one of the least reliable we tried. In four of our 18 connection tests, we managed broadband speeds; in a handful of others TunnelBear was well below the average, and in even more it failed to provide a usable connection at all. As we were writing this guide, security giant McAfee announced that it had acquired TunnelBear. Fans of the service should keep an eye out for changes to its privacy stance and transparency as the US-based firm takes over.
In addition to hiding your online activity from a snooping government it’s also useful for hiding your activity from a snooping Internet Service Provider (ISP). If your ISP likes to throttle your connection based on content (tanking your file downloads and/or streaming video speeds in the process) a VPN completely eliminates that problem as all your traffic is traveling to a single point through the encrypted tunnel and your ISP remains ignorant of what kind of traffic it is.
Whether the VPNs you’re familiar with are the ones offered by your school or business to help you work or stay connected when you’re traveling or the ones you pay to get you watch your favorite shows in another country as they air, they’re all doing the same thing. For much more detail on what VPNs are, how they work, and how they’re used, check out this How Stuff Works article.
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.
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