Computer and software providers work hard to make sure that the devices you buy are safe right out of the box. But they don't provide everything you'll need. Antivirus software, for example, consistently outperforms the built-in protections. In the same vein, VPN software lets you use the web and Wi-Fi with confidence that your information will remain secure. It's critically important and often overlooked.
There are lots of good reasons why you need a VPN. The most obvious is that routing your traffic through an encrypted tunnel means it is much harder for people on the same network as you—say, at a coffee shop—to snoop on your activities. If the person who owns the network is a bad guy, spying on your activity and hoping to snatch a password or two, they'll also be foiled by a VPN. This also protects against a lot of other scary scenarios, like DNS poisoning. With that kind of attack, you type in a legitimate website URL but are forwarded to a phishing site designed to steal your information.
PureVPN has a huge choice of 750 servers in 141 countries and counting. The sheer volume of features, toggles, and tools they provide makes it a top contender for the advanced users. There is a stealth browsing mode, online banking security, secure FTP access, multiple protocols and more. They have server lists optimized for P2P and video streaming, so switching is easy.
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.
It’s also fast with impressive 830+ server locations, which makes it an excellent choice for P2P file-sharing, online gaming, and HD streaming. There are no annoying bandwidth caps here, and you can connect to Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, or France’s Canal+ if you wish – there’s a server for every need. The double encryption will understandably slow things down.
Logging Policy – The logging policy of any VPN provider is the first thing you should read before you decide to purchase it. This is especially true for users whose primary objective for purchasing a VPN is to maintain and protect their privacy. Many VPN providers deliberately write overly complicated and ambiguous privacy policies to confuse users. Stay far away from such VPN providers as these are most likely trying to hide their actual practices for how they treat their users’ privacy.
The free version allows you to connect only one device, and you can use only one server in America – which will not work with Netflix, Hulu, or other popular streaming sites. You can still use it to access YouTube, Facebook, and other favorite social media sites that may be blocked. Plus, it’s compatible with all major operating systems, and it’s one of the fastest VPNs out there.
TorGuard’s signup and payment process is also fine but not stellar. Compared with that of IVPN, the checkout process is clunky, and using a credit or debit card requires entering more personal information than with our top pick. The easiest option for anonymous payments is a prepaid debit card bought locally. Otherwise, like most providers, TorGuard accepts a variety of cryptocurrencies, PayPal, and foreign payments through Paymentwall. That last service also allows you to submit payment through gift cards from other major retailers. We don’t think this method is worth the hassle for most people, but if you have some money on a fast-food gift card you don’t want, turning it into a VPN service is a nice option.
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.
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.
Another approach is to offer purpose-specific servers. NordVPN, for example, has a high-speed server earmarked for video streaming. The company's collection of these special servers is a great way to offer customers a better experience, one tailored to their needs. It even offers Tor-over-VPN servers, for another layer of privacy. CyberGhost and PureVPN also place an emphasis on streaming, offering modes designed to connect you to your favorite content.
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
I had to know why Goose VPN was so named. My first order of business was to reach out to the company's co-founder and ask. Geese, I was told, make excellent guard animals. There are records of guard geese giving the alarm in ancient Rome when the Gauls attacked. Geese have been used to guard a US Air Defense Command base in Germany and a brewery in Scotland.
While it hides your IP address, a VPN is not a true anonymization service. For that, you'll want to access the Tor network, which will almost certainly slow down your connection. While a VPN tunnels your web traffic to a VPN server, Tor bounces around your traffic through several volunteer nodes making it much, much harder to track. Using Tor also grants access to hidden Dark Web sites, which a VPN simply cannot do. That said, some services, such as NordVPN, offer Tor access on specific servers. IVPN offers a similar feature called multi-hop VPN, which lets you route your web traffic in tricky ways.
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.
Classless static routes are implemented using DHCP scope option 249. Using classless static routes, each DHCP client can be configured with the route to any destination on the network, and the subnet mask can be specified. Because each scope represents a physical subnet, the scope can be viewed as the start location for any message that is to be sent by a client to another subnet. The parameters used to configure option 249 are Destination, Mask, and Router. One or more static routes can be configured with option 249. All DHCP-enabled clients on the network can be provided with routes to all other subnets using option 249.
Since we all know the great benefits attached to VPN technology, it is also imperative to understand why our internet speed throttles when we connect to a VPN. A VPN is designed with consideration to protect our identity from hackers and allow us to access the geo-restricted content on the web. To do this, it adds highly encrypted protocols and other security mechanisms to make the technology efficient, and a right fit for netizens.
We didn’t find any problems when we tested other aspects of TorGuard’s performance. Each time we checked our location via IP address, it accurately resolved to the location of a TorGuard server. Neither our true IP address nor our location was exposed when we tested for DNS leaks and IPv6 leaks. TorGuard runs its own DNS servers—a requirement for all the VPNs we tested—so the routing that happens when you go to a website isn’t released to your ISP, Google, or anyone else. And since TorGuard doesn’t support IPv6, the app disables it completely, just like IVPN.
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.
NordVPN, for example, has well over 4,800 servers across the globe. If you live in the US, you're likely to find a nicely uncrowded server close by. The ubiquity of its servers also means you're likely to find a server nearby no matter where you travel. Private Internet Access and TorGuard are notable for being the only VPNs we've yet reviewed that have more than 3,000 servers.
When you activate a VPN, your web traffic is routed from your computer, through an encrypted tunnel, and to a server controlled by the VPN company. From there, your data exits and enters the public internet. These extra steps generally degrade your internet connection speeds, simply by adding more fiber, more computers, and more physical distance to the equation. In exchange, using a VPN helps protect your data and personal security.
CyberGhost is transparent about its company structure, posting photos and bios on its website of everyone from the CEO to the cleaning lady, and privacy fanatics will like that the company is based in Romania rather than the U.S. But CyberGhost's full-service subscription price is among the most expensive, unless you pay for two or three years up front.
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.
ProtonVPN is available on all your devices including PC, MacOS, mobile, and even your router. A secure internet connection which you can trust is essential every day - for your PC at home, for your mobile device on the road, or your workstation at the office. ProtonVPN works on Windows, macOS and Android via our application, or on iOS, using any OpenVPN client.
When we tested other aspects of IVPN's performance, it also satisfied our requirements. On the default settings, our real IP address didn't leak out via DNS requests or IPv6 routing, let alone a standard IP address checker. The DNS-requests check indicated that the app was using the company's internal DNS servers and that they were correctly configured. None of the 12 services we tested disclosed our true IP address (though some showed mismatched IPs).
The only downsides to Private Internet Access are that you can't select your own username — you've got to stick with an assigned random ID — and that you've occasionally got to reinstall a balky driver in Windows. (There's a button to do this.) Selecting Private Internet Access as our VPN service of choice was almost a no-brainer, but because it's based in the U.S., anyone wary of the FBI may want to consider another service.
Voluntary tunneling occurs when a client computer or routing server creates a virtual connection to the target tunnel server. To accomplish this, tunneling client software and the appropriate tunneling protocol must be installed on the client computer. For the protocols discussed in this technical reference, voluntary tunnels require an IP connection (either LAN or dial-up).
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.