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.
The best VPN services of 2018 allow you to enjoy private, encrypted browsing along with worldwide access to your favorite sites and apps, free from surveillance and unwanted data collection. You can rely on our choices to be capable of buffer-free streaming and super-fast downloads thanks to our proprietary speed test tool that allows us to constantly monitor speeds in several popular locations across the globe. To see which VPN we recommend for a specific purpose, tell us why you need one below, or read on for the best overall picks for 2018.
Use IP packet filters on the VPN remote access policy profile to discard both inbound traffic on the VPN connection that has not been sent from the VPN client and outbound traffic that is not destined to the VPN client. The default remote access policy, named “Connections to Microsoft Routing and Remote Access server in Windows Server 2003” has these packet filters configured and enabled by default.
PrivateVPN is one of our top picks for providers that offer both robust privacy features and excellent global performance. It is also one of the cheapest options on the current market if you opt for the annual plan. If you’re looking for seriously fast speeds and super-easy access to a range of streaming services including Netflix and BBC iPlayer, look no further. Fantastic upload speeds on local connections combined with low latency make it a great option for torrenters, keen Kodi users and gamers alike.
Jurisdiction – The British Virgin Islands (BVI) falls outside of the jurisdiction of European countries part of the “14 Eyes”. There are no data retention laws in the BVI, which makes it a perfect location that can be trusted for its user-friendly privacy laws. ExpressVPN rightly boasts its jurisdiction as it is one of the main attributes of the provider.
L2TP/IPsec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol with Internet Protocol Security): L2TP is not secure itself, so it's generally paired with the IPsec secure-networking standard. The combination of the two was once thought to be very secure when properly implemented, but some VPN services suggest that you use OpenVPN instead. L2TP/IPsec has native support in Windows, OS X/macOS, Android, Chrome OS and iOS. Most VPN services support it.
Despite Proton’s strong reputation for privacy with both its VPN and Mail services, we previously dismissed ProtonVPN without testing because it didn’t offer native applications for major operating systems. Instead, the service relied on third-party applications that could be clumsy to set up and lacked important features. Now that ProtonVPN apps are fully supported on Windows, Mac, and Android, we’re looking forward to testing the service for the next update.
All that being said, some VPNs are still all around faster than others. Below we’ve listed our top five fastest VPNs tested in the last year, out of a total of nearly two dozen premium providers. Speed tests we run factor largely into this list, but other non-quantifiable parameters based on our personal experience are also taken into consideration. These include how well they stream HD video and game online.
Because it is impossible to update separate user accounts on separate servers for the same user simultaneously, most administrators set up a master account database at a domain controller or on a RADIUS server. This enables the VPN server to send the authentication credentials to a central authenticating device, and the same user account can be used for both dial-up remote access and VPN-based remote access.
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.
Unlimited broadband enhances user experience. Another advantage is that you can use up to 5 devices on the same VPN account simultaneously. P2P sharing is allowed, since there is no control over what you do on the internet. Tailor-made applications for Windows, iOS and Linux work like tight clocks, but that’s not all. The interesting ‘door open’ tool searches for unlocked doors on other secure networks, so you do not need to be greedy and ask for the password in a hotel or buy a super-charged bottle at an airport terminal.
Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) is a PPP authentication protocol that allows for an arbitrary authentication method. EAP differs from the other authentication protocols in that, during the authentication phase, EAP does not actually perform authentication. Phase 2 for EAP only negotiates the use of a common EAP authentication method (known as an EAP type). The actual authentication for the negotiated EAP type is performed after Phase 2.
Of course, there are more than just phones and computers in a home. Game systems, tablets, and smart home devices such as light bulbs and fridges all need to connect to the internet. Many of these things can't run VPN software on their own, nor can they be configured to connect to a VPN through their individual settings. In these cases, you may be better off configuring your router to connect with the VPN of your choice. By adding VPN protection to your router, you secure the traffic of every gadget connected to that router. And the router—and everything protected by it—uses just one of your licenses. Nearly all of the companies we have reviewed offer software for most consumer routers and even routers with preinstalled VPN software, making it even easier to add this level of protection.
PPTP - PPTP has been around since the days of Windows 95. The main selling point of PPTP is that it can be simply setup on every major OS. In short, PPTP tunnels a point-to-point connection over the GRE protocol. Unfortunately, the security of the PPTP protocol has been called into question in recent years. It is still strong, but not the most secure.
Anonymous internet access: Anonymity is preferable for many when surfing the web. We do not like the idea of someone watching our every more and monitoring our actions. We have a basic right to privacy and free VPN will help you achieve this. Using the VPN service, you can enjoy a trouble-free private browsing session with no traceability. Learn More
Speed Test – The Internet is only as good as how fast it operates. I recently conducted a research where I tested 15 popular VPN providers for speed, using different servers in major countries. The speed you get on the Internet from a VPN is almost always lesser than what you would get without it. This is simply a result of the way VPNs work. However, the leading VPN services only cause a small reduction in VPN speeds, not more than 30% of your usual connection speed. Thus, speed is one of the main criteria I used to evaluate VPNs here.
Because a TCP connection is not used, L2TP uses message sequencing to ensure delivery of L2TP messages. Within the L2TP control message, the Next-Received field (similar to the TCP Acknowledgment field) and the Next-Sent field (similar to the TCP Sequence Number field) are used to maintain the sequence of control messages. Out-of-sequence packets are dropped. The Next-Sent and Next-Received fields can also be used for sequenced delivery and flow control for tunneled data.
The virtual router architecture, as opposed to BGP/MPLS techniques, requires no modification to existing routing protocols such as BGP. By the provisioning of logically independent routing domains, the customer operating a VPN is completely responsible for the address space. In the various MPLS tunnels, the different PPVPNs are disambiguated by their label, but do not need routing distinguishers.
The more locations a VPN provider houses servers, the more flexible it is when you want to choose a server in a less-congested part of the world or geoshift your location. And the more servers it has at each location, the less likely they are to be slow when lots of people are using the service at the same time. Of course, limited bandwidth in and out of an area may still cause connections to lag at peak times even on the most robust networks.
If VPN connections get blocked by your network because of strict network management or government censorship, TorGuard offers a “stealth” connection to avoid deep packet inspection. Specifically, TorGuard uses Stunnel (a clever portmanteau of SSL and tunnel) to add an extra layer of encryption and make your traffic look like normal, secure Web traffic. If you’re having connection issues, you can enable Stunnel with a checkbox on the main application window, but only if you select TCP from the protocol list. (Otherwise, the box is unclickable, with no explanation as to why.)
IPVanish wasn't the top performer in our 2017 round of testing, falling in about the middle of the pack. But it was one of the most reliable VPN services, connecting smoothly and staying connected every time we used it. IPVanish has excellent client software, although you can connect to the company's servers manually, and a decent array of about 850 connection points in 50 countries. However, its subscription price is kind of high, and its U.S. base may be a negative for some potential customers.
We tested NordVPN and found that it works well with Netflix and other streaming services that block most other VPNs. It is compatible with all devices, does not retain logs, and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee (it's real, we checked). With a price so low, it's no wonder NordVPN is the most popular VPN out there, used by technology experts all around the world.
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.
Using VPNs, an organization can help secure private network traffic over an unsecured network, such as the Internet. VPN helps provide a secure mechanism for encrypting and encapsulating private network traffic and moving it through an intermediate network. Data is encrypted for confidentiality, and packets that might be intercepted on the shared or public network are indecipherable without the correct encryption keys. Data is also encapsulated, or wrapped, with an IP header containing routing information.
Finally, you may want a VPN to spoof your location to download content you shouldn’t have access to, but this too has limits. A VPN used to be the go-to solution to watch U.S. Netflix overseas. That changed in 2016 when Netflix opened up to almost every country on Earth. Since then, the company has invested a lot in detecting and blocking VPN users. Even people using a VPN inside their own country will be blocked by Netflix if detected.
There are some minor disadvantages to using a dynamic IP. If someone who previously had the IP address you've been assigned did something nefarious on a service you use, it's possible that IP address might be banned. Usually, VPN providers are very careful about checking their IP addresses against blacklists, so the chances of this being a problem for you are slim.
Developed by Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, VLANs allow multiple tagged LANs to share common trunking. VLANs frequently comprise only customer-owned facilities. Whereas VPLS as described in the above section (OSI Layer 1 services) supports emulation of both point-to-point and point-to-multipoint topologies, the method discussed here extends Layer 2 technologies such as 802.1d and 802.1q LAN trunking to run over transports such as Metro Ethernet.
Cost: To pay for NordVPN on a monthly basis will cost you $11.95/month. However, you can get it cheaper at $9.00/month or $6.99/month if you buy 6 or 12 months at once for $54.00 or $83.88, respectively. Nord is also running a special that allows you to purchase 2 years of service for $3.99/month when you pay the full $95.75 upfront every two years. There's a 30-day money back guarantee and a free 3-day trial option.
The downsides to the free plan are that you'll see more ads, at least on the Android app, your choice of connections will be limited to Hotspot Shield's U.S. servers and you won't be able to get around geographic restrictions on Netflix, Hulu or BBC iPlayer. We were also a bit annoyed that the desktop software tries to hide the free plan when you launch it for the first time.
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.
Latency is a measurement of time between when your computer sends a request and when it receives a response. It's often called ping time. Lots of things can affect latency; the distance your request physically travels through fiber has a big impact, for example. Latency is measured in milliseconds, however, so even a large increase may not be noticeable to the average user. Latency is very important when playing video games over a VPN, as lower latency means a more responsive experience with less lag.
For PPTP and Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), a tunnel is similar to a session. Both of the tunnel endpoints must agree to the tunnel and must negotiate configuration variables, such as address assignment, encryption, or compression parameters. In most cases, data transferred across the tunnel is sent using a datagram-based protocol. A tunnel management protocol is used as the mechanism to create, maintain, and terminate the tunnel.
An OSPF-routed network can be subdivided into areas, which are collections of contiguous networks. All areas are connected together through a common area called the backbone area. A router that connects an area to the backbone area is called an area border router (ABR). Normally, ABRs have a physical connection to the backbone area. When it is not possible or practical to have an ABR physically connected to the backbone area, administrators can use a virtual link to connect the ABR to the backbone.
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.
VyprVPN allows you to quickly access over 200,000 IP addresses with 700+ servers in 70+ worldwide locations in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. Connections are always available, so you can access your favorite websites quickly. With Golden Frog's fast VPN service, you can restore your freedom and bypass location-based IP blocking imposed by restrictive governments. We don't believe in limitations, so you can connect to any VyprVPN server at any time, without restrictions or download caps.
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.
VPN technology was developed as a way to allow remote users and branch offices to securely access corporate applications and other resources. To ensure safety, data travels through secure tunnels, and VPN users must use authentication methods -- including passwords, tokens or other unique identification procedures -- to gain access to the VPN server.
If a VPN client that uses a PPTP connection is behind a NAT, the NAT must include a NAT editor that can translate PPTP traffic. The NAT editor is required because tunneled PPTP data has a GRE header rather than a TCP header or a UDP header. The NAT editor uses the Call ID field in the GRE header to identify the PPTP data stream and translate IP addresses and call IDs for PPTP data packets that are forwarded between a private network and the Internet.
Servers – ExpressVPN has a large server network that spans more than 94 locations across the world. The total number of servers of ExpressVPN has crossed 2,000. You can connect to servers in available locations in a matter of mere seconds. All servers are encrypted with the AES 256 standard, ensuring the security of user traffic. With these servers, you can gain access to any website, no matter how strong a firewall has been put up to prevent user traffic from accessing it.
It can be made to work at a push in China but there’s better options available. Customer support is improving. IPVanish isn’t cheap but it only requires a 2-year commitment to slash the monthly price by 69% to a reasonable $3.74. If P2P is your priority then IPVanish really is a superb VPN for both privacy and performance that will also cover many other needs.
Server switching is a feature -- offered by most VPN service providers -- that allows you to change what region or country you're going to connect to. Most providers allow you to switch as often as you'd like (although you usually have to disconnect, then change your configuration, and reconnect). This may be useful if you're trying to hide your location, or if you're running into some communications glitches on the server you're currently using.
Jurisdiction – PureVPN has a fairly strong jurisdictional advantage. Hong-Kong is far from the watchful eyes of European governments and the 14 Eyes alliance. The state of the Internet in Hong Kong is one of the freest in the world. The government in Hong-Kong does not sweep online content under the rug of censorship. However, acts like distribution of child pornography are criminalized (as they should) by law and fall under the cloak of censorship. So, the jurisdiction of PureVPN should be a reason enough to compel privacy-conscious users to get this VPN.
Mac users often told that they don’t need antivirus software because Mac is not prone to viruses; get a life man! This is not true at all, even the first well-known virus; Elk Cloner, affected Apple computers, not MS-DOS computers. Currently, the state of Mac malware is evolving, with more and more threats targeting the so-called impervious machines. We have already witnessed Mac threats appearance recently; on malwarebytes.com a mac user from Miami who had his DNS settings changed and were unable to change them back.
There is a PPTP control connection between the IP address of the PPTP client using a dynamically allocated TCP port and the IP address of the PPTP server using the reserved TCP port 1723. The PPTP control connection carries the PPTP call control and management messages that are used to maintain the PPTP tunnel. This includes the transmission of periodic PPTP Echo-Request and PPTP Echo-Reply messages to detect a connectivity failure between the PPTP client and PPTP server. PPTP control connection packets consist of an IP header, a TCP header, a PPTP control message, and a data-link trailer and header as shown in the following figure:
When you're away from home or the office and you connect to the internet, you'll most often be doing so via Wi-Fi provided by your hotel or the restaurant, library, or coffee shop you're working out of in that moment. Sometimes, the Wi-Fi has a password. Other times, it will be completely open. In either case, you have no idea who else is accessing that network, and therefore, you have no idea who might be snooping on your traffic.
The main reason to use a VPN is security - in theory, the data that travels across your VPN should be impossible for anybody else to intercept, so it can protect your online banking or confidential business communications - but there are other benefits too. VPNs can make it much harder for advertising to track you online, and they can overcome geography-specific blocks that prevent you from accessing some country-specific services such as online video.
We used to advise people to do banking and other important business over their cellular connection when using a mobile device, since it is generally safer than connecting with a public Wi-Fi network. But even that isn't always a safe bet. Researchers have demonstrated how a portable cell tower, such as a femtocell, can be used for malicious ends. The attack hinges on jamming the LTE and 3G bands, which are secured with strong encryption, and forcing devices to connect with a phony tower over the less-secure 2G band. Because the attacker controls the fake tower, he can carry out a man-in-the-middle attack and see all the data passing over the cellular connection. Admittedly, this is an exotic attack, but it's far from impossible.