Security is all too often considered a zero-sum game. You either make the effort to protect yourself and lose out on performance and shiny new toys, or you choose an easier life with the understanding that you may end up making ransomware payments for the rest of your life. At PCMag, we maintain that this mindset is outdated, especially in the world of virtual private networks, or VPNs. These services protect your data within an encrypted tunnel, keeping bad guys, ISPs, and snooping spies at bay. Using a VPN will certainly have an impact on your internet connection, but the good news is that it needn't be a big one.

To stress-test the VPN services, we do things a little differently. Instead of letting Ookla find the best (read: closest) test server, we select a specific test server in Anchorage, Alaska, for both the VPN testing and the baseline test. We then connect to a VPN server in Australia, and calculate a percent change between the two. Usually, this results in a noticeable impact on latency as well as download and upload speeds. It helps give a sense of how the VPN would perform when you're traveling abroad or using the VPN to spoof your location.
It can be quite simple to watch Netflix and other restricted goodies. You'll have to use a VPN service that allows you to get a unique IP address. This can often be available for an additional fee. Look for VPN services that offer a "dedicated IP address", "dedicated IP", or "static IP." Additional features like these will always allow you to access content from Netflix through a VPN service.
Without a VPN, your connection is fully open. Your ISP, employer, the Wi-Fi router in the coffee shop mentioned above, any server along the way, or a person with the right tools can look at your data, log it and use it in ways you can’t control. Government agencies can monitor your online activity and share the retained metadata with each other, including across country borders through intelligence alliances such as “14 Eyes.” Based on your IP address, which depends on your geographic location, third-party sites and services may charge different prices or display intrusive targeted advertising.
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.
Another unique aspect of VyprVPN is that they offer a powerful obfuscation feature called the Chameleon Protocol. This is a self-developed OpenVPN protocol that obfuscates (hides) VPN traffic to appear like regular HTTPS traffic. The Chameleon Protocol allows you to use the VPN in locations where VPNs are normally blocked, such as in China, schools, libraries, work networks, and with some streaming services like BBC iPlayer.

Everything you do on the Internet has to pass through your own ISP before reaching the destination. So, when you request Google, for example, the information is sent, unencrypted, to your ISP and then passes through some other channels before reaching the server that holds Google’s website. Basically, VPN services privatize information that can be read by ISPs or any other agency that inspects your traffic.


One of today’s leading VPN providers and another worthy mention on our list of top 20 VPN services, PureVPN is known for its service quality and customer support. The service has 450 servers in 101 countries, allowing users to surf the Internet and use any online solution without having to reveal their IP address. This is very useful to those who want to bypass Internet censorship.
What a VPN does do is make it much harder for an attacker to simply hoover up your information along with hundreds or thousands of others. That alone can help protect you from many of the large attacks and mass surveillance that have defined the last few years. Digital security, after all, is often really about economics. Spies and attackers would much rather go after the low-hanging fruit than try to crack or circumvent a VPN connection. Just remember that using security tools isn't an excuse for not also using a healthy dash of common sense.

L2TP uses UDP messages over IP networks for both tunnel maintenance and tunneled data. The payloads of encapsulated PPP frames can be encrypted or compressed (or both); however, L2TP clients do not negotiate the use of MPPE for L2TP connections. Encryption for L2TP connections is provided by IPSec Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) in transport mode.

The service supports torrenting through its zero logs policy. It supports PPTP, Open VPN and L2TP connections, with each going up to 256 bits except for PPTP. To further increase security, IPVanish uses shared IPs, making it even more difficult to identify users. This also ensures that even the vendor could not furnish agencies with your information even if it wanted to.
We'll go into greater explanation about these three metrics and how we collect them below. But choosing which is most important is tricky. Mostly, it depends on how you're using your internet connection. We assume that most people reading are major consumers of content. Reading the news, streaming movies, using BitTorrent, or listening to music on the web all require that your device pull down data more or less continuously. With that in mind, we've settled on download speeds as the most important benchmark.
ProtonVPN is a VPN from Switzerland. The software is easy to use and provides all the features necessary to keep your data secure both at home and while on public WiFi. Servers are located around the world, and because ProtonVPN uses a Secure Core network of servers – it will provide fantastic speeds for streaming. Proton permits P2P for torrenting on some of its servers. In addition, it can be installed and used on five simultaneous devices. That means you can protect all your devices with one account. The VPN is zero logs (it never stores IP addresses) and the time of your last session is deleted every time a new session is started.
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.
Another unique aspect of VyprVPN is that they offer a powerful obfuscation feature called the Chameleon Protocol. This is a self-developed OpenVPN protocol that obfuscates (hides) VPN traffic to appear like regular HTTPS traffic. The Chameleon Protocol allows you to use the VPN in locations where VPNs are normally blocked, such as in China, schools, libraries, work networks, and with some streaming services like BBC iPlayer.
Once you switch on AVG Secure VPN and connect your Windows device to the internet you’re instantly protected. How? Well, when you connect our VPN software for Windows we give you one of our IP address instead of your own (your IP is the unique code that identifies your device). Which means if anyone comes snooping they can only see our server address. Pair that with military grade encryption levels of 256 bit AES standards and there you have it. Instant online privacy at the click of a button. VPN. It’s as easy as 123. Simply switch on our VPN software for Android and connect your device to the internet. We’ll then connect you to one of our worldwide servers (you can even choose where you want to appear) and bingo – you’ll have an instant 256bit AES encrypted internet connection. That’s the same strength used by governments and banks to secure their data. Which means you can surf the web using VPN for Android securely and privately. VPN. It’s as easy as 123. Simply switch on our VPN software for Android and connect your device to the internet. We’ll then connect you to one of our worldwide servers (you can even choose where you want to appear) and bingo – you’ll have an instant 256bit AES encrypted internet connection. That’s the same strength used by governments and banks to secure their data. Which means you can surf the web using VPN for Android securely and privately. Internet privacy at the click of a button? We’ve got you. Once you switch on our VPN software for iPhone your internet connection becomes encrypted instantly. And not just any old encryption, we’re talking 256bit AES encryption levels – the same standards used by banks and governments. You can then choose to appear anywhere in the world with one of our global servers which makes censorship and content blocks a thing of the past. Welcome to internet freedom with VPN for iPhone. Once you hit that VPN button on your Mac AVG Secure VPN connects you to one of our worldwide servers and instead of using your own IP address (think of it as a unique zip code for your device) we’ll give you one of ours. Team that with our 256bit AES encryption levels (yep the same ones used by governments and banks) and our VPN software for Mac ensures you become instantly anonymous and secure online. VPN - easy as 123.
Microsoft Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (MS-CHAP) is an encrypted authentication mechanism very similar to CHAP. As in CHAP, the NAS sends a challenge, which consists of a session ID and an arbitrary challenge string, to the remote client. The remote client must return the user name and an encrypted form of the challenge string, the session ID, and the MD4-hashed password. This design, which uses the MD4 hash of the password, helps provides an additional level of security because it allows the server to store hashed passwords instead of clear-text passwords or passwords that are stored using reversible encryption. MS-CHAP also provides additional error codes, including a password-expired code, and additional encrypted client-server messages that permit users to change their passwords during the authentication process. In MS-CHAP, both the client and the NAS independently generate a common initial encryption key for subsequent data encryption by MPPE.
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.
The downloader. Whether they’re downloading legally or illegally, this person doesn’t want on some company’s witch-hunt list just because they have a torrenting app installed on their computer. VPNs are the only way to stay safe when using something like BitTorrent—everything else is just a false sense of security. Better safe than trying to defend yourself in court or paying a massive fine for something you may or may not have even done, right?

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.
ExpressVPN   has 148 locations in 94 different countries which means you can dial your IP address into 148 locations around the world. ExpressVPN delivers great performance - and it’s put the effort into its software too, with dedicated apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and BlackBerry as well as some Smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV Sticks, Apple TV, PS4 and Xbox and even your router. Not only that but there are solid online tutorials too, so even if VPNs are dark magic to you they’ll have you up and running in no time. P2P is fully supported and it's super speedy so you can torrent using the maximum bandwidth of your broadband connection and there’s a kill switch that keeps your IP address hidden if anything goes wrong with the VPN or with your internet connection. ExpressVPN is reasonably priced, delivers a good service and has support for three simultaneous connections. There’s no free trial available but there is a no-fuss 30-day money back guarantee if the service doesn’t meet your requirements so that's a good way to test it out if you're unsure. We have used the 24/7 customer service a number of times and can vouch for its effectiveness - we had a couple of issues with using the service on a PC and were able to sort it within a few minutes using the instant online chat support.
We have tested each of these services in as repeatable a manner as possible, but it's worth remembering that networks can be fickle. To get the clearest picture of a VPN's performance, we would have to perform these tests many more times, at different locations and different times of day. We think of these tests as more of a snapshot of performance that establishes a replicable metric for measuring each service. Your mileage with these services will almost certainly vary somewhat from mine.
Setting up a Virtual Private Network is a straightforward process. It's often as simple as entering a username and sever address. The dominant smartphones can configure Virtual Private Networks using PPTP and L2TP/IPsec protocols. All major operating systems can configure PPTP VPN connections. OpenVPN and L2TP/IPsec protocols require a small open source application (OpenVPN) and certificate download respectively.
One of the most important factors when you’re choosing a VPN provider is also the hardest to quantify: trust. All your Internet activity will flow through this company’s servers, so you have to trust that company more than the network you’re trying to secure, be it a local coffee shop’s Wi-Fi, your campus Internet connection, your corporate IT network, or your home ISP. In all our research, we came across a lot of gray areas when it came to trusting a VPN, and only two hard rules: Know who you’re trusting, and remember that security isn’t free.
Kodi is becoming the next biggest platform for streaming world’s content, and it’s not possible that binge-watchers are unaware of this gigantic media center. Kodi community would relate the only reality that Kodi addons are geo-restricted; you need to be in the specific region to stream your desired or better to say all the best Kodi addons. Kodi is all about streaming content using addons, means if you’re planning to use a Kodi VPN to stream addons, make sure the VPN should be uber-fast.
The second thing that happens is that the web application you're talking to does not get to see your IP address. Instead, it sees an IP address owned by the VPN service. This allows you some level of anonymous networking. This IP spoofing is also used to trick applications into thinking you're located in a different region, or even a different country than you really are located in. There are reasons (both illegal and legal) to do this. We'll discuss that in a bit.

Mobile VPNs are designed and optimized to ensure a seamless user experience when devices are switching networks or moving out of coverage. It generally has a smaller memory footprint, and because of that, it also requires less processing power than a traditional VPN. Therefore, it enables your applications to run faster while the battery pack is able to last longer.
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.
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.

VPN protocol: We always recommend users avail of OpenVPN when available, as it is the most secure and open-source protocol available. You may, however, opt for a speedier protocol. IKEv2 is secure and works well especially with mobile data connections. You might or might not notice a difference with L2TP/IPSec or SSTP, depending on your device hardware. PPTP is generally regarded as the fastest, but has known security flaws that make it unsuitable for anyone who values their privacy.
Here's the problem with the internet: It's inherently insecure. When the internet was first designed, the priority was to be able to send packets (chunks of data) as reliably as possible. Networking across the country and the world was relatively new, and nodes often went down. Most of the internet's core protocols (methods of communicating) were designed to route around failure, rather than secure data.
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.
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