These services offer many ways to connect, including without the service's client software; support operating systems and devices, such as routers or set-top boxes, beyond just the "big four" operating systems (Windows, Mac, Android and iOS); have hundreds, or even thousands, of servers in dozens of countries; and generally let the user sign up and pay anonymously.
Even if none of the above really sound right to you, you can still benefit from using a VPN. You should definitely use one when you travel or work on an untrusted network (read: a network you don’t own, manage, or trust who manages.) That means opening your laptop at the coffee shop and logging in to Facebook or using your phone’s Wi-Fi to check your email at the airport can all potentially put you at risk.
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.
Also important is the protocol the VPN service uses. Connecting to a VPN service using the OpenVPN protocol generally yields a faster, more reliable experience. Plus, OpenVPN is, as the name implies, open-source. That means it has been picked over for flaws and exploits by thousands of volunteers. If you're concerned about speed and security, selecting a service that supports OpenVPN and makes it available by default is important.
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.
Providers can also log less-specific data about when or how often you connect to your VPN service. In some cases, these logs are a routine part of server or account management, and can be responsibly separated and scrubbed. In other cases, VPN providers take note of every connection and use that information to actively police individual customers. Though it’s reasonable for companies to protect their networks from abuse, it becomes a dealbreaker when companies keep extensive connection data for a longer period of time. Some VPN companies we spoke with explained how a log might note your current connection for authentication purposes, but that log is deleted as soon as you disconnect. This kind of “live log” isn’t a concern, and even those culled every few hours—or as long as the end of each day—shouldn’t be confused with logs of your traffic and online destinations.
Subscribing to CyberGhost is a superb way to introduce yourself to the world of VPNs at a very low price point. There is no bandwidth limit, encryption is great and setting up the service is easy. CyberGhost’s user-friendly apps makes connecting to the VPN simple and straightforward. CyberGhost is based both in Romania and in Germany, the latter being responsible for most of the software development. With both teams united by a common credo for internet anonymity, CyberGhost is a major supporter and promoter of civil rights, a free society and an uncensored internet culture. Our kind of folks!
That depends. VPN use is legal in most countries, but, according to VPN provider CyberGhost, VPN use is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Vladimir Putin has recently banned VPN use in Russia. Also, be aware that the so-called proxy server alternative to VPNs is also illegal in many countries, which consider any form of IP spoofing to be illegal, not just those services labeled as VPN.
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.
TorGuard is incorporated in St. Kitts and Nevis, and operates out of offices mostly in the US. But most people shouldn’t be worried about the legal jurisdiction of their VPN’s offices—we detail the reach of government surveillance above. In short, we think a privacy-focused VPN with public leadership that can be trusted not to collect information about their customers is a better choice in any country, rather than an opaque company run from the most liberty-ensuring country on the planet.
As we previously noted, we don’t recommend relying on our picks to get around geographic restrictions on copyrighted content. The practice is likely illegal, and it violates the terms of service of your ISP, VPN, and content provider. On top of that, it often doesn’t work—we couldn’t access Netflix over any of the services we tried, and of the four streams we loaded on BBC iPlayer, only two worked a few days later.
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.
If you’re looking for something free, look no further. If StrongVPN and SurfEasy are like like a solid mid-class sedan, TunnelBear is more like the econo-car (if you buy a TunnelBear subscription) or the city bus (if you use their generous free program). That’s not a knock on TunnelBear, either–they’ve been around for years and their free service tier has been of great utility to people in need all over the world.
We have tested dozens of VPN providers in our quest to find the most reliable and fast secure VPNs. During our test, we found that a lot of VPN services falls short on the minimum speed benchmark requirements we have set. Hence we excluded them from our fastest VPN list. This doesn’t mean that those VPNs are not good, but we aim to rank the ones that give top-notch VPN speed on the grounds of many factors. Below are the top 5 fast VPN providers that secured the position in our list of high-speed VPNs to use in 2018.
The sheer amount of VPN jargon can be overwhelming, even if you are pretty tech-savvy. Do look out for OpenVPN though, as this connection protocol offers the best overall blend of speed and security. Ignore talk of military or bank-grade encryption and just look for AES-256, as that’s the gold standard. Unless you know your DNS from your IPv6, a VPN killswitch is the main thing to look out for among security features as it will protect you from exposing your real IP address should your connection drop unexpectedly.
VyprVPN is one of very few providers to own and control its network infrastructure. Most VPN providers use 3rd-party companies to host their VPN servers, but not Vypr. This is a big draw for privacy concious users because their data is protected from end-to-end and never leaves VyprVPN's site. We strongly recommend avoiding its PPTP-only basic plan, but VyprVPN otherwise offers a great selection of features, such as a SmartDNS service, robust customer support and port selection. VyprVPNs “Chameleon” stealth technology is great for defeating censorship in places such such as China or Vietnam.
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.