There’s no point to a VPN that interferes with or logs your traffic—your ISP already does that. Free VPNs, such as Facebook’s Onavo, explicitly gather traffic data to resell or use it for marketing. We looked carefully at the privacy policies and marketing claims for each company we considered. In some cases, companies we considered had sworn in court filings that requests for data were impossible to fulfill. In other cases, we asked companies about their internal security and privacy standards to gauge the trustworthiness of their statements on logging.
Using a VPN, all data traffic is confined to a private, encrypted tunnel until they reach the public Internet. Destinations cannot be accessed until after the end of the VPN tunnel is reached. VPN services are quite useful in workplaces, especially for those who use mobile devices in accessing data from a work server. However, the most common use of VPN software is to remain anonymous to ISPs, websites or governments. This is true for users who download files illegally, such as in the case of copyrighted torrent files.
Welcome to the CNET 2018 Directory of VPN providers. In this directory, we're taking a look at a few of the very best commercial VPN service providers on the Internet like CyberGhost, IPVanish, Buffered, Private Internet Access and others. Rather than looking at the wide range of free providers, which often have a lot of limits (and dubious loyalties), we are looking at those vendors who charge a few bucks a month, but put your interests first, rather than those of shadowy advertisers and sponsors. Our VPN rankings are based more than 20 factors including number of server locations, client software, dedicated and dynamic IP, bandwidth caps, security, logging, customer support and price.
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.
Jurisdiction – Perhaps the biggest downside of IPVanish is its jurisdiction. Government agencies in the US are known for their habit of surveillance and intruding the privacy of citizens. With agencies like the FBI and NSA, I wouldn’t really blame a US citizen for going paranoid about his online privacy. IPVanish, unfortunately, gets no points as far as its jurisdiction is concerned.
IPVanish is a top pick, especially for Kodi and torrenting, due to excellent speeds, zero logging and extensive privacy tools. It’s ultra fast on local connections but less consistent internationally across a network that’s mid-sized for locations but super-sized for servers and IP addresses. Netflix is working but iPlayer is currently blocked, which is a shame as it’s otherwise fantastic for streaming.
ExpressVPN is incredibly fast and super secure, and it can unblock just about any site or service on the internet - including Netflix, Hulu, BBC, and more - with impressive streaming capabilities. It offers servers in over 90 countries, and the 24/7 live chat support is one of the friendliest and most professional. ExpressVPN gives a strong fight to NordVPN, while other VPNs lag behind.
One popular technology to accomplish these goals is a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN is a private network that uses a public network (usually the Internet) to connect remote sites or users together. The VPN uses "virtual" connections routed through the Internet from the business's private network to the remote site or employee. By using a VPN, businesses ensure security -- anyone intercepting the encrypted data can't read it.
A “kill switch” goes by many names, but the term describes VPN software that shuts off all network traffic in and out of your computer if the encrypted connection fails. A hiccup in your Wi-Fi or even with your ISP can cause a VPN to disconnect, and if you then maintain an unsecure connection—especially if the VPN software doesn’t alert you that it’s no longer protecting your traffic—that wipes out all the benefits of your VPN. We considered kill switches to be mandatory. And although we looked for apps that made it easy to add rules about when to activate kill switches, we considered special config files or manual firewall tweaks to be too complex. (iOS doesn’t support any kill-switch features; we address a few iOS-specific problems that apply to all VPN services in a separate section.)
If you’re unsure about whether you should get a VPN, check out our post that explains what a VPN is and when one makes sense as a privacy and security tool. But most people leave their privacy and security vulnerable in ways that can be addressed with methods other than signing up for a VPN—methods that are potentially more effective. If you have a drafty house with paper-thin walls and halogen light bulbs, you’d get far more value out of every dollar by sealing up cracks, insulating, and switching to LEDs than you would by putting solar panels on your roof. Similarly, before you rush to sign up for a VPN subscription, you should consider these other ways to up your privacy game.
Our runner-up is Hotspot Shield, which offers 500MB free per day, amounting to roughly 15GB per month. Like Windscribe, it didn't slow down our connections much. But Hotspot Shield admits that it partners with advertising networks and collects some user data. It also shows ads in the Android app, although the company says it no longer injects ads into websites displayed in a desktop web browser.
While you're connected to a VPN, all your network traffic passes through this protected tunnel, and no one—not even your ISP—can see your traffic until it exits the tunnel from the VPN server and enters the public internet. If you make sure to only connect to websites secured with HTTPS, your data will continue to be encrypted even after it leaves the VPN.