You've heard the advice before: Whether you're in the office or on the road, a VPN is one of the best ways to protect yourself on the internet. But how effective are VPNs? What's the best one for you? What are the downsides? Our executive guide aims to answer all your VPN-related questions -- including a few you probably haven't thought about before.
Tunnel endpoints must be authenticated before secure VPN tunnels can be established. User-created remote-access VPNs may use passwords, biometrics, two-factor authentication or other cryptographic methods. Network-to-network tunnels often use passwords or digital certificates. They permanently store the key to allow the tunnel to establish automatically, without intervention from the administrator.
Likewise, if you're connecting via a nation's local carrier, that carrier may be intercepting your traffic, particularly if you're a non-native of that nation. In that situation, if you must connect back to applications and services at home, using a VPN is quite literally the least you can do. Also, keep in mind that if you use your phone's hotspot to connect your computer to the internet, you'll want to use a VPN on your computer as well.
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.

As we said above, there are plenty of drawbacks to free VPN services. If you need a full, trustworthy service with unlimited bandwidth you're going to need to sign up to a full, paid service. The best VPN right now is ExpressVPN. Prices start at just $6.67 per month - that's about the price of a pint of beer in the UK! And for that you get the best VPN in the world, without any security concerns, with 24/7 customer support, guaranteed access to Netflix US, almost constant uptime and a 30-day money back guarantee (no questions asked) if you change your mind. Check out ExpressVPN!


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.
If you’re going to use torrents, however, life is easier if you use a VPN—especially if the network you’re on blocks torrenting. There are many VPNs among our top picks that could be used for downloading torrents, but our preferred choice is Private Internet Access. This no-frills VPN has an absolute ton of servers, good speeds, and a nice amount of country locations to remain relatively anonymous. (Read our full review.) The price is right at less than $40 a year, and its privacy policies have been tested in court. Plus, advanced users can adjust their level of encryption for data encryption, data authentication, and handshake.
If you don't mind doing a little extra tinkering in a more complicated app to save some money, we recommend TorGuard because it's trustworthy, secure, and fast. TorGuard is well-regarded in trust and transparency; it was also the fastest service we tried despite being less expensive than much of the competition, and its server network spans more than 50 locations, more than twice as many as our top pick. But TorGuard's apps aren't as easy to use as IVPN's: TorGuard includes settings and labels that allow extra flexibility but clutter the experience for anyone new to VPNs.

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.
We spent more than 130 hours over four months researching 32 VPN services, testing 12, interviewing the leadership of five, and consulting information security and legal experts about our results. We found that most people should prioritize other security tools and privacy practices first, but in the cases where a VPN makes sense—such as when you're connecting to public Wi-Fi—IVPN is the most trustworthy provider that offers fast, secure connections with an easy setup process on both computers and mobile devices.
The Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) protocol is used to provide centralized administration of authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) and an industry-standard security infrastructure. RADIUS is defined in RFCs 2138 and 2139 in the IETF RFC Database. RADIUS enables administrators to manage a set of authorization policies, accumulate accounting information, and access an account database from a central location.
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.
First I just want to say what a great website you have created, very informative. I am using Avast VPN on a Windows computer and Google Chrome browser. Without a VPN I am getting download speeds up to 180 MB, and 24 MB up, using Ookla to test speeds. Using Avast VPN drops that to 40-60 MB down and 2-3 MB up, and I have tried using multiple locations from Miami to Atlanta, NY, Chicago and Jacksonville. Miami and NY are classed as P2P. My location is S Florida. When I download torrents my speed falls drastically. With one torrent downloading I get 6 MB down and up. 2 torrents simultaneously 2.5 MB down and 1.4 MB up. 3 torrents 2 MB down and 1.5 up, and 4 torrents 1 MB down and up. I have conducted dozens of tests over the course of the day to get an average of the speeds. I had previously used Private Internet Access, which was faster at the beginning of my one year subscription, but the speeds deteriorated towards the end of that one year subscription to speeds similar to Avast’s. Do you have any suggestions for a fastest VPN for streaming and torrenting? I only download torrents once or twice a month.
VPN servers work by routing traffic through a series of external servers before they reach the server, and a traffic flow from one server to another is called a “hop.” To maximize the connection speed, you want the least hops possible. If you do not have a specific reason to connect through another country, your best course of action should connect to the server closest to your current location. For many, it means choosing your country home (and closest to the city,) if you are in a country with multiple VPN servers available. For others, i.e. selecting the country closest to your own.

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.
Every service we tested accepts payment via credit card, PayPal, and Bitcoin. That’s plenty of options for most people, and you can always use a prepaid debit card if you don’t want your billing information tied to your VPN account. IVPN and OVPN are the only ones to accept cash payment through the mail, if you really don’t want to make a payment online. Private Internet Access and TorGuard accept gift cards from other companies—IVPN doesn’t, but that option isn’t worth the additional hassle for many people when other secure, private methods are available.
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.
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).
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For the formal testing, we used an HP EliteBook X360 1020 G2 notebook, an Asus ZenPad S8 tablet (for Avira Phantom VPN) and a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 phone (for Speedify). Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections were provided by a 200-Mbps cable broadband line. Each time we connected to a VPN service, we recorded how long it took to get online and noted how many times the service disconnected us.

In conjunction with information security experts at The New York Times (parent company of Wirecutter), we reached out to our finalists with questions about their internal security practices. We asked how they handled internal security access, how they communicated securely with customers, in what ways they collected reports on security bugs, and of course whether their statements on logging policies matched their marketing and privacy policies. We also considered which companies had public-facing leadership or ownership, and which ones openly supported projects and organizations that promoted Internet security and privacy. (For a full breakdown of trust and VPNs, check out the section above.)
GRE is sometimes used by ISPs to forward routing information within an ISP's network. To prevent the routing information from being forwarded to Internet backbone routers, ISPs filter out GRE traffic on the interfaces connected to the Internet backbone. As a result of this filtering, PPTP tunnels can be created using PPTP control messages, but tunneled PPTP data is not forwarded.

Hi Douglas, I don't want you to publish my previous comment particularly, I'm not trying to attack their company, the comment was mainly for your information - given your comment about ease of use. I finally got it connecting after reinstalling both NordVPN and Avast, then adding exceptions, with all the previously mentioned config mods having been made. I installed the software on a Windows 10 machine, and it still required some mods, but was easier than Windows 7. cheers Nathan


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.

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.
IVPN exceeded our requirements for being trustworthy and transparent. It also offers good performance without sacrificing security, and it’s easy to set up and use on nearly any device running Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS. Other VPNs we tested had faster connections at particular server locations or lower prices, but they came up short on essential factors such as transparency about who exactly runs them. If you’re ready for a VPN, we think IVPN is worth the price, even considering competitors with cheaper options. If you’re not ready to commit, you can try it out with a seven-day money-back guarantee. It’s easy and obvious to turn off automatic billing, too.
IPVanish is one of the few providers that owns and operates its own network of servers, rather than rents servers out from third parties. This guarantees customers a sturdy, uncongested connection and better privacy. The IPVanish apps include an auto-select feature that connects you to the fastest available server in a given country or city. You can monitor upload and download speed in real time. Traffic is protected by 256-bit AES encryption, and a zero logs policy ensures that no usage data is ever recorded. A single subscription allows users to connect up to five devices at once. IPVanish is particularly popular with Kodi users due to its fast speeds, great privacy features and because it is easy to install on most devices popular with Kodi users including the Amazon Fire Stick.
Extensible Authentication Protocol-Transport Layer Security (EAP-TLS) is an EAP type that is used in certificate-based security environments. If smart cards are used for remote access authentication, EAP-TLS is the required authentication method. The EAP-TLS exchange of messages provides mutual authentication, negotiation of the encryption method, and encrypted key determination between the remote access client and the authenticator. EAP-TLS provides the strongest authentication and key-determination method.

A proxy server is another way to conceal your real location. By transferring data through a proxy server the data appears to be going to that server, not you - so for example if you’re in the US and the proxy is in Switzerland, the website or service will think it’s talking to a machine in Switzerland. The main difference is that VPNs protect all your traffic while proxies tend to be limited to specific types of data, such as peer to peer networking or web browsing. 

Servers – It is a bad idea to talk about the number of servers under NordVPN at any given point in time. This is because NordVPN’s server list is like my problems: they just never stop increasing! Currently, it is offering more than 4,700 servers, but don’t blame me if it adds a hundred more by the next day. There is no other VPN with a server network as large as NordVPN. As such, NordVPN comfortably ranks higher above all other VPNs when it comes to servers.
With a StrongVPN account, customers have the ability to choose which server location they want, even down to the specific city. This type of personalized, user-friendly service is also seen with their unlimited server switching, as well as the ability to have up to six simultaneous connections on different devices. StrongVPN supports Mac, Windows, iOs, Android, and even multiple routers, which is a huge plus. 
To work around this problem, instead of having the client create a new default route when a connection is made, administrators can configure the client’s routing table with specific routes that direct packets to the organization’s network over the VPN connection. While connected to the intranet, the client can obtain Internet access using the default route that points to the Internet. This configuration is known as split tunneling.

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 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.

IVPN exceeded our requirements for being trustworthy and transparent. It also offers good performance without sacrificing security, and it’s easy to set up and use on nearly any device running Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS. Other VPNs we tested had faster connections at particular server locations or lower prices, but they came up short on essential factors such as transparency about who exactly runs them. If you’re ready for a VPN, we think IVPN is worth the price, even considering competitors with cheaper options. If you’re not ready to commit, you can try it out with a seven-day money-back guarantee. It’s easy and obvious to turn off automatic billing, too.


Windscribe's network performance was once about average in our tests, but a recent switch in VPN protocols put it on par with Private Internet Access in head-to-head tests. Windscribe is compatible with many platforms (including routers and Amazon Fire and Kodi TV set-top boxes), offers a wide variety of connection options, has a wide geographic reach with hundreds of servers, and presents an appealing, if minimal, user interface.
In conjunction with information security experts at The New York Times (parent company of Wirecutter), we reached out to our finalists with questions about their internal security practices. We asked how they handled internal security access, how they communicated securely with customers, in what ways they collected reports on security bugs, and of course whether their statements on logging policies matched their marketing and privacy policies. We also considered which companies had public-facing leadership or ownership, and which ones openly supported projects and organizations that promoted Internet security and privacy. (For a full breakdown of trust and VPNs, check out the section above.)
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.
Add to that the volume of add-ons offered by TorGuard, especially access to a 10Gbit network and static IP addresses which aren't likely to be blocked, and it's a very competitive service. It also has greatly expanded its collection of servers and because it is so focused on serving BitTorrent, it's clear that the company cares about how fast data moves through its network.
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.

Jump up ^ Cisco Systems, Inc. (2004). Internetworking Technologies Handbook. Networking Technology Series (4 ed.). Cisco Press. p. 233. ISBN 9781587051197. Retrieved 2013-02-15. [...] VPNs using dedicated circuits, such as Frame Relay [...] are sometimes called trusted VPNs, because customers trust that the network facilities operated by the service providers will not be compromised.


VPN was not the first technology to make remote connections. Several years ago, the most common way to connect computers between multiple offices was by using a leased line. Leased lines, such as ISDN (integrated services digital network, 128 Kbps), are private network connections that a telecommunications company could lease to its customers. Leased lines provided a company with a way to expand its private network beyond its immediate geographic area. These connections form a single wide-area network (WAN) for the business. Though leased lines are reliable and secure, the leases are expensive, with costs rising as the distance between offices increases.
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.
At $7.50/month and $58.49 for a year, they're obviously trying to move you towards their yearly program. We awarded the company points for Bitcoin support, and their money-back guarantee. We're a little disappointed that they only allow a 7-day trial, rather than a full 30-days. The company is generous, with five simultaneous connections. They also picked up points for their connection kill switch feature, a must for anyone serious about remaining anonymous while surfing. 
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.
AVG Secure VPN Virtual Private Network (VPN) gives you a secure and private connection to unrestricted internet access. It does that by encrypting your connection so nobody can snoop on your online activity. The result? Secure and private access to any site — anywhere, anytime. That’s your favourite sites, shows and subscription services all with uncensored access.

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.
However, network performance is another thing entirely. First, keep in mind that if you're using a VPN, you're probably using it at a public location. That Wi-Fi service is likely to range in performance somewhere between "meh" and unusable. So, just the fact that you're remotely working on a mediocre network will reduce performance. But then, if you connect to a VPN in a different country, the connection between countries is also likely to degrade network performance.

Wi-Fi attacks, on the other hand, are probably far more common than we'd like to believe. While attending the Black Hat convention, researchers saw thousands of devices connecting to a rogue access point. It had been configured to mimic networks that victim's devices had previously connected to, since many devices will automatically reconnect to a known network without checking with the user. That's why we recommend getting a VPN app for your mobile device to protect all your mobile communications. Even if you don't have it on all the time, using a mobile VPN is a smart way to protect your personal information.
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