Final Verdict – ExpressVPN is a powerful tool that can pass through almost any website anywhere in the world. In fact, ExpressVPN is one of the few providers that work in the censorship-stricken country like China. If you want to have that complete Internet freedom, where you can open any content at a click without facing restriction, then ExpressVPN is the best option for you. Add top-notch security and excellent logging policy to the mix, and you have a complete VPN package right in your hands.
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.
Here you should remember that before being sent and received over the Internet, any data needs to first be split into packets. To ensure each data packet stays secure, a VPN service wraps it in an outer packet, which is then encrypted through a process called encapsulation. This exterior packet keeps the data secure during the transfer, and it is the core element of the VPN tunnel. When the data arrives at the VPN server, the outer packet is removed to access the data within, which requires a decryption process.
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.)
We didn’t audit any VPN services ourselves (though IVPN, our top pick, offered to arrange such an exercise), but we did ask detailed questions about each service’s operations as a way to judge whether a company was acting in good faith. Good faith is important, because there aren’t many avenues to penalize a VPN company that isn’t following through on its promises. In the US, companies making false claims about their products are policed by the Federal Trade Commission, and to some extent state attorneys general. Joseph Jerome at CDT told us that companies violating their own privacy policy or claims about logging would be “a textbook example of a deceptive practice under state and federal consumer protection laws,” and in theory, “the FTC could seek an injunction barring the deceptive practice as well as potentially getting restitution or other monetary relief.”
Something pretty great about Speedify is that you can use it for free without even making an account. The moment you install and open the software, you're immediately being protected behind a VPN and can do anything a user can, like change the server, toggle encryption on and off, set monthly or daily limits, and easily connect to the fastest server.
Virtual LAN (VLAN) is a Layer 2 technique that allow for the coexistence of multiple local area network (LAN) broadcast domains, interconnected via trunks using the IEEE 802.1Q trunking protocol. Other trunking protocols have been used but have become obsolete, including Inter-Switch Link (ISL), IEEE 802.10 (originally a security protocol but a subset was introduced for trunking), and ATM LAN Emulation (LANE).
HotSpot Shield is a product that has had some ups and downs in terms of our editorial coverage. Back in 2016, they picked up some very positive coverage based on founder David Gorodyansky comments about protecting user privacy. Then, in 2017, a privacy group accused the company of spying on user traffic, an accusation the company flatly denies. Finally, just this year, ZDNet uncovered a flaw in the company's software that exposed users. Fortunately, that was fixed immediately.
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.
To choose the best VPN for you, don’t just look at the price, not least because many services offer massive discounts if you take out a longer term subscription. Start with the basics: how many simultaneous connections can you have? Are there particular security protocols you want to use? Does the provider have servers in the places you’ll want to use it from and the places you want to connect to? How much data will they log about you, and how long do they keep it for?
Access to restricted websites: Some websites and streaming content may only be accessed in certain countries. For example a TV program might only be broadcast in the UK – Trying to stream this program outside the country will return an error. Through the masking of your IP address, and thus your physical location, free VPN will allow you access to this restricted content and make it appear that you are located in the required region. Learn More
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.
Logging Policy – The privacy policy of ZenMate is not quite convincing from the point of view of the user. For instance, it claims that it collects personal data of users in various forms, including timestamps. This leaves the privacy of users vulnerable through a time-correlation attack. Moreover, the privacy policy is extremely lengthy and complicated, which further raises alarms as to the credibility of the claims of ZenMate as a zero-logging VPN.
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.)
We're not cryptography experts, so we can't verify all of the encryption claims providers make. Instead, we focus on the features provided. Bonus features like ad blocking, firewalls, and kill switches that disconnect you from the web if your VPN connection drops, go a long way toward keeping you safe. We also prefer providers that support OpenVPN, since it's a standard that's known for its speed and reliability. It's also, as the name implies, open source, meaning it benefits from many developers' eyes looking for potential problems.
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