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.
Some countries don't have the same protections for freedom of press, speech, and expression that most democratic countries have. In fact, some regimes resort to oppressive measures to monitor and take action against those they see as threats to the government. People who dare to stand up have to take extra precautions to protect their communications. Journalists and researchers also send messages containing data that some people may want to try very hard to intercept.

ProtonVPN is a superb service provided by the developers of Proton Mail. It is a secure VPN provider that lets people use the service on an unlimited basis. This makes it perfect for privately surfing the web on a daily basis. On the downside, it throttles free-users’ bandwidth. This means that the free ProtonVPN service will not provide the speeds necessary for doing data-intensive tasks such as streaming in HD. ProtonVPN is a superb VPN that many people may find useful for unblocking censored news.
We use the most trusted and widely used VPN protocol available, OpenVPN for your Windows device. This protocol is open source which means you have the reassurance that no unknown proprietary codes can access your data. And to boot we use OpenSSL libraries and run the whole operation over UDP ports so you always get the best speeds when using our free VPN trial. Our VPN protection for Android is built on OpenVPN, the most widely used and trusted VPN protocol available. It’s the most trusted protocol because it’s open source meaning no unknown proprietary codes can do anything with your data. We also use OpenSSL libraries as well as running the whole thing over UDP ports. The result? The best speeds possible for you when using our free VPN trial. Our VPN protection for Android is built on OpenVPN, the most widely used and trusted VPN protocol available. It’s the most trusted protocol because it’s open source meaning no unknown proprietary codes can do anything with your data. We also use OpenSSL libraries as well as running the whole thing over UDP ports. The result? The best speeds possible for you when using our free VPN trial. We use the IPsec protocol for our iOS implementation which is built entirely on Apple’s proprietary stacks. The result? A super fast connection speed each time you switch on your AVG Secure VPN for iPhone. Our macOS implementation of AVG Secure VPN uses the IPsec protocol and is built entirely on Apple’s proprietary stacks. Which means that you get the best in performance and compatibility for your Mac when you connect using our free VPN trial.
Well, yes, it does. How? Because of the data encryption and server proximity. It’s always advisable to connect to a VPN server through the automatic server selection option that your VPN software has. Normally, it chooses the fastest VPN server near to you to give you better speed and a fast VPN connection. So, suppose if you have a 50 MB internet package when connected to a VPN server, you might face a little speed reduction of about 5-10 MB depending on the VPN server location and your own geographical location.
Internet connection has changed the lives of many people. Today, they are more than 3.5 billion in the world to connect on this large public network. Some Internet users connect to the Internet for entertainment, information sharing, information, watching videos, etc., and others for purely business reasons. In both cases, Internet users should always use a VPN to secure their connection and surf more freely and anonymously on the Internet.
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.

The router could be running outdated and compromised firmware. The router could actually be malicious and actively sniffing packets and logging your data. The router could be improperly configured and other users on the network could be sniffing your data or probing your laptop or mobile device. You never have any guarantee whatsoever that an unknown Wi-Fi hotspot isn’t, either through malice or poor configuration, exposing your data. (A password doesn’t indicate a network is secure, either–even if you have to enter a password, you could be subject to any of these problems.)
DNS servers are a bit like the phone books of the Internet: You can type in “thewirecutter.com,” for instance, and one of the many DNS servers behind the scenes can point you to the IP address of a server hosting the site. Most of the time, your DNS requests automatically route through your ISP, giving the ISP an easy way to monitor your traffic. Some VPN services rely on third-party DNS servers, but the best ones keep DNS servers in-house to prevent your browsing history, or your IP address, from getting out.
VPN services are entirely legal and legitimate in most countries. It's completely legal to mask your IP address and encrypt your internet traffic. There is nothing about using a VPN that's illegal and VPN services themselves do not and cannot do anything illegal. The only thing that's illegal is if you were to break the law while using a VPN - for instance if you were to infringe on someone's copyright. But that's the action of infringement that's illegal, not the use of the VPN.

NordVPN, for example, has well over 4,800 servers across the globe. If you live in the US, you're likely to find a nicely uncrowded server close by. The ubiquity of its servers also means you're likely to find a server nearby no matter where you travel. Private Internet Access and TorGuard are notable for being the only VPNs we've yet reviewed that have more than 3,000 servers.
If you’re on a heavily managed Internet connection, be it government censored or just college Wi-Fi, standard VPN connections may be blocked or throttled due to deep packet inspection, a way for providers to analyze what type of traffic is passing over a network even when they can’t see the actual contents. IVPN’s desktop apps include a checkbox for Obfsproxy, which disguises your traffic as more ho-hum data to get it past those types of blocks—like kids stacked in a trenchcoat to pass as an adult, but more convincing. Our budget pick, TorGuard, and competitor ExpressVPN use different methods to disguise traffic, but we couldn’t find documentation on equivalent features from our other top performers.
PIA didn’t score super high. Total was really fast when I first tested it, probably because it had few customers and the servers weren’t congested, but since then the service has taken a nose dive both on the performance and the customer service front. We had a never-ending stream of comments on their review about poor billing practices and other major issues, so we can no longer recommend it.
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.
Auto-static refers to the automatic adding of the requested routes as static routes in the routing table. The sending of the request for routes is performed through an explicit action, either through Routing and Remote Access or the Netsh utility while the demand-dial interface is in a connected state. Auto-static updates are not automatically performed every time a demand-dial connection is made.
Last on our fastest VPN list is OpenVPN, which is a blend of highly secured encryption keys, up to 256-bit session, and fast VPN nodes. It is an open source application that utilizes OpenSSL library SSLv3/TLSv1 protocols. OpenVPN uses both UDP and TCP protocols where UDP is faster while TCP is best known for breaking the firewalls. The downside of OpenVPN is that it doesn’t support any platform, but with the help of third-party softwares, you can install a fast VPN connection on your desired OS/Device.
Cost: To be billed every 7 days, you can subscribe to ZenVPN on a weekly basis for $2.95, which is equivalent to around $11.80/month. Another option is to just buy it a month at a time for $5.95/month. A third option is to buy a whole year at once (for $49.95) for what comes out to be $4.16/month. The unlimited option is more expensive, at $5.95/week, $9.95/month or $7.96/month if you pay $95.50 for the whole year.
Final Verdict – VyprVPN offers reasonably good security features with its NAT firewall and AES 256 encryption. At the same time, however, it lacks in a few departments such as server size, speed, and privacy policy. It works fairly well for going over firewalls preventing users from accessing blocked websites. Nonetheless, for purposes such as streaming and torrenting, there are better alternatives available.
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.
It is our business to make safety and caution for our free VPN service the number one priority. We are constantly working to understand and develop new technology that keeps our users safe, without requiring costly fees or lengthy sign-up features. We want to keep you and your family safe without you having to give up any freedom. We would never limit these rights and don’t believe in setting limits. That is not our business.
The practical uses for a VPN service are plentiful. Want to access a website that your ISP has blocked? A VPN puts that website just one click away. Want to access the US version of Netflix from the UK? Just set your VPN to a US location and you're there. Want to access porn without your ISP or your business knowing about it? Want to download torrents without being blocked by your ISP? It's easy.
Jurisdiction – ZenMate is based in Germany, which is a country with one of the freest Internet in Europe. Online freedom is protected in the country and it does not have a history of persecution against bloggers and social media activists. Nonetheless, it is still part of the 14 Eyes alliance, which implies that users should be careful when considering ZenMate.
A client running the Microsoft Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 operating systems uses a DHCPINFORM message after the connection to request the DHCP Classless Static Routes option. This DHCP option contains a set of routes that are automatically added to the routing table of the requesting client. This additional information is available only if the Windows Server 2003 DHCP server has been configured to provide the DHCP Classless Static Routes option and if the VPN server has the DHCP Relay Agent routing protocol component configured with the IP address of the DHCP server.
All VPNs have to do some kind of logging, but there are VPNs that collect as little data as possible and others that aren’t so minimalist. On top of that, some services discard their logs in a matter of hours or days while other companies hold onto them for months at a time. How much privacy you expect from your VPN-based browsing will greatly influence how long you can stand having your provider maintain your activity logs—and what those logs contain.
Server switching is a feature -- offered by most VPN service providers -- that allows you to change what region or country you're going to connect to. Most providers allow you to switch as often as you'd like (although you usually have to disconnect, then change your configuration, and reconnect). This may be useful if you're trying to hide your location, or if you're running into some communications glitches on the server you're currently using.
Therefore, protect your Android device is a must from all kinds of cyber threats and the best solution lies in using the fastest VPN for Android. All the above-mentioned VPNs are best Android VPNs and offer dedicated yet tested app, with a proven track record for providing ironclad protection and faster performance, and yes all are free to download.

SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol) is a suitable alternative to standard protocols in areas where VPNs are restricted because it can bypass most firewalls. SSTP is quite similar to OpenVPN but, unlike OpenVPN, it is owned by Microsoft, which means it is not available for independent auditing. Microsoft’s history of cooperating with the NSA does not inspire confidence in this standard.

The encryption and decryption processes depend on both the sender and the receiver having knowledge of a common encryption key. Intercepted packets sent along the VPN connection in the transit network are unintelligible to any computer that does not have the common encryption key. The length of the encryption key is an important security parameter. Computational techniques can be used to determine the encryption key. Such techniques require more computing power and computational time as the encryption key gets larger. Therefore, it is important to use the largest possible key size.
When we ran our recent Hive Five on VPN service providers, we heard from VPN providers begging to be included, angry CEOs who claimed their company was maliciously left out, and others accusing some of the contenders of illegal or unethical behavior. We took at look at the poll and the claims, and while there’s no definitive proof the poll was gamed, we decided to come up with our own top five, based on our own research rather than reader feedback, that are great whether you’re the privacy advocate, the student, or the downloader.
Betternet is a straightforward app that connects to a VPN with a single click allowing for access when needed. No registration is required and unlike some other free VPN services there are no data caps. All of this is provided by occasional ads and a promoted premium version which are manageable and discreet. The traditional problem with free VPN access has been slow connection speed and while this is still apparent it is not too much of an issue.
ProtonVPN offers both free and premium versions. It is remarkably fast for a free VPN and provides excellent security to boot. You can connect to your favorite servers in a matter of a few seconds. It rarely disconnects once the connection has been established and provides good stability. Although not as fast as the leading brands, it still beats dozens of other providers out there. You can read more about the provider in ProtonVPN review.

Beyond the CNET directory, it's always good practice to search "the Google" for a company or product name and read the user reviews. If you see a huge number of old complaints or new complaints suddenly start showing up, it might be that there's been a change of management or policies. When I'm looking for a service, I always base my decision partially on professional reviews and partially based on the tone of user reviews.
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.
TRY THE FASTEST VPN RISK FREE:  ExpressVPN is currently running an offer of 3 free extra months with their 12 month plan here, this works out as a 49% discount on the monthly price. This deal includes a risk free 30 day money back guarantee, so in the unlikely event you are unhappy with the speed, or want to cancel for any other reason you can get a full refund.
Anonymous internet access: Anonymity is preferable for many when surfing the web. We do not like the idea of someone watching our every more and monitoring our actions. We have a basic right to privacy and free VPN will help you achieve this. Using the VPN service, you can enjoy a trouble-free private browsing session with no traceability. Learn More
PrivateVPN is a zero-logs Swedish provider. It features a firewall-based system Kill Switch and application-level kill switch, which is great. Full IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leak protection is also built-in to its client. We have been particularly impressed by PrivateVPN’s high level of customer service, which even features remote installation for technophobes! A cracking 6 simultaneous devices, port forwarding, HTTPS and SOCKS5 proxies all make PrivateVPN a very enticing option for those that want to get the most out of their VPN.
The router could be running outdated and compromised firmware. The router could actually be malicious and actively sniffing packets and logging your data. The router could be improperly configured and other users on the network could be sniffing your data or probing your laptop or mobile device. You never have any guarantee whatsoever that an unknown Wi-Fi hotspot isn’t, either through malice or poor configuration, exposing your data. (A password doesn’t indicate a network is secure, either–even if you have to enter a password, you could be subject to any of these problems.)
ProtonVPN is a superb service provided by the developers of Proton Mail. It is a secure VPN provider that lets people use the service on an unlimited basis. This makes it perfect for privately surfing the web on a daily basis. On the downside, it throttles free-users’ bandwidth. This means that the free ProtonVPN service will not provide the speeds necessary for doing data-intensive tasks such as streaming in HD. ProtonVPN is a superb VPN that many people may find useful for unblocking censored news.

The service has around a hundred servers around the world, in all continents. Server switching is facilitated on the line from just about anywhere. This feature is ideal for use by those who need to reach different locations or those who are in obscure places. Connection speed is relatively fast, with the service offering unlimited bandwidth. Albeit significant lag can be experienced during connection, such is resolved in just a few minutes.
Torrenters use VPNs to hide their downloads and uploads, but are all VPNs suitable for BitTorrent? No, some don’t provide sufficient leak protection to protect you from copyright trolls, some are bad actors, and some don’t provide at all. If you want to enjoy private and protected torrenting, make sure your Torrent VPN is the best at its job. To figure out the fastest VPN for torrenting, let’s decide the criteria to judge them. Being a Torrent and P2P file sharer, what you want the most? Privacy, fast download speed, and no data caps, isn’t it?
The world wide web is a massive place that allows you to connect with people from all over the world. Unfortunately, there are people out there who use valuable technology to steal information and use it for their own profit. Fortunately, we can help with our free VPN service. Don’t remain vulnerable to any potential attacks from thieves. Our services are fast, reliable, and free to use.
IVPN was one of the fastest providers when we tested US servers using the Internet Health Test. Our budget pick, TorGuard, was faster, but it defaults to the less secure 128-bit encryption. Our non-VPN connection tested at roughly 300 Mbps down. Some tested services are not listed because connection failures prevented some of our tests from completing.
Whereas most providers say they log nothing, that’s not always the case. Some record very little data like the day you subscribed, the amount of data you’ve consumed, and delete those logs when you end the session. Other providers log your IP address, the servers you used, and store those logs. If they’re based in the US, UK or any other country with data retention laws, they can be compelled to hand over that data to law enforcement.
In addition to logging concerns, an even bigger concern is the type of VPN protocol and encryption they use (as it’s much more probable a malicious third party will try and siphon up your traffic and analyze it later than they will reverse engineer your traffic in an attempt to locate you). Considering logging, protocol, and encryption standards is a great point to transition into the next section of our guide where we shift from questions focused on our needs to questions focused on capabilities of the VPN providers.

Compatibility – ExpressVPN is compatible with a wide range of devices and operating system. This includes Windows, OS X, Linux, and Chrome OS. In mobile phones and tablets, it is compatible with Android, iOS, Amazon Kindle Fire. It is also compatible with gaming and streaming consoles such as Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox One, and Roku. In short, I don’t think there is any other VPN provider that has such a wide cross-compatibility with different platforms.
Price: proXPN has a free plan, which limits your transfer speeds to 300kpbs and restricts you to one exit location (Miami) in the United States. Premium accounts unlock support for PPTP (if you want to connect a mobile device or a router,) remove the transfer cap, and allows you to choose from any of the company’s other exit locations. Premium plans start at $10/mo, and you can read more about their pricing and plans here.
Some countries don't have the same protections for freedom of press, speech, and expression that most democratic countries have. In fact, some regimes resort to oppressive measures to monitor and take action against those they see as threats to the government. People who dare to stand up have to take extra precautions to protect their communications. Journalists and researchers also send messages containing data that some people may want to try very hard to intercept.

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.
We recommend against using any so-called free VPN. Free VPN services tend to be significantly slower than their premium counterparts. Their servers are usually congested and the apps often impose bandwidth limits or data caps. Server selection is more limited as well. Besides speed, free VPNs often use shady practices to make money, such as collecting your browsing data to sell to third parties and injecting ads into browsers. Some even carry malware payloads to infect your device.
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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