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.
Windscribe offers unlimited device connections. Yes you heard that right! The reason is that unlike the others above on this list, it doesn't offer unlimited data. So you're limited by bandwidth and data, not by devices. You get 10GB every month, and there's a free plan also but that only allows one device. There are apps for Windows, Mac and iOS but not Android, and the service also offers browser add-ons with useful features such as ad-blocking. Short range performance (to US sites) is good, but we noticed lag with transatlantic connections. However, if you’re looking to protect the data from a whole bunch of devices - an office, perhaps, or just a smart home - the support for unlimited connections is a real stand-out feature.
Price: Free TorVPN users are limited to 1GB/mo downloaded before they’re cut off, and Premium accounts start at 5 EUR/mo ($7mo) for 5GB/mo and go up to 30 EUR/mo ($38/mo) for 100GB. Keep in mind they have a no-refunds policy, and that even though you ride the Tor network, they’re a separate entity from the Tor Project. You can read more about their pricing and plans here.
So our advice is to not use a free VPN unless it really is for occasional, very casual use. For the odd IP-hopping use case, they can work. But if you're planning on using the VPN a lot and for streaming video etc we'd highly recommend going for one of the overall best VPN services - they're not free but they're also pretty cheap in the grand scheme of things.
Cost: You have three pricing options depending on how often you want to pay. The cheapest IPVanish plan is to buy a full year at once for $77.99, making the monthly rate $6.49/month. If you pay for three months at once for $26.99, the monthly cost comes down to $8.99/month. However, to subscribe on a monthly basis with no commitment, it will cost $10/month.
NordVPN also nudged out ExpressVPN in terms of speed, with a few caveats. Most VPN apps select a location, and then the app automatically selects the best server in that location. NordVPN is not so good at this. The auto-select on a couple occasions put us on servers that were complete duds, which resulted in a test result so bad it qualified as a statistical outlier and had to be thrown out. Thankfully, the app allows you to manually select a specific server and view the load capacity on all servers, where we had much better luck. Servers are optimized for specific streaming channels, torrenting, or security measures.
Let's talk about what happens when you use a VPN app on your computer or mobile device. Any VPN app will require an existing network connection to be able to connect to the VPN service provider. This means that even if you set your VPN app to automatically launch when your device boots, there will be a period of time when your computer is connected to the internet directly, not through your VPN.
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).
To narrow the hundreds of VPN providers to a manageable list, we first looked at reviews from dedicated sites like VPNMentor and TorrentFreak, research and recommendations from noncommercial sources such as That One Privacy Site and PrivacyTools.io, and user experiences and tips on various subreddits and technology-focused websites like Lifehacker and Ars Technica.
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.
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.
Among the most critical is how to communicate and exchange information securely between employees sitting at multiple locations. Here is where a VPN or a Virtual Private Network proves to be very handy. It is a fast, reliable, and secure way to exchange information across computer networks, and an excellent, secure mode of communication from remote locations.
Tip for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera users: A feature called WebRTC can, in some Web browsers, inadvertently cause your true IP address to leak out even when you’re connected via a great VPN. WebRTC assists with peer-to-peer connections, such as for video chatting, but could be exploited in some cases. You can manually disable this function in Firefox, or use an extension to block most instances of it in Chrome or Opera. For more details and instructions, check out Restore Privacy.
Free VPN services are generally subpar when compared to premium providers, or they’re posited as a ‘trial’ version of the service. Most aim to retain their customer base by getting them to upgrade to the full-fat version, but a free version is still better than browsing without one. On the other hand, lots of free users also help to give a company legitimacy; especially if they’re dropping down five star reviews like it’s going out of fashion. Offering a solid free service is a great way to get some positive attention, and the market is fairly crowded.
I recommend always using a VPN when using someone else's Wi-Fi network. Here's a good rule of thumb: If you're away from the office or home, and you're using someone else's Wi-Fi (even that of a family member or a friend, because you never know if they've been compromised), use a VPN. It's particularly important if you're accessing a service that has personally identifying information. Remember, a lot goes on behind the scenes, and you never really know if one or more of your apps are authenticating in the background and putting your information at risk.
VPN services, while tremendously helpful, are not foolproof. There's no magic bullet (or magic armor) when it comes to security. A determined adversary can almost always breach your defenses in one way or another. Using a VPN can't help if you unwisely download ransomware on a visit to the Dark Web, or if you foolishly give up your data to a phishing attack.