Each internet request usually results in a whole series of communication events between multiple points. The way a VPN works is by encrypting those packets at the originating point, often hiding not only the data, but also the information about your originating IP address. The VPN software on your end then sends those packets to VPN server at some destination point, decrypting that information.
If you’re seriously concerned about government surveillance—we explain above why that should be most people’s last consideration when choosing a VPN—some expert sites like privacytools.io recommend avoiding services with a corporate presence in the US or UK. Such experts warn about the “14 eyes,” a creepy name for a group of countries that share intelligence info, particularly with the US. IVPN is based in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory. We don’t think that makes you any worse off than a company based in Switzerland, Sweden, or anywhere else—government surveillance efforts around the world are so complicated and clandestine that few people have the commitment, skills, or technology to avoid it completely. But because Gibraltar’s status has been a topic of debate in other deep dives on VPNs, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention it.
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.
We like that the company offers a connection kill switch feature and, for those who need it, there's an option to get a dedicated IP address. VyprVPN is a standout in their effort to provide privacy, and thwart censorship. When China began its program of deep packet VPN inspection, Golden Frog's VyperVPN service added scrambled OpenVPN packets to keep the traffic flowing.
When a VPN client computer is connected to both the Internet and a private intranet and has routes that allow it to reach both networks, the possibility exists that a malicious Internet user might use the connected VPN client computer to reach the private intranet through the authenticated VPN connection. This is possible if the VPN client computer has IP routing enabled. IP routing is enabled on Windows XP-based computers by setting the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\ Services\Tcpip \Parameters\IPEnableRouter registry entry to 1 (data type is REG_DWORD).
Many companies proudly display “warrant canaries” on their websites. These are digitally signed notices that say something to the effect of “We have never been served a warrant for traffic logs or turned over customer information.” Law enforcement can prohibit a company from discussing an investigation, but in theory, it can’t compel a company to actively lie. So the theory goes that when the warrant canary dies—that is, the notice disappears from the website because it’s no longer truthful—so does privacy. The EFF supports this legal position, though other highly regarded companies and organizations think warrant canaries are helpful only for informing you after the damage has been done. Such notices may provide a nice sense of security, and they are important to some people, but we didn’t consider them essential.
Chrome starts to mark old-fashioned HTTP sites as ‘Not Secure’ in the address bar. If you have already updated Chrome to version 68 this week, you would probably be surprise at seeing a huge amount of HTTP sites are not secure overnight. That’s to let you know that the site you’re visiting is not HTTPS-enabled, and the traffic is being transmitted over the old, less secure HTTP protocol. That means a hacker could spy on the data you’re sending and receiving from the site in question (such as passwords and credit card numbers), and even hijack the connection to run a phishing scam or redirect you to a malware-laden page.
Additionally, moves from the FCC to remove rules regarding net neutrality have raised questions about VPNs. Without net neutrality rules, it's possible that ISPs could charge companies extra for access to "fast lanes" that would deliver content faster. ISPs could also create cable TV-style packages where you pay for individual access to websites. A VPN might be able to restore net neutrality, somewhat, by tunneling past ISP restrictions. Unfortunately, we'll have to see how all this plays out before we can say for certain how much a VPN might help.
Traditional VPNs are characterized by a point-to-point topology, and they do not tend to support or connect broadcast domains, so services such as Microsoft Windows NetBIOS may not be fully supported or work as they would on a local area network (LAN). Designers have developed VPN variants, such as Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS), and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocols (L2TP), to overcome this limitation.
The RADIUS server receives a user-connection request from the VPN server and authenticates and authorizes the connection attempt. In addition to a yes or no response to an authentication request, RADIUS can inform the VPN server of other applicable connection parameters for this user such as maximum session time, static IP address assignment, and so on.
Due to licensing restrictions, iOS developers previously couldn’t implement OpenVPN connections directly inside their applications. Since that changed in mid-2018, a few providers, including IVPN and PrivateInternetAccess, have added native OpenVPN support to their apps. This makes a secure connection on any Apple device much easier than the old method that required a clunky third-party application and complicated connection profiles. Though we haven’t done performance tests on any updated iOS apps yet, our limited use of the updated IVPN app worked without any problems. Going forward, we wouldn’t consider a VPN provider that doesn’t include native OpenVPN support on iOS.
The globetrotter. This person wants to watch the Olympics live as they happen, without dealing with their crummy local networks. They want to check out their favorite TV shows as they air instead of waiting for translations or re-broadcasts (or watch the versions aired in other countries,) listen to location-restricted streaming internet radio, or want to use a new web service or application that looks great but for some reason is limited to a specific country or region.
L2TP/IPsec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol with Internet Protocol Security): L2TP is not secure itself, so it's generally paired with the IPsec secure-networking standard. The combination of the two was once thought to be very secure when properly implemented, but some VPN services suggest that you use OpenVPN instead. L2TP/IPsec has native support in Windows, OS X/macOS, Android, Chrome OS and iOS. Most VPN services support it.
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.
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.
There are lots of good reasons why you need a VPN. The most obvious is that routing your traffic through an encrypted tunnel means it is much harder for people on the same network as you—say, at a coffee shop—to snoop on your activities. If the person who owns the network is a bad guy, spying on your activity and hoping to snatch a password or two, they'll also be foiled by a VPN. This also protects against a lot of other scary scenarios, like DNS poisoning. With that kind of attack, you type in a legitimate website URL but are forwarded to a phishing site designed to steal your information.
From a feature-to-dollar standpoint, TunnelBear’s premium offering doesn’t beat out our two previous recommendations. StrongVPN and SurfEasy are better bets if you’re willing to pay. But, TunnelBear does offer a free tier, doesn’t maintain logs, and it is extremely easy to get up and running with their dead-simple apps for desktop and mobile users alike.
IPVanish can be run on any computer and mobile devices. It is capable of simultaneously using different types of connections. Paying with Bitcoin gives users additional security features as cryptocurrency cannot be tracked unlike government currency. This is because information required when paying with bitcoin are but an email address and a password.
Speedify's drawbacks are that you can't connect manually (it's software-based), the cellular-data usage will cut into your carrier's monthly limit, and it's based in the U.S. and subject to search warrants. The free services is limited to one device, although you could just try to create new accounts for extra devices. But even free users can connect to any of the 1,000 or so VPN servers in 40-odd countries.