Cost: This VPN service comes in three plans: Basic, Pro, and Premier, any of which can be purchased on a six month, one year, two-year, or three-year basis. The premier plan is $5.83 /month if you pay all 36 months up front, the professional plan is $4.44/month if you buy all three years at once, and the basic plan is $3.06/month for three years. Basic also lets you pay monthly, for $5.99/month.
Ideally, every VPN service provider would subject itself to independent audits to verify that it logs and operates as it claims. Right now, audits aren’t common practice in the VPN industry, though there’s a push to change that. Joseph Jerome, policy counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told us about that group’s efforts to bring transparency to the VPN industry: “We would like to see security audits released publicly so security researchers can review them and attest to their veracity, as well as learn from the issues being identified.” The few companies we found that currently performed these types of audits had other dismissal-worthy failings, despite their valiant efforts toward transparency. And while such reports may increase your confidence when you’re shopping, there’s no guarantee that an audit makes a VPN service trustworthy: In other industries, conflicts of interest have led auditors and rating agencies (PDF) to miss or ignore major problems.
We always advise our readers to take speed tests with a grain of salt; too many factors are at play but believe me there’s no such thing as the “fastest VPN,” no matter how many companies claim. While reviewing VPNs, we test the internet speed using different tools that measure three essential elements; latency, download speeds, and upload speeds. We compare VPNs, keeping these three areas into mind.
For the Routing and Remote Access service, MPPE encryption strengths are configured on the Encryption tab on the properties of a remote access policy to use 40-bit (the Basic setting), 56-bit (the Strong setting), or 128-bit (the Strongest setting) encryption keys. Administrators should use 40-bit MPPE encryption keys to connect with older operating systems that do not support 56-bit or 128-bit encryption keys (this includes older Windows operating systems and operating systems from companies other than Microsoft). Otherwise, use 128-bit encryption keys. Encryption strengths for L2TP/IPSec connections use 56-bit DES (the Basic or Strong setting) or 168-bit 3DES (the Strongest setting).
If you’re not looking to take advantage of its Channel Bonding functionality, users still benefit from a few tools designed to ensure users have a stable connection at all times. This includes its error correction algorithm that reduces packet loss and its automated, seamless network switching that acts as a failsafe should users step out of WiFi range or their primary connection fails.
Because few VPN companies offer live support, we appreciate when they at least provide easy-to-follow resources on their websites. Detailed setup guides with step-by-step instructions are available for every platform IVPN supports, and it breaks down troubleshooting advice into language that’s easy to understand. ExpressVPN also has clear, helpful support articles, but other services aren’t as straightforward. It’s harder to find the right information on TorGuard’s support site, and its articles aren’t as novice-friendly. If you need to submit a ticket for a specific problem, you can expect a quick response from all the companies we tested—IVPN and TorGuard both responded to us in minutes, and PIA took the longest at one day. ExpressVPN was the only one of our finalists that offered tech support over live chat. (Other companies provide live chat only for sales and signup support.)
However, if you’re using a top-tier VPN service, the difference in speed usually isn’t noticeable, and can sometimes speed up your connection. You can still watch streaming videos and download large files without interruption. Our VPN servers are among the fastest in the industry and we work hard to keep it that way. Download Hotspot Shield VPN and get privacy protection without sacrificing speed.
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.
The free account is limited to a single user, while the premium account enabled unlimited bandwidth for up to five computers or mobile devices. TunnelBear doesn’t list the total number of servers on their site, but they do offer servers in 20 countries. Their Windows and Mac OS X client is based on OpenVPN and their mobile VPN system uses L2TP/IPsec. Unlike the previous two recommendations, however, TunnelBear has a firmer stance against file sharing activities and BitTorrent is blocked. Their speeds also aren’t quite as fast as the others, so you might experience a slower connection with TunnelBear.
As online privacy advocates we understand the importance of privacy and security. We understand that people have concerns about their online safety and who can access their information when connecting to the online world. This is why our VPN service places security and anonymity above all else – We strive to give our valued users a fast, secure and private browsing experience that is also reliable.
Jurisdiction – From the point of view of privacy, nothing is more important than the jurisdiction in which a VPN provider operates. VPN providers based in countries like the UK, the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have to follow data retention laws and cooperate with agencies for surveillance purposes. However, if a VPN provider truly follows a zero-logging policy, then users can consider their privacy secure even if the VPN is based in one of the countries as above. Nonetheless, given the choice, you should avoid VPNs that fall in the jurisdiction of agencies notorious for their surveillance programs.
Over the course of four months, we scoured articles, white papers, customer reviews, and forums to compile the pros and cons of VPN services and different VPN protocols and encryption technologies. That One Privacy Site and privacytools.io stood out as two of the most thorough and unbiased sources of information. We interviewed Electronic Frontier Foundation analyst Amul Kalia about government surveillance and VPN efficacy. We also got answers from Joseph Jerome, policy counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology’s privacy and data project, about how accountable VPN providers are for their policies and terms of service, and how that relates to trustworthiness. Alec Muffett, a security expert and software engineer, also shared his views on the usefulness of VPNs to protect against various threats.
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.
What's even scarier is the news that Hola, in certain instances, sells its users' bandwidth through a sister company. What that means, the safety experts say, is that if you're using Hola, your computer—working as an endpoint connection for other Hola users—could even be sold to shady characters for questionable or even illegal purposes as they try to stay anonymous on the Internet.
TorGuard offers applications for every major platform, including Windows, macOS, and Android. And unlike our top pick, it also supports OpenVPN on ChromeOS. (Though TorGuard does offer an iOS app, it doesn’t natively support the OpenVPN protocol that allows for the easiest and most reliable secure connections.) Using these apps, you can manually select a server, click Connect, and not worry about the rest. But otherwise, the applications aren’t as refined or easy to use as IVPN’s. New users are likely to find themselves out of their depth when modifying anything but the most basic functions, such as auto-connecting at launch or minimizing the app.
The free version allows you to connect only one device, and you can use only one server in America – which will not work with Netflix, Hulu, or other popular streaming sites. You can still use it to access YouTube, Facebook, and other favorite social media sites that may be blocked. Plus, it’s compatible with all major operating systems, and it’s one of the fastest VPNs out there.
Without a VPN, your connection is fully open. Your ISP, employer, the Wi-Fi router in the coffee shop mentioned above, any server along the way, or a person with the right tools can look at your data, log it and use it in ways you can’t control. Government agencies can monitor your online activity and share the retained metadata with each other, including across country borders through intelligence alliances such as “14 Eyes.” Based on your IP address, which depends on your geographic location, third-party sites and services may charge different prices or display intrusive targeted advertising.
Our Free VPN Service is built on the cornerstones of freedom of speech and a basic right to privacy – We believe that every individual should have access to the internet without fear of an invasion of these rights. You should be able to surf the web, download files, and chat to your friends freely without reprisal. The internet is a vast wealth of information which should be readily available without restrictions. With a great understanding of these rights and beliefs, we have created an all-encompassing VPN service that provides you with the security you deserve.
Some VPNs offer great service or pricing but little to no insight into who exactly is handling them. We considered feedback from security experts, including the information security team at The New York Times (parent company of Wirecutter), about whether you could trust even the most appealing VPN if the company wasn’t willing to disclose who stood behind it. After careful consideration, we decided we’d rather give up other positives—like faster speeds or extra convenience features—if it meant knowing who led or owned the company providing our connections. Given the explosion of companies offering VPN services and the trivial nature of setting one up as a scam, having a public-facing leadership team—especially one with a long history of actively fighting for online privacy and security—is the most concrete way a company can build trust.
This is important to understand. Consumer VPN services protect your transmission from your location to their location, not from your location all the way to the destination application you're using. If you think about it, this makes sense: A consumer VPN service is operated by a completely different company than, for example, Facebook or your bank.
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.
Using Wi-Fi on the Windows laptops, we timed how long it took to connect to websites, measured latency times (how long it took a server to respond), and recorded upload and download speeds with Ookla's Speedtest meter, both with and without the VPN activated. We also timed how long it took to download a large video file, both with and without VPN activation.
The VPN server can be configured to use either Windows or RADIUS as an accounting provider. If Windows is selected as the accounting provider, the accounting information accumulates on the VPN server for later analysis. Logging options can be specified from the properties of the Local File or SQL Server objects in the Remote Access Logging folder in the Routing and Remote Access snap-in. If RADIUS is selected, RADIUS accounting messages are sent to the RADIUS server for accumulation and later analysis.
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.
In short, it's time to start thinking about protecting your personal information. That's where virtual private networks, or VPNs, come in. These services use simple software to protect your internet connection, and they give you greater control over how you appear online, too. While you might never have heard of VPN services, they are valuable tools that you should understand and use. So who needs a VPN? The short answer is that everyone does. Even Mac users can benefit from a VPN.