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.
We have tested each of these services in as repeatable a manner as possible, but it's worth remembering that networks can be fickle. To get the clearest picture of a VPN's performance, we would have to perform these tests many more times, at different locations and different times of day. We think of these tests as more of a snapshot of performance that establishes a replicable metric for measuring each service. Your mileage with these services will almost certainly vary somewhat from mine.
HTTPS is a powerful tool that everyone should use because it helps keep sensitive browsing private at no extra cost to the people using it. But like most security standards, it has its own problems too. That little lock icon in your browser bar, which indicates the HTTPS connection, relies on a certificate “signed” by a recognized authority. But there are hundreds of such authorities, and as the EFF says, “the security of HTTPS is only as strong as the practices of the least trustworthy/competent CA [certificate authorities].” Plus, there have been plenty of news stories covering minor and even major vulnerabilities in the system. Some security professionals have worried about those least-competent authorities, spurring groups to improve on the certificate standards and prompting browsers to add warnings when you come across certificates and sites that don’t withstand scrutiny. So HTTPS is good—but like anything, it isn’t perfect.
Even though Tor is free, we don’t think it’s the best option for most people. If you aren’t familiar with Tor, this handy interactive graphic shows how it protects an Internet connection, and this series goes into more detail about how Tor works. Runa Sandvik, a former researcher with The Tor Project who is now part of the information security team at The New York Times (parent company of Wirecutter), described it as “a tool that allows users to remain anonymous and uncensored.” When we asked expert Alec Muffett about whether he personally used a VPN, he told us he actually spent most of his work time using Tor. But Tor has a reputation for slow connections, can be blocked by some websites, and isn’t suitable for some peer-to-peer applications like BitTorrent.
ExpressVPN has a wide range of client software, a dedicated proxy service for streaming media and its own DNS service. But in our 2017 tests, it dropped many connections and its overall performance was in the middle of the pack. It also allows only three devices to be connected simultaneously per account, and it's one of the most expensive services we evaluated.
Even when browsing online in the comfort of your own home, using a VPN is a pretty good idea. For instance, you may want to buy your little nephew a birthday gift online without being bombarded with toy truck ads for next six months. Or perhaps you need to do a quick research of health clinics without attracting your employer’s attention. If you live in the US, you may simply want to know that your ISP will not be able to sell your entire browsing history to the highest bidder.
Latency normally results in a poor VPN connection. If you are connected to a VPN server that is far from your location, the chances are that your VPN speed will lag. An ideal way to turn your VPN account to a fast VPN connection is to choose your VPN location smartly. Your connections will become a high-speed VPN if you select a server that is near close to your original location, and it not overfilled.
Our top picks are proven to work with streaming apps and sites, reliably clock the fastest speeds and have the most useful set of privacy features. Their logging policies are the most transparent, fair and privacy-focused. Their apps are well-designed, quick to install and above all, easy to use. The best services also offer friendly customer support you can rely on to help you quickly should you get stuck.
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.
Latency: This is closely tied to proximity, but is also affected by the amount of traffic on the networks between you and the VPN server. Latency measures the time it takes to send and receive a request from a server, also called ping time. Many VPN apps will allow you to see which server offer the least latency, usually measured in milliseconds. If not, you can connect to the server and use a terminal or command prompt to ping a website and view the time.
These services offer many ways to connect, including without the service's client software; support operating systems and devices, such as routers or set-top boxes, beyond just the "big four" operating systems (Windows, Mac, Android and iOS); have hundreds, or even thousands, of servers in dozens of countries; and generally let the user sign up and pay anonymously.
The free version is only available on Chrome and is bandwidth-restricted. It’s not as useful if you watch a lot of Netflix or you’re thinking about cutting the cord Considering Canceling Cable? The True Cost of Cutting the Cord Considering Canceling Cable? The True Cost of Cutting the Cord When you add everything up, do you really save money by cutting the cord? We do the math involved with cancelling cable in favor of Internet services. Read More .
As we’ve mentioned, free doesn’t always mean ‘free’. Given the sensitive nature of your personal information, it’s tough to trust any company that are willing to waive a charge. The best free secure VPN will keep your information safe, without outrageous limitations to their speeds and features. Essentially, trust is the most important aspect, and you could end up being burned if you go with a dodgy provider.
Every service we tested accepts payment via credit card, PayPal, and Bitcoin. That’s plenty of options for most people, and you can always use a prepaid debit card if you don’t want your billing information tied to your VPN account. IVPN and OVPN are the only ones to accept cash payment through the mail, if you really don’t want to make a payment online. Private Internet Access and TorGuard accept gift cards from other companies—IVPN doesn’t, but that option isn’t worth the additional hassle for many people when other secure, private methods are available.
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.
We'll go into greater explanation about these three metrics and how we collect them below. But choosing which is most important is tricky. Mostly, it depends on how you're using your internet connection. We assume that most people reading are major consumers of content. Reading the news, streaming movies, using BitTorrent, or listening to music on the web all require that your device pull down data more or less continuously. With that in mind, we've settled on download speeds as the most important benchmark.
Google Chrome has a built-in task manager to help users find out the runtime statistics of each tab. When you open up too many tabs and what to kill some of them to release more memory or CPU, task manager is a great tool. Let’s dive in. Open Task Manager You can access Task Manager by clicking on the three-dot icon on the right side of the address bar, going down to More Tools and then select Task Manager.
Proxies are also widely used, and there is always the question about how they differ from VPNs. The purpose of both methods is to protect the identities of the users or to falsify a place. While they are different technologies, many VPN providers also offer proxies.A proxy is the type of computer system that functions as an intermediary for your connected device and your web connection. These servers also have their own IP addresses, so the transfers cannot be traced directly to your computer.
Windscribe has always been one of our favorite free VPNs. Compared to other free services, Windscribe gives you more – 10GB data allowance per month! This is pretty amazing because Windscribe is actually trying to encourage people to buy its premium service. What’s more, this VPN has strong encryption and keeps zero logs – making it fantastic for privacy. With unlimited simultaneous connections permitted, this VPN is truly outstanding.
There are some minor disadvantages to using a dynamic IP. If someone who previously had the IP address you've been assigned did something nefarious on a service you use, it's possible that IP address might be banned. Usually, VPN providers are very careful about checking their IP addresses against blacklists, so the chances of this being a problem for you are slim.
Although the diminishing online privacy of users has been a long-running theme in the digital world, the recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal was the first exposure of our fragile privacy on a global level. It is in these circumstances that the search for best VPN services has become our answer to the continually shrinking privacy and security of the average netizen.
With the increasing use of VPNs, many have started deploying VPN connectivity on routers for additional security and encryption of data transmission by using various cryptographic techniques. Home users usually deploy VPNs on their routers to protect devices, such as smart TVs or gaming consoles, which are not supported by native VPN clients. Supported devices are not restricted to those capable of running a VPN client.
For features, they offer multi-hop VPN cascades, advanced firewall configuration options (DNS and IP leak protection), port forwarding, NeuroRouting, Socks5 and Squid proxies, obfuscation features to defeat VPN blocking (Stealth VPN), and a customizable TrackStop feature to block tracking, malware, advertising and social media domains. They also give you an unlimited number of device connections and offer full IPv6 support across their server network.
Ironically, in many cases, the faster your standard internet connection, the more speed you “lose” in percentage. Even if you have a 50 Mbps connection and this interconnection is poor, you probably won’t be able to make the best of the VPN service. For example, if you have a 5 Mbps connection, you’ll lose just 10-20% of bandwidth, but if you have 100 Mbps, connecting to a VPN may cause you to lose more than a half of your speed.
Providers can also log less-specific data about when or how often you connect to your VPN service. In some cases, these logs are a routine part of server or account management, and can be responsibly separated and scrubbed. In other cases, VPN providers take note of every connection and use that information to actively police individual customers. Though it’s reasonable for companies to protect their networks from abuse, it becomes a dealbreaker when companies keep extensive connection data for a longer period of time. Some VPN companies we spoke with explained how a log might note your current connection for authentication purposes, but that log is deleted as soon as you disconnect. This kind of “live log” isn’t a concern, and even those culled every few hours—or as long as the end of each day—shouldn’t be confused with logs of your traffic and online destinations.
Since we first recommended IVPN in the spring of 2018, the company has added automatic server selection to its desktop applications, bringing it in line with other top-performing VPN apps. Alternatively, when you click on the location at the bottom of the app, you’ll see a list of all of the global IVPN server locations, color coded by speed. At the top of the list is an option to connect to the fastest one, and once selected, the app remembers your preference through future disconnects and reboots. You can also use IVPN’s multihop servers to route your traffic through two VPN servers—a feature unique to IVPN among the services we tested—though we don’t think this step is necessary for most people, given the slower speeds you’ll likely experience.
Unlimited broadband enhances user experience. Another advantage is that you can use up to 5 devices on the same VPN account simultaneously. P2P sharing is allowed, since there is no control over what you do on the internet. Tailor-made applications for Windows, iOS and Linux work like tight clocks, but that’s not all. The interesting ‘door open’ tool searches for unlocked doors on other secure networks, so you do not need to be greedy and ask for the password in a hotel or buy a super-charged bottle at an airport terminal.
Another unique aspect of VyprVPN is that they offer a powerful obfuscation feature called the Chameleon Protocol. This is a self-developed OpenVPN protocol that obfuscates (hides) VPN traffic to appear like regular HTTPS traffic. The Chameleon Protocol allows you to use the VPN in locations where VPNs are normally blocked, such as in China, schools, libraries, work networks, and with some streaming services like BBC iPlayer.
As stated previously, most implementations of PPP provide a limited number of authentication methods. EAP is an IETF standard extension to PPP that allows for arbitrary authentication mechanisms for the validation of a PPP connection. EAP was designed to allow the dynamic addition of authentication plug-in modules at both the client and authentication server. This allows vendors to supply a new authentication scheme at any time. EAP provides the highest flexibility in authentication uniqueness and variation.
Logging Policy – This is a tricky subject. The record of PureVPN is not quite clear of controversy, as the company was involved in a case of handing over a particular user’s information to the FBI. However, the particular incident in question was an ethical conundrum, where human rights of a bullied individual were at stake. I can’t really condemn PureVPN for playing its part in helping agencies catch a suspect of reprehensible cybercrimes. In fact, PureVPN has responded admirably to the whole incident with a change in its policies to prevent similar ethical dilemmas in the future. The company probably doesn’t enjoy playing Aristotle and resolving convoluted ethical problems for its own sake as well as for its users’.
IP / DNS leak test – IPVanish does not suffer from any DNS or IP leak problems. This is a sign of the strong security and encryption protocols that IPVanish uses. As such, you can download torrents through IPVanish and rest assured that your IP won’t be leaked. However, in spite of the solid security, I still wouldn’t recommend going the torrent route with IPVanish for reasons highlighted below.
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.
Not all mobile VPN apps are created equal. In fact, most VPN providers offer different services (and sometimes, different servers) for their mobile offerings than they do for their desktop counterparts. We're pleased to see that NordVPN and Private Internet Access provide the same excellent selection of servers regardless of platform. These apps received an Editors' Choice nod both for desktop VPN apps and Android VPN apps.
Given the aggressive pricing and marketing of other services that don’t measure up to our picks, IVPN’s most obvious downside may look like its price: At the time of this writing, the regular price for an annual IVPN subscription is $100 (about $8 per month). Promotions regularly bringing that down to $70 to $80 per year, but some services have regular pricing of half that. But you shouldn’t pay for a VPN you can’t trust, or one so slow or confusing that you avoid using it at all. We think IVPN’s combination of trust, security, and performance is worth the price. But if it’s too expensive for your needs, consider our budget pick instead.
To help ensure confidentiality of the data as it traverses the shared or public transit network, it is encrypted by the sender and decrypted by the receiver. Because data encryption is performed between the VPN client and VPN server, it is not necessary to use data encryption on the communication link between a dial-up client and its Internet service provider (ISP). For example, a mobile user uses a dial-up networking connection to dial in to a local ISP. Once the Internet connection is made, the user creates a VPN connection with the corporate VPN server. If the VPN connection is encrypted, there is no need to use encryption on the dial-up networking connection between the client and the ISP.
Adding security to a VPN connection inevitably results in a loss of speed. Using a stronger encryption algorithm, for example, means it takes longer to encrypt data travelling through the VPN and longer to decrypt it once it arrives at its destination. Similarly, more secure VPN protocols tend to be slower than less secure ones. PPTP, despite being the oldest protocol, is still significantly faster than OpenVPN or L2TP/IPSec. However, it also has known security vulnerabilities.
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).
Voluntary tunneling occurs when a client computer or routing server creates a virtual connection to the target tunnel server. To accomplish this, tunneling client software and the appropriate tunneling protocol must be installed on the client computer. For the protocols discussed in this technical reference, voluntary tunnels require an IP connection (either LAN or dial-up).
We have also taken into consideration the use of VPN protocols in our fastest VPN trial. All the testing are on PPTP and L2TP connection as they are designed to yield fast VPN performance to the end users. All the high-speed VPN tests are carried out using Speedtest.net, a service that is used by almost everyone to test their internet connection. Below are the baseline speed of our Internet connection without a VPN:
What that means in practice is that VPNs are fine for bypassing geo-blocks, for protecting your online banking and for keeping business communications free from interception. However, if you’re using the internet to fight repressive regimes or to do anything else that could attract the attention of the authorities where you live, a VPN is not a magic wand that’ll make you invisible.
No company came closer to being a pick than ExpressVPN. It has a huge server network that performed well in our tests, plus easy-to-use applications on tons of platforms, and strong security technologies in place. A representative answered all our questions about company operations at length—except one. As noted in a PCWorld review of the service, ExpressVPN chooses not to disclose the company’s leadership or ownership. The company representative told us that this policy enabled ExpressVPN to build a private and secure product without compromise. “We think that this approach has been effective until now and that coupled with a stellar VPN product, we have succeeded in gaining a solid reputation in our industry. We are fortunate to be trusted by the many users worldwide who choose ExpressVPN.”
VPNs also cloak your computer's actual IP address, hiding it behind the IP address of the VPN server you're connected to. IP addresses are distributed based on location, so you can estimate someone's location simply by looking at their IP address. And while IP addresses may change, it's possible to track someone across the internet by watching where the same IP address appears. Using a VPN makes it harder for advertisers (or spies, or hackers) to track you online.