Some virtual networks use tunneling protocols without encryption for protecting the privacy of data. While VPNs often do provide security, an unencrypted overlay network does not neatly fit within the secure or trusted categorization. For example, a tunnel set up between two hosts with Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) is a virtual private network, but neither secure nor trusted.
One of today’s leading VPN providers and another worthy mention on our list of top 20 VPN services, PureVPN is known for its service quality and customer support. The service has 450 servers in 101 countries, allowing users to surf the Internet and use any online solution without having to reveal their IP address. This is very useful to those who want to bypass Internet censorship.
Various countries around the world restrict access to one type of online content or another. Social networks, games, chat apps – even Google itself is not beyond the reach of censorship. In addition, many academic institutions and workplaces enable firewalls to limit access to websites for various reasons. These range from seeking to increase productivity to restricting inappropriate content.
Finally, you may want a VPN to spoof your location to download content you shouldn’t have access to, but this too has limits. A VPN used to be the go-to solution to watch U.S. Netflix overseas. That changed in 2016 when Netflix opened up to almost every country on Earth. Since then, the company has invested a lot in detecting and blocking VPN users. Even people using a VPN inside their own country will be blocked by Netflix if detected.
When we say that in theory VPNs can’t be intercepted, that’s because VPNs are like any other form of security: if you use them on a device that’s already been compromised by malware such as keyloggers or other security threats then they can’t do their job properly. If you’re on Windows, then good quality, up to date anti-virus software isn’t a luxury. It’s absolutely essential.
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.
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.
Most of the popular VPNs have dedicated apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android, but VPNs can also be manually configured in various ways. Most VPNs allow a number of “simultaneous connections.” What this means is that you can run VPN apps on a number of devices at the same time using the same VPN account. We now have detailed VPN setup for all major platforms, including:
Logging Policy – The logging policy of any VPN provider is the first thing you should read before you decide to purchase it. This is especially true for users whose primary objective for purchasing a VPN is to maintain and protect their privacy. Many VPN providers deliberately write overly complicated and ambiguous privacy policies to confuse users. Stay far away from such VPN providers as these are most likely trying to hide their actual practices for how they treat their users’ privacy.
Jurisdiction – PureVPN has a fairly strong jurisdictional advantage. Hong-Kong is far from the watchful eyes of European governments and the 14 Eyes alliance. The state of the Internet in Hong Kong is one of the freest in the world. The government in Hong-Kong does not sweep online content under the rug of censorship. However, acts like distribution of child pornography are criminalized (as they should) by law and fall under the cloak of censorship. So, the jurisdiction of PureVPN should be a reason enough to compel privacy-conscious users to get this VPN.
Our next pick for best VPN of 2018 is IPVanish. The service permits torrenting and throws in a free Smart DNS service for all customers. The biggest downside is that it’s based in the US —not an ideal location since the NSA is notorious for its intensive and often illegal surveillance. To combat this, IPVanish doesn’t keep logs and does provide DNS leak protection. Despite being a little stripped-down, works very well.
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.
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.
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.
We wouldn’t want you to have to put up with any of that, so we tested over 100 free VPNs to see which ones are the best of the best. We’re happy to say we found several that meet our strict security standards. Are they the perfect solution? Definitely not, but if you’re looking for a free VPN that can get the job done, you should be able to find one here that can suit your needs.
Prices – PureVPN is currently offering three subscription plans: 1-month, 1-year, and 2-year deals. The cheapest subscription deal is the 2-year plan which you can avail for only $2.49/month. It is always a pleasure to have a great product being sold for so cheap. A new addition that I found during PureVPN review was its bumped-up 31-day money-back guarantee, which means that you can even go for a refund if you are not satisfied with it.
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.
The VPN server can be configured to use either Windows or Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) as an authentication provider. If Windows is selected as the authentication provider, the user credentials sent by users attempting VPN connections are authenticated using typical Windows authentication mechanisms, and the connection attempt is authorized using the VPN client’s user account properties and local remote access policies.
In such scenarios, you don’t need a beastly VPN provider with massive bandwidth to secure your email, Facebook, and web browsing activities. In fact, the same home VPN server model we highlighted in the previous section will serve you just as well as a paid solutions. The only time you might consider a paid solution is if you have high-bandwidth needs that your home connection can’t keep up with (like watching large volumes of streaming video through your VPN connection).
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.
We have often said that having to choose between security and convenience is a false dichotomy, but it is at least somewhat true in the case of VPN services. When a VPN is active, your web traffic is taking a more circuitous route than usual, often resulting in sluggish download and upload speeds as well as increased latency. The good news is that using a VPN probably isn't going to remind you of the dial-up days of yore.
The student/worker. This person has responsibilities to attend to, and uses a VPN provided by their school or company to access resources on their network when they’re at home or traveling. In most cases, this person already has a free VPN service provided to them, so they’re not exactly shopping around. Also, if they’re worried about security, they can always fire up their VPN when using airport or cafe WI-Fi to ensure no one’s snooping on their connection. Photo by Ed Yourdon.
VPNs are necessary for improving individual privacy, but there are also people for whom a VPN is essential for personal and professional safety. Some journalists and political activists rely on VPN services to circumvent government censorship and safely communicate with the outside world. Check the local laws before using a VPN in China, Russia, Turkey, or any country with with repressive internet policies.