The downloader. Whether they’re downloading legally or illegally, this person doesn’t want on some company’s witch-hunt list just because they have a torrenting app installed on their computer. VPNs are the only way to stay safe when using something like BitTorrent—everything else is just a false sense of security. Better safe than trying to defend yourself in court or paying a massive fine for something you may or may not have even done, right?
Private Internet Access, or PIA, is one of the most visible, privacy-focused VPNs available. Because of its reputation and advocacy concerning online privacy and security, it has also been a Wirecutter staff pick. But whether you prioritize speed and performance or trust and transparency, our top pick is a better bet. If you find PIA attractive because of its low price, note that spending just a little more on TorGuard will buy you much better performance.
If your needs are more serious than watching Netflix or keeping some war kiddie at the coffee shop from snooping on your social media activity, a VPN may not be for you. Many VPNs promise anonymity, but few can actually provide it–and you’re still trusting the VPN provider with access to your traffic, which isn’t ideal. For that, you likely want something more like Tor, which–while not perfect–is a better anonymity solution than VPNs.
MPPE provides only link encryption between the VPN client and the VPN server. It does not provide end-to-end encryption, which is data encryption between the client application and the server hosting the resource or service that is being accessed by the client application. If end-to-end encryption is required, IPSec can be used to encrypt IP traffic from end-to-end after the PPTP tunnel is established.
In addition to running a local test using the server closest physically to my location, I also run tests on US, UK, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, German and French servers (assuming, of course, the VPN provider supports that country). These seven are the locations to which users most commonly connect. You can find the results on each provider’s speed test page.
VPN servers work by routing traffic through a series of external servers before they reach the server, and a traffic flow from one server to another is called a “hop.” To maximize the connection speed, you want the least hops possible. If you do not have a specific reason to connect through another country, your best course of action should connect to the server closest to your current location. For many, it means choosing your country home (and closest to the city,) if you are in a country with multiple VPN servers available. For others, i.e. selecting the country closest to your own.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re on a heavily managed Internet connection, be it government censored or just college Wi-Fi, standard VPN connections may be blocked or throttled due to deep packet inspection, a way for providers to analyze what type of traffic is passing over a network even when they can’t see the actual contents. IVPN’s desktop apps include a checkbox for Obfsproxy, which disguises your traffic as more ho-hum data to get it past those types of blocks—like kids stacked in a trenchcoat to pass as an adult, but more convincing. Our budget pick, TorGuard, and competitor ExpressVPN use different methods to disguise traffic, but we couldn’t find documentation on equivalent features from our other top performers.
FoxyProxy is an add-on to Firefox, Chrome or Internet explorer web browsers that facilitate and streamline proxies and VPN settings. As a complementary payment service, it makes available to the user several VPN servers located in different countries. The installation and configuration of this add-on is simple, and you simply have to be attentive to add the Proxy Server that we like the most, and that does not have to be from the US.
NordVPN, for example, has well over 4,800 servers across the globe. If you live in the US, you're likely to find a nicely uncrowded server close by. The ubiquity of its servers also means you're likely to find a server nearby no matter where you travel. Private Internet Access and TorGuard are notable for being the only VPNs we've yet reviewed that have more than 3,000 servers.
When we test VPNs, we try to get a sense for the impact a service has on internet performance by finding a percentage change between using the VPN and not using the VPN for several speed measurements. First, we run several tests without the VPN active, discard the highest and lowest results, and find the average of what remains. This is our baseline. We then do the same thing, but with the VPN active.
VPN connections help provide the required security to enable the network segment of the human resources department to be physically connected to the intranet. In this configuration, a VPN server can be used to separate the network segments. The VPN server does not provide a direct routed connection between the corporate intranet and the separate network segment. Users on the corporate intranet with appropriate permissions can establish a remote access VPN connection with the VPN server and gain access to the protected resources. Additionally, all communication across the VPN connection is encrypted for data confidentiality. For those users who are not authorized to establish a VPN connection, the separate network segment is hidden from view.
SSTP, Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is designed to work on Windows only. It is considered as a fast secure VPN protocol as it supports up to 256-bit encryption to route the traffic. SSTP uses SSL channels to pass all PPTP and L2TP protocol that makes the browsing journey secure and fast. It is also designed in a way to bypass intense geo-restriction and break the firewalls. The only demerit we see in SSTP fast VPN protocol is its limited support on OS and devices. Although, if you compare PPTP and L2TP parallel to SSTP, you will not experience a high-speed VPN connection, it is to understand that SSTP is more focused on delivery privacy coupled with adequate speed.
When you're using a public Wi-Fi network, even a password-protected one, a VPN is your best friend. That’s because using public hotspots can be rife with hazards. From man-in-the-middle attacks to Wi-Fi sniffing, there are many different hacking methods that snoopers use to intercept your Internet traffic and steal your social media or banking passwords, files and photos.
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.
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.
Think about it this way: If your car pulls out of your driveway, someone can follow you and see where you are going, how long you are at your destination, and when you are coming back. They might even be able to peek inside your car and learn more about you. With a VPN service, you are essentially driving into a closed parking garage, switching to a different car, and driving out, so that no one who was originally following you knows where you went.