OpenVPN: OpenVPN is very secure, open-source and widely used. Most VPN services support it, but except for Chrome OS and Linux, few operating systems do. This protocol can be used in either TCP (web) or UDP (streaming) mode; the latter is sloppier but faster. You'll need either the VPN service's client software or one of the many free alternatives. Either way, you'll still need to pay for the VPN service.
The best VPN services offer a robust balance of functions, server location, connectivity protocols, and price. Some are great for occasional use, others are geared towards surrounding location constraints that companies place on their apps and services, and others are focused on people who download a lot of content and want some privacy while they do.
To stress-test the VPN services, we do things a little differently. Instead of letting Ookla find the best (read: closest) test server, we select a specific test server in Anchorage, Alaska, for both the VPN testing and the baseline test. We then connect to a VPN server in Australia, and calculate a percent change between the two. Usually, this results in a noticeable impact on latency as well as download and upload speeds. It helps give a sense of how the VPN would perform when you're traveling abroad or using the VPN to spoof your location.
In conjunction with information security experts at The New York Times (parent company of Wirecutter), we reached out to our finalists with questions about their internal security practices. We asked how they handled internal security access, how they communicated securely with customers, in what ways they collected reports on security bugs, and of course whether their statements on logging policies matched their marketing and privacy policies. We also considered which companies had public-facing leadership or ownership, and which ones openly supported projects and organizations that promoted Internet security and privacy. (For a full breakdown of trust and VPNs, check out the section above.)
To verify that each service effectively hid our true IP address, we looked at a geolocation tool, DNS leaks, and IPv6 leaks. When connected to each service's UK servers, we noted if we could watch videos on BBC iPlayer, and using US servers we noted if we could stream Netflix. We also visited the sites of Target, Yelp, Cloudflare, and Akamai to check if our VPN IP addresses prevented us from accessing common sites that sometimes blacklist suspicious IP addresses.

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.

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.
Access to restricted websites: Some websites and streaming content may only be accessed in certain countries. For example a TV program might only be broadcast in the UK – Trying to stream this program outside the country will return an error. Through the masking of your IP address, and thus your physical location, free VPN will allow you access to this restricted content and make it appear that you are located in the required region. Learn More
There’s no point to a VPN that interferes with or logs your traffic—your ISP already does that. Free VPNs, such as Facebook’s Onavo, explicitly gather traffic data to resell or use it for marketing. We looked carefully at the privacy policies and marketing claims for each company we considered. In some cases, companies we considered had sworn in court filings that requests for data were impossible to fulfill. In other cases, we asked companies about their internal security and privacy standards to gauge the trustworthiness of their statements on logging.
ProtonVPN is a superb service provided by the developers of Proton Mail. It is a secure VPN provider that lets people use the service on an unlimited basis. This makes it perfect for privately surfing the web on a daily basis. On the downside, it throttles free-users’ bandwidth. This means that the free ProtonVPN service will not provide the speeds necessary for doing data-intensive tasks such as streaming in HD. ProtonVPN is a superb VPN that many people may find useful for unblocking censored news.
Betternet is a straightforward app that connects to a VPN with a single click allowing for access when needed. No registration is required and unlike some other free VPN services there are no data caps. All of this is provided by occasional ads and a promoted premium version which are manageable and discreet. The traditional problem with free VPN access has been slow connection speed and while this is still apparent it is not too much of an issue.
Administrators can automate and schedule auto-static updates by executing the update as a scheduled task. When an auto-static update is requested, the existing auto-static routes are deleted before the update is requested from other routers. If there is no response to the request, then the router cannot replace the routes it has deleted. This might lead to a loss of connectivity to remote networks.
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As the size of the link state database increases, memory requirements and route computation times increase. To address this scaling problem, OSPF divides the network into areas (collections of contiguous networks) that are connected to each other through a backbone area. Each router only keeps a link state database for those areas that are connected to the router. Area border routers (ABRs) connect the backbone area to other areas.
NordVPN also nudged out ExpressVPN in terms of speed, with a few caveats. Most VPN apps select a location, and then the app automatically selects the best server in that location. NordVPN is not so good at this. The auto-select on a couple occasions put us on servers that were complete duds, which resulted in a test result so bad it qualified as a statistical outlier and had to be thrown out. Thankfully, the app allows you to manually select a specific server and view the load capacity on all servers, where we had much better luck. Servers are optimized for specific streaming channels, torrenting, or security measures.
If you need a more affordable VPN than our top pick and don’t have an Apple device—or if you need ChromeOS support—we recommend TorGuard. Its apps aren’t as simple or user-friendly, but TorGuard is a good option for more tech-savvy people or those willing to spend a little more time fiddling with an app. TorGuard’s CEO has built trust by talking with media outlets (including us) and detailing the company’s commitment to a service built around a lack of activity logs. Though the apps aren’t as easy to use as our top pick, the connections were the fastest of any we tested and the company has more than twice as many server locations.
Since we all know the great benefits attached to VPN technology, it is also imperative to understand why our internet speed throttles when we connect to a VPN. A VPN is designed with consideration to protect our identity from hackers and allow us to access the geo-restricted content on the web. To do this, it adds highly encrypted protocols and other security mechanisms to make the technology efficient, and a right fit for netizens.

We spent more than 130 hours researching 32 VPN services, testing 12, interviewing the leadership of five, and consulting information security and legal experts. We found that a VPN shouldn’t be your first step toward online security, but for protecting your info on public Wi-Fi (and in some other cases), IVPN is the most trustworthy provider that offers fast, secure connections and easy setup.
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.
Every VPN will occasionally have a bad day or just a few bad hours where service is slow on a particular server or set of servers. Some VPNs have more high traffic periods or downtime than others. These are the ones to be avoided. Unfortunately, the test period for our reviews rarely lasts more than two weeks, so it’s difficult to predict what VPNs will encounter more issues in the long term at the time of writing.
SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol) is a suitable alternative to standard protocols in areas where VPNs are restricted because it can bypass most firewalls. SSTP is quite similar to OpenVPN but, unlike OpenVPN, it is owned by Microsoft, which means it is not available for independent auditing. Microsoft’s history of cooperating with the NSA does not inspire confidence in this standard.
Ping Rate: Ping rate is the time it takes for your connection to communicate with a desired server. The faster response time between your PC and the server, the more responsive is your connection. Ping rate is measured in milliseconds (ms) and is critical for applications where timing is important. Therefore, you should select a VPN that offers the lowest ping rates.
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.
If you're of the iPhone persuasion, there are a few other caveats to consider for a mobile VPN. Some iPhone VPN apps don't use OpenVPN, even if the VPN service that made the app supports the protocol. That's because Apple requires additional vetting if a company wants to include OpenVPN with its app. VPN app developers have slowly started jumping through those extra hoops and are bringing support for protocols such as OpenVPN to iOS.
Recall that when you're online and connected to an internet application through a VPN, there are a few things happening: Your data from your computer to the VPN service is encrypted by the VPN. Your data from the VPN service to the internet application may or may not be encrypted via https, but it's not encrypted by the VPN service. And your IP address is spoofed. The online application sees the IP address of the VPN service, not of your laptop.
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.
Free VPN services are generally subpar when compared to premium providers, or they’re posited as a ‘trial’ version of the service. Most aim to retain their customer base by getting them to upgrade to the full-fat version, but a free version is still better than browsing without one. On the other hand, lots of free users also help to give a company legitimacy; especially if they’re dropping down five star reviews like it’s going out of fashion. Offering a solid free service is a great way to get some positive attention, and the market is fairly crowded.
But for a company that bills itself as "the world's fastest VPN," Hide.me was kind of mediocre, with our download speeds dropping to a third of the non-VPN baseline. Free users are limited to 2GB of monthly data and can connect to servers in only three countries; either of those limitations would be more acceptable if the network speeds were faster.

The download speed indicates how fast data can be pulled from the server to you. Since the majority of online activity – like loading web pages or streaming videos – consists of downloads, most connections are designed to download much faster than they upload. Download speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps) and, generally, the higher the number the faster the connection.


Even the most expensive VPN plans are very affordable but you will likely have a budget in mind. 12-month plans typically offer the best value and you can reduce the risk of buyer’s remorse by choosing a VPN with a long refund period, preferably 30 days and with no questions asked. These guarantees are much more common than traditional free trials but are essentially the same thing.
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.

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).

VyprVPN is one of very few providers to own and control its network infrastructure. Most VPN providers use 3rd-party companies to host their VPN servers, but not Vypr. This is a big draw for privacy concious users because their data is protected from end-to-end and never leaves VyprVPN's site. We strongly recommend avoiding its PPTP-only basic plan, but VyprVPN otherwise offers a great selection of features, such as a SmartDNS service, robust customer support and port selection. VyprVPNs “Chameleon” stealth technology is great for defeating censorship in places such such as China or Vietnam.
That said, there are many other ways to track movements across the web. There may be, for example, a tracker inside an ad on website A and another tracker from the same company on website B. By correlating data from both of those trackers, it's possible to assemble a picture of an individual's browsing history. Installing a tracker blocker such as TrackOFF or Privacy Badger from the EFF is a good idea. Fortunately, many VPNs also say they block ads and trackers on the network level.
Likewise, if you're connecting via a nation's local carrier, that carrier may be intercepting your traffic, particularly if you're a non-native of that nation. In that situation, if you must connect back to applications and services at home, using a VPN is quite literally the least you can do. Also, keep in mind that if you use your phone's hotspot to connect your computer to the internet, you'll want to use a VPN on your computer as well.
Beyond those two factors, it’s difficult to make blanket statements about what makes a trustworthy VPN. At the bare minimum, a good VPN provider should not collect and keep any logs of its customers’ browsing history. If it does, that puts your privacy at risk should someone access (or even release) those logs without authorization. But deciding when to a trust a logging policy isn’t easy. As the EFF points out, “Some VPNs with exemplary privacy policies could be run by devious people.” You don’t need to have done anything illegal to prefer that law enforcement and criminals alike not have access to a browsing history that may include your bank, medical websites, or that one thing you looked at around 2 a.m. that one time.

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.

CyberGhost is one of the most feature-rich VPNs with special configurations for different use cases, including media streaming, downloads, anti-censorship and safe browsing. Ultimately designed to optimize your connection, this turned out to be quite irrelevant when looking at the download speed, which came out lowest across all testing tools, with an average speed of 2.47 Mb per second.
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.
Every VPN will occasionally have a bad day or just a few bad hours where service is slow on a particular server or set of servers. Some VPNs have more high traffic periods or downtime than others. These are the ones to be avoided. Unfortunately, the test period for our reviews rarely lasts more than two weeks, so it’s difficult to predict what VPNs will encounter more issues in the long term at the time of writing.
Something pretty great about Speedify is that you can use it for free without even making an account. The moment you install and open the software, you're immediately being protected behind a VPN and can do anything a user can, like change the server, toggle encryption on and off, set monthly or daily limits, and easily connect to the fastest server.
Whether you’re you’re sick of your ISP throttling your connection, you want to secure your browsing sessions while on the road, or you just want to download whatever the heck you want without the man on your back, there’s no substitution for a securely deployed Virtual Private Network. Now that you’re armed with the knowledge necessary to pick a good VPN (and with three solid recommendations at that), it’s time to secure your internet traffic once and for all.

My rule of thumb is to use a domestic VPN and connect to servers as close to my location as possible. That said, I have had good nights and bad nights getting online. In my recent trip, I found most hotels' networks to become unusable after about 9pm. My theory is that many of the guests were watching Netflix at that time, completely clogging the hotels' pipes.
For inbound traffic, when the tunneled data is decrypted by the VPN server it is forwarded to the firewall, which employs its filters to allow the traffic to be forwarded to intranet resources. Because the only traffic that is crossing the VPN server is traffic generated by authenticated VPN clients, firewall filtering in this scenario can be used to prevent VPN users from accessing specific intranet resources.
Downloads took four times as long as they did without the VPN switched on, but even then, ProtonVPN was far from the worst among the nine free services we tested. You'll also be limited to VPN connections in only three countries, as opposed to the paid complement of 25, and you won't have access to ProtonVPN's "Secure Core" of super-hardened servers.
Hotspot Shield is the free version of the popular Hotspot Shield Premium VPN. You don’t need to input any information to download and begin using their app. Although the service is totally free, you will stumble upon ads only on the Android app. Other platforms are ads free. This is a major advantage, due to security aspects. Same as on the Premium version, Hotspot Shield committed to a zero log policy. They even confirmed their zero log policy by a 3rd party independent test.
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.
Hotspot Shield is the free version of the popular Hotspot Shield Premium VPN. You don’t need to input any information to download and begin using their app. Although the service is totally free, you will stumble upon ads only on the Android app. Other platforms are ads free. This is a major advantage, due to security aspects. Same as on the Premium version, Hotspot Shield committed to a zero log policy. They even confirmed their zero log policy by a 3rd party independent test.
In addition to blocking malicious sites and ads, some VPNs also claim to block malware. We don't test the efficacy of these network-based protections, but most appear to be blacklists of sites known to host malicious software. That's great, but don't assume it's anywhere near as good as standalone antivirus. Use this feature to complement, not replace, your antivirus.
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