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.
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.
Many companies proudly display “warrant canaries” on their websites. These are digitally signed notices that say something to the effect of “We have never been served a warrant for traffic logs or turned over customer information.” Law enforcement can prohibit a company from discussing an investigation, but in theory, it can’t compel a company to actively lie. So the theory goes that when the warrant canary dies—that is, the notice disappears from the website because it’s no longer truthful—so does privacy. The EFF supports this legal position, though other highly regarded companies and organizations think warrant canaries are helpful only for informing you after the damage has been done. Such notices may provide a nice sense of security, and they are important to some people, but we didn’t consider them essential.
Max Eddy is a Software Analyst, taking a critical eye to Android apps and security services. He's also PCMag's foremost authority on weather stations and digital scrapbooking software. When not polishing his tinfoil hat or plumbing the depths of the Dark Web, he can be found working to discern the 100 Best Android Apps. Prior to PCMag, Max wrote... See Full Bio
Compatibility – ExpressVPN is compatible with a wide range of devices and operating system. This includes Windows, OS X, Linux, and Chrome OS. In mobile phones and tablets, it is compatible with Android, iOS, Amazon Kindle Fire. It is also compatible with gaming and streaming consoles such as Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox One, and Roku. In short, I don’t think there is any other VPN provider that has such a wide cross-compatibility with different platforms.
VPN technology was developed as a way to allow remote users and branch offices to securely access corporate applications and other resources. To ensure safety, data travels through secure tunnels, and VPN users must use authentication methods -- including passwords, tokens or other unique identification procedures -- to gain access to the VPN server.

Chrome starts to mark old-fashioned HTTP sites as ‘Not Secure’ in the address bar. If you have already updated Chrome to version 68 this week, you would probably be surprise at seeing a huge amount of HTTP sites are not secure overnight. That’s to let you know that the site you’re visiting is not HTTPS-enabled, and the traffic is being transmitted over the old, less secure HTTP protocol. That means a hacker could spy on the data you’re sending and receiving from the site in question (such as passwords and credit card numbers), and even hijack the connection to run a phishing scam or redirect you to a malware-laden page.
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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.
Unlike the separate tunnels created for each voluntary client, multiple dial-up clients can share a tunnel between the FEP and the tunnel server. When a second client dials into the access server (FEP) to reach a destination for which a tunnel already exists, there is no need to create a new instance of the tunnel between the FEP and tunnel server. Instead, the data traffic for the new client is carried over the existing tunnel. Since there can be multiple clients in a single tunnel, the tunnel is not terminated until the last user of the tunnel disconnects.
A VPN, or virtual private network, is not a magic bullet for online privacy, but it may be a useful tool in some circumstances. A VPN encrypts all the Internet traffic between your computer and the VPN server, preventing anyone on your local network, or connection points along the way, from monitoring or modifying your traffic. Beyond the VPN server (in other words, on the rest of the way to whatever Internet server you're connecting to), your traffic mixes with traffic from other people on the VPN and the rest of the Internet. Ideally, that makes your traffic traceable only to the VPN server, not to your home, office, or computer. Though the extra steps and encryption layers slow down any Internet connection, the best VPN providers have connections that are speedy enough to keep browsing and online services snappy.
Using a VPN tends to slow down internet connections simply because doing so adds more steps to the process of transferring data over the web. Every time you click a link in your browser, it sends a request through your local network, out onto the public internet, and to a web server that responds with the requested information. With a VPN, the path is a little more circuitous, and that's why so many of you don't use a VPN.
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.
Second on our list of fast VPN protocol is L2TP. It is more similar to PPTP protocol but with added layer of encryption that makes is more powerful in terms of security. L2TP/IPSec is easy to setup and considerably delivers high-speed VPN experience from any internet-connected devices. It comes built-in to Microsoft Windows, Android, and Apple devices. However, its offering is not extended to open-source routers and consoles. L2TP/IPSec is also considered as fast secure VPN protocol as it supports 256-bit encryption packets. The use of L2TP/IPSec protocol is more in practice for commercial uses to secure all the outgoing and incoming communication. It also acts as an alternative fast VPN protocol where PPTP fail to perform due to firewalls.
Like ProtonVPN, the VPN service built in to the Opera web browser gives you an unlimited amount of free data per month. But its network download and upload speeds were awful (download speeds were 3 percent of the baseline speed), and it's not even a real VPN; it's just a browser-specific encrypted proxy service. (The OperaVPN mobile apps no longer work.)
Although it has a no logs policy, the vendor collects user activity data and could opt to share them with third parties. The service can be used for torrenting but the company warns against copyright infringements. One weak spot is the service’s customer support. It has no live chat support and it takes more than 24 hours to get a reply. However, a knowledge base is available in the company’s website.
Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) is a combination of PPTP and Layer 2 Forwarding (L2F), a technology developed by Cisco Systems, Inc. Rather than having two incompatible tunneling protocols competing in the marketplace and causing customer confusion, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) mandated that the two technologies be combined into a single tunneling protocol that represents the best features of PPTP and L2F. L2TP is described in RFC 2661 in the IETF RFC Database.
Known for its speed, ease of use and native clients, HideIPVPN supports Windows, Mac, iOS and Android platforms. Its Smart DNS service is known to be able to unblock some sites. The service supports a variety of protocols, which include SSTP, OpenVPN, SoftEther, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec. With the service, torrenting is allowed although only on German and Dutch servers, this is due to the fact that it only has seven server locations in North America and Europe.

Servers – IPVanish has a moderately-sized server network of 1,000 servers. Geographically, it covers 60 regions around the world. Although this is relatively small than the VPNs provided above, this is still better than many other VPN providers. IPVanish provides a lot of control to the user when it comes to selecting a server. You can filter VPNs by country, city, and latency. The best thing about it is that IPVanish is remarkably fast in establishing a connection with any server location of your choice.


We also dove deeper into the desktop apps of the top-performing services. Great apps have automatic location selection, easy-to-use designs, and detailed but uncluttered settings panels. We set up each service’s Android app on a Samsung Galaxy S8 running Android 7.0 Nougat. We took into account how easy each one was to set up and connect, along with what options were available in the settings pane.

Tunneling is a network technology that enables the encapsulation of one type of protocol packet within the datagram of a different protocol. For example, Windows VPN connections can use Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) packets to encapsulate and send private network traffic, such as TCP/IP traffic over a public network such as the Internet.
ExpressVPN is also one of the best VPN services available for streaming. Whether you are using a VPN with Kodi or streaming Netflix with a VPN, ExpressVPN offers great apps for streaming devices and high-speed bandwidth for HD videos. Their customer service is also top-notch, with 24/7 live chat support and a 30 day money-back guarantee with all subscription plans. [Learn more >]
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I recommend always using a VPN when using someone else's Wi-Fi network. Here's a good rule of thumb: If you're away from the office or home, and you're using someone else's Wi-Fi (even that of a family member or a friend, because you never know if they've been compromised), use a VPN. It's particularly important if you're accessing a service that has personally identifying information. Remember, a lot goes on behind the scenes, and you never really know if one or more of your apps are authenticating in the background and putting your information at risk.


The downsides to the free plan are that you'll see more ads, at least on the Android app, your choice of connections will be limited to Hotspot Shield's U.S. servers and you won't be able to get around geographic restrictions on Netflix, Hulu or BBC iPlayer. We were also a bit annoyed that the desktop software tries to hide the free plan when you launch it for the first time.


Despite some of the drawbacks, ZorroVPN is a very interesting service if you are looking for advanced online anonymity. With their OpenVPN file config generator, you can create unique VPN chains with the Tor network and proxies (up to four hops). Unlike with Perfect Privacy, however, these multi-hop configurations cannot be dynamically changed within the VPN client.
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.
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.
Whereas most providers say they log nothing, that’s not always the case. Some record very little data like the day you subscribed, the amount of data you’ve consumed, and delete those logs when you end the session. Other providers log your IP address, the servers you used, and store those logs. If they’re based in the US, UK or any other country with data retention laws, they can be compelled to hand over that data to law enforcement.

In short, latency is a time between a request sends and the response receives; it’s often called ping time. Factor that affects latency includes; the distance your request travels. It’s important when playing video games with a VPN, lower the latency, more responsive the experience will, with less lag. Download and upload speeds measure the amount of data is moved over your internet connection. These are measured in Megabits per second (Mbps); it shows the data runs through a network in a given frame of time. The more, the better. Simple.
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.
Hello Nathan, We are sorry for all the inconvenience you've experienced. Bunch of different factors might interfere with how VPN works: antivirus systems, firewalls, router settings, previous VPN services installed play their role just to name a few. Your mentioned behavior is uncommon, in most cases couple of mouse clicks is enough to get our apps up and running; however sometimes additional troubleshooting is required. This is why our customer support team is available 24/7, they aim to provide our clients with the best possible experience and help in any way we can. Please don't hesitate and reach out to them in case of any future issue.
At $7.50/month and $58.49 for a year, they're obviously trying to move you towards their yearly program. We awarded the company points for Bitcoin support, and their money-back guarantee. We're a little disappointed that they only allow a 7-day trial, rather than a full 30-days. The company is generous, with five simultaneous connections. They also picked up points for their connection kill switch feature, a must for anyone serious about remaining anonymous while surfing. 
For two years running, Private Internet Access has performed the best in our network tests and remained the cheapest full-fledged VPN service we've tried. It has more than 3,000 servers worldwide, supports platforms ranging from Windows and Mac to open-source routers, and lets you customize your tunneling and encryption protocols. You can pay in bitcoin, and you don't have to provide your real name.
Speedify the third and final free VPN service that we recommend thinking about signing up to. It's a little different than the two options above in that it's designed from the ground up to absolutely maximise your connection speed. So if you're on a laptop with ethernet and wifi connections, it'll utilize both to pull bits out of the internet to the max. If you're on a phone it can use your 4G and WiFi connections at the same time to do the same time - to maximise throughput of data, improving download speeds and render times. In our tests this all proved to be more than just hot air - it really did work to speed up our download and browsing speeds. At the same time it's doing all the things you'd want from a VPN, ecrypting and obscuring, so you're private, safe and anonymous. The catch here is that you only get 1GB of free data. You get 4GB in the first month but that drops down to 1GB after that which just isn't enough if you're planning to use it a lot.
VPN uses robust protocols to safeguard netizens’ activity from snoopers and hackers with the help of military-grade encryption packets which causes a slight, or sometimes a visible reduction in your Internet speed. But does that mean using a VPN will compromise your connection speed? Not necessary! Though the speed of a VPN always depends on individuals’ usage, it can be an essential element to help you decide which one to buy. That is where your search for the fastest VPN service or high-speed VPNs starts. However, you need to be selective while choosing a fast VPN as it involves various factors that influence the speed of the connection.
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.

The first runs in the VPN client app on your computer, so if the VPN connection fails while the VPN client app is running, that VPN client app can turn off the computer or mobile device's internet connection. However, if your VPN connection has failed because the VPN client app itself crashed, then the kill switch may not work, and your IP and data may leak onto the internet.

Additionally, moves from the FCC to remove rules regarding net neutrality have raised questions about VPNs. Without net neutrality rules, it's possible that ISPs could charge companies extra for access to "fast lanes" that would deliver content faster. ISPs could also create cable TV-style packages where you pay for individual access to websites. A VPN might be able to restore net neutrality, somewhat, by tunneling past ISP restrictions. Unfortunately, we'll have to see how all this plays out before we can say for certain how much a VPN might help.

Servers – The number of servers and geographical distribution of these servers is another important factor that determines the quality of a VPN. The greater the server network, the fewer problems you are likely to encounter such as overcrowded servers and downtime. A strong server infrastructure signifies a high standard of VPN performance standard.
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 .
If the only use case you care about is securely accessing your home network to, then you absolutely do not need to invest in a VPN service provider. This isn’t even a case of the tool being overkill for the job; it’s a case of the tool being wrong for the job. A remote VPN service provider gives you secure access to a remote network (like an exit node in Amsterdam), not access to your own network.
This could be bad. I'm not terribly concerned if Comcast discovers my secret passion for muscle cars and I get more ads for car customizing kits. It might be annoying, but I'm not doing anything I really want to hide. Where the problem could occur is if ISPs start inserting their own ads in place of ads by, say, ZDNet. That could cut off the revenue that keeps websites alive, and that could have very serious repercussions.

Here you should remember that before being sent and received over the Internet, any data needs to first be split into packets. To ensure each data packet stays secure, a VPN service wraps it in an outer packet, which is then encrypted through a process called encapsulation. This exterior packet keeps the data secure during the transfer, and it is the core element of the VPN tunnel. When the data arrives at the VPN server, the outer packet is removed to access the data within, which requires a decryption process.
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.
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.
Torrenting/P2P Support – IPVanish makes all torrent websites and clients accessible. There is no problem with IPVanish as far as support for P2P networking is considered. However, the fact that IPVanish is based in the US and subject to its laws makes it a poor choice if your main purpose of having a VPN is to download torrents. This is because companies have no power against agencies and if they are trying to monitor a specific user, the company would probably have no choice but to comply and leak user data. In short, do not use IPVanish for torrenting to ensure your safety.
We used to advise people to do banking and other important business over their cellular connection when using a mobile device, since it is generally safer than connecting with a public Wi-Fi network. But even that isn't always a safe bet. Researchers have demonstrated how a portable cell tower, such as a femtocell, can be used for malicious ends. The attack hinges on jamming the LTE and 3G bands, which are secured with strong encryption, and forcing devices to connect with a phony tower over the less-secure 2G band. Because the attacker controls the fake tower, he can carry out a man-in-the-middle attack and see all the data passing over the cellular connection. Admittedly, this is an exotic attack, but it's far from impossible.
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