|IPVanish||IPVanish combines solid security and better-than-average privacy. It’s easy for the tech-blind to set up and is affordable.||5|
|NordVPN||NordVPN has hundreds of servers and can be tailored to fit any user’s needs, from gaming, P2P file sharing, data security, and expanded content availability.||4|
|CyberGhost||CyberGhost stands out as a modern Virtual Private Network provider that has a real dedication to user privacy.||4|
|ibVPN||There’s a lot to love about ibVPN, including the no-logs policy, robust encryption, fully-featured intuitive apps, security tweaks, and low-cost custom plans.||4|
|PureVPN||Pure VPN delivers on many fronts – excellent client, good speeds, a broad server coverage, and all the nifty pre-set modes for streaming, P2P, and privacy.||3|
|VPNArea||Though it has its quirks, VPNArea has the building blocks to provide the utmost security and the tools to support the needs of any user.||3|
|CactusVPN||Not the largest network, but the cross-platform software is dead-simple, the security is watertight, and the speeds are decent.||3|
|Hotspot Shield||A US-based VPN from AnchorFree. Hotspot Shield VPN comes as an app and a browser extension in both free and paid packages.||3|
|TunnelBear||If you’re after ease of use and no-hassle experience, you just might find TunnelBear an ideal solution for the moment.||4|
|Private Internet Access||This American-based company has thousands of servers worldwide and is one of the most trusted names in the VPN space.||4|
|Ivacy||Few match up to Ivacy in terms of security, speed, and simplicity.||3|
|SaferVPN||Complete with 24/7 live chat support, comprehensive guides, a kill switch, and tops it off with a broad range of VPN protocols, including OpenVPN.||4|
|hide.me||They have made a commitment to zero logs storage, gigabit speeds, and simplicity, which sets them apart in the industry.||4|
|VPN Unlimited||From slow speeds and no choice of which server you use to poor marks for security and a very basic UI – a mediocre choice in VPNs.||4|
|VyprVPN||Well-established, user-friendly and solidly secure, VyprVPN seemed to be evolving before my eyes.||4|
|TorGuard||Solid encryption and P2P file sharing, TorGuard offers a very good product with extremely fast speeds in the U.S. It also offers plenty of features for security buffs.||3|
|HideMyAss!||A VPN with a great name and fun graphics, but if that’s your favorite thing about it, you may want to look for different software.||3|
|TigerVPN||It has great mobile apps and a useful help and lookup tool to make configuration and customization a breeze.||4|
|VPN Shield||VPN Shield has been designed to be easy to use and offers a variety of subscription options that provide a lot of flexibility.||3|
|Windscribe||As more are looking to use VPNs, niche VPN services are entering the market to capture different user buckets, like this one.||4|
|Astrill||The features look good: many servers support P2P, the protocol choice is ample, encryption is strong, and there’s a free trial if you’re on the fence.||4|
|SpyOff||A decent network of 395 servers in 21 countries. The technical specs look good – OpenVPN, 256-bit encryption, no traffic logs, and a free trial.||3|
|Mullvad||Owned by Swedish-based Amagicom AB, a well-known cybersecurity company. Mullvad is Swedish for a mole – a suitable name for a VPN with a strong stance on privacy.||4|
|Boleh||They support OpenVPN and L2TP and provide native clients for popular platforms. Robust encryption and privacy, make Boleh a feasible option for long-term.||4|
|Hideman||They use 256-bit encryption, PPTP, LTP, and OpenVPN, offer an intuitive cross-platform client, free no-registration trial, and even a Warrant Canary page.||3|
|SurfEasy||With over 1000 servers in 28 countries, SurfEasy offers excellent speeds, supports torrenting, and deploys OpenVPN and 256-bit encryption by default.||4|
|Freedome||A reliable VPN that’s easy-to-use, flexible, cross-platform, and lightweight. Not be the largest network, but the speeds and bandwidth are decent.||4|
|AirVPN||AirVPN is an Italy-based company that’s earned quite a reputation in the VPN industry.||4|
|Le VPN||Le VPN is based in Hong Kong and provides all of the standard VPN security and privacy features – plus a lot of extras.||3|
|Zoog||It doesn’t have the best available performance or the most robust set of features, but it’s easy to install, use, and supported on a variety of platforms and devices.||3|
|Slick||A US-based VPN that’s been on the market since 2012. It’s lesser-known, but they boast fairly decent server coverage of 145 locations spanning 46 countries.||3|
|Perfect Privacy||Heavily geared toward privacy protection, Perfect Privacy offers the best encryption protocols the industry has to offer, backed by unique functionality, cross-platform support, and servers in 23 countries.||4|
|Zenmate||Zenmate’s simplistic UI and fairly acceptable performance coupled with the ability to unblock popular streaming services make it a feasible proposition if you’re after entertainment and some privacy.||3|
VPNs: What They Are and How They Work
- A VPN works by funneling your internet connection through a private server based in a remote location, rather than through your local internet service provider (ISP). By rerouting your connection through a “digital tunnel”, a VPN encrypts the data sent back and forth from your computer, making it unreadable by outside parties. Most VPNs have thousands of these types of servers located in countries all around the world.
- A VPN masks your actual IP address, and gives you a new one tied to the remote server that you connect to. Normally, when you connect to the internet, your IP address gives a lot of information about your location and internet activity. Your browsing habits, purchase history, the types of links you click on, and more, can all be traced back to your IP address. However, by channeling your network traffic through a VPN’s remote server, you are given a different IP address that makes it seem as if you are connecting from the VPN server’s location rather than your own, whether it be in a nearby city or a foreign country. By masking your true IP address, a VPN protects the data being sent back and forth from your computer and renders your true location undetectable. VPNs offer the closest thing to private internet access.
- Most VPNs use military-grade 256-bit AES encryption to encrypt your data, rendering it unreadable. Remote-access VPNs create a virtual tunnel from one network to another, most often through the use of point-to-point protocol (PPP). PPP is a data link layer that creates a direct communication link between two routers without any host or network interference between the two links.
- VPNs typically use one of these three PPP protocols:
- PPTP (Point-to point Tunneling Protocol)
- L2F (Layer 2 Forwarding)
- L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol)
Why use a VPN?
There are many reasons to use a VPN beyond the cybersecurity benefits. In addition to anonymizing your internet activity and increasing your online privacy, a VPN can be used to:
- Protect your connection while logging into a public wi-fi network at a coffee shop or a library. Logging in from a public hotspot is a notoriously dangerous proposition that leaves you vulnerable to attacks from malicious parties and even puts you at risk of identity theft. Using a VPN while connecting to the internet from a public hotspot encrypts your data and protects you from these attacks.
- Bypass geographical lockouts on regionally-restricted websites and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Many streaming services have vastly different libraries depending on where you connect to the internet from, or are locked altogether in many regions. What’s more, some countries, such as China and Iran, have a national firewall in place that blocks people from visiting popular sites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. By routing your internet connection through a remote VPN server outside of the country or region, you can bypass these restrictions and make it appear as if you are connecting from the server’s location, rather than your true location, allowing you to access geo-restricted websites and streaming services.
- Torrent files freely without being tracked by your internet service provider (ISP). Your internet service provider often monitors your P2P file sharing and use of torrenting apps, which occasionally results in a nasty cease-and-desist letter or disruption of service. A VPN will mask this activity from your ISP, allowing you to engage in P2P file sharing without consequence.
- Prevent against government or police surveillance. The Edward Snowden leaks of 2013 prove that the NSA and other government agencies are actively cooperating with telecommunications companies to spy on people and record their activities on the internet and in other situations. By using a VPN to mask your internet connection, you protect yourself against the threat of government surveillance.
Are VPNs secure?
Although web destinations cannot see your true IP address, your internet service provider will be able to see packets flowing from your computer to the VPN server. While they may not be able to see the exact content of these packets, they can make broad conclusions about the kind of data that is being transferred, whether it be streaming video, visiting web pages, or torrenting files. Yet, they can’t do much with this kind of basic presumptive data.
However, even with a VPN, you are vulnerable to HTTP cookies when you visit websites, regardless of whether or not your IP address is masked. The same goes for malware and computer viruses.
So, even though a VPN protects you against surveillance, it’s nevertheless important to be vigilant about the types of websites you visit and files you download. Always use effective anti-virus software in addition to a VPN, and download the latest updates for your operating system.
The average cost of a VPN
As with other internet subscription services, the price of using a VPN goes down considerably when you commit to a longer subscription period rather than paying on a month-to-month basis. We calculated the average prices of our top 10 VPNs for when you pay for them monthly and when you commit to a longer subscription with an upfront payment.
Here’s what they average prices come out to:
- Average cost of a month-to month subscription: $11.97 a month
- Average monthly cost when committing to a 12-month subscription: $6.54 a month
As you can see, across the board, those that opt to pay for a year’s service in advance experience a significant average discount of 45%. Some of the top VPN providers, like NordVPN (3 years: $3.49 a month), Cyberghost (3 years: $2.75 a month) and Surfshark (2 years: $2.49 a month) offer even more substantial discounts when you commit to a 2 or 3 year subscription term. The advantages of paying for a longer term subscription upfront are obvious.
However, the issue is that you don’t truly know whether you’ll be satisfied with a VPN until you try it, making the hesitance to make a long term commitment understandable. Thankfully, most of the major VPN services offer 30-day money-back guarantees that are virtually free of predatory conditions and fine print, allowing you to try a VPN for an extended period free-of-risk.