Privacy and security are on everyone's mind these days partly because the pandemic has spurred on a flurry of new cybercrime. With more people working at home than ever before, hackers are having a field day. One way you can ensure your online activities and home network stay safe is a VPN.
VPNs of the past were used to connect to your employer's network while working from home or traveling. Not anymore! VPNs are widely used by individuals, companies, and IT techs to remain anonymous and protect their data.
These days you can't be too careful when it comes to protecting your personal information. Since most of us spend a lot of time online banking, collaborating, shopping, and consuming content, it makes sense to take that extra step to secure our privacy and keep the bad guys out. When setting up your home office, be sure to include a VPN in the mix.
However, when shopping for the best VPN, the list of options can seem overwhelming and confusing. Our list of the best VPN services will help you choose one that is right for you and your situation.
The Best VPN Service You Must Have to Keep You Safe
There are dozens of VPN services out there that you can choose from. However, to help you make an informed decision, we have compared them all and narrowed down the best VPN services for you.
- Hotspot Shield
- Private Internet Access
- HideMyAss (HMA)
- Pure VPN
- Bitdefender Premium
IT techs and reviewers all seem to agree that the best VPN on the market is ExpressVPN. Its combination of features and price offer a value that is hard to beat. However, ExpressVPN's enterprise-level service comes at a cost, and it's not cheap ($99.95/year). However, you can try Express VPN for free for 30 days.
ExpressVPN includes all the features you need like super-fast connections, complete privacy (they never track or store your information), a vast network of servers to connect to, and some very sophisticated security options, including high-level encryption and independent audits to ensure security. They wipe each server clean every time it reboots, and nothing is saved to the hard drive; everything runs in RAM. Additionally, to prevent any malware or other malicious intrusions, they reinstall the server software stack when it starts up.
The service boasts of not only hiding your IP address but also "mixing your traffic with that of other users; ExpressVPN also encrypts your traffic between secure VPN servers and your computer, so that it can't be read by third parties in between, such as your internet service provider or your local Wi-Fi operator." They use military-standard AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption with 256-bit keys. For additional flexibility, the service allows you to manually or automatically switch protocols between IKEv2, Lightway, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, Wireguard, PPTP, and SSTP. These protocols help guard you against man-in-the-middle attacks.
ExpressVPN's network is impressive, with 3000+ servers in 160 locations across the globe in 94 countries. Their website lists each one, so you can check ahead to be sure they have servers in your area.
As a final failsafe, ExpressVPN has "Network Lock," which is a kill switch that protects your data in the event that your VPN connection drops, or you lose power. It's included in all versions on all platforms.
- A huge network of servers.
- Supports split-tunneling.
- Supports OpenVPN.
- Excellent privacy and security options.
- Easy-to-use interface.
- Super-fast connections.
- Works on all devices/platforms.
- Not easy for novices.
- May be too many features for the average user.
Another top-notch VPN product on the market is NordVPN. Nord is a well-respected name in the security game, and software reviewers consider this one to be the best VPN service out there.
NordVPN is reliable and secure with some unique features. It has a wide network of servers (5,400+) with more than 5,000 IP addresses. They host 62 servers in 59 countries. The company is based out of Panama.
Although NordVPN can be pricey, if you sign up for a pre-paid 2-year deal, you will save 68% and pay only $3.71/month, which is quite affordable. Even better, you can try it for 30-days, and if you aren't happy, they will refund your money.
You can have six simultaneous connections at one time, which is more than some of the competitors allow. Also, if you want, you can choose to have a dedicated IP address assigned to you. There is also a kill switch built in to protect you if you get disconnected. Leak tests showed no instances of data exposure.
In independent testing, NordVPN did well, ranking high with fast speeds and no inconsistencies or interruptions of service. They also promise that they do not log or track your data ever.
As expected, NordVPN uses military-grade encryption (AES 256-bit). Its built-in CyberSec technology helps protect you against malicious websites and drive-by malware.
NordVPN makes it easy to purchase their service in box form at local retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and other stores. Even if you close the app, the VPN continues to run and protect you when you are online. If you lose connection, the kill switch activates, terminating your internet connection until it resolves.
According to their website, NordVPN is backed by some heavy hitters like Wired Magazine, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Forbes, TED, and the BBC. They also have tons of testimonials on their website so you can read about other actual users’ experiences with the tool.
Another prominent feature for NordVPN is that not only does it work on every platform, but it also protects your IoT devices like smart TVs, your router, and other appliances. We think that NordVPN is the best VPN for Mac.
- 5,400 + servers.
- Double VPN.
- Dedicated IP.
- Speedy/reliable service.
- Unlimited bandwidth.
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Supports every platform.
- Busy interface.
Surfshark is another excellent contender for the best VPN and although usually it is pretty expensive, they are offering a huge discount where you can save 81%, bringing the price down to $2.49/month. The normal price is $12.95/month which is pretty steep for this type of service.
Surfshark's combination of great features, especially the unlimited connected devices, earns high praise from technology reviewers. One nice feature is you can whitelist websites and apps to bypass the VPN and still stay safe. This feature works well for banking apps that already have built-in safety and security measures to keep your logins intact.
You can stay connected and stream to your heart's content because Surfshark includes 15 Netflix libraries to use when you are overseas.
Some other great features include built-in malware protection. Surfshark prevents tracking cookies and preserves your online anonymity so you can browse with complete confidence that privacy. Surfshark does not monitor or log your online activity.
The service also includes a kill switch to terminate your internet connection if you lose VPN connectivity and uses the highest level of encryption. You only need to purchase one subscription, and you can connect as many devices as you want. This is a huge bonus feature.
The app works on all your devices, and most platforms, including FireTV. They have 3,200 servers running in 65 countries. Each server comes with private DNS and leak protection using an IPv4 stack. Surfshark also includes a "Camouflage Mode" that even masks your information from your own ISP (internet service provider). With Multihop, you can connect to different countries at once. Your IP is always hidden, and you get to enjoy the best in security with AES-256-GCM encryption.
Surfshark's website offers plenty of resources for beginners, including FAQs, tutorials, a troubleshooting section, and a blog with helpful articles. If you run into trouble you can open a live chat window to receive support.
- Multihop and split-tunneling support.
- Unlimited connected devices.
- Fast speed.
- Excellent user-interface.
- 15+ Netflix libraries.
- Works on all platforms.
- P2P and BitTorrent support.
- CleanWeb feature.
- Regular price is expensive.
CyberGhost is another excellent alternative when choosing a VPN service. The service works best on the Windows platform, but it is offered on Mac, iOS, and many others. CyberGhost's website boasts that you can "unblock content from 6530+ countries."
Marketed primarily as a streaming resource, make no mistake, CyberGhost doesn't skimp on the privacy and security features. They have a strict no-logs policy where you can enjoy a complete private browsing experience.
CyberGhost offers a few billing plans to choose from, ranging from a pre-paid annual plan to monthly billing, and the price varies from $2.25-$12.99/month. However, all their plans come with unlimited bandwidth and traffic, making it a pretty good value if you pay for a full year.
Independent tests show they rank very well with speed and reliability. The service is very easy to use with a simple interface packed with features. Most prominent is their quick and easy access to Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services in blocked areas. They also allow access to BitTorrent and other such services.
CyberGhost has downloads for dozens of devices and platforms, including FireTV, Roku, and other smart TVs. Some other useful features are one-click connect, secure file sharing, and smart rules so you can configure your VPN to work the way you want it to.
CyberGhost hides your IP from prying eyes; you also get a clean, easy-to-use interface and 256-bit military-grade encryption.
When you connect to public Wi-Fi, you are at risk. CyberGhost VPN helps to keep you safe from man-in-the-middle attacks and other intercepts. CyberGhost has an extensive network with more than 6,500 servers in 90 countries to serve its 30+ million custom base. One of their biggest selling points is that you can use the service to easily access restricted content from places like YouTube, Pandora, Facebook, Spotify, and more.
- Supports BitTorrent.
- Good speed and reliability.
- Excellent desktop apps.
- 6,530 servers in 90 counties.
- Use it on 7 devices at once.
- 30k+ million users.
- 45-day money-back guarantee.
- No independent audits.
- iOS app not as powerful.
- Expensive with monthly billing.
VPN testers claim that Hotspot Shield has some of the fastest speeds available. Combine that with their easy-to-use interface, and you have a clear winner. As an added bonus Hotspot Shield is very affordable and won't break the bank, so you can stay safe.
Although Hotspot Shield has a really decent free product, their paid products are even better. The service has 1,800 servers in 80 countries which is plenty. You can connect up to 5 devices simultaneously, and the service supports Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux.
Be forewarned that the free version includes ads. If you are using your VPN for streaming, you cannot go wrong with Hotspot Shield. Its blazing fast speeds are great for downloading, streaming, and torrenting. It also has a smart feature where you can whitelist certain websites that you can bypass the VPN with.
The only drawback is that if absolutely privacy and secrecy are your goal, Hotspot Shield may not fit the bill. They do admit to some logging of sessions, bandwidth, IP addresses, and domains. Their pricing is affordable, starting at $2.99/month and then up to $12.99/month if you pay monthly.
Some tech giants like Tech Radar, PC Magazine, FastCompany, ZDNet, and PCWorld endorse Hotspot Shield as a good value. They boast of 115 virtual locations on their website so that you can stream blocked content from ESPN, Netflix, YouTube, and more.
Hotspot Shield also offers military-grade encryption, and they hide your IP from hackers and thieves. However, the mobile apps need some work, you cannot manually install the VPN on some routers, and there is no independent auditing to ensure security and privacy.
Users find the service to be incredibly fast and reliable, which is most important. The website does specify that they do not log or store any personally identifiable information (PII) that could be used for identity theft. They also offer outstanding 24/7 live tech support if you need it.
- Offers a free version.
- Blazing-fast speeds.
- Super easy to use.
- 45-day trial period.
- 24/7 support.
- Router support.
- Split-tunnel support.
- Can't manually install on some routers.
- Some logging of your sessions, bandwidth, domains, and IP addresses.
- Mobile apps need some work.
- No independent auditors.
IPVanish is another top player in the VPN game with affordable fees and impressive stats. If you are looking for a cheap VPN with solid speed with good customizable apps, IPVanish is an excellent choice.
They offer more than 40,000 shared IP addresses and own and manage 1,600 servers. The service unlocks access to Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube. Another bonus is you can connect to it with an unlimited number of devices in 75+ countries. Another great feature is that if you need support, you can access it directly through the mobile apps. On the downsize, users experienced some issues with unblocking of Amazon content.
You can sign up for an account with IPVanish for $4.99 for the first month then $9.99 for the remaining months. However, if you pay for an entire year, you get a discount and pay only $3.75/month. The service also offers storage to go with the plan for an additional cost.
IPVanish offers a free trial for 30 days so you can try the service out before buying. They do not limit your downloads or speed or cap how many devices you can connect. They offer 24/7 live chat and phone support.
Not only do they offer military-grade encryption, but they also mesh together shared IPs making it impossible for anyone to pick yours out of the mix. The service blocks IP tracking and lets you browse anonymously to your heart's content. It even supports a less well-known media streaming service called Kodi (previously known as XBMC). The service also includes a kill switch. If you lose connection, you will not be exposed. We think IPVanish is the best VPN for iPhone.
- Owns its own servers.
- 1,600 servers and 40,000+ IP addresses.
- Excellent mobile apps.
- Good, solid speeds and performance.
- Works on Mac, Android, Windows, iOS, and Linux.
- Support built-in on apps.
- A bit pricey when you pay monthly.
- Some users find the interface hard to understand.
- A bit glitchy with Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer unblocking.
Although Private Internet Access, PIA for short, is not the fastest nor the cheapest VPN, it is still quite good and noted for its crazy number of servers. PIA offers users 34,000 servers in 99 countries. That is way more than any other service.
Private Internet Access is also no slouch in the privacy department offering WireGuard, and an excellent Chrome extension to keep you safe by blocking cookies and third-party tracking.
The service works on almost all platforms, including Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux. Tech reviewers love the extra features included in the product apps. Users love the service as well, and you are allowed to connect up to 10 devices simultaneously while using the VPN.
The downside is that the speeds, although not slow, won't break any speed limits. Gamers and torrenters may require more power and performance, but for those who just want to hide their IP and enjoy private browsing, PIA does the trick.
You can get PIA for as low as $2.69/month when you prepay for a full two years. Otherwise, you will pay $9.95/month, or if you prepay for one year, the price drops to $3.33/month. They offer a 30day risk-free trial and money-back guarantee. They are also giving away two months for free as a bonus discount. As another bonus, they throw in Boxcryptor cloud security license and email breach monitoring for free.
As part of their service, PIA boasts of WireGuard and OpenVPN as options. The service also blocks ads, trackers, and malware to keep you safe. They claim not to track you or keep any type of activity logs, and they support the SOCKS5 Proxy. You can set up the service quickly, and it is super easy to use.
- 34,000+ servers.
- Works on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux.
- Great mobile apps.
- Good value for what you get.
- Quick setup.
- Easy to use.
- Not the fastest speeds.
- No independent security audits.
Windscribe is another excellent option when you are evaluating VPNs for privacy and protection. The best thing about Windscribe is they are not complacent with the status quo, and they continue to improve with every new version.
Windscribe offers users a free version with 10GB of monthly data. The free version is quite usable. Beyond that, they have paid plans that offer a lot more, including unlimited device connections (always a bonus) that not every other service offers. The service works on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and even things like Amazon Fire TV and Kodi TV. They have hundreds of servers worldwide and make it easy to watch Netflix from anywhere using their custom "Windflix" servers.
Another big benefit of using this service is its standout Google Chrome extension which reviewers call "the best in the industry." Using it, you can be protected without even installing the desktop software. The couple of negatives when using Windscribe are that their performance is not as great as some other services. However, if speed is not your main concern, then it might be perfect for you. They also lack live chat support, which many of the others have 24/7.
The service is based in Canada, and you can pay for a subscription with Bitcoin; you don't even have to provide an email address. Their pricing structure is pretty simple, $9/month when you pay month-to-month, and then $4.08/month when you prepay for an entire year. They also offer a custom plan option that you can build by adding and removing features.
Windscribe offers dedicated IP addresses and even team accounts if you need to use it with a group.
- Supports WireGuard.
- Excellent security features.
- Connect an unlimited number of devices.
- Free version is pretty good.
- Good browser extensions.
- Dedicated IPs.
- No live support.
- Not the fastest VPN.
ProtonVPN is another VPN that gets better all the time. They offer hands down the best free plan with unlimited connections. The VPN unlocks Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, and Hulu streaming services for overseas users.
They only have 1,200 servers in 55 locations, but it seems to work pretty well, and they are constantly adding to their network. The speed is not stellar, but the features make up for it. They just drastically improved their iOS, Android, and Linux apps, and they are elegant and easy-to-use.
Switzerland-based ProtonVPN takes customer privacy very seriously, and they state that they never track your online activities or save browsing data. The service supports ProtonMail to help activists and journalists remain anonymous as they work and connect.
Not taking a backseat to privacy, they also have beefed up security measures to ensure your safety while online. They route all network traffic through their secure servers in Switzerland and Iceland before heading to their destination. They also encrypt all data using their “Perfect Forward Secrecy” system to keep all information out of hackers' and thieves' hands.
ProtonVPN works on Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. You can enjoy a full free version limited to 1 connection and medium speed. Or you can use one of their three other plans ranging in price from $6.60-$10/month based on the features you want.
ProtonVPN supports Tor browsing, torrents, includes ad-blocking and a strict no-logs policy. With their most expensive plan, you can have up to 10 devices connected at once. All their apps are open-source and independently audited, and you can enjoy a 30-day money-back guarantee but be aware that it is pro-rated.
- Best free plan out there.
- Getting better with each new version.
- Flexible plans and pricing.
- Lots of great features.
- Sleek apps.
- Works on all platforms.
- No independent auditing.
- Fewer servers than most.
- No WireGuard support.
10. HideMyAss (HMA)
As the quippy name suggests, HideMyAss is advertised as making your online experience completely anonymous. Amazingly, this VPN has been around for 15 years! HideMyAss is put out by the well-trusted antivirus company Avast.
HideMyAss, not a newcomer by far, has only about 1,100 servers in 290+ locations in 190 countries. That's the most locations and countries we've seen. However, you are limited to only five simultaneous connections with this VPN. Recently, HMA signed up with VerSprite for independent no-logging audits, which they passed, although the details are unavailable.
The service works great for Netflix but does not support other platforms, so it may not be the best for movie-watchers. It does support P2P and torrenting, though.
You can use HMA for 30 days for free, then sign up for a plan. If you pay for a 3-year plan, you get the price of $2.99/month. Two years will cost you $3.99/month, and if you pay for a full year, you pay $4.99/month.
You can use it on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and even smart home devices, routers, game consoles, and more. The mobile apps are great and easy to use. Some additional features include a kill switch, split-tunneling, and fast connections.
- Healthy network of servers.
- Independent audits and no-log policy.
- Available in the largest number of countries.
- Netflix unlocked.
- P2P/torrenting support.
- Basic support only.
- Not great for streaming movies.
- Does not support Amazon Prime Video, iPlayer, or Disney+.
Another contender in our contest for the Best VPN is VyprVPN. Despite its quirky name, this offering is highly competitive. VyprVPN comes to you from a Swiss company that prides itself on privacy and security.
The service allows you to have five simultaneous connections and uses 500+ servers spread across the globe. It works on all devices, including Android and iOS, and boasts of 2 million users who love the clean interface and easy-to-use service. They offer 300,000 IP addresses in 70 countries and own all their own hardware. If you care about security, the fact that this company owns its own hardware, eliminating the need to rely on third-party vendors will give you a better sense of security.
VyprVPN protects its clients using encryption through WireGuard® and secure DNS. They also include a kill switch in case your internet connection drops. The company guarantees your privacy and swears that "no third-party apps can gain access to your data."
Another great feature of VyprVPN is its ability to unblock content, including Netflix, Hulu, Disney +, iPlayer, YouTube, games, and websites using their Chameleon™ protocol.
VyprVPN does not log or collect any data from you, and this is guaranteed by independent auditors. The live chat support feature is super helpful if you run into any trouble using the service. Other great features include DNS leak protection, URL filtering, and automatic reconnection if you drop off.
When using OpenVPN, however, the service is not that speedy. Another sticking point is that some users experienced bugs when activating the kill switch.
The pricing structure for VyprVPN is simple; everyone gets all the features. You simply choose how you want to pay. If you purchase a three-year plan, the price is only $1.67/month. If you sign up for the 18-month plan, you'll pay $2.50/month, and if you go monthly, the price jumps to $6.47/month. They do not offer a free trial plan, but you do get a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Excellent technology.
- Committed to customer privacy.
- Servers spread out across the globe.
- Attractive interface.
- 300,000 IP addresses in 70 countries.
- Highly affordable when you pay for an annual subscription.
- Live chat support.
- Unblocks tons of content services.
- Expensive if you pay monthly.
- Not as fast as other options.
- Won't unblock Amazon Prime Video.
TunnelBear is another VPN you may have heard about. If you want an easy-to-use option, this service may suffice; however, it does come with a few downsides as well. TunnelBear is a Canadian company owned by McAfee with offices in the U.S. as well. They have only 23 server locations (1000 servers) which are far less than most VPN providers offer.
Where TunnelBear shines is in the privacy arena. They take customer privacy very seriously and have independent auditors reviewing constantly. They publish privacy reports regularly if you are interested in reading about the nitty-gritty of their privacy concerns.
The VPN uses the standard AES-256 and supports Perfect Forward Secrecy. However, some limitations include the fact that they do not support torrenting, the service does not unblock content even from Netflix. If you need help, you won't find a lot of online articles to assist you, and there is no live chat support option.
They do offer a free version, but it doesn't have all the bells and whistles. Unfortunately, you will have to decide from the free version though because they do not offer a money-back guarantee. If you don't like the service, you are stuck with it.
VPN testers saw a huge drop in browsing speeds using TunnelBear. Experts recommend that if you are new to VPNs and don't care about advanced features, this service will be fine, but if performance and streaming is your goal, you can do better.
The pricing for TunnelBear is a limited free version, an individual version that costs $3.33/month, and then a plan for teams for $5.75 per user per month. You are limited to only five simultaneous connections with each plan. However, the two paid plans do offer priority customer service.
- Good mobile apps.
- Lots of independent audit reports.
- Excellent privacy.
- Very user-friendly.
- Not very fast.
- Free trial limits you to 500MB/data per month.
- Not great for streaming content.
- No live chat support and sparse online documentation.
- No content unblocking.
- Can't pay via PayPal.
Although ClearVPN won't be winning any prizes for the Best VPN service out there, it is pretty decent, but some areas need improvement. ClearVPN comes from MacPaw, a software company geared towards everything Apple-based.
Although they do say on their website that Windows and Android are supported, the Windows app doesn't work well at all. In keeping with true Apple software, they make using ClearVPN effortless, and the system creates personalized shortcuts for you to use to access websites, apps, and content using the VPN.
One of the selling points for ClearVPN is for unblocking content for BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and Hulu. However, testers found they could not access BBC iPlayer using the service.
If speed is essential to you, ClearVPN is a winner here. It performs very well, and you can connect six devices at one time. ClearVPN has its own encryption protocol, or you can use it with OpenVPN and IKEv2 if you prefer. Their strict no-log policy states that "we don't store, share, or even collect your online activity, personal info, IP address, etc. We don't have your data — we don't need it." The company uses military-standard AES-256 encryption.
The main objective of ClearVPN appears to be to make a VPN easily accessible to anyone regardless of their technical skill level. They boast of a customized, effortless experience to unblock websites, secure gaming, and encrypt all your online activities. They achieve this goal by using shortcuts (a built-in feature of the iOS system).
In terms of pricing, ClearVPN is not cheap. They offer a stripped-down free plan, or you can pay a whopping $12.95/month if you want to pay monthly. If you sign up for a year, that exorbitant price drops to $7.75/month. They do offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are not happy with the service. They accept payments via credit and debit cards, UnionPay, and PayPal.
- Very fast speeds.
- Does support torrenting.
- Unblocks Netflix.
- Poor Windows app.
- Unresponsive customer service.
- Too expensive.
- Doesn't support BBC iPlayer.
14. Pure VPN
PureVPN operates out of Hong Kong and offers some decent features and some limitations you should know about.
PureVPN claims to have a no-log policy, and an "always-on" auditor backs this up. That means they can be audited at any time, and actual data collection or storage would be reported. However, in 2016 the company was able to supply law enforcement with a user's records during a criminal investigation. So, take it with a grain of salt whether or not the ironclad no logs policy is true or not.
Although PureVPN does not offer a free trial so you can test it out before buying, they do provide a cheap 7-day trial you can pay for. The pricing plans are very inexpensive if you purchase a long-term plan. The 7-day trial costs only .99. You can sign up for two years for $3.33/month or pay $10.95 monthly. They take credit cards; you can pay via PayPal and even ApplePay.
PureVPN operates with 6,500 servers in 140 countries. They offer a full range of apps with some great features like DNS leak protection and support for P2P and IPv6.
They offer average speed, although, in independent testing, experts found some connections to be unacceptably slow. PureVPN does unblock content from Netflix, Hulu, and Disney + but not for BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video. It does offer torrenting support for those who need it.
VPN test results show the kill switch appears to be buggy, and the apps are not the greatest. Although they are packed with features, they don't always work as expected.
If you need support, you can use the live chat option and peruse the vast library of online resources. However, the support ticketing system does not always work well. Although PureVPN may be a good option for some, it is not the best option available. In terms of price, you can get a sweet deal on a long-term plan.
- Lots of features.
- Good for streaming.
- Good value for longer-term plans.
- No log policy backed by auditors.
- Built-in adblocker.
- Not great support.
- Apps don't work great.
- Buggy kill switch.
- Very slow speeds.
Bitdefender is best known for its antivirus products and keeping you safe from online threats. They have now added the Bitdefender Premium VPN to their lineup of products.
This VPN comes with no frills. It's simple and cheap and offers a bare-bones option for privacy. The service uses Hotspot Shield's Catapult Hydra protocol with 1,300 servers in 30 countries.
On the upside, you can connect up to 10 devices at once using the service. You get automatic P2P protection and impressive speeds. Because it uses Hotspot Shield, you cannot be sure of its no-logging policy and your data's absolute privacy. Also, you cannot set up Bitdefender as a router VPN.
The interface is about as simple as it gets. You tap on a switch and check-off if you want P2P connection privacy, and you are good to go. This simplicity may work for some, but many users will want to see more configuration options.
For now, the service only unblocks Netflix, but it does offer DNS leak protection. It is one of the fastest VPNs tested. If you want to pay for an entire year, the price is $2.49/month, but the price jumps to $6.99/month if you pay monthly.
This newcomer on the block has some impressive features out of the gate, but we'd like to see more before it tops off the list of our Best VPNs.
- Simple and fast.
- Cheap pricing.
- Kill switch.
- Reliance on Hotspot Shield.
- Barebones in terms of features.
What is a VPN?
A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is software that you use on your devices or home network to change your IP address, virtual location and remain anonymous when performing online activities. A VPN encrypts the data connection between you and the sites you visit so no one can track your browsing activity. That means marketers won't see the things you shop for, and hackers can't see your IP address and track your whereabouts.
Some people use a VPN to simply keep all their online activities safe. Others use it to bypass location restrictions. For example, some countries do not allow access to Netflix. If you are traveling and want to stream a movie, you can use a VPN to make it appear that your laptop is in the U.S. and stream Netflix without any worries.
Man-in-the-middle attacks are very common, especially when you use open/free Wi-Fi. So, if you visit the nearby coffee shop and connect to their free Wi-Fi, then do some banking on your laptop, a hacker could potentially steal your login and drain your accounts. With a VPN, even if you connect to a compromised network, the hacker won't be able to see your device or intercept any communications.
Although most of the VPN services are software or an app you use, you should also check out our best VPN router list. Some routers come pre-installed with a VPN, and others are open-source, so you can install whichever one you want. These VPNs typically cost money, but it's well worth it to keep you and all your devices safe. The best thing about a router VPN is that it also protects IoT devices, smart TVs and appliances, and other things connected to your home network.
When selecting the best VPN, you will want to keep in mind a list of criteria. Some of the things to keep in mind as your yardstick are:
- Bandwidth (how much you are allowed).
- Number of concurrent connections you can have.
- Support options.
- Encryption type.
- Network of servers.
- Platforms supported (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, etc.).
- Advanced features like split-tunneling and multihop connections.
- Any restrictions imposed.
Along with the list of criteria above, you want to ensure that your VPN vendor does not track you. The whole idea of a VPN is to remain anonymous, but some VPN services have been known to play dirty and track customers without their knowledge. Before buying, sign up for a free trial or short-term plan. Read reviews and check the company out online. You might even want to contact their support department to see how responsive they are and ask a few questions.
How to Choose a VPN Service?
VPNs are big business these days. With the pandemic came a whole slew of cybercrime and increased awareness that someone could be watching your online activities.
The problem is that, along with dozens of legitimate VPN vendors, when searching for the best VPN services, you must also wade through the murky waters of a bunch of fake VPN services.
When choosing between all the options out there, instead of focusing on a couple of features, instead consider the value of the service. There are many different features offered at various price points. Find the one that gives you the best combination of features (important to you) at the price you want to pay. If your funds are limited, then price may be a higher item on your list of must-haves. Look for the solution that packs in the functionality but offers it at a low price, or if you are lucky, you can get in on a huge discount for the first year.
Some of the more important features to compare are the speed of the service and any limitations they might impose.
Other questions to ask yourself are:
- How many devices can you connect at once?
- Do they offer extra features like split-tunneling and multihop connections?
- Do they use military-grade encryption?
- Is there a kill switch built-in?
- How can you access support? Do they offer 2/47 live chat and email?
- Can you access support through the mobile apps?
- How many servers do they have, and in how many locations?
- Are there enough available IP addresses?
- Do they go that extra mile to keep your privacy protected?
- Do they themselves track or store any of your data?
Other things to consider are the platforms the service works on. You might want to think about the interface. If the VPN offers a free trial, take it for a drive to see if you like the app and how easy or hard it is to use.
The most efficient way to determine the best VPN service for you is to sign up for a trial. If the service you like doesn't offer one, sign up for a month to thoroughly test it out before you agree to a longer-term. That way, you can try it on all your devices in your usual locations and see if it does what you want.
Can You Trust a VPN Service?
The whole purpose of using a VPN is to mask your IP and keep your online activities private. So, when you sign up with a VPN service, you want to know you can trust the company you are sharing your private information with. However, sometimes VPN companies claim that they don't track you, but they do anyway.
Not all VPN providers are created equal, and some play unfairly. You need to do your homework to find out all you can get so you feel comfortable opening up your online life to strangers.
You can also delve into their own security practices to find out what they do with your data if they share it with anyone else and how it is stored. You might also read customer reviews and even third-party testers and auditor reports.
Another important point to make is where the company is based and what laws govern its operations. Some areas have stricter privacy laws than others. Some of these VPN vendors hire third-party auditors to test for privacy and security.
Those that do may be a better option when it comes to trust. Some countries do not enforce data retention laws. Another note here is you might want to inquire how, when, and if the company would provide data to law enforcement should it be requested from them.
What Handy Ways You Can Use Your VPN?
VPNs have become majorly popular due to personal privacy becoming a priority, and for all the things you can do with one. Some examples of handy ways you can use your VPN are:
In some locations around the globe, access to content is blocked. For example, China, India, UAE, Russia, Turkey, and Cuba don't allow access to apps we take for granted like Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Google.
Access to Netflix
In some areas, residents are not allowed to watch Netflix. A VPN makes it appear that your IP address resides in another country, so you can unblock access to things you want. If you travel to other countries and still want to binge-watch your favorites, simply fire up your VPN, and it will appear that you are connecting from home as usual.
When using public Wi-Fi without a VPN, you could become the victim of a man-in-the-middle attack, and hackers could potentially steal your banking details or other login passwords. Using a VPN, you can hide your identity and network access while online at coffee shops, hotels, and airports that offer free Wi-Fi.
Sporting or Special Events
If you cannot access sporting events because they are not shown in your area, a VPN will help you virtually change your location so you will have access. Never miss the big game or special event again with your trusty VPN.
A lot of people share files and software via torrents. P2P websites are all the rage, but they can be dangerous to use if you are not behind the wall of a VPN. The end-to-end encryption of a VPN will keep you safe while you share.
Sometimes, you can get great deals when you are in a certain location. If you live in an affluent area where those deals may be out of reach, your VPN can make it look like you are ordering from an area that opens up discounts for hotels, flights, and even restaurants.
Geo-Spoofing for Faster Internet
By switching your geolocation, you could potentially speed up your internet if your provider throttles your speed based on your specific location.
Safer Work from Home
With more people than ever before working from home, hackers are working overtime trying to break into your network. A VPN makes your home network much more secure, hiding your identity and keeping you safer.
Social Media Access
Some employers, schools, and government offices block access to social media or games. Be sure to keep a VPN on your phone, so you can have access to all your fun when you visit these places.
Protection While Gaming
Gaming is extremely popular, but some platforms can be insecure. Use a VPN when you game to protect yourself from DDoS attacks and other online threats.
What Are the Limitations of a VPN That You May Encounter?
As with anything, VPNs come with some limitations you might want to be aware of before committing to using one. Even though many of the VPNs say they do not track your online activities, some do. So, if you assume you are browsing privately, you may not be.
Also, keep in mind that marketers track you in various ways through device and browser fingerprinting and through add-ons. Secure your browser and disable any add-ons in conjunction with using a VPN to remain completely anonymous.
Some VPN companies use their own DNS service that thwarts nefarious characters from tracking IP addresses and redirecting you to malicious websites. Look for those VPNs that offer their own DNS system; it adds another layer of protection against online threats.
Before shopping for the best VPN, consider the idea that a VPN will not protect you against everything. If you download software from untrusted sources, you could still unwittingly install malware or ransomware on your device. Other tips include:
- To stay safe, be sure to use good antivirus/anti-malware software and keep it running on all devices.
- Keep your operating system and browser updated to the latest security patches.
- Always turn on two-factor authentication on all your accounts to keep those safe.
- Consider using a password manager so you can employ long, strong passwords without having to remember them all. These tools will log you in automatically, so you never even have to type the password in.
- Never reuse passwords on multiple websites. It may put you at risk of credential stuffing.
- Turn on anti-tracking in your browser and set the security settings to their maximum.
Read online reviews posted by actual users of the VPNs. You may find out that some of these services offer great features, but your usually fast internet slows down to a snail's pace when using it.
That would be a limitation you might want to avoid. If the service limits how many devices you can connect with or throttles your downloads or bandwidth, that would be another limitation you would want to consider before choosing.
Due to security experts' insistence, most websites now have security certificates and use the HTTPS protocol, which is encrypted. However, not every place you visit will be that savvy. A VPN will fill in the holes and protect you when you aren't aware you even need it.