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.

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. Surfshark
  4. CyberGhost
  5. Hotspot Shield

1. ExpressVPN

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.

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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.

PROS:

  • 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.

⛔️ CONS:

  • Expensive.
  • Not easy for novices.
  • May be too many features for the average user.

2. NordVPN

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.

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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.

PROS:

  • 5,400 + servers.
  • Double VPN.
  • Dedicated IP.
  • Speedy/reliable service.
  • Unlimited bandwidth.
  • 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • Supports every platform.

⛔️ CONS:

  • Pricey.
  • Busy interface.

3. Surfshark

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.

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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.

PROS:

  • 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.

⛔️ CONS:

  • Regular price is expensive.

4. CyberGhost

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."

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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.

PROS:

  • 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.

⛔️ CONS:

  • No independent audits.
  • iOS app not as powerful.
  • Expensive with monthly billing.

5. Hotspot Shield

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.

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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.

PROS:

  • Offers a free version.
  • Affordable.
  • Blazing-fast speeds.
  • Super easy to use.
  • 45-day trial period.
  • 24/7 support.
  • Router support.
  • Split-tunnel support.

⛔️ CONS:

  • 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.

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.
  • Speed.
  • Support options.
  • Encryption type.
  • Network of servers.
  • Platforms supported (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, etc.).
  • Price.
  • 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.