The Best VPN services for 2018

What Is a VPN?

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Open it, and you can enter your subscription information from the VPN company you've decided to work with. Network-to-network tunnels often use passwords or digital certificates. Even Mac users can benefit from a VPN. While Google has worked to make it easier to use a VPN with a Chromebook or Chromebox, it's not always a walk in the park. Remember, you don't need to connect to a far-flung VPN server in order to gain security benefits.

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The Best VPN Service

The packages available are:. While many VPN services try to stand out with their free plans and cheap commercial products, IPVanish talks more about service quality. The price is still going to be an issue for some — it is more expensive than the average VPN, but IPVanish's high speeds, choice of locations and excellent client are hard to beat although in our latest look at the Windows client, we did find it potentially susceptible to the odd network issue, perhaps more so than rival software.

If you're after quality, take the plunge with this VPN service, and if somehow you end up unhappy with the service there's a 7-day money-back guarantee. Note that on the logging front, some logs are maintained connection times, IP addresses. VyprVPN also offers a commendably wide range of clients and its Windows software benefits from an easy-to-use interface. Perhaps the best news, though, comes on the performance front - this VPN is certainly speedy.

Get this exclusive offer from NordVPN. Despite being based in a country located in Central America - hardly a tech hub - NordVPN 's current products match or beat the competition in just about every area. Performance was good, too, with impressive speeds on short connections, and some very palatable results with longer distances. And you also benefit from a tight privacy policy here, as well.

NordVPN has four service options available: If you want to give the service a whirl before you commit, NordVPN provides a nifty three-day free trial which is rather hidden away on the website — find it here. AnchorFree's Hotspot Shield Premium manages to provide all the necessary VPN service features at an attractive price with the option of getting a lifetime license.

It supports private browsing, allows "access all content", and supports up to five devices. Performance results in our tests were excellent, with latency showing only a marginal increase, and both upload and download speeds were a little faster once connected.

We'd like more configurability and a wider range of locations, but Hotspot Shield Premium's high speeds and low prices have a lot of appeal, and the 7-day trial makes it easy to test the service for yourself.

As usual, the best value-for-money is the 1-year subscription note that you will be billed in US dollars , unless you want to commit to the lifetime plan.

TunnelBear is a Canadian-based VPN service which is notable for a number of reasons, perhaps the foremost of which is its emphasis on ease-of-use. You get a wide range of clients, covering both desktop and mobile devices thoroughly, and the software is highly user-friendly. So this is really designed with beginners in mind. This provider is strong on the privacy front, as well, clearly and concisely explaining its policies, and again not drowning you in jargon of the legal variety in this case, rather than the technical kind.

Windscribe is a quality VPN service which has native Windows, Mac and iOS clients — an Android client was recently launched, but labelled as being potentially unstable, so use it at your own risk for now. What you do also get is a range of browser add-ons, which come highly rated and also block ads. This provider also has a commendably clear privacy policy, and the Windows client is easy enough to use. KeepSolid boasts some impressive performance levels, with our testing showing that the VPN barely affected download speeds compared to the rates we got with the VPN turned off.

This provider offers a wide range of clients, with coverage for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux and Windows 10 Mobile, and setup instructions are provided for further devices. Only five servers support torrents: KeepSolid offers a seven-day trial, and a seven-day money-back guarantee to boot, with a choice of three price plans, including a lifetime option which could work out very cheap in the long run. The annual subscription is also nicely competitive.

While those clients have some niggles in terms of their interfaces, there are a number of very neat options here, including the ability for the VPN to kick in when you launch specific apps. Those who enjoy a bit of peer-to-peer file sharing will also be glad to hear that torrents are supported on most of its servers. ZenMate is another of the VPN services which try to pitch to novices, with the website avoiding any technical jargon and explaining everything in clear and simple terms.

And naturally that carries through to the software. But as ever, where software is designed to be as simple as possible, expert users will likely be frustrated at the lack of controls available. As well as keeping you safe and sound while browsing the web, VPNs are also handy for catching your favourite TV shows and live sports while you're out of the country. If you've ever tried to stream something on your tablet while on holiday only be told that rights restrictions mean you can't then this is for you!

Changing your IP address to your homeland will get around the problem. The winner here is ExpressVPN — in our tests it came out on top when used with an Android phone or tablet. For more experienced users it's also great as there are plenty of advanced options to play with. There is a free trial available on Android as well, though it only lasts for 24 hours! As does the company's British Virgin Island location when it comes to maintaining your anonymity.

And don't forget that we've wangled that 15 months for the price of 12 deal for TechRadar readers, too. You also get an excellent native client for Windows with an intuitive interface, yet some good depth in terms of advanced settings.

There is no free trial, but you benefit from a 7-day money-back guarantee. As you may be aware, China has some pretty heavy internet censorship that's only getting more difficult to get around. ExpressVPN proactively monitors its network to ensure that accessibility in China is maintained.

Some companies explain that they collect some information, but don't inform you about how they intend to use that information. Others are more transparent. While a VPN can protect your privacy online, you might still want to take the additional step of avoiding paying for one using a credit card, for moral or security reasons. Several VPN services now accept anonymous payment methods such Bitcoin, and some even accept retailer gift cards. Both of these transactions is about as close as you can get to paying with cash for something online.

That Starbucks gift card may be better spent on secure web browsing than a mediocre-at-best latte. A tool is only useful when it's used correctly, after all. For that, you'll want to access the Tor network , which will almost certainly slow down your connection. While a VPN tunnels your web traffic to a VPN server, Tor bounces around your traffic through several volunteer nodes making it much, much harder to track. Using a VPN will prevent most kinds of DNS attacks that would redirect you to a phishing page, but a regular old page made to look like a legit one in order to trick you into entering your data can still work.

Some VPNs, and most browsers, are pretty good about blocking phishing pages, but this attack still claims too many victims to be ignored. In addition to blocking malicious sites and ads, some VPNs also claim to block malware. We don't test the efficacy of these network-based protections, but most appear to be blacklists of sites known to host malicious software.

That's great, but don't assume it's anywhere near as good as standalone antivirus. Use this feature to complement, not replace, your antivirus.

Lastly, keep in mind that some security conscious companies like banks may be confused by your VPN. If your bank sees you logging in from what appears to be another US state or even another country, it can raise red flags. Some important things to look for when shopping for a VPN are the number of licenses for simultaneous connections that come with your fee, the number of servers available, and the number of locations in which the company has servers.

It all comes down to numbers. Most VPN services allow you to connect up to five devices with a single account. Any service that offers fewer connections is outside the mainstream. Keep in mind that you'll need to connect every device in your home individually to the VPN service, so just two or three licenses won't be enough for the average nested pair.

Note that many VPN services offer native apps for both Android and iOS, but that such devices count toward your total number of connections. Of course, there are more than just phones and computers in a home. Game systems, tablets, and smart home devices such as light bulbs and fridges all need to connect to the internet. Many of these things can't run VPN software on their own, nor can they be configured to connect to a VPN through their individual settings. In these cases, you may be better off configuring your router to connect with the VPN of your choice.

By adding VPN protection to your router, you secure the traffic of every gadget connected to that router. And the router—and everything protected by it—uses just one of your licenses. Nearly all of the companies we have reviewed offer software for most consumer routers and even routers with preinstalled VPN software, making it even easier to add this level of protection.

When it comes to servers, more is always better. More servers mean that you're less likely to be shunted into a VPN server that is already filled to the brim with other users. But the competition is beginning to heat up. Last year, only a handful of companies offered more than servers, now it's becoming unusual to find a company offering fewer than 1, servers.

The number and distribution of those servers is also important. The more places a VPN has to offer, the more options you have to spoof your location! More importantly, having numerous servers in diverse locales means that no matter where you go on Earth you'll be able to find a nearby VPN server. The closer the VPN server, the better the speed and reliability of the connection it can offer you. Remember, you don't need to connect to a far-flung VPN server in order to gain security benefits.

For most purposes, a server down the street is as safe as one across the globe. In the most recent round of testing, we've also looked at how many virtual servers a given VPN company uses. A virtual server is just what it sounds like—a software-defined server running on server hardware that might have several virtual servers onboard. The thing about virtual servers is that they can be configured to appear as if they are in one country when they are actually being hosted somewhere else.

That's an issue if you're especially concerned about where you web traffic is traveling. It's a bit worrisome to choose one location and discover you're actually connected somewhere else entirely. We have often said that having to choose between security and convenience is a false dichotomy, but it is at least somewhat true in the case of VPN services. When a VPN is active, your web traffic is taking a more circuitous route than usual, often resulting in sluggish download and upload speeds as well as increased latency.

The good news is that using a VPN probably isn't going to remind you of the dial-up days of yore. Most services provide perfectly adequate internet speed when in use, and can even handle streaming HD video. However, 4K video and other data-intensive tasks like gaming over a VPN are another story. And nearly every service we have tested includes a tool to connect you with the fastest available network.

Of course, you can always limit your VPN use to when you're not on a trusted network. When we test VPNs, we use the Ookla speed test tool. This test provides metrics for latency, download speeds, and upload speeds. Any one of these can be an important measurement depending on your needs, but we tend to view the download speed as the most important. After all, we live in an age of digital consumption. Our speed tests stress comparison and reproducibility.

That means we stand by our work, but your individual results may vary. After all, perhaps you live on top of a VPN server, or just happen to have a super-high bandwidth connection. It doesn't take the top spot in all of our tests, but has remarkably low latency and had the best performance in the all-important download tests. Fittingly, it offers many add-ons such as dedicated IP addresses that, along with its speed, will appeal to the BitTorrent users it is designed to protect.

Borders still exist on the web, in the form of geographic restrictions for streaming content. The rest of the world, not so much. But if you were to select a VPN server in the UK, your computer's IP address would appear to be the same as the server, allowing you to view the content.

The trouble is that Netflix and similar video streaming services are getting wise to the scam. In our testing, we found that Netflix blocks streaming more often than not when we were using a VPN. There are a few exceptions, but Netflix is actively working to protect its content deals. VPNs that work with Netflix today may not work tomorrow. Netflix blocking paying customers might seem odd, but it's all about regions and not people.

Just because you paid for Netflix in one place does not mean you're entitled to the content available on the same service but in a different location. Media distribution and rights are messy and complicated.

You may or may not agree with the laws and terms of service surrounding media streaming, but you should definitely be aware that they exist and understand when you're taking the risk of breaking them. Netflix, for its part, lays out how that it will attempt to verify a user's location in order to provide content in section 6c of its Terms of Use document. If you don't know what Kodi is, you're not alone. However, an analysis of searches leading to our site reveals that a surprising number of you are, in fact looking for VPN that works with the mysterious Kodi.

With Kodi, you can access your media over a local connection LAN or from a remote media server, if that's your thing. This is, presumably, where concerns about VPN enter the picture. A device using a VPN, for example, will have its connection encrypted on the local network.

You might have trouble connecting to it. Using Chromecast on a VPN device just doesn't work, for example. Kodi users might have the same issue. For local VPN issues, you have a couple of options. Alternatively, many VPN services offer browser plug-ins that only encrypt your browser traffic. That's not ideal from a security perspective, but it's useful when all you need to secure is your browser information.

Some, but not all, VPN services will let you designate specific applications to be routed outside the encrypted tunnel. This means the traffic will be unencrypted, but also accessible locally. If you're trying to connect to a remote media source with Kodi, a VPN would likely play a different role.

It might, for example, prevent your ISP from determining what you're up to. It might also be useful if you're connecting to a third-party service for Kodi that allows streaming of copyright-infringing material. 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.

A bad actor or mischievous network owner can intercept and steal your personal data on these types of networks. Though network security has changed since , a more recent vulnerability shows that so too have the exploits and methods miscreants use to break it.

A properly secured VPN can help deter this type of attack because it encrypts your connection from your computer, through the network, and out to the far-off VPN server. Websites tracking you Then a VPN is: One tool of many. You can head off the most common ways that websites and ad networks track you and gather information for marketing profiles by using browser extensions. Facebook collects, sells, and shares information too, and that info can be used for purposes beyond marketing.

By changing your IP address with a VPN, and potentially mingling your activity with that of dozens or hundreds of other people using the same IP address, you make the marketing profile built from the collected data less likely to identify you. And even with extra protection, unique features about your browser may be enough for other parties to collate data about you.

Browser fingerprints—based on screen size, browser plugins, fonts, time zones, and more—can identify a single user even without cookies or IP addresses. How an Internet service provider ISP can monitor, log, or even modify your traffic—and how a VPN can prevent that—is more complicated than what any individual website can do. An ISP can technically and legally collect information about almost any site or service you use online, but what a particular ISP actually does collect is less clear.

At a minimum, your ISP keeps track of every IP address it has assigned you, often for six to 18 months. ISPs mostly use these records to respond to specific law enforcement requests, often to catch truly awful criminals. In , the US Department of Justice unsuccessfully demanded that a Web host hand over more than a million IP addresses , namely that of anyone who had accessed a website that helped organize protests during the presidential inauguration.

Compliance with that demand would have allowed the DOJ to request, in turn, identifying information from ISPs on anyone who visited the site—including journalists doing research, bored Twitter users clicking a link, or people against the protests who wanted a hate read.

A good VPN would spare the innocent the trouble and the invasion of privacy in such a situation. Unless otherwise noted, most of the points here address ISPs and law enforcement in the United States; situations are different in other countries.

For instance, the European Union has specific rules on collecting and protecting customer data but also has a complicated history with laws requiring certain data be collected for law enforcement. Although the extent of the collection is unclear, you can be certain that your ISP will collect data on you, and it will use that data to sell you things or to help advertising partners sell you things.

Or Comcast could use your online behavior to figure out how to get you to watch more Hulu, which Comcast co-owns, instead of competitors like Netflix. But the other concern with huge troves of data being collected and locked away is how often they tend to be unlocked. If you were to use a VPN, those logs would show only a single, steady connection from your home to a VPN server, and nothing else. But because the industry has little regulation, and a bad actor could easily turn your VPN connection into a huge log of personal information, a VPN must be trustworthy.

The government tracking you Then a VPN is: Not necessarily capable of protecting you. Given the more immediate threats to security and privacy from other avenues, none of our experts highlighted government data collection as the foremost reason for most people to get a VPN.

So they just make excess work for themselves. Using a VPN service may help keep your data from being captured by some types of passive data collection, and in countries with less-sophisticated and less-well-funded intelligence agencies, a trustworthy VPN service is better than nothing.

He outlined three ways that VPN traffic could be vulnerable:. Revelations from information leaked by Edward Snowden , and related reporting, claim that even low-level analysts at the NSA have had access to massive databases of information. The NSA has sought to weaken some security standards during their development and has found exploits of others, such as the initial exchange of encryption keys , that allow the security agency to analyze otherwise secure traffic.

The NSA can also siphon off a huge amount of Internet traffic to be stored and later analyzed. Geoshifting to access international streaming sites Then a VPN is: Not a reliable tool. Aside from its potential to violate terms of service and possibly local laws, we also found that geoshifting to access streaming services was unreliable at best.

Services and servers that work one day can be blocked the next, until VPN administrators find another workaround and the cycle repeats. Not likely to be any better.

In all our research, we came across a lot of gray areas when it came to trusting a VPN, and only two hard rules: Some VPNs offer great service or pricing but little to no insight into who exactly is handling them.

Given the explosion of companies offering VPN services and the trivial nature of setting one up as a scam , having a public-facing leadership team—especially one with a long history of actively fighting for online privacy and security—is the most concrete way a company can build trust.

Covering the service, Gizmodo sums it up well: If you penny-pinch on privacy and security services, you may end up without privacy or security. If it does, that puts your privacy at risk should someone access or even release those logs without authorization. Providers can also log less-specific data about when or how often you connect to your VPN service. In some cases, these logs are a routine part of server or account management, and can be responsibly separated and scrubbed.

In other cases, VPN providers take note of every connection and use that information to actively police individual customers.

Some VPN companies we spoke with explained how a log might note your current connection for authentication purposes, but that log is deleted as soon as you disconnect. Ideally, every VPN service provider would subject itself to independent audits to verify that it logs and operates as it claims.

In other industries, conflicts of interest have led auditors and rating agencies PDF to miss or ignore major problems. In the US, companies making false claims about their products are policed by the Federal Trade Commission, and to some extent state attorneys general.

For example, privacy and confidentiality of communications are fundamental rights in the European Union. Data protection authorities in EU-member states are empowered to handle complaints brought by individuals and then provide users with information about the outcome of any investigation. But it is unclear how effective any of these remedies will be. Even if a company is at fault for deceptive marketing practices, it still has to comply with legal requests for whatever information it does have.

VPN providers are not required to keep records just in case law enforcement might need them some day. By encrypting all the traffic from your home or mobile device to a server you manage, you deprive your ISP and a potentially villainous VPN of all your juicy traffic logs. But most people lack the skills, patience, or energy—or some combination of the three—to do this.

Lastly, though you remove one threat from the equation by cutting out a VPN service provider, you also lose the extra layer of privacy that comes from your traffic mixing in with that of hundreds or thousands of other customers. To narrow the hundreds of VPN providers down to a manageable list, we first looked at reviews from dedicated sites like vpnMentor and TorrentFreak , research and recommendations from noncommercial sources such as That One Privacy Site and privacytools.

We settled on 32 VPNs that were repeatedly recommended. From there, we dug into the details of how each one handled issues from technology to subscriptions:. Public-facing leadership and an active role in privacy and security advocacy The best: In conjunction with information security experts at The New York Times parent company of Wirecutter , we reached out to our finalists with questions about their internal security practices.

We asked how they handled internal security access, how they communicated securely with customers, in what ways they collected reports on security bugs, and of course whether their statements on logging policies matched their marketing and privacy policies. We also considered which companies had public-facing leadership or ownership, and which ones openly supported projects and organizations that promoted Internet security and privacy.

For a full breakdown of trust and VPNs, check out the section above. No bandwidth limits, no traffic filtering, no traffic logs The best: We looked carefully at the privacy policies and marketing claims for each company we considered.

In some cases, companies we considered had sworn in court filings that requests for data were impossible to fulfill. In other cases, we asked companies about their internal security and privacy standards to gauge the trustworthiness of their statements on logging. Locations on six continents, with multiple cities or regions in populous areas.

The more locations a VPN provider houses servers, the more flexible it is when you want to choose a server in a less-congested part of the world or geoshift your location. And the more servers it has at each location, the less likely they are to be slow when lots of people are using the service at the same time. Of course, limited bandwidth in and out of an area may still cause connections to lag at peak times even on the most robust networks. Experienced users may consider IKEv2, but because it has its own debated pros and cons , we ruled it out.

Though AES bit encryption is fine for most purposes , we prefer services that default to the more-secure bit encryption and still offer good performance. DNS servers are a bit like the phone books of the Internet: Required; must be effective and one-click-easy to activate The best: Customizable rules to activate kill switches on startup or certain networks. We considered kill switches to be mandatory.

And although we looked for apps that made it easy to add rules about when to activate kill switches, we considered special config files or manual firewall tweaks to be too complex. Native apps for Windows, Mac, and Android The best: Additional operating systems, plus router, set-top box, and game console support. For more-advanced users, adding VPN connections to Wi-Fi routers can help secure all connections on a home network without having to manage devices individually.

We reached out to Apple to confirm the details of these limitations, and will update this guide if we hear back. Three simultaneous connections The best: Five or more simultaneous connections. A three-connection limit is probably enough for most individuals, as well as some couples who each want a connection. But five connections is more flexible, especially for families or households with many devices. Multiple payment methods, including cash or cryptocurrency, are nice, but we doubt most people will take advantage of them.

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VPN/ The Best VPN Services of A VPN, or virtual private network, is one of the best ways to protect your privacy online and maintain your data security. The best VPN services have a. A VPN service hides your web habits from everyone. Here are the 18 best VPN services out there, any of which will help you claw back your privacy! We researched 32 VPN services, tested 12, and consulted information security and legal experts to find the best VPN for most people. Here's our verdict.