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8 Totally Free VPN Services to Protect Your Privacy

While free unlimited VPNs for Windows are scams, there are a number of limited-data free VPNs that really don’t cost anything. This article lists the best.

However, free VPNs often don’t stick around forever. Sometimes previously free offerings change to a subscription model. Some switch to a freemium mode. And some seem to actively compromise your privacy.

But are there any free VPNs that will simultaneously protect your privacy in a reliable way? Absolutely. Keep reading to find out more.

Note: Free VPNs might be OK here and there, but there is no substitute for a paid service like ExpressVPN. Sign up now and receive three months free!

Speedify is a unique service. If you live in an area with a poor internet connection, it’s definitely the VPN for you. It can combine all the incoming connections in your home (including cell and Wi-Fi signals) into a single, stable, faster, and more secure access point. This combination works well to offset some of the loss of speed that all VPN users have to endure.

The company’s Starter Plan is entirely free to use. It gives you an allowance of 5GB of data per month. All your traffic is encrypted using ChaCha or AES (depending on the device), and the company does not keep logs.

Other security features include packet loss and error correction protection, and an automatic failover.

Speedify will also never sell your data.

cyberghost blockchain

CyberGhost has been at the forefront of the VPN industry for many years. It offers various premium models, but the free ad-supported version is adequate for most casual users.

The free version is only available on Chrome and is bandwidth-restricted. It’s not as useful if you watch a lot of Netflix or you’re thinking about cutting the cord

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Considering Canceling Cable? The True Cost of Cutting the Cord

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Most of its servers are in Europe, but there are plenty of US-based ones available too. Interestingly, the app runs on the Ethereum blockchain. It protects against privacy breaches, censorship, fraud, and third-party interference.

Use Firefox? Check out the best free VPNs for Firefox

The Best Free VPN for Firefox

The Best Free VPN for Firefox

Want a VPN to stay secure with Mozilla Firefox? Several VPN services offer free VPN add-ons for Firefox, but which one is best?
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vpnbook VPN

VPNBook is entirely free, there are no bandwidth caps or service limitations, and there is no premium service.

That said, it’s not suitable for beginners. There is no installer, no software, and little guidance. You’re simply given a list of servers, and the rest is up to you.

You have a choice of PPTP VPN or OpenVPN. PPTP VPN is supported on almost all platforms, but it’s easier for governments and content providers to block. OpenVPN is more secure but requires you to download an OpenVPN client along with VPNBook’s configuration and certificate bundles.

The company has servers in the United States, UK, and mainland Europe.

Windscribe offers a Chrome browser VPN

The 10 Best Free VPNs for Google Chrome

The 10 Best Free VPNs for Google Chrome

Here are the best free VPNs for Chrome to block trackers, bypass region blocking, and much more.
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and a Windows desktop version.

Obviously, the main feature is the VPN network, but from a privacy standpoint, it offers some great additional tools. They include a firewall to prevent exposure of your IP address in case you lose your connection, an ad and tracker blocker, and a Secure link generator. The free package includes all of them.

The free version has a restricted download limit and only offers servers in the United States, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The $7.50 per month pro version adds a further 40 countries.

Hide.me is a proxy service based in Malaysia and offers free servers in Canada, the Netherlands, and Singapore. The free service supports PPTP, L2TP, IPsec (IKEv1 and IKEv2), OpenVPN, SoftEther, SSTP, and SOCKS.

In mid-2015, the company made the decision not to keep any logs. From a privacy perspective, this is a massive plus point; if there are no logs, there is nothing for unscrupulous authorities to seize if they are trying to track you.

Interestingly, the company also publishes a transparency report—it lists all the authorities that have requested information from them.

Opera VPN is part of the Opera browser. It’s entirely free; there are no data limits or obtrusive ads.

It comes with three main features:

  • Hidden IP Address: The software replaces your actual IP address with a virtual IP address, making it harder for sites to track you.
  • Unblock Firewalls and Websites: If administrators have blocked certain sites or types of content in your office or school, the Opera VPN will circumnavigate the restrictions.
  • Public Wi-Fi Security: The VPN will stop sniffers on public networks from accessing your data.

To turn on the service, go to Menu > Settings > Privacy and Security > Free VPN.

Note: Since April 2018, the Opera VPN app on Android and iOS is no longer available.


AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield has been around for many years. It is still one of the most popular free VPN services among users.

It’s not suitable for users who want to unlock geo-restricted content as well as improving their privacy. The free version only offers US-based servers, and access to services like Netflix

Which VPNs Still Work With Netflix?

Which VPNs Still Work With Netflix?

Netflix is cracking down on VPNs, but there are a few that still work. Here are the best VPNs to use with Netflix.
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, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer is only available to premium users.

However, from a privacy perspective, it’s great. AnchorFree advertises itself as “the world’s largest internet freedom and privacy platform”. They offer lots of privacy tools in addition to the VPN, so you know you’re in safe hands.

If you’re concerned about your data being leaked to governments and ISPs, ProtonVPN provides a solution. It takes more steps than regular VPN providers to ensure your identity is safe at all times.

For example, it has “Secure Core” architecture. It means all your (encrypted web traffic is first passed through its servers in privacy-friendly countries like Iceland and Switzerland before it heads out to the wider web. As such, even if a VPN endpoint server has been compromised, attackers will still not have access to your IP address. As you would expect, the company does not keep logs.

The company also uses “Perfect Forward Secrecy” in its encryption ciphers. It means that your traffic can never be unencrypted, even if the encryption key is somehow compromised by a hacker at a future date.

Lastly, ProtonVPN is one of the few VPN services to offer a Tor connection. You can send all your traffic through the Tor network with a single click in the ProtonVPN app.

At the time of writing, ProtonVPN has almost 500 servers in 40 countries. Supported countries include the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and India.

Which Free VPN Do You Use?

We hope these services have given you a starting point in your quest to find the perfect privacy-based free VPN provider. Remember, there are a few items you should look for while choosing a VPN provider

How to Choose a VPN Provider: 5 Tips to Keep in Mind

How to Choose a VPN Provider: 5 Tips to Keep in Mind

Thinking about choosing a VPN but don’t know where to start? Here’s what you need to check before signing up to a VPN service.
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If you’re not sure how to set up the VPN of your choice, check out this guide on setting up a VPN on Windows 10

How to Set Up a VPN in Windows 10

How to Set Up a VPN in Windows 10

Not sure how to set up a VPN on Windows 10? Here’s an easy step-by-step guide to setting up an L2TP or IKEv2 connection.
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Looking for mobile VPNs? We’ve compiled the best VPNs for Android and the best VPNs for iPhone. For your local network, it might even be easier to set up a VPN on your router.

Getting an amazing deal on a safe VPN

The Best and Cheapest VPN Deals of 2018

The Best and Cheapest VPN Deals of 2018

The top VPN services are giving our readers some great deals and price cuts. Here’s what’s available for you right now.
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is almost as good as free. We regularly update this article with exclusive deals from our top VPN choices.

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Enjoy Total Freedom and Privacy on the Web With Le VPN

Back in the early 2000s, the web was pretty open and safe. There were no paywalls or restrictions, meaning you could just enjoy surfing. Unfortunately, times have changed. Many sites will only allow you to access content if you are in specific countries. Worse still, you are tracked around the web. If you want to escape the restrictions, Le VPN can help. This highly-rated service offers fast connections, total privacy, and military-grade security on all your devices. You can get a one-year subscription now for $59.99 at MakeUseOf Deals.

Total Freedom

To escape the spider’s web of paywalls, geo-restrictions, and trackers, you need a VPN that has a worldwide presence. With over 800 servers in 120 countries, Le VPN definitely fits that description.

Available on all major desktop and mobile platforms, this highly-rated service masks your IP address and physical location. At the same time, all your traffic is protected by AES-256 encryption. This means that no-one can track you across the web or hack your connection on public Wi-Fi. Just as importantly, Le VPN keeps no logs.

To help you stream content on sites such as iPlayer, Sky, and ITV, this VPN offers SmartDNS. This essentially masks your IP address without rerouting your traffic. As a result, you get a much faster connection — essential if you want to watch HD content.

One Year for $59.99

Order now for just $59.99 to get a one-year subscription, worth $119.40.

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Mozilla previews Firefox VPN, will charge for service at some point

Mozilla this week resurrected its Test Pilot preview program, offering Firefox users a free VPN-like service to encrypt browser-to-site-and-back transmissions over public networks.

“The Firefox Private Network is an extension which provides a secure, encrypted path to the web to protect your connection and your personal information anywhere and everywhere you use your Firefox browser,” wrote Marissa Wood, vice president of product, in a post to the Mozilla blog.

The free service is available immediately, but only to U.S.-based users running the desktop version of Firefox. A Firefox account – typically used for syncing copies of the browser on multiple devices – and an accompanying add-on are required.

Wood trumpeted Firefox Private Network using examples highlighting privacy, Mozilla’s raison d’être. The encryption, she argued, would “protect all your sensitive information like the web addresses you visit, personal and financial information” at unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots. The service also masks the originating IP address “to keep advertising networks from tracking your browsing history.”

Website security vendor Cloudflare provided the proxy server for Firefox’s VPN (virtual private network), Mozilla said. (Cloudflare offers a VPN service, dubbed “Warp,” to its customers, as part of the new-this-year DNS resolver app for iOS and Android.)

Once the add-on is installed and the user logs in with his or her account credentials, Firefox Private Network is extremely simple to operate: It’s either on or off. There are no settings, no options. Computerworld did notice a performance hit while browsing with Firefox Private Network engaged; sites appeared slower than with it disabled.

Firefox VPN Mozilla

Firefox Private Network has an on-off switch and that’s it. There are no options. There are no settings. Stupid-proof VPN.

Mozilla was clear that the free part of Firefox Private Network would likely not last, as the organization intends to charge a fee at some point.

“Your feedback will be essential in making sure that we offer a full complement of services that address the problems you face online with the right-priced service solutions,” wrote Wood, referring not just to the VPN but also to other, still-undisclosed offerings. She added that the Firefox Private Network beta testing, which is what Test Pilot now is, will run through some variations to “explore technical and possible pricing options” for the service.

Mozilla has not hidden its desire to branch into new revenue territories to divest from the more-or-less-single-source of search engine royalties. In June, CEO Chris Beard and other Mozilla officials said that paid service subscriptions would roll out this fall, but assured users that the browser itself would remain free of charge. The VPN could be the first of several paid services pitched to Firefox users, or part of a larger all-in-one package; Mozilla hasn’t been clear about the form(s) this new revenue stream may take.

Nor did Wood say how long her team will test Firefox Private Network. However, she did position this iteration of Test Pilot differently than before. “The difference with the newly relaunched Test Pilot program is that these products and services may be outside the Firefox browser, and will be far more polished, and just one step shy of general public release,” she said.

Mozilla has been back and forth with Test Pilot. The name harks to 2009, when it described a data-gathering effort on how people used the web. In 2016, Test Pilot was refocused, that time for users to “try out experimental ((in-browser)) features and let us know what you think,” according to Nick Nguyen, a now-former vice president of Firefox. That version was written off in January, Mozilla saying at the time that it no longer needed a separate test bed for add-ons.

“Third time’s the charm,” said Wood.

Users can sign up for the VPN beta test at the service’s website. More information about Firefox Private Network can be found online here.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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SurfShark VPN Makes Torrenting Easy and Secure, Now 76% Off

With a good torrent client and fast internet, you can enjoy TV shows, movies, music, and more. The only problem is, the world of torrenting can be a little shady. If you want to stay protected, get SurfShark VPN. This impressive service gives you access to over 500 torrent-friendly servers. In addition, your connection is protected by military-grade encryption. You can pick up a two-year subscription now for $69 at MakeUseOf Deals.

Safe Torrenting

Although torrenting is often associated with piracy, there is loads of legit content that is distributed this way. No matter what kind of content you want to access, SafeShark VPN has you covered.

Available for Windows, Chrome, Firefox, Android, and iOS, this service offers complete online protection. By running your traffic through masking servers, the VPN helps you stay anonymous. These servers are spread around the world, meaning you can find a fast local connection or go abroad to bypass restrictions.

In addition, SurfShark keeps no logs and protects your privacy with AES-256-GCM encryption. SurfShark’s CleanWeb feature blocks ads and malware, and the built-in kill switch ensures your IP address won’t leak if your Wi-Fi drops.

As a subscriber, you get unlimited bandwidth and connection speeds on unlimited devices. SurfShark also provides 24/7 customer support.

Two Years for $69

Order now for $69 to enjoy two years of secure torrenting with SurfShark VPN, worth $290.

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Secure Your Online World With a Lifetime Subscription to VPN Unlimited

You can learn a lot by looking through someone’s browsing history —  their tastes, their interests, their budget, and even where they live. Advertisers and social media sites are harvesting this information all the time. If you would prefer to maintain some privacy, try KeepSolid VPN Unlimited. This highly-rated service keeps your data secure, without cramping your style. Right now, lifetime VPN subscriptions are just $39 at MakeUseOf Deals.

Online Privacy

Since the invention of social media, online privacy has become almost impossible. When even your own ISP can sell your data, you know things are bad. Thankfully, it’s pretty straightforward to protect yourself.

With KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, you can take back control in under five minutes. Available to download on all major desktop and mobile platforms, the service uses masking servers to disguise your identity. This makes it virtually impossible for anyone to track you across the web.

But that’s not all. VPN Unlimited applies encryption to all your traffic, making public Wi-Fi much safer. You can also choose from servers in 70 locations around the world, meaning you can bypass local restrictions.

Lifetime subscriptions include unlimited bandwidth and uncapped speeds on up to five devices, with 24/7 customer support available.

Lifetime Protection for $39

Order now for $39 to get your lifetime VPN Unlimited subscription, worth $499.99.

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4 Ways to Set Up a VPN at Home

Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a great way to maintain your privacy online. However, there are several different ways to set up a VPN. In this article we’ll show you how to set up a VPN in several different ways, some easy, some more complex.

1. How to Set Up a VPN Using Third-Party Software

how to set up a VPN - third-party software

The quickest and easiest solution if you’re wondering how to create a VPN is to use the software that comes with your VPN subscription.

When you purchase a personal VPN service from a company like ExpressVPN or CyberGhost, you’ll get a link to download its software. Usually you visit your VPN provider’s website and it will have links to download the software for all of your devices, including your desktop.

You download and install the VPN software as you would any other piece of software. Once installation is complete you enter your VPN username and password and you can start using the VPN.

The software differs between companies but most will have options to select a server from locations around the world, to connect to and disconnect from a server, to toggle automatic connections on or off, and other features including a kill switch.

2. How to Set Up a VPN at Home Using a Router With VPN Support

If you have lots of people in your home using your network, it can be a hassle to install VPN software on every single one of their devices. Instead, you can set up a VPN at home by installing software directly onto your router.

There are several reasons to set up a VPN on your router

4 Reasons to Set Up a VPN on Your Router (Instead of Your PC)

4 Reasons to Set Up a VPN on Your Router (Instead of Your PC)

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, and the main advantage of this method is that any traffic that passes over your network will be encrypted by your VPN, no matter what device you use. This will even protect Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Your VPN is always on and you won’t need to configure it.

The easiest way to get VPN software on your router is by purchasing one of the best VPN routers

The 5 Best VPN Routers

The 5 Best VPN Routers

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which have software support for VPNs. TRENDnet routers, for example, allow you to configure VPN connections within their software.

To use your home VPN, log into your router by entering its IP address into your web browser. Find the option saying VPN or similar and add in your VPN username and password. You should be able to enable the VPN across your whole network from here.

3. How to Set Up a VPN by Installing VPN Software on Your Wi-Fi Router

how to set up a VPN - install VPN on your router

What if you already have a router you’re happy with and you don’t want to buy a new one to set up your VPN? In that case, you can still install VPN software onto compatible routers. However, it will require a little more work.

Two popular options for adding VPN capabilities to your router are DD-WRT (which can turn your router into a super-router

What Is DD-WRT And How It Can Make Your Router Into A Super-Router

What Is DD-WRT And How It Can Make Your Router Into A Super-Router

In this article, I’m going to show you some of the coolest features of DD-WRT which, if you decide to make use of, will allow you to transform your own router into the super-router of…
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) and Tomato.

Both of these options are open source and can add all sorts of new capabilities to your router. This includes monitoring bandwidth usage, increased wireless coverage, and better security. But let’s take a look at how to use the software to add a VPN to your router.

Upgrade Your Router’s Firmware

First, check if your particular router model is supported by DD-WRT or supported by Tomato. If it is, you can go ahead and download the right firmware for your router from the relevant website. Now make sure your computer is connected to your router via Ethernet cable rather than Wi-Fi, so you can still connect to the router once you change the settings.

Open up the web interface to your router. If you know your router’s IP address already, just type it in. If you don’t know it, use the ipconfig command to view your IP address

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How to View & Change Your IP Address in Windows 7, 8, and 10

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. Log in to your router using your username and password.

You should find a menu option saying Administration or something similar, depending on your particular router. Choose this option and look for an option that says Upgrade Firmware or Upload Firmware. Use this option to upload the new firmware you just downloaded.

Once the firmware upgrade is complete, you’ll need to restart your router. To be certain the old settings are cleared, turn off your router and wait for 30 seconds before turning it on again.

When the router restarts, go back to the web interface by typing the IP address into your browser again. You should set a username and password, and your new software is ready to use.

Set Up a VPN on an Upgraded Router

You’ll need to know your VPN provider’s settings to use the VPN on your upgraded firmware. You can usually find these settings on your VPN provider’s website. For example, here is ExpressVPN’s instructions for setting up Linksys routers.

In your router firmware, go to VPN Tunneling in Tomato or Services > VPN on DD-WRT. Turn on OpenVPN Client and add the information you got from your VPN provider. Now, save your changes and your VPN should be up and running for your whole network.

4. How to Set Up Your Own Custom VPN Server

Finally, if you’re really dedicated and you want more control over your VPN, you could create your own VPN server. You can create a VPN on Windows if you have an old PC you’re not using any more, or you could use a Raspberry Pi. You can install software called OpenVPN to create your own VPN server.

The downside to this method is that the device will need to be on all the time for your VPN to function. The upside is that you don’t have to pay a subscription to a VPN provider and you know that you are in complete control of your data.

To create a VPN server you’ll need to download the OpenVPN software and install it on your chosen device. There’s an installer available for Windows users, but if you’re using a Raspberry Pi and having difficulties with installation, you can try an installer script like PiVPN.

Then, you can configure your VPN by following the instructions on the OpenVPN website.

Alternatively, another option is to use a software bundle for VPN hosting such as Algo VPN hosted on a Virtual Machine on a cloud provider like DigitalOcean.

How to Set Up a VPN at Home

These methods will let you set up your own VPN at home. The easiest way is to pay for a VPN subscription and use the software from your VPN provider to access the VPN. If you want more control, you could try installing a VPN on your router or even hosting your own VPN server.

And if you’re not yet convinced that you need a VPN, here are the reasons you should be using a VPN

11 Reasons Why You Should Be Using a VPN

11 Reasons Why You Should Be Using a VPN

Virtual private networks are affordable and easy to use. Here are some reasons why you should be using a VPN if you aren’t yet.
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Private Internet Access VPN Review & Rating

Our lives are hyperconnected, and a VPN is the best tool to ensure that your web traffic isn’t monitored by spies, crooks, advertisers, or your ISP. Private Internet Access is among the best VPN services we’ve tested. It offers a robust collection of features, thousands of available servers, 10 simultaneous connections, all contained in a new, easy-to-use app interface. Longtime users will have noticed, however, that its price has recently made a substantial jump.

What Is a VPN?

When you connect to the internet, you probably assume that your activities aren’t being observed. However, that’s an unsafe assumption, and it’s especially dubious when you connect to the web from Wi-Fi at the coffee shop, the airport, or even at work. When you use a VPN, on the other hand, your traffic is routed through an encrypted tunnel to a server controlled by the VPN provider. Nothing can penetrate a VPN’s encrypted tunnel, so no one snooping on your local network (be it at home or at the office) can see what you’re up to. It also prevents your ISP from monitoring your activities. Because your data is emanating from the VPN server, and not your home router, your IP address—and therefore your geographic location—is hidden.

Private Internet Access Features and Pricing

Private Internet Access has three billing options, starting at $9.95 per month. This represents an increase of more than 40 percent over its longstanding bargain-basement price of $6.95. You can also get a year of service for $39.95, or two years of service for $69.95. Both of those prices are also significantly more expensive than what the company previously charged. I like that all the tiers provide the exact same features, and don’t reserve advanced tools for higher-paying customers. I like the significant and sudden price jump a lot less.

Despite that increase in pricing, the new monthly fee is still less than the average price of PCMag’s top-rated VPNs, which currently around $10.78. NordVPN, a five-star Editors’ Choice winner, costs more than Private Internet Access, at $11.95 per month. Note, however, that NordVPN also offers more features, more server locations, and more servers. At the other end of the spectrum, Kaspersky Secure Connection costs $4.99 a month. The first pricing tier of ProtonVPN only costs $4.00, but doesn’t include all the features available at higher tiers.

Private Internet Access may not be as affordable as it was, but there are still many worthy in inexpensive and even free VPN services to choose from. TunnelBear and AnchorFree Hotspot Shield offer free subscriptions with data limitations. ProtonVPN, however, is the best free VPN we’ve yet tested, in large part because it places no data restrictions on free users.

Private Internet Access VPNYou have several choices for purchasing a subscription to Private Internet Access. The company accepts credit cards, Amazon payments, Bitcoin, Etherium, and PayPal, and many more besides. Private Internet Access also accepts gift cards from 90 different retailers, including Starbucks and even Bloomingdales. Buy one of these cards with cash, and your payment becomes reasonably anonymous. Should you ever tire of Private Internet Access, your account page has a large Cancel button, which is handy.

The company offers clients for Android, Chrome, Firefox, iOS, Linux, Opera, macOS, Windows. Previously, Private Internet Access subscription let you use up to five devices with the service, which is average for the industry. After increasing its price, Private Internet Access VPN also increased the number of devices you can use simultaneously to 10, beating NordVPN’s six and tying with IPVanish. Avira Phantom VPN and Windscribe place no limitation on the number of devices.

If that’s not enough devices, you can opt to purchase a router with Private Internet Access software preinstalled, or you can install it yourself. Doing so lets you protect every device on your network at the cost of just one license for the router. Some services go even further. TorGuard VPN, for example, sells Apple TV and Roku streaming boxes with its software preinstalled.

Private Internet Access doesn’t offer much in the way of add-ons. You won’t be able to purchase static IP addresses as you can with NordVPN. Nor can you add additional device connections, as you can with TorGuard VPN. That’s fine, since Private Internet Access VPN offers just about everything the average user would want from a VPN and doesn’t ever upsell you because it has nothing to upsell. That’s especially true now that the company offers 10 simultaneous connections.

The company does allow the use of P2P file-sharing networks and BitTorrent on its VPN servers. Better yet, Private Internet Access does not require that you limit your torrenting to specific servers. That’s convenient.

In addition to everything Private Internet Access has to offer, it also garners a lot of customer loyalty. In PCMag’s first-ever Readers’ Choice survey for VPNs, Private Internet Access beat out the competition for overall customer satisfaction. It will be interesting to see if the price change affects that loyalty in next year’s survey.

VPN Protocols

VPN technology comes in a handful of flavors, with a few different protocols used to create the encrypted tunnel. My preferred protocol is OpenVPN, which is open-source and therefore examined by volunteers for potential vulnerabilities. It also has a strong reputation for speed and reliability.

Private Internet Access supports OpenVPN and the older L2TP/IPSec. I don’t recommend using these other two if you can help it, but it’s good to have options. The VPN industry will likely shift to the new WireGuard protocol someday, but probably not for a good long while.

Private Internet Access VPN

Servers and Server Locations

With a subscription to Private Internet Access, you get access to the company’s 3,341 servers spread out over 52 locations in 32 countries. While VPN services will spin servers up and down to meet demand, a large number of servers is a sign of the service’s robustness. It also means you’re less likely to have to share bandwidth with a lot of other users accessing the same VPN server.

NordVPN currently has the distinction of offering the most VPN servers, with 5,293 servers in its network. Private Internet Access is in second place. Several other VPN companies have recently crossed the 3,000 server threshold, including CyberGhost, TorGuard VPN, and ExpressVPN.

If you travel or live outside the US or UK, you’ll get a better experience using a VPN server that’s nearby. Numerous server locations also mean you have more choices to spoof your location. Private Internet Access has a good mix of locations, with servers in Asia, Central America, Europe, India, South America, the UK, and the US. That’s acceptable, but it could use improvement. Private Internet Access only offers one server location in Africa, and only two options in all of Central and South America. ExpressVPN, notably, has a stellar collection of server locations, covering some 94 countries.

Note that while Private Internet Access used to support servers in Russia, it no longer does. This change was in response to new VPN laws in Russia that Private Internet Access felt would have prevented it from adequately protecting user privacy. Other VPN services have weighed in on the issue, but Private Internet Access is among the very few to cease Russian operations entirely. A company representative told me that “Private Internet Access supports uncensored Internet Access everywhere in the world and denounces governments with draconian laws that reduce citizens’ privacy.”

Some VPN services make use of virtual servers, which mimic a server in a given country but may actually be located somewhere else. While the practical upshot is the same—your traffic appears to be coming from the country you select—consumers may have legal concerns about where their data is actually going. Not every country has agreeable data and privacy protection laws, after all. That’s not an issue with Private Internet Access. A company representative told me that all of its servers are “bare-metal servers actually located at the physical location they claim to be at.” The company also boasts of 1 Gigabit to 10 Gigabit connections for its servers.

Your Privacy With Private Internet Access

VPN companies advertise their privacy and security bona fides, but they also come with risks. When you route your traffic through a VPN, the company could have enormous insight into what you do online—the kind of insight your ISP has and that you’re probably using a VPN to prevent.

Thankfully, most VPNs take consumer privacy seriously, and that includes Private Internet Access. A company representative explained that Private Internet Access does not keep logs of user activity and does not profit from user data. The company says it only generates revenue from user subscriptions. While I found nothing suspicious in the company’s lengthy privacy policy, it is enormously difficult to read. Private Internet Access would do well to make this important document more accessible.

While the technology that a VPN company offers is important, its physical location and the legal jurisdiction the company operates under also make a difference. In this case, Private Internet Access is based in the US and operates under US legal jurisdiction. The US does not have any mandatory data retention laws, but Private Internet Access is required to respond to court orders from the US government. That’s not the case for companies like NordVPN, which is located in Panama. However, Private Internet Access says that aside from a user email address, it has no information to provide. The company’s annual transparency report confirms that for the 23 warrants, subpoenas, and court orders Private Internet Access has received since July 2018, the company has provided no data in response.

Private Internet Access has not undergone an independent audit such as those carried out by NordVPN and TunnelBear. It also has not contracted industry studies, as AnchorFree Private Internet Access has, nor has it responded to the Center for Democracy and Technologies’ survey. It has, however, conducted an audit of the underlying OpenVPN technology and released the results to the public and the OpenVPN developers.

I am neither a network engineer with access to each and every one of the company’s servers, nor am I a legal expert. I have, however, asked the company direct questions and been satisfied by the answers I received. Still, I encourage everyone to read a VPN company’s privacy policy for themselves. If you feel uncomfortable, look elsewhere. Trust, after all, is paramount when it comes to security companies.

Hands On With Private Internet Access

I downloaded the Windows version of Private Internet Access from the company’s website and installed it within seconds on my Lenovo ThinkPad T460s running Windows 10. I received new login credentials in the purchase confirmation email, a practice that gives you extra anonymity but may be confusing for novices.

For years, I characterized Private Internet Access as technically proficient but socially deficient. It lacked any kind of client, and seemed to intentionally avoid anything approaching, well, approachability. I’m happy to see that Private Internet Access has since addressed this issue and released a much friendlier client app. You can still control the entire app from within the system tray, however, if you’re into that sort of thing.

When you open the app, you’re greeted by a large Connect button. Click it, and you’re immediately connected to the best server available. This is exactly what the average user needs: a straightforward path to getting secure immediately. Clicking the location box below the connect button lets you jump to a different VPN server with ease.

Private Internet Access VPNClicking the caret at the bottom of the app expands the window to the top of the screen, revealing a host of other tiles for quickly connecting to servers in specific countries, real-time performance graphs, usage statistics, toggle switches for key settings, and your current subscription status. Clicking the Bookmark icon adds these tiles to your default view, letting you customize your experience. It’s an excellent approach, and other VPN companies should take note of how Private Internet Access so easily handles interacting with its more complex features.

An additional Settings window goes into greater detail. From here you can make changes to your account, select different remote ports, and make even more obscure tweaks. Most users won’t ever need to touch these, however, as they are better left to confident experts. One important setting you can and should experiment with is the light or dark mode for the app, a surprisingly modern feature from a company that didn’t even have an app until recently.

The only catch is that the new app interface is still bolted to the system tray. You summon it by clicking the Private Internet Access icon, and it stays locked above the system tray. You can’t move it around or interact with it as you would a normal Windows app. Click anywhere outside the app and it disappears again. It’s a bit of three steps forward, one step back, and I hope future versions will see the app behaving in a more expected way.

One general concern with VPNs is that they might leak identifiable information, either in the form of DNS requests or your real IP address. In my tests, I found that my ISP and IP address were hidden and my usual DNS servers circumvented with Private Internet Access.

Private Internet Access and Netflix

Many streaming video services block VPNs, because they have geographically limited licenses for streaming content. The show Star Trek: Discovery, for example, is only available on CBS All Access within the US and Canada, but is streamed over Netflix in the rest of the world. I test with Netflix because of its enormous popularity and because it is particularly aggressive at blocking VPN users.

If streaming Netflix over a VPN is a major concern for you, Private Internet Access will have your back. When I last tested VPNs with Netflix, I had no trouble watching movies while connected to a US-based VPN server. I was able to stream from Netflix while connected to a Canadian server and a UK server, but not an Australian server. Still, that’s a strong showing. While I had little trouble using Netflix with Private Internet Access, by the time you try it, the service may again be blocked.

Beyond VPN

Many VPN companies include additional privacy and security features in order to entice consumers. To that end, Private Internet Access includes its own ad- and tracker-blocking tool called MACE. When engaged, this tool specifically blocks pesky advertisements plastered across web pages and trackers that allow companies to track your movements across the Internet. It’s worth noting that several of the VPNs I have reviewed offer ad blocking. Those that do include NordVPN, TunnelBear VPN, CyberGhost, TorGuard, Surfshark, and Norton Secure VPN, among others. This feature is unfortunately now blocked in Android VPN apps, to comply with Google’s rules. If this is a must-have feature for your Android device, you can sideload the APK after downloading it from Private Internet Access’ website.

While I am happy to see VPN companies expanding protections for customers, these features can only support—not replace—standalone antivirus software and tracker-blocking browser plug-ins.

Using a VPN will protect your privacy, within certain limitations. The Tor service is far better at providing real anonymity than a VPN. You can access Tor through the specially made Tor Browser, but some VPNs include access to Tor as well. NordVPN and ProtonVPN have already deployed Tor integrations.

Speed and Performance

Regardless of the VPN you use, it will affect your web browsing speeds. To gauge the level of that impact, I measure latency, download speeds, and upload speeds using the Ookla speed test app. (Note that Ookla is owned by PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)

Related Story See How We Test VPNs

In my testing, I found that Private Internet Access performed above the median in all three categories. It’s certainly one of the fastest VPNs by my reckoning. HideIPVPN, however, had a significantly smaller impact on upload and download speeds. It’s the leader in terms of speed, but I strongly caution against using speed as the only criteria for selecting a VPN.

You can see how Private Internet Access compares in the chart below with the top 10 performers among the 30-some services we’ve tested. Keep in mind that your results will likely differ from mine.

Fastest VPN 2019

Speeds vary depending on a number of factors. Overall value and ease of use are far more important, but the real value of a VPN is in the privacy and security it offers. If you are looking mainly for speed, however, HideIPVPN is PCMag’s fastest VPN.

Private Internet Access on Other Platforms

Manually setting up your computer or smartphone to use a VPN is possible, but it’s also a pain. Using an app from the VPN company is far easier, and gives you access to many more features than manual configuration. Private Internet Access supports apps for Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows. The service has earned PCMag Editors’ Choice awards on all of those platforms, except iOS, where NordVPN is PCMag’s top choice.

Private Internet Access also offers extensions for Firefox and Chrome. These hide the IP address associated with your browser traffic, using servers in a variety of locations, and is secured with Squid HTTPS. Only your browser traffic, however, is affected by the plug-ins. The rest of your computer’s activity is not secured by these tools.

The Simplest Security

Private Internet Access used to have a hearty recommendation with a big asterisk next to it, because it didn’t have much in the way of a GUI. With its newer interface, Private Internet Access matches its technical expertise with ease of use, but the increased price does make it stand out less in a crowded space. The sizeable increase in the number of devices that can connect simultaneously helps offset the sticker shock somewhat. It’s still an Editors’ Choice winner, along with NordVPN, TunnelBear, and ProtonVPN. These services are each excellent in their own right, with NordVPN offering a robust global network, TunnelBear providing a friendly and approachable service, and ProtonVPN bringing a flexible and technically savvy service.

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This VPN Blocks Malware Using a Database of 3.5 Million Known Threats

When you work online, security is pretty important. The last thing you want is client information or financial data to be stolen by a hacker on a coffee shop Wi-Fi network. For this reason, using a VPN is a wise move for any desk worker. The KeepSolid App Bundle helps you stay protected and productive, with two years of service with VPN Unlimited and a selection of useful apps. You can get it now for $59.99 at MakeUseOf Deals.

Security and Productivity

As the name suggests, VPN Unlimited offers online security without limits. By re-routing your connection, the app helps you stay anonymous and secure online. You can select the VPN protocol you trust the most, and choose from 70 server locations around the world.

On mobile, KeepSolid Private Browser applies AES-256 encryption to all browsing traffic. It also provides full VPN protection on up to 25 tabs and five devices. With this deal, you get two years of service.

The bundle also contains two years of KeepSolid Sign and KeepSolid Roadmap Planner. The former provides an easy platform for collecting signatures for contracts and other paperwork, with full AES-256 encryption. Meanwhile, Roadmap Planner helps you map out the direction and timescales of any project.

Four Apps for $59.99

Order now for $59.99 to get two years of access to these four great KeepSolid apps.

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Many VPN apps on Apple’s App store can’t be trusted, researcher warns

I’m told Apple is at last looking into the privacy and security of free VPN apps made available across its platforms, following a report from researcher, Simon Migliano.

Who owns your VPN service?

The researcher has flagged up several concerns that really should be recognized by anyone choosing a VPN service from both the Apple and Google App Stores:

  • Ownership: Migliano claims that almost 60 percent of the most popular VPN apps are actually owned (sometimes opaquely) by Chinese companies.
  • Privacy: The researcher also found that as many as 77% of these VPN apps may have what he calls “serious privacy flaws”,including no privacy policy at all, generic policies with no mention of VPN or no detailed logging policy.
  • Data protection: Migliano claims Apple is not enforcing its third-party data-sharing ban against VPN apps, with 80 percent of the top free VPN apps “in breach of the rules”, he said. Many are sharing data with third parties, he claims.

That last allegation is particularly concerning.

Has VPN become a honey pot trap?

Think about the nature of VPN services – while they make it much harder for third parties to access/monitor your website traffic while you are using them, they do so by routing traffic via their own servers.

That’s fine when your traffic is kept in a private space, but much less fine when information about what you are doing online is sold on to third parties without any oversight.

These could be data aggregators, hackers, or worse.

Given that anyone using a VPN service is likely to prize privacy and potentially seeks to protect trade secrets or other important confidential data, weak spots in the security provision are a big concern.

Your VPN service provider has good insight into what you do.

Migliano published his data in late 2018.

In his report, he accused both Apple and Google of not doing enough to protect users against second-rate VPN services.

Apple and Google have been informed

“We notified Apple and Google of our updated findings and formally requested they address the privacy risks identified,” he told me.

“To make it as easy as possible for them to resolve the issues, we supplied detailed lists of the apps that required their attention as they still posed a risk to users, along with recommendations on remedial steps to take.”

He explains that Apple is now looking into his claims, though no action has yet been taken.

This follows Apple’s decision in early June  to acknowledge that VPN apps require stricter regulation than other apps.

Apple also banned such apps from sharing any data with third parties, though hasn’t begun enforcing this policy yet, the researcher claims.

“However, unless Apple takes action to enforce these new rules and kick non-compliant apps from its App Store then it’s simply paying lip service to privacy,” he said.

To its shame, given the nature of Miglianos claims, Google has not responded at all at time of writing, the researcher said.

Apple meanwhile has a high-level commitment to protecting user privacy, and recently moved to suspend human checks of Siri conversations.

Hundreds of millions of apps

What makes this all the more concerning is that those apps he has identified as insecure are responsible for over 210 million downloads on Google Play.

Similarly, they are being downloaded 3.8 million times a month via Apple’s App Store, he claims.

All over the world, Internet users are waking up to the need to protect their privacy.

This isn’t just in terms of personal privacy, but as enterprise systems, workflows and infrastructure becomes increasingly digitized, privacy and security protection are becoming essential bulwarks against all manner of cyberthreats.

With this in mind, Migliano said:

“Even putting aside the question of whether there’s cause for concern that Chinese companies have quietly cornered the free VPN market, this category is crying out for proper regulation.

“The privacy boom is happening against a backdrop of growing internet shutdowns around the world, which means conditions are ripe for VPN profiteering.”

What’s the catch?

There’s a catch to all of these claims, of course:

Migliano works for a company called Top10VPN, which claims to test existing VPN services.

This means he certainly has a business case to justify exposing weak or insecure service, but may also mean his claims need to be challenged.

Fortunately, if Apple is indeed acting on those claims, his claims will soon be challenged – and (when found appropriate) every user will benefit.

Meanwhile, Migliano’s company recommends ExpressVPN, NordVPN and IPVanish VPN, all of which are fee-based. I’ve only used NordVPN, which I liked, but have never used the other services myself.

Up next?

I’m hoping Apple will look into these claims.

When it does, I’d urge it to figure out some form of kite marking scheme in order that customers choosing to use a VPN service can more easily identify and choose a scheme they can trust, rather than those who subsidize their business by selling your data to data aggregators.

Also read: How to stay as private as possible on Apple’s iPad and iPhone.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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The Best Unlimited Free VPN Services (And Their Hidden Costs)

The benefits of using a VPN are well-known. If you’ve decided to integrate one into your workflow, you might try starting out with a free solution. Since many free offerings limit the amount of data you can send through them, it makes sense to look for a free unlimited VPN option.

Here are the best free unlimited VPNs that don’t restrict your bandwidth. Because free VPNs usually carry some big risks, we’ll look at the hidden costs of using these apps.

Note: As a baseline for the speed tests below, my Speedtest.net results at the time of writing without using any VPN were: 11ms ping, 30.21Mbps down, and 11.23Mbps up.

1. ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN Windows App

  • Website: ProtonVPN Free
  • Availability: Native clients for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Support for Linux via OpenVPN.
  • Truly Free? Yes, though ProtonVPN also offers paid plans.
  • Hidden Cost: The free plan limits you to servers in the US, Netherlands, and Japan. Potential speed slowdowns due to the load on free servers. You can only connect on one device at a time.
  • Privacy: The website plainly states: “ProtonVPN is a no logs VPN service. We do not track or record your internet activity, and therefore, we are unable to disclose this information to third parties.” The service does not include any ads.
  • Security: Connections are encrypted with AES-256. ProtonVPN does not offer any servers that use PPTP or other insecure VPN protocols

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    . All connections include DNS leak prevention, and you have the option to use a kill switch.
  • Speed of VPN: 80ms ping, 24.65Mbps down, and 10.55Mbps up. Browsing felt snappy while connected.
  • What It’s Useful For: If you can’t pay for a VPN but still want a quality tool that respects your privacy.

ProtonVPN comes from the same team behind the privacy-centric email service ProtonMail. Its policies state that paid VPN users subsidize free users, so there are no ads or selling of your browsing history. While many free VPNs have questionable privacy practices, you can have more confidence that ProtonVPN isn’t doing anything shady.

The three countries with servers available in the free plan are well spread out, so you should have no problem connecting. Plus, the company is based in Switzerland, which has strong privacy laws. If you need more, take a look at ProtonVPN’s paid plans, which include servers in other regions, faster speeds, additional security, and more.

2. Betternet

  • Website: Betternet
  • Availability: Native clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Chrome.
  • Truly Free? Yes, though a paid plan is also available.
  • Hidden Cost: The service is ad-supported, though we didn’t spot any ads in the desktop app. On mobile, you sometimes have to watch a video when connecting or disconnecting. Limited server selection in the free plan.
  • Privacy: Betternet’s privacy policy states that it “will never store or log your IP address beyond the duration of your VPN session, and we always delete your IP address after you disconnect . . . .” In addition, the service “do[es] not keep logs of your online activities . . . .” Creating an account is optional for the free plan.
  • Security: All traffic is encrypted using TLS 1.2 with “128-bit/256-bit AES data encryption”—when it uses 128 vs. 256-bit is not clear.
  • Speed of VPN: 20ms ping, 24.83Mbps down, and 1.26Mbps up. Despite these numbers, using Betternet felt much slower than ProtonVPN.
  • What It’s Useful For: Good for a quick connection without making an account, but doesn’t offer much flexibility and the ads feel slimy.

Betternet’s is another unlimited free VPN; its use of ads is one of the main reasons we recommend staying away from free VPNs

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. The free plan is pretty limited, as it doesn’t allow access to many servers. However, if you don’t want to bother signing up and need a VPN quickly, it comes in handy. It’s not something you should use regularly, though.

As soon as you install it, the app offers a free trial of the premium service in exchange for your payment info. It offers more locations, a faster connection, no ads, and more. We think you should opt for a better paid VPN, though (see below).

3. Opera VPN

Opera VPN Desktop

  • Website: Opera
  • Availability: Part of the Opera browser for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android.
  • Truly Free? Yes; Opera doesn’t offer any paid plans.
  • Hidden Cost: Only works in Opera’s browser on desktop and Android. Not available on iOS. Little flexibility and is technically a proxy, not a VPN.
  • Privacy: Opera’s privacy policy states: “When you use our built-in VPN service, we do not log any information related to your browsing activity and originating network address.”
  • Security: Encrypted with AES-256.
  • Speed of VPN: 115ms ping, 24.04Mbps down, and 10.41Mbps up. In our testing, it felt much faster than Betternet.
  • What It’s Useful For: No extra software required for Opera users. Offers a one-click VPN connection right inside your browser.

One of Opera’s standout features for years has been its built-in free VPN with unlimited data. Anyone using the browser can enable it in just a few clicks and protect their activity inside the browser. Head to Settings > Advanced and look for the Enable VPN switch, then simply click the VPN button in the address bar to enable it.

You can select your region from the general choices of Americas, Europe, or Asia. However, since the service only protects your browser and not your entire computer, it’s more of a proxy than a true VPN

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In 2015, Opera bought the VPN company SurfEasy. In addition to integrating the service into its browser, it also offered standalone mobile apps with a free VPN. However, Symantec bought SurfEasy from Opera in 2018, which resulted in the free Opera VPN mobile apps shutting down.

As it turns out, SurfEasy isn’t a candidate for this list because its free plan only offers 500MB of data per month.

Overall, though it’s limited, Opera’s VPN is a nice bonus if you use the browser already. However, it’s not a true VPN solution for your desktop and it’s not available for iPhone and iPad users. It’s also raised security concerns from leaks.

Unlimited and Free VPNs? Options Are Sparse

It’s important to use a VPN, but unfortunately, you don’t have many more options than these if you want a VPN that’s both free and unlimited. Services like TunnelBear and Hotspot Shield offer a free plan, but cap the data you can use each month.

It’s important to remember that these services have to make money somehow. If you’re not paying a company to use its VPN, that income usually comes from serving ads or selling your browsing data. Since most people use a VPN to protect their browsing data from prying eyes, this data collection defeats the purpose of using a VPN.

There are many considerations we didn’t look at here that go into picking a quality VPN provider. These include the region they do business in, customer service availability, whether the service works with torrents and Netflix, past security issues, and more. When looking at free VPNs, because you don’t have much choice anyway, we didn’t discuss these for the most part.

Of these three choices, ProtonVPN is the clear choice for the best unlimited free VPN. Opera’s offering isn’t a true VPN on the desktop, doesn’t work on iOS, and hasn’t scored well in tests. Betternet is the slowest of the three options, and is the only one to show ads. While ProtonVPN only allows access to a few servers and limits you to one device at a time, it has a commitment to privacy, never shows ads, and includes more features.

But remember that paid VPNs beat free VPNs every time

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. If you decide to go with a paid VPN, we highly recommend ExpressVPN and CyberGhost for their commitments to privacy, performance, and flexibility.

Image Credit: Olivier26/Depositphotos

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