VPNs are one of the best tools for protecting your privacy on the internet. Rather than communicating directly between your computer and the sites you visit, VPNs first direct your network requests through a number of “virtual” networks to obfuscate your personal information. There are literally thousands of choices when it comes to VPNs. We’re helping narrow down your choice by sorting through them and presenting you with a few options.
How to Choose The Best VPN For Privacy & Security
When choosing a VPN for privacy and security, the most important factors to consider are:
- Where is the VPN (and its servers) based?
- Does the VPN accept anonymous payment methods?
- Does the VPN support OpenVPN protocol?
- Does the VPN follow a no logging policy?
- Is Setup Simple and Intuitive?
- Does the VPN work with Netflix?
Where is the VPN Based, and How Many Server Locations Does It Have?
Ideally, the VPN you choose should be based in a jurisdiction with strong privacy laws. For example EU privacy laws are generally stricter, and more user-friendly than those in the US. You should generally avoid members of “5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes” countries – surveillance cooperation and agreements established following World War II.
While the country where the VPN company is one key factor, most VPNs have servers based all over the world, which can help avoid unnecessary tracking and surveillance.
What Payment Methods Does the VPN Accept?
Just using a VPN will help protect your private data, including your internet browsing and associated information. However, paying for your VPN in an anonymous manner is an important step to actually accomplishing true privacy. If your network activity is directed through the virtual private network but still linked to your credit card, your identity can be compromised.
The best VPNs for privacy will accept a wide range of payment options. The best methods are a pre-paid Visa card purchased with cash, a virtual card from Privacy.com, or cash (which some providers accept). We should note that Bitcoin is not a private payment method.
Does the VPN Support OpenVPN?
OpenVPN is a free and open-source software that implements a specific encryption protocol for added security. Open-source gives the VPN’s encryption transparency which means it can be audited for any privacy or security flaws. Many VPNs use this protocol to keep your identity and data protected.
Does the VPN Follow a No Logging Policy?
The premise of privacy relies on the service provider not collecting and storing information about how you use its product. The best VPNs have strict no-logging policies, and you should make sure that yours doesn’t log your use data. Ideally the VPN will do absolutely no logging. However, some VPNs can still keep logs in a privacy friendly way. For example, some VPNs keep connection logs but erase the data daily.
If you’re seriously concerned with privacy, there are simply too many options that do no tracking to make it worth it to use a VPN that logs your use or behavior.
Is Setup Simple and Intuitive?
Setting up your VPN should be a quick and easy process. Difficulty during setup is a barrier to getting the privacy and security benefits. During setup, the highest level of security should be enabled by default. If only the most computer-savvy users are able to get the highest level of protection, the VPN has failed to deliver on its privacy promises.
Does the VPN work with Netflix?
If you plan on using a VPN for all your internet use, it’s essential that the VPN is compatible with popular streaming services. Unfortunately, not all VPNs work for streaming on Netflix or other content sites.
The Virtual Private Networks
Server Locations: 148 | Devices Supported: 3 | Cost: $8.32 per month
ExpressVPN is a virtual private network service offered by the British Virgin Islands-based company Express VPN International Ltd. The software is marketed as a privacy and security tool that encrypts users’ web traffic and masks their IP addresses. In 2018, TechRadar named the services its Editors’ Choice.
Server Locations: 62 | Devices Supported: 6 | Cost: $2.99 per month
NordVPN is a personal virtual private network (VPN) service provider. It has desktop applications for Windows, macOS, and Linux, mobile apps for Android and iOS, as well as an application for Android TV. Manual setup is available for wireless routers, NAS devices and other platforms. In 2017, PC Magazine rated NordVPN as the year’s best VPN service.
NordVPN is based in Panama, as the country has no mandatory data retention laws and does not participate in the Five Eyes or Fourteen Eyes alliances.
Server Locations: 23 | Devices Supported: Unlimited | Cost: €8.95+ per month
Perfect Privacy is a good example of a reliable and reputable VPN. It has servers in 23 countries and only uses dedicated servers rather than virtual servers. If Perfect Privacy discovers a bottleneck slowing down its network, it will just spin up a new VPN to direct traffic through.
Server Locations: 52 | Devices Supported: 5 | Cost: $2.91+ per month
Private Internet Access is a VPN option that offers multi-layered security and privacy protection with VPN tunneling. Like many other VPNs PIA works at the TCP/IP level which means all your internet connections are secured, not just your web browser.
Server Locations: 30+ | Devices Supported: Up to 10 | Cost: $4+ per month
ProtonVPN is a VPN created by the same company as the secure email service, ProtonMail. It adds protection to your browsing data, by directing all traffic through a “Secure Core” network which helps keep you anonymous even if an endpoint server is compromised. Proton is a well-known privacy company and does as much as possible to keep up its reputation.
ProtonVPN uses perfect forward secrecy to keep all your traffic in encrypted form.
Server Locations: 60+ | Devices Supported: 7 | Cost: $2.75+ per month
CyberGhost VPN is 100% customizable and you can decide every aspect of your VPN experience: from specific servers to multiple features you can combine, all with the most advanced filtering and feedback options available on the market.
Server Locations: 29 | Devices Supported: 5 | Cost: $3.49+ per month
Hotspot Shield is a virtual private network utility developed by AnchorFree, Inc. VPNs are used for securing Internet connections, often in unsecured networks. Hotspot Shield was used to bypass government censorship during the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.
Server Locations: 20+ | Devices Supported: 5 | Cost: $4.17+ per month
TunnelBear is a public VPN service based in Toronto, Canada. The company was founded by Daniel Kaldor and Ryan Dochuk in 2011. In March 2018, TunnelBear was acquired by McAfee. TunnelBear is available as freeware, but as with other services online we’ve found that paid versions are often more secure and offer better privacy.
Server Locations: 70+ | Devices Supported: 5 | Cost: $5+ per month
VyprVPN is a VPN provided by Golden Frog. Along with VyprVPN, Golden Frog also runs an “optimized gaming network” that helps make online gaming faster and lag-free. VyprVPN has an independently audited no logs policy and runs their own servers for added security.
Golden Frog developed its own “zero-knowledge” VyprDNS to avoid 3rd-party DNS providers altogether.
Server Locations: 30+ | Devices Supported: Unlimited | Cost: $10+ per month
ZorroVPN follows its model of “anonymity on the internet”. It uses OpenVPN protocol with AES-256 encryption for a secure communication tunnel for your browsing activity. It offers many options for connection locations depending on what each user’s needs are. It also lets users combine their VPN with Tor for added anonymity.
ZorroVPN is a solid choice for streaming location restricted content as it doesn’t restrict bandwidth or speed restrictions.