VPN

Everyone is talking about VPNs again. What is it, explain it to me! We can’t tell you. But we can show you.

Imagine that it’s August 16, 1969, you’re sitting in the USA and you want to listen to psychedelic American rock at Woodstock. You open up the  newspapers, and it’s about the achievement of a milkmaid from Norilsk. Turn on Soviet radioand there’s Pesnyary and the Novy Electron Vocal Group. You go to a Soviet movie theater, and all you see isWhite Sun of the Desert.

You get grabbed by American security forces and taken to jail. But in the short time you’re being taken there, you hear Jefferson Airplane on the radio, and you say in a thick USA accent, “Totally Vors Et.”.

VPN

What is a VPN.

A VPN is a technology that allows you to make a virtual backdoor and use networks and resources that you can’t connect to directly.

For example, you have a file server in your office that you can only connect to when you’re in the office. If you’re working from home today, these files are inaccessible to you. But if there’s a VPNserver set up in the office, you can connect to it from home, and then it’s like you’re in the office: all the office resources are available to you. You can print out an obscene message on the office printer.

Or, for example, you find yourself in a totalitarian state that has blocked all websites about cacti. And you urgently need to read about cacti. You take a VPN service that allows you to connect to the Internet through a country where cacti are legalized. You connect through a VPN, and it’s like you’re in another country. No one else gets between you and the cacti. Also, YouTube will show you local commercials.
How a VPN network works.

The most common way is this: there is a VPN server that takes care of all the configuration, security and other technical aspects. When a client connects to such a server, a special connection is established between them and all data is encrypted.

The client can be any device: phone, computer or smart microwave. The main thing is that this device can address the VPNserver and say: “Let’s establish a connection with you!

When a VPN connection (also called a VPN tunnel) is established, everyone connected to the same server can communicate with each other securely. Securely means that the data is encrypted and only the server knows what’s really going on in the network.
Encryption and encryptionwhat’s the difference?

Without a secure connection, your ISP knows what sites you’re visiting, what messengers you’re using, and what you’re searching for in a search engine. When you connect to a VPN, the ISP only sees the fact of the VPN connection and doesn’t know what’s going on inside it.
Everyone is talking about VPNs again. What is it, explain it to me!
VPN doesn’t mean security and anonymity.

Many people think that if someone connects through a VPN, they are now an invulnerable hacker, completely anonymous and untraceable. In fact, this is not the case.

WebRTC. This technology is initially included in almost every browser, and with it everyone can find out your real IP address, even if you use a VPN. It won’t tell you your home address directly, but it will tell you who your ISP is. If the intelligence services suspect that you’re doing something illegal, they can go to your ISP and ask for your real address and passport information.

If you don’t want everyone to know your IP, you need to look for VPN servers that monitor this themselves and know how to make WebRTC not work.

VPN server. It sounds strange, but most often it is the biggest threat to anonymity and security. It is the server knows everything about those who use its VPNservices: who visits which sites, what they do and with whom they correspond.

Free VPN servers make money by selling your digital profile to advertisers. They are aware of your interests and want to know as much about you as possible, so they give you free access to their services.

Paid servers theoretically live off user fees, but how that really workswe don’t know. The real paranoiacs assume that even paid servers give the data to everyone who is willing to pay for it.

The safest way is to create your own VPN server, which only you control. The difficulty is that you need a lot of technical knowledge to set it up properly and completely. But it is realistic, although it is not completely clear why.

With the advantages and reasons for using it, we’ve sorted out. However, it’s worth understanding that not everything comes without consequences, so you’ll have to put up with the following disadvantages when using a VPN:

1. Cost .

VPN is not free. In some cases, the cost of using the service can reach several dollars per month. Of course, there are cheaper solutions, as well as the opportunity to save significantly by choosing a subscription for a long period (for example, for 2 years).

In many cases, you are given a trial period (1-2 weeks), during which you can use the VPN for free. An alternative option is a money-back guarantee. In this case, you’ll be able to get your money back within, say, 30 days of payment if you don’t like something. There are also free plans with ads, limited features, traffic, P2P connection and other features.

2. Speed

Any VPN service reduces the speed of your network connection. This is caused by encrypting data and transmitting it to remote servers. Of course, most services promise to maintain speed and instant connections to any sites, but in reality this is not the case. If your initial network connection speed leaves much to be desired, you will not be able to work comfortably on the network via VPN.

3. Possible security issues

Data encryption by VPN services is done through various protocols. For example, the most popular ones are OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2 or SSTP. Some of them are quite complicated to set up, and any mistake can lead to vulnerabilities and leaks. Also, not all services support all protocols, and the protocols themselves are differently suited for different uses.

Finally, you may encounter different problems and complexities in using specific services. For example, some of them allow you to use VPN only on a limited number of devices, others have a complicated and incomprehensible interface, there may be no localization, etc. Also, don’t forget that you’re not the only one who knows about the existence of a VPN.

How it works

When you use VPN services, all of your Internet traffic is encrypted and redirected through one of the VPN servers. For example, you are in Russia and connect to a server in the United States. In this case, the VPN-server sends traffic from Russia to the server in the U.S., encrypting the data at the same time. Thanks to encryption, your Internet service provider, which you use to access the Internet in Russia, can’t know which site you’re trying to open, so it won’t be able to block the connection.

The VPN server then redirects your traffic to the desired site. The site will see the VPN server as the source of your traffic, not your actual device. In other words, the site will detect the IP address of the VPN server, not the one you’re using. Accordingly, it won’t be able to block your access either.
What to pay attention to when choosing a VPN service

So, we’ve come to the most important thing – choosing the right VPN service. You can find dozens of different services for traffic encryption, but how to determine which one is better? To do this, you should focus on the following criteria:

1. The number of countries and servers

When using VPN-service, your traffic is transmitted through the server located in any country. Accordingly, the more countries are available – the more connection options you have. True, not all countries you need.

Thus, you can choose a service based on the following principles:

The more countries and servers – the better;
VPN-service has a rich choice of servers in the countries you need.

2. Cross-platform and number of connected devices

As mentioned above, a VPN service can have solutions for computers, mobile devices, browsers, routers, game consoles, etc. Preferably, the service should offer as many applications as possible. Of course, you can opt for the VPN that offers the solutions you need. But you can hardly guess at what device you will need a VPN in the future.

Another important criterion is the number of connected devices. Services that offer an unlimited number of connections are rare. Usually you can connect 5-7 different devices to a VPN at the same time.
Encryption and protocols

Pay attention to what encryption standards and protocols the VPN uses. Today, one of the most popular standards is AES-256.

4. Log policy.

Data logs are records of data about your online activities that can be collected and stored by the VPN services themselves. If the service records your logs, it can pass the information to law enforcement agencies (for example, in case of a request). Accordingly, there is no anonymity to speak of.
The cheapest VPN

Finally, the cheapest VPN-service from the reviewed selection can be considered ZenMate – for 3 years of use you pay only 59 usd – that’s literally 3-4 usd/month! It’s hard to find a better solution.

We also recommend paying special attention to Hotspot Shield and UltraVPN. The sites of these services do not contain any information concerning logging policy. Accordingly, you have no guarantee whether the VPN will record your actions and dispose of this information at its discretion or not. The rest of the VPN services indicate that they comply with the No Log policy.

Let’s compare 10 popular VPN services and summarize the data of the main criteria in a common table.

NordVPN ExpressVPN SurfShark ZenMate Private Internet Access
Countries & Servers 59 countries

5500+ servers

94 countries

160 locations

3000+ servers

65 countries

3200+ servers

78 countries

2700+ servers

77 countries

24+ thousand servers

Windows, Linux and MacOS support + + + + +
Android and iOS support + + + + +
Support for other platforms Chrome
Firefox
Edge
AndroidTV
Routers
Chrome
Firefox
Edge
SmartTV
Game consoles
Routers, etc.
Chrome
Firefox
fireTV
Chrome
Firefox
SmartTV
Routers
Chrome
Firefox
Opera
Routers , etc ..
Number of concurrent connections Up to 6 Up to 5 Unlimited Up to 5 Up to 10
Trial period 7 days
Money Back Guarantee 30 days 30 days 30 days 30 days 30 days
No Log Support + + + + +
Additional Features KillSwitch
DoubleVPN
Ad Blocker
P2P Support
KillSwitch

Split tunneling

KillSwitch

Ad Blocker

KillSwitch Ad Blocker
Price $11.95/month

89 USD/2 years

$12.95/month

$99.95/year

3.84 usd./month

59.76 usd./1 year

10.99 usd./month

59 usd./3 years

9.95 usd./month

79 usd/3 years

 

PrivateVPN CyberGhost IPVanish HotSpot Shield UltraVPN
Countries & Servers 60 countries

150+ servers

89 countries

110 locations

6800+ servers

75 countries

1600+ servers

80 countries

115 locations

3200+ servers

58 countries

100 servers

Windows, Linux and MacOS support + + + + Without Linux
Android and iOS support + + + + +
Support for other platforms Routers Chrome
Firefox
AndroidTV
fireTV etc ..
Chrome
fireTV
Routers
Routers

SmartTV

Routers
SmartTV
Number of concurrent connections Up to 6 Up to 7 Up to 10 Up to 5 Up to 6
Trial period 7 days 24 hours 7 days

There is a free version

Money Back Guarantee 30 days 45 days 30 days 45 days 30 days
No Log Support + + + No No
Additional Features KillSwitch

P2P Support

KillSwitch

Torrent support

KillSwitch KillSwitch

P2P Support

Proprietary Hydra protocol

Price $8.49/month

47,52 USD/2 years

12.99 usd./month

75.6 usd./2 years

$4.99/month

USD 79.99/year

$12.99/month

96 USD/year

5,59 EUR/month

35,88 EUR/year