Alex Grant

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TorGuard Review – 2020

TorGuard Review - 2020

For a solid encryption and P2P file sharing TorGuard offers a very good product with extremely fast speeds in the U.S. It also offers plenty of features for security buffs.

Why Choose TorGuard


Based in the United States, TorGuard is a popular VPN service that, to the surprise of some, is not actually related to the well-known Tor browser. It offers servers in 51 countries, though experienced users may wish it had more features and beginners might prefer better customer service. With that said, TorGuard is fast, which is a huge plus for most users.

Best VPN for


  • Netflix, Hulu, and streaming online
  • Torrenting and downloading
  • Security and privacy

Works on


Mac

Windows

Android

IOS

Linux

Routers


Pros:

  • More than 50 servers across the globe
  • Ad blocking on a network level
  • Allows BitTorrent and P2P
  • Strong encryption and protocol options

Cons:

  • Phone support is automated
  • Nebulous privacy policy
  • Need separate SmartDNS provider

Pricing and Plans

TorGuard offers a variety of plans at middle-of-the-road prices. On the plus side, TorGuard offers a seven-day trial period, letting users try out the service for free. The basic anonymous proxy plan is $5.95 per month and includes access to SOCKS5 (Socket Secure), HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), SSH (Secure Shell), and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). There's also access to more than 2,000 IPs in more than 50 countries, along with unlimited bandwidth.

Likely the most popular option is the anonymous VPN plan, which runs at $9.99 per month. TorGuard claims that this OpenConnect SSL-based VPN is the fastest VPN protocol on the Internet. Subscribers get access to a stealth proxy and five simultaneous connections. Around-the-clock support (24/7; 365 days) is also offered, but good luck getting an actual human on the phone. You're much better off communicating through email.

The streaming bundle is available for $21.98 a month and includes anonymous VPN and proxy access, offering maximum privacy.

TorGuard_pricing

While all these plans are a bit more pricey than the average competitor, TorGuard does offer discounts if you choose to bill your account quarterly, semi-annually, annually, or biennially. Additionally, you can pay with pretty much anything, including PayPal, a credit card, gift card, and Bitcoin.


Features

TorGuard includes five simultaneous connections to start with, and you can add on additional connections for $1 per month each. This makes it convenient for connecting multiple devices, especially for a family. Like we mentioned before, you can pony up for the anonymous email plan or the basic anonymous proxy plan. The VPN service offers more security than the latter, but the anonymous proxy is handy if you're looking to unblock P2P file sharing and geo-restricted content.

More than 50 servers are available, letting you choose one closer to your actual location in order to boost speeds. A stealth connection lets you bypass firewalls, and a kill switch is available for OS X and Windows, which stops you from leaking data to their Internet service provider. For a bit of added protection, you can also turn on a malware blocker and ad blocker.


Tests

TorGuard showed no signs of DNS server leakage and reported pretty good speeds for its connection. However, you can try different servers around the country (and world) to try and boost connection speeds.

Testing on mobile

TorGuard offers a simple, yet fast mobile client for users on the go. While not rich with features, its connection is fast for iOS, iPad, and Android. However, some users have expressed connection problems with the mobile client for iOS.


Privacy

For many users, privacy stands above all else when they're looking for a VPN option, and for good reason. Unfortunately, TorGuard is registered to Nevis in the Caribbean and falls under U.S. Jurisdiction. This means that, potentially, the federal government could issue warrants for the collection of information—a possibility that is not perhaps not so far-fetched due to the current administration's policies. This is a risk with any VPN rooted in the U.S. and its territories. With that said, TorGuard states that it keeps no connection or usage logs.

TorGuard's privacy policy is long, confusing, and meticulously assembled to absolve TorGuard from any situation that you could probably conceive. Clearly, this is done with TorGuard's best interests in mind, and probably because it is based in a U.S. territory. Make sure to read over the privacy policy closely before making a purchase.


Security

The default encryption that TorGuard used for a time was Blowfish-128, which is not known to be top-of-the-line. Fortunately, you can now use a much better AES-256 encryption, which provides much more security for those looking to bypass firewalls. Also, TorGuard offers various levels of encryption so that you can choose your own level of security, in case there are any connection problems.


Website Blocking

The available stealth connection is a great tool for bypassing firewalls and unblocking websites. However, what's most useful about TorGuard is the fact that it has more than 50 servers located around the globe. This is very handy for anyone looking to access geo-restricted content.


Final Thoughts

For a solid encryption and P2P file sharing TorGuard offers a very good product with extremely fast speeds in the U.S. It also offers plenty of features for security buffs. However, having a U.S.-based operation can make the strictest privacy enthusiasts think twice about signing up.

VPNArea Review – 2020

VPNArea Review - 2020

VPNArea is founded in Bulgaria and has the right building blocks to provide the security that is necessary and has tools to support the needs of any user.

Why Choose VPNArea


VPNArea does not log your information; anything you do or search or any data that is sent across their networks is immediately deleted and gone so there is no trace that the data has ever been there. For me, this was paramount. If any of the data I was transferring to and from our server got out and if any of our clients were exploited because of it, the entire company would be put in jeopardy.

Best VPN for


  • Netflix, Hulu, and streaming online
  • Torrenting and downloading
  • Security and privacy

Works on


Mac

Windows

Android

IOS

Linux


Pros:

  • The cell phone app worked seamlessly
  • Customer service seemed genuinely interested in helping
  • 24/7 Live Chat
  • Privacy is protected; they’re not part of the 14 eyes and don’t log data
  • Fully autonomous iOS app for iPhone/iPad on App Store
  • Desktop app for Mac and Windows (no always-on-top, no leaks, new design)

Cons:

  • Download instructions confusing; must be followed closely for program to work

Pricing and Plans

VPNArea offers 3 tiers of service: monthly, 6-month subscriptions, or yearly subscriptions. When you select a higher tier, you pay less; the monthly plan is $9.90/month but if you choose the 12 months plan you'll pay less ($4.92/month) and where you get the best deal is at 36 months for $2.99/month. The only downside, though, is you have to pay the full year/s in advance.

Don’t worry, though. VPNArea offers a 7 day money-back guarantee if you decide that you are not happy with the service.

The other nice part is that they honor their policy of anonymity by offering both traditional payment methods alongside anonymous methods such as Bitcoin.

Another great feature the AreaVPN offers is a free dedicated IP and server at no charge. You have a handful of countries to choose from for your server and, though they’re only available for a few months, it is free. Most people wouldn’t need that option but it is definitely nice to know that if you did need a dedicated IP address and server it would be available to you.


Features

Interface

In an attempt to provide this tool to everyone, VPNArea has created a whole host of different program iterations. Not only do they have the major, current operating systems but they also have older versions and less common platforms such as Linux and Ubuntu. 

When you’re first downloading for your computer, you’re presented with 17 platform choices, which is wonderful. Be sure to check your operating system so that you’re installing the correct iteration. Then hit the "Setup File" button. This downloaded the .dmg file to my downloads and I double clicked to open it... From there, things got very confusing. The file opened a window asking you to drag the VPNArea Chameleon to the applications folder.​..

When I did that only a shell of an application opened. It asked you to log in on the right and had the menu on the left but none of the sections had any content in them. I went back to the install page and noticed that there were detailed instructions on how to properly install the application. They weren’t far different from what I had done but they did say to transfer the downloaded .dmg file to the applications folder before opening it. So, when trying to give it another go, I couldn’t replace the Chameleon application with the newly installed version because it said the application was open.

I tried to delete the application manually and it gave me the same error, but there was no icon on the toolbar of my laptop. In the “Force Quit” no corresponding application appeared either. From there, I gave up and went to my desktop computer to install it there. I was able to follow the instructions and properly install the program and I even got it up and running! The interface is attractive and simple, with a menu on the left that allows you to toggle between the current VPN connection, a list of servers and their current speeds, an optional Kill Switch, Anti DNS Leak, Auto IP Changer, and Settings.

Servers

The “Home” screen is where you can see your connection and change to a different server. The text box below it logs all actions taken so you can review that if you wish.

There are no shortage of servers available, either. Each of the countries shown is represented as having server connections in each.

The servers are listed alphabetically by country initially but offer a header bar that lets you organize the list, however, suits you best. Additionally, on the bottom of the page, you can run a speed test for a few or all of the networks. Once the speed test is complete, you could organize the list by fastest ping speed or highest upload rate, depending on what you need at that moment.

Kill switch

The “Kill Switch” functions is an optional security measure that allows you to authorize the program to shut down any sensitive programs when it disconnects from the network and subsequently the server protecting your IP Address. If you’re handling sensitive material, this can be a very helpful tool, as it serves as a guard dog against information slipping out in the case that the VPN got disconnected and you didn’t notice​

DNS leak protection

The Anti-DNS Leak function allows you to run DNS Leak tests on servers before you connect to them, which provides another layer of security. Another additional layer of security can be found by using the Auto IP Changer function, which allows you to select which servers you want to utilize and how often you want your ISP to change. Once you get it going, it automatically changes your IP address for you every once in awhile.

I have to stop here and make note of a few oddities that I encountered. When I opened the application for the very first time I did not see an icon appear on my toolbar of my laptop. The application floated on top of every other application running and there was no way to minimize it, only move it, so I moved it to the lower right corner of my screen while I wasn’t using it and pulled it back into the middle when I needed to check or change something. The major problem came in when I was done for the day and closed the screen out. When I tried to open it back up nothing happened; nothing at all. Again, no icon, but this time no window, either. I struggled for a while and then decided the best route was to uninstall and reinstall the program but there was no uninstall function. When I tried to “trash” the application I was returned with an error saying the application was still open and could not be thrown away. Upon looking in the “Force Quit” tool, no application was found. I was basically stuck in the mud and unable to do anything. The same thing happened on my desktop, too.


Tests

Speed is an essential quality most VPN users are looking for, so I decided to test the service on my desktop computer. The results I got are as follows:

The VPN showing to be the “fastest” has very similar speeds to my network connection, which is great. No muddied waters, not sluggish speeds but still all the protection I wanted. The USA Netflix server, however, was significantly slower on the ping speed and download speed, which could be due to the server being heavily used at the time, though there was no way of knowing the capacity usage. You will also notice that there are no tests for any far away locations. This is because every time I tried to connect in the UK or South America or Japan I was unable to successfully run a speed test without the test crashing and the WiFi connection disconnecting. Also, any connection I was able to get that was far away would essentially stall out and not connect. I was unable to do even a simple google search when connected to an international server.​

DNS Test

Because of my connection issues with international servers, I was interested to see if the problem was from a leaking connection with some of the DNS servers. Unfortunately, the DNS Leak Test came back with less than stellar results. This is just one example but multiple servers reported similar results.

I switched to a US-based server and tried again and it showed no leak. Just to double check, I ran a TorGuard leak test and came up with no leaks.

Just for peace of mind, I ran an IPV6 Leak Test which showed that it was not leaking.

Testing on mobile

Because I use an iPhone, I downloaded and tried the app, just to see how it worked. It wasn’t the most intuitive app I’ve ever seen but you have to take into account that it was probably developed by a bunch of technologically savvy people, a group which I am not a part of. The idea is to help make coffee-shop browsing safer and emails while on-the-road secure.

The VPNArea app downloaded very quickly and I was able to log into it using the same login and password as the desktop application. However, I was a bit confused at first when I chose a server and it popped up a request to open an app called OpenVPN. I went back to the App Store and downloaded the OpenVPN app and, again, had to sign into it using my credentials from VPNArea. Once I opened the link to the server from the VPNArea app in the OpenVPN app I was able to get the VPN to connect and protect my phone. Note, though, that it asks you to sign in every time you change servers, which is a bit tedious. Essentially, the VPNArea app is where you go to find a server that suits your needs and then you open that server in the OpenVPN app and connect to it.

Of course, I had to test to see if the app was secure so I ran an IPLeak.net test, which showed that there was no DNS leak found. What this means is that the DNS server is solidly protecting your information.

Once connected, I ran a series of SpeedTest.net tests. I ran each test both on the 3G network and on the WiFi network. The speeds were all over the place and didn’t really seem to have a whole lot of consistency. The download speeds on 3G were significantly slower at a nearby server (about 25mbps less) when on the 3G network but when on WiFi the speed increased on the VPN connection by almost 13mbps! The fastest connection I could find was in Detroit, Michigan. Though the ping speed slowed, the upload and download speeds were only slightly diminished from the non-VPN connection. Not surprisingly, when I connected to a server in London, UK, halfway across the world, the speeds slowed significantly.

BBC and Netflix

When I'm traveling, I need to watch movies and tv shows on my phone or iPad, so I was curious to see if I could connect to content on the BBC iPlayer , which is normally restricted from those outside the United Kingdom. I was happy to find that, although the VPN was flagged on Safari, both Firefox and Chrome browsers were able to connect and view the content. As an added bonus, I was able to view Netflix and Hulu in various countries across the world which allowed me quite a significant diversity in content available to me.

Something worth noting is that when you transfer from WiFi to 3G and back again, the VPN has to disconnect but the app is designed to immediately reconnect you to the server again. I doubt that much data could be transferred in that few-second gap of time but it would be better if the app mimicked the kill-switch option that is given in the desktop program, killing internet connection to apps while they’re unprotected to the VPN.


Customer service

If I’m being honest, it was very inconvenient that, when I was having trouble with the application, there was no one to help me on live-chat. This was on a Friday morning at around 10am EST and I did not receive an email in response until Monday evening, three and a half days later. Both the weekend and the distance to the home office might come into play on this issue but, as most any everyday user might, I was ready to move on to a different VPN service. Their response was very open and willing to help but they asked for error codes and I couldn’t even access them because my screen had closed and would not reopen.


Privacy

Privacy is incredibly important in the world of VPN users and that is why VPNArea is acclaimed to be one of the best. They have a no-logs policy and none of the information on who their users are or what they are doing is even stored. Because they aren’t part of the 14 eyes coalition, they don’t have to. The government cannot force them to provide information, even with a subpoena. Another important feature is being able to maintain anonymity while paying so there is no trace. They even let you pay anonymously using Bitcoin.

From what I could tell, there was no legal controversy surrounding VPNArea nor did anyone else have much negative to say about it, barring some comments on slow speeds.


Security

One of the most important security features a VPN service can offer is an SSL Certificate which allows the user the confidence of a secure tunnel between VPN servers. VPNArea offers that security with the boost of a 256-bit encryption. When it comes to hacking, a 256-bit encryption exponentially increases the difficulty for decoding information, making it virtually impossible to get at the data being transferred.

Of course, the additional security tools within the application only enhance this security. The DNS Leak testing definitely goes above and beyond anything I’ve seen on other services and the ability to automatically change your IP address at a specified interval of time blew my mind. I may not do anything that needs that level of protection but if you were handling sensitive information that would really make you feel safer.


Website Blocking

As I mentioned earlier, I love to watch a little BBC when I’m traveling and I enjoy perusing media from other cultures around the world so getting access to blocked websites is a significant perk for me. I’m sure many people utilize VPN’s as a way to connect to data or websites that might otherwise be made unavailable to them for a variety of reasons. Because of connection issues on the desktop application, I was unable to see if this was possible. However, on the mobile app, I was able to connect pretty quickly and only one of my browsers was flagged. It was really nice to be able to connect quickly and succinctly without a bunch of trouble. For reference purposes, VPNArea offers many networks that are geared toward users looking to utilize services such as Netflix. Specifically, they have a USA server with a Netflix EU-hub and another that is just for Netflix, a UK Netflix server and another UK server for BBC content.


Final Thoughts

Ultimately, I was not very happy with the services offered by VPN area. The desktop application caused me a lot of trouble and I spent more than a full day trying to navigate a way to fix it. I ended up utilizing 3 computers and each time I still experienced the same issues. Yes, the application works when installed correctly but it hovers over the top of every other program and gets in the way and if you close it the program cannot be reopened. The mobile app was the redeeming factor because it worked seamlessly. I felt confident that my information was secure and didn’t notice any trouble with speed. True, I do not do anything that requires a speedy connection such as gaming or P2P file sharing but VPNArea has networks specifically geared toward them. After my experience, I will be canceling my subscription to this service and pursuing a refund as it does not work on my laptop and that is my primary need when I travel.

VyprVPN Review – 2020

VyprVPN Review - 2020

Well-established, user-friendly and solidly secure, VyprVPN seemed to be evolving before my eyes.

Why Choose VyprVPN


VyprVPN provides solid security, a promise of extra security from prying eyes and an ease of use that I greatly appreciated.

Best VPN for


  • Netflix, Hulu, and streaming online
  • Torrenting and downloading
  • Security and privacy

Works on


Mac

Windows

Android

IOS

Linux

Routers


Pros:

  • Protected by Swiss privacy laws
  • Top tier plans provide extra layers of security
  • Best plan offers 5 simultaneous connections
  • All plans have unlimited data

Cons:

  • Significantly slower PING could be an issue for gamers
  • Difficult to pay for service anonymously

Pricing and Plans

VyprVPN offers a 3-day free trial and a menu of three paid plans – basic, pro, and premier – each with a choice of monthly or annual billing. Each plan gives you simultaneous connections and unlimited data. Pro and premier provide protection from deep packet inspection (DPI) except on iOS devices.

VyprVPN does not accept BitCoin but does accept third payments via Alipay.


Features

Set up

Installing VyprVPN on an unfamiliar computer using a much newer OS than I’m used to caused some initial Stump the Old Guy befuddlement, but was quickly resolved without pestering the young people or resorting to lengthy online chats with customer support.

Manually changing server

Here again, I made this way harder than I needed to. Reading right past “Fastest Server” and “Show All Server Locations” on the drop down menu under the VyprVPN icon on the toolbar, I chose “Show VpyrVPN,” then puzzled a minute away until I figured out I needed to click on the location icon on the right side of the blue “Connect Fastest Server” button to pull up a list of more than 700 servers. Pretty sure any problems were a “Me” thing.

Changing settings

Are easy. Use the drop down menu to “Show “VpyrVPN” and use the little switchy thingys on the control panel if all you need is connect to your motel’s shady Wi-Fi, block malicious sites or turn the kill switch on and off, on and off, on and off. You’ll need to use the drop down menu for fancier stuff like switching security protocols or a whole bunch of advanced choices I don’t understand.

Speed

While tests showed significant drops in PING and download speeds, I didn’t notice any problems at all when streaming movies/TV on BBC’s iPlayer or Netflix.

Customer support

Confirmation Email for my account took longer than I expected, but I got an immediate response when I contacted customer support.


Tests

PING of 75 is bad news for gamers. Download speed dropped by 65%. Uploads largely unchanged, dropping 6%.

Testing on mobile

VyprVPN worked just as well on a mobile device as on my desktop, streaming BBC vids without a hiccup and connecting to various servers with no trouble whatever.


Privacy

Golden Frog incorporated in Switzerland to take advantage of that country’s favorable privacy laws, which protect your personal data and prohibit using your IP address to track your Internet usage.

That said, although VyprVPN does not log your DNS requests it DOES log time stamps, bandwidth, IP addresses, and DOES NOT permit you to use BitCoin.

VyprVPN cooperates with all Fourteen Eyes countries. And, although it has servers in four countries (Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam) that are considered Enemies of the Internet by Reporters Without Frontiers, none have jurisdiction over VyprVPN.

Have to provide CC and some personal info not only for a subscription but also for a free test.


Security

Adds an extra layer of security to state of the art AES-256 cipher with RSA-2048 handshake encryption. However, VyprVPN only offers OpenVPN and its proprietary Chameleon meta data scrambling technology if you pay extra for its Pro and Premier plans. The basic plan uses less secure PPTP and L2TP/IPsec protocols. Of particular interest, if you’re using your mobile device is the extra protection the company’s NAT firewall puts between you and malicious traffic. VpyrVPN owns its own servers and gets a top SSL rating.


Website Blocking

Despite dire warnings all ‘round the InterWebs, I had absolutely zero issues viewing TV shows and movies on my employer’s desktop (other than spending time watching TV shows and movies when I probably should’ve been doing other things). Ditto for BBC on iPlayer (This new series “Taboo” looks very cool). Lots of yada-yada-yada on the website, but, apparently, SmartDNS kicks in without you having to do anything, which was nice for a NeanderTech like me.


Final Thoughts

VyprVPN provides solid security, a promise of extra security from prying eyes and an ease of use that I greatly appreciated. Perhaps VyprVPN’s best feature is an intangible – I learned more about VPNs in an hour or so on its website than I did during a day spent Googling info about IPs, DNSs, AESs and a whole bunch more alphabet soup acronyms. I expect that regular use of VyprVPN’s could turn me into something of a VPN super sleuth.

NordVPN Review – 2020

NordVPN Review - 2020

NordVPN has hundreds of servers across the world and can be tailored to fit any user’s needs, from gaming to P2P file sharing, data security to expanded content availability.

Why Choose NordVPN


When seeking anonymity of data and browsing, you need a reliable and secure VPN that you can trust. NordVPN has more than 5,300 servers in 58 countries across the world and can be tailored to fit any user’s needs, from gaming to P2P file sharing, data security to expanded content availability. Is NordVPN a secure and reliable service? Read my investigation to find out more.

Best VPN for


  • Netflix, Hulu, and streaming online
  • Torrenting and downloading
  • Security and privacy

Works on


Mac

Windows

Android

IOS

Linux

Routers


Pros:

  • Easy to install and operate
  • Ad blocking
  • Customer service is incredibly helpful and very patient
  • Multi-platform integration
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • Connection speeds are slower than most people would prefer
  • Security breach was a worrying event

NordVPN was started in 2012 by four friends who wanted to create a liberated Internet experience. Their main goals are to combat censorship and unwanted surveillance. They started small, with only one server, keep on expanding and now have more than 5,300 servers around the world. This is one of the largest server networks in the VPN industry. 

NordVPN is based in Panama and therefore not part of the 5-eyes and 14-eyes alliances. Those global state security alliances are known to put pressure on VPN companies to disclose user activity, but NordVPN can’t be touched. Panama has very strict copyright laws. However, although NordVPN is based there, it doesn’t have any servers in Panama, thus it skirts the local laws on illegal downloads.


Pricing and Plans

There is only one level of VPN service offered by NordVPN; either you’re in or you’re out. The price plans offered by the company get cheaper depending on how long you sign up for. The monthly payment plan is the most expensive at $11.95 per month. Other options are one-year, two-year, and three-year plans with the price per month on the three-year plan working out at $3.49.

Be aware though, that you have to pay for your plan upfront. So, if you take out the one-month plan, you will have to pay $11.95 there and then. The subscription fee is on a repeat billing cycle, so you will be charged again automatically when that month expires. If you take out the three-year plan, you will pay $125.64 straight away. The company will take out another fee from your account once that three years have expired.   

If the thought of paying for a service that you haven’t even tried puts you off, don’t worry. NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of its plans. I have put that promise to the test and I can confirm that the company issues refunds without putting up a fight.


Interface

The main screen of the app has a map of the world with a menu bar to the left. The map shows a marker in each country where NordVPN has servers.

NordVPN Home View


You click on a marker to get connected to a VPN server in that country. The system will automatically assign you a server from the list of all of the servers that it has in that country. Once you are connected, you will see a system notification at the bottom left of your computer’s screen and the marker you pressed will turn green.

It is possible to select a specific server in the country of your choice and this is where the side menu bar comes in. The menu lists all of the countries that NordVPN has servers in. When you hover your pointer over a country a menu icon, in the form of three dots appears to the right of the country. Clicking on this gets you a pop-up where you can select a city or a specific server. The server selection list should the current amount of capacity usage on that machine. You can also mark a specific server as a favorite for direct access in the future.


Features

SmartPlay

The “Smart-Play™” function gives you access to streaming services. It combines the concepts of smart DNS and VPNs to enable users to doge regional detection and get access to streaming services that usually block overseas access.

This is a great feature if you are traveling and not impressed by the local TV. You can access TV from home over the Internet. The SmartPlay feature is integrated into NordVPNs servers, so you don’t have to look for it as an option – it is automatically in play when you connect.

CyberSec

This tool is available in both the apps and in the browser extensions for NordVPN. The system blocks ads and trackers and it also prevents your computer from becoming part of a botnet – a system used by hackers to cripple other computers through a DDoS attack. NordVPN operates a blacklist of infected and malicious websites. If you have CyberSec turned, the security system will check that blacklist every time you surf to a new website. If the site is on the list, CyberSec will block it from loading into your browser and save you from being infected.

P2P servers

The right menu list of servers in the app includes specialty servers. One of the options in this category is labeled “P2P.” This menu line gives you access to a list of servers that are specifically calibrated to facilitate downloading with torrents. You can select a country from the list available in this option, or just opt to connect to the fastest P2P server.

Torrent downloading is a contentious issue in the VPN industry. Many VPNs declare that they don’t allow file sharing, while others will allow it, but for legal reasons, won’t tell you that. NordVPN is very open on its website about its acceptance of P2P activity on its network.

TOR over VPN

NordVPN has a special feature that enables users to connect to the TOR network through a VPN server. TOR stands for “the onion router.” It is an alternative to a VPN and it routes traffic randomly though the computers of volunteers. The system includes layers of encryption and its purpose is to obscure the origin of a connection. However, it is painfully slow and messages continue unencrypted once they leave the network onto the intended destination.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use the facility. It didn’t even appear as an option in the app. I asked NordVPN about this and a technician told me that they were having problems with the service. It hasn’t been discontinued, but the service often gets overwhelmed, so they remove it from the options list. The company hopes to provide a permanent version of this service soon.

Double hop VPN

One of the Specialty Servers category in the app is a Double VPN option. This is visible in the mobile version of the app, but isn’t immediately available in the Windows version. You need to go into the Settings menu and change the default protocol over from UDP to TCP before the option appears in the menu.

The Double VPN routes your connection through two VPN servers, each in a different country. This creates double encryption on all of your traffic for the stretch between the two VPN servers. One problem with this option is that it will slow down your traffic considerably.

Connect on start

You can choose the option to “Connect on Start” and which VPN network you want to connect to. If you have a favorite that works well for your needs, this can be a great way to bypass tedious processes of picking and connecting manually. This is a security feature that makes sure that you device is always protected.

Kill switch

A kill switch blocks all apps from accessing the internet if the VPN is not active. This is an important option because sometimes internet connections drop momentarily and then reconnect. The break in the connection may be enough to stop the VPN working, while apps running on your device may still try for a response. When the internet comes back, those apps might pick up the communications thread that they were on and carry on operating without the VPN protection, thus exposing your identity.

NordVPN has two types of kill switch. One is an overall internet kill switch and the other is an application kill switch. This will only block nominated apps from getting internet access without the VPN while allowing all other traffic to pass unprotected.

The kill switch is optional and if you forget that you turned it on, you might get moments that cause you to panic. It will seem that your internet connection is not working. In fact, it is blocked until you turn the VPN on.

Multi-platform accessibility

For ease of use, NordVPN has adapted their service and made programs for PC, Mac, iOS and Android platforms. This is especially helpful because you can take your VPN security on the road with you on your smartphone. Now, sitting in a coffee shop and browsing on your phone is much safer. With your subscription service, you can use the application on your computer at work, your laptop, your home desktop, tablet and smartphone with complete fluidity.

It is also possible to set up the VPN manually of Linux machines, Blackberry, Raspberry Pi and WiFi routers.

NordVPN produces a browser extension version of its app for Chrome and Firefox.

Each NordVPN account is entitled to have six simultaneous connections. You can install the software on more than six devices but only six of them can be connected at the same time.

Customer service

NordVPN has one of the best customer support teams in the business. You can search through the knowledge base, which is very comprehensive to answer your own problems. If that doesn’t help, you can access a chat bot. This is not a real person, but acts like one and it will try to answer your questions by doing a better search through the knowledge base than you could. If this bot doesn’t solve your problems, it will put you through to a real person.

The support team can also be contacted via email and through a form in the website.


Tests

Note: Nord has since drastically improved its speed with its new TCP window size update and introduction of NordLynx on Linux and iOS.

As noted earlier, connection speed is super important. So, I decided to test different areas of the world to see how they performed. My pre-VPN speed at home in the UK was:

NordVPN test unprotected

When I connected to a VPN in Frankfurt, Germany, the speed went down to less than half:

NordVPN test Germany

Further away, connected to Chicago, USA, the ping slowed, but the download speed was very close to the performance that I got when connected to the Frankfurt server and the upload speed was a lot better:

NordVPN test Chicago

For fun, I tested Costa Rica. The results were dreadful:

NordVPN test Costa Rica

To be fair, the slowness of the Costa Rica connection could be down to a slow local network and not the fault of NordVPN. In each case, I tested a connection to a destination as close as possible to the VPN server location.

Do these speeds matter? Ping refers to the round-trip time of a single packet. So, the slower the ping the less suitable that connection would be for interactive applications, such as internet telephony or online gaming. Upload speeds are only important if you are planning on running your own server at home. Download speeds are especially important for streaming video. If the connection is too slow, you will get pauses in the playback and also scrambled frames and jumps in the video play.

HBO Go recommends a minimum of 3 Mbps to stream its videos over the internet. Netflix recommends 3 Mbps for SD streaming and t5 Mbps for HD video. In all of these tests, I would have been OK streaming video, except if I wanted to access video sites in Costa Rica from the UK.

DNS leak testing

After running a handful of different DNS Leak Test web services on a variety of VPN location choices I am happy to say that I didn’t find a leak anywhere. This is not surprising, though, because NordVPN has a DNS leak protection program running 24/7 to automatically detect and repair any leaks.

Mobile testing

I installed the NordVPN app on my Android phone. The NordVPN website warns that the app available in Google Play has some performance restrictions on it and it is better to download the version available on the company website.

The app has the same functions as the computer version, but the layout is a little different. The right-hand menu in the computer app is below the map in the mobile app.

NordVPN mobile

When examining the list of available servers for a country, the mobile app gives the server’s distance from your location, which isn’t information that the computer-based app gives. However, the computer app shows the load on each server but the mobile app doesn’t.

I was impressed that the VPN connection transitioned seamlessly when changing from a Wi-Fi network to a 3G network. It didn't have to disconnect and reconnect - it just flowed seamlessly into the new connection.


Privacy

Log keeping

The matter of log keeping is of crucial importance in the VPN industry. No matter how determined a company is to protect the privacy of its customers, they can’t stop the police forcing their way in and seizing their servers if someone takes out a court order. The only defense from this intrusion is if there is no information on those servers.

The headquarters location of NordVPN in Panama makes it harder for US and European authorities or copyright holders to sue them, but it doesn’t protect your anonymity completely. Every server location is a legal vulnerability. Fortunately, thanks to the NordVPN no logs policy, there is no information to seize.

NordVPN accepts payment by Bitcoin, which is another method that customers can use in order to protect their anonymity.


Transmission Security

The major point of weakness in any secure system occurs at the point of session establishment. Once a connection has been established, encryption and authentication systems make it impossible for a hacker to steal data from the user. Like most VPNs, NordVPN uses a system called OpenVPN for its security measures. This includes a session establishment protection library called OpenSSL.

“SSL” is a misnomer and a bit of a throwback. The term is widely used in networking technology and it stands for “Secure Socket Layer.” This is the system that puts security into HTTPS (HTTP Secure) and makes it a secure version of HTTP, the system that transports all web pages. SSL was superseded by Transport Layer Security (TLS) a long time ago and it is TLS that protects the session establishment procedures of NordVPN.

The TLS protocol centers on server authentication procedures that require access to a certificate. That certificate delivers an encryption cypher that the client can use to challenge the server to prove its identity. NordVPN uses a 2048-bit RSA key for this process, which, to date, has never been cracked.

The RSA cypher protects the delivery of the session encryption key. This key is symmetrical, which means that both sides have to know the same key in order to communicate. NordVPN uses a 256-bit AES cypher for session encryption. This is the strongest encryption system used commercially in the world today and is impossible to crack.


Website blocking

Websites are able to detect where a connection request comes from and selectively block them. This is called “regional restrictions” and the practice is particularly prevalent among video streaming sites. This is because TV stations only pay for the rights to show videos in specific countries, so if they let people access their libraries or live streams from anywhere, they could be sued by the producers of that content.

It is understandable why streaming services implement regional restrictions but it is also very annoying. Fortunately, VPNs can get around these access blocks by making it look as through you are in the country that has access to the site.

NordVPN is very good at getting around regional restrictions. It can get you into the BBC iPlayer even if you aren’t in the UK and it can get you into the streaming websites of the major US television networks even though you are outside of the USA.

There is one streaming website that has gone to such length to block access from overseas that it has become the touchstone of performance in the VPN industry. Its regional restrictions are so difficult to get into that most VPN companies will tell you that it can’t be done. That site is Netflix and NordVPN can get you cross-border access to it – as long as you have a Netflix subscription. It can get into the Netflix video libraries for the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy from outside of those countries.

The NordVPN can also get you into Hulu for Japan and the USA from outside those countries, into Amazon Prime Video in the country where you have an account and Sky Go, ITV, Channel 4, and the BBC iPlayer while you are outside of the UK. It can get you video access in the ABC network from outside of the USA.


Final Thoughts

NordVPN is one of the top five VPN services in the world. It is very cheap for all of its capabilities. More expensive services are not able to get you into Netflix like NordVPN can. The security extras of this provider, such as the double hop VPN and the CyberSec facility are unique and should be considered world beaters. Its allowance of six simultaneous connections is also unusually generous in the industry.

The server network of NordVPN is one of the largest in the world and the anonymity and privacy services it provides are very strong. The security of its connections is as good as you could expect from anyone and its no logs policy is a great help.

However, NordVPN loses points because in certain locations it is just too slow. The recent security breach in Finland should also give us all pause for thought. Although the company has gone to great lengths to correct its intrusion defenses, I have to wonder why those measures were implemented in the first place.

ZoogVPN Review – 2020

ZoogVPN Review - 2020

Founded in 2013, Greece-based ZoogVPN has carved out a niche for itself as an intuitive and simple VPN that caters specifically to users of online streaming services, such as Netflix.

Why Choose ZoogVPN


Zoog is easy to install, easy to use, and supported on a variety of platforms and devices. It also has some great video tutorials to assist in setup and unblocking content, as well as wallet-friendly subscription plans.

Best VPN for


  • Netflix, Hulu, and streaming online
  • Torrenting and downloading
  • Security and privacy

Works on


Mac

Windows

Android

IOS

Linux

Routers


Pros:

  • Great access to streaming services such as Netflix
  • Easy setup and simple UI
  • Many different VPN protocols to choose from
  • Very helpful website and tutorials

Cons:

  • Speed test was very poor (although streaming quality seemed unaffected)
  • UK-based, with connection logs kept for an unspecified amount of time
  • Customer service is ticket-based only

Pricing and Plans

ZoogVPN is one of the few premier services that offers a free plan. It is limited to only 2GB of data transfer per month, which goes pretty quickly even with average internet usage, but is better than nothing. Since some users of other VPNs report difficulty in utilizing free trials or money back guarantees, a totally free subscription is a great way to try the service out with no obligation or hassle of cancellation.

After that, there is only one basic plan that is sold in three different subscription lengths - one-month, one year, and 2 years (at the time of this post, pricing was $7.99/$2.99/$1.75 per month, respectively). They run frequent specials and discounts, so if you are considering getting a VPN soon, it pays to check out their very polished website from time to time. Compared to VPNs of similar quality, these pricing models are on the good side of average.


Features

ZoogVPN markets itself, and builds it features accordingly, as a VPN for content streamers who either want to bypass geographic restrictions on websites or at the very least access content usually unavailable through proxy servers. This is made clear by the content of their website and the types of help available in their tutorials and FAQ section. Zoog’s goal is to give customers a way to privately and securely access sites such as Hulu, Netflix, or Xfinity.

Since these sites are often changing their own security measures, we went ahead and tested ZoogVPN on Netflix - and it worked like a charm. Should a user experience problems with one of these sites, Zoog’s website contains information on how to change servers or security protocols in order to regain access.

The interface and option menus are set up differently than many other VPNs. Some users might find it to be refreshingly simple and minimalist, while others would wish that it had a little more charm. Either way, the application is unobtrusive and as easy to navigate as something with as much technical voodoo as a VPN could be. The same could be said for its sign up and installation procedures - while fast and relatively easy, it manages to feel tedious and mundane in a way that few modern VPNs have been.​

Note: At the time of posting this review there was no Mac option, however, now there is. It uses IKEv2 VPN protocol for lightning-fast connections. OpenVPN TCP/UDP is also available. Other features include VPN-on-demand for auto-reconnect and a Kill Switch.


Tests

Setting up a VPN is the easy part, and while an attractive UI and easy installation process is nice and all, most of the time your VPN will just be running in the background. Since all VPNs will have an impact on performance, latency, and speed, we started first with a few speed tests of ZoogVPN.


​Our baseline results before and after connecting to the nearest ZoogVPN server from www.speedtest.net.

Unfortunately, this was the largest drop in performance we have seen. When we tried doing some streaming on Netflix, however, performance seemed to be fine. With these numbers, it would be hard to recommend ZoogVPN for online gaming or torrenting purposes, but for regular web browsing and videos, it was serviceable. Also note that your mileage may vary, as there are many factors involved in speed over a VPN, so it could still be worth trying out Zoog and seeing what results you get.

Next, I went to see if our IP was successfully changed, which it was, and followed that up with a peek on ipv6leak.com which showed us that it was not leaking.

These basic tests left us satisfied that the VPN tunnel was working as intended for at least a basic level of security.​


Privacy

While the use of a VPN will keep your IP anonymous when browsing, we took a look to see what types of logs ZoogVPN keeps. Being based in the UK, they are subject to both national and EU data retention logs. According to their website, they do keep minimal connection logs regarding time and duration of sessions, as well as the amount of data transfer. While they do not state how long they keep these logs for, they do go on to say that they keep no logs whatsoever of online activity within a session. Still, for a user looking for the most privacy possible, it might be prudent to try some other VPNs - while their policy sounds reasonable, being based in the UK and not having as long as a track record of anonymity as other providers causes a small amount of skepticism.


Security

For security, Zoog has several protocols including OpenVPN, PPTP, IKEv2 and L2TP. We tested security via www.dnsleaktest.com, came back only with Zoog servers.


Final Thoughts

Overall, Zoog is not set to make huge waves in the world of VPNs. Its main appeal is the ability to access a variety of streaming sites, even across regions - they are very committed to delivering this, including guides and tutorials on how to stay one step ahead should the proxy-vetting of Netflix, et al. change. If this is a big priority, and you aren’t looking for blazing fast speeds for online gaming or torrenting, then ZoogVPN may give you all you need in a simple, affordable package.