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RoboForm Review – 2021

RoboForm Review - 2021

Today's technology can be complicated. That is particularly true for people on numerous social media sites, who have several business sites, emails, and different banking accounts. Even those with just four or five online accounts may find it difficult to remember a password. 

That's where RoboForm works for online users. This 20-year-old Virgina company provides customers with a password manager that keeps your passwords protected and easily retrievable - all in one place. 

Customers using RoboForm log into any of their secured accounts with one tap. Besides being super convenient, this saves time because online users no longer need to enter billing or personal information thanks to auto form filling options.

Why Choose RoboForm


RoboForm can be used on virtually any device as it's available for Mac, Windows, Android and Apple iOS. It has support for all the different larger web browsers too, which includes Microsoft Edge. 

No one wants to forget a password. Most websites have such tight security protocols that it becomes nearly impossible to get to an account or retrieve a lost password. Retrieving a password or calling customer service to gain access to an account takes time. Time lost could be money or productivity lost.

Works on


Mac

Windows

Android

IOS

Chrome

Firefox


Pros

  • The price. It is one of the most affordable companies with these services on the market.
  • The reliability of RoboForm is unmatched, which is why people stay with this company for decades. 
  • Ease of use. This product is incredibly easy to use and requires no special training. 
  • Total security. Features like creating a strong, unique password and the encryption for all data make RoboForm a trustworthy company. 

Cons

  • It is difficult to move between two separate RoboForm accounts on the same computer or single device.
  • The RoboForm free version doesn't offer much in customer service. 

How is RoboForm different from other sites?

There are other password managers out there, like 1Password, KeePass, LastPass, and Dashlane, but RoboForm is distinctive from other password security companies in three ways. 

Those include:

  • The ability to create passwords that are unique and strong.

  • The ability to share logins through a security center.

  • Implementation of two-factor authentication access to accounts along with AES-256 bit encryption joined with PBKDF2 SHA-256.

Using RoboForm is much similar to how other similar sites operate. There are three steps to creating fast, secure password use. 

  1. Customers create an account by adding an email address and creating a master password. This is the password that is responsible for securing all data. This is the only password customers will ever need to remember once they sign up. 

  2.  Customers then add all their other passwords from all accounts. This can be done manually or by importing them. Passwords can be transferred from another password managing product, a CSV file or a browser. Now, passwords will be saved by RoboForm to each online account every time an account is accessed.

  3. A single tap gets RoboForm customers into any of their accounts at any time on the phone or computer. Customers may need major browser extensions, but that is all that may need to be added in order to never lose another password ever again.


Who is RoboForm best for?

RoboForm works well for anyone who has multiple online accounts with various passwords. However, it is especially helpful to those who manage multiple websites, bank accounts, and online media sites. This can be used for both personal and business use. 

It would be particularly useful to social media managers who must work on multiple customers' accounts daily. 

RoboForm users say affordability makes the service accessible to everyone, no matter how people use online accounts. One of the best things about this company that isn't always available elsewhere is it offers both individual and family accounts. This makes it the right choice for those with several people needing web access.


What features do customers enjoy?

Numerous features exist with RoboForm that customers love. One of the best features is the ability to create stronger passwords, which is incredibly beneficial to those doing financial transactions and other business online. 

RoboForm has a password generator that can create a unique, strong password for every site visited. This means customers no longer must use duplicate passwords in order to remember them or use weak passwords to make getting online easier. 

Customers can also capture passwords while browsing with RoboForm. This unique feature allows its customers to move along the web with RoboForm automatically saving passwords. There isn't any additional work required to access this feature.

One security feature that the RoboForm password manager has is to sync up passwords with all a customer's browsers and devices, from an iPhone to a desktop app. The Everywhere secure cloud backup is ideal for protecting and syncing passwords. 

Offline access is another feature customers find helpful. RoboForm data is accessible on all desktop and mobile devices while offline. There is also an option for local storage on both the mobile and desktop versions.

Two other neat features are bookmarks and contacts. RoboForm organizes bookmarks to access quickly across all of a customer's browsers and electronic devices. That means a RoboForm customer can switch computers to a different browser, like Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, and Google Chrome, and still have access to all their passwords. 

RoboForm also maintains all contacts, along with their information, in one spot. That makes them super easy to find and access.


Business features

This company offers a series of expanded features for businesses, as businesses may have many employees and need something more than personal customers. RoboForm's features are embedded into a password cycle's critical points. It offers security on all levels because it replaces other unsafe password saving and secure sharing methods with one encrypted method.

Employees don't need extra training with RoboForm and the interface is easy to use.

There are some additional business features with RoboForm people should notice. People can place passwords in ways they find useful. Businesses can create shared folders to separate work and personal passwords, which creates a seamless password retrieval system. 

RoboForm also has an emergency access feature for businesses. This is used when an employee becomes incapacitated or loses access to their account.

How much does RoboForm cost?

As one of the best password managers available, RoboForm is also known for its low cost.  Anyone can start with a free account on RoboForm. It is not a free trial, but a totally free password manager. The free version offers:

  • Unlimited logins

  • Autofill forms

  • Conducts a password audit

  • Contains a password generator to develop strong new passwords  

This is a good account with basic functionality that serves those with a few online accounts well. It has the same encryption standards and password accessibility as the paid accounts. 

The RoboForm Everywhere Account for individuals is $1.99 a month. It includes:

  • Data backup

  • Cross access on every device

  • Secured logins

  • Password sharing

  • Round the clock customer support

The family plan offered by RoboForm is only $3.98 a month and it offers up to five Everywhere accounts with all the features listed in the individual plan. Customers can pay with a credit card.  

There is also a business trial offer that gives users access to RoboForm services for free for 14 days. Customers can cancel at any time. With the business licensing, business owners pay for only what they use. There are multi-year and volume discounts and RoboForm's business licenses are sold as an annual subscription.

Does RoboForm have customer support?

It offers customer service support for paying customers, but limited support for its free customers. Individuals and families get premium 24/7 support. Free customers have access to online chat and other web forms of limited support. 

Business customers get top-rated customer support. The same premium support goes to businesses at all levels and no one pays any more to access it. Business users, managers, and administrators can talk to RoboForm customer support over the phone, though online chat and intuitive support content. 

RoboForm has been reviewed by numerous consumer reviewers as well as tech experts. The consensus is that RoboForm is a good company with decent services. Its user interface is efficient when saving passwords on a desktop. The mobile app is a bit more challenging. 

While some say it doesn't always compare with larger password managing companies, it is effective and is one of the most affordable. That makes it well worth the time and money to do business with RoboForm. 

Avast VPN Review – 2021

Avast VPN Review - 2021

Avast is a big name in the cybersecurity space with its free antivirus software that’s used by over 400 million people. But how does it’s SecureLine VPN stack up? Overall, you’ll find average performance and solid security features, all in an easy to use tool. 

In this Avast SecureLine VPN review, you’ll learn about the privacy and security features, content unblocking abilities, available plans as more, so you can decide if this is the best VPN for you.

Why Choose Avast VPN


It’s a good VPN, simple, easy to use, affordable, and has solid security features. However, some privacy red flags hold this VPN service back.

Best VPN for


  • BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and streaming online
  • Torrenting and downloading
  • Security and privacy

Works on


Mac

Windows

Android

IOS

Chrome

Firefox


Pros

  • Very easy to use and setup
  • Equipped with AES-256 encryption
  • Compatible with macOS, Windows, Android, and iOS
  • DNS leak protection
  • Kill switch included
  • Can occasionally get into Netflix and BBC iPlayer

Cons

  • Some of your personal information is recorded
  • No support for split tunneling
  • Small server selection of 55 servers
  • No support for router configuration

Pricing and Plans

Avast has very simple and straightforward pricing plans. There are only two plans to choose from, which makes your decision easy. There’s a month-to-month plan which costs $8.99 per month, which is one of the cheaper month-by-month plans you’ll find.

If you want to save a lot more on the price, then there’s also a one-year plan which breaks down to $3.99 per month, saving you nearly 50% on the total price. Of course, you’ll have to pay for the entire year upfront, but if you want to use a VPN for a year, this could be a great option.

No matter which plan you choose you’ll have support for up to 5 simultaneous connections, so you can connect multiple devices to the VPN at once. 

The payment methods offered by Avast are a little lacking. Most other VPNs offer a variety of payment options including Bitcoin, but Avast only supports PayPal and credit cards.

The overall price for the Avast VPN is pretty affordable, but the lack of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency support makes it so you can’t fully hide your online identity.

However, there is a free VPN seven-day trial that’ll let you fully test out the service to see if it’s right for you. You can also take advantage of the 30-day money-back guarantee, all you have to do is request a full refund from customer support.


Avast VPN Features

The Avast Virtual Private Network (VPN) was created for ease of use and works great for simple tasks like securely connecting over public wi-fi. It caters to a worldwide user base as well, since the tool is available in over 40 different languages.

It doesn’t offer the best content unblocking features (as you’ll learn), but the affordable price makes it an attractive option for those who want basic online privacy features.

There’s also an Avast VPN app, so you can use the VPN on mobile devices who are running Android or iOS. Users who have a smart TV that’s running Android TV can use this VPN to protect their television and any apps you’re running as well.

However, if you’re a Linux user, then you’ll need to find a different VPN, since this tool won’t work on computers running Linux. 

Streaming & unblocking

Avast VPN has regular and streaming servers available (as you’ll learn below). Here’s how the streaming servers break down:

  • 3 streaming server locations in the US
  • 1 streaming server location in Germany
  • 1 streaming server location in the UK

The streaming servers are optimized and stream content faster than the standard servers. 

The VPN is supposed to be able to stream Netflix, however, the results are inconsistent and depend upon your location and the server you’re using to stream. 

Amazon Prime Video also had difficulty streaming and commonly gets blocked. However, BBC iPlayer had greater success streaming than both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

If your primary goal of using a VPN is to get around geo-restrictions and unblock streaming services there are better options available. The VPN can get around restrictions, but overall it’s pretty spotty. 

Server network

The Avast VPN server network is on the smaller side, with 55 servers spread out across 34 different countries, making the total number of servers smaller than most other VPNs. In a lot of locations, you’ll only have access to a single server as well, which can affect bandwidth and speeds during peak hours.

Once you install the application you’ll be able to select your server location, or choose a server for a specific purpose, like streaming, or torrenting. 

In the United States, you’ll find 16 different cities, while the United Kingdom has 3 different locations supported.

Streaming optimized servers are available in the US, UK, and Germany. While P2P servers that are dedicated to torrenting are available in 6 countries spread out across 8 different servers. 

Here are a few P2P server locations for torrenting:

  • New York
  • Miami
  • Netherlands
  • Prague
  • Russia
  • Seattle 
  • Frankfurt

VPN Speed and Security

The Avast VPN actually has pretty great download speeds and overall connection speeds. There’s a lot that goes into measuring speed and a lot of factors that can influence speeds, like your location, server location, time of day, the device you’re using and much more.

Speed tests show that the overall speeds put it well above average when compared to similarly priced VPNs.

Avast VPN uses the industry-standard 256-Bit AES encryption. This is the gold standard of encryption and is used by institutions such as banks, to secure sensitive financial information.

This means the VPN is secure, however, this level of encryption is common to almost every VPN on the market today. UDP messaging protocol is supported by Avast, which sends information securely between a web browser and a server and can improve speeds.  

The two VPN connection protocols supported are OpenVPN and IPSec. The protocols that are used will depend on the operating system. If you’re a Windows user your connection will be established with OpenVPN, while if you’re a macOS user you’ll connect via IPSec. Unfortunately, no other protocols are supported, but the two protocols above work well for beginners. 

The moment you turn on the tool, DNS leak protection is enabled. This helps to protect your IP address and make sure it isn’t being “leaked”, and your original IP address remains anonymous. IP leaks and WebRTC leaks can expose your IP, your location, and other identifying information.

DNS and IP leak tests show that the connection is completely secure. 

There are some additional settings, which can ensure you’ll stay protected whenever you’re using the internet. For example, you can enable a setting that’ll automatically turn on the VPN whenever you connect to the internet.

You can also turn on the kill switch. This will stop your internet connection the moment your VPN disconnects. 

These features work together to help ensure that whenever you’re using the internet you’re routing traffic through the VPN.

However, you won’t find any additional features like built-in malware protection, or an ad-blocker, like other premium VPNs.


Privacy Features

The big reason to use a VPN is to protect your online privacy. So, it’s important to dive into the privacy policy and the past track record of the VPN to see how well you’re really protected. 

Avast VPN is based in the Czech Republic which isn’t part of any intelligence sharing agreements across countries.

The Avast VPN website states that it doesn’t capture any user connection logs or information about the websites you’re visiting or applications you’re running. The privacy policy breaks this down in detail. Your DNS queries are submitted to the Avast DNS servers and your activity logs aren’t recorded.

However, the VPN does capture some user information under the guise of improving the service.

Here’s some of the information that is recorded:

  • The timestamps when you connected to a server
  • Your IP address subnet
  • The servers you connected to
  • The amount of data transferred during your connection

There are also some big privacy red flags you’ll want to be aware of:

Assisting law enforcement

Avast has a transparency report that shows the number of times a request has been made by law enforcement and the number of times it’s cooperated and given user information.

Although the numbers aren’t high, it is disconcerting to see that they have given over private user information in the past. 

Collecting user browsing data

Recent reports have shown that Avast has collected user browsing data from 100 million devices. It would then sell this personal data to companies like Microsoft, Google, and Yelp. 

This data wasn’t collected via the VPN and the Jumpcut program has officially been closed, but it’s still something to be wary of.

Even though the data that was collected and sold was anonymous, it’s still a breach of trust on behalf of its users. In the VPN space, you need to trust your VPN provider fully to protect your online activity and keep you safe online. 

Perimeter 81 Review – 2021

Perimeter 81 Review - 2021

Perimeter 81 is an up-and-comer in the VPN industry. It has one of the best corporate VPN offerings, with tons of features that IT administrators will find helpful.

Why Choose Perimeter 81


Perimeter 81 may be new to the VPN market, but it’s quickly building a name for itself. Perimeter 81 offers a cloud-based alternative to traditional VPNs that require companies to maintain physical servers for employees and vendors to securely access intranet resources.

Best VPN for


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

Works on


Mac

Windows

Android

IOS

Linux

Routers


Pros:

  • Global server network in 35 locations means you can connect virtually anywhere
  • Several security options and configurations, including extras like a Kill Switch and Wi-Fi Protection
  • Zero Trust Network as a Service offers higher security and more flexibility than traditional corporate VPNs
  • Annual subscription of $8/month per team member is reasonably priced
  • Speed won’t be an issue with this VPN as it is close to the Internet speed without the VPN
  • Allows for two-factor authentication for increased security
  • Integrates with identity providers such as Google Suite, Okta, OneLogin, and Microsoft Azure Active Directory for improved user authentication

Cons:

  • Unlike the Windows VPN client, the Mac client doesn’t support the PPT or IKEv2 VPN protocols.
  • For regular Small Business users, support via chat is replied by email, which can take anywhere between an hour and 24 hours.
  • They have servers in only a few countries, so ensure that they have servers that are local to you.

Pricing and Plans

As you’d expect from a VPN service, Perimeter 81 offers a lower price for annual subscribers than for monthly subscriptions. Their one-year plan costs $8 per month for each team member, plus an additional $40 monthly per dedicated gateway, which falls in line with most of its competitors. Monthly subscriptions will set you back $10/month. 

Perimeter 81 also offers Enterprise plans for larger companies, which includes 24/7 VIP support, volume discounts, Activity API, and custom configuration. You can get a quote for Enterprise rates by reaching out to them via their website.


What Perimeter 81 Provides

Perimeter 81 offers a Zero Trust Network as a Service platform that is aimed at corporate customers. It utilizes the Software-Defined Parameter model, which offers greater flexibility and better network visibility than hardware-based legacy VPNs. It also allows for seamless onboarding and full integration with major cloud providers. 

In addition, Perimeter 81 offers dedicated gateways, fast and easy gateway deployment and user and role management. You can audit activity and see reports for various activities such as deploying or deleting gateways. It has several easy-to-use apps, Wi-Fi Security, Single Sign-On capabilities and two-factor authentication for additional security.

As a system administrator, Perimeter 81 allows you to create multiple gateways (called networks on the site), with 35 different location options to choose from. 

Perimeter 81 - Long Review, Image 1

Multiple servers can be created in the same location, or in various locations around the world. It is currently possible to create private servers in various US locations, Toronto, Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt, Singapore, Bangalore, Paris, Sydney, and Tokyo.

The VPN app offers almost all of the common VPN features, including two tunneling protocols (IKEv2, OpenVPN). 

Also included in the cost of service is Automatic Wi-Fi security, a VPN Kill Switch, and a built-in speed test. The VPN Kill Switch is particularly handy for online privacy as it stops all Internet traffic if the Perimeter 81 application stops unexpectedly. 

Perimeter 81 - Long Review, Image 2

Speed and Security Tests

Even if your VPN is fully loaded with features, speed is still an essential part of the user experience. Once I got Perimeter 81 set up and ready to go, I went to www.speedtest.net to do a simple before and after speed test. 

These were my results before:

Perimeter 81 - Long Review, Image 3

And after:

Perimeter 81 - Long Review, Image 4

And on www.ipv6leak.com, everything worked as intended:

Perimeter 81 - Long Review, Image 5

As far as security goes, our testing revealed no issues. A test on www.dnsleaktest.com showed our IP was masked correctly:

Perimeter 81 - Long Review, Image 6

Security and Privacy Features

A lot of data is logged by Perimeter 81, which might be great for the administrators, but not-so-great for end users who are looking to conceal their online footprint. Logged information includes admin actions and team member actions.

Perimeter 81also records all admin actions such as inviting new members, deleting existing team members, and changing team permissions. These are standard logs for corporate usage and are essential for most business VPN administrators. 

Team member actions that are recorded include connections and login timestamps, login success and errors, device location, and the server that the end user is connected to. 

The main reason for using a corporate VPN is to ensure security. Perimeter 81 uses the OpenVPN encryption protocol with an AES-256 cipher and SHA256 hash authentication. Its control channel consists of an AES-256 cipher with RSA-2048 TLS handshake encryption and SHA-256 authentication.

For added security, it uses Perfect forward secrecy (PFS) enabled by DH-4096 Diffie-Hellman key exchange. PFS means the VPN automatically and frequently changes the keys it uses to encrypt and decrypt information so that if the latest key is compromised, it will only expose a small portion of the user's sensitive data.

Final Thoughts

Perimeter 81 allows administrators to assign granular access permissions to user groups and individual employees. It also allows users to be grouped easily on the basis of multiple factors like browser use and teams. Logs of administrator actions and some user actions are maintained, which is essential for maintenance and operations.

Having said that, Perimeter 81 probably isn’t the best fit for casual users who are looking for a VPN to enable torrenting or streaming. If you’re looking for a VPN to secure your entertainment or browsing, take a look at some of our other highly recommended VPNs.

Virgin Media blocks VPNs

Virgin Media is one of the big four internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK, delivering internet services to 5.9 million homes. The company has a lot of power over the access that the British public has to the World Wide Web.

BestVPN.org has recently discovered that Virgin Media ISP is secretly operating its own block on access to VPN sites. Not only are the websites of VPNs blocked but sites that review VPNs and promote internet privacy are also quietly banned.

VPNs are not illegal in the UK. In fact, the British government’s foreign office, intelligence services, police services, and military forces use them regularly. There is no law against the usage of VPNs or responsibility on the part of ISPs to block access to them. However, Virgin Media has decided, as a matter of policy, to prevent its customers from accessing VPNs through its network.

The choice of VPNs that are blocked is random. The names and content of the VPN review sites also seem to show no selection pattern.

Top 3 VPNs

bestvpn choice badge
  • Fastest and most reliable VPN
  • User-friendly
  • 148 server locations
  • 24/7 customer support
Surfshark page
  • Good speeds
  • Intuitive software
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • Good speeds
  • Intuitive software
  • 81 server locations

Which sites are being blocked?

Virgin Media sends back three different blocking messages that users trying to access banned sites will see in their browsers instead of the hoped-for site. These are:

  •         Web Safe parental control block
  •         A system SSL error message
  •         A system connection reset message

The assignment of which banned sites are blocked by which error message is completely random. They also change over time, but always, the visitor sees one of those three blocking messages – never any other.

VPN sites blocked with a Web Safe message

Access to some sites is blocked with the Virgin Media Web Safe parental controls page, which is shown below.

Web Safe Message

VPN sites blocked by Web Safe:

  •         NordVPN.com
  •         GooseVPN.com
  •         VikingVPN
  •         IPVanish.com
  •         HotspotShield.com
  •         CyberGhost.com
  •         TorGuard.com
  •         HideMyAss.com
  •         PrivateVPN.com
  •         CactusVPN.com
  •         BlackVPN.com
  •         ibVPN.com
  •         Hide.Me
  •         Mullvad.net

VPN review sites blocked by Web Safe are:

  •         BestVPN.com
  •         ProPrivacy.com
  •         VPNRanks.com
  •         VPNCompare.co.uk
  •         Top10BestVPN.com

The Web Safe message is supposedly generated as a parental control. Implying that the site was blocked because it contained one of a list of undesirable content types, including pornography. Not all real pornography sites are blocked with the Web Safe message. For example, Pornhub.com is blocked with an SSL error message.

VPN sites blocked with an SSL error message

Error message screens are generated by browsers when they receive an error code back from the web server. Some errors are raised by the browser itself if a problem occurred during the session establishment process.

The SSL error gets raised when the browser discovers that the security certificate of the website is not in order. Chrome shows the following screen under these circumstances.

SSL Error

Access to the following VPN sites are blocked with an SSL error when accessed through Virgin Media:

  •         StrongVPN.com
  •         ExpressVPN.com
  •         TunnelBear.com

Only one VPN review site is currently blocked with an SSL error:

  •         BestVPN.org

The SSL error implies that the site being visited is a scam or isn’t professional because its owner and administrator have failed to keep up the certificate that supplies security on connections. As you will find out later in this report, this is a slur that is untrue.

VPN sites blocked with a connection reset message

A connection reset message is usually generated by a browser when the connection procedure at the beginning of the process to request a web page gets interrupted and the connection gets dropped.

The browser produces an error screen when this problem arises. The message displayed by Chrome is shown below.

Reset Message

The following VPN sites get blocked with the connection reset message.

  •         Betternet.co
  •         Windscribe.com
  •         ProtonVPN.com
  •         PrivateInternetAccess.com
  •         AirVPN.org

The following VPN review site are blocked by the reset condition:

  •         Top10VPN.com

The reset error should be a very rare occurrence. There is no way a connection should get dropped regularly to so many professional websites.

VPN sites not blocked by Virgin Media

The mystery over how Virgin Media selects the sites that it will block is deepened by the VPN sites that it doesn’t block. If Virgin Media wants to prevent all of its customers from subscribing to a VPN, why doesn’t it block all of the VPN websites in the world? It blocks a few VPN review sites but overlooks a long list of others.

The VPN review sites that aren’t blocked are impacted almost as severely as those rivals that can’t get their sites delivered to the general public. This is because the top two sites that all VPN review sites recommend are blocked. These are ExpressVPN and NordVPN. Many of the other top VPNs in the world are also blocked.

Anyone visiting a VPN review site that isn’t blocked will be constantly frustrated when they try to follow the links through to the sites of the best VPNs.

Here is a list of VPNs that Virgin Media does not block the websites for:

  •         VPN.Asia
  •         PureVPN.com
  •         SaturnVPN.com
  •         Surfshark.com
  •         Buffered.com
  •         VyprVPN.com
  •         VPNArea.com
  •         Hola.org
  •         ZenMate.com
  •         LiquidVPN.com
  •         Le-VPN.com

The following sites that contain VPN reviews are not blocked by Virgin Media:

  •         Comparitech.com
  •         VPNMentor.com
  •         ThatOnePrivacySite.com
  •         VPNAnalysis.com
  •         Techradar.com
  •         TheBestVPN.com
  •         ITProPortal.com
  •         CNet.com
  •         TechAdvisor.co.uk
  •         TheWireCutter.com
  •         TheBestVPNDeals.com
  •         VPNComparison.org
  •         Top5VPNs.co.uk
  •         CompareMyVPN.com
  •         TheBestVPNDeals.com

It could simply be that Virgin Media hasn’t got around to blocking these sites yet. The list of sites that are currently blocked includes the most successful VPNs and VPN review sites in the world.

Investigating Virgin Media

As a Virgin Media customer and an expert in VPN’s, as soon as I received blocking error messages, I turned on a VPN. With the VPN connection active, those websites that appeared to have connection or SSL problems suddenly became available. VPNs are well known as a method to bypass system blocks, such as the Web Safe system.

To check on whether this error was being caused by my computer, I turned off the data access to my phone, connected it to the house Wi-Fi and tried one of the problematic sites. It was blocked. I then disconnected from Wi-Fi, turned on the data plan, and tried again. The connection went through.

This told me that the problem wasn’t with those sites that couldn’t be reached, it wasn’t my computer or phone, it was Virgin Media causing the problem.

Why does Virgin Media block some VPN sites?

There seems to be no pattern to the blocking practice of Virgin Media. The five most successful VPNs in the world that are recommended by VPN sites more than the others are:

  •         ExpressVPN
  •         NordVPN
  •         IPVanish
  •         PrivateVPN
  •         CyberGhost

These are all blocked by Virgin Media.

HideMyAss, TunnelBear, GooseVPN, VPN Area, PureVPN, Windscribe, and PrivateInternetAccess are also frequently recommended and have high customer satisfaction ratings. Of these, all are blocked, except for PureVPN and VPN Area.

One possible reason for the block on VPNs is that they hide access to torrent sites. Virgin Media blocks access to all of the prominent torrent index sites, such as The Pirate Bay.

However, all VPNs allow access to torrents, not just those that Virgin Media has decided to block. Some of the sites not blocked by Virgin Media, notably TorGuard, VPN Area, and VyprVPN prominently advertise their services for unblocking torrent sites.

The same story occurs with the review sites. Yes, the blocked sites feature articles on using VPNs for torrenting, but so do all of the sites that aren’t blocked.

Investigating Virgin Media blocking techniques

I contacted NordVPN to see whether the company realized that they were being blocked from advertising their services to around a quarter of all internet users in the UK. Mauricio Rubio of the Customer Success Team told me: “We are aware that some of the ISPs tend to block VPN websites or even the servers. Unfortunately, there is not really anything to resolve this issue.”

Repressive governments, such as those in China and Iran, are well known to block VPNs. In some countries, such as Russia, VPNs are illegal. However, neither is the case in the UK. Other major ISPs allow access to VPN sites. This is not an official government policy; it is a decision taken by Virgin Media.

I asked Mr Rubio to tell me which other ISPs he knew were blocking VPN access. However, he didn’t want to say. What he did tell me however was the method that most blocking ISPs use to prevent access to certain sites. That method is a DNS sinkhole.

What is a DNS sinkhole?

“DNS” stands for “domain name system.” It also stands for “domain name server.” The domain name system translates the web addresses that internet users type into a browser into the actual address of the server that hosts the code for that site.

When you enter an address into your browser or click on a link, the first thing the browser does is send a request to a domain name server to get the address it should go to for the site. Every ISP decides where to direct DNS requests. Virgin Media has its own.

A DNS sinkhole is also called a blackhole DNS. In order to block access to certain sites, the Virgin Media DNS server doesn’t omit an entry for the banned site. The site has a record there. However, instead of giving the correct internet address for that site’s web address, it returns an address that isn’t associated with any computer.

The Virgin Media blocking method

I checked the DNS entries for NordVPN.com (blocked by Web Safe), BestVPN.org (returns an SSL error), and ProtonVPN.com (connection reset error). The results of queries to the Virgin Media DNS server gave the following results.

DNS Query Virgin

Every computer on the internet must have a unique address, which called an IP address. As you can see from the illustration above. My DNS queries for three separate sites returned identical IP addresses.

I entered the 81.99.162.48 IP address into my browser’s address bar. The request did not receive a response. That means that the destination does not exist.

I checked who the owner of the address 81.99.162.48 is with an online IP lookup. The owner is Virgin Media. So, Virgin Media’s DNS server gives the same address for all of those blocked VPN sites. That address is owned by Virgin Media and leads nowhere. This is a classic DNS sinkhole.

How to avoid a DNS sinkhole

Fortunately, if you specify a DNS server in the network settings of your computer, that setting overrides the DNS choice of your ISP. That is, your browser will use the DNS server you nominate. If none is set, it will use the DNS server of the ISP.

Cloudflare offers a free DNS service. The address of its server is easy to remember: 1.1.1.1. To define the DNS server in the network settings, implement the following steps.

Step 1

Click on the Wi-Fi symbol in the system tray of your desktop. Click on Network and Internet Settings.

Access Network Settings

In the Network Settings screen, click on Change adapter options. This opens the Network Connections list.

Step 2

Right click over the icon that represents your Wi-Fi connection. Select Properties in the pop-up menu to get the connection properties window.

Step 3

Click on Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and press the Properties button. This opens an Internet Properties window.

WiFi Properties

Step 4

Look to the bottom half of the Internet Properties window and press the Use the following DNS server addresses radio button. Enter 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1 into the two address fields. Check the Validate settings on exit box. Press the OK button to close the window and press the Close button in the Wi-Fi Properties window.

Check your new DNS settings

After naming a DNS server, try to access those sites blocked by Virgin Media. They should work. The DNS lookup output shown below reruns the earlier queries I performed. This time, the queries return the correct IP addresses. The sinkhole address 81.99.162.48 has gone.

Virgin Media problem

Virgin Media is owned by Liberty Global, which is the largest broadband internet service outside of the USA. It is possible that other Liberty Global divisions are using the same DNS sinkhole trick to block access to VPN sites.

I am only able to check my own ISP. Have you experienced problems similar to the blocks I outlined about? Try nominating a DNS server in your network settings. If this fixes the problem, leave a message in the Comments section below and tell the community which internet service provider you use. 

Surfshark VPN Review – 2021

Surfshark VPN Review - 2021

Surfshark offers all the desirable perks, including military grade encryption, impressive high speeds, the ability to unblock content (websites and regional), 24/ 7 customer support, affordable subscription rates and a whole lot more. 

Why Choose Surfshark


If Surfshark’s claims are anything to go by, then they truly deliver. I was impressed with the fast speeds, reliability, strict no-logs policy, and advanced encryption.

Works on


Mac

Windows

Android

IOS

Linux


Pros:

  • 30-day money-back guarantee 
  • 24/7 live chat
  • Optimized for streaming
  • Advanced encryption
  • No logs
  • DNS leak protection
  • Ad block feature
  • Works with Netflix, YouTube Red, and BBC iPlayer
  • Accepts Crypto currency payments

Cons:

  • Lacks a free trial
  • Monthly plans are expensive

Pricing and Plans

Surfshark offers three subscription plans. There’s a month-to-month subscription, which comes in at $11.95, and is a pretty expensive option if you’re on a budget.  There’s also an annual plan that retails at $5.99/month, which will save you up to 50% annually. And there’s a 2-year plan, which is $1.99/month. This is obviously the best value of the bunch, but you’re also committing to something for 24-months, with no guarantee that service will be as solid in the future as it is today.  

As far as payment options are concerned, they’ve partnered with Stripe and Norton to accept a number of major credit and debit cards. PayPal is also an option.

Surfshark is amongst a handful of VPN’s that accepts Bitcoin payments and other major cryptocurrency options. This is an excellent payment channel if you’re looking to conceal your online identity, even during the payment process. Surfshark doesn’t have a free trial, but instead offers 30-days money back guarantee.


What Surfshark Provides

Surfshark comes standard with features including a kill switch, multi-hop connections, whitelister, CleanWeb and a DNS leak protection functionality. Its Whitelister feature helps you during split tunneling to single out apps and sites to bypass the VPN. The kill switch feature comes in handy when you leave your connected device unattended since it’ll disconnect you from the Internet whenever your VPN connection drops.

Surfshark uses CleanWeb to block ads and other annoying adverts whenever you’re surfing online. This feature plays a significant role to torrent lovers, especially considering it also blocks out suspicious download links that could compromise your privacy. Additionally, to protect yourself from cyber-attackers, the prying eyes of government and local ISPs, SurfShark has a multi-hop feature so can create multiple VPN connections, what makes it hard to trace your identity.

Surfshark also allows for unlimited simultaneous connections at unregulated speeds, bandwidth and high server switching. It’s also optimized for effective streaming of media content in HD, and the company has a strict zero-logs policy, allowing for anonymous torrenting and secure P2P file sharing.

One of the most impressive features of Surfshark is that it works well in China. So, if you’re looking to travel to China, remember to download Surfshark before you leave.

The website itself is self-explanatory, and easy to navigate. It’ll take you less than five minutes to register an account, and less than ten minutes to purchase a subscription plan.

All Surfshark client apps are pretty straightforward and easy to download. Most client apps sport a similar design and have the same settings features.

Surfshark has an impressive 1,000+ server distribution across 60+ countries globally. While its server coverage is not that convincing, I predict that they will keep expanding at an unprecedented rate.

Surfshark has a noteworthy customer support system, including 24/ 7 live chat support that I was really impressed with. I chatted with a support Agent who was fast, polite, and very responsive to all my inquiries.


Speed and Security Tests

Surfshark boasts about its fast speeds, so I used a speed test tool to test everything out.

Here’s a snapshot of the results I recorded without a VPN connection.

In my second speed test, I connected to a server closer to my actual location. Check out how my results are similar results to my results above.

The results I recorded when I connected to a server far away from my physical location were not much different either.

Surfshark recorded zero DNS leaks.


Security and Privacy Features

Surfshark uses military grade infrastructure that is reliable, private and secure. The VPN redirects all your traffic to a tunnel and uses AES-256 encryption advanced techniques, ensuring that your online privacy is observed. It also supports both OpenVPN and IKEv2 connection protocols, which allows for anonymous torrenting and secure P2P data sharing.

Surfshark has all the perks to top the charts when it comes to privacy. The company is based in the British Virginia Islands, which positions them beyond the reach of legal jurisdiction of any government or union. Unlike other VPN services based in the US and parts of Europe, Surfshark is not bound to share your user data to any government entity, if requested.

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