Archive

Category Archives for "Roundups"

Most Secure Web Browsers – 2021

Most Secure Web Browsers - 2021

A web browser is your gateway to the internet — and a gateway into your devices and network. If your browser isn’t secure, attackers can access your system, exploit your privacy and steal your personal and financial data.

Cybercrime grows more sophisticated by the day. A secure browser must defend against a wide variety of security and privacy threats, including:

  • Phishing scams.
  • Malicious web content.
  • Intrusive tracking practices.

However, some web browsers are much more secure than others. Here’s what you should expect from a secure web browser:

  • Secure design — For web browsing to be secure, developers must integrate security measures into the architecture of their browser software.
  • Security features — Users should have access to optional advanced security and privacy features.

  • Regular updates — A secure browser requires an active team of developers responding quickly and effectively to any reported security issues.
  • Privacy protection — Security and privacy go hand-in-hand. You should be able to trust your browser to keep your online activity private.
  • Usability — Even if a browser is completely secure, it shouldn’t be slow, awkward, or buggy. 

What makes a web browser secure?

Secure browsers use many security tools and privacy features to keep you safe online. 

Sandboxing

Sandboxing involves running an application in isolation. If malware infects the application, or if a piece of code wants to access secure parts of your device, it can’t do so without first escaping the sandbox.  

Browsers are a key entry-point for malware. Malicious websites run scripts that seek to damage your hardware and steal your data. 

A good browser loads websites in a sandbox. A sandbox ensures that, even if the browser lets malicious code run, that code will be restricted to the browser. 

HTTPS upgrading

HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP. A secure web browser automatically upgrades websites to HTTPS where possible, meaning that your connection to most sites will be private and encrypted.

HTTP is what makes most communication over the web possible. HTTP responds to user requests and transfers data from websites to users. HTTPS encrypts traffic flowing to and from a website, making it less prone to interception (so-called “man-in-the-middle attacks”). 

Not all sites have made the shift yet to HTTPS yet. But in October 2019, the proportion was around 80 percent

Active content protection

Active content lets your browser display audio and video integrated into web pages, It includes software based on Java, Adobe Flash, Silverlight, etc. 

Active content can enable certain elements of a web page to function properly — but it can be a security threat. Active content can act as malware: logging your activity, accessing sensitive parts of your system, or installing unauthorized software on your device.

Many browsers are stopping support for the use of plugins, particularly Adobe Flash. A secure browser should block most active content by default.

Phishing protection

Phishing is where someone tries to obtain another person’s sensitive information online by fraudulently earning their trust. 

Most browsers include some protection against a type of phishing called “domain spoofing,” where criminals set up fake websites to trick people into giving up their personal information. Effective domain spoofing protection prevents you from visiting fraudulent sites. 

A 2019 study by Venafi looked at the websites of 20 major online retailers to determine the extent of the domain spoofing problem. Venafi found that for every genuine web page belonging to these retailers, there were more than 200 fakes.

Tracking protection

Businesses harvest data about you by observing your online activity, IP address, and browsing history — even your bookmarks. Tracking protection guards your online privacy. 

Although privacy and security aren’t the same thing, they overlap in many respects.

Many secure browsers contain in-built ad and cookie blockers. Blocking ads matters for privacy. Advertisers can use technology such as cookies and web beacons to gather and collate large amounts of information about you.

Fingerprinting protection is also common in privacy browsers. Fingerprinting lets websites identify your device by observing its unique characteristics — much like the police might identify you by taking your fingerprint. Browsers can prevent this by blocking JavaScript.

How to stay secure online using any browser

Any of the secure browsers on our list will keep users safe online. And there are certain other techniques and privacy tools that will enhance privacy even further:

  • Incognito Mode — A private browsing window will mask your identity to some extent. It lets you browse without cookies, browsing history, or signed-in accounts for the length of that session.
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) — Many VPN providers offer a browser add-on that lets you mask your IP address and location with a single click.
  • Ad-blocker — Ad blocking browser extensions stop pop-ups and ads to make your online experience faster, and also protect your privacy by blocking cookies and other trackers.

1. Brave: Best all-round secure browser

Brave browser lets you browse the web with security, privacy, and speed. 

Brave turns security settings up high. It uses Chromium, Google’s open-source browser, which integrates strong sandboxing techniques. Brave also features automatic HTTPS upgrading and turns off plugins by default.

Brave’s primary focus is privacy. It excels at blocking ads and tracking cookies — the main threats to online privacy. Brave even lets you open private browsing tabs using Tor for maximum protection.

Whereas most popular browsers allow you to install ad-blocker browser extensions, Brave blocks most automatically. Brave’s “Brave Shield” feature blocks ads, third-party cookies, and scripts with ruthless efficiency.

Brave browser 1

Brave Shields provides powerful protection against intrusive ads and tracking techniques.

This privacy-centric approach doesn’t impact on Brave’s functionality — its in-built ad-blocker is so efficient you’ll forget that third-party ads ever existed. In fact, Brave is faster than Chrome or Firefox because it blocks resource-hungry ads. 

Brave gets quick and regular updates, and its team are busy trying to ensure the browser is credible. But it’s an ambitious project, and occasionally the development team have had to trade some degree of privacy for functionality.

However, Brave is generally stable and bug-free. While blocking scripts and cookies can cause issues on certain sites, you can turn off Brave Shields easily. Brave provides a great user experience and should quickly become your favorite browser.

Pros

  • Strong security by design.
  • Maximum protection against online trackers.
  • Exceptionally fast and user-friendly.

Cons

  • Occasional bugs and controversial development choices

Is Brave browser secure?

Brave is secure by design and effectively shields you from online trackers. While some browsers provide maximum privacy at the expense of usability, Brave strikes a perfect balance between security, privacy, and functionality.


2. Tor Browser: Extremely private (but very slow)

Tor is, at its core, a network of volunteers that are dedicated to internet privacy. These volunteers run a network of around 7000 servers. Using the Tor network encrypts your web traffic three times — bouncing it across three relays, so it’s harder to track.

Tor Browser is a version of Mozilla Firefox that automatically routes web traffic through the Tor network. Tor Browser is the safest way to use Tor — in fact, the Tor Project team claim Tor Browser is the only safe way to use Tor (the team behind Brave might disagree).

Tor browser 1

Tor Browser even warns users against maximizing the browsing window for unparalleled privacy.

Tor Browser incorporates several security add-ons, including NoScript (which automatically blocks active content) and HTTPS Everywhere (which forces websites to upgrade to HTTPS). Its default search engine is the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo.

Tor Browser provides a highly private and secure online experience. But there’s a major drawback that makes it impractical for everyday use. Tor is extremely slow.

Tor Browser’s slowness is hardly surprising. After all — your web traffic is bouncing all over the world, and is triple-encrypted before it reaches its destination. But you’ll probably only want to use Tor when you’re doing something really secret online, like accessing the dark web.

Pros

  • Makes it near-impossible for anyone to spy on your web activity.
  • Incorporates some great security add-ons for additional privacy protection.
  • An important project to use and support if you care about online freedom.

Cons

  • Impractically slow for day-to-day use.

Is Tor browser secure?

Using the Tor network is the most secure method of browsing the web. And Tor Browser is the best way to access the Tor network. But while Tor Browser is secure and private, its unbearable slowness means you might not want to use it very often.


3. Epic Privacy Browser: Strong privacy through brute force

Anyone can have a small online footprint if they take certain precautions. Regularly clearing cookies, blocking ads and scripts, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) — these are all effective ways to stay private online almost using any browser.

Epic Privacy Browser takes this one step further. It maintains a secure and private session every time a user browses the web, using the following methods: 

  • It routes all web traffic through a proxy server, so websites don’t see a user’s true IP address.
  • It automatically blocks trackers and cookies, including analytics and social media widgets.
  • It clears the browsing history at the end of each session.
Epic browser 1

Epic blocks intrusive cookies and plugins automatically.

All of this means that Epic Privacy Browser lacks much of the usability of many other browsers. And it’s not just clearing the history that makes it less user-friendly — Epic doesn’t allow add-ons, so users can’t enjoy password managers, mail checkers, or other conveniences.

This can cause bugs on certain websites — but Epic does let users turn off certain filters if they experience problems, which usually works.

Ultimately, Epic Privacy Browser provides an impressively smooth browsing experience, considering how much hard work it’s doing behind the scenes to hide its users’ activity. Epic could even a primary browser for people who are serious about privacy.

Pros

  • Reroutes web traffic through a VPN to hide user location.
  • Blocks all possible tracking methods.
  • Clears history automatically after each session.

Cons

  • Lacks the convenience and ease-of-use of a regular browser.

Is Epic Privacy browser secure?

Epic calls itself “the world's only private and secure web browser.” This nearly true. Tor Browser beats Epic on privacy, and Brave beats it on user-friendliness — but Epic Privacy Browser sits confidently between the two. It’s a good choice for anyone who wants true privacy without sacrificing too much convenience.


4. Mozilla Firefox: Private and profit-free

Mozilla Firefox is a great example of what open-source, community-based development can achieve. 

Firefox’s share of internet users has fallen in recent years, partly due to Chrome’s increasingly dominant market position — but it remains the second-most popular desktop browser in 2019

Up until recently, Firefox did not have a sandbox, leading to concerns about its security. However, Mozilla introduced sandboxing to Firefox in November 2018

More recently Mozilla has introduced crypto-jacking protection to its latest version, Firefox Quantum. This stops cryptocurrency miners from using Javascript to hijack your CPU. The latest versions of Firefox also provide protection against fingerprinting.. 

Like many browsers, Firefox displays a padlock icon to let you know whether your connection is secure. However, Firefox’s padlock icon is surprisingly subtle. It’s easy to miss that your connection is unsecured.

Mozilla Firefox browser 1

Firefox’s HTTPS indicator is easy to miss, leaving you potentially vulnerable.

This aside, Mozilla provides regular updates to Firefox, ensuring that any security flaws get patched quickly. If you’re seeking a private and secure browsing experience, combined with a quick and user-friendly interface, you should still consider Firefox.

Pros

  • Excellent privacy protection.
  • In-built crypto-jacking prevention.
  • Effective sandboxing technique.

Cons

  • A flaw in Firefox’s interface means you might miss unsecured connections.

Is Firefox secure?

Mozilla wants you to be “empowered, safe, and independent” online, and it takes every possible step to make Firefox private and secure. Firefox has and effective sandbox, regular updates, and built-in protection against intrusive practices. It’s also the last bastion against Chrome’s dominance of the web browser market.


5. Google Chrome: Seriously secure (but not private)

As of late 2019, Google Chrome has a 69 percent market share rate among desktop browsers. The main reason for this is that Chrome provides a smooth and user-friendly experience. 

Chrome gets fast and regular updates, uses a strong sandboxing method, and blocks Adobe Flash by default (Flash was previously a security weakness for Chrome). And if you stray onto an unsecured web page, Chrome makes sure you know about it.

Google Chrome browser 1

Chrome gives users a clear indication that they’re visiting an unsecured website.

Google ensures Chrome users are safe from malicious third parties who wish to access their system or spy on their internet activity. But Chrome users are still vulnerable to intrusive practices — from Google and its marketing partners,

Google makes no secret about its intention to gather as much data about the world as possible. Chrome is one of the tools Google uses to achieve this. This is perhaps why Chrome lets websites place tracking cookies on your device without impediment.

It’s possible to install add-ons and extensions to make your browsing more private. But these features aren’t available on Chrome by default — mostly because they would restrict Google’s ability to learn what you’re doing online.

If you don’t care about surveillance by Google and its partners, Chrome might be the best browser ever made. But if you believe that privacy and security are inseparable, Chrome is not a good choice.

Pros

  • Very few security vulnerabilities.
  • Interface displays a clear warning if you visit an unsecured web page.
  • Many add-ons available to improve privacy.

Cons

  • Lets Google track your online activity.

Is Google Chrome secure?

Google Chrome is updated frequently and employs cutting-edge secure browsing technology. It will do a great job of defending you against cybercrime. But it doesn’t defend you against intrusion by Google itself. If you’re concerned about keeping your online activity private, Chrome is not the browser for you.


6. Microsoft Edge: Strong phishing protection

Edge is Microsoft’s replacement for Internet Explorer. It’s not much of an improvement in terms of usability and design, but Edge is much more secure than Internet Explorer. 

Edge's Windows Defender SmartScreen does a great job of blocking malicious sites. In 2018, CA Security Council found that SmartScreen outperformed Google Safe Browsing in its independent phishing tests.

Microsoft Edge browser 1

Edge offers effective protection against phishing via its SmartScreen filter.

Edge has experienced some security issues. In 2017, for example, Microsoft introduced a back-end feature called Arbitrary Code Guard to prevent attackers loading malicious code into its memory space. The following year, however, Google’s Project Zero team found an exploit.

However, Edge runs smoothly and integrates well with Windows operating system. It receives regular updates. It’s not the best-looking or most user-friendly browser, but this may change when Edge switches to a Chromium engine.

Pros

  • Excellent phishing protection from Windows Defender SmartScreen.
  • Regular and quick updates.
  • Fast and lightweight.

Cons

  • Unattractive user-interface.

Is Microsoft Edge secure?

Although it’s not the best-looking browser available, Microsoft Edge is a major improvement on Internet Explorer in terms of security, offering the best protection against phishing. Edge is not likely to be many people’s first choice. But as the default browser in Windows, it’s reassuring that Edge is secure.


7. Safari: Secure, but not as secure as you might think

Safari is the default browser for macOS and iOS, and isn’t available as a standalone product. A Windows version was released in 2007, but it soon fell victim to various security issues and Apple discontinued it in 2012.

It might be surprising that Safari appears so far down our list of secure browsers. Apple’s well-earned reputation for good security and privacy practices suggest that Safari should be one of the most secure browsers available. But the reality is more complicated.

There have been many exploits of Safari. Apple promptly patches security vulnerabilities —  but nonetheless. they keep arising. As recently in March 2019, “white hat” (ethical) hackers managed to gain complete control of a Mac after escaping Safari’s sandbox.

Privacy activists also criticize Apple for prohibiting certain third-party ad-blockers and tracking protection extensions. Such browser extensions are an important way to stay private online. However, Apple argues that they interfere with Safari’s strong in-built privacy protection.

Safari’s privacy protection involves Intelligent Tracking Protection. This prevents websites from tracking users across sites and limits the duration of certain cookies to one day. Despite the controversy, Intelligent Tracking Protection is an innovative way to enhance privacy.

As is typical for Apple, Safari is very user-friendly. Users receive a clear warning when they visit an unsecured website, and also receive notification of whether the site owns an Extended Validation certificate (this is a good sign that a site is not a phishing website).

Pros

  • Innovative built-in tracking protection.
  • Keeps you away from unsecured websites.
  • Regular updates.

Cons

  • Questionable security record.
  • Incompatible with many privacy-enhancing browser extensions.

Is Safari secure?

Hackers have compromised Apple’s Safari browser several times. But Safari earns a place on our list for its innovative security and privacy features. Apple also provide frequent security patches, so Safari users are unlikely to have any issues so long as the browser is up-to-date.


Dishonorable mention: Microsoft Internet Explorer — The least secure web browser

Internet Explorer is not one of the most secure web browsers of 2019. It’s on this list because we need to warn you not to use it

Internet Explorer once had a staggering 95 percent of market share. But with less than 2 percent of people choosing Internet Explorer in 2019, its golden years are clearly over. 

Internet Explorer has had some deservedly bad press over the years. For example, Microsoft once left a known vulnerability for more than 600 days before patching it

And Internet Explorer is now less secure than it once was. Microsoft turned off Enhanced Protected Mode in IE 11 — reducing Internet Explorer’s ability to sandbox components and defend against certain attacks.

But most concerning of all is that Microsoft is neglecting Internet Explorer and pushing users towards its newer browser, Edge. In fact, Microsoft’s own security chief has warned people against the “perils” of continuing to use Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer browser 1

Microsoft makes no secret of the fact that it is phasing out Internet Explorer.

For an application to be secure, it requires regular updates. Microsoft hasn’t abandoned Internet Explorer completely. But it’s not Microsoft’s focus — and this means there’s no guarantee that updates will be effective or timely.

Pros

  • Still receiving security updates, however infrequent.

Cons

  • New features are not in active development.
  • Poor sandboxing capabilities.
  • Microsoft itself has advised against using it.

Is Internet Explorer secure?

Internet Explorer once ruled the web, but it’s now the least popular mainstream browser. Its security features are weak, and they won’t get any stronger. As Microsoft prepares to put the final nail in Internet Explorer’s coffin, there’s really no reason to use it.

Best Secure Email Providers of 2021

Best Secure Email Providers of 2021

Sending emails is part of society’s daily routine. There are an estimated 5.5 million email accounts open, with the average email user sending and receiving 246 emails a day, according to an Email Statistics Report.

How secure are those messages? Research shows up to 80% of emails sent aren’t secure. In other words, hackers can get their hands on two out of ten emails.

It all depends on what kind of email security you have in place.

Whether you’re a company protecting product development, a consumer safeguarding personal data, or a doctor tasked with abiding by privacy laws, there is a way to keep data safe. To do so you’ll need a secure email provider – and there are a lot to choose from.

Before we help you narrow your search for the most secure email providers, we’ll explore why emails need to be secure, what kind of protection common email providers like Gmail have, what makes a provider secure, what to look for when searching for the most secure email providers, and finally, a list of providers that take security very seriously.

Why email needs to be secure

Email was designed back in the late 1960s as a communication tool. Back then, security wasn’t a concern because emails were only sent to various users of the same computer. Once computers were networked and could talk to one another, emails could be sent to people using different computers. Even then security wasn’t a big concern, and for some, it’s still isn’t.

Decades later, email hacks are common. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced Outlook, Hotmail and MSN accounts were breached and accounts compromised. It’s just one of the many hacks that exposed personal information.

For some, the reason to send secure email is obvious. Employees exchanging emails while developing a new product or a doctor’s office forwarding medical records to a new physician do pose a security risk. If that information fell into a hacker’s hands, a product idea could be stolen or a patient’s home address could become public.

Others assume secure emails aren’t necessary for their mundane messages that include meeting notes, lunch schedules, and promotional offers. After all, who would want to steal that? The truth is, even the dullest inbox is a treasure trove of information for a hacker.

Your inbox could contain pictures, contracts, invoices, tax forms, password reset links and sometimes even credit card information. Your email account might serve as your login in for other accounts, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. With your email credentials, a hacker can easily steal your identity or worse. For those reasons, every email should be secure.

What is a secure email and how does it work?

Secure emails are protected against hacks mainly through encryption. A hacker can get to your email from four points: your device, the network, the server, and the recipient’s device. Secure email is disguised at every point during this process making it difficult for anyone to read or intercept it.

When the message is delivered, the recipient can only read your message with a key to decipher the encryption.

A secure email provider offers encryption tools, which cloak the email using behind-the-scenes tools.

Are Gmail and other popular email providers secure?

Gmail has one billion active monthly users worldwide, making it the most popular email provider out there. While Gmail ranks high in popularity, how does it rank in security?

Gmail and other popular providers like Hotmail and Outlook do take steps to protect your email privacy, but not to the level of a secure email provider.

Gmail’s standard method of encryption is called TLS, or Transport Layer Security. This security measure encrypts your messages as it’s traveling from your device over the network and to Google’s server. At this point, the email isn’t disguised anymore.

Google even scans your messages for several reasons. For starters, Google looks for spam words to drop unwanted emails into a separate folder. Google also checks your text for keywords to trigger the Smart Reply feature, and to show you relevant ads later on. Other mainstream email providers offer similar features.

Google does offer a more advanced security option for paid G Suite users, but it’s still not the kind of security used by the best secure email providers. Other providers have ways to increase security measures as well, but again, secure email providers specialize in this field.

What makes a provider secure?

Why are the best secure email providers classified as “secure?” What gives them this distinction. Secure email providers offer advanced protection measures that mainly focus on encryption.

By using the most secure email providers, you should be able to:

  • Send and receive end-to-end encrypted emails
  • Encrypt the subject line, body and attachments automatically
  • Utilize encrypted cloud storage for contacts
  • Access encrypted email storage for archived messages
  • Prevent automatic image loading for further privacy

In addition, the most secure email providers should also offer all of the familiar features you’ve come to expect when crafting and sending an email, including:

  • Spam protection
  • Folder management and organization
  • Draft creation
  • Contact import
  • Noticeable unread emails
  • Offline usage
  • Group email delivery
  • Out-of-office notifications

Security features to look for

If you’re decided that email security is a priority, you should investigate the best secure email providers. To help narrow your search, you can look specifically for these safeguards:

End-to-end encryption

The most secure email providers offer end-to-end encryption, which is a fancy way of saying your email message is scrambled so it can be read by anyone other than the intended recipient, who is able to unscramble the message with an encryption key.

While the process might sound complicated, encryption tools set up by a secure email provider take care of the process in the background.

Two-factor authentication

A two-factor authentication process has two layers of security. It relies on something you know like a password and something you have like a smartphone.

You might use two-factor authentication already. When you enter your login credentials and a specific code that’s sent directly to your phone, that’s two-factor authentication.

Since the process requires two pieces of information, it’s harder for cybercriminals to hack. Even if hackers did get ahold of your username and password, it’s useless without the code that’s messaged to you.

Scrubbed metadata

When you send an email, you actually send more information than you think. Every email contains metadata, which are small snippets of information that could be mined by hackers.

Metadata could include information about your web browser, network and the person you’re sending messages to. While these tidbits seem fairly useless, to a hacker, it’s the first step toward learning more. For example, hackers can use metadata to search your browser history and learn more about the person you’re communicating with.

The best secure email providers remove metadata to limit the amount of personal information that’s vulnerable.

IP stripped

Just as secure email providers strip metadata from emails, so should your IP address. With an IP address a hacker can learn which internet provider you use, and more importantly, your physical address. It’s another small piece of data that seems mundane to users but is quite valuable hackers.

GDPR compliance

Europe passed a massive privacy law last year that aims to protect the digital privacy of its citizens. The law ensures that data is collected legally and under strict conditions, holds companies accountable for the storage and misuse of any data, and gives consumers the right to regulate the information shared.

A secure email provider can help you create comply with this law, which entails privacy policies and strict data collection and usage rules.

A list of the best secure email providers available

Ready to secure your emails? Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to find an email provider to work with. As you might expect, there are many options to choose from. To help narrow the search, here’s a list of eight of the most secure email providers:


 CounterMail

CounterMail logo 1

CounterMail offers end-to-end encryption and is transparent on how their security systems work. The company stores encrypted emails on diskless servers, which provides an extra layer of protection against data leaks. Those servers are based in Sweden, a country that first implemented data privacy laws in the 1970s.

CounterMail is one of the few providers to offer an additional layer of protection in the form of a USB key. If you enable this feature, you use a secure USB drive to access your email.

While CounterMail is one of the best secure email providers, it’s not cheap. The service costs about $60 a month with additional fees for increased storage space and domains.


 

ProtonMail

ProtonMail logo

ProtonMail makes the list of best secure email providers for several reasons. For starters, ProtonMail is as popular and as easy to use as Gmail. It offers a simple user interface and all of the ordinary email functions, but with more security.

ProtonMail takes security quite seriously. Its encryption is so strong the company itself can’t see your emails. The data centers that enable emails to go from one computer to the next is in a nuclear bunker under 1,000 meters of granite. And, ProtonMail is a free email service.

The service works best between ProtonMail users. To send an email to a non-ProtonMail user, you can choose to send an unencrypted email or send an encrypted message that’s only readable via a password that you share.


 

Hushmail

Hushmail logo

Hushmail shares similarities to ProtonMail. It’s also easy-to-use and has both smartphone and desktop applications. However, if you’re a Mac lover, you’re out of luck Hushmail doesn’t work on its operating system.

Like ProtonMail, users within Hushmail can send and receive secure emails. To send to an outside user, the recipient receives a link that takes them to a secure site to read the message. The recipient will need a password. If you’d like to add an additional layer of protection, the recipient can also be required to answer a security question.

Hushmail also offers integrated forms that you can add to your emails, like a survey or patient intake form.

Ready to try Hushmail? The company offers a free version, but the company also offers niche applications for certain industries. You can choose from Hushmail for personal use, small business, healthcare, law, nonprofits and enterprise. Pricing hovers around $10 a month for each application.


 

Tutanota

Tutanota logo

Tutanota, which means “secure message” in Latin, offers end-to-end email encryption that works with all devices and browsers. The company is based in Germany, a country known for some of the toughest privacy laws in Europe, which includes GDPR compliance.

The encryption method implemented for Tutanota users has received some criticism. The company uses AES-128, which has one layer of protection, instead of PGP, which uses two layers of protection and therefore is considered more secure.

Tutanota also offers a free encrypted calendar that works alongside your email service, which is handy for anyone in the business world.

Tutanota offers a free package that comes with one email address and one gig of storage. If you continue to use the service you’ll likely need more storage, which can be a bit pricey.


 

Runbox

Runbox logo

Runbox makes the list of best secure email providers because of its unique features. Unlike its competitors, Runbox has complete integration with more common email providers like Gmail and Outlook. What does that mean for users? You can safely transfer your email data to Runbox with a few clicks.

Customers of Runbox also rave about the company’s customer service. If you have a question, you can reach out for help seven days a week. The support team can be reached via email, on the web or through Twitter.

As you might expect, Runbox uses all of the encryption methods possible and even stores data inside a vault with electromagnet protection, fire suppression and manned security.

Runbox offers a free trial, but after that time ends you’ll have to select a package. The company offers several pricing packages, which can be explored on the Runbox website.


 

Kolab Now

Kolab Now logo

Kolab Now is a secure email provider for small and medium businesses. If you work in an environment with sensitive information that can’t fall into the public’s hands, this service is for you.

The Swiss-based company bills itself as more than a secure email provider though. Kolab Now “provides email, contact and file sharing functionality that fuels enterprise communication.”

While the company does take measures to protect your emails, it does not offer end-to-end encryption and doesn’t specify what kind of security measures are taken.

However, users rave about the easy-to-navigate software and all of the added features, like an integrated calendar, contact list, shared folders, and notes app.

The cost of Kolab Now is on the high end, but since it’s protecting businesses that’s not surprising. It’s about $5 a month to use Kolab Now with additional fees for storage and other advanced features.


 

Mailfence

Mailfence logo

Mailfence believes privacy is a right, and the company not only works hard to provide the most secure email service possible but also donates to pro-privacy nonprofits.

The provider offers end-to-end encryption to protect the information inside emails, and also gives users the ability to turn the encryption feature off.

Mailfence also puts a lot of emphasis on its anti-tracking tactics. Unlike Google, Mailfence isn’t tracking your emails and searching for keywords in order to show you advertisements. On its website, the ‘no tracking policy’ reads: No ads, no spam, no solicitations, no backdoor and free from government surveillance.

The company has almost 20 years of experience, which in an ever-changing digital landscape is a long time. Their commitment to email security for so many years offers many users reassurance that the service will be around for years to come.


 

Posteo

Posteo logo

Posteo boasts that its company is “green, secure and ad-free.” The company is powered by green energy, offers secure email services, and will not scan your emails with the intent of advertising to you.

Posteo also gives its users the ability to sign up and pay anonymously, which is another layer of privacy protection. While the company gives users the ability to send secure email, it doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption, which is considered the strongest form of security in the email world. There are other protections in place including encrypted access and transmission, encrypted storage and two-factor authentication.

The Berlin-based company also offers a great support team, so if you have questions about your account or aren’t sure how to work certain features you can always reach out with questions.  

Wrap up

Email has become a communication necessity, and while it’s a great way to exchange ideas its security is lacking. Common email providers like Gmail simply don’t provide the security that’s required to protect against hacks and data leaks. As a result, more companies are searching for the most secure email providers on the market.

Secure email providers give you the ability to send and receive protected messages without knowing a thing about encryption. Once you’re committed to sending secure emails, research the features needed and review the companies that meet your needs.

The Worst VPNs and Scams – 2021

The Worst VPNs and Scams - 2021

Don't get scammed, get one of these VPNs:

Top 3 VPNs

Our Top Choice!

 

ExpressVPN

 
  • Fastest and most reliable VPN
  • User-friendly
  • 148 server locations
Check Best Price →
bvpnotbl2-table__image Surfshark
 
  • Good speeds
  • Intuitive software
  • Accepts Bitcoin
Check Best Price →
bvpnotbl2-table__image NordVPN
 
  • Next-generation encryption
  • Budget-friendly
  • 24/7 customer service
Check Best Price →
vpn hall of shame

An increasing popularity of VPN technology gave rise to an avalanche of scams, which come in all sizes, flavors, and different degrees of audacity.

Experienced VPN users and privacy wonks know a thing or two about how to research a VPN provider. If you're just beginning your search, however, brace yourself, for it won’t be easy. The VPN market is a toxic mix of paid reviews, click baits, vague legalese, and nefarious surveillance. At the same time, a Virtual Private Network is a mandatory tool for online privacy and security.

Among hundreds of VPNs, how does one choose the right one? Reading reviews is one route, but you still need to test a few select VPNs to ensure at least one of them meets your requirements. And even if the tech specs look good and performance is okay, a VPN can still leak your IP address, log your online activities top to bottom, or infect your devices with malware, sell your data to ad agencies, NSA, or some sinister entity on the dark web.

What Makes a Bad VPN

Most VPNs’ selling points are privacy, security, unblocked streaming services, and ability to bypass a firewall, that of your school, office, or the great firewall of China.

The bad news is 99.9% of VPNs promise privacy, security, Netflix, and no-stress firewall evasion. To single out trustworthy providers from scammers, pay your due diligence before subscribing. Below are some red flags that should help you identify a bad provider.

A Bad VPN Keeps Logs

Whereas double-checking if a VPN can unblock Netflix is quite simple, providers’ claims of privacy and security aren’t so easy to verify. You need to scrutinize the fine print of company Terms of Service and Privacy Policies, paying special attention to logging policies.

Why is logging so important? Ask Cody Kretsinger how he landed a jail term thanks to HideMyAss, aka HMA, logging. Since HMA is under a UK jurisdiction and logs users’ IP addresses and connection timestamps, a UK court was able to obtain user-specific logs on the said individual and connect him to a number of crimes.

The rule of thumb – choose a provider that keeps no logs. This is not to say only criminals need a zero-logs provider. If a VPN company advertises privacy and security while violating your trust and logging your connection and activity data, or filtering your content, then their claims are nothing but a click bait.

A Bad VPN Discloses Your Data

This one stems directly from a VPN’s logging policies. Providers that log your activities most likely cooperate with patent trolls and surveillance agencies. Pay close attention to a company’s jurisdiction. If it is headquartered in the Five Eyes or the Fourteen Eyes countries, it’s subject to data retention laws. That is why the U.S. and U.K.-based VPNs are generally not recommended by privacy-protection organizations and security experts.

Trustworthy VPNs go out of their way to be transparent in their legal pages and to not log any data that could identify their customers. Reliable VPNs delete your connection logs every few hours or only log non-personally identifiable details that can not point to a specific user.

Likewise, to protect their users’ identities, trustworthy VPNs accept a variety of anonymous or semi-anonymous payment options, including cash, gift cards, and Bitcoin.

A Bad VPN Infects Your Devices with Malware

Some providers offer free VPN services in exchange for displaying ads. What they won’t tell you is their apps and the ads they display come chock-full of tracking capabilities that enable monitoring and logging of your browsing activities.

At the same time, some malicious providers take it a step further by infecting your devices with malware sending critical information about your device, identity, and usage to its servers.

The catch with most free VPNs is they thrive on trading your data to data brokers, ad agencies, NSA, you name it. If you use a malware-infested VPN, your traffic gets logged, filtered, censored, and reported. You are served with affiliate content instead of the content you really need. Finally, your devices become more vulnerable to opportunist and targeted hacker attacks.

A Bad VPN Doesn’t Work

VPN scam schemes are numerous. Hijacking a website of a discontinued service and harvesting first-time subscriptions from new users only to ignore their refund requests is one of them.

To avoid this type of VPN fraud, you need to research a provider’s social accounts and contact their customer service before paying your first invoice.

A Bad VPN Doesn’t Respect Its Refund Policy

Some providers forge their subscription tiers to make short-term plans overpriced, making their long-term subscriptions look like a bargain. That is a cringe-worthy practice in itself, but some VPNs take it a step further. They advertise a money-back guarantee, but when requested for a refund, they take their time answering user requests, asking stupid questions, not terminating your account and then saying your 7-day money-back window is over. Others just ignore PayPal dispute emails.

The good news is I did the legwork for you by testing a wealth of VPNs and compiled a list of companies that are either scams or just bad at what they do. Avoid these like the plague.


1. ExpatSurfer

ExpatSurfer is the epitome of a VPN scam. It acts like it is hijacked, and it’d better be. Because if it’s not, the grotesque incompetence it displayed in my time with it lands it in a very bad spot.

ExpatSurfer takes your money and then forgets all about you. It doesn’t provide the server address you need to set up its PPTP connection, and it doesn’t bother to respond to your emails.

Considering it’s not cheap at $10.26 per month for a mere PPTP connection that doesn’t work, you are strongly advised to black-list the provider.


2. Earth VPN

Earth VPN is a Cyprus-based provider that used to be popular. While advertising all the bells and whistles you might be looking in a VPN – OpenVPN, P2P, unlimited data, affordable plans – it just doesn’t work.

The service has been dropped, but here is the funny thing – you can still subscribe. Although I was lucky enough to not proceed to the checkout, six months later I keep receiving notifications of my outstanding invoices with EarthVPN. They keep renewing each month all by themselves. No human ever responded to my inquiries, but someone at EarthVPN took the trouble to close my tickets without responding.

Unless you entertain the idea of receiving spam in your inbox for months on end from EarthVPN’s automatic system, steer well clear of this ghost company. Let it sink into oblivion.


3. Betternet VPN

Betternet VPN is the classic of VPN scams. Offering free VPN services, it spreads malware. Considering it’s been downloaded millions of times, quite a few people feed their browsing activity to shady data brokers.

RevoUninstaller found a gazillion of leftover files after Betternet’s Windows app, while Virus Total AV rated it 13, with 1 being virus-free. The company is super-shady about the technical specs of its VPN. It also claims to keep zero logs while, in reality, they do store connection logs.

A crowd of third parties accesses your data and Betternet won’t cover your back if law enforcement or a patent troll comes knocking on their door.


4. Onavo Protect

Onavo Protect, aka Protect Free VPN+Data Manager, is a free VPN by Facebook itself. It’s a mobile app available for iOS and Android, and it requires extensive permissions to run. Instead of acting like your typical VPN, Onavo Protect accesses and logs your app activity. You heard it right – Facebook wants to know which apps you use and how often, and route them through its UK servers.

It runs in the background, sifting through all your traffic, so good luck finding that online privacy because if you use Facebook’s VPN, privacy is dead.


5. Cryptostorm VPN

Cryptostorm VPN could actually be a provider I’d recommend because it has some pretty strong features. It anonymizes your purchase by generating a user token, so you never use your email or username to access its VPN. It has a decent network, top-notch security specs, a flexible pricing structure, pretty good performance, and good usability.

Except for it’s most likely an FBI honeypot. Case in point – Douglas Spink, Cryptostorm’s owner and a convicted zoophile, who got busted smuggling $34 million worth of cocaine and released after having served only three years out of a 17-year sentence. The security community believes the grace has befallen on Spink after he agreed to give the FBI a backdoor to Cryptostorm VPN servers.

In the meantime, Cryptostorm refuses to comment on the Spink matter, or shed some light onto how the company complies with the Canadian data retention laws. The tale of a decentralized company with anonymous people running it just doesn’t make the cut.


6. Faceless.me

Faceless.me has been around for more than five years, generating a steady flow of downloads on Google Play, which makes it look like something that works. In reality, it’s a dysfunctional VPN backed by a non-existent support. Its social pages haven’ t been updated in years.

For some reason, Google doesn’t remove the long-dropped app with numerous poor reviews from its app store. Hey Google, don’t be evil, remember?


7. Liberty VPN

Liberty VPN might look like something thanks to its ability to unblock streaming services, but its surprisingly shady origins (most likely American) and ungodly Terms of Service make me wonder how they manage to stay in the business this long. Their refund policy is incredibly limited since you can’t consume more than 50MB while their plans are above-average at $15 a month or $108 a year.

Its VPN is convoluted and difficult to use, and the server locations are few. No P2P, no bypassing firewalls, no using Skype from Cuba, no simultaneous connections, no Bitcoin. But you may get filtered, censored, and turned in to law enforcement. Moreover, if you violate their ToS, the company will charge you at a rate of $250/hour for deleting your account. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make money.


(Dis)Honorable Mentions

Unfortunately, the hall of shame for the worst VPNs is significantly longer than my typical honorable mentions for the best providers:

  • VPN Reactor is a well-established American provider that logs your online activities and has the nerve to charge you $77.88 a year for it.
  • ZPN.im is yet another mobile VPN claiming to be the best free VPN, but in reality, it’s dysfunctional, shady, and mute. It is unclear who or what is behind it, and its ToS make it clear they can enable activity monitoring if compelled. It won’t even let you register a free account, which is for the best.
  • Hotspot Shield VPN is another free VPN monetizing on customer data. It logs your activities, plants tracking libraries in your devices, and ads JavaScript injection into your web pages. It shares your data with third parties, sells it to data brokers, and complies with the U.S. data retention laws.
  • Rocket VPN is a free mobile VPN powered by the above HotSpot Shield. It is no wonder then that Rocket VPN comes packed with abhorrent logging policies, adware, and shady ToS.
  • UnoTelly is an unreasonably expensive Canadian DNS and VPN service with poor performance, 5 VPN locations only, no P2P, and weak encryption. It logs your connection and usage data. Being a Canadian provider, it complies with laws of every country where its servers are located. Even if it’s not a scam, it’s really bad at being a VPN.
  • Defence VPN is a young Canadian provider that can’t pull itself out of long-lasting outages. It’s been repeatedly down in 2017 while in 2018 it popped up for a short while saying things were back to normal. I wonder what normal is in their terms because when I paid for a plan and received no login details, their support issued a refund in response to my request for... login details. That’s the kind of normal I call bizarre.
  • Dot VPN might be based in Hong Kong and offer 4096-bit encryption, but its poor performance, roots in Germany, the Five Eyes watchdog, connection and usage logs, and the fact that they keep those logs for two years make it a proposition you are better off skipping.
  • HideMyAss from AVG is a UK-based provider that logs your connection metadata and hands it right over to Scotland Yard. Some people are already serving their jail terms thanks to HMA.
  • SuperVPN for iOS and Android is a free and pretty functional mobile VPN, except for it has all the red flags of an MI5 honeypot. Having extensive access to your sensitive information, it stores your session logs in the UK and the USA and will disclose it to law enforcement if compelled.
  • Proxy Server Pro has all the markings of a honeypot. Located in the US, it logs your usage data, name, address, and shares it with third parties.
  • BTGuard logs your personal information and connection metadata, has vague privacy policies and doesn’t like to draw much attention to its US jurisdiction while catering to torrenters primarily.
  • OneVPN does not honor its money-back guarantee flat out ignoring users requesting a refund. In the meantime, it unabashedly claims to be the fastest VPN with zero logs and top-notch privacy. In reality, they do keep your connection logs but prefer to keep the fact under wraps.
  • Cargo VPN is a pretentious VPN that makes many false claims. Its free trial is unavailable while its ungodly support is that of KeepSolid, a different provider. It’s also Mac and iOS-exclusive, overpriced, and lackluster.

Considerations

This list is by far not complete. New VPNs pop up nearly every day, while old ones get dropped or discontinued, with opportunist scammers hijacking their websites. Some popular VPNs with pretty high ratings have dysfunctional features or treat their customers like garbage.

Don’t get too excited if you don’t find your VPN on this list. Do your research first. Contact your provider’s support, ask your tech community, or leave a comment in the section below if you suspect you might be a victim of a VPN fraud scheme.

Finally, don’t rely too much on a VPN to protect you from law enforcement. Even though it’s best if law enforcement has no business looking you up at all, in some situations you can’t help it. Investigative journalists, human rights activists and anyone out of sync with the mainstream ideology of many civilized countries can be targeted by surveillance entities.

If that’s the case, don’t hop on a free VPN bandwagon, but take your time to find a trustworthy and reliable provider. Providers like ProtonVPN, Mullvad or NordVPN accept Bitcoin and even cash payments, which means you can protect your identity when subscribing, and keep no logs whatsoever.

For a complete breakdown of important VPN features of trustworthy providers, please read my VPN Guide for Beginners.

If you’ve read this far, you probably know by now why no VPN is better than a bad VPN. Steer clear of shady companies and always test VPN services before subscribing to anything that’s longer than a month.

Best VPNs for Remote Workers and Freelancers in 2021

Best VPNs for Remote Workers and Freelancers in 2021

Top 3 VPNs

Our Top Choice!

 

ExpressVPN

 
  • Fastest and most reliable VPN
  • User-friendly
  • 148 server locations
Check Best Price →
bvpnotbl2-table__image Surfshark
 
  • Good speeds
  • Intuitive software
  • Accepts Bitcoin
Check Best Price →
bvpnotbl2-table__image NordVPN
 
  • Next-generation encryption
  • Budget-friendly
  • 24/7 customer service
Check Best Price →

Why Use a VPN When Working Remotely

Remote workers and freelancers are prime audiences for VPN providers. Too many factors make the Internet an unfriendly and even dangerous place when you browse it from an unfamiliar or unsecure location.

Safety

You are most likely using public WiFi hotspots at coffee shops, restaurants, or even some co-working spaces. Most of those networks are shared by hundreds, if not thousands of users, which is not the security standard you want to tolerate.

Public hotspots are a hotbed for hackers and nosy ISPs. Man-in-the-Middle attacks, ransomware and identity theft are common on open networks. The bad news is you only know you’ve been hacked when it’s too late.

Prevention is crucial, so a Virtual Private Network is indispensable. A VPN encrypts your traffic, so it appears as unintelligible jumbo to snooping ISPs and hackers on public WiFi networks.

Entertainment

Have you subscribed to Amazon Prime for the sake of Prime Video before leaving to work remote from another country only to find the service unavailable from your destination? Is the Netflix library in the LatAm region too trimmed as compared to what you’re used to in the U.S.? Can’t access BBC iPlayer from China?

Most of the streaming giants make their content accessible based on your physical location instead of your nationality or the location from which you registered your account.

A VPN solves your woe in a matter of seconds. Connect to a US server and stream your Prime, Netflix, or access Steam games. Or connect to a UK server, and watch itv, BBC iPlayer and many more.

Censorship

Each nation has its policies concerning Internet access and content. Some countries restrict certain topics or even entire websites and social platforms. These countries don’t advertise their Orwellian free speech regulations, but when you’re there you can discover these restrictions affect your life and work directly.

Whether it’s to access dissident blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or to discuss human rights freely, you need to bypass local firewalls.

With a VPN, you can appear as if coming from any pro-privacy country and access websites restricted in your current region. Likewise, your local ISP won’t be able to spy on your online activity.

Did you know ISPs in some countries can enable key loggers on your computer remotely (without a warrant) if your online behavior seems suspicious to them? I’m looking at you, France.

Location-Based Content

You may find that your favorite news sites display different content to different nations, too. Some websites are flat out unavailable in some countries due to ISP-level firewalls.

VPNs encrypt your traffic and hide it from your ISP, allowing you to break through their firewall and access any website without compromising your identity.

VoIP

Skype and the likes of it are blocked in some countries. With a VPN, you can use your favorite VoIP service without having to subscribe to a local service.

Another concern with VoIP calls is they are often prime targets for mass surveillance in totalitarian countries. Since VPNs encrypt your communications, your VoIP conversations are safe from local snoopers.

Online Banking

Some banks and digital payment processors restrict account access from abroad, or from specific locations. Nothing can be more debilitating than being unable to manage your funds when you need it.

With a VPN, you can pick a US IP address and manage your account, check your balance, and make transfers.

How to Choose a VPN for Remote Workers and Freelancers

Choosing the right VPN for your remote needs means sifting through a ton of features and comparing providers. Your best bet would be to pick a handful of VPNs that match your needs and test them. Below is a brief list of features you might want to scrutinize:

  • Server locations – sometimes you don’t need a VPN with a thousand of servers across 200 countries. Maybe you only need to spoof into one country. So it doesn’t make much sense to pay prime fees for a subscription that grants you access to a grandiose network. On the contrary, if you need access to international websites, make sure your VPN lets you spoof into all countries of interest.
  • Speeds – be it for streaming, VoIP, gaming, or research, you need reliable speeds. More so if you browse form a location with inherently poor speeds.
    Unlimited bandwidth – some providers cap your usage in lower-tier plans.
  • Zero logs and encryption – always read your provider’s legal pages. Reputable providers don’t log your connection and online activity while providing robust encryption.
  • Uncensored web access – some VPN providers monitor and filter your content, locking you out of some sites or preventing you from downloading certain file types. When reading providers’ ToS, pay close attention to content filtering.
  • Streaming – with Netflix and Amazon Prime cracking down on VPNs, not every provider can boast of unblocking the streaming service you need.

Assuming that most freelancers share values similar to those of a VPN provider – freedom, privacy, efficiency – I picked the following VPNs I believe meet these criteria. I encourage you to read the full reviews for a comprehensive insight into their features and pricing.

Considerations

Some situations require a VPN more than others. If you’re location-independent, chances are you are using multiple devices for personal and work tasks. You are also most likely to rely on numerous online services. Your security perimeter is, therefore, significantly broader than that of an average web user. Below is a brief roundup of scenarios when you are strongly advised to use a VPN to protect your critical assets.

  • Cloud storage – services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Spideroak are indispensable. While it’s always wise to encrypt your files stored in the cloud, you might want to use a VPN to encrypt them in transit and prevent MITM attacks.
  • Browser data – your browser knows everything about you, from the history of videos to medications you’ve checked online and work spreadsheets. Protecting your browser traffic is paramount, and a good VPN helps you keep it private and secure.
  • Torrenting – P2P file-sharing is ideal for transferring large files, but P2P is less anonymous than a regular browser download. A VPN is indispensable while torrenting also because patent trolls might want to hunt you down.
  • Shopping, banking – you are strongly advised to never shop online from a public Wi-Fi. It’s easier said than done if you’re a digital nomad, though. So using a reliable VPN to encrypt your traffic while shopping and online banking form a public WiFi is important.

1. ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN is ideal for privacy wonks. If you’re one of them, you should be familiar with ProtonMail. Based in Switzerland, Proton is airtight in terms of security and privacy. Its VPN is also one of the most efficient, solid, and easy-to-use products on the market.

It supports a wealth of platforms, including DD-WRT routers and has a neat config files generator. Its native desktop app is a VPN on steroids, hitting the sweet spot between the ease of use for beginners and advanced customization for nerds bundling a kill switch, DNS leak protection, streaming and torrenting optimized profiles, and ability to create custom profiles, as well as Secure Core for extra protection (tunnels your VPN connection through additional layer of VPN servers in Switzerland and Iceland). P2P is allowed; there are Tor-optimized servers while streaming is a bliss (except for Netflix).

ProtonVPN is pricey, but a free plan is available (with low-speed servers in three countries but no bandwidth quota). Basic, priced at $5/month or $48/year, buys you high-speed in 14 countries and 2 simultaneous connections. Plus, $10/month or $98/year, tops that off with 5 simultaneous connections, Secure Core, and Tor-optimized servers. Visionary, set at $30/month or $288/year, bundles 10 simultaneous connections and a ProtonMail Visionary package. All plans are backed by an impressive 60-day money-back guarantee. You can pay with Bitcoin and cash.

Pros:

  • 2-10 simultaneous connections
  • 60-day refund
  • Free plan​​​​
  • Great performance and speeds
  • Excellent for newbies and techies alike
  • Sleek Windows client
  • Top-notch privacy and security specs
  • Based in Switzerland, exempt from Swiss data retention law
  • Kill switch, DNS leak protection, Secure Core
  • P2P, Tor-optimized servers
  • Bitcoin and cash accepted
  • Unblocks most streaming services

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Mac and mobile devices need manual setup

2. Express VPN

Express VPN is great if you need top speeds for file transfer and torrenting. Boasting a network of hundreds of servers in 94 countries, Express VPN always has a bunch of speedy servers anywhere you need. Built-in speed tests help you pick a server while its cross-platform client is easy-to-use for novice users and advanced enough for techies.

Its security specs are solid, with a 256-bit AES encryption, zero-logs policy, DNS leak protection, and an automatic kill switch.

Express VPN bundles Smart DNS, too, so you can stream your favorite shows without experiencing speed drops inherent in encrypted connections. Watching Netflix or BBC iPlayer is a breeze.

Priced at $13 per month, $60 per six months, or $100 a year, Express VPN is on the expensive side, but it’s worth it. Bitcoin is accepted while a 30-day money-back guarantee covers your first-time purchase.

Pros:

  • Fast
  • Easy to use
  • Solid security
  • No logs
  • SmartDNS, unblocks streaming sites
  • 30-day refund
  • 3 simultaneous connections

Cons:

  • UK-based
  • Costly

3. Nord VPN

Nord VPN runs more than 700 servers in 58 countries, and lets you have up to 6 simultaneous connections. Located in off-shore Panama, Nord VPN might just be the right provider if you need to evade data retention laws of some snooping governments.

Its VPN app bundles double-hop serves that pass your data through two countries, not one. They also apply two layers of encryption. Sure, speeds are affected, so you need a good connection in the first place. But security is top-notch, so you can leak the next batch of Panama papers quite safely.

If your connection is sub-par, and let’s face it, digital nomads know a thing or two about slow connections, a built-in kill switch prevents all sorts of leaks. Top it off with zero-logs, P2P, streaming, and gaming, and you get an all-around fine service.

Priced at $12 per month, $42 per six months, $69 per year, or $79 per 2 years, Nord VPN is accessible in its long-term subscriptions, each covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pros:

  • Broad server coverage
  • Easy to use
  • Great customer service
  • Airtight security and privacy 
  • Multi-platform
  • Great price per value ratio

Cons:

  • Not the fastest VPN

4. IPVanish

IPVanish offers just the right balance of privacy and performance. With lightning fast servers and watertight security, IPVanish appeals to streaming wonks and privacy gurus alike. With 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, a DNS leak protection and a zero-logs policy, it offers an impressive network of 850 servers across 60 countries. Notably, it runs over 70 servers in the Oceania region.

Allowing 5 simultaneous connections, it supports a wide range of platforms, including the unlikely Windows Phone. You can’t have more than two logins from different IP addresses, though.

Priced at $10 per month or $78 per year, IPvanish covers your first-time purchase with a 7-day money-back guarantee, even if you pay with Bitcoin (which is rare).

Pros:

  • Broad server coverage, especially fine for British and Australias expats
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • Zero-logs
  • Solid security specs
  • 24/7 customer service

Cons:

  • No free trial
  • UK-based
  • No go with Netflix

5. Black VPN

Black VPN is a well-established Netherlands-founded but Hong Kong-based provider. Black VPN is impressive on all fronts – from the robust 256-bit encryption and OpenVPN to 7 simultaneous connections, a native cross-platform client, and a 9-5 live chat support.

Black VPN has a native Android app and a custom version of OpenVPN GUI for other platforms, so you can use it on all your devices. There are streaming – and torrenting-optimized servers whereas port forwarding is supported. You can configure your email to work through the VPN, or contact their support and request to white-list a certain connection, which is the level of flexibility seldom found with VPNs.

It’s a strict no-logs provider while the pricing scheme allows for a granular control of what you pay for - €9.50/month or €99/year buys you Global (P2P, servers in the USA + 17 countries). €5/month or €49/year get you a US-only or UK-only plan. Alternatively, you can buy a UK+US plan for €7.50/month or €75/year. All plans are backed by a 14-day money-back guarantee, but the cherry on top is a 3-day free trial of Global.

Pros:

  • 3-day free trial
  • 14-day refund
  • Flexible plans
  • Top-notch support
  • Sleek app
  • Excellent speeds
  • Watertight security
  • No logs
  • Based in Hong Kong

Cons:

  • Not ideal for unblocking Netflix

6. Vypr VPN

Vypr VPN is popular among nomads roaming to some particularly exotic places like China and Iran because it lets you bypass some of the strictest firewalls in the world.

Offering a proprietary Chameleon protocol, Vypr VPN hides the very fact that you’re using a VPN, making your traffic appear as regular traffic. It unblocks your social networks, YouTube, and streaming services.

VyprVPN offers a 3-day free trial, and a fine selection of paid plans that come complete with simultaneous connections, protection from Deep Packet Inspection, and SmartDNS for streaming Netflix et al.

Pros:

  • Chameleon protocol
  • SmartDNS
  • Protection against DPI
  • Bypasses firewalls (China, Iran)
  • 3-day free trial

Cons:

  • No Bitcoin

7. Pure VPN

Pure VPN runs a network of 760+ self-managed servers across 141 countries. Based in Hong Kong, Pure VPN is free from data retention laws, while including a kit and caboodle of security perks, supported platforms and protocols, pre-configured browsing modes (streaming, P2P, privacy, anti-censorship etc.) and 5 simultaneous connections.

There’s a kill switch, an IPv6 leak protection toggle, split tunneling, port forwarding and another slew of perks on top of VPN, such as antivirus, content filtering through DNS, malware shielding, and app blocking. Each of these features is fully customizable while the program’s interface is intuitive.

Top that off with zero-logs, 256-bit AES encryption, and DNS leak protection, and you get an excellent package in wallet-friendly subscriptions. Its monthly plan is priced at $11, which goes down to $54.7 in bi-annual and $78 in a 2-year subscription. Bitcoin is accepted and a 7-day refund policy is on offer. Also, their 3-day subscription costs $2.5.

Pros:

  • Top-notch feature set
  • Excellent VPN app with modes for streaming, P2P, privacy
  • Kill switch​​​​
  • Multiple protocols, including OpenVPN
  • Intuitive, yet advanced
  • Broad server coverage
  • Excellent speeds
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Bitcoin
  • Cheap 3-day subscription

Cons:

  • 7-day refund is limited
  • Not ideal for streaming Netflix or BBC iPlayer

Honorable Mentions

If you would like to compare a broader range of providers ideal for remote workers and freelancers, below are some more suggestions. Although these providers aren’t as famous as some of the above companies, they offer quality services:

  • Invisible Browsing VPN, aka ibVPN, is based in Romania (good in terms of privacy laws). 100+ serves in 47 countries, cross-platform app, SmartDNS, zero logs, robust encryption, and low-cost plans make it a perfect VPN for privacy wonks. And it unblocks Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
  • Strong VPN is perfect if you are in China. A zero-logs policy, good security and platform support are complemented by 5 simultaneous connections and SmartDNS, which unblocks Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
  • Panda Pow, Hong Kong, allows 3 simultaneous connections, offers an excellent cross-platform app, fast speeds, and an ability to pause subscription. It’s also cheap but allows no P2P.
  • Cactus VPN, Moldova, features a modest network of 20 servers in 9 countries, but their offering is well-rounded, affordable, and efficient. Watertight security, zero logs, SmartDNS, robust encryption, and packages specifically for the US or UK expats make it ideal if you only need to spoof into your home country. It has a free trial, too.

Final Thoughts

The lifestyle of a freelancer is exciting, no doubt. A security breach is not. Having a reliable VPN is just as important as installing security patches religiously. Since you rely on your connectivity for work, a VPN is by far the most efficient protection against snooping ISPs and governments, hackers, and geo blocks.

6 Best VPNs for Kodi in 2021

6 Best VPNs for Kodi in 2021

Top 3 VPNs

Our Top Choice!

 

ExpressVPN

 
  • Fastest and most reliable VPN
  • User-friendly
  • 148 server locations
Check Best Price →
bvpnotbl2-table__image Surfshark
 
  • Good speeds
  • Intuitive software
  • Accepts Bitcoin
Check Best Price →
bvpnotbl2-table__image NordVPN
 
  • Next-generation encryption
  • Budget-friendly
  • 24/7 customer service
Check Best Price →
best vpns for kodi

Kodi, the mega-popular open-source software, is one of the best home theater options loaded with advanced customization options and a wealth of add-ons. It takes streaming and media management to the next level by allowing a tailored entertainment experience. By overlaying your device, it provides you with a sleek and streamlined interface you can manage through pretty much anything from keyboards to gamepads and remote controls.

But the real gist of Kodi is the ability to extend its capabilities through numerous third-party add-ons. Video add-ons are particularly popular among avid streamers who like to have all their movies and shows in one place. With Kodi’s add-ons, you can have your favorite BBC iPlayer and Hulu shows accessible from one app.

Along with Kodi’s advanced streaming capabilities comes the issue of piracy. Some add-ons are legal, others not really, landing Kodi a nickname of “plug-and-play piracy”:

For the record, Bestvpn.org does not condone piracy and other illegal activities using VPNs or the Internet. The ultimate reason to use a VPN is to ensure your online privacy and security. Play nice, steer well clear of illegal activities and use a trustworthy VPN to boost your digital defenses.

Legal Issues with Kodi

Some countries are cracking down on Kodi users for streaming geo-blocked and pirated content. The UK government threatens with up to 10-years prison sentence to streamers who use Kodi for Premier League games broadcasting. Piracy lawsuits against some of the most popular Kodi add-ons SALTS and Phoenix make a clear statement – copyright sharks intend to put an end to piracy or die trying.

Adding more fuel to the fire are some UK Internet Service Providers that already report Kodi users to law enforcement for copyright infringement. Not helping is the fact that the European Union court has ruled that streaming on Kodi box is equally illegal as streaming or downloading pirated content.

So, Is Kodi Legal?

The quick answer is yes. Kodi in and of itself is perfectly legal open-source software. But if you use it for illegal streaming, it’s not. This creates a big gray area around Kodi boxes.

If you are in the U.S. or EU, streaming copyrighted material through Kodi could land you a hefty fine. Moreover, since many Kodi apps and streams are geo-blocked due to copyright restrictions, streaming geo-blocked Netflix, YouTube or BBC iPlayer through Kodi add-ons could make you liable for copyright violation.

Why You Need a VPN for Kodi

Kodi is not perfect and bundles a load of privacy and security issues.

Security

Kodi can make your devices highly susceptible to Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks whereas outdated add-ons are ripe with security holes. Some add-ons are flat out malware. A Virtual Private Network encrypts your Kodi traffic, making it impossible for malicious parties to intercept it and unleash a MITM attack.

Snooping ISPs

Another real danger of using Kodi without a VPN is your snooping ISP. Since you now know your ISP could report you for using Kodi, you need to encrypt and hide your Kodi traffic with a VPN.

Additionally, since Kodi boxes are somewhat technical, novice users increasingly prefer to buy them pre-loaded, which are deemed illegal. So it’s best to set up your own box.

As you can see, encrypting your traffic is a privacy pre-requisite in today’s complicated legal landscape. Copyright trolls are hunting down Kodi users and ISPs gladly cooperate with them. With a VPN, you can protect yourself from unjustified DMCA notices and lawsuits for using Kodi.

Censorship

Many ISPs impose specific firewalls to block access to many websites, Kodi add-ons, and streams. There is no way around these blocks without a VPN.

Advantages of Using a VPN with Kodi

With all of the above in mind, a VPN is a mandatory security tool for Kodi users. A trustworthy VPN will provide the following benefits:

  • Online safety – given the numerous security vulnerabilities in Kodi add-ons and some settings, a VPN is an easy and affordable solution to many of them. Going online without a VPN becomes more dangerous, and since using Kodi puts you in the spotlight for hackers and ISPs, you are better off with an encrypted traffic.
  • Encrypted traffic – a VPN encrypts your traffic adding a layer of anonymity to it. Your ISP, hackers, or advertisers won’t be able to monitor your online activity due to VPN encryption. Of course, you need a reliable VPN provider that’s not logging your activities and handing them over to law enforcement.
  • Access to Kodi add-ons – a VPN helps you bypass ISP-imposed firewalls blocking your access to many Kodi add-ons. By assigning you a different IP address, a VPN helps you spoof into countries where access to Kodi add-ons is not restricted. That way, you can build your box using the latest and the best extensions.

How to Choose a VPN for Kodi

Below is a brief roundup of features that make a good VPN for Kodi:

Server Coverage

Depending on which countries you would like to spoof into, your VPN for Kodi should provide an ample server coverage in the region. One or two servers are not enough, so niche and small providers are typically out of the game when it comes to competing for Kodi users.

Speeds and Protocols

You want a speedy connection for streaming and torrenting. In a VPN, high speed depends on several factors – your native speeds, VPN servers’ performance and load, and VPN protocols.

Protocols establish the level of security inherent in your connection by using – or not using – encryption. Strong encryption understandably translates into slower speeds, but grants you the best level of protection against snooping hackers and ISPs. Poor or no encryption protocols offer high speeds but come with security flaws. Without going into jargon-heavy technicalities, here’s a brief explainer on protocols:

  • SSTP bypasses firewalls and provides great speeds, but Microsoft and NSA have a backdoor into it.
  • L2TP is very secure and relatively easy to set up, but speeds can be slow and it doesn’t always bypass firewalls.
  • OpenVPN is highly secure and efficient in evading firewalls, but it’s quite technical and not all mobile platforms support it.
  • IKEv2 is secure and supported by many platforms. It’s also easy to set up and provides great speeds, but some ISPs easily block it.
  • PPTP is super fast because it’s unencrypted, so provides zero protection, but facilitates streaming.

Your best bet would be to resort to OpenVPN for your Kodi VPN. It’s a bit technical, but if I could do it so can you. It provides the best level of privacy and security you need for your Kodi traffic.

Supported Devices and VPN Client

Most well-established VPNs offer native VPN software, which is typically easier to use than OpenVPN GUI. Do pay attention, however, that native software may be available on certain operating systems only. So you can end up with a grand VPN allowing up to six simultaneous connections, but not knowing how to set it up on half of your devices because the setup is manual.

No Logs

Since Kodi users are under the magnifying glass of ISPs, you want to rest assured your VPN is not snooping on you on their behalf. Read providers’ privacy policies and terms of service, paying close attention to activity and connection logs.

It all boils down to due diligence in researching providers. You want to scrutinize their refund policies and ping their customer service before subscribing to get a better idea of the level of service you can expect.

The best VPNs for Kodi on my list are mostly well-established big fish since we want a broad server coverage, OpenVPN, great speeds, and non-technical setup.


1. IPVanish

IPVanish is easy to recommend for Kodi since it provides excellent download speeds, a huge network of more than 1000 serves in 60+ locations, and up to 5 simultaneous connections.

IPVanish is also emphatically zero-logs while offering consistent performance and a native VPN client for Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac complete with manual setup instructions for other platforms. If you are after the ease of use and minimum manual tweaks, consider giving it a try.

No free trial is on offer, but its paid plans come with a 7-day money-back guarantee. One month of IPVanish will set you off $10 while their annual subscription cost $78. Bitcoin is accepted.

Pros:

  • Great speeds
  • 5 simultaneous connections
  • Ease of use
  • Broad server coverage (self-owned)
  • Cross-platform
  • 7-day refund
  • Zero logs
  • Bitcoin
  • Solid security specs
  • Great customer service

Cons:

  • No free or short-term paid trial
  • US-based (but no logs)

2. VyprVPN

VyprVPN might just make the cut if HD streaming is on your agenda. Providing excellent downloads speeds, it boasts of 700+ servers across 70 locations.

Various VyprVPN plans allow 3-5 simultaneous connections. Top if off with an easy-to-use VPN client for most operating systems and devices and strong security, and you’re in for a good deal. Moreover, its proprietary Chameleon protocol hides the very fact you are using a VPN, so you can bypass Deep Packet Inspection and most firewalls. VyprVPN also comes complete with a kill switch, NAT firewall, and SmartDNS.

There is a 3-day free trial, which means no refunds are issued. VyprVPN Basic will set you off $9.95 in monthly and $60 in annual subscriptions while their Premium is priced at $13 a month or $80 a year.

Pros:

  • Swiss privacy laws
  • Excellent security specs
  • Chameleon protocol
  • 5 simultaneous connections
  • Unlimited data
  • Great speeds
  • Free trial

Cons:

  • No Bitcoin
  • No refunds
  • Logs your connection timestamps and IP address

3. NordVPN

NordVPN comes loaded with more than 2800 servers across 59 locations and allows up to six simultaneous connections. Most of its servers are speedy, although you might need to switch a few times to find the best-performing one.

NordVPN features intuitive VPN apps for major operating systems. Its feature-rich client bundles Double VPN for better privacy, Onion over VPN, and even ad- and malware blocking, and a kill switch.

It’s almost a no logs provider since it might log your session metadata. Nord VPN offers a 3-day free trial whereas its monthly, biannual and annual plans are priced at $12, $42 and $69 respectively

Pros:

  • Intuitive​​​​
  • Great customer service
  • Watertight security
  • Cross-platform
  • Broad server coverage
  • 6 simultaneous connections
  • Free trial
  • Panama-based
  • 30-day refund

Cons:

  • Speeds vary
  • Logs connection metadata

4. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a reliable provider supporting a roster of operating systems and routers. Its Linux version comes complete with a command-line interface while a Fire-TV version is also available. Android-based Kodi devices can download an APK, but if you don’t have Google Play on your device you need to sideload it. You can also set it up manually on your NVIDIA Shield.

You may want to consider Express VPN if unblocking Hulu, Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other streaming services is an important feature for you. It’s also solid in terms of security, with Perfect Forward Secrecy and 256-bit AES encryption.

Its monthly plan is pricey at $13, but its yearly subscription is fairly convenient at $100.

Pros:

  • Bypasses firewalls
  • Access to geo-blocked content
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Broad server coverage
  • 24/7 live chat support
  • SmartDNS
  • Solid security

Cons:

  • Speeds vary​​​
  • British Virgin Islands jurisdiction

5. CyberGhost

CyberGhost VPN is a feasible option for Kodi since it offers impressive speeds ideal for HD streaming. Its cross-platform software is incredibly intuitive while a single license grants you 5 simultaneous connections.

CyberGhost VPN is based in Romania, which is a big plus due to its pro-privacy laws. It is a zero-logs provider claiming to not log even your connection metadata. It’s solid on the security front, too, with 256-bit AES encryption, ad- and malware blocker, and DNS and IPv6 leak protection.

Priced at $12, $72 and $84 in its monthly, annual and 2-year subscriptions, CyberGhost offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and accepts Bitcoin.

Pros:

  • 5 simultaneous connections
  • Impressive speeds for Kodi streaming
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Top-notch customer service 
  • Based in Romania, good privacy laws
  • Streaming and torrent-optimized servers
  • Has a free trial
  • Bitcoin

Cons:

  • No live chat support 
  • Some plans don’t allow simultaneous connections

6. Hide.me

Hide.me might land among your top picks if you are new to VPNs. It may not boast the broadest server coverage with 35 locations, but its download speeds are superb while its cross-platform VPN comes complete with native apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS and manual setup instructions for more platforms.

Hide.me’s VPN client is intuitive while the provider adheres to a strict no-logs policy backed by robust security specs. Their free plan is enough to clear your doubts as far as performance goes. It’s limited to 2GB per month, but if you need unlimited data, their Premium is priced at $9.99/mo. There’s also a Plus plan at $5/mo that comes with a 75GB data cap.

Pros:

  • Zero logs
  • 5 simultaneous connections
  • Lightning-fast speeds
  • Easy to use
  • 2GB/mo free plan
  • Port forwarding
  • Cross-platform with native apps
  • 24/7 support

Cons:

  • Not the broadest server coverage

Honorable Mentions

Below are some pretty good VPNs that work their magic for Kodi:

  • Goose VPN is an all-around great Dutch VPN with airtight privacy and security features and great speeds. It unblocks the streaming services and geo-blocked add-ons and allows multiple simultaneous connections.
  • Private VPN is a well-established Swedish provider running 80+ servers in 55 countries and boasting reliable speeds. It allows P2P and bypasses streaming geo-blocks with grace. It’s also wallet-friendly at $54 a year.
  • Ivacy provides consistently high speeds and allows up to 5 simultaneous connections. Its long-term plan is a bargain while its 280+ servers are well-optimized for streaming. It’s not the best solution for mobile platforms, though, and the refund policy is limited.

Considerations: VPNs to Avoid Using with Kodi

Below VPNs consistently make it to the lists of best VPNs for Kodi on other sites, but I suggest that you think twice before using the following providers:

  • Pur​eVPN is a fine provider, but it may not be a fit for Kodi users since it was found logging user data and handing it over to the FBI. If you’re streaming with unofficial Kodi add-ons, you’re better off with another company.
  • HideMyAss is incorporated in the UK, which is unfortunate enough for a Kodi VPN. But the worst part is it logs user data and turns it over to authorities.

Of course, there are more VPNs to avoid for various reasons. But these two might pop up as viable solutions, which they are not.

Final Thoughts

The global trends in streaming freedom and online privacy look grim. Privacy-infringing laws are getting worse by the day in many countries while copyright sharks have turned the Internet into their personal sharknado playground. Unfortunately, using Kodi also puts you at risk of a serious security breach since it has its security flaws. With a reliable VPN for Kodi, you can protect your privacy, security, and freedom online.

Hopefully, this list helps you make an informed decision and choose the right VPN for Kodi. Please, leave a comment in the section below if you have any questions or suggestions for the list.