VPN Security
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How Secure Are VPNs Really?

How Secure Are VPNs Really?

Data espionage, and alleged surveillance used against citizens and organizations are hitting the headlines more than ever before. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has also provided a great deal of discussion in recent months worldwide.

VPN has become a generally discussed topic amongst the media and the average consumer. At one point we all know that the use of VPNs can protect you from being tracked when you browse the internet. Recently, however, there are articles around claiming exactly the opposite — that VPN is just a myth.

Top VPN Tools | Updated: September 2020

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1 CyberGhost VPN
CyberGhost VPN
Review 5.0
from $2.75
The once-in-a-lifetime VPN software CyberGhost is one of the most well-known and fastest on the market. It is also known as the VPN software with the best connectivity to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO and many more.
2 NordVPN
NordVPN
Review 4.9
from $3.49
NordVPN is the unbeatable #1 VPN software on the market. The company from Panama uses their local legal situation that no data has to be stored by law. They are so confident in the quality of their software that they even offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
3 ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN
Review 4.9
from $8.32
ExpressVPN is officially government-proof: A recent incident lead to the fact that some of the ExpressVPN servers were seized by the government, and the investigation had to come to hard stop, after intelligence officers realized that there was no data on the servers.

What’s the Truth Behind VPN Security?

The subject of anonymous browsing and VPN proxy has gone through several stages as far as the interest of the population is concerned. A few years ago, only hackers and computer enthusiasts used VPNs and knew how to hide their IP addresses. Through numerous cases of copyright infringement notices from firms — mostly caused by music and movie downloads using torrent software — even ordinary computer users have shown an increasing interest in anonymous web surfing with VPNs. Shortly thereafter, the issue of protection flared up. An endless amount of new VPN providers entered the market.

On one hand, to simply claim that VPNs are not secure and would not provide adequate protection is not correct. It’s also wrong to suggest that VPNs offer 100% protection against all kinds of activities on the internet.

The question is, what kind of security can we really expect from the VPN providers?

A preliminary survey showed that most of the articles talking in absolutes and claiming that VPNs are not secure have been written by journalists and writers who are actually not VPN experts, let alone have computer science backgrounds. Most of the writers I could see so far are columnists with different areas of expertise, none of them around computer science. These articles should be read with a grain of salt.

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More recommended and reliable sources include magazines such as WIRED, Linux Journal, MIT Technology Review, Popular Mechanics, and Popular Science (also known as PopSci). These sources so far responded favorably regarding VPNs.

Be very skeptical about the contributions of websites such as GoldenFrog, RestorePrivacy, and MakeUseOf.com. The message there is that VPN services are mostly a lie and everything around VPN is nothing but a myth. However, these articles do not put any weight on the different technical aspects of the topic, and also do not provide any proof whatsoever.

Dubious VPN Providers Are All Around

First of all, it should be noted that there are a lot of VPN providers. Among them are dubious providers which tend to ride the trend and offer inadequately developed VPN software. There are also VPN providers who pretend to be VPN tools, but in fact are viruses and trojans — be very cautious: you should stay away from free VPN tools. Incidentally, we have provided a list of reliable VPN providers and reviews in our VPN provider list of 2020.

What Data Do VPN Providers Collect?

Since VPN providers demand money for their VPN service, they store the payment data of the user, such as their PayPal email, credit card numbers, and/or bank account details. The VPN servers however are anonymous — that is, in the case of a trace back, an agency or organization would only know that somebody used a VPN service. Non-traceable, however, is the traffic, i.e. the transmitted data. In this respect, your anonymity is secured in the data flow if you use legitimate VPN tools. That’s a fact.

We can’t confirm that the VPN providers allegedly create log files and also monitor the traffic — at least none of the reviewed VPN tools do. The rumors circulating so far could not go beyond mere speculation and assertion. So far, no case has become known in the public in which a user received a legal letter or notice despite the use of VPNs. Thus, it is clear that even when using torrent software and downloading copyrighted material data without the consent of the copyright holder (movies, music etc.), the authorities are unable to trace the data and IP of those users.

It turns out that the VPN connection failed or was configured incorrectly in all cases where users reported warnings in internet forums. And even then, all providers we listed below already responded to this issue and have so-called kill switches built in — this means if the VPN connection fails while using a VPN, the whole internet connection will be interrupted automatically. VPN tools such as NordVPN have shown the successful integration of such kill switches.

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NordVPN
NordVPN
Review 4.9
from $3.49
NordVPN is the unbeatable #1 VPN software on the market. The company from Panama uses their local legal situation that no data has to be stored by law. They are so confident in the quality of their software that they even offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Vulnerabilities of Anonymous Surfing with VPNs

The weak spot is the computer, not the software. Even though organizations and authorities cannot track your data due to a VPN usage, the data would still be stored on your PC. Therefore, the evidence is right there on your PC; it’s just not traceable through your internet connection.

However, a search warrant can’t be issued just because of the fact that someone was using VPN software if there is no other incriminating evidence.

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Fact is, during a VPN connection, not only is the IP disguised, but also the entire traffic is encrypted and therefore unreadable for anyone tapping into it. That is, only a presumption of an illegal act is not enough for a house warrant, at least not in countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and all of Europe.

Inevitably, that brings us to the debate of illegal actions. Of course, VPN was originally not intended to disguise illegal acts, even if it is very well suited exactly for this purpose. It is true that many users use VPNs for dubious actions. But since there are no empirical studies about the reasons why people are using VPN, it’s not possible to assume what it is being used for overall. All we know so far is that it has become extremely popular.

Nowadays, there are thousands of government reports available on the internet. In all cases, prosecutors as well as district attorneys failed to use the traffic in VPN’s as evidence as it was not readable due its encryption.

Interestingly, users have been involved in very different offenses, so the prosecution could ultimately find evidence by other means. There were cases in which the investigators were able to access unencrypted data on USB sticks, DVDs and hard disks. However, these cases were not built upon any evidence that was retrieved from internet traffic. Many people just can’t imagine tapping into internet traffic as the only way for investigators and authorities to gather evidence.  Even so the internet traffic was secured via VPN, many legal cases were able to gather evidence from other vulnerable sources other than internet traffic. The internet traffic of users is not the only way for investigators and authorities to prove their point. Long story short, if you use VPN tools, authorities will have to up with other methods to collect the necessary evidence—and it won’t be your internet traffic as the VPN would have covered that at least.

Top VPN Tools | Updated: September 2020

Advertisement: Sponsored Listings
1 CyberGhost VPN
CyberGhost VPN
Review 5.0
from $2.75
The once-in-a-lifetime VPN software CyberGhost is one of the most well-known and fastest on the market. It is also known as the VPN software with the best connectivity to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO and many more.
2 NordVPN
NordVPN
Review 4.9
from $3.49
NordVPN is the unbeatable #1 VPN software on the market. The company from Panama uses their local legal situation that no data has to be stored by law. They are so confident in the quality of their software that they even offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
3 ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN
Review 4.9
from $8.32
ExpressVPN is officially government-proof: A recent incident lead to the fact that some of the ExpressVPN servers were seized by the government, and the investigation had to come to hard stop, after intelligence officers realized that there was no data on the servers.
4 RUSVPN
RUSVPN
Review 4.8
from $2.99
Among a sea of VPN provider, RUSVPN emerged offering a reliable, unlimited, and incredibly cheap VPN service that is totally secure. Compatible with most devices and with a network that covers 5 continents, is RUSVPN the best choice for you? We took a closer look.
5 TunnelBear VPN
TunnelBear VPN
Review 4.8
from $4.17
Started in Canada in 2011, TunnelBear stands out amid a sea of serious VPNs with a fun & easy to use interface, free tiered options, and the ability to pay with Bitcoin.
6 Proton VPN
Proton VPN
Review 4.7
from $8
The Swiss company Proton Technologies was already famous for its software ProtonMail. The more reason to have a closer look to to their new flagship ProtonVPN that suddenly began to win over lots of new fans in 2020.
7 IPVanish VPN
IPVanish VPN
Review 4.7
from $6.49
IPVanish VPN is one of the rare VPN tools that are in fact made in the U.S.A. It's owned by an IT company located in Seattle which makes this software one of the most advanced and reliable in the industry.
8 Surfshark VPN
Surfshark VPN
Review 4.7
from $1.99
Surfshark VPN is one of the most affordable VPN tools in 2020. At the same time, the VPN tool offers one of the most diverse technologies in the VPN market. We have tested one of the best VPN tool newcomers in September 2020.
9 Hide My Ass VPN
Hide My Ass VPN
Review 4.6
from $3.99
What few people know: Hide My Ass is one of the best VPN providers on the market from the company AVG - the largest manufacturer of antivirus software. No wonder their VPN software is of such high quality.
10 vypr vpn
vypr vpn
Review 4.6
from $2.50
Vypr VPN is one of the companies based in Switzerland, where users have high expectations in terms of data protection and privacy. In addition, Vypr VPN was initially created for one purpose only: To outsmart the NSA's surveillance program called Room 641A. Curious, yet?
11 Avast SecureLine VPN
Avast SecureLine VPN
Review 4.6
from $4.99
SecureLine VPN from the renowned manufacturer Avast is one of the oldest manufacturers of security software and one of the largest security companies in the world. They've been around since 1988, so it's no surprise they offer one of the best VPN's on the market.
12 Avira Phantom VPN
Avira Phantom VPN
Review 4.5
from $7.00
The German manufacturer Avira knows how to best meet user demand for data protection and anonymity. It's hardly surprising since Avira is one of the oldest software companies for data security on the market.
13 ZenMate VPN
ZenMate VPN
Review 4.5
from $2.22
Since launching in 2013, there are now over 47 million people worldwide that use ZenMate VPN, and their Google Chrome extension is the #1 VPN extension in the Chrome Web Store.
14 Pure VPN
Pure VPN
Review 4.5
from $3.33
Founded in 2007 and headquartered in Hong Kong, PureVPN is a virtual private network (VPN) provider owned and operated by GZ Systems Ltd., a company that develops Android apps.
15 Hotspot Shield
Hotspot Shield
Review 4.5
from $2.99
Among the longest-standing VPNs on the market, Hotspot Shield was created in 2005 by a privacy and security company called Anchorfree until 2019 when the company became part of Pango, a new privacy and security company that also owns 1Password and other privacy-focused apps.
16 VPN Unlimited
VPN Unlimited
Review 4.5
from $2.22
VPN Unlimited may not be a household name, but this affordable VPN service might be a good fit for you — if you can overlook the company’s questionable privacy policy.
17 hide.me VPN
hide.me VPN
Review 4.5
from $4.99
hide.me has been helping users mask their internet activity since 2011 and is a speedy & secure VPN provider that ticks all the boxes for most power users.

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