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The 10 Best VPN for iPhone (2023 Update)

By Tibor Moes / November 2022

Why do you need a VPN? Advertisers and hackers track your browsing habits. With a Virtual Private Network (VPN) you can safeguard your privacy and sensitive data.

  • It offers protection from identity theft. Using public Wi-Fi enables hackers to steal your data. A VPN prevents your sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.
  • It allows access to foreign TV shows. With a VPN, you can log into streaming services via foreign servers. This unblocks TV shows, movies, and sports events.
  • It keeps your online identity hidden. A VPN can prevent advertisers like Google and Facebook from tracking your online activities.

You can restore your anonymity on the internet when you purchase the best VPN for iPhone.

CyberGhost VPN - The best VPN

CyberGhost VPN

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  • Security and Privacy 100% 100%
  • Speed 100% 100%

CyberGhost is the best affordable VPN of 2023. It’s ultra-fast, private, and secure. And it temporarily offers deep discounts.

✓ Stream: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, and more
✓ Torrent: Optimized P2P servers
✓ Return: 45-day money-back guarantee
✓ Privacy: Maximum (no logs)
✓ Servers: 91 countries
✓ Protect: 7 devices

Try it risk-free, thanks to its 45-day return policy.

NordVPN - The most advanced VPN

NordVPN

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  • Security and Privacy 100% 100%
  • Speed 100% 100%

NordVPN is the most advanced VPN of 2023. It has the best privacy technology (RAM-Servers and Double VPN) and a beautiful design.

✓ Stream: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, and more
✓ Torrent: Optimized P2P servers
✓ Return: 30-day money-back guarantee
✓ Privacy: Maximum (no logs)
✓ Servers: 59 countries
✓ Protect: 6 devices

Try it risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

Ranking of the best VPN services of 2023

We have tested cybersecurity software since 2014. Below, we have selected the top 4 from 30 paid and free VPN services (Virtual Private Networks).

Click the links or scroll down for more.

CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhost VPN Review

Ranked #1 out of 30 VPNs

CyberGhost VPN Review

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CyberGhost VPN Review

CyberGhost is the fastest VPN in our test. It also has the lowest price and the biggest server network. It's one of the best VPN services you can buy.

Specifications

  • Streaming: Works with Netflix US, Disney, Amazon, HBO Max, and more
  • Torrenting: Allowed on P2P servers
  • Logging: No Logs
  • Servers & Countries: 9,000 Servers in 91 countries
  • Connections: 7
  • 1-Year Price: € 47.64
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 45 days

Streaming

CyberGhost has dedicated streaming servers for Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu, and more.

Torrenting

CyberGhost has optimized P2P servers. It is an excellent VPN for torrenting, thanks to its kill switch, IP- and DNS-leak protection, and no logs policy.

Privacy

CyberGhost has a strict no-logs policy: It does not monitor or record what you do online, and it does not store your IP address. Therefore, you are completely anonymous when using CyberGhost.

Ownership

CyberGhost is owned and operated by CyberGhost S.A. from Romania. Its parent company is Kape Technologies from the UK, which also owns ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access, and ZenMate.

Speed

We test all VPN services on a 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) internet connection, with the VPN set to the WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest. These are the test results of the best VPN services:

VPN WireGuard
CyberGhost 825-850 Mbps
NordVPN 725-800 Mbps
Surfshark 700-800 Mbps
IPVanish 700-725 Mbps

Security

CyberGhost applies the most important security and privacy features:

  • AES-256 encryption
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling (on Windows and Android)
  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker
  • Dedicated IP

But it lacks RAM-only servers and Double VPN, which NordVPN does offer.

Censorship

CyberGhost does not use obfuscation technology, which hides your VPN usage. Therefore, it is not the right VPN for high-censorship countries like China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, or the UAE.

Servers

CyberGhost has a huge number of servers: 9,000 in 91 countries.

60 Countries have physical servers within their borders, while the other 31 are virtual servers. Although virtual servers are not located within the indicated country, they will give you a local IP address from that country.

It also offers specialized servers:

  • Servers optimized for P2P
  • Servers optimized for streaming
  • Servers with static IP addresses
  • Servers with dedicated IP addresses
  • Fully owned NoSpy servers

Devices

You can install CyberGhost on 7 devices at the same time. It works with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and a range of routers. It also has browser extensions for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Prices

CyberGhost has the lowest 1-year price in the industry.

VPN 1-Year Price
CyberGhost € 47.64
Surfshark € 47.88
IPVanish $ 47.89
NordVPN € 52.68
ExpressVPN € 99.84

Is CyberGhost VPN the best VPN software of 2023?

CyberGhost is the fastest VPN in our test and has the most affordable 1-year contract. On top of that, it is secure, private, and has one of the largest server networks. It's excellent.

You can try CyberGhost risk-free, thanks to its 45-day return policy.

NordVPN

NordVPN Review

Ranked #2 out of 30 VPNs

NordVPN Review

NordVPN Review

NordVPN is the most advanced VPN service you can buy. It uses the latest privacy technology, like RAM servers and double VPN, and works in China. It's one of the best VPN providers you can buy.

Specifications

  • Streaming: Works with Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more
  • Torrenting: Allowed on 80% of its servers
  • Logging: No Logs
  • Servers & Countries: 5,600 Servers in 59 countries
  • Connections: 6
  • 1-Year Price: € 52.68
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Streaming

NordVPN unblocks Netflix in 10 countries, including the United States. It also works with Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.

Torrenting

NordVPN allows torrenting on most of its servers. On top of that, it has optimized P2P servers for extra high download speeds.

Thanks to its no-logs policy, kill switch, DNS- and IP-leak blocking, it is a safe choice for torrenting.

Privacy

NordVPN has a strict no-log policy. So it does not record your IP address or online activities. It was the first VPN company to subject its privacy policy to an independent audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Ownership

NordVPN is owned and operated by NordVPN S.A. from Panama. Its parent company, Nord Security, merged with the parent company of SurfShark to form Cyberspace BV in the Netherlands.

Speed

We test all VPN services on a 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) internet connection, with the VPN set to the WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest. These are the test results of the best VPN providers:

VPN WireGuard
CyberGhost 825-850 Mbps
NordVPN 725-800 Mbps
Surfshark 700-800 Mbps
IPVanish 700-725 Mbps

Security

NordVPN is the most advanced VPN in our comparison. It includes both the mainstream security features and the highly advanced ones:

  • AES-256 encryption
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling
  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker
  • Dedicated IP
  • RAM-only servers
  • Double VPN
  • Onion over VPN
  • Obfuscated servers
  • Meshnet (on Windows and Linux)

NordVPN is also available in a bundle, including NordLocker (encrypted cloud storage) and NordPass (password manager and data breach scanner).

Censorship

NordVPN is one of the few VPNs that work in highly censored countries like China, the UAE, Iran, Russia, and Turkey. This is thanks to its obfuscation technology that hides your VPN traffic.

Servers

NordVPN has an extensive VPN server network, with 5,600 servers in 59 countries. They are all physical servers, meaning every server is located within the country's borders.

It also offers specialty servers:

  • P2P servers
  • Streaming servers
  • Static IP address servers
  • Double VPN servers
  • Onion over VPN servers
  • Obfuscated servers

Devices

You can install NordVPN on 6 devices at the same time. It works with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and some routers. It also has browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Prices

Considering that NordVPN is the most advanced VPN, it is a bargain.

VPN 1-Year Price
CyberGhost € 47.64
Surfshark € 47.88
IPVanish $ 47.89
NordVPN € 52.68
ExpressVPN € 99.84

Is NordVPN the best VPN service of 2023?

NordVPN is the most advanced VPN software you can buy, thanks to its RAM servers, double VPN, Onion over VPN, and obfuscated servers.

You can try NordVPN risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

SurfShark VPN

Surfshark VPN Review

Ranked #3 out of 30 VPNs

SurfShark VPN Review

Surfshark VPN Review

Surfshark offers the best value for money. It is fast, secure, and affordable. And it allows you to install it on an unlimited number of devices. It's one of the best VPN programs you can buy.

Specifications

  • Streaming: Works with Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more
  • Torrenting: Allowed on all of its servers
  • Logging: No Logs
  • Servers & Countries: 3,200 Servers in 95 countries
  • Connections: Unlimited
  • 1-Year Price: € 47.88
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Streaming

Surfshark can stream Netflix in 10 countries, including the United States. It also works with Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu.

Torrenting

Surfshark allows P2P file-sharing on all of its servers and offers optimized P2P servers for higher download speeds. Due to its kill-switch, no-logs policy, and leak-blocking, Surfshark is a safe choice for torrenting.

Privacy

Surfshark has a clear no-logs policy. It does not track what you do online and does not store your IP address. In 2021, Surfshark underwent an independent server audit by Cure53, a German cybersecurity firm.

Ownership

Surfshark BV from the Netherlands owns Surfshark. In 2022, its parent company merged with Nord Security, creating the holding company Cyberspace BV, also located in the Netherlands.

Speed

We test all VPN services on a 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) internet connection, with the VPN set to the WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest. These are the test results of the best VPN programs:

VPN WireGuard
CyberGhost 825-850 Mbps
NordVPN 725-800 Mbps
Surfshark 700-800 Mbps
IPVanish 700-725 Mbps

Security

After NordVPN, Surfshark is the most advanced VPN in our comparison. It covers all mainstream and advanced features:

  • AES-256 encryption
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling
  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker
  • Dedicated IP
  • RAM-only servers
  • Double VPN
  • Onion over VPN
  • Obfuscated servers
  • Rotating IP
  • Override GPS Location on Android

Next to its VPN service, Surfshark also offers antivirus software, personal data breach alert, and a private search engine. These features are sold separately or together with the VPN in SurfShark One.

Censorship

Thanks to its Camouflage and NoBorders Mode, Surfshark works well in censored countries like Russia, the UAE, Turkey, and Iran. However, it does not consistently work in China.

Servers

Surfshark has an extensive network, with 3,200 servers in 95 countries. However, some of these servers are virtual. That means that although you get a local IP address from the country of your choice, the physical server is located in a different country.

Surfshark also offers specialized servers, including:

  • P2P servers
  • Static IP address servers
  • Double VPN servers (Multihop servers)

Devices

Surfshark allows unlimited simultaneous connections. It works with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and some routers. It also has browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Prices

Surfshark's price is excellent. Especially considering that you can install it on an unlimited number of devices.

VPN 1-Year Price
CyberGhost € 47.64
Surfshark € 47.88
IPVanish $ 47.89
NordVPN € 52.68
ExpressVPN € 99.84

Is Surfshark the best VPN service of 2023?

Surfshark offers the best value for money in the VPN industry. It is advanced, affordable, and allows you to protect an unlimited number of devices. It is one of the best VPN deals out there.

You can try Surfshark risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

IPVanish VPN

IPVanish Review

Ranked #4 out of 30 VPNs

IPVanish VPN Review

IPVanish: Temporarily get 61% OFF  🔥

IPVanish VPN Review

IPVanish is an excellent VPN. It's fast, secure, and affordable. And it allows you to install it on an unlimited number of devices. However, it's not as advanced as the others in this list and has a smaller server network.

Specifications

  • Streaming: Works with Netflix USA, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu
  • Torrenting: Allowed on all of its servers
  • Logging: No Logs
  • Servers & Countries: 2,000 Servers in 50 countries
  • Connections: Unlimited
  • 1-Year Price: $ 47.89
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Streaming

IPVanish is not the best VPN service for streaming. Although it works with Netflix in the United States, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer, it has problems with streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max.

Torrenting

IPVanish allows torrenting on all its servers. And thanks to its no-log policy, kill switch, and no DNS leaks, it is a safe option to do so. The kill switch is necessary because it will block the internet traffic if the VPN connection drops.

Privacy

IPVanish has a clear no-logs policy. However, in 2018, it handed user data to the US government. Data it wasn't supposed to have, according to its log policy. Since then, it has changed owners twice, but the reputation remains.

Speed

We test every VPN service on a 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) internet connection, with the VPN connection set to the WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest. These are the test results of the fastest VPN connections:

VPN WireGuard
CyberGhost 825-850 Mbps
NordVPN 725-800 Mbps
Surfshark 700-800 Mbps
IPVanish 700-725 Mbps

Security

IPVanish is the only VPN in our comparison that owns all of its servers and doesn't rely on third-party server parks, which is excellent. That said, it is not the most advanced VPN in our test.

It includes the following mainstream features:

  • AES-256 encryption
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling

But it misses many of the advanced features:

  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker
  • Dedicated IP
  • RAM-only servers
  • Double VPN
  • Onion over VPN
  • Obfuscated servers

Censorship

IPVanish does not work in censored countries like China, the UAE, Iran, Turkey, or Russia.

Servers

IPVanish has 2,000 VPN servers in 50 countries. All servers are physically located within the country and entirely owned by IPVanish. Because it doesn't rely on third-party server providers, it has complete control over the hardware and software, which theoretically should increase its security.

Devices

IPVanish allows an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. It works with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and some routers. But it has no browser extensions.

Prices

IPVanish has a very attractive price, especially as you can install it on an unlimited number of devices.

VPN 1-Year Price
CyberGhost € 47.64
Surfshark € 47.88
IPVanish $ 47.89
NordVPN € 52.68
ExpressVPN € 99.84

Is IPVanish the best VPN provider of 2023?

IPVanish is fast, secure, and affordable. It owns its entire server network and allows you to install the software on unlimited devices. But it's not the most advanced VPN in our test and not the best option for streaming.

You can try IPVanish risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

Comparison table of the best VPN services 

CyberGhost
NordVPN
Surfshark
IPVanish
Icon
CyberGhost VPN Icon
NordVPN Icon
Surfshark VPN Icon
IPVanish VPN Icon
Ranking
#1 / 30
#2 / 30
#3 / 30
#4 / 30
Logging Policy
No Logs
No Logs
No Logs
No Logs
Operating Company
CyberGhost S.A. (Romania)
NordVPN S.A. (Panama)
Surfshark BV (Netherlands)
Ziff Davis, Inc (USA)
Holding Company
Kape Technologies PLC (UK)
Cyberspace BV (Netherlands)
Cyberspace BV (Netherlands)
Ziff Davis, Inc (USA)
VPN Protocols
IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard
IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, NordLynx (WireGuard)
IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard
IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard
Encryption
AES-256
AES-256
AES-256
AES-256
US Netflix




Torrenting




VPN Kill Switch




Split Tunneling




Ad & Tracker Blocker



No
Smart DNS



No
First-Party DNS


No

Dedicated IP


No
No
Double VPN
No


No
RAM Servers
No


No
Works in China
No


No
Countries
91
59
95
50
Servers
9,000+
5,600+
3,200+
2,000+
Speed on WireGuard or proprietary protocol
825-850 Mbps
725-800 Mbps
700-800 Mbps
700-725 Mbps
Comptatible Devices
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router
Number of Connections
7
6
Unlimited
Unlimited
1-Month Price
€ 12.65
€ 10.49
€ 12.95
$ 10.99
1-Year Price
€ 47.64
€ 52.68
€ 47.88
$ 47.89
2-Year Price
€ 74.88
€ 69.36
€ 59.76
-
3-Year Price
€ 82.29
-
-
-
Customer Support
24/7 Live Chat & Email
24/7 Live Chat & Email
24/7 Live Chat & Email
24/7 Live Chat & Email
Free Trial
1 Day
7 Days
7 Days
No
Money Back Guarantee
45 Days
30 Days
30 Days
30 Days

How we test the best VPN for iPhone

Across a range of operating systems, including Windows 10, Windows 11, Apple, macOS, and Android, we reviewed 30 free VPN providers. Below are details of the 16 tests we ran for each VPN service.

> Test 1: Logging policy

What is a logging policy?

When browsing the internet using a VPN connection, you can assume that your activity is private. However, the level of privacy depends on the provider. VPN providers can track your data since your internet activity goes through its servers, just like your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can see what you do.

A VPN may track the following:

  • Your online activity, such as websites visited, purchases made, and files downloaded
  • Where you live based on your internet-facing (public) IP address information

Hola VPN and other free VPNs openly track your internet usage and website engagement. They then sell the logged information to data brokers and advertisers. So, you become the product in exchange for a free VPN service.

Unfortunately, this is standard practice. Around 30% of VPN services keep a record of the numeric identifier representing your location details and ISP, known as your originating IP address. And an additional 5% of providers also track your browsing behavior.

So the question is, when a free VPN service shields your online identity, how do they ensure your information is protected? The logging policy addresses this. The logging policy lets you know whether the VPN maintains a log of your internet activity and IP address.

VPN providers should clearly state the type of information they collect in their logging policy. In particular, we want to confirm that the provider does not collect information about your IP address or browsing behavior.

What do we test for?

We carefully review the logging policy details to understand the data it logs. In particular, we find out if the provider will collect your IP address or log your browsing behavior. We also check that the provider will not monitor or store your data and then delete it as you browse.

That is because the logging policy for a VPN should not:

  • Monitor your online behavior. It’s a warning sign if the logging policy even obliquely implies that they track and gather information about your internet activity. Even if the server deletes the data at the end of your VPN session, this practice is unacceptable.
  • Look up your personal IP address. Your actual IP address should not be tracked by a VPN service. Your IP address may indicate your location and the ISP you use, both of which are private details.

The logging policy of a good VPN provider will say that their VPN only collects data necessary to deliver their service. Bandwidth usage, or server load information, is a common and acceptable type of information to log.

> Test 2: Ownership

What do we mean by ownership?

Corporate holding structures make VPN provider setup slightly complicated. And to make matters worse, plenty of corporate holding structures are around.

A corporate holding structure is a company with several other companies underneath it. Many companies can be involved in a holding structure and cause complications. For example, the VPN provider you use could be owned by a company, owned by another company, and so on. The more businesses involved, the more companies may have access to your data.

And the complication doesn’t stop there.

Different countries abide by different data retention laws. For example, if you choose a VPN service based in your country but it’s owned by a company in another country, your usage could be negatively affected.

Our research uncovered that there aren’t as many VPN providers around as it seems. The multiple services available typically come from the same set of companies. Knowing where in the world these collections of companies are is critical in making a decision. Here are the names and headquarter locations of popular VPN providers.

  • Aura, also known as Pango – is a U.S-based provider offering several VPNs for personal and commercial use. Their popular VPN services include Hotspot Shield, JustVPN, Touch VPN, Panda, and Kaspersky.
  • CyberSpace – is based in the Netherlands and owns several popular VPN services, including Atlas VPN, Surfshark, and Nord VPN.
  • Gaditek – is a Pakistan-based company running PureVPN, Unblock VPN, and Ivacy VPN.
  • Kape Technologies – is a UK-based company and the owner of CyberGhost VPN, ZenMate, and ExpressVPN.
  • Ziff Davis – is another U.S.-owned company owning several other VPNs, including Perimeter 81, IPVanish, and StrongVPN.

What do we test for?

In our ownership testing, we look at the following four areas:

  • The company that owns the VPN service
  • Where the company is based
  • The data retention laws in that company
  • The company’s past, any potential scandal involvement

And we uncovered some interesting information:

  • IPVanish breached its logging policy rules by collecting data it shouldn’t have, and they were required to hand the information over to Homeland Security in 2016. Following that, the company changed owners several times to distance itself from the reputation damage.
  • UK-based company Kape Technologies traded by the name of Crossrider until 2018. Crossrider provided a platform for browser extension development. It established a bad rep when malware developers and ad injectors favored it. Crossrider then changed its name and joined the VPN provider industry.

> Test 3: Independent audit

What is an independent audit?

It’s not uncommon for VPN companies to hire independent auditors to confirm certain aspects of their infrastructure or claims. For example, you might hear “Military Grade Encryption” or “Zero-Log Policy” in marketing materials, and audits verify these claims.

In the end, it is necessary to know if the claims are accurate, and a VPN can prove its claims are genuine through an audit.

Here are some examples of what’s involved in an audit:

  • In 2021, Cure53 completed an audit for Surfshark to check for weaknesses in its server infrastructure.
  • In 2019, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) tested ExpressVPN’s TrustedServer technology, which wiped all data when a server rebooted.
  • Deloitte was asked by Private Internet Access (PIA) in 2022 to audit its server environment related to PIA’s privacy policies.
  • As with ExpressVPN, NordVPN commissioned PwC to audit its technical logs, server infrastructure, and configuration in 2020. In addition, PwC questioned NordVPN’s employees.

What do we test for?

Since we don’t undertake the audits, we look for evidence that the VPN provider did one, along with information on what they checked for and any issues they discovered on the audit.

> Test 4: Available VPN protocols

What is a VPN protocol?

An app must communicate correctly with the VPN server to function. The VPN protocol allows communication by defining how the two parties identify each other. It also determines how the app connects to the server, the type of data it sends, and the type of encryption it uses, among other features.

VPNs commonly use one of the following protocols:

  • OpenVPN – This is the most popular VPN protocol since it is fast, secure, and customizable.
  • WireGuard – With open-source WireGuard, you’re a step up from OpenVPN. This VPN protocol offers faster download speeds and uses fewer lines of code, so it’s easier to customize.
  • IKEv2 – Developed by Microsoft and Cisco, this protocol is highly secure but slow.
  • L2TP/IPsec – This is the slowest among the VPN protocols.
  • PPTP – Major security flaws have been identified with this old VPN protocol.

Some VPN providers have designed their own protocols:

  • Lightway protocol by ExpressVPN is designed to run faster using less battery and is easier to maintain and audit
  • Catapult Hydra by Hotspot Shield offers “blazing-fast” upload and download speeds
  • NordLynx by NordVPN is based on WireGuard’s protocol

While ExpressVPN is the only VPN that makes its protocol accessible for audit, most VPNs use IKEv2 or WireGuard as alternatives to OpenVPN.

What do we test for?

Our analysis looks at each VPN service’s protocols and whether the protocol is available on all operating systems. Some VPN providers only support certain protocols on specific operating systems.

> Test 5: Supported encryption standard

What is an encryption standard?

Data encryption protects data from hackers, and an encryption standard sets encryption rules. The Data Encryption Standard (DES) was created in 1977 to allow companies to use the same encryption key to encrypt and decrypt data. This is known as a private or secret key algorithm.

By 2002, DES was replaced by the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which was developed by the US government. It uses the Rijndael block cipher with a block size of 128 bits and a key size of 128, 192, or 256 bits. Block ciphers are the most common form of private key algorithms.

In most VPNs, AES-128 or AES-256 are used in either CBC or GCM versions. We prefer GCM because it can independently encrypt blocks, which increases security. It also offers faster transfer speeds since it works in parallel rather than in a series.

What do we test for?

At a minimum, we want to see that the VPN uses AES-128 (GCM) or AES-256 as its default encryption standard. And if the VPN offers alternatives, we’ll look at those too.

> Test 6: Basic security features

What are basic security features?

The following basic security features are required for every VPN we test:

  • AES-256 encryption – The most secure encryption standard is AES-256, which is highly resistant to brute force attacks.
  • Split tunneling – This method allows selected programs to connect directly to the web without requiring a VPN.
  • OpenVPN and WireGuard – VPN security depends on these two heavyweight players in open-source VPN protocols.
  • Kill switch – If a VPN tunnel’s encryption fails, a kill switch blocks the internet connection.

What do we test for?

We confirm the availability of these basic security features offered on each VPN, especially the functionality of the split tunneling and kill switch feature.

> Test 7: Advanced security features

What are advanced security features?

In addition to the basics, a good VPN service offers more advanced security features to enhance your privacy:

  • Ad trackers and malicious website blockers – With this technology, you’ll be protected against ads, tracking, cookies, and URLs associated with malicious activities, like phishing.
  • Dedicated IP address – With a dedicated IP address, you can access restricted servers if you want to avoid captchas and blacklists.
  • Double VPN – Here, you’ll gain more IPS protection and privacy when you use VPN server chaining to route internet traffic through two VPN servers.
  • Obfuscated servers – It’s better not to use obfuscated servers if you don’t want others to know you’re using a VPN, especially in countries like China and UAE, which attempt to block its use.
  • Override GPS location – Using GPS spoofing, the VPN masks your location from apps like Google Maps.
  • RAM-only servers – Many VPN servers use RAM-based hard drives, which have the benefit of automatically wiping themselves upon server restart. If a server is seized, no data will be available.

What do we test for?

We check these features for availability and promised functionality.

> Test 8: IP leak

What is an IP leak?

There are two IP addresses for every internet-connected device. A public address for communicating via the web and a private address for communicating within the same network.

All devices connected to your router share the public IP address that your ISP allocates to you. IPv6 addresses, which take the place of IPv4 addresses, are occasionally used.

Security issues arise from IP addresses for two reasons:

  • It reveals your zip code or neighborhood
  • It can reveal who you are and your browsing habits if combined with your browsing history

It is advisable to use a reliable VPN that changes the public IP address to the VPN’s server address. Using a VPN has two advantages:

  • Your ISP won’t be able to track your browsing activity, and all they’ll know is that you’re using a VPN
  • Only the VPN server’s IP address can be seen by apps and websites, which means they don’t know your location or identity

So in VPN apps, what do IP leaks mean?

If your public IP address rather than the VPN server address is visible, then you are experiencing an IP leak.

What do we test for?

We do an IP address check after establishing a connection to the VPN service. In the event that we see our IP address rather than the VPN’s, a security breach IP leak has been detected.

> Test 9: DNS leak

What is a DNS leak?

A Domain Name System converts a URL into a website’s IP address when you type it into a web browser and press Enter. For instance, thanks to DNS, the SoftwareLab.org web address is translated to 165.227.148.211 IP address.

Your ISP often operates the DNS servers you use, like a phone book, connecting you to the people you call. The problem is, this setup gives your ISP complete access to your browsing history. Since you’re using their DNS servers, this gives them access to everything you do online.

VPNs use their DNS servers to resolve your DNS queries. A DNS leak will happen if your DNS queries are sent to your ISP’s servers instead of the VPN’s. Multiple reasons can cause a DNS leak, including mistakes when manually tweaking the VPN or a VPN without its own DNS servers.

What do we test for?

When we connected to VPN, we ran a DNS server lookup. We’ve detected a leak if the VPN doesn’t have its own DNS servers.

> Test 10: WebRTC leak

What is a WebRTC leak?

Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) allows internet browsers such as Edge, Chrome, and Firefox real-time communication with websites. You can’t stream video or audio if it is unavailable.

During WebRTC communication, the browser exchanges data, which includes your internet IP address (local IP) and public IP address. Although blocking WebRTC requests is a possibility, the browser’s functionality may be compromised.

Reputable VPN services ensure their server’s IP addresses get sent through WebRTC connections, which keeps your IP address private while allowing authorized connections to continue.

A leak occurs if your VPN is unable to protect your IP address from being used for WebRTC transmissions.

What do we test for?

After connecting to a VPN service, we perform a WebRTC lookup. A leak occurs if your IP address is shown.

> Test 11: Download speed via OpenVPN

What is OpenVPN?

Most VPN providers use OpenVPN because it’s one of the most secure VPN protocols, and it’s also open source so anyone can contribute to its improvement. We also consider OpenVPN as the best protocol for VPN because, since its introduction in 2001, it has undergone continuous improvement.

OpenVPN has two versions:

  • OpenVPN UDP (User Datagram Protocol) – This type is the default protocol for most VPNs since it delivers the fastest download speeds.
  • OpenVPN TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) – This protocol offers more control over data transmission at the cost of some download speed.

The majority of VPNs are still using OpenVPN, despite WireGuard’s introduction. Some prefer WireGuard due to its higher download speeds, although many still offer OpenVPN as an option.

What do we test for?

Our Windows VPN service is configured to use the OpenVPN protocol, and we tested the download speed using a 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps) connection to see how fast it downloads data.

> Test 12: Supported speed via WireGuard

What is WireGuard?

WireGuard was designed to be simpler, faster, and more accessible than OpenVPN and IPsec. It is rapidly becoming the leading open-source VPN protocol. Although it was created for Linux, it is now compatible with major operating systems like Windows, Android, iOS, and macOS.

In contrast to OpenVPN, which has 50,000 lines of code, WireGuard has just 4,000 lines. This makes it quicker and makes security audits and debugging easier. Unlike OpenVPN, WireGuard issues are much easier to fix.

As we tested WireGuard against several VPN servers and services, we found that it is approximately 60% faster than OpenVPN due to less code.

What do we test for?

Our test uses a 1 Gbps internet connection to test each VPN service’s Windows version using the WireGuard protocol. We want to get the maximum speed, so we use a high-speed connection.

> Test 13: (Virtual) VPN servers and locations

What are (virtual) VPN servers?

A VPN provider must have a server that hosts its software that creates encrypted tunnels with its clients. A VPN server, typically built with specific hardware, is the way to accomplish this. Optimal VPN services include Surfshark and NordVPN, which use RAM-only servers that are wiped after each reboot.

Most VPN services connect to physical servers located in the country shown in your VPN app. When you connect to one of those physical servers, you’re assigned an IP address from that country.

In some countries, hosting a physical VPN is impossible as they lack server infrastructure such as server farms. An example of a country with no physical VPN servers is Andorra.

While Andorra does not have physical servers, some VPN providers still offer VPN service using virtual VPN servers. By utilizing virtual VPN servers, providers can give you a local IP address even if the provider’s physical servers aren’t located in that country. A VPN service in the Netherlands, for example, might provide you with an Andorran IP address while the physical location is far from the said country.

We know that approximately 60 countries will be covered by most VPN services with extensive server networks. Generally, a VPN provider from more than 60 countries offering IP addresses is likely to use virtual servers.

What do we test for?

We begin by reviewing the number of servers and locations the VPN offers. After that, we investigate whether these servers offer country-level or city-level locations. Lastly, we run a test to determine whether the VPN service uses physical or virtual servers.

> Test 14: Streaming compatibility

What is compatibility with a streaming service?

Many people use VPNs to access streaming services and watch content unavailable in their country. For example, Netflix hosts several shows in the States that aren’t offered in the UK version. UK Netflix users can use a VPN to access the U.S. version to watch restricted shows. This works by using the VPN to connect to a U.S. server to give you a local IP address to watch American Netflix.

However, some applications like Netflix, use software to help them detect whether a connection is made using a VPN, and they will deny access if a VPN is found.

To overcome the software used by these apps to block people, we seek VPNs that update regularly. The best VPN services keep up with app changes so users can access the most recent version at all times.

What do we test for?

We test the following apps to see if a U.S. server can unblock access to them:

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Hulu
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Disney+
  • HBO Max

Additionally, we check if the VPN allows access to the Australian, Brazilian, German, Mexican, Japanese, and UK versions of Netflix.

> Test 15: Torrenting compatibility

What is compatibility with a torrent network?

A fundamental understanding of torrenting can be gained by remembering traditional peer-to-peer (P2P) services like LimeWire and Napster.

The torrenting software allows you to share files with other users and download files from other users without needing a server. There are several torrenting programs, such as BitTorrent and μTorrent, and some torrents even allow you to stream content, like Popcorn Time.

Although sharing files via torrents isn’t illegal, the content of files may contain copyrighted material, leading many people to believe that torrenting is piracy.

What do we test for?

We test downloading files from a torrent client while using VPN to see whether the service supports this on some or all of their servers.

> Test 16: Annual price and price per device

What is the annual price and price per device?

VPN services can be free, but the best will charge a monthly subscription. The most expensive subscription is usually the one your pay for per month, and more extended subscription periods traditionally come at a lower price per month.

Our value-for-money analysis factors in the price of a one-year contract for a VPN, then we calculate how much you’d pay per device. Some VPNs, like IPVanish and Surfshark, offer unlimited device support as part of their subscriptions, making them excellent options for sharing among family and friends. Other providers, such as ExpressVPN, have a more expensive subscription cost than competitors.

What do we test for?

We take the one-year price for each provider and divide it by the connection price to determine the per-device price.

What VPNs for iPhone have we tested?

We have tested 30 paid and free VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). Proton VPN is the best free VPN service. But if you have the money, we recommend getting a paid VPN service.

In the best case, the free version allows you to protect only one device and doesn’t offer you unlimited bandwidth / unlimited data. And in the worst case, the free VPN providers show you ads or secretly sell your browsing history to advertisers and your internet service provider.

And should you be strapped for cash, don’t opt for an expensive VPN like ExpressVPN. Instead, get a cheap VPN, like Surfshark, that allows you to install it on an unlimited number of devices and share the cost with a friend.

  • Astrill VPN
  • Atlas VPN
  • Avast SecureLine VPN
  • Betternet VPN
  • Bitdefender VPN
  • CactusVPN
  • CyberGhost VPN
  • ExpressVPN
  • HideME VPN
  • HMA VPN (HideMyAss VPN)
  • Hola VPN
  • Hotspot Shield VPN
  • IPVanish VPN
  • Ivacy VPN
  • IVPN
  • Kaspersky VPN Secure Connection
  • McAfee Safe Connect VPN
  • Mozilla VPN
  • MullVad VPN
  • NordVPN
  • Norton Secure VPN
  • Private Internet Access VPN
  • PrivateVPN
  • Proton VPN
  • PureVPN
  • StrongVPN
  • Surfshark VPN
  • Tunnelbear VPN
  • VyprVPN
  • Windscribe VPN

The best are: CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Surfshark.

Frequently asked questions

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) protects your online privacy. It creates an encrypted VPN tunnel between your device and a VPN server. This tunnel hides your IP address, restores your anonymity online and makes you safe on public Wi-Fi networks.

Why do you need a VPN?

You need a VPN to restore your online privacy and security. Without a VPN, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and advertisers can track everything you read, watch and download online. On top of that, if you don’t use a VPN, hackers will be able to steal your data on public Wi-Fi networks, which can lead to identity theft.

How does a VPN work?

A VPN creates an encrypted connection, called a VPN tunnel, between your devices and a VPN server. This hides your IP address and what you do online. As a result, your ISP won’t be able to see what websites you visit, and advertisers won’t be able to know what your IP address is.

What is the best VPN?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Surfshark are the best VPN services of 2022. NordVPN is the most advanced VPN service. CyberGhost has the highest download speeds and the lowest one-year price. And Surfshark allows you to install the software on unlimited devices.

What is the fastest VPN?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Surfshark are the fastest VPN services of 2022. Although CyberGhost is slightly faster than the other two, the difference is not noticeable for most users.

About the author

Tibor Moes

Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.

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