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The 10 Best VPN for the USA (2023 Update)

By Tibor Moes / November 2022

Why do you need a VPN? Advertisers track your browsing habits and IP address to send you targeted ads. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) will encrypt your digital life and ensure you surf the web safely.

  • Secure your data. Your personal data, like passwords and credit card details, are exposed on public Wi-Fi networks. Hackers can steal this data.
  • Hide from advertisers. Facebook, Google, and your ISP track what you do online. Either to send you ads or to sell that data to others.
  • Access hidden TV shows. Many streaming services restrict the movies and series they show in each country.

With the best VPN for the USA you can secure your digital data from hackers and advertisers, and access blocked TV shows and websites.

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 the USA

We examined 30 VPN services on various operating systems, including free and paid ones. Those providers run on Windows 11 and 10, macOS, iOS, and Android, and we ran them through the following tests.

> Test 1: Logging policy

What is a logging policy?

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) routes all your web traffic through their server. The same goes for your VPN since they function alike – in other words, they are like your private network server. However, a VPN being a private network doesn’t necessarily mean that your privacy is completely guaranteed. Many VPN providers’ logging policies don’t explicitly state that they do not use your data.

A VPN has access and can track your activity on the web, what you do online and which websites you visit. Based on your public IP address, it can figure out where you live, on a zip code or neighborhood level.

Data tracking is a characteristic trait of many free VPNs, such as Hola VPN. When you use a free VPN service, they can track your browsing history and how you engage with the websites. Those VPN services are free since they earn money differently – by selling your data to advertisers.

Practices like these exemplify the saying, “If the product is free, you are the product.”

Sadly, our research has shown that nearly 30% of all VPN services keep your base IP address, and a daunting 5% surveil your surfing habits.

These numbers indicate why you should check VPN providers’ logging policies to ensure they do not track your activity. Many of those policies are intentionally written using complex language, and a focused and careful read is a must.

What do we test for?

We take each VPN provider’s logging policy and examine their data type. Providers sometimes use certain types of data to enhance their services, but those aren’t personal.

Aggregated bandwidth or server load data have nothing to do with your personal information, so those are allowed. However, tracking data like browsing activity, even when deleted after a VPN session, is not. The same goes for your IP address, as it uncovers information about your geo-location and your ISP provider.

> Test 2: Ownership

What do we mean by ownership?

Even high-profile VPN companies such as Avast or Kaspersky belong to corporate holding structures. This hierarchy means that a more prominent company owns them and has insight into your VPN-routed data. Parent companies can be registered in regions different than the VPN provider, meaning they have unique Data Retention Laws.

When you choose a VPN provider, be sure to know who owns it. Different countries can have unique Data Retention Laws, affecting your VPN user experience. There aren’t many owner companies, as most VPN services fall into the few big corporations’ clusters.

  • Kape Technologies: From the United Kingdom. Owner of ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access, CyberGhost VPN, and ZenMate.
  • Ziff Davis: From the United States. A parent company to IPVanish, StrongVPN, SaferVPN, Buffered VPN, Perimeter 81, Encrypt.me, and more.
  • Aura (also known as Pango): Registered in the United States. A VPN technology provider to many services such as Bitdefender, Panda, Kaspersky, and more. It also clusters Hotspot Shield, JustVPN, and TouchVPN.
  • CyberSpace: From the Netherlands. Owner of NordVPN, Atlas VPN, and Surfshark.
  • Gaditek: A Pakistani corporation. Owner of PureVPN, Unblock VPN, and Ivacy VPN.

What do we test for?

We examine the parent company of your chosen VPN provider. Tests we run on those companies include checking where they’ve registered and the data retention laws of that region.

Another important thing we investigate is whether the company has encountered any scandals in its history. Our research so far has brought up some interesting information about well-known companies:

  • Until 2018, Kape technologies’ name was Crossrider, and they were known for developing platforms for browser extensions. Up until 2018, misconduct regarding ad injections and malware creation hurt the company’s credibility, leading to a name change.
  • IPVanish was embroiled in a logging scandal, and a privacy policy violation affair in 2016 wherein a user’s private log was handed over to Homeland Security. IPVanish has claimed to have a “strict zero-logs policy” for years, which contradicts this case of providing personal data to authorities. IPVanish subsequently changed owners multiple times.

> Test 3: Independent audit

What is an independent audit?

VPN providers market by making strong claims about the features they offer. They often use terms like “Zero-Log Policy and “Military-Grade Encryption,” making them sound invincible. However, those claims often turn out to be simple buzz marketing.

Companies often hire independent auditors to inspect those claims and determine whether they’re legit. Auditors can examine specific parts of the company infrastructure, like privacy policies. Operative elements, such as servers, can also be subject to auditors’ analysis. Some well-known examples are:

  • PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) audited ExpressVPN in 2019, examining ExpressVPN’s TrustedServer technology, as it supposedly erased data on each server reboot.
  • NordVPN’s 2020 audit conducted by PwC tested the server infrastructure and examined technical logs and configuration. The audit included NordVPN employee interviews.
  • Cure53 audited Surfshark in 2021, where they examined Surfshark’s server for glitches.
  • In 2022 Deloitte audited Private Internet Access (PIA) and tested their server environment referring to PIA’s privacy policy.

What do we test for?

Every VPN provider should have undergone an audit at least once, and we inspect if it’s so. Additionally, we check the subjects and the audit results to see if it uncovers any considerable flaws.

> Test 4: Available VPN protocols

What is a VPN protocol?

Simply put, a VPN protocol is a key for deciphering communication between the VPN server and the app. Various protocols affect the VPN experience differently, including connection speed and security features.

The protocol is the “language” of the VPN, and it defines the following aspects:

  • How the server and the app recognize each other
  • The entrance key for the app to log in to the server
  • Data transfer rules
  • Encryption and decryption configurations, etc.

There are currently many protocols on the digital market, and each one offers different features. However, most VPN providers usually use the verified ones from the following list:

  • OpenVPN: Opensource and very customizable, OpenVPN provides fast download speeds. It’s the most common and versatile VPN protocol on the list. Moreover, it offers well-balanced benefits, along with working on most operating systems.
  • WireGuard: This protocol is a boosted combination of OpenVPN and IPsec, belonging to the next generation of VPN protocols. It’s open source, with considerably fewer code lines, and offers admirable download speeds compared to its precedents.
  • IKEv2: Its main pro is strong security. Designed by Cisco and Microsoft, it was initially meant to be fast. However, our test indicates it’s much slower than OpenVPN and WireGuard.
  • L2TP/IPSec: A simple, old-school protocol with lower download speeds.
  • PPTP: The oldest VPN protocol on this listIt’s common but is known for many shortcomings.

All of the previously mentioned protocols have pros and cons, one at the expense of another. The most common protocol is OpenVPN, often the default choice. Nonetheless, VPN providers may also offer WireGuard or IKEv2 as substitutes. An additional pro is if the VPN provider has designed their original protocols.

We recommend the following:

  • NordVPN’s NordLynx, inspired by WireGuard.
  • Lightway, made by ExpressVPN. It’s the only original protocol with an open-source code on the list.
  • Hotspot Shield’s Catapult Hydra is also fully authentic.

What do we test for?

Our protocol tests examine which ones each VPN providers use. After determining the type of VPN protocol, we check whether they function well on all operating systems or if the protocols work only on particular devices or systems.

> Test 5: Supported encryption standard

What is an encryption standard?

An encryption standard defines the encryption and decryption parameters. It determines how to decipher data with one encryption key that goes both ways.

The first encryption standard was released in 1977, named the Data Encryption Standard (DES), and was the first ever symmetric key algorithm.

The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) replaced it in 2002 as a variation of the Rijndael block cipher. AES’ enhanced key uses a block size of 128 bits and a key size that spans from 128 to 192, up to 256 bits.

The golden standard of VPN protocols is using AES-128 with an alternative of 256 in GCM or CBC variation. We suggest choosing VPNs that use GCM since it’s considerably faster and more secure. Moreover, it enables writing in parallel, which is a benefit for throughput boosting, and encrypts each block for itself.

What do we test for?

We ensure that the base encryption standard for the VPN network is set to AES-128 (GCM), as this is the preferred option. Additionally, we check which alternatives the provider offers. The preferred choice, in our opinion, should be AES-256.

> Test 6: Basic security features

What are basic security features?

A well-rounded VPN service should offer the following security options:

  • AES-256 encryption is regarded as the top-notch security standard, as it works with the latest digital technology. These features make it virtually impossible to hack using brute-force methods.
  • OpenVPN and WireGuard are currently the most verified open-source VPN protocols. While OpenVPN is the traditional standard, WireGuard is the current chart-topper of VPN protocols.
  • Split tunneling allows chosen programs to avoid the VPN tunnel and connect directly to the network.
  • Kill switch is a security feature that automatically blocks the network bond if the VPN fails to encrypt the data transfer.

What do we test for?

We check if the VPN provider includes these features and delivers them as claimed.

> Test 7: Advanced security features

What are advanced security features?

A well-rounded VPN should ideally provide more advanced security features for protecting privacy:

  • Ad trackers and malicious website blockers: A technology used for protecting the connection from tracking cookies, malicious URLs, and ads. These features are mandatory for keeping safe from dangerous activities such as phishing.
  • Dedicated IP address: Your VPN provider generates a unique IP address allowing you to access blocked servers requiring authorized IPs. It also helps you avoid blacklists and captchas.
  • Double VPN: A method which uses two VPN servers to double the encryption. Your internet traffic routes through a pair of VPN servers instead of a single, which makes your IP address safer and increases privacy.
  • Obfuscated servers: A technology that hides the fact you’re using a VPN. Countries such as China and UAE often block VPN usage so these servers allow you to access geo-specific content.
  • Override GPS location: Blocks GPS-based apps like Google Maps from locating you using GPS spoofing. This feature covers your actual location with that of the VPN’s server.
  • RAM-only servers: VPN servers based on RAM hard drivers allow the server to wipe itself anytime it restarts. This is a useful feature in case the server is confiscated, since there will be no data on it.

What do we test for?

We inspect if the VPN provider offers these features and if they’re fully functional.

> Test 8: IP leak

What is an IP leak?

VPN’s core function is to cover and replace your local IP address with a VPN server-based one because a public IP address is an easy target for eavesdropping. If it leaks, it can lead to exposure to privacy threats. Those include pinpointing your location or indicating who you are based on your browsing history.

Let’s explain this from the very beginning.

Every device that enables an internet connection has a public and a private IP address. Devices use the private IP when connecting to a local network and the public one when linking to a public network.

Your internet service provider (ISP) assigns you the public IP, and all your devices use the same address to access the web. In most cases, your public IP is an IPv4 address, alternatively replaced with an IPv6 one.

Accessing the internet via VPN has many benefits that ensure total privacy online, including:

  • Hiding your IP status from your ISP. They will know you are online using a VPN. However, they won’t have insight into the web locations you visit.
  • Websites and apps only see the VPN-provided IP and not your private one. That way, you can anonymously surf the web.

An IP leak occurs when the VPN provider exposes your originating IP instead of the server’s IP.

What do we test for?

We run an IP address check while connected to a VPN service. If our base IP is visible, there’s an IP leak.

> Test 9: DNS leak

What is a DNS leak?

DNS, short for Domain Name System, is a digital naming system that transcribes word-based domain names into IP locations. For example, if you type SoftwareLab.org into your browser’s search bar, the DNS will transcript the query into 165.227.148.211 and take you to the website.

Commonly known as the “phonebook of the internet,” DNS servers are operated by internet service providers. Hence, they have insight into everything you have engaged with on the web. A DNS server is needed to route you wherever you go on the internet.

The demand for VPN servers is high for those that own their original DNS servers. However, DNS leaks may happen when the VPN’s DNS sends your queries through the ISP’s server tunnel instead of the VPN’s. Failures occur if you opt for a VPN service without an original DNS server. Besides this, it is often a manual failure when misconfiguring your VPN settings.

What do we test for?

Our team checks if the VPN provider owns authentic DNS servers. We do a DNS server check-up while connected to the VPN server and inspect if there is a DNS issue.

> Test 10: WebRTC leak

What is a WebRTC leak?

Streaming media in real-time on modern browsers is possible thanks to WebRTC systems. WebRTC stands for Web Real-Time Communication. Its purpose is to create a unique communication channel for instantaneously delivering video and audio feeds.

As it requires a data transfer that goes both ways, WebRTC also acquires your local and public IP address. It’s a default functionality of this feature, and it cannot be restricted easily. Despite that, there are some practical ways to avoid WebRTC demands, and VPN is one of them.

A VPN, while WebRTC is enabled, will let the browser continue the connections. However, you will keep your privacy as the VPN sends the server-generated IP instead of yours.

What do we test for?

Our team conducts a WebRTC check on a chosen VPN provider. If there’s an indication that our IP address is visible, we diagnose a WebRTC leak.

> Test 11: Download speed via OpenVPN

What is OpenVPN?

OpenVPN is one of the classics when it comes to open-source VPN protocols. Almost all top-notch VPN providers use this protocol, as it allows examining and altering its source code. This feature has contributed to consistent improvements in the protocol since 2001 when it was released.

OpenVPN is very secure, making it one of the most well-regarded protocols among providers. It offers stable connection speeds with reliable security features and spans multiple operating systems. Although it’s still the top choice among the most prominent VPN providers, WireGuard is slowly replacing OpenVPN for faster download speeds.

Despite that, OpenVPN offers two variations of the protocol:

  • OpenVPN UDP (User Datagram Protocol): Provides the fastest download speed and is often a base option for many VPNs.
  • OpenVPN TCP (Transmission Control Protocol): A slower option with better control over data transmission.

What do we test for?

The speed of each VPN service we test is put through the speed test. We set the default protocol to OpenVPN and the speed to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps) to inspect the service’s upper-speed limit.

> Test 12: Supported speed via WireGuard

What is WireGuard?

With noticeably fewer lines of code (4,000), WireGuard is a leaner and faster counterpart to popular open-source protocols like OpenVPN and IPsec. The simplicity of WireGuard’s code makes it much easier for security audits and debugging compared to the latter, which has almost 500,000 lines of code. Our tests found that WireGuard was nearly 60% faster than OpenVPN, making it one of the best overall VPN protocols.

WireGuard now works on all of the main operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, despite the fact that it was originally created for the Linux kernel.

What do we test for?

We check the download speed of the VPN service for the WireGuard protocol. Moreover, we want to push the VPN to its maximum speed by setting the internet connection to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps).

> Test 13: (Virtual) VPN servers and locations

What are (virtual) VPN servers?

Virtual VPN servers are standard in countries that do not have server infrastructure. They provide a local IP address; however, that IP only exists virtually. The actual location of this VPN server resides in the country where the VPN provider is registered.

For example, you will receive an IP address based in Andorra while the actual server is in Spain.

Most VPN servers are physical, and some have actual VPN hardware. NordVPN and Surfshark are RAM-only, for instance, and are intentionally meant to host VPN servers. Their servers are physically located in the country where the provider is registered. Users then receive a local IP address synchronized with the actual location of the server.

VPN providers offer their services even in countries that do not have original server parks. For that reason, they introduce virtual VPN servers. Many providers with extensive networks span roughly 60 countries. If there are more, those are commonly virtual servers.

What do we test for?

Our team inspects how many servers and countries a VPN provider covers. We note whether those servers are physical or virtual and if you can choose them on a city or a country level.

> Test 14: Streaming compatibility

What is compatibility with a streaming service?

Streaming services, especially the most prominent ones, often restrict their shows and movies to specific countries. This issue is especially characteristic of Netflix, which enables watching particular shows only in the United States but nowhere else. You can bypass these virtual borders with a VPN, which will cover your local IP address and replace it with a U.S.-based server.

However, the problem is that Netflix knows you are using a VPN, so they will block your access. Some streaming services can be hacked this way. However, it would be best if you had a VPN provider that stays one step ahead to trick the more cunning streaming services.

What do we test for?

We check if a VPN provider offers the necessary features to help you unlock the following streaming services:

  • Netflix (Australia, the UK, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, and Germany versions)
  • Disney Plus
  • Amazon Prim
  • HBO
  • Hulu
  • BBC iPlayer (US)

> Test 15: Torrenting compatibility

What is compatibility with a torrent network?

Torrenting is rooted in peer-to-peer sharing via torrent clients such as μTorrent or BitTorrent. Torrents do not require any centralized server or service since users download the files directly from each other.

Some torrent clients enable streaming media directly from the torrent file, like Popcorn Time. As torrenting and torrent-based streaming clients allow access to copyrighted media, many people associate torrenting with piracy. However, torrenting is not illegal by default, as it is solely a method for sharing files freely.

What do we test for?

We check if the VPN service lets you use their servers for downloading files from torrent networks. Moreover, we inspect if this is available on a single or all of their servers.

> Test 16: Annual price and price per device

What is the annual price and price per device?

Most often, VPN services offer monthly and yearly subscription fees. The single-month subscription price is always the costliest one. On the other hand, the annual contract price compared with the price-per-device is often the most money-smart option. The cost of the subscription commonly falls with the longevity of the contract.

VPN providers price their services similarly.

There are exclusions, such as ExpressVPN, known for being expensive. However, the price-per-device parameter is excellent in services like Surfshark and IPVanish, allowing you to use the service on unlimited devices. This feature means that you get the most nominal price for most devices.

What do we test for?

We present you with the most cost-effective option for your VPN service. We conduct this by calculating the best ratio of price-per-device and a yearly contract. Furthermore, we divide the price per single connection by the allowed number of simultaneously connected devices.

What VPNs for the USA 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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