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The 10 Best VPN (2023): Comparison of December *

By Tibor Moes / December 2022

Why do you need a VPN? Your privacy and personal data are at risk. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help.

  • Hackers are targeting you: When you surf on public Wi-Fi networks, hackers can track the data you send, including your credit card details and passwords. This can lead to identity theft.
  • Advertisers are tracking you: Facebook, Google, and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) track everything you search, watch and download. So they can send you personalized ads and sell your data.
  • You are missing out on TV shows and discounts: Streaming services, like Netflix, don’t show all their series in your country. And flight tickets are frequently cheaper when booked from abroad.

Buying the best VPN of 2023 will restore your privacy and protect your data from hackers. It will also unlock foreign Netflix shows and give you access to hidden discounts.

CyberGhost VPN - The best VPN

CyberGhost VPN

Limited Time: Save 83% 🔥

  • 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 do we test the best VPN of 2023?

We gathered 30 paid and free VPN services that support all modern operating systems, including Windows, iOS, macOS, and Android. We then ran through the following tests:

> Test 1: Logging policy

What is a logging policy?

You might think that using a VPN would guarantee your privacy online. However, that’s not necessarily the case.

A VPN service could track your online activity, including your browsing history and downloaded files. They could also track your location via your public IP address. Many free VPNs, like Hola VPN, sell this information to data brokers and advertisers. This way, they are able to create an alternative income stream that enables them to offer the service for free.

But it also means your privacy is not as protected as you might think. Our research shows that about 30% of all VPN services store logs of user activity – meaning they track what websites you visit. This puts your privacy at risk for two key reasons.

First, your information may end up being sold to the highest bidder. The result might be incessant messages on your devices or crowded browsers as marketers flood them with targeted ads. Second, you might end up being hacked if malware creators breach the provider’s servers.

To ease privacy concerns among users, VPN services usually craft a logging policy that details the user data captured and how long such data is retained. Unfortunately, most policies are often purposefully drafted in complicated wording, making it difficult for the average user to understand what is being said.

What do we test for?

We take our time to read each VPN provider’s privacy and logging policies. This helps us learn what information the company is tracking and whether it’s something we’re comfortable with. Gathering data that are solely geared toward improving the service is okay. That includes the user’s aggregated bandwidth and server load data.

But we draw the line at anything that would involve monitoring and storing your browsing activity or originating IP address. That’s just not acceptable. We want your privacy respected and your anonymity protected.

> Test 2: Ownership

What do we mean by ownership?

In the context of a VPN service, ownership refers to the company or companies that have legal control over the service. Usually, there is a primary company that owns the VPN service and a parent company above that. This structure is known as a corporate holding structure and is very common.

Both of these companies can access your data, in theory. Additionally, the provider and the parent company may be registered in countries with different data retention laws. Such a situation may not automatically create problems for users but can result in conflicts of interest.

For example, the parent company may compel the provider to furnish it with the originating IP addresses. This can happen when the parent company wants to engage in aggressive expansion strategies that target specific geographical regions.

In addition, structured ownership can create legal loopholes the provider can exploit if users sue them for data infringement. This may happen when the parent company is registered in a different jurisdiction where data protection laws may not be as robust.

Our analysis also reveals that only a few companies own a majority of the VPN services on the market today. For example:

  • Kape Technologies, based in the U.K., owns Zenmate, ExpressVPN, CyberGhost VPN, and Private Internet Access (PIA).
  • Gaditek, based in Pakistan, owns PureVPN, Ivacy VPN, and Unblock VPN.
  • Ziff Davis, from the U.S, owns StrongVPN, IPVanish, Buffered VPN, Encrypt.me, and Perimeter 81, among others.
  • Aura/Pango, another United States company, owns JustVPN, Hotspot Shield, and TouchVPN. They also provide VPN technology for a variety of other VPN providers like Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Panda, and others.
  • CyberSpace, a Netherlands company, owns NordVPN, Surfshark, and also Atlas VPN.

What do we test for?

We take a close look at the owner of each VPN service, the country where they are registered, and the applicable data retention laws. We also peruse the history books to find out whether the provider has been caught up in any scandals or some other controversial event. For example:

  • In 2011, Kape Technologies, which went by the name Crossrider until 2018, created a platform for the development of browser extensions. Unfortunately, ad injectors and malware creators infiltrated the platform, seriously damaging the company’s reputation.
  • During a criminal investigation in 2016, IPVanish, which has always claimed a strict no-logging policy, provided the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with logs belonging to one of its users. But judging by the text in its logging policy, IPVanish was not supposed to have those logs in the first place.

> Test 3: Independent audit

What is an independent audit?

An independent audit in the context of a VPN service is an examination of a VPN provider’s systems and policies by an external, independent body. This audit can help ensure that a VPN provider operates securely and responsibly and that their systems are up to par with industry best practices. At the end of the exercise, the auditor compiles a report with their findings and recommendations.

This report can be useful in helping the VPN company to improve its service. It can also help to reassure potential customers that the VPN provider is trustworthy and reliable.

When choosing a VPN provider, it’s always a good idea to check if they have undergone an independent audit. This can give you peace of mind that you are choosing a reputable service.

Here are a few examples of audits that have been carried out in recent years:

  • In 2019, PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) was hired to look into ExpressVPN’s TrustedServer technology. The main goal was to determine whether the company’s servers indeed deleted all user logs after every reboot.
  • In 2021, Cure53 was commissioned to audit Surfshark’s server infrastructure.
  • In 2022, Deloitte was contracted to investigate PIA’s server environment with a focus on the privacy policy.

What do we test for?

We check to see whether the VPN provider has invited an independent auditor to look into its systems and processes. We also take special interest in the flaws uncovered through such an audit.

> Test 4: Available VPN protocols

What is a VPN protocol?

A VPN protocol is a set of instructions used to establish a secure connection between two devices.

There are several different VPN protocols out there, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The most common VPN protocols are L2TP/IPsec, SSTP, WireGuard, and OpenVPN.

PPTP is generally the fastest protocol, but it’s not as secure as the other options and is obsolete at this point. L2TP/IPsec is a good balance between speed and security, though it can be a bit slower than PPTP. SSTP is only available on Windows, but it’s very fast and secure.

OpenVPN is the most secure option, but it can be slow. WireGuard is a next-gen protocol that improves upon the reliability of OpenVPN. It’s faster and has less code, making it easier to audit and debug.

The best VPN protocol for you will depend on your needs. If speed is the most important factor, then WireGuard is probably your best bet. If security is more important to you, then OpenVPN is the way to go. And if you need something that works on both Windows and Mac, then L2PT/IPsec or SSTP might be the best option.

What do we test for?

We connect our devices to each VPN service and then check the protocols offered. We also check whether the availability of these protocols spans all devices.

> Test 5: Supported encryption standard

What is an encryption standard?

When you encrypt digital data, you’re essentially creating a code that only someone with the right key can decode. This process is essential for ensuring the privacy of sensitive information, whether it’s being sent over the internet or stored on a computer.

Encryption standards specify how the data should be encoded and decoded, and there are different standards for different purposes. The Data Encryption Standard (DES) was released in 1977 as the first symmetric key algorithm, meaning that the same key is used for both encrypting and decrypting the data.

In 2002, DES was replaced by the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), a more secure and efficient version of the Rijndael block cipher. AES uses a block size of 128 bits and can have a key size of either 128, 192, or 256 bits.

If you’re looking for a VPN protocol that’s both fast and secure, you can’t go wrong with AES-128 or AES-256, either in the GCM or the CBC version. Our research puts GCM ahead of CBC in terms of speed. However, CBC is still a good option if you’re looking for compatibility with older devices.

What do we test for?

We check the default encryption standard deployed by the VPN service. We also check whether the user is presented with alternatives.

> Test 6: Basic security features

What are basic security features?

To keep your data safe, it’s important to choose a VPN with robust security features. Ideally, you should go for a VPN that offers AES-256 encryption, as this is the strongest type of encryption currently available.

Additionally, ensure the VPN uses OpenVPN or WireGuard protocols, as these are the most secure. Split tunneling is also a valuable security feature, as it allows you to route some traffic through the VPN while still accessing other websites and services directly.

Finally, a kill switch is a must-have, as it prevents your data from being exposed if the VPN connection unexpectedly drops.

What do we test for?

We connect to a VPN service and check the basic features offered. If split tunneling and the kill switch feature are provided, we run tests to check whether they work as promised.

> Test 7: Advanced security features

What are advanced security features?

Everyone deserves to have their privacy respected. The following advanced security features can help ensure that your personal information remains confidential:

  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blockers help to keep your data safe by preventing third-party websites from tracking your online activity or infecting your device with malware.
  • A dedicated IP address helps you access servers that are only accessed by authorized IP addresses.
  • Double VPN encrypts your traffic twice for added protection.
  • Obfuscated servers make it more difficult for network administrators to identify the websites you are visiting. They also help hide the fact that you are using a VPN.
  • GPS location override allows you to choose which location is displayed on apps and websites.
  • RAM-only servers wipe all data from the server upon reboot, making it impossible for anyone to access your information after you have logged off.

What do we test for?

We check the advanced security features each VPN service provides. We also run tests to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of such features.

> Test 8: IP leak

What is an IP leak?

When you use a VPN, your internet traffic is routed through an encrypted tunnel to the VPN server. This protects your data from being intercepted by third parties.

An IP leak occurs when your VPN connection fails to route your traffic through the encrypted tunnel. This can happen for several reasons, such as using an outdated VPN protocol or connecting to a malicious server.

Leaks can be dangerous because they mean your traffic is no longer protected by encryption. This can expose your personal information, like your browsing history and location, to anyone monitoring your traffic.

An IP leak can compromise your online security in other ways. For example, if you’re using a VPN to access a secure website, an IP leak could allow someone to intercept your traffic and redirect you to a fake or malicious website.

What do we test for?

We connect our devices to a VPN provider and run an IP address lookup. If the original IP address appears instead of a server-generated address, that’s evidence of a leak.

> Test 9: DNS leak

What is a DNS leak?

Imagine that the internet is a giant city. In this city, there are billions of websites, and each website has its own unique address. To find your way around the city, you need a map. This is where the Domain Name System (DNS) comes in.

The DNS is like the internet’s map, translating human-language domain names into machine-readable IP addresses. When you type in a URL like SoftwareLab.org, the DNS will automatically take you to 165.227.148.211.

Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operate their own DNS servers that power their mapping service. This means that your ISP can see every website you visit. That’s why high-quality VPN services always have their own DNS servers—to keep your browsing history safe from prying eyes.

A DNS leak describes a situation where your DNS queries are routed via your ISP instead of the VPN’s DNS servers. This exposes your browsing history and can even allow your ISP to block certain websites it doesn’t approve of.

Thankfully, there are ways to prevent DNS leaks, and most high-quality VPN providers will have taken steps to ensure that their service is leak-free.

What do we test for?

We connect to a VPN provider and run a DNS server lookup. If the DNS server used is owned by our ISP rather than the service, that’s a sure sign of a leak.

> Test 10: WebRTC leak

What is a WebRTC leak?

WebRTC is a handy little technology that allows you to communicate with websites in real time. This means you can stream live video and audio without installing any extra software. WebRTC works by exchanging a range of data between your web browser and the website, including your public and local IP address.

The problem is that because this data exchange makes up WebRTC’s standard functionality, there’s no quick fix. You could tweak your browser’s settings such that it’s able to block WebRTC requests, but this doesn’t always work. A VPN service is your best bet.

A VPN will allow authorized WebRTC connections to continue, but it will ensure that the VPN server’s IP address is sent instead of your own. This will protect your privacy and keep your data safe.

What do we test for?

We connect our devices to a VPN service and then conduct a WebRTC lookup using major browsers like Chrome and Firefox. If there’s a WebRTC leak, our original IP address is displayed.

> Test 11: Download speed via OpenVPN

What is OpenVPN?

OpenVPN is an open-source VPN protocol that has been widely adopted by VPN providers due to its security and reliability.

First introduced in 2001, the OpenVPN protocol has undergone continuous improvement thanks to its open-source nature, which allows anyone to inspect and critique the code. Today, it is widely considered one of the most secure VPN protocols available. It’s compatible with all operating systems.

The OpenVPN protocol comes in two versions: UDP and TCP. Most VPN services use UDP as the default option because it’s the fastest. TCP sacrifices speed in favor of greater control over data transmission.

Until the recent introduction of WireGuard, OpenVPN was considered the gold standard among VPN protocols.

What do we test for?

For each VPN service, we set the Windows app to the OpenVPN protocol and then test the download speed. To push the VPN to the limit and test its performance under pressure, we use a 1Gbps (1,000 Mbps) internet connection.

> Test 12: Supported speed via WireGuard

What is WireGuard?

WireGuard is a new type of VPN protocol designed to be simpler, faster, and more efficient than older protocols like OpenVPN and IPsec. WireGuard is open-source, meaning anyone can audit the code for security issues or bugs.

In our tests, we found WireGuard to be around 60% faster than OpenVPN. WireGuard is also available for all major operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.

What do we test for?

We test the download speeds of each of the top VPN providers on Windows using the WireGuard protocol. To get the best performance available to a regular user and make it easier to compare results, we test the speed on a 1 Gbps internet connection.

> Test 13: (Virtual) VPN servers and locations

What are (virtual) VPN servers?

A VPN server is a powerful computer that runs specialized VPN software. This software allows the server to create an encrypted connection, or tunnel, with VPN clients. Sometimes, the server will also have special hardware designed specifically for VPN use. This makes the server much more efficient at creating and maintaining the tunnel.

Most VPN servers are physical servers, which means they’re located in the country indicated in the VPN app. So when you select one of these servers, your web activity is tunneled through the physical server in that country. This gives you a local IP address, which can be useful for accessing certain websites or applications.

However, not all countries have physical servers. For instance, the tiny mountainous country of Andorra does not have any VPN servers within its borders. In this case, you will connect to a server in a bordering country, France or Spain, that displays its location as if it’s in Andorra.

Virtual servers are becoming more common and can be located anywhere in the world. These servers are often more expensive than physical servers, but they offer more flexibility in terms of location.

What do we test for?

We check the number of servers and locations available for each VPN provider. We also examine whether users can narrow their search for servers and choose one at the country or city level. We also check whether the provider uses physical servers, virtual servers, or a mix of both.

> Test 14: Streaming compatibility

What is compatibility with a streaming service?

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to compatibility with a streaming service. In some cases, you might not be able to see all the series and movies that are available. This is because some shows are only available in specific countries.

For example, Netflix may have certain shows that are only accessible in the United States. If you’re trying to access these shows from another country, you’ll be out of luck.

However, there is a way to get around this issue. By using a VPN service, you can change your IP address to appear as though you’re located in the United States. This then gives you access to all the shows that are normally only available in the U.S. In theory, this should work perfectly and allow you to watch whatever you want.

Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Netflix has sophisticated software that can detect when users are connecting via a VPN server. If they detect this, they will block access to Netflix entirely until the VPN is turned off.

This means there’s a constant battle between streaming services and VPN providers. Only the most sophisticated VPNs will be able to give you uninterrupted access to your favorite shows.

What do we test for?

We test whether a VPN provider can get around the geo-restrictions imposed by major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer in the U.S. For Netflix, we also check other countries, like the U.K., Japan, Germany, Italy, and Australia.

> Test 15: Torrenting compatibility

What is compatibility with a torrent network?

In a nutshell, torrenting is a type of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. When you download a file via torrenting, you’re not downloading it from a central server. Instead, you’re downloading pieces of the file from other users who have already downloaded it.

Torrenting is a fast and efficient way to download large files and is relatively simple to set up. You only need a torrent client (such as uTorrent or qBittorrent) and a magnet link for the file you want to download.

Of course, there are some downsides to torrenting. For example, the download speed can be unpredictable because you’re downloading bits and pieces of the file from different sources. And because it’s a P2P system, there’s also the potential for copyright infringement if you’re not careful about what you’re downloading.

What do we test for?

We check whether a given VPN provider supports peer-to-peer networking on at least some servers.

> Test 16: Annual price and price per device

What is the annual price and price per device?

Most VPN services usually charge a monthly fee. The price generally decreases the longer you commit to the service.

To compare prices across different providers, we looked at the cost of a one-year contract and the implied price per device when the maximum number of connected devices is considered.

On this basis, it’s evident that most VPN services are priced similarly. ExpressVPN is the only exception, as its price is significantly higher than all the others.

Some VPN services allow unlimited device installations, making their price per device quite low.

What do we test for?

For each provider, we calculate the monthly cost of a one-year contract. We also divide this price by the number of simultaneous connections allowed to determine the price per connection.

What VPN services 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 service shows you ads or secretly sells your browsing history.

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 VPN of 2023 are CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Surfshark.

Frequently asked questions

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. It is a software service that allows you to become anonymous online by hiding your IP address and encrypting your internet connection.

Do you need a VPN?

Yes, you need a VPN. Surveillance has become the business model of the internet. Search engines, social media networks, and advertisers track everything you do online.

Do you need a VPN at home?

Yes. You need a VPN at home. Although the risk of hackers is lower due to your secure Wi-Fi connection, advertisers will still track what you do online.

How does a VPN work?

A VPN encrypts your internet connection. It creates a secure VPN tunnel between your device and a VPN server, from where you browse the web. So anyone who wants to track you, can only trace you back to the VPN server, not to your actual device. This makes you anonymous online.

Are VPNs legal?

In most countries, VPNs are completely legal. However, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in China has made them illegal because some can bypass the Great Firewall of China.

Are VPNs bulletproof Or are there limitations?

VPNs increase your safety from hackers on public Wi-Fi networks and your anonymity online. But they are not bulletproof. For example, if you are logged in to a website like Facebook or Google, they can still see what you do on their platform.

Are VPNs trustworthy? Or do they track you?

The VPNs in our comparison are trustworthy. But not all VPNs are. Hola sold user data. Hotspot Shield redirected VPN users to partner websites. HMA handed over user data to the FBI. Facebook’s Onavo VPN collected user data. And the list goes on.

Does Netflix allow VPNs?

No, Netflix does not allow VPNs. However, the best VPNs can circumvent Netflix’s restrictions by changing their IP addresses frequently.

Which VPNs work with Netflix?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN work with Netflix.

Which VPNs work with Amazon Prime Video?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN work with Amazon Prime Video.

Which VPNs work with Disney Plus?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN work with Disney Plus.

Which VPNs work with HBO Max?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN work with HBO Max.

Which VPNs work with Apple TV?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN work with Apple TV.

Which VPNs work with Hulu?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN work with Hulu.

Which VPNs work with BBC iPlayer?

NordVPN and Surfshark work with BBC iPlayer.

What is the best VPN protocol?

WireGuard is the fastest VPN protocol, OpenVPN is the most secure VPN protocol, and IKEv2/IPsec is the most stable VPN protocol.

Free vs Paid: Are free VPN good enough?

If the product is free, you are the product. That’s the case for most free VPNs. They log and sell your browsing behavior. They are not safe, and we don’t recommend using them. Buy a paid VPN service instead.

What is the fastest VPN of 2023?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Surfshark are the fastest VPN services of 2023.

What is the best VPN of 2023?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Surfshark are the best VPN services of 2023. CyberGhost is great all-around and offers a great 3-year discount. NordVPN is the most advanced. And Surfshark is the best cheap VPN offering an unlimited number of simultaneous connections.

What is the best free VPN of 2023?

Proton VPN is the best free VPN service. There are limitations: Servers in only 3 countries, 1 VPN connection at a time, and medium speeds. But it’s trustworthy, and that matters.

What is the best cheap VPN of 2023?

Surfshark is the best cheap VPN service. It’s fast, advanced, and affordable. Plus, you can install it on an unlimited number of devices.

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.