BitDefender VPN 2021 Review
Reviews score: Very good
A fast, secure and private VPN from a trustworthy brand. But only sold in combination with BitDefender’s antivirus products.
BitDefender uses Hotspot Shield’s lightning fast technology for its VPN. So you’ll get an excellent antivirus, and one of the fastest VPN in the world, for a relatively low price. It’s a very good deal.
- Fast: BitDefender’s VPN uses hotspot shield server’s which are some of the fastest in the world. Making BitDefender’s VPN lightning fast.
- Maximum privacy: BitDefender has a short but clear zero-log policy and does not track your online activity.
- Highly secure: BitDefender uses the fastest VPN protocol (Catapult Hydra) and most secure encryption standard (AES-256).
- Servers in 27 countries: BitDefender’s VPN has servers on all continents except Africa.
- Beautiful (but slightly basic) apps: Supporting Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.
- Works with Netflix: But not on its US servers. So it’s not a good option to unblock US Netflix content.
- Works with Torrents (P2P)
- Not available as a stand-alone VPN: Only available with BitDefender’s excellent antivirus solutions.
- No kill switch
- Best deal: $ 2.49 / month
- Refund Policy: 30 days
- Customer Support: 24/7 Live chat
- Devices per account: 1, 3, 5 or 10
- Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android and iOS
- Works with US Netflix: No
- Works with Torrents: Yes
- Works in China: No
- Speed: 86 Mbps
- Servers in: 27 countries
- Server count: Unknown
- IP Addresses: Unknown
- Jurisdiction: Romania
- Data leaks: None
- Logging policy: No logs
Privacy and Security
The Bad: BitDefender does not feature a kill switch, and does not use its own DNS servers.
What privacy and security elements do we test for?
- Logging Policy
- Own DNS Servers
- Kill Switch Test
- Leak Test
1. Logging Policy
What does “logging policy” mean and why is it significant?
Under ideal circumstances, a VPN provider wouldn’t store any information about your online activities. But, the circumstances we find ourselves in aren’t always ideal, and VPN providers do keep some information of this kind – these are logs.
The purpose behind the creation of these logs is the optimization of the VPN’s service. It helps servers run optimally and can also prevent the services from being abused. Different providers will collect different amounts of data to this end.
In general terms, your VPN provider can collect four types of information about you. Some of this information really doesn’t have the potential to be harmful, but that’s not always the case. These four types are:
- VPN service data: The version of the VPN app you’ve used, which operating system you’re running it on, the server you’ve established a connection with.
- Connection data: The amount of data you’ve downloaded and uploaded, when you logged in and for how long, exactly when you logged out.
- Original IP address: This is the unique identifier of the device you used to access the VPN server and can be used to pinpoint your exact location.
- Online activity: Any website you went to, anything you searched for, all online services you used. This essentially equates to your browsing history.
Your VPN provider can collect your service and connection data anonymously – rather than single any user out, all data gets grouped together. If this is the case, then you don’t have much to worry about. The VPN provider will get what it needs to maintain and improve its service without jeopardizing your privacy. Because of this, many VPN providers do this to some extent.
As for the number three item on the list, most people do not want their VPN to keep a record of their IP address. But, it is usually not a deal-breaker. Simply, VPNs are about anonymity so your location shouldn’t be of interest to the provider.
However, what definitely can be a deal-breaker is the final item on our list – logs of your online activity. Keep your eye out for this and be careful if the VPN keeps these records.
We realize the importance of this so a VPN which stores this data won’t be among our recommendations. But, this is not all that uncommon among free VPNs, which may then proceed to sell this data. This is reason enough for us to believe you should avoid such providers.
What is BitDefender’s logging policy like?
“We collect only randomly generated user and device IDs, and IP addresses. For this service, we use AnchorFree as data processor.”
The key take-away is that BitDefender only collects randomly generated data, which means that it doesn’t track individual users. However, it does use AnchorFree’s (also known as Hotspot Shield) servers and its data processing services.
- Your IP address is stored, but only while you are connected to the VPN: Once you disconnect from the VPN, your IP address is deleted.
- Your browsing history is never stored: Your online activity (the websites you visit and services you use) are never tracked or stored.
So what can we conclude from all this?
Your online activity is not stored and your IP address only for the duration of your VPN session. It is deleted afterwards.
Thus, you are safe.
What does jurisdiction mean and why is it significant?
The company that provides your VPN services needs to be incorporated in some country. And since the laws and regulations of that country are binding, this can make a big difference.
For example, certain countries are very strict when it comes to data retention and the accompanying laws. The USA is among them as are numerous countries of the EU, Australia, etc. Therefore, the ISPs (internet service providers) located in them are required to collect lots of data on internet users. This includes sent emails, records of visited websites, and so on.
This type of mass surveillance is one of the main reasons people turn to VPNs. By using one, any data you send over your ISP’s network will be protected by encryption, making it impossible for your internet provider to read. And what it cannot read, it cannot collect.
In addition to worrying about ISPs, some people also have concerns that VPNs may also be forced to collect data because of the aforementioned laws. But, there is one crucial difference here – an ISP is a public provider while a VPN is private. As such, the same rules do not apply, and VPNs are not obligated to keep user data.
Still, the government agencies which are interested in this data are serious organizations and have a few tricks up their sleeves to get the info they want. In the United States, for example, the relevant agencies can issue National Security Letters, which are a type of secret subpoenas. One of these can make it possible for the agency to get their hands on any data a VPN may possess.
Now, you may think that governmental agencies don’t really resort to these tactics, but they do. Take what happened with Lavabit in 2013. After being pressured by the NSA to disclose data concerning Edward Snowden, this encrypted email provider chose to temporarily close down rather than comply. Similarly, a VPN company called Private Internet Access did not want to comply with Russian data logging regulations so it decided to shut down the servers it had there in 2016. There are differences between these two cases, but they prove the same point – various agencies under governmental control are on the hunt for data.
Users who take exception to this can proceed in two ways.
The first is to find a VPN provider which falls under a favorable jurisdiction. For this, you can look at international treaties regarding intelligence (the UKUSA agreement is a well-known example of this), and find a country that isn’t a member of them. Naturally, the local data retention laws are equally important, and you want a country which isn’t strict in this regard. In other words, find an offshore VPN. ExpressVPN is based out of the British Virgin Islands while NordVPN is bound by Panamanian laws, to name two examples.
The other is to essentially avoid the issue of jurisdiction by going with a VPN provider which truly adheres to the policy of keeping no logs which could be used to identify you. As mentioned, no law, no matter how strict, can make a VPN provider hand over data it never had in the first place.
Either one is a good solution, but it is also possible to combine them for extra security.
What is BitDefender’s jurisdiction?
BitDefender is incorporated in Romania which is not part of an intelligence agreement like the UKUSA agreement, but it is a member of the EU. As the EU has been pushing for EU-wide data retention laws, it is a good thing that BitDefender has a clear zero-log policy. After all, data it doesn’t have, it cannot hand over.
What does protocol mean and why is it significant?
A protocol is the underlying technology defining how a VPN server will format and transmit data over a network, be it the internet or a local area network (LAN). There are different protocols out there, and they come with different levels of speed and security. Most consider OpenVPN as the most secure, ranking it ahead of L2TP, PPTP, SSTP, and IKEv2.
What protocols does BitDefender use?
BitDefender uses the fastest VPN protocol currently available, developed in-house by Hotspot Shield. It’s called Hydra Catapult and is much faster than OpenVPN.
What does encryption mean and why is it significant?
Encryption is turning data anyone can read into a form which is incomprehensible. To achieve this, an encryption key is used, and it is also how the data is subsequently turned back into a readable form.
The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is what’s been accepted as the norm in this regard. In the field of VPNs, you will generally find two key sizes: 128 bits and 256 bits. Even the simpler AES-128 has a reputation as being unbreakable, while AES-256 takes security to an even higher level.
What encryption standard does BitDefender use?
BitDefender uses the most secure encryption standard: AES-256.
5. Own DNS Servers
What do DNS servers mean and why are they significant?
When you want to check what your friends have been up to, you’ll open the browser and type in Facebook.com. This is a domain name, a short (and ideally catchy) term which allows you to go to the website you want. But, Facebook’s other identifier is a large group of numbers. This is the IP address, and it is something we could never memorize. Hence, the domain names.
But in order for this to work, there has to be a connection between the IP address and the domain name. This is where DNS servers come in. Think of them as the telephone operators of the internet age. A DNS server is a repository of numerous domain names and their IP addresses, and once you enter the domain name you want – it sends you to the correct IP address.
When VPN providers have their own DNS servers to use, they can encrypt this process, along with all your other online activities, in a VPN tunnel. This puts everything beyond the reach of parties who might want to create logs of what you do online, intercept, or censor it.
Does BitDefender VPN use its own DNS servers?
No, BitDefender uses 3rd party DNS servers.
6. Kill Switch Test
What does a kill switch mean and why is it significant?
When you establish a VPN connection, you can browse the internet safe in the knowledge that your privacy is being safeguarded. But if this secure connection were to fail for some reason, you’d want your internet connection to be terminated at the same moment since your activity would no longer be hidden. This is what a kill switch does and why it is significant.
Does BitDefender use a kill switch?
Although BitDefender uses Hotspot Shield’s service, they have not implemented their kill switch, which is a shame.
7. Leak Test
What does a leak mean and why is it significant?
Even though you’ve established a connection with its server, a VPN may sometimes allow some of your data to slip through and remain visible. This is a leak, and there are several common types of them: IP leaks, the Windows Credential leak, DNS leaks, and WebRTC leaks.
Does BitDefender leak your data?
No, BitDefender does not leak any of your data.
The Good: BitDefender uses Hotspot Shield’s servers, which are the fastest in the world. So BitDefender is very fast.
The Bad: BitDefender does not reach the speeds of Hotspot Shield, so we expect that there is some form of speed throttling.
What does a speed test mean and why is it significant?
Speed is very important when you’re browsing the internet. It determines how quickly you can download something, the time it takes for a web page to load, and how well you can stream YouTube or Netflix content (among many others).
Unfortunately, VPNs have a negative effect on your speed. That is unavoidable because encrypting data and connecting to a VPN server requires network resources.
But, there are still some things you can do to avoid slowing down too much.
All VPNs will slow you down, but not to the same extent. For example, if you opt for Tunnelbear, your speed may slow to a crawl. But go for Hotspot Shield, and you’ll barely notice any slowdown. These are just examples, but you should definitely find a provider with fast service.
Proximity to the VPN
When you use a VPN, your data needs to travel to the server. The further away the server, the more pronounced the negative effect on your download speed and latency. That is why virtually all VPNs give you a choice between servers in different locations, and you should pick a provider with servers which aren’t too far away.
When you use a VPN, you will default to a server. But, there is no reason to accept it without trying out a few different ones. It can often turn out that there are faster servers available. So, explore a few different options, use speed tests to evaluate their performance, and go for whichever server provides the best speed. The difference can be very noticeable.
How did BitDefender score in the speed test?
We were testing from Europe on a connection between 90 and 100 mbps.
When selecting a server close by, BitDefender performed very well. Our starting download speed of slightly above 92mbps and upload speed of 97mbps went down to 88mbps and 85mbps. That’s on par with some of best VPN in the market.
When selecting servers in neighboring countries, the speeds were still very good. For example, we had no problems with servers in the United Kingdom and France. The latency on the UK server was 10ms and in France 20ms. Both are good enough for streaming, torrenting, and even online gaming. The Netherlands server also performed well.
When selecting servers further away, the performance dropped, as to be expected. The US servers generally still performed reasonbly well, although not fantastic. From the stated 90mbps our download speed fell to 49mbps. And the original 87mbps upload speed fell to 64mbps.
The Singapore servers had a slightly bigger drop in download speeds as upload speeds dipped to slightly below 20mbps. The Japanese servers performed the worst of all the Asian servers.
The Good: BitDefender has servers in 27 countries across 5 continents, only Africa is not server. It has dedicated, and beautiful, apps for all major operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.
The Bad: Although you can stream Netflix using BitDefender’s servers, it doesn’t work on its US servers. That means that you cannot unlock US Netflix content. BitDefender’s VPN is currently only available with its antivirus products, not as a stand-alone service.
What features do we test for?
- Server Locations
- Platform and Devices
- Number of Connections
- Streaming and Torrenting
- Bypassing Censorship
1. Server Locations
What does a server location mean and why is it significant?
A VPN provider will be incorporated in one country, but it usually won’t have servers only there. So when we talk about server locations, we are talking about all these different countries which house the VPN servers you can use. Usually, VPNs will allow you to pick from servers in around 30 different countries. Sometimes your choices end there – with the country. But some providers will even allow you to choose between individual cities.
This is very important for your speed as all data needs to go through the VPN server when you’re using this service. And if you are trying to connect to a server which is halfway across the world, the distance will cause everything to slow down. That is why server locations matter – with lots of different options, users will have an easier time finding a server in their proximity.
Where are BitDefender’s servers located?
BitDefender has servers in 27 countries, spread evenly across the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania. Only Africa is left out.
2. Platforms and Devices
What do platforms and devices mean and why are they significant?
There are different circumstances for people to make use of VPNs, and the providers need to account for that. This section deals with the support for those different devices and their operating systems. So for those who are using their computers, VPN providers will offer support for Windows and MAC OS. Similarly, for smartphone users, there are Android and iOS versions of VPN apps.
But, some providers will extend their support even further and may include Linux. Or, some VPN apps can be installed onto the router and provide extensions for the most popular web browsers. While on the topic, the way those extensions function is very important, and you should keep an eye on it as it can affect quite a bit.
When it serves as a proxy, the browser extension will make your true IP address hidden from any website attempting to use it to pinpoint your location. Instead, it will appear as though you’re in the same country as the VPN server. This is a good way to bypass those regional restrictions that certain online services place on their content (such as Netflix). However, your ISP will still be able to freely read your data and collect it since there’s no encryption. The same goes for any hackers who might attempt to do the same.
On the other hand, if the extension not only works as a proxy but also adds encryption, then the online activities you conduct through the browser will be scrambled. So if your ISP takes an interest, it won’t be able to see what you’re doing. But, you should keep in mind that anything you do outside the browser (like using standalone apps) will still be visible.
Finally, if the browser extension operates as a full VPN, you’ll have total protection. The VPN tunnel will obscure everything you do online, including your IP address. You won’t even need to leave the browser if you want to change the settings of your VPN.
What platforms and devices does BitDefender support?
BitDefender features apps for the major operating software: Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. It does not yet offer any browser extensions.
3. Number of Connections
What do connections mean and why are they significant?
You may want to simultaneously access the internet from more than one device, and you want your privacy to be protected on all of them. The number of connections will tell you how many devices your VPN subscription can cover at once.
Most likely, you’ll have your computer, your smartphone, and maybe one more device, meaning three connections should usually suffice. But, certain usage scenarios might require a greater number of connections than this.
How many simultaneous connections does BitDefender support?
BitDefender’s VPN is only sold with its antivirus, internet security or total security products. When buying these products, you select how many devices you want to protect (1, 3, 5 or 10). This is also the amount of devices you can use BitDefender’s VPN on.
4. Streaming and Torrenting
What do streaming and torrenting mean and why are they significant?
If you enjoy watching streamed content (such as movies and series on Netflix), then you probably know that not all programming is available everywhere. There are region restrictions and differences, and this is where VPNs come in – their servers located in different countries offer a way around this and allow you to enjoy any content you wish. Or if you already have a subscription but need to move abroad, a VPN can make sure you don’t lose access to your content along the way.
VPNs also shine when it comes to torrenting. This practice is controversial, and an ISP may try to apply sanctions if it detects you’ve been downloading torrents over its network. But once a VPN encrypts what you’re doing, your ISP will be none the wiser.
Does BitDefender support streaming and torrenting?
BitDefender allows torrenting (P2P) on its servers, and works with Netflix. However, we were not able to stream Netflix on its US and UK servers. So you can’t use BitDefender’s VPN to unblock US Netflix content.
This is strange, as Hotspot Shield‘s US servers are able to unblock Netflix content, and BitDefender uses its servers.
5. Bypassing Censorship
What does censorship mean and why is it significant?
People from Western countries may take internet freedom for granted, but the number of people who do not get to freely decide what they do online is still surprisingly large. In quite a few countries, internet censorship is a major issue, and China leads the way here with its “Golden Shield Project” (nicknamed the Great Firewall of China).
VPNs offer a potential solution to this problem, but the censorship programs of some countries are too much for certain VPN providers to handle. As mentioned, China’s regulations are among the strictest in this regard and are thus what we use to examine how a VPN deals with censorship.
Online censorship is an important topic, and we can recommend the following resources in case you’d like to learn more about it:
- Access Now
- Center for Democracy and Technology
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Fight For The Future
- Freedom House
- Internet Defence League
- Open Media
Does BitDefender bypass censorship successfully?
Hotspot Shield works in China, so we expect BitDefender (which uses Hotspot Shield’s servers) to work in China too. However, as BitDefender’s VPN is a fairly new product, this is not confirmed yet.
Trustpilot / BitDefender
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Trustpilot / ExpressVPN
Trustpilot / Hotspot Shield
Trustpilot / NordVPN
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