BullGuard VPN 2020 Review
Reviews score: Very good
A fast, private and secure VPN from a strong brand with a history in cybersecurity. BullGuard’s VPN is based on NordVPN’s technology.
- Fast: BullGuard’s VPN uses NordVPN’s servers and is much faster than the average VPN
- Maximum privacy: BullGuard has a clear zero-log policy and does not track anything you do online
- Maximum security: BullGuard’s VPN uses all the key security features, including the OpenVPN protocol, AES-256 encryption, a kill switch and its own DNS servers.
- 6 Simultaneous connections: BullGuard’s VPN allows you to protect 6 devices at the same time, which is more than most VPNs
- Excellent antivirus: BullGuard also makes an excellent antivirus product. Combine it with the VPN for the full security solution.
- Works with Netflix and Torrents (P2P)
- Consider buying NordVPN: BullGuard uses NordVPN’s technology, but offers less features at the same price.
- Servers in 16 countries: Although it covers most key regions and 4 continents, 16 countries isn’t a lot.
- Does not work in China
- Best deal: $ 3.49 / month
- Refund Policy: 30 days
- Customer Support: 24/7 Live chat
- Devices per account: 6
- Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux
- Works with US Netflix: Yes
- Works with Torrents: Yes
- Works in China: No
- Speed: 90 Mbps
- Servers in: 16 countries
- Server count: Unknown
- IP Addresses: Unknown
- Jurisdiction: UK
- Data leaks: None
- Logging policy: No logs
Privacy and Security
The Good: BullGuard’s VPN uses the technology of NordVPN, which is widely regarded as a VPN with high levels of privacy and security. And the same holds true for BullGuard. It has a clear zero-log policy and doesn’t track your online activity. It supports the fast and secure OpenVPN protocol, the most secure AES-256 encryption standard, uses its own DNS servers and features a kill switch.
The Bad: AV-Test uncovered a WebRTC leak in NordVPN’s servers in November 2018. As BullGuard uses NordVPN’s servers this might be true for BullGuard’s servers too. However, NordVPN has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox to solve this, BullGuard does not.
What elements concerning privacy and security do we test for?
In total, we look at seven elements. We’ll explain what each one is, why it matters, and the way XZY addresses it.
- Logging Policy
- Own DNS Servers
- Kill Switch Test
- Leak Test
1. Logging Policy
What does “logging policy” signify and what makes it relevant?
One of the main purposes of a VPN is to stop third parties from gathering data about you, so you’d think this would start with the provider. Meaning, you might expect them to keep no records of what you do online. But, VPN providers do need to store some data, and these logs serve an important purpose.
This purpose is to ensure the servers run smoothly and to stop unsavory individuals from abusing the services. The exact amount of data collected in this manner can vary and will depend on the individual provider.
Furthermore, this data can generally be categorized under one of four categories. Some of this information isn’t really relevant, but there is data here that you wouldn’t want getting out. The categories are as follows.
VPN Service Data
This data will show which version of the app you have installed and on which operating system. It also keeps track of the servers you’ve accessed.
This will show when you started using the VPN service, when you stopped, and will also show your data usage.
Original IP Address
The IP address is a unique string of numbers that identifies a device. This will show the device you used to connect to the VPN service, and it is possible for your location to be pinpointed using it.
This is a record of everything you’ve been up to online. If you’ve visited a website, used a service, or searched for something, it will be here. You can think of this as your browsing history.
You wouldn’t want your VPN to collect any information about you, but the connection and service data don’t generally represent something you should lose sleep over. This is particularly true if the provider gathers it without identifying individual users. Instead, the data is processed in bulk. This way, both sides win – the VPN provider gets the data it can analyze to improve its service, and you get to keep your privacy. As a result, numerous VPN providers do this to some degree.
On the other hand, users are a bit more sensitive about their IP address. Although this isn’t all that egregious, most users simply do not feel their IP address (and by extension, their location) is something that should concern their VPN provider. After all, the entire point of the service is to remain anonymous.
The most important type of data is the last one we mentioned. If the VPN keeps records of what you do online, then this really is a major cause for concern.
We believe a good VPN provider needs to stay clear of this type of data and never collect it. Those we recommend do this, but they are not the only options out there. Specifically, several VPN providers which offer their services for free gather this information and then sell it on. That’s why we avoid free VPNs and believe you should too.
What is BullGuard VPN’s logging policy like?
BullGuard has a very clear zero-log policy. It states that BullGuard does not record and store any online user activity, like your browsing history. Moreover, it does not record connection time stamps, used bandwidth, IP addresses or other data. Your are 100% anonymous using BullGuard’s VPN.
What does jurisdiction signify and what makes it relevant?
The country of incorporation is an important factor in the work of any company, and VPN providers are no different. This is what determines which jurisdiction they fall under and which laws they have to follow.
In some countries, internet service providers (ISP‘s) have no choice but to collect different types of data regarding its users (which websites they’ve visited, the emails they’ve sent, etc.). This is due to strict local regulations concerning data retention. For examples of this, look to the US, Australia, or various EU member countries.
This kind of surveillance on a mass scale is a regular occurrence in this day and age and is one of the main reasons behind the popularity of VPNs. So, your ISP may have a legal obligation to collect data on your online activities, but it cannot do so if your connection is encrypted. A VPN can do precisely that.
Naturally, there are people who are afraid that those data retention laws do not only concern ISPs but extend to VPNs as well, forcing them to also collect user data. But, ISPs and VPNs do not play by the same rules, and the reason is simple: the former are public network providers while the latter are private. And as private providers, VPNs are at liberty to choose whether they collect data on its users or not.
Naturally, you also have to take into account that governmental agencies, as sophisticated and serious institutions, will do everything in their power to get the data they need. In the States, this can include issuing special subpoenas like National Security Letters. Not only can these subpoenas allow federal agencies to get hold of a VPN provider’s servers and logs, but they are also secret.
You may think that this sounds blown out of proportion and that governments aren’t really after your data, but you’d be wrong. You can take Private Internet Access, a company in the VPN business, as an example. Not wishing to comply with local data logging laws which could jeopardize the privacy of its users, the company opted to put all its Russian servers out of commission in 2016. Or three years earlier, an email provider specializing in encrypted services called Lavabit did not want to provide data to the NSA and assist them in investigating Edward Snowden. Instead, it chose to suspend its operations. As you can see, this type of data is of interest to government agencies, and they are trying to get to it.
There are two solutions for users who do not want such agencies looking into their online activities. They are both effective and can even be combined.
When they were choosing their countries of incorporation, NordVPN went for Panama, and ExpressVPN opted for the BVI. Local laws which favored internet privacy played a big part in this.
So, you want a VPN provider registered in a country whose relevant laws work in your favor. Use the benefits of offshoring. Also, keep an eye out for international treaties which handle data intelligence and surveillance. The UKUSA agreement is one such treaty, and you want to avoid countries which are members of them.
No Relevant Logs
The other solution is to go for a VPN provider which can’t hand over any important information about you simply because it won’t have it. If a VPN doesn’t record your online activities, jurisdiction becomes much less of an issue – there’s no data to be seized.
What is BullGuard VPN’s jurisdiction?
BullGuard is incorporated in the UK.
In theorie, this is bad. The UK has its own data retention laws and is a leader in the UKUSA agreement, which is an intelligence agreement that stores large amount of data on internet users.
However, as BullGuard stores no information (/logs) on your online activity, there is no problem. After all, even if a governmental agency would force BullGuard to hand over data, there is nothing to report.
What does protocol signify and what makes it relevant?
If you’ve been looking into VPNs, you’ve probably come across some of the following acronyms: IKEv2, SSTP, PPTP, or L2TP. These are several protocols which will affect the format of the data and how it gets transmitted over a local area network (LAN) or the internet. In addition to those formats (which all differ when it comes to how fast and secure they are), there is also OpenVPN – the one generally thought of as being the best in terms of security.
What protocols does BullGuard VPN use?
BullGuard supports IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN (TCP/UDP). Especially the latter is important, as OpenVPN is considered the most secure VPN protocol.
What does encryption signify and what makes it relevant?
Encryption is the process of protecting data from being misused by altering its form into something unreadable. To anyone looking in, encrypted data will resemble gibberish. A crucial element in this is the encryption key – with access to it, you can protect your data and then decode it later on when you need to put it to use.
When it comes to encryption, AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) sets the bar these days. In the VPN business, AES encryption keys will usually have a length of either 128 or 256 bits. The general consensus is that AES-128 encryption is impossible to break, with AES-256 being even stronger.
What encryption standard does BullGuard VPN use?
BullGuard uses the most secure encryption standard: AES-256.
5. Own DNS Servers
What do DNS servers signify and what makes them relevant?
Every website has a domain name. That’s the short and memorable term we use when we want to visit it (think Facebook.com). But, every website also has an IP address, a much longer and practically impossible-to-remember sequence of numbers needed to distinguish it among countless other websites out there.
A DNS server is what establishes the link between the two as it holds many domain names and the matching IP addresses. That is how you get to the appropriate IP address after you enter a domain name into your browser. In a way, a DNS server operates like an infinitely more advanced telephone switchboard.
VPN providers use the so-called “VPN tunnels” to encrypt your online activities. And if they have their own DNS servers, they can do the same with this process, making it impervious to data collection, interception, or censorship by any third party.
Does BullGuard VPN use its own DNS servers?
Yes, BullGuard uses its own DNS servers.
6. Kill Switch Test
What does a kill switch signify and what makes it relevant?
Just like any other technology, VPNs aren’t completely immune to the occasional crash or failure. When that happens, your online activities are once again visible. A kill switch is a mechanism which kicks in at that moment – it severs your connection in order to protect your anonymity.
Does BullGuard VPN use a kill switch?
Yes, BullGuard features a kill switch option.
7. Leak Test
What does a leak signify and what makes it relevant?
We use the term “leak” to signify the situation when some parts of your data remain exposed despite the fact you’re using a VPN. IP, WebRTC, and DNS leaks are among the most common as is the Windows Credential leak.
Does BullGuard VPN leak your data?
As BullGuard is a “white label product” of NordVPN, meaning it uses NordVPN’s technology, any leak uncover on NordVPN’s servers might apply to BullGuard’s servers too.
In November 2018, AV-Test uncovered a WebRTC leak in some of NordVPN’s servers. So this might be applicable too for BullGuard.
To solve this, NordVPN has a WebRTC leak protection feature in its browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. BullGuard does not yet have browser extensions.
The Good: BullGuard is a very fast VPN. In our speed tests, it slowed our internet connection down by 16%. This is much faster than the average VPN, which slows you down by roughly 40%. This makes BullGuard an excellent option to watch Netflix in HD, download torrents at high speed, and play online games.
The Bad: –
What does a speed test signify and what makes it relevant?
By routing your data through their servers and encrypting it, VPNs can wipe away your digital fingerprints. But this benefit comes at a cost – your speed will suffer. It’s an unfortunate side effect, but that’s simply how the process works.
You’ll notice this when you open any web page or try to download a file – it will take longer. You’ll also see it when you try to stream something as the quality will be lower.
And while you can’t completely prevent your speed from taking a hit, you can impact how big of a hit that’ll be.
The first thing you can do is make an informed purchase. Specifically, look for a VPN provider which is known for fast service. Simply put, not all providers perform equally well in this respect, and the differences in terms of speed can be staggering. To illustrate, Hotspot Shield is so fast it can sometimes be difficult to notice any negative effects on your speed, while you will certainly notice Tunnelbear as it can really drag your speed down.
Next up, make sure your provider has servers which are close to you. As a rule of thumb, VPNs let you pick a server according to location, and you should take advantage of this to minimize the distance your data needs to cross. This will reduce latency and boost your download speed.
Finally, don’t automatically settle for the default server you get as it’s often not the fastest one. Instead, you should try out as many servers as you can, put them through their paces with speed tests, and see which one performs the best for you. This can really help you out.
How did BullGuard VPN score in the speed test?
When selecting a server close by, BullGuard is among the fastest VPN around and puts little burden on your download speeds. It’s unlikely to drop by more than 10 to 15%.
For example, if you’re located in the United Kingdom and try to connect to a server in the Netherlands, you might not even notice a difference. Your download and upload speeds may drop slightly and your ping goes up a few milliseconds.
When selecting a server far away, the impact might be more severe. For instance, a UK connection to a server in the United States like Los Angeles may slow your connection a bit more, but it’s unlikely that you’d get an unreasonable ping. If your original connection is good enough for online gaming, it’s likely to remain that way.
Connecting to servers at the other end of the world would probably result in higher drops in performance. You might still be able to browse and stream some content, but gaming is definitely no longer possible.
The Good: BullGuard allows you to connect up to 6 devices per subscription, works with all streaming services including Netflix, allows torrenting on its servers, and offers dedicated apps for all major operating software: Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.
The Bad: BullGuard’s servers are located in only 16 countries, of which 12 are in Europe. The other 4 are in the US, Canada, Singapore and Australia. BullGuard also has no browser extensions at this point, and is not guaranteed to work in China.
What elements do we test for in terms of features?
In total, we look at five elements. We’ll explain what each one is, why it matters, and the way XZY addresses it.
- Server Locations
- Platform and Devices
- Number of Connections
- Streaming and Torrenting
- Bypassing Censorship
1. Server Locations
What does a server location signify and what makes it relevant?
The headquarters of a VPN provider are in one location, but not all of their servers need to be there as well. Most of the time, the servers will be spread out across different countries around the globe – 30 countries seems to be the norm among most providers. Not only that, but some of those providers will even let you take an extra step and choose your server by city.
These server locations are very relevant because of the way VPNs work. With a VPN, before you can get to the online content you want, your data needs to pass through the server. And if the server is on the other side of the world, the time it takes for the data to get there will negatively reflect on your speed. But if the provider has a widespread network of servers, this will allow the majority of users to pick one that’s situated in their vicinity.
Where are BullGuard VPN servers located?
BullGuard’s servers are located in 16 countries, covering North-America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Looking at the server list, you can see a strong orientation towards Europe. This is a logical move, considering that BullGuard is a Danish / English antivirus company, with a large customer base in Europe.
The entire country list: U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Singapore and Australia.
2. Platforms and Devices
What do platforms and devices signify and what makes them relevant?
One user will want a VPN for their Windows PC. Another will have a Mac. Even Linux may be an option. Furthermore, people also want their smartphones to be protected by VPNs, and here you have the choice between Android phones and iPhones. All these devices and operating systems require dedicated support by VPN providers, and this section focuses on that.
There are even options of installing the VPN app straight onto the router and receiving extensions for browsers such as Firefox or Chrome. If that’s the case, these browser extensions can function in one of three ways, and it’s important to pay attention to this.
Proxy Server (No Encryption)
If the browser extension works in this way, you get the benefit of having a concealed IP address. Therefore, when you visit a website using that browser, the website won’t be able to detect your true location. To it, it will look like you’re in the country where the VPN server is located.
If you’re just looking for a way to access region-specific content of a particular website, this is it. But without encryption, you’re still vulnerable, and your ISP will be able to see what you’re up to and collect logs of those activities. This data will also be vulnerable to hackers.
Proxy Server (With Encryption)
Take how the browser extension operated in the previous scenario, but now add a layer of encryption on top of it. As a result, anything you do in the browser will be out of reach of any data collection attempts. However, this protection won’t extend to your other online activities so you need to be careful with apps that use the internet.
When the entire VPN app is under the control of its associated browser extension, this means the VPN tunnel’s protection will extend to everything you do online. All your data will be encrypted and your IP address masked. And should you wish to change some settings, you can do that too from the browser.
What platforms and devices does BullGuard VPN support?
BullGuard supports the 4 major operating software: Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. At the time of writing, no browser extensions are available.
3. Number of Connections
What do connections signify and what makes them relevant?
When using a VPN, there is usually no need to limit yourself to accessing the internet with just one device. That’s because VPN subscriptions can protect several of them at once, and the number of connections will show exactly how many. Most users will settle for three – enough for their smartphone, computer, and maybe a tablet. But if you plan to share the subscription with someone else, then you may need more.
How many simultaneous connections does BullGuard VPN support?
You can connect up to 6 devices at the same time on a single subscription.
4. Streaming and Torrenting
What do streaming and torrenting signify and what makes them relevant?
VPNs can be very helpful when it comes to streaming. On the one hand, they can allow you to seemingly change your location and gain access to content you otherwise couldn’t. On the other, they can also allow you to continue enjoying your current programming even if you have to go abroad for a while.
VPNs can also be indispensable to those who like to use torrents to download various files. Your ISP may not take kindly to this practice, but the VPN will ensure you can do it safely and anonymously.
Does BullGuard VPN support streaming and torrenting?
Yes, BullGuard works with all major streaming services, including Netflix, and allows you to download torrents (P2P) on its servers.
5. Bypassing Censorship
What does censorship signify and what makes it relevant?
If you live in a country with unrestricted internet access, you may not be fully aware of just how many people do not enjoy that right. In many parts of the world, internet censorship is an everyday occurrence. One of the most pronounced examples of this would be the so-called “Great Firewall of China”.
With a VPN, it may be possible to find a way around these restrictions, but you cannot count on every VPN provider to be able to always beat the system. Because China’s censorship program is very extensive, we use it as a reference point to determine if a VPN can successfully overcome censorship.
Internet censorship is a far-reaching topic with numerous implications, and we invite you to look through these sources if it interests you:
- Access Now
- Center for Democracy and Technology
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Fight For The Future
- Freedom House
- Internet Defence League
- Open Media
Does BullGuard VPN bypass censorship successfully?
BullGuard says it’s target market does not include China, and does not guarantee that you can use its service there. As BullGuard is a relatively new VPN provider, we have not yet heard of any customers’ experience with the service in China.
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