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Tor vs. VPN: Which Should You Use?

John Mason

John Mason

Our comprehensive Tor vs. VPN guide gives you the full rundown on the advantages and disadvantages of VPNs and Tor, and explains when to use which.

More and more people are thinking and talking about online privacy. Tor and VPNs are two of the most powerful online privacy tools available today. In some ways they are very much alike. But they also have some key differences that make them useful in different situations.

In this article we’ll take a look at using Tor versus using a VPN. We’ll first look at how each one works, which will allow us to see their relative strengths and weaknesses. Then, we’ll discuss specific use cases to determine when you would want to use one or the other. Click on the icons below to navigate to each section, or read on for an in-depth breakdown of these two tools.

  • Why choose VPN
  • Why choose Tor
  • Tor vs. VPN final verdict

VPNs: An Overview

VPN vs Tor

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a technology that protects your privacy when you use the Internet by routing your connection through a server that hides your IP address and encrypts your online communication.

How do VPNs Work?

A VPN consists of a network of servers, typically located in multiple countries around the world. When you use a VPN, information sent from your computer passes through one of the VPN provider’s servers before going to its online destination, such as your online banking account. Similarly, information sent to your computer from outside your network passes through the VPN server before reaching your device.

how do vpns work

As a result, you’re able to send and receive data without giving up your online location. The online destination will only see traffic coming from the VPN server, not your device or true location. Additionally, messages sent from the server are encrypted, blocking unwanted access from third parties.

VPN Advantages

Using a VPN to protect your privacy has some big advantages over using an unprotected connection.

Advantages of VPNs

Full message encryption
VPNs encrypt all messages passing between their servers and your computer. This prevents anyone (such as your ISP) from spying on your connection and intercepting your data. This is especially important in countries with high levels of censorship, or when you’re sending particularly sensitive data.

Speed
Although your Internet traffic passes through the VPN’s encryption software and servers can slightly slow down your internet connection, it’s only by a small amount. For everyday use, you probably won’t notice the difference.

Easy to install and use
While the technology that makes a VPN work is complicated, most of them are easy to install and use. With just a few clicks, an installation wizard will install and configure the software. The wizard can set the VPN to start automatically when you start your computer so you are always protected.

Compatible with most devices
The top VPN services provide software that works on most popular devices. Computers with Windows or Mac or Linux operating systems? Check. Smartphones running Android or iOS? Check. Some services even provide software that can run on your home router or set-top box.

VPN Disadvantages

Using a VPN can provide good security against most kinds of surveillance. However, there are ways that your privacy can be compromised when you use a VPN.

Disadvantages of VPNs

VPN software failures
For VPN service to protect you, the VPN software on your computer must be working properly. If the software crashes for some reason, messages to and from your computer could travel unencrypted and outside of the VPN network. This would leave them vulnerable to your ISP or anyone else who wanted to spy on them.

To protect against this problem, many VPNs include a kill switch in their software. A kill switch is set up so that if the VPN software fails for any reason your computer is disconnected from the Internet. While losing Internet access isn’t great, it is better than using the security the VPN gives you.

Varied logging policies
While using a VPN provides security against outsiders, you have to trust the VPN provider. As you’re using their software and their servers, the provider knows a lot about what you do online and where you go.

Most VPN services keep various types of logs of the activity of their users. Sometimes the services keep these logs for their own use, and sometimes they are forced to keep these logs by their government. These logs include:

  • Usage logs: Records of where you go and what you do online when you use the VPN. Some VPNs keep detailed logs of each user’s activities, while others aggregate the usage information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to identify individual users.
  • Connection logs: Records of information such as when you log onto the VPN, the IP address of your computer, your username, and similar data. Not as bad as usage logs, but still a lot of information that could be used against you.

Which logs a service keeps and how long they keep them determines how much of a risk this is to you. One VPN provider might delete this information immediately. Another might log this information for maintenance and support purposes, then delete it once you disconnect. Still other VPNs are required by law to keep this information for days, weeks or even months.

Some VPN services advertise that they keep no logs, which provides the maximum level of security for you. However, you have to be cautious with the provider you choose; some VPNs claim to be “no log,” but actually keep detailed connection logs.

If a log exists, there’s the potential that an agency could use that information against you, and there there are limits to what a VPN can do to protect you. No matter how pro-privacy a VPN service might be, if a government agent with a subpoena demand their logs, they are under obligation to surrender them.

Potential for weak encryption
For the communication between your computer and the VPN server to be safe, the encryption used by the VPN service must be unbreakable. This is true of the best VPNs, which use the military grade encryption 256BIT Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). However, some lower tier VPNs use weaker encryption algorithms like PPTP and Blowfish, so you’ll want to look carefully at the encryption each VPN uses when choosing a provider.

For the ultimate in protection, you need some way to make yourself anonymous. That’s why they created Tor.

Tor: An Overview

Tor vs. VPN

What is Tor?

At first glance, the Tor network is similar to a VPN. Messages to and from your computer pass through the Tor network rather than connecting directly to resources on the Internet. But where VPNs provide privacy, Tor provides anonymity.

A VPN service can keep outsiders from seeing where you go and what you do on the Internet, but there are ways to defeat the privacy they give you. By its nature, a VPN service has access to information about you. You have to trust them to protect that information.

When you use the Tor network you don’t have to trust anyone. The design of Tor makes you virtually anonymous when you go online. While no system is 100 percent foolproof, it would be exceedingly difficult for anyone to identify you when you use the Tor network.

Is Tor a VPN?

Since both Tor and VPNs perform similar functions, you might wonder, “Is Tor really just a specific type of VPN?” The answer is, “No.” Here’s why:

A VPN is a network of servers that protects your privacy by encrypting your messages and hiding your IP address. Your VPN provider controls both the VPN software on your computer, and the servers in their network. You have to trust your VPN service to protect your privacy when you use their network.

Tor is a network of servers that you communicate with anonymously. No one organization controls both the Tor software on your computer and the individual servers in the network. You don’t need to trust anyone to use Tor safely. As much as anything else, the fact that you don’t need to trust anyone when you use Tor is what makes it distinct from a VPN.

How Does Tor Work?

The Tor network is designed so that no server can know both who you are and what you do. The network consists of thousands of independent servers run by volunteers around the world. Here’s what happens when your computer wants to send a message using the Tor network:

  1. Software on your computer (either the Tor browser or another Tor-enabled program) selects three Tor servers at random. The software then builds a path between those three servers.
  2. The process starts with the server that will connect to the public Internet (called the Exit Node). The Tor software on your computer encrypts the message in a way that only the Exit Node can decrypt.
  3. The software then repeats this process with the server in the middle. Now the message is encrypted twice.
  4. The software does the same with the server that will first receive the message from your computer (called the Guard Node). Now the message is encrypted three times.
  5. Once the message is encrypted, the Tor software on your computer sends the encrypted message to the Guard Node. This server removes the outermost layer of encryption. The Guard Node cannot read the original message because there are still two layers of encryption. However, the software includes the address of the next server in the path when it encrypts the message.
  6. The Guard Node sends the message to the server in the middle of the path. This server removes the second layer of encryption. Like the first computer it still can’t read the message because there is one more layer of encryption. But removing this layer of encryption tells it the address of the Exit Node.
  7. The middle server sends the message to the Exit Node. The Exit Node removes the final layer of encryption. This means the Exit Node can see your original message. However, because the message was relayed through the other servers in the path, the Exit Node doesn’t know who sent the message.
How does Tor work

This is key to understanding Tor so let’s look at what each server in the path knows.

  • The Guard Node can see the IP address of your computer. But it doesn’t know what the message says because of the additional layers of encryption. So all the Guard Node knows is that your computer sent a message using Tor and that it needs to forward that message to the middle server.
  • The middle server knows the message came from the Guard Node and that it has to forward the message to the Exit Node. It can’t read the message because there is one layer of encryption left. The middle server doesn’t know who sent the message to the Guard Node because that information isn’t passed through the Tor network.
  • The Exit Node knows what the message says because it has to peel off the final layer of encryption before the message can go out to the public Internet. But it doesn’t know where the message came from originally. All it knows is that the middle server forwarded the message.

No one server knows or can know both where the message came from and what it says. This is how Tor provides anonymity.

Tor Onion Routing vs. VPN Encryption

The way messages are routed within their networks is another key difference between VPNs and Tor.

When you send a message with a VPN, the message gets encrypted on your computer and sent to a specific server in the VPN network. There, it is decrypted and forwarded to the final destination. Messages coming to your computer get sent to the VPN server. There they are encrypted and sent to your computer. The VPN software on your computer decrypts the message. Once you establish a VPN connection, you continue to use the same server for the duration.

Tor uses Onion Routing, a more complex approach. Onion Routing requires the message to pass through at least three, randomly-selected Tor servers before it gets sent to its final destination. Before the message leaves your computer, the Tor software encrypts the message multiple times. The effect is to give the message layers of encryption that must be peeled, similar to layers of an onion.

As the message passes through the network, each server decrypts one of the layers. When the final server in the path peels away the final layer of encryption, it exposes your original message, and forwards it to its destination outside the Tor network.

As a result of the encryption and the way Tor servers pass messages between each other, none of the three servers can know both who sent the message, and what the message says. This makes you anonymous within the network. To further protect against bad actors trying to hack the network, the Tor software in your computer chooses new server to use approximately every 10 minutes.

Tor Advantages

Using Tor to connect to the Internet offers several advantages over an unprotected connection.

Advantages of Tor

Difficult to shut down
Because it is made up of thousands of servers scattered around the world, Tor is very difficult to shut down. The network is distributed, not centralized. That means there is no headquarters, corporate office or main server to attack.

Most Tor servers are run by volunteer privacy advocates. To shut down Tor, you would have to go after each individual server in the network. This makes trying to shut down Tor about as practical as stopping P2P music transfers or shutting down Bitcoin.

Nearly complete anonymity
There are ways Tor can be attacked, but the people of the Tor Project are constantly working to make Tor safer. While no person or network can guarantee you 100 percent anonymity, Tor provides you much more online anonymity than even the best VPN.

Tor Disadvantages

While Tor is a great system for using the Internet anonymously, it isn’t a perfect solution. Here are some disadvantages to using Tor.

Disadvantages of Tor

Very slow
Messages in the Tor network go through three (or more) widely-dispersed servers and get encrypted and decrypted at least three times. As a result, the Tor network is very slow. Using it to stream videos or for peer-to-peer file sharing would be very difficult.

Run by volunteers
Because the Tor network is run by volunteers, there’s no built-in source of money to pay for maintaining and upgrading the network. Some servers in the network are old and slow, or have bad Internet connections. Additionally, there is always the risk that the volunteers running the network aren’t trustworthy.

Low device compatibility
The Guardian Project maintains Tor on Android devices. Currently, the Tor Browser is not available for iOS, meaning you can’t use it on your iPhone or iPad.

Tor vs. VPN: Which Should You Choose?

Tor vs. VPN: The Verdict

Now that you know how Tor and VPNs work, you can determine which makes the most sense for you. Check out the chart below for a quick overview of how Tor and VPNs stack up against each other, or read on for an in-depth explanation regarding when to chose each technology.

Tor vs. VPN chart

When Should You Choose a VPN over Tor?

A VPN is a great option for users who engage in online activities that could put their personal or sensitive information at risk, including:

  • Checking an online bank account
  • Shopping online
  • Connecting to public Wi-Fi
  • Traveling to countries with high censorship
  • Accessing blocked websites
  • Torrenting

Any time you send information over the Internet, there is a chance that someone will intercept it. If you send any sensitive information over the internet, such as your login information to your online bank account or your credit card number, you should use a VPN to ensure it’s protected.

This is especially important if you use public Wi-Fi services. While these services are commonly used in places like coffee shops, hotels or airports, they’re notoriously insecure and the equipment to hack into them is both cheap and easily available. VPNs are also efficient ways of protecting privacy if you travel internationally, live in a country with high censorship or torrent.

Additionally, there are several benefits of choosing a VPN, including:

  • Speed: VPNs are generally faster than Tor since messages pass through only one VPN server instead of 3 Tor nodes.
  • Compatibility with all devices: VPNs work with a wider range of devices than Tor. In particular, as of today, Tor does not work with Apple’s iOS. If you use an iPhone or iPad, Tor is not an option.
  • P2P file sharing: VPNs are better suited for P2P file sharing or watching videos.
  • All online connections protected: A VPN will protect all your Internet connections; Tor only protects those designed to use the Tor network.
  • Price: Several VPNs are free; the ones with a small monthly fee are very affordable.
  • Easy to set up and use: VPNs are extremely easy to set up; all you have to do is download the software onto your computer and run it whenever you need to be protected.
  • Access to support team: Because VPN providers are major companies, they have helpful FAQ pages, as well as support teams should you run into any problems.

When Should You Choose Tor over a VPN?

You’ve seen the kinds of situations where you should use a VPN and may be wondering, “Why would I ever use Tor?” The truth is, most people don’t need Tor at all. A VPN is sufficient for the vast majority of situations. So, when should you use Tor?

Tor is the tool to use when the stakes are high. Maybe you are a journalist reporting on some government atrocity. Or activist organizing a protest in some repressive country.

In these cases, your liberty and your life could be at risk. A third party may be able to lean on a VPN service to get information about you. But only a few organizations in the world have the power to even attempt to track you down through Tor.

Additionally, there are a several benefits of choosing Tor, including:

  • Complete anonymity: Tor makes it impossible for third parties to trace your online activity. While this is nearly true for VPNs, it isn’t always. Additionally, unlike Tor, VPNs can fail and expose your IP address.
  • Price: Tor is always free to use.
  • Easy to set up and use: The Tor browser is extremely easy to download and use.

Tor vs. VPN: The Verdict

Overall, VPNs and Tor are both effective ways of protecting your data and keeping yourself safe online. In the end, a VPN is the more practical solution for everyday users looking to keep themselves secure.

The 5 Best VPNs for Kodi

Brad Smith

Brad Smith

Below is a list of 5 best Kodi VPNs…

Kodi is brilliant open-source movie streaming software.

A media platform that users have complete control over.

The problem?

Kodi’s software doesn’t actually supply any content. That’s completely up to users. How and where users get the content is the question.

And it makes VPNs for Kodi an absolute necessity. Here’s why, along with the best VPNs for Kodi that money can buy.

But how do you find the best VPN for Kodi?

Why Use a VPN for Kodi?

kodi VPNKodi makes it extremely easy to watch downloaded content on your big screen. However, many times, downloaded content is also protected by copyright laws. A number of the Kodi Add-Ons are also geo-locked, meaning they can only be technically accessed from certain countries.

VPN solves both problems.

They mask downloading sessions from your Internet Service Provider, creating an anonymous browsing experience. They protect you from other potential bad actors on the P2P network and public wi-fi connections. And they help you side-step pesky licensing laws restricting your content consumption.

Except, not all VPNs will work properly with Kodi.

And there’s more…

Using a VPN that logs your information or falls under the jurisdiction of international surveillance alliances compromises everything — placing you in the path of potential danger.

Additionally, using a slow, sketchy VPN will throttle your speed down to a crawl.

You can avoid all of these issues by simply selecting one of the excellent Kodi VPNs that follows.

1. NordVPN – Cheapest VPN for Streaming Kodi

nordvpn special deal

NordVPN is our overall runner-up. But they’re number one for Kodi.

For starters, its extensive server park features over 4,700 connections, giving Kodi users a vast array of geographic locations to choose from.

While there’s no Linux version of the app, NordVPN is available on Windows, MacOSX, and both Android and iOS mobile platforms. Plus, six simultaneous connections means that the entire family will be able to enjoy these Kodi-positive choices.

NordVPN uses the state-of-the-art OpenVPN protocol to create a secure VPN tunnel to the server of your choice, shielding your IP address in the process. This provides rock-solid AES-256 encryption, which is military-grade stuff.

However, that single layer of encryption is nothing.

NordVPN ups the ante on all other VPNs by offering a DoubleVPN encryption system with every subscription plan. That means AES-256 times two.

This Panama-based organization is well outside the jurisdiction of any massive surveillance alliances that share espionage information between governments.

But what really puts NordVPN over the top for us is the exclusive affiliate pricing that our readers receive.

By clicking on this link, you can buy two years of NordVPN at just $2.99 per month. That’s an astronomically low price.

We’ve reviewed over 70 VPN companies to date, and for everything NordVPN provides, that offer literally can’t be beaten.

2. ExpressVPN – Most “Advanced” VPN

ExpressVPN for kodi

ExpressVPN is our number one VPN service. It has everything going for it, and actually exceeds the massive hype that surrounds it.

If you’re looking for streaming speed and server availability, look no further.

ExpressVPN has a massive server park, with connections available in just about every major country in the world. That means Kodi users will be able to unlock virtually any geo-blocked content.

It’s also available on a vast array of devices, including popular streaming systems like Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. Perfect for Kodi users looking to stream their content directly, without having to connect to a computer, too.

Of course, security is always a huge concern when it comes to VPNs.

But I’m happy to report that ExpressVPN has no issues on that front.

Like Nord, (their biggest competitor) they use a combination of OpenVPN protocols and AES-256 encryption. That’s the same security measures taken by government agencies like the NSA.

Oh, and speaking of the NSA, they have no jurisdiction here! That’s right: ExpressVPN is based out of the British Virgin Islands, so surveillance alliances have no right to any information.

Why is it number two instead of one, then? It lacks Nord’s double encryption for starters, and it’s also a lot more expensive than NordVPN.

3. IPVanish – NordVPN Alternative

ipvanish for kodi

IPVanish is lightning fast.

There’s nothing worse than trying to stream a movie or television show, only to be met with buffering notifications every few seconds. That’s not an issue you’ll have with IPVanish, though.

They also don’t keep any logs on your activity. That means there is no record of your Kodi streaming whatsoever.

Which is great news, considering their U.S. jurisdiction, unfortunately, falls directly under the 5-Eyes Surveillance Alliance. However, with no logs being kept, there’s not much information that IPVanish can turn over on you if asked.

You can access IPVanish on desktop, mobile, and streaming device platforms, making it a well-versed application.

Its US jurisdiction works against it, along with a steep cost that will, at its lowest, come in at $4.87 per month. They support a number of payment methods, including PayPal and major credit cards.

4. VyprVPN – Best For Unblocking Geo-Restrictions

VyprVPN for kodi

VyprVPN is a well-rounded Kodi VPN.

Their custom network is spread out over 70 countries, and the performance speeds are more than enough for a seamless-streaming session.

VyprVPN even created a proprietary Chameleon™ technology to help evade Deep Packet Inspection detection by scrambling your metadata.

In English? No one — from your ISP to Netflix — will know you’re using a VPN to unblock geo-restricted content.

They also use that same winning combination of OpenVPN protocols and AES-256 encryption as all of our other top Kodi VPNs.

Unfortunately, they do log some information.

VyprVPN holds onto the IP address you’re using, the amount of time you spent connected, and the number of bytes you used for 30 days. That’s also a bummer, considering this “Swiss-based” company is actually ran out of offices in Austin, Texas.

They’re one of the few VPN companies to offer live chat to quickly clear up any issues. But that live chat isn’t available 24/7, which might make it unusable for those located outside their time zones.

5. StrongVPN

StrongVPN for Kodi

Rounding out our Kodi VPN list is StrongVPN, a secure (if somewhat overpriced) VPN.

They’re one of the few US-based VPNs that logs absolutely no information. We were able to confirm this by digging through their privacy policy.

So, while the U.S. jurisdiction is problematic, if they’re not collecting any of your information, they don’t have anything to turn over if Uncle Sam comes knocking on their door asking about you.

This comes in at number five, though, because it’s the slowest VPN on our list. We saw our speeds slashed to ribbons when we tested it out. So while they provide a lot of other benefits, like airtight encryption, any dip in performance could mean buffering times a-plenty in your future.

How Do I Install a VPN on My Kodi?

This is a fairly common question.

Especially because you don’t actually install the VPN on Kodi, itself.

Instead, you install it on the device that you’re using with Kodi.

Once you decide which VPN works best for you, install it off of their official website, and sign up for an account.

After you’ve made your initial payment for the VPN, start it up on your computer, phone, Smart TV, or gaming console, or router.

By activating the product, you’re protecting all internet activity that takes place on that device.

This includes streaming on Kodi, but it also extends to web browsing, torrenting, and the use of geo-blocked streaming services like Netflix.

At that point, you can boot up Kodi, select the add-on you wish to use, and start streaming content without a care in the world.

Why Free VPNs Aren’t the Best Fit for Kodi

You might be thinking, “There are free VPNs out there, why should I pay for any of these?”

I get it. But it’d be a massive mistake.

You really do get what you pay for here. Most free VPNs will literally sell your data to the highest bidder.

Not to mention, a lot of free VPNs place limitations on bandwidth. That means you could be streaming along and suddenly hit your monthly quota. Once that happens, the VPN shuts itself down completely or, more infuriatingly, throttles your internet usage.

Free VPNs are also less safe.

Top-of-the-line programs NordVPN or ExpressVPN are leak-free and ensure security. All it takes is one DNS leak to completely expose your IP and identity to the world, potentially landing you in hot water when streaming content on Kodi.

Make Your Choice

Each of these VPNs has different pros and cons.

But all of them are solid Kodi VPN options.

That means your content downloads will stay hidden. Your devices will stay safe from other nefarious individuals you’re connecting to on popular P2P networks.

You’ll be able to unlock content that’s typically only available across the pond.

And best of all, your content streaming will be risk-free (and judgment-free) from prying eyes.

How Do Americans Feel About Online Privacy in 2018? [Study]

John Mason

John Mason

What are the top privacy concerns among Americans in 2018? We surveyed 1,000 people to find out.

Do you think you’re safe online? If you answered “no,” you’re not alone.

Concerns around online privacy have come to a head in 2018. In mid-March, The New York Times and The Guardian reported that data from 50 million Facebook profiles was harvested for data mining firm Cambridge Analytica — a number that would eventually be revised to 87 million in one of the largest data collection scandals of all time.

Two months later, inboxes were flooded by a slew of privacy policy updates following the implementation of the EU’s GDPR, a privacy policy law that set guidelines for the collection and use of data. Although the law was designed to increase transparency regarding the collection of data, the updates raised user concern around how companies had been obtaining and using personal information in the past.

So, with thundering headlines about data breaches and privacy loss stoking fears, just how are Americans feeling about their online privacy? To answer this question, we used Google Surveys to target 1,000 Americans of all genders and ages across the United States. Read on to see how we conducted our survey and learn more about our individual findings, or jump to view our full infographic.

The Privacy Paradox

How do Americans feel about online privacy? Have the recent events surrounding online security affected the way we view and treat our online presence, or has the desire and demand for an increasingly connected world and more tailored experiences leading us to give up privacy for personalization?

To better understand how Americans currently feel about online privacy, as well as pinpoint their main concerns in 2018, we used Google Surveys to poll 1,000 people about the following questions:

  • How worried are you about your online privacy compared to one year ago?
  • What is your biggest privacy concern today?
  • How confident are you that you understand how companies collect and share information?
  • Which of the following actions have you taken in the past year due to online privacy concerns?

We then compared their responses and transposed them by age and gender to better understand how, if at all, the demographics influenced responses.

Google survey Americans privacy

Based on our study, it’s safe to say that the majority of Americans aren’t feeling any safer online.

  • 43% more worried
  • 50% same amount of worried
  • 7% less worried

The possible reasons for this are varied and numerous. The past year saw an influx of online security concerns following the news surrounding Facebook’s data collection scandal, and sweeping GDPR privacy policy updates raised questions around the collection and use of data, both in the past and in the future. The the Equifax data breach also brought hacks to the forefront of the news cycle.

In all, we found the top concerns among Americans include:

  • 51% Hackers or online threats stealing information
  • 26% Companies collecting/sharing personal data
  • 14% Online surveillance by the U.S. government
  • 9% Online surveillance by foreign governments

Despite these fears, the majority of Americans aren’t taking precautionary measures to protect themselves or their data, a paradox that begs the question: What will it take for Americans to start taking their online privacy seriously?

Americans Still Don’t Feel Safe Online

do americans feel safe online

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the turbulent landscape currently surrounding online privacy, we found that the majority of respondents still don’t feel that they’re safe online. In fact, when it comes to their online privacy, 93 percent of respondents said that they’re either more worried or the same amount of worried compared to one year ago. Only 7 percent of Americans surveyed said that they’re less worried about their privacy than they were in 2017.

While the revelation isn’t startling given the privacy scandals that took place in the past year, it still begs the question: Exactly what are Americans worried about when it comes to being online? And what — if anything — are they doing about it?

Biggest Concern in 2018: Hackers

hackers biggest privacy concern 2018

Our study found that the main concern among Americans in 2018 is hackers or online threats stealing information, at 51 percent. The finding comes a year and a half after an election characterized by privacy and hacking scandals. Additionally, 2017’s Equifax breach, which affected the personal information of 145.5 million Americans, could have influenced the results.

Following concerns raised by Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, the #deletefacebook movement and Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to Congress, 26 percent of respondents rated sites collecting and sharing their personal data as their biggest privacy concern. Users between the ages of 23 and 34 were the most likely to be concerned about data collection.

Only 14 percent of Americans surveyed ranked online surveillance by the U.S. government as their top concern, despite the fact that in January of 2018 Congress voted to extend a surveillance law that experts say will continue broad NSA surveillance.

Misunderstandings Around Data Collection Continue

americans don't understand data collection

While data collection ranked second among Americans’ biggest privacy fears, our study found that the majority of Americans still don’t understand the way their data is used by companies. In total, 54 percent of respondents said that they’re not confident they understand how companies collect and share information.

In addition to misunderstanding how their data is collected and used, similar studies have demonstrated that Americans also don’t trust organizations with their data — a Pew Resource Center study from earlier this year found that the majority of Americans aren’t confident in the ability of key institutions to protect their data.

Lack of Precautionary Measures

safety measures online

Despite obvious concerns regarding their online privacy, over one-third of Americans aren’t taking steps to protect themselves and their data. When asked to check off up to six precautionary measures taken in the last year to protect their online privacy, including if they’ve read an online privacy policy or changed their settings on social media, 39 percent of people said they hadn’t taken any of the steps.

Protecting Your Privacy Now

It’s never been more imperative to take steps to protect your online privacy, especially as cyberattacks and government surveillance seem to permeate everyday life. While staying safe online is a ongoing task, there are several immediate steps to you can take to protect your online data.

  1. Block web activity trackers
  2. Use a VPN
  3. Avoid non-HTTPS websites
  4. Avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi
  5. Customize your website and social media security settings

A Look Ahead

Online privacy isn’t getting any easier to protect. According to Cisco, there will be over 50 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020. This increasing interconnectivity, coupled with our dependence on technology for everyday tasks and our passive acceptance of cookie-based advertising, means that protecting our data online is only going to become more complicated.

While strides toward greater online privacy are being made — GDPR implementation aims to increase transparency and California recently passed a similar law aimed at major tech giants. However, misunderstandings around data policies, as well as feelings of powerlessness in an always-connected society, mean that concerns around online privacy aren’t likely to abate anytime soon.

download privacy concerns infographic

Many VPNs Leak Your DNS Through Chrome Extension

John Mason

John Mason

We tested 17 VPNs and 8 of them were causing DNS leaks through their Chrome browser extension. 

Update: Please note that this not a WebRTC leak. This involves DNS prefetching which is activated by default on all Chrome browsers. We’ve already informed some of the VPN providers about this issue and they’re in the middle of fixing this.

If your VPN provider is on the list or it leaks your DNS through browser extensions (take test here), please be sure to inform us or them so they could patch this.

Affected VPNs: Last test on 12th of July

  1. Opera VPN
  2. Setup VPN
  3. Hola VPN – Vulnerable users: 8.7 million
  4. Betternet – Vulnerable users: ~1.4 million
  5. Ivacy VPN – Vulnerable users: ~4,000
  6. TouchVPN – Vulnerable users: ~2 million
ivacy leak
Example of Ivacy DNS leak

VPNs That Don’t Leak

  1. NordVPN
  2. WindScribe
  3. CyberGhost
  4. Private Internet Access
  5. Avira Phantom VPN
  6. HotSpot Shield (Fixed)
  7. TunnelBear (Fixed)
  8. PureVPN (Fixed)
  9. VPN Unlimited (Fixed)
  10. ZenmateVPN – (Fixed)
  11. DotVPN – (Fixed)
VPN Unlimited fixed
No leak example (VPN Unlimited)

Intro

Google Chrome has a feature called DNS Prefetching (https://www.chromium.org/developers/design-documents/dns-prefetching) which is an attempt to resolve domain names before a user tries to follow a link.

It’s a solution to reduce latency delays of DNS resolution time by predicting what websites a user will most likely visit next by pre-resolving the domains of those websites.

The Problem

When using a VPN browser extensions, Chrome provides two modes to configure the proxy connections, fixed_servers and pac_script.

In fixed_servers mode, an extension specifies the host of a HTTPS/SOCKS proxy server and later all connections will then go through the proxy server.

In pac_script mode on the other hand, an extension provides a PAC script which allows dynamically changing the HTTPS/SOCKS proxy server’s host by various conditions. For example, a VPN extension can use a PAC script that determines if a user is visiting Netflix by having a rule that compares the URL and assigns a proxy server that is optimized for streaming. The highly dynamic nature of PAC scripts means the majority of VPN extensions use the mode pac_script over fixed_servers.

Now, the issue is that DNS Prefetching continues to function when pac_script mode is used. Since HTTPS proxy does not support proxying DNS requests and Chrome does not support DNS over SOCKS protocol, all prefetched DNS requests will go through the system DNS. This essentially introduces DNS leak.

There are 3 scenarios that trigger DNS Prefetching:

  • Manual Prefetch
  • DNS Prefetch Control
  • Omnibox

The first two allow a malicious adversary to use a specifically crafted web page to force visitors to leak DNS requests. The last one means when a user is typing something in the URL address bar (i.e. the Omnibox), the suggested URLs made by Chrome will be DNS prefetched. This allows ISPs to use a technology called “Transparent DNS proxy” to collect websites the user frequently visits even when using browser VPN extension.

Test Your VPN For DNS Leaks

To test if your VPN is vulnerable, do the following test:

  1. Activate the Chrome plugin of your VPN
  2. Go to chrome://net-internals/#dns
  3. Click on “clear host cache”
  4. Go to any website to confirm this vulnerability


If you find a VPN that is not listed, but leaks – please send us a screenshot ([email protected]) and we’ll update the list.

Solution/Fix

Users who want to protect themselves should follow the remediation:

  • 1. Navigate to chrome://settings/ in the address bar
  • 2. Type “predict” in “Search settings”
  • 3. Disable the option “Use a prediction service to help complete searches and URLs typed in the address bar” and “Use a prediction service to load pages more quickly”
DNS leak fix in Google chrome

This research was put together with the help of File Descriptor – ethical hacker from Cure53.

P.S. Note that online DNS leak test services like dnsleaktest.com are unable to detect this kind of DNS leak because the DNS requests are only issued under specific circumstances.

74 VPNs Tested for IP, DNS & WebRTC Leaks (15 Leaking)

John Mason

John Mason

We tested 74 VPN (free and paid) services against IP, DNS, WebRTC, and Chrome extension leaks. Below are the results…

There are multiple reasons why VPNs leak.

But a leaking VPN is useless.

You purchase VPN service for one very simple reason: Hide your IP and protect your data while browsing the Internet or using public Wi-Fi.

Leaks completely undermine this vital service, exposing your true location and activities right before the prying eyes of your ISP, government agencies, and cybercriminals.

It’s like buying a vacuum cleaner and having it blow dirt out all over your house.

We don’t take leaks lightly.

Every VPN that we review goes through an extensive leak-detection process. We establish a connection with their servers and then use six different third-party tools to reveal our IP address.

If they don’t match the VPN’s stated server location, it means they are leaking…

Different VPN Leaks + How We Tested

Three most common leaks are:

We used the following sites (in addition to our own Chrome extensions test):

  • https://ipleak.net/
  • https://www.perfect-privacy.com/check-ip
  • https://ipx.ac/run
  • https://browserleaks.com/webrtc
  • https://www.perfect-privacy.com/dns-leaktest/
  • https://dnsleak.com

Unfortunately, this problem isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.

We found leaks in as many as 15 of the 74 VPNs we’ve reviewed. That’s a whopping 21.62% of the ‘best’ VPNs in the marketplace.

Those 15 leakers also occupy bottom 15 ranking spots in our best VPN list. That’s no coincidence.

So which ones are they? Find out in this list of VPNs that threaten your internet security with different leaks.

 

15 VPNs That Leak

  1. Hoxx VPN (free & paid version)
  2. Hola (free version)
  3. VPN.ht (paid version)
  4. SecureVPN (paid version)
  5. DotVPN (free version)
  6. Speedify (free version)
  7. Betternet (free version)
  8. Ivacy (free version)
  9. Touch VPN (paid version)
  10. Zenmate (free version)
  11. Ace VPN (paid version)
  12. AzireVPN (paid version)
  13. BTGuard (paid version)
  14. Ra4w VPN (paid version)
  15. VPN Gate (free version)

Below is a list of both free and paid VPNs where we found DNS, WebRTC, IP, or Chrome extensions leaks:

1. Hoxx VPN – DNS, WebRTC, and Chrome extension leaks found

Server used for testing: Canada

This was a VPN that failed just about every test that we put it through, including half of our leaks tests. WebRTC leaks were just one of the multitude of issues we faced with this problematic system.

They log your information and expose your IP, through both standard WebRTC leaks and Chrome extension leaks. Coupled with its outdated VPN protocols and encryption standards, you’re better off just not using a VPN like this one.

WebRTC Leak (exposing our true IP):

Hoxx DNS leak

DNS Leak:

Hoxx VPN DNS Leak

Chrome extension leak:

Read more in our Hoxx VPN review.

2. Hola VPN – DNS and WebRTC leak

Server used for testing: United States

Hola is one of our lowest ranked VPNs. This free VPN logs your information and uses a sketchy peer to peer connection in lieu of traditional VPN servers.

It might be one of the least secure VPNs we’ve ever seen. It’s another ‘double trouble’ VPN that managed to fail both our browserleak.net and WebRTC tests.

Hola WebRTC leak:

Hola WebRTC leak

Hola DNS leak:

Hola DNS leak

Read more in our Hola VPN review.

3. VPN.ht – IP and DNS leaks detected

Server used for testing: Netherlands

VPN.ht uses a series of adorable aliens to let you know that with their service, you can be completely anonymous.

But apparently, they don’t run leak tests on whatever planet these little guys are from. Aside from the leaks, it was a pretty good VPN. They don’t log any information and they exist outside of the established surveillance alliances. This winning combination always eases my security fears a bit.

I just couldn’t get past the leaks…

We found IP leaks, but Spoiler Alert: this isn’t the last time you’ll be seeing this product on the list.

VPN.ht IP leak:

IP leak on VPN.ht

VPN.ht DNS leak:

vpn ht DNS leak

Read our full VPN.ht review

4. SecureVPN – IP and DNS leak detected

Server used for testing: Netherlands

This VPN claims to hold “the key to online privacy” on their official website. But we found IP leaks that completely undermine this claim.

It’s a shame too because there was really a lot to love about this VPN. Fast speeds coupled with Netflix functionality and torrenting capabilities made it a strong streaming product. But those leaks were just too much to overlook.

SecureVPN IP leak found:

securevpn IP leak

SecureVPN DNS leak found:

DNS Leak

Read our full SecureVPN Review.

5. DotVPN – WebRTC leak detected

Server used for testing: United States

This company claims that they are “a better way to VPN.”

What they ARE is a slow (but affordable) VPN based out of Hong Kong. That means they’re free of the overbearing 5, 9, and 14 Eyes Surveillance alliances that pool government espionage information together. Yet still under China’s “government approval.”

They’re also ripe with WebRTC leaks. This VPN failed our usual WebRTC test.

DotVPN WebRTC leak found:

DotVPN WebRTC Leak

Read more in our DotVPN Review.

6. Speedify – 1 DNS leak detected

Server used for testing: Finland

We found DNS leaks on this VPN, but the presence of a kill switch feature helps somewhat. A kill switch will automatically disconnect you from the VPN service if the signal becomes compromised.

No logging and five simultaneous connections are some of the positives, but they don’t outweigh the danger posed by these leaks.

DNS leak:

speedify DNS leak

Read more in our Speedify VPN Review.

7. Betternet – 1 IP leak through Chrome extension

Server used for testing: United States

Betternet is a 100% free VPN…

… and proof of the old adage that you get what you pay for.

For starters, it’s the slowest app we’ve ever reviewed. If that’s not bad enough, the company sells ads based on your own activity. Security is a huge concern thanks to the company’s policy of data logging.

But all of that pales in comparison to the leaks we found when investigating this service. Betternet’s Chrome browser extension was the main culprit this time.

Not shocking, since 70% of Chrome extensions leak your IP.

Leak through Chrome extension:

IP Leak Through Chrome

Read more in our Betternet Review.

8. Ivacy – 1 IP leak through Chrome extension

Server used for testing: United States

Leaks, limited torrenting, and no Netflix derail what looked on paper to be a decent VPN. This is another one that passed our WebRTC test but failed when we examined their Chrome extension. The presence of a kill switch helps, but not enough.

9. TouchVPN – 1 IP leak through Chrome extension

Server used for testing: United States

TouchVPN is free. But its porous browser extension means it’s still overpriced.

Free was the only positive thing we found to say about this VPN. It’s slow, logs your information, doesn’t work with torrenting or Netflix. Plus, they’re located within the 5 Eyes alliance jurisdiction. Steer clear.

Touch-capturing-events

Read more in our TouchVPN Review.

10. Zenmate – 1 IP leak through Chrome extension

Server used for testing: United States

This app left our IP address completely exposed. It has a decent server park and the built-in kill switch helps security somewhat.

But the presence of leaks plus a problematic logging policy forces us to question whether or not we can trust Zenmate.

Response from Zenmate:

The problem is that WebRTC, as a protocol, leaks IP Addresses under certain circumstances. The change we made that prevents leakage may prevent WebRTC from working, so the user has the ability to switch this off, and use WebRTC. Once switched off, we remind the user to switch is back on as much as we can, but it is up to the user to do so.

Also, our smart locations feature may cause leakage. This feature switches the user’s selected server based upon the website they are visiting so that it is more likely to work that otherwise. This feature, again, may leak IP Addresses under certain circumstances. This feature is valuable to a lot of users as it improves their geo-unblocking where they are not 100% concerned about total security. This feature is turned off by default, but the user has the option to turn it on.

All in all, we are as good as or better than all other VPNs on the market as far as preventing leakage, however not all of our users want this as it may prevent them accessing certain features and function. So, we made is user configurable and warn the user when they may be compromising their configuration. If the test still shows that they are detecting leakage, then it is most likely they need to upgrade their version of the client.

Read more in our Zenmate review.

11. AceVPN – 1 DNS leak detected

Server used for testing: Belgium

AceVPN started off OK. However, results quickly went downhill when we started putting them through our series of tests.

This is a slow-moving system that logs your data and only allows for two simultaneous connections. That being said, it worked with Netflix and features a kill switch.

But the DNS leaks were the last straw.

Ace-currently-used-DNS-server

Read more in our Ace VPN Review.

12. AzireVPN – 1 DNS leak detected

Server used for testing: Sweden

It’s hard to be “privacy-minded” when you’re suffering from DNS leaks. Another one, unfortunately, bites the dust.

On paper, it looked pretty good. No logging and there was Netflix/torrenting support. And with five simultaneous connections, it seemed like a decent VPN that the whole family could enjoy.

A lack of a kill switch coupled with the aforementioned leaks were some of the only dents in this program’s otherwise impressive armor.

Azire-currently-used-DNS-server

13. BTGuard – 1 DNS leak detected

Server used for testing: Netherlands

BTGuard is extremely torrent friendly. Too bad it also suffers from DNS leaks. The point of VPN use while torrenting is to protect your system from malicious hacking attempts made by other users who are connecting to your system.

That protection is meaningless if your IP is exposed. While BTGuard focuses on torrenting services, it tends to ignore most other important features of a modern VPN. They log information, it’s a slow program, they don’t have a kill switch, and they only allow for one connection.

Leaks were just the cherry on top.

BTGuard-used-servers

Read more in our BTGuard Review.

14. Ra4W – 1 Chrome Extension leak detected

Server used for testing: United States

This VPN has secure encryption and an awesome customer service team, but it was undermined by both DNS leaks and some potentially malicious programs that we found in its install file. A kill switch could have gone a long way toward re-instilling some of my faith, but they don’t have one.

Read more in our Ra4W VPN Review.

15. VPN Gate – 1 DNS leak detected

Server used for testing: Belgium

VPN Gate is a free VPN service from Japan. Unfortunately, that gate has a few holes in it in the form of DNS leaks. There’s not a lot to love here aside from the price point and the fact that it worked with Netflix.

Due to the leaks we found, it’s not recommended to use this VPN for anything other than light streaming. Nothing that requires anonymity.

VPNGate-leak-test

Why Do VPNs Leak?

VPNs leak for a variety of reasons. DNS server issues and WebRTC API conflicts can cause your true location to shine through. The problem is that these often strike when you least expect it.

Your VPN connection looks legit. There’s no notifications or other errors. But your ISP, government agencies, or cybercriminals will see absolutely everything.

You can have strict no logging policies, exist outside of every major surveillance alliance, and have lightning speeds, but if a VPN is leaking your IP, you’re toast.

That’s why when you find a VPN that is airtight, with no leaks whatsoever, you should stick to it like glue. Here are some of our favorite.

Top 5 Leak-Free VPNs

  1. ExpressVPN
  • No logging and some advanced encryption make this a security powerhouse.
  • You can torrent away and stream Netflix on some servers, so it’s great for browsing
  • With over 1,500 servers in 93 countries, you can use this VPN for years and never use the same server twice.
  1. NordVPN
  • Six connections and over 3,000 servers make this a truly versatile service.
  • Four out of the six servers we tested worked with Netflix.
  • Super fast speeds and a kill switch ensure that your sessions will be quick and protected.
  1. Perfect Privacy
  • Unlimited connections allow you to connect to multiple devices without ever having to sign out.
  • A strict no logging policy ensures that you remain completely anonymous.
  • Torrent to your heart’s content.

4. CyberGhost

  • 1300 servers in 65 countries with five connections. This is a service that gives you options.
  • Not a part of any major surveillance alliance, so your information is secure.
  • The company won’t log your information, so browse confidently.
  1. Trust.Zone
  • A lightning fast VPN that lets you torrent and watch Netflix.
  • A no logging policy helps but the “trust” in Trust.Zone.
  • Built-in kill switch ensures that even if there were leaks, you would be protected.

For a more in-depth analysis, check out our list of the top ranking VPNs.

What Does Google Know About You: A Complete Guide

John Mason

John Mason

How much does Google really know about you? We did a deep-dive into the data the company collects to find out…

Google might just know you better than anyone.

Thanks to the data the tech giant collects in order to sell ads, Google has a wealth of information on you — from what you look like to where you live and where you’ve traveled. The corporation may even be able to guess your favorite food.

Just how does Google know all of this? Jump to our infographic for a quick overview of everything Google knows about you, or check out our full guide by clicking on the icons below.

How does Google track you?

Although “Google it” has officially entered the cultural lexicon, the mega-corporation is much more than a search engine. It’s through its apps, internet-related services, acquired companies and more that the technology company collects data on you. Below, we’ve broken down the most common app, product or service Google uses to track data, as well as an overview of the specific data collected.

Google app, product or service Data colllected
Google Chrome Browser history, websites visited
Google Search Queries searched
Gmail Contacts, emails sent, emails received, email content/conversations
Ads Ads clicked on, topics interested in
Google Photos People and places tagged
Google Fit Fitness level and goals
Google Maps Locations visited, places searched, methods of transportation, dates of tavel
Google Calendar Upcoming plans and appointments
Google Hangouts Contacts, conversations
YouTube Videos watched, liked and uploaded
Google News News sites visited, stories clicked on
Google Books Books read and searched
Google Shopping Products searched and clicked on
Waze Directions and places searched, locations visited

From what you’ve searched online and the websites you’ve visited to who your contacts are and what you talk about, Google knows a lot about you. The company is then able to take this information and make informed decisions regarding what you might be interested in, which they show you in the form of ads.

what does google know about you

Google’s apps give the company a wealth of information on you, from the personal details that make up who you are to your interests, your past travels and your future goals.

Who You Are

From facial recognition to audio recordings and intuitive search, Google is able to create a comprehensive — and unnervingly correct — profile about what makes you, you.

Your appearance
Thanks to facial recognition in Google Photos, the search engine probably has a pretty good idea of what you look like. In fact, you can create a “label” within Google Photos that’s essentially a tag for each person in your images, and Google is able to separate out that person from every photo you upload — even if the photo only includes a partial picture or is obscured.

Your voice
If you’ve ever used voice commands with Google Home, an Android device, or any other Google product or device, the site has a log of it. In fact, not only can you view your past voice commands in the “Voice and Audio” section of Google’s My Activity section, you can hear them as well. The site keeps a full history of your audio commands, including voice recordings.

Your religious/political beliefs
Have you searched Google for how to donate to a political campaign? Visited a candidate’s website? Watched a sermon on YouTube? Google uses all of this information to build a comprehensive profile that covers everything from whether you’re more religious or spiritual to who you’re probably voting for in the next election.

Your health status
If you use Google Fit, the company probably has a pretty good overview of your health, from how active you are to the calories you burn a day to your fitness goals. But even if you don’t use this Google app, the site probably has a pretty good understanding of the state of your immune system — or at least how you view it — from your Google searches. In fact, compiling search engine data and cross-referencing it against patterns may even allow Google to tell if you’re getting sick or dealing with a medical issue.

Your personal details
Searched Google for the best lactose-free milk? For what to expect when you’re expecting? For how to learn Spanish fast? Everything you search is tracked by Google, which can be used to better understand personal details about your life, from whether you have dietary restrictions to what languages you speak.

Everywhere You’ve Ever Been

Location tracking is one of the areas Google excels in — thanks to advanced location recognition technology, the company knows everything from where you went on vacation two summers ago to what restaurant you eat at most often.

Your home and office
Android phones, which run off of Google’s services, and Pixel, Google’s own phone, track and record your location through several means, including Wi-Fi, GPS and cellular networks. This means that the phone knows everywhere you are, every day, and how long you’re there for.

Google is able to interpret that data and draw conclusions from it — for example, where you live is probably where your phone is for the majority of nights and weekends. In fact, it may only take Google Now three days to determine where you live. For those on Apple devices or other operating systems, Google Maps works in a similar way.

Places you visit
In addition to collecting information about where you live and work, Google is able to track the other places you visit most often. Do you have a favorite coffee shop? A running route? A daycare center you use every weekday? Google probably knows about it.

Places you’ve traveled
Google doesn’t just know the ins and outs of your everyday life. The tech company knows where you’ve traveled too, be it a weekend getaway or a month-long trip to a different country.

Not only can Google track the places you’ve traveled to, it can see what you did while you were there. If you visited a museum in Paris or went line-dancing in Texas, Google knows — down to the exact time you arrived, how long you stayed, and how long it took you to get from one destination to another. The location tracking can even tell the method of transportation you used, like if you walked or took a train.

Additionally, Google’s acquisition of Waze means the site can collect data on where you’ve been even if you’re not connected to Maps or on a Google device.

Who Your Friends Are

Between your contacts and conversations in Gmail and Hangouts and the appointments you make in Google Calendar, the company knows everything from who you’re talking with to when and where you’re seeing them.

Who you talk to
If you use Gmail for your personal or work email, Google has a list of all your contacts, including who you talk to the most: navigate to Google’s “Frequently contacted” section to see which of your Gmail contacts you spend the most time conversing with (and to check if Google’s assessment of who you like the most aligns with your own). Android and Pixel users also give Google access to their phone contacts and text messages.

Where you meet
Meeting a friend for coffee later? If it’s on your Google Calendar, the company knows about it — and, thanks to location tracking, can map your trip from your house to the coffee shop and back. If you take a picture with your friend at the shop and upload it to Google Photos, Google can use facial recognition to add them to their own specific photo album. You can also tag the location the photo was taken as well.

If, years later, you’re trying to remember who you grabbed coffee with that day, Google can help you remember.

What you talk about
Does Google keep track of what you talk about over Gmail? It’s an issue up for debate — the company announced in 2017 that they would stop reading emails for the purposes of creating targeted advertisements. Whether they’ve actually stopped reading them altogether is another matter.

What You Like and Dislike

Google is in the business of knowing what you’re into — it’s how the search engine creates and sells such a personalized advertising experience. From your favorite movie genre to your favorite type of food, Google knows your preferences.

Food, books and movies
Google can use search engine data, like recipes you’ve researched or book titles you’ve searched for, to form an idea of what you like and dislike. Certain apps like Google Books, which keeps tracks of the books you’ve searched and read, deepen this knowledge. Additionally, Google owns YouTube, which means they know which movie trailers you’ve been seeking out.

Google uses this information, as well as the websites you’ve visited and the ads you’ve clicked on, to create a profile of the subjects they think you’re interested in. You can see a full list of who they think you are — down to what shows you watch and what hobbies you pursue in your free time — in their ads dashboard.

Where you shop and what you buy
If you’ve ever used Google Shopping to compare the prices of online vendors, Google knows about it. They also know what products you’ve searched and clicked on through Google Search and can track your website visits and what products you’ve viewed on retailer websites through Google Chrome.

Your Future Plans

Google’s knowledge isn’t limited to what you’ve done in the past or are doing in the present. The company can also use data from their applications and search engine to make predictions about what you’ll be doing in the future.

What you’re interested in buying, seeing or eating
Interested in seeing a new movie? Checking out a new restaurant or taking a weekend trip to a new city? If you’ve used Google Search to look up the movie times, make an online reservation or scout out the best tourist activity, Google knows.

Upcoming trips and reservations
Have you searched restaurants to eat at and shows to go to in the city you’re visiting? Have you created an itinerary in Google Calendar? Google can collect that data in order to assess your upcoming trips. Google also scans your emails to see what flights you have coming up and can automatically add restaurant reservations to your schedule based on confirmations that have been sent to Gmail.

Future life plans
Have you been searching about homeownership? About when the best age to have children is? About tips for travelling to China? Google uses this information to understand more about you and what you want in the future, to better tailor online advertisements to your needs.

Your Online Life

At its most basic, Google is a search engine and internet services company. So, it’s no surprise that in addition to knowing a wealth of your personal details, the site also knows everything there is to know about what you do online.

Websites you’ve visited
Google keeps a comprehensive list of every site you’ve visited on Chrome, from any device. The site also keeps a running tab of every search you’ve run, every ad you’ve clicked on and every YouTube video you’ve watched.

Your browsing habits
From how many sites you have bookmarked to how many passwords Chrome auto-fills, Google has a comprehensive understanding of your browser habits, including:

  • Your apps from the Chrome Web Store and the Google Play Store
  • Your extensions from the Chrome Web Store
  • The browser settings you’ve changed in Chrome
  • Email addresses, addresses and phone numbers you’ve set to autofill in Chrome
  • All the website addresses you’ve ever entered in the address bar
  • The pages you have bookmarked in Chrome
  • All the passwords you’ve asked Chrome to save for you
  • A list of sites you’ve told Chrome not to save passwords for
  • All the Chrome tabs that are open across your devices
  • The number of Gmail conversations you’ve had
  • How many Google searches you’ve made this month
how can you stop Google from tracking you

If you’re unnerved by the amount of information Google has on you, there are several steps you can take to get around the company’s relentless tracking.

  1. Use a VPN
  2. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure option to keep Google from tracking you while you’re online. Although virtual private networks can’t completely keep the company from accessing your data, they do hide your IP address, encrypt your internet traffic and make your browsing history private, keeping your online actions much more secure.

  3. Use private browsing
  4. Use Google’s Incognito Mode to ensure that the pages you access won’t show up in your browsing history or search history. Be aware, however, that other websites can still collect and share information about you, even when you’re using private browsing.

  5. Adjust your privacy settings
  6. Check out Google’s Activity Controls to change what data is stored about you and visit your Activity Page to delete stored history and activity.

  7. Turn off location reporting
  8. In Google Maps — as well as in your Android and Pixel device settings, if you use those products — disable location reporting to keep Google from tracking where you are and where you go. If you use Google Maps or Waze for directions, though, the company can still collect location data on you when you’re using those apps.

  9. Use a different browser and search engine
  10. To stop Google from tracking your searches and website visits, you can use another browser and search engine, like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Bing. However, this will only stop Google from tracking you — Microsoft (or whatever company owns the browser you switch to) will get your data instead.

  11. Delete your Google accounts
  12. To truly stop the tech giant from tracking you, you’ll need to take drastic measures — namely, disavowing the use of any of the company’s products. That means deleting any apps linked to the company, including Gmail, Google Drive and any Android devices, and moving to a different browser and search engine.

Google has made life a lot simpler in many ways. Google Search has made answers just a click away. Google Maps has made directions easy to find and understand. Google Drive has made working across multiple platforms seamless.

This convenience comes with a price: privacy. If you’re concerned about how Google is tracking you — and what they’re doing with the data — follow the steps above to keep yourself safe, and visit Google’s Privacy Site for a more comprehensive overview of what data Google is tracking and how they use it.

what-does-google-know
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7 Fastest VPN Services in 2018

Brad Smith

Brad Smith

In this case-study, we tested 70+ VPNs and their download/upload speeds across the United States and Europe. Results? All VPNs slow down your connection a bit…

VPNs boost security, but slow speeds.

That’s unfortunate. And there’s no way to solve one without the other.

The extra VPN funnel to secure your entire connection adds layers of encrypted security, which inevitably dings server speeds.

fast vpn
Example of a fast VPN provider

But how do you find a fast VPN?

The good news is that the best VPNs in existence only see a negligible drop in performance.

The bad news is that many of the bad ones siphon off so many resources that it makes web browsing a drag and streaming HD video content nearly impossible.

It could be the greatest anonymous system known to man, with no logging, unlimited torrenting, Netflix functionality, and a killer price tag.

But if it’s killing 95% of your speed, it’s not worth it.

There are four main reasons why a VPN will slow your internet speed to a crawl:

  1. Encryption: When a VPN sends information across the web, it encases it in advanced encryption to keep prying eyes from seeing our activity and data. High-quality encryption pulls a lot of CPU power, so the better the encryption is, the more speed it’s going to pull away. That’s why we say that decreased speed is the cost of security.
  2. Physical Distance from VPN Server: Signal deteriorates over distance, so where you are as it pertains to your VPN’s server will dictate speed loss.
  3. User Overload: The more people pulling at a server the more bandwidth is eaten up. Low bandwidth means low performance which also means low speed. This is usually not an issue for higher quality VPN systems, because they’re built to handle the load.
  4. Your ISP Speed: It stands to reason that the slower the speed you start out with is, the slower your VPN speed will be. Speed loss is more noticeable on systems that weren’t getting great speeds to begin with.

We tested 70+ VPN speed using speedtest.net. We used 100 Mbps up and 55 Mbps down Internet connection (cable). Read more about our review process here.

The 7 Fastest VPNs

We’ve reviewed 74 VPNs to date. Some were awesome. Most were ‘meh.’ And a few were downright shocking.

What’s interesting to note is that only one of these VPNs are in our top ten. And only one other is in the top 20.

How can that be? Let’s find out!

1. PersonalVPN

PersonalVPN speed test
  • Overall Rank: 20/74
  • EU Download Speed: 73.78 Mbps
  • US Download Speed: 125.58 Mbps
  • Logging Policy: Logs Some Information
  • Leaks: IP Leaks Detected
  • Torrenting: Not Allowed
  • Netflix: Did Not Work

This is the fastest VPN we’ve seen. By far.

Check out these results:

US Server:

PersonalVPN US server results
  • Ping: 118ms
  • Download: 125.53 Mbps (45% faster)
  • Upload: 29.38 Mbps (13% slower)

EU Server:

PersonalVPN EU server results
  • Ping: 118ms
  • Download: 73.78 Mbps (15% slower)
  • Upload: 40.69 Mbps (21% faster)

The US server speeds were actually faster than our benchmark download speeds!

To put it mildly:

That’s amazing.

There’s a lot to love besides speed, too.

Witopia also offers four different VPN tunneling protocols (OpenVPN, L2TP, IPSec, and PPTP), plus bulletproof AES-256 encryption. This VPN doesn’t play around when it comes to safety.

Unfortunately, there were a few drawbacks.

For starters, they log your information. Like….a lot of it. There were tons of IP leaks, exposing our true location and shattering the anonymity of the product.

And while those speeds were awesome, the fact that you can’t watch Netflix or torrent means you can’t really get the full effect.

This is the fastest VPN we’ve ever seen. But in our official review, we did not recommend it.

2. Hide My IP

Hide My IP review
  • Overall Rank: 43/74
  • EU Download Speed: 81.66 Mbps
  • US Download Speed: 81.61 Mbps
  • Logging Policy: Some Logging
  • Leaks: No Leaks
  • Torrenting: Allows Torrenting
  • Netflix: Does Not Work With Netflix

Our Hide My IP EU and US speed tests were nearly identical in terms of download speeds. That’s a good thing, showing that they’re able to consistently post strong server speeds.

EU Speed Test:

HideMyIP EU speed test results
  • Ping: 44 ms
  • Download: 81.61 Mbps (16% slower)
  • Upload: 20.36 Mbps (61% slower)

US Speed Test:

HideMyIP USA speed test results
  • Ping: 113 ms
  • Download: 81.66 Mbps (16% slower)
  • Upload: 19.99 Mbps (62% slower)

Our benchmark means that your speeds might only decline a few percentage points with Hide My IP. You probably won’t even notice it, to be honest.

We also found no leaks at all. So it’s a strong system.

Where does it go wrong then?

Unfortunately, Hide My IP thinks it’s ok to log your information. They don’t track your activity, but they are keeping some of your personal data.

It allows torrenting with no restrictions, but none of the servers that we tested worked with Netflix. So, that’s a bummer.

Also, they’re located smack in the middle of the 5 Eyes Surveillance Alliance, which is an agreement between the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to share espionage information.

So if Hide My IP ponies up the information they’re logging, it’s going to be shared with four other governments. Read more about Hide My IP VPN in our review.

3. Private Tunnel

Private tunnel review
  • Overall Rank: 32/74
  • EU Download Speed: 90.59 Mbps
  • US Download Speed: 69.29 Mbps
  • Logging Policy: Some Logging
  • Leaks: No Leaks
  • Torrenting: No Torrenting
  • Netflix: Does Not Work With Netflix

Private Tunnel’s combined speed placed them as the third fastest VPN on our list.

EU Speed Test:

Private Tunnel EU speed test results
  • Ping: 35ms
  • Download: 90.59 Mbps (6.6% slower)
  • Upload: 46.37 Mbps (12.6% slower)

US Speed Test:

Private Tunnel USA speed test results
  • Ping: 121ms
  • Download: 69.29 Mbps (28.6% slower)
  • Upload: 24.62 Mbps (53.6% slower)

The EU test was much better than the US, but still, it was a strong outing across the board.

Not only is this VPN fast, but this company created the OpenVPN protocol (the industry-standard protocol today).

So they’re like celebrities in the cybersecurity space.

There are a few issues, though.

Their local US jurisdiction is a problem for those who don’t want their data shared across half the globe.

And for a VPN with such amazing speed, they offer no official torrenting support and Netflix was blocked on all five servers that we checked.

It might be the third fastest VPN we’ve seen, but we did not recommend using it in our official review.

4. Private Internet Access

PIA speed test
  • Overall Rank: 9/74
  • EU Download Speed: 81.46 Mbps
  • US Download Speed: 77.56 Mbps
  • Logging Policy: No Logging
  • Leaks: No Leaks
  • Torrenting: Torrenting Allowed
  • Netflix: Does Not Work With Netflix

Private Internet Access is the highest ranked overall VPN on this list.

We ranked this product as the ninth VPN we’ve reviewed. And with good reason.

Speeds were awesome, as should come as no shock.

We tested a number of servers and were very impressed. Take a look:

EU Speed Test:

PIA USA speed test
  • Ping: 41ms
  • Download: 81.46 Mbps (15% slower)
  • Upload: 40.30 Mbps (29% slower)

US Speed Test:

PIA speed test US
  • Ping: 118ms
  • Download: 77.56 Mbps (19% slower)
  • Upload: 36.75 Mbps (34% slower)

Those speeds, coupled with a strict no-logging policy, full torrenting allowance, and no leaks made this a fantastic option.

Of course, they weren’t perfect.

None of the servers we tested worked with Netflix, for starters, and their US jurisdiction does create some surveillance issues.

For more information, check out our official review.

5. BolehVPN

BolehVPN speed test
  • Overall Rank: 34/74
  • EU Download Speed: 88.41 Mbps
  • US Download Speed: 62.85 Mbps
  • Logging Policy: Logs Traffic
  • Leaks: No Leaks
  • Torrenting: Torrenting Allowed
  • Netflix: 1/5 Worked With Netflix

BolehVPN produced slightly mixed results.

The upload speeds were consistent across both servers. But the EU download speeds were significantly faster than the US one.

Take a look.

EU Speed Test:

BolehVPN EU speed test results
  • Ping: 47ms
  • Download: 88.41 Mbps (9% slower)
  • Upload: 36.63 Mbps (31% slower)

US Speed Test:

BolehVPN USA speed test results
  • Ping: 117 ms
  • Download: 62.85 Mbps (35% slower)
  • Upload: 35.38 Mbps (38% slower)

Plus, they allow torrenting and one of the servers worked with Netflix. So you can get full use of those strong speeds.

Why didn’t we recommend this VPN in our review, then?

It logs some information, has a limited number of servers, and we had an overall clunky experience working with the app.

6. VPN.ac

VPN.ac speed test
  • Overall Rank: 46/74
  • EU Download Speed: 90.22 Mbps
  • US Download Speed: 58.53 Mbps
  • Logging Policy: Logs Some Info
  • Leaks: No Leaks
  • Torrenting: Torrenting Limited
  • Netflix: Does Not Work With Netflix

VPN.ac produced blazing-fast EU speeds and pretty good US ones.

EU Speed Test:

VPN.ac speed test results in EU
  • Ping: 33 ms
  • Download: 90.22 Mbps (7% slower)
  • Upload: 48.76 Mbps (8% slower)

US Speed Test:

VPN.ac speed test results in US
  • Ping: 115 ms
  • Download: 58.53 Mbps (40% slower)
  • Upload: 25.60 Mbps (51% slower)

There were no IP leaks found in this VPN, and they don’t log any major information. (Just your email address which isn’t enough to identify you.)

That being said, they limit their torrenting services to a few servers. And none of the servers we tested worked with Netflix. That’s a shame with such impressive speed.

Overall, they were only able to come in at number 46 out of 74. Read more about their service in our review.

7. Astrill

AstrillVPN speed test
  • Overall Rank: 25/74
  • EU Download Speed: 69.08 Mbps
  • US Download Speed: 78.65 Mbps
  • Logging Policy: Logs Some Info
  • Leaks: No Leaks
  • Torrenting: Torrenting Allowed
  • Netflix: 3/5 Worked With Netflix

Rounding out our list of the seven fastest VPNs is Astrill, a strong middle-of-the-road option that doesn’t drop the server speed.

EU Speed Test:

Astrill speed test results in EU
  • Ping: 44 ms
  • Download: 69.08 Mbps (29% slower)
  • Upload: 53.30 Mbps (0.6% faster)

US Speed Test:

Astrill Speed test US
  • Ping: 182 ms
  • Download: 78.65 Mbps (19% slower)
  • Upload: 18.99 Mbps (64% slower)

Astrill VPN works well with torrenting. And this was also the best option for streaming services (3 out of 5 Netflix servers worked) on this list.

Unfortunately, some shady logging policies in their privacy policy undermine the good results we saw. We discuss it at length in our official review.

The 3 Slowest VPNs

You’ve seen the best.

Now here are the rest. Or worst, when it comes to speed.

These last three VPNs sap away speed at an alarming rate. But they’re not all bad. In fact, one of them even ranks higher than some of the earlier VPN services above.

Here’s how they shake out.

1. Avira Phantom

Avira speed test
  • Overall Rank: 33/74
  • EU Download Speed: 6.98 Mbps
  • US Download Speed: 4.34 Mbps
  • Logging Policy: Unclear Logging Policy
  • Leaks: No Leaks
  • Torrenting: Torrenting Allowed
  • Netflix: 1/5 Worked With Netflix

There’s no doubt about it.

Avira Phantom is a slow program. They do have some positive features, but the speeds are downright abysmal.

EU Speed Test:

Avira EU speed test
  • Ping: 40ms
  • Download: 6.98 Mbps (93% slower)
  • Upload: 9.02 Mbps (83% slower)

US Speed Test:

Avira US speed test
  • Ping: 194 ms
  • Download: 4.34 Mbps (96% slower)
  • Upload: 2.23 Mbps (96% slower)

That’s ridiculously slow.

That being said, torrenting is allowed and one out of five tested servers worked with Netflix.

But, as you can see in our official review, the speed loss coupled with a shady logging policy made us pass on this one.

2. Hide All IP

Hide ALL IP speed test
  • Overall Rank: 49/74
  • EU Download Speed: 5.31 Mbps
  • US Download Speed: 2.58 Mbps
  • Logging Policy: No Logging
  • Leaks: No Leaks
  • Torrenting: Torrenting Allowed
  • Netflix: 3/5 Worked With Netflix

Hide All IP doesn’t just hurt your speed. It guts it with a rusty kitchen knife.

This Hong Kong-based VPN slows you down by upwards of 94%.

EU Speed Test:

Hide ALL IP EU speed test
  • Ping: 74 ms
  • Download: 5.1 Mbps (94.5% slower)
  • Upload: 3.16 Mbps (94% slower)

US Speed Test:

Hide ALL IP US speed test
  • Ping: 149 ms
  • Download: 2.58 Mbps (97% slower)
  • Upload: 1.07 (98% slower)

This was an all-around bad VPN, with questionable logging policies, Chinese jurisdiction, and only one connection per account. On their poorly translated website, they tout their ability to provide geo-blocked streaming services.

And we found that Netflix worked on one (out of five) servers. Plus, they allow unlimited torrenting.

But both will be affected by such slow speeds.

Read more about why we don’t recommend Hide All IP in our official review.

3. Betternet

Betternet speed test
  • Overall Rank: 69/74
  • EU Download Speed: 3.18 Mbps
  • US Download Speed: 2.53 Mbps
  • Logging Policy: Some Logging
  • Leaks: IP Leaks Detected
  • Torrenting: Torrenting Allowed
  • Netflix: Did Not Work With Netflix

Betternet is a free VPN. And you get what you pay for in this case.

EU Speed Test:

Betternet EU speed test
  • Ping: 64 ms
  • Download: 3.18 Mbps (97% slower)
  • Upload: 12.41 Mbps (76% slower)

That is one slow system.

Our tests revealed that Netflix doesn’t work. Torrenting is allowed but with download speeds around two and three Mbps, you’re not going to download anything.

Betternet is the slowest VPN we’ve reviewed.

But incredibly, they’re not the lowest overall VPN on our list. Their 69th position means that there are still a few others with the distinction of somehow being ranked below the slowest VPN in the marketplace.

There are many factors that make a VPN great (or not). But speed is often the Achilles Heel.

For more on what makes a VPN truly impressive, check out our list of the 10 best VPNs.

Best VPN Protocols: OpenVPN vs PPTP vs L2TP vs Others

Brad Smith

Brad Smith

I wrote this article to help you understand the difference between VPN tunneling protocols, such as OpenVPN, IKEv2, PPTP, and others.

Best VPN ProtocolsA VPN will help to protect your privacy and secure your data whenever you’re using the internet. But, beyond choosing the best VPN, you’ll also need to choose the best VPN protocol for your needs.

The VPN protocol is how your VPN will secure the transferring of data. There’s a multitude of different protocols that are based on the operating system, platform, performance, and lot more.

Below we explore the most popular VPN protocols, so you can decide which one is best for you.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the seven biggest VPN protocols today:

OpenVPN PPTP L2TP/IPsec SoftEther WireGuard SSTP IKEv2/IPSec
Encryption 160-bit, 256-bit 128-bit 256-bit 256-bit ChaCha20 256-bit 256-bit
Security Very high Weak High security (might be weakened by NSA) High High High High
Speed Fast Speedy, due to low encryption Medium, due to double encapsulation Very fast Fast Fast Very fast
Stability Very stable Very stable Stable Very stable Not yet stable Very stable Very stable
Compatibility Strong desktop support, but mobile could be improved. Requires third-party software. Strong Windows desktop support. Multiple device and platform support. Multiple desktop and mobile OS support. No native operating system support. Linux, being built for other platforms and operating systems. Windows-platform, but works on other Linux distributions. Limited platform support beyond Windows and Blackberry
Final Word Most recommended choice. Fast and secure. Native on Windows. Weak security. Useful for geo-restricted content. Versatile and secure. A decent alternative to OpenVPN. Up and coming. Flexible, fast, and secure. A great alternative to OpenVPN. Has promise to be fast and efficient. Still in development. Faster and more secure alternative to PPTP and L2TP. Secure, stable, and mobile-oriented.

1. OpenVPN – Recommended, Most Popular

OpenVPN is the VPN protocol you’ll want to be using. It’s the most recommended choice by leading VPN providers today. Kind of a no-brainer. It’s one of the newer VPN protocols, but it’s flexibility and security have made it one of the most commonly used.

It relies upon open source technologies like the OpenSSL encryption library and SSL V3/TLS V1 protocols. The open source nature of OpenVPN means the technology is maintained, updated, and inspected by a community of supporters.

When traffic passes through an OpenVPN connection it’s hard to differentiate between an HTTPS over SSL connection. The ability to hide in plain sight makes it less vulnerable to hacking, and more difficult to block.

Plus, it can run on any port, using both UDP and TCP protocols, so getting around firewalls won’t be a problem. However, if you’re looking for speed, then using the UDP port will be the most efficient.

In terms of security, it has a variety of methods and protocols like OpenSLL and HMAC authentication and shared keys. To take the security standards even further it’s commonly coupled with AES encryption. Other VPN protocols have been subject to NSA and other hacking, but so far, OpenVPN has managed to stay in the clear.

The additional cryptic algorithms it supports are:

  • 3DES
  • AES
  • Camellia
  • Blowfish
  • CAST-128

It’s recommended to use AES encryption if security is your main concern. This is essentially the “gold standard”, and currently has no known weaknesses. It’s 128-bit block size also gives it solid capabilities to handle larger files, without a reduction in performance.

Still, OpenVPN isn’t perfect:

You’ll still need to install a third-party application to use this type of connection. It still isn’t supported by any platforms, but most third party software providers, like Android and iOS, are supported.

Setting up OpenVPN on your own can be a bit tricky. Especially, when compared to PPTP or L2TP. However, most VPN clients are able to offer a customized setup, which gets you around any configuration difficulties.

If you do want to set up OpenVPN yourself, the high level of configuration can be disadvantageous as you’ll be less secure if it’s set up the wrong way.

Plus, you can even use OpenVPN to connect over the mobile Apple iOS. Say hello to an encrypted and private mobile connection.

The Pros of OpenVPN:

  • The protocol can bypass most firewalls
  • It’s open source and vetted by third-parties
  • It has a very high level of security
  • It works with multiple methods of encryption
  • It can be configured and customized to your liking
  • It can bypass firewalls
  • It supports a variety of cryptic algorithms

The Cons of OpenVPN:

  • The setup process can be technical
  • It relies upon third-party software to operate
  • Desktop support and functionality are strong, but mobile is lacking

2. PPTP

Think about the security standards of the web back in 1995. Did those even exist? Well, that’s when PPTP became a VPN protocol. It was developed by a consortium founded by Microsoft and was the standard for VPN connections back in the dial-up days.

PPTP, also known as point-to-point tunneling protocol, is over 20 years old by now. Even being that old, it’s still the standard for internal business VPNs. It’s a popular choice since it’s already installed on most devices and platforms, is easy to setup, it’s efficient, and no additional software is needed. To establish a secure connection all you need is a username, password, and server address.

For example, office buildings with older infrastructure, who need to internally secure data could use this connection. Or users who are running an older Windows operating system. If it’s all you have, it’s better than nothing.

When it was first released with Windows 95 there were a number of security weaknesses that were exploited. Today it’s upgraded it’s encryption protocols to 128-bit key encryption, which isn’t awful, but if security is a concern you could do better. Even Microsoft recommends that users looking for higher security standards should use SSTP or L2TP.

Still, this low level of encryption does help to make it one of the fastest VPN protocols.

It’s also been known to be easily decrypted and hacked by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. This decryption also took place at the time when security experts considered PPTP secure.

PPTP is usually only used today due to its high performance and stability. Think accessing geo-restricted content, or getting access to Netflix. Overall, it’s an old and outdated VPN protocol, but still serves a small purpose for users who aren’t concerned with security.

The Pros of PPTP:

  • It’s very fast
  • It’s already built into most platforms
  • It’s easy to configure and setup

The Cons of PPTP:

  • It has security holes (one of the least secure VPN protocols)
  • It’s been compromised by the NSA
  • It can be blocked by firewalls

3. L2TP/IPsec

L2TP is a VPN protocol that doesn’t offer any encryption or protection from the traffic that passes through the connection. For this reason, it’s usually paired with IPSec, which is an encryption protocol.

It’s an extension of the PPTP protocol and utilizes a process called double encapsulation (which led to its initial rise in popularity). The first encapsulation establishes a PPP connection, while the second contains IPSec encryption.

It does have support for AES-256 encryption algorithms, which are some of the most secure. But, the stronger encryption protocols you use the slower your performance will be.

This protocol is built into most desktop and mobile operating systems, which makes it easier to implement. But, it can only use UDP port 500 for a connection, which makes it pretty easy to block by NAT firewalls. So, additional configuration is needed if this is going to be used behind a firewall.

It does have an advantage in that this style of connection prevents the data from being accessed between the sender and receiver. So, this can help to prevent any middle-man hacking attempts.

IPSec encryption is secure. Yet, both Edward Snowden and John Gilmore, a founding member of the EFF, suggest that the protocol has been deliberately weakened by the NSA.

It’s a slower connection because traffic must first be converted into the L2TP form, and you have an additional layer of encryption on top of that. It’s not as an efficient solution as OpenVPN, but it is easy to set up.

The Pros of L2TP/IPsec:

  • It’s available on nearly all devices and operating systems
  • The setup process is easy
  • It has high (yet weakened) levels of security
  • It does support multithreading for improved performance

The Cons of L2TP/IPsec:

  • It can be blocked by firewalls
  • The NSA might have weakened the protocol, making it less secure
  • It doesn’t have the fastest speeds, due to double encapsulation

4. SoftEther

SoftEther is an open-source multi-protocol VPN software. What began as an academic project at the University of Tsukuba has grown into a VPN technology that’s used by millions of people worldwide.

The biggest reason for its widespread growth is that it’s free, and it works across the Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, FreeBSD, and Solaris operating systems. Not only that it supports multiple different protocols, like OpenVPN, EtherIP, SSTP, L2TP/IPSec, and a lot more.

Basically, you can set it up to run on your operating system of choice and use whichever VPN protocol you desire. This unparalleled flexibility and support across multiple platforms have led to its insane growth.

It utilizes 256-bit AES encryption, which is one of the most secure forms of encryption available.

With SoftEther you get a flexible and fast VPN, that utilizes the latest encryption protocols. It’s newer, so it doesn’t have the same legacy as OpenVPN, but it’s an up and coming alternative. It offers you a nice blend of performance and security.

The Pros of SoftEther:

  • It supports a multitude of desktop and mobile operating systems
  • It’s entirely open source
  • It can bypass most firewalls
  • It’s fast but doesn’t compromise on security

The Cons of SoftEther:

  • It’s relatively new
  • It doesn’t have native operating system support
  • A lot of existing VPNs don’t offer it, yet

5. WireGuard

WireGuard is an innovative and cutting-edge VPN protocol that’s been developed to optimize performance. The implementation is small, making it a much more lightweight project in terms of the code base. By having a simpler codebase it’s easier for developers to integrate.

The goal of the project is to create an alternative to IPSec, that’s lighter, faster, and leaner. It was originally released on the Linux platform, but it’s on its way towards cross-platform compatibility and can be deployed across a variety of different distributions.

WireGuard shines in its simplicity.

It only supports a single cryptographic suite, which keeps the design simple and leads to fewer security holes. The algorithm choice is also incredibly simple, which helps to reduce any security bugs, now and in the future.

However, keep in mind that WireGuard is not yet complete. It’s still a work in progress and the team is working towards a stable release.

Early signs point towards it being a widely used, fast and efficient VPN protocol in the future. If you want to deploy it keep in mind there may be some security vulnerabilities, and it won’t be as secure as other stable VPN protocols highlighted in this list.

The Pros of WireGuard:

  • It’s simple and lightweight
  • It’s fast and secure
  • It takes a minimalist approach to a VPN protocol
  • It has potential to become the VPN of the future

The Cons of WireGuard:

  • It doesn’t have a stable release
  • Only technical Linux users can effectively implement
  • It’s not as flexible as other VPN protocols

6. SSTP

SSTP was developed by Microsoft and introduced with the Windows Vista release. It is still considered Windows-only even though there is support for other operating systems. Since it’s integrated into Windows it is a very stable VPN protocol.

There is support for other systems, like Linux, SEIL, and RouterOS, but the adoption isn’t as widespread.

It’s typically configured with AES encryption, so it’s incredibly secure and a much better option than the PPTP protocol. It also uses the SSL v3 connection (similar to OpenVPN), which will help to prevent any NAT firewall issues and blocking.

The SSTP protocol uses a similar authentication method to an SSL/TLS connection. In order for any data or traffic to be transmitted both ends of the connection must be authenticated with a secret key. This helps to create an incredibly secure connection.

However, SSTP is still owned and maintained entirely by Microsoft. Although no security holes have been reported, they do have a history of cooperating with the NSA. So, it hasn’t been proven, but there is speculation that there may be backdoors built in.

Overall, it offers a similar connection as OpenVPN but is more oriented towards Windows. It has better security than the L2TP connection and is all around better than PPTP.

The Pros of SSTP:

  • It can bypass most firewalls
  • It has a high level of security
  • Integrated into the Windows platform with Microsoft support
  • It supports a wide range of cryptic algorithms
  • It’s easy to use

The Cons of SSTP:

  • It’s entirely owned and maintained by the Microsoft Corporation
  • It only works well on Windows platforms
  • It hasn’t been audited by an independent third-party

7. IKEv2/IPSec

IKEv2 is based upon IPSec and was created as a joint project between Microsoft and Cisco. Although it’s not technically a VPN protocol, it behaves like one and helps to control IPSec key exchange.

It currently comes installed on any generation of Windows, starting with Windows 7. Plus, there is an existing implementation for Linux, Blackberry devices, and other platforms. If you’re a Blackberry user, it’s one of the few supported VPNs.

If you want a consistent VPN connection, even while switching networks, then this protocol can be very useful.

It’ll make sure you keep a VPN connection, even if your internet or connection drops. Plus, it’s stable, secure, and has high performance.

The core focus is for mobile users who demand a secure and private connection. Since it offers support for MOBIKE, it’s very resistant to any network changes. So, as you switch from a wifi connection to a data connection the VPN connection will remain throughout.

It’s not widely supported but does offer better security levels than L2TP, as well as improved speeds and stability.

The Pros of IKEv2/IPSec:

  • It’s very secure and supports a wide range of encryption protocols
  • It’s very stable, even when the network connection is lost
  • It’s easy to setup
  • One of the fastest VPN protocols

The Cons of IKEv2/IPSec:

  • Its support for platforms is limited
  • It has the same drawbacks as IPSec
  • It can be blocked by firewalls

How Do The Different VPN Protocols Stack Up?

how do different vpon protocols stack up

All the VPN protocols above have various strengths and weaknesses. Some are more widely used, while others serve more specific niches and problems.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how each VPN protocol stands out:

OpenVPN is the most often recommended, and widely used VPN protocol. It’s fast, secure, and open source, so it can be vetted and improved by third-parties. The only real downside is the difficulty in setup and configuration. Failing to set it up the right way could lead to security holes and lackluster performance.

PPTP is already installed on most older Windows operating systems, making it an attractive option. But, it’s generally very insecure and should be avoided, if privacy is a concern. It stands out with its compatibility, ease of setup, and speed. It can work for accessing geo-restricted content, but if you’re doing anything else, you should at the very least opt for L2TP/IPSec.

L2TP/IPSec is a solid VPN choice if you’re not exchanging sensitive data. It’s basically an improved version of PPTP. Some older devices and platforms won’t support OpenVPN, so this could be an attractive option. The only real downside is it’s security standards, which have been weakened and compromised by the NSA.

SoftEther is a newer VPN protocol, but don’t let its youth fool you. It offers similar features to OpenVPN but offers even greater levels of flexibility. With the ability to integrate across multiple different platforms and operating systems it’ll be hard to find a setup where this protocol can’t be used. Plus, it’s fast and secure. It doesn’t have the legacy and stability of OpenVPN but is a contender in its own right.

WireGuard is an up and coming VPN protocol. The current release is best suited for technical Linux users, but support for other platforms and operating systems is in the works. It shines in its lean nature, speed, and security. By having less moving parts and selection it’s easier to maintain and catch any security issues. It’s currently working towards a stable release, so it’s not recommended for non-technical users, but the future of this VPN protocol is bright.

SSTP is a solid choice for Windows users. It offers you similar security and speed as OpenVPN, but there is one big downside. Since it’s created by Microsoft there is no vetting by any outside third-parties. This means there could be backdoors built into the code, which compromises the overall security. Other platforms and operating systems can implement SSTP, but it’s poorly supported.

IKEv2/IPSec is a solid fast and secure VPN protocol. It stands out in its ability to maintain a secure VPN connection, even while the connection is lost, or you’re switching networks. Its primary use is for mobile networks. Also, if you’re a Blackberry user then this VPN protocol will be your protocol of choice.

Which VPN Protocol to Use?

which vpn protocol to use

By now your head is probably spinning trying to decide which VPN protocol to use.

Overall, it depends on your needs, and why you’re using a VPN. But, to keep things simple—you can’t go wrong when using OpenVPN.

Still not sure?

Here’s a breakdown that’ll help you choose the best VPN protocol:

  • OpenVPN is fast, flexible, and secure. No matter your operating system or platform, you’re covered.
  • PPTP should almost never be used. It’s easy to setup and fast, but it’s incredibly insecure.
  • L2TP/IPSec is a step up from PPTP, but it’s also one of the slowest connections, and its security is questionable.
  • SSTP is pretty good for Windows users. It’s fast and easy to setup, but once again you don’t know how secure and private your connection is.
  • IKEv2/IPSec is a pretty good choice for mobile users and a must-have for Blackberry users. But, beyond that go with OpenVPN.
  • SoftEther is good OpenVPN contender. If you’re willing to use a newer VPN protocol, instead of the legacy of OpenVPN, then this a great second choice.
  • WireGuard should really only be used by technical Linux users. Once the release is stable it may gain more traction, but general VPN users should wait it out.

Hopefully, you have more clarity on choosing the right VPN protocol for your needs. Currently, OpenVPN still reigns supreme as the best VPN protocol. But, with up and coming protocols like SoftEther, it’s hard to say how long it’ll be number one.

Still, have questions about which VPN protocol is right for you? Please share your comments, concerns, and questions in the comments below.

How to Save Money with a VPN: The Ultimate Guide

John Mason

John Mason

We tested VPN servers in 19 countries against five types of online purchases to see how much money you can save by changing your location.

Using a VPN is a must for those looking to protect their privacy and browse the internet anonymously. The benefits of using a virtual private network extend far beyond privacy and security. For example, did you know that using a VPN could save you between hundreds and thousands of dollars on online purchases?

Several online purchase sites change their rates depending on the country you’re located in or based on your previous online activity. Using a VPN allows you to circumvent location monitoring and web tracking and see the prices available in other countries.

How Much is Your Location Costing You?

To see how you can save by changing your location, we tested ExpressVPN, NordVPN and CyberGhost on popular online purchases. In total, we were able to save between $50 and $1,000, depending on the purchase.

Jump to our infographic to see how we did it, or check out our full findings on each purchase by clicking on the icons below.

how to save money on airfare

The price of airline tickets commonly fluctuates depending on the location. Airfare sites use your browsing history (collected by tracking cookies) to determine if you’ve viewed a certain flight on their site before. If you have, they raise prices. Using a VPN allows you to circumvent this by hiding your browsing history, so airfare sites can’t raise prices based on return visits.

Additionally, the location you’re buying the ticket from can make a big difference. In fact, research has shown that retailers often use dynamic pricing to decide how much they’ll charge you.

Dynamic pricing allows online retailers to charge different prices based on how much they think a user will spend, taking factors like device type and zip code into consideration. For example, users located in zip codes or countries with higher income averages may see more expensive prices from online retailers.

To see how location affected our airfare prices, we used a VPN to compare the prices of booking a round-trip United flight from Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport to California’s Los Angeles International Airport from 20 different countries. Our maximum amount saved (between the lowest price found through a server in Poland and the highest price in the United States), was $1,121.29.

Booking a Flight from KUL to LAX

how to save money on rental cars

Rental cars are another popular expense that varies in price depending on the location you’re in. The fluctuation in prices for rental cars is largely caused by location surcharges, local taxes, and insurance costs that vary depending on what country you’re in.

To demonstrate this, we looked at the price of renting a Mitsubishi Mirage from Enterprise Rent-a-Car for a week in Philadelphia from a server in the United States and a server in Spain. The cost per week for the United States was $265.76 without tax; it came to $400.74 with tax.

When we looked at the price of the car from a server in Spain, the price was €206,29 (or $238.17) — for the whole week. This is because the tax and fee details are included in the weekly price of renting from Europe, but not when renting in the United States.

Cost when IP address is set to the United States:

Rental car cost with US server Rental car taxes with US server

Cost when IP address is set to Spain:

Rental car cost in Spain Rental car taxes in Spain

Since not every country has an Enterprise Rent-a-Car website, we used also Kayak to get a better representation of how the price of renting a car varies across countries.

When we were connected to a server in the United States, we saw the set prize as $492.00. However, this price changed dramatically as we changed our location to other countries.

Cost when IP address is set to the United States:

Rental car cost in US

Cost when IP address is set to Azerbaijan ($290.47 USD):

Rental car cost Azerbaijan

Cost when IP address is set to China ($301.65 USD):

Rental car cost in China

Cost when IP address is set to Japan ($342.71 USD):

Rental car cost in Japan

We looked at the cost of renting a Chrysler 200 in Philadelphia, which is the most expensive rental car market in the United States. In total, we found that the priciest place to rent the car from was the United States, at $492 per day, while the cheapest location, at $221.72 per day, was India.

Renting a Car in Philadelphia

how to save money on hotel rooms

Hotel booking sites operate in a similar way to airfare and other travel sites — they use dynamic pricing and track cookies to decide what to charge.

To demonstrate this, we looked at the cost of staying at the Sofitel in New York City. When searching from the United States, a room at the Sofitel will cost $482.00/night. We saw this number lessen slightly when we searched from Canada — the least expensive tested location — which came in at $474.90/night.

We found that the cost tended to increase, not decrease, as we switched servers. The most expensive pricing came in at over $100 more than our lowest cost: $584.22/night from a server in Brazil.

Staying at the Sofitel in New York

how to save money on subscription services

The pricing for subscription services, like music streaming or software subscriptions, often varies by region, often in order to offset exchange rates and currency differences. We took a look at two popular subscription services — Apple Music and Microsoft Office — to see how changing your location could get you a better deal.

Saving Money on Apple Music

We logged first logged into the U.S. server of NordVPN and took a look at the cost for an individual streaming subscription. In the United States, it costs $9.99/month for an individual subscription to Apple Music.

Cost when IP address is set to the United States:

Apple music cost in US

We then logged in to several other servers to see how the price would vary location. In overall, we found that subscribers in Europe pay the most per month for an Apple subscription — the highest cost was from the United Kingdom, at £9.99/month or approximately $13.33/month. Other countries in that region, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Spain, followed closely behind.

Cost when IP address is set to the United Kingdom:

Apple music cost in United Kingdom

We found India to be the cheapest location to subscribe; the monthly cost when we set our location to NordVPN’s India server was ₹120/month, or about $1.75/month.

Cost when IP address is set to India:

Apple music cost in India

 

In total, the maximum savings between the most expensive location (the United Kingdom) and the least expensive location (India) was $11.58/month, or almost $140/year.

Monthly Apple Subscription Service

Saving Money on Microsoft Office

Like with Apple Music, the cost for a yearly subscription to Microsoft Office products vary by region. We chose to compare the pricing of the popular Office 365 Home, which, when logged into a U.S. server, costs $99.99 for a yearly subscription.

Cost when IP address set in the United States:

Microsoft Office cost in US

As with Apple’s subscription streaming service, we saw prices increase for Microsoft Office’s yearly product when we set our location to countries within Europe. Poland had the highest cost, at 299,99 zł/year or about $116/year. Nearby countries Germany and the Netherlands saw similar price changes.

Cost when IP address set in Poland:

Microsoft Office cost in Poland

Countries near or in Asia had lower prices; Russia came in at the lowest cost, at 2 699,00₽/year or about $55.28/year. In total, the maximum savings between Russia and Poland was more than $50/year.

Cost when IP address is set in Russia:

Microsoft Office cost in Russia

Yearly Microsoft Office Subscription

A VPN is a smart investment, both from a security standpoint and from a financial one. If you’re planning to book a trip, rent a car or even simply stream music, one of our top VPNs for 2018 could save you hundreds — or even thousands of — dollars.

how to save money with a vpn infographic

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How to Create an Anonymous Email

Dana Jackson

Want to send anonymous emails, but don’t really know how or why? Luckily, we’re here to help!

email description picture

Every day we use email to communicate with our colleagues, friends, and family. Usually, we never give privacy a second thought when writing out a quick email.

But, there are times when sending an email anonymously is an absolute necessity. If the information got out it would be compromising, embarrassing, or even dangerous.

Chances are, you don’t need to send 100% of your emails anonymously, but when the need arises you’ll want to know how to do it.

Below you’ll learn what anonymous email is and how it works, so you can start sending your own anonymous emails.

Table of contents

What is Anonymous Email?

In our digital world, almost every facet of our lives is out in the open. Unless you take the extra steps to protect and defend your privacy.

Email is something we use every single day. We spend hours in our inboxes and often share personal information we want to keep private.

gmail on laptop

An anonymous email account is a must-have for situations like:

  • Journalists who need to communicate privately with a source
  • People who are concerned about privacy and feel the need to go anonymous
  • Telling the truth, or whistleblowing, without a connection to your identity

Anonymous email gives you the ability to send an email that can’t trace back to you. It won’t contain any personal identifying information.

There are multiple methods of achieving this:

  • Sending emails through a proxy server, so your location is invisible.
  • Omitting personal information, like the identity of the user, the reply address, or the message time stamp
  • Using fake contact information when creating a general email account to mask your identity

Still, anonymous email accounts can be used for less than upstanding purposes. Like a hacker using an anonymous email address to send a malicious email containing a virus.

Anonymous email

These emails will contain a link that’ll install a virus or malware on the user’s computer to gain sensitive information. I know you won’t do this, but there can be some negative associations built into anonymous emailing.

How Anonymous Email Works

There are many ways to send emails at varying degrees of anonymity.

gmail bed laptop

The basic method involves entering a fake name and personal information when creating a Hotmail, Outlook, or Gmail account. This approach won’t get you complete privacy, and you’ll need a personal phone number to verify your account. But, it’ll grant you more privacy than your standard account.

The truly anonymous approach involves using a private email service. These tools and services need minimal personal information to get started.

Plus, they’re often equipped with features like:

  • Two-way email encryption
  • Hidden IP address, or IP address blocker
  • Email password protect
  • Automated email deletion or expiration

We’ll get more into these services and tools, and how to use them, below.

Anonymous Email vs. Regular Email

You’re probably wondering, what’s the difference between anonymous email and regular email?

They both accomplish the same core goal of sending an email. But, they differ in the level of privacy and protection each provides.

Why Use Anonymous Email?

Anonymous email affords you levels of security and privacy you can’t get anywhere else. You might not need it 24/7, but it does have certain benefits.

1. Freedom of Expression

Sometimes you need to convey information to a person, but don’t want to compromise your identity. It could be something that’ll ruin the relationship, or you’d like to remain anonymous nonetheless.

2. Send Private Confidential Information

If you have sensitive information you want to send to the authorities without revealing your true identity, then you can use anonymous email for this purpose.

You can easily send confidential information without fear of your identity being brought to light.

3. Whistleblowing Purposes

Whistleblowing can be a scary and stressful situation. With anonymous email, you can help to escape any harassment and persecution that might come with.

Think of it as giving an anonymous phone tip from a pay phone. Using anonymous email can be a way to whistleblow about any wrongdoing while protecting your identity.

4. Hide From Spammers

You could use a throwaway email account whenever you enter your email anywhere online. This can help to isolate your identity and any spam emails from your main inbox. But, you’ll still have a link back to your true identity.

With an anonymous email account, you can create aliases and segment your account to keep your information safe from spammers.

Why Use a Regular Email Account?

Even with the security and privacy anonymous email affords, a regular email account can be useful.

1. Build a Tangible Relationship

It can be tough to build a relationship with anyone over email if you’re completely anonymous. Think of it like contributing to an online forum. You may be able to help and make connections with people. But, it’ll be difficult to build a deep connection without actually knowing who you’re talking to.

2. Ease of Use

For those who aren’t very tech-savvy signing up and using a service like Gmail couldn’t be easier. This service, and others like it, are created to deliver the best user experience possible. They’re engineered so you need zero tech knowledge to get started.

3. Link to Apps and Services

Services like Gmail give you login privileges to other sites. Privacy buffs may scoff at this, but for some users, speedy login is a necessity.

Instead of creating multiple accounts, you can login to various sites and apps with your Google account.

How Much Does it Cost?

Some people shy away from using anonymous email, because of the associated costs. After all, services like Gmail and Hotmail are free. But, these services do run ads in your email account to make up for the “free” service.

The question becomes:

Would you rather pay for your email service with cash, or with your personal information that’s sold to third-party advertisers?

You’ll find a variety of paid and free anonymous email options.

There are pricier anonymous email services. But, you’ll also find a ton of free and cheap options.

Anonymous email, with all the protection features they provide, aren’t that pricey. Especially if you’re purchasing an account for yourself, and not for your entire organization.

Individual costs for an anonymous email account range from $25—$80+ for the entire year, with an average monthly cost of $5 per month.

And that’s just for the premium accounts, which are equipped with extra storage, and security features.

Almost every anonymous email provider also offers free accounts. These accounts are limited by the amount of email storage provided or the number of emails you can send per month.

How to Create Anonymous Email Account

Creating an anonymous email account is similar to creating any other form of email account.

For the tutorial below we’ll setup a free account with ProtonMail. The only limitation to the free account is the amount of storage provided. You’ll still have access to all the privacy features.

protonmail homepage

1. Select your account type

protonmail free plan

On this screen choose the ‘Select Free Plan’ option, unless you want to upgrade to a paid account.

2. Choose your username and password

protonmail signup screen

Here you’ll create your anonymous email address and password.

You have the option to add a recovery email, in case you ever forget your password. But, this could create a link to an existing email account, so those looking for complete anonymity might want to leave this blank.

3. Prove you’re human

protonmail captcha test

Now it’s time to prove you’re not a robot. Choose one of the four options to show that you’re a living breathing human being.

Then, click ‘Complete Setup’ and your account will be automatically created.

4. Complete your account setup

protonmail mailbox

You’re now ready to send completely anonymous emails.

On this screen, you’ll see what looks like any traditional inbox. Here you can send and receive emails, as you would any other type of email account.

You’ll also be able to upgrade your account to further support the service an unlock additional features.

How to Send Anonymous Email

Sending an anonymous email couldn’t be easier. For this example, we’re going to use the same service from the example above ProtonMail.

First, navigate to the backend of your account, and click on the ‘Compose’ button.

protonmail new email screen

Here a window will pop up and you’ll be able to compose an email, just as you would in Gmail.

You’ll also have additional options to further secure your email.

In the left-hand corner of the window, you can password-protect your email, and set an expiration date.

To set a password for the email click the box that looks like a lock.

protonmail set up a password

Then, type in your secure password. Note that the recipient must have access to this password in order to view your email.

To set an expiration date for the email click on the box that looks like an hourglass.

protonmail expiration timer

Here you’ll be able to set a time window where the recipient can view the message before it’s deleted.

Once you’ve configured your privacy settings, then click the ‘Send’ button and your email will be delivered.

There are many different anonymous email providers. But, you’ll find that most have a simple setup process and mirror the features of your traditional email provider.

How to Send Anonymous Email Without an Account

Maybe you just want to send an anonymous email without a needing a response. There are multiple tools that’ll let you send one-way anonymous email without having to register an account.

The simplest method is using an online tool called Anonymous Email.

To do this, navigate to the site.

anonymousemail.me screen

Fill out the form on the homepage as if you were sending a normal email, then scroll down and click ‘Send’.

You’ll also have the ability to forward and track any responses to an existing email address, like Gmail.

There are other tools that let you send anonymous emails without an account like:

ProtonMail Alternatives

Beyond ProtonMail and the other anonymous email providers above, there are many other tools and services you can use to send emails anonymously.

Here are 7 of the best tools:

1. Guerilla Mailguerilla mail

Guerrilla Mail is an encrypted email service that’s been operating for over a decade. Plus, you don’t have to sign up to send emails with the service. Just create your own email address, or use the scramble address feature for an entirely random email address.

 

2. MailFencemailfence

MailFence offers you a complete email suite, along with features like encrypted email, no tracking or spam, and freedom from surveillance. Plus, with its location in Belgium, it has very strong privacy protection laws surrounding the company.

 

3. Mailinatormailinator

Mailinator lets you create and give out unlimited email addresses, and check messages for those addresses on their site. This helps to keep your identity private and effectively shield you from any risk. The email address itself is public, but you’re not connected to the email address in any way.

 

4. Tutanotatutanota

Tutanota is a secure email provider that offers end-to-end email encryption. Plus, it’s open source so it’s entirely free. Since IP addresses aren’t recorded, and you don’t need to provide any personal information to setup an account, you can use the service completely anonymously.

 

5. The Anonymous Emailthe anonymous email

The Anonymous Email is a pretty basic tool that lets you send anonymous emails. The only information required to create an account is an existing email account. If you’re concerned about sharing your personal email, then you can create a burner email account to register for the service.

 

6. Secure Emailsecureemail

Secure Email is a fully anonymous email service. It routes all email traffic through an encrypted SSL connection, hides your IP address, and requires zero personal information to sign up. With the high-level of encryption offered no one will be able to read your emails, except you.

 

7. TorGuardtorguard

TorGuard has a built-in anonymous email service. If you’re already a member of their VPN service, then the service is free. This service has a lot of advanced privacy and encryption features to protect your emails. Plus, no personal information is required to create an account, so you can send emails totally anonymously.

Transitioning From Gmail to Private Email

If you’re concerned about your privacy and want to use an anonymous email provider 100% of the time, then you can transfer your existing traditional email account to a secure provider.

Below you’ll find a few walkthroughs that’ll help you transition from Gmail to three of the most widely used secure email providers.

The first transition step is emailing your most common contacts and letting them know about your email address change. The best way to do this is send an email from your Gmail account with your new ProtonMail address CC’d.

With that completed, follow the steps below:

1. Export and import your contacts

The first thing we need to do is export our contacts from Gmail.

Open up your Gmail account. On the top left-hand corner click the Gmail logo and then select ‘Contacts’.

Then, on the Google Contacts page select the ‘More’ option from the left-hand menu.

Finally, select ‘Export’ and choose the ‘Google CSV’ format.

Now, open up your ProtonMail account, and select ‘Contacts’ from the top menu.

ProtonMail import

Select the ‘Import’ option and upload the .csv file you just downloaded.

Your contact list has now been migrated to ProtonMail.

2. Import your Messages

The only way to import your existing messages to ProtonMail is to use a paid add-on called ProtonMail Bridge.

If you don’t want to upgrade to a paid account, then your best course of action is forwarding your Gmail messages to ProtonMail.

3. Setup Gmail forwarding

Login to your Gmail account and click on the gear icon, then select ‘Settings’.

Then select ‘Forwarding and POP/IMAP’.

Gmail settings

Select ‘Add a forwarding address’, and enter your new ProtonMail email address.

Gmail forwarding address

Then you’ll receive a confirmation email in your ProtonMail account. Verify your email address and you’re all set.

Transitioning from Gmail to MailFence

If you’re a MailFence user then follow the steps below to add your Gmail contacts to MailFence and forward any new messages to your MailFence account.

Like the ProtonMail transition tutorial above it’s a good idea to send out emails to any contacts you regularly email about your contact change. That way they can add your email to their contacts and it won’t be marked as spam.

With that done, follow the steps below:

1. Link your Gmail account and migrate contacts

If you decided to use MailFence, then migrating your contacts over to Gmail is a very straightforward process.

First, you’ll need a MailFence account, so if you don’t have one do that now.

Once you’ve activated your account, click on the ‘Contacts’ button on the top navigation bar.

Malifence contacts

Then, click the three dots, and select Import.

Malifence import

Select ‘Google contacts’ and click ‘Import’.

On the next screen you’ll be asked to enter your Google credentials, and once it’s verified your Gmail contacts will be imported into MailFence.

2. Setup email forwarding within Gmail

To setup email forwarding between Gmail and MailFence, you’ll follow the exact same steps as the Gmail Forwarding section above.

So, scroll up a tiny bit and follow those same instructions.

Just enter your MailFence email address instead of the ProtonMail address.

Transitioning from Gmail to Mailinator

Since Mailinator is such a simple tool it isn’t something you’ll want to use as a replacement for Gmail.

That being said, you can still manage your anonymous emails sent from Mailinator within your Gmail inbox.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Login to your current Gmail account and select the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner, and select ‘Settings’.

2. Find the ‘Check email from other accounts:’ section and click on ‘Add an email account’.

Gmail add mail account

3. Enter your email and click the ‘Next’ button.

Gmail add mail account 2

4. Select the ‘Import emails from my other account (POP3)’ option and click ‘Next’.

Gmail add mail account 3

5. Then enter your full email address in the ‘Username’ field, enter your account password into the ‘Password’ field, and leave the dropbox box as ‘pop.mailinator.com’ in the ‘POP Server’ field.

Gmail add mail account 4

6. Click ‘Add Account’ and you’re all set. Your anonymous Mailinator emails will now show up in your existing Gmail account.

Can You Use Outlook for Anonymous Email?

A lot of people think that you can use aliases to hide your true identity when using Outlook.

Aliases can be used for purposes like creating a more secure password recovery address or creating a junk email account for those times when you’re forced to register for an online service.

But, these aliases don’t allow you to remain truly anonymous like the tools and services highlighted above. It’s simply a pathway to create a throw-away email address.

Now, if you want to use Outlook with the greatest level of anonymity possible, then you’ll want to use the Tor browser, and send emails from an Outlook alias.

That way your location won’t be known. But, your alias can still be traced back to you as a person.

If you truly want to send anonymous emails, then use some of the tools and services highlighted above.

Conclusion

There are a variety of different tools and services you can use to send anonymous emails. Some have powerful encryption protocols to secure your messages, while others do a great job of allowing you to send one-off anonymous messages.

If you’re serious about sending anonymous emails and also want your email communication to remain encrypted, then your best option is using a service like ProtonMail, MailFence, or Tutanota.

Services like these allow you to send and track your anonymous emails, send encrypted and password protected emails, create account aliases, and even have your emails deleted after a set period of time.

The method you choose for managing and sending anonymous emails depends upon your needs and privacy concerns.

Hopefully, you’re better equipped to navigate the world of anonymous email and can protect your privacy and personal information from falling into the wrong hands.

Have any questions about which anonymous email service is best for your needs? Please share your questions and concerns in the comments below.