How to Hide My IP Address

Hiding an IP address is quite simple if you know which tools to use.

If you’re like me, someone who is proactive against hackers, wants to get access to geo-blocked sites, negate IP bans and just stay anonymous, keep reading.

Below, I’ve listed 6 fool-proof ways to hide your IP address including keeping your Internet connection encrypted and fully anonymous.

What is an IP Address?

Let’s first get some basics out of the way.

The internet, being nothing more than a vast group of interconnected networks, requires a system to establish communication between these networks. The Internet Protocol, usually referred to as IP, is the principal technology, responsible for this connection. IP is tasked with defining, structuring and delivering information packets from point A to point B.

IP addresses are nothing more than system identifiers. In version four of the internet protocol (IPv4), IP addresses are defined as a 32-bit number; x.x.x.x where x is a value between 0 and 255.

Here are some valid IP addresses:

  • 123.45.67.89
  • 8.8.8.8 – an IP address assigned to Google
  • 140.247.224.81 – an IP address assigned to Harvard University

Every system, connected to the internet, has its own address; much like the address of your house or the license plate of your car. Every system has to have a unique IP address, assigned to that machine, and that machine only. This means your phone, your laptop, work computer and your printer, all have different IP addresses.

Every participant of the internet has to have an IP address to connect to it.

The way IP operates, IP addresses are a sensitive piece of information as they pinpoint the location of the systems they are assigned to. This is uncircumventable, as the physical location of the connected machine is precisely the information necessary for the internet protocol to establish the most efficient connection.

This is how I know that any IP, which starts with 140.247 will be assigned to Harvard University and how I know where you are based in, simply by looking at your IP address.

 

6 Ways to Hide Your IP Address

Check out these six ways to alter your IP address.

1. Get a VPN Software

Probably the best and most convenient way for changing your IP is to choose a good VPN service.

Here’s what VPN does:

  • Hide’s your IP address
  • Encrypts your internet traffic
  • Allows you safely torrent
  • Allows you to get access to geo-blocked sites like Netflix and Hulu.

As you can see, the benefits of a Virtual Private Network are precisely the same as the benefits of changing your IP address.

No surprise here; VPNs assign new IP address to systems connected to them. As you connect to a virtual network, you’ll be assigned a second IP address, which spoofs your real one.

How Do Virtual Private Networks Work

Setting up your VPN client takes minutes, and once you’re all set up, connecting to it and thereby changing your IP happens at the click of your button.

“That’s all great, Andrey, but how does a VPN change my IP address?”

Great question – I’m excited to tell you.

While you’re connected to a VPN, the VPN provider will assign you a virtual IP address. While your real IP address will still be used to connect to said VPN, all other traffic will be tunnelled through your private network and as such this external traffic will only connect to your second, virtual IP address.

I’m recommending ExpressVPN ($6.67/mo) because it’s by far the fastest and most reliable VPN software we’ve tested till date. You can read ExpressVPN review here. Another good option (at a cheaper cost) is NordVPN ($3.29/mo) (review link).

2. Use a Proxy – Slower than VPN

How Do Proxies Work

Proxy servers are great little tools which act as a bridge in the flow of your internet traffic. These man-in-the-middle servers connect your information packets to their desired destination while changing their appearance as they go through the Proxy.

In simpler terms, the Proxy server intercepts your traffic and takes control of your connection. From here, everything you do, the proxy server repeats; it mirrors your behavior. The destination servers (websites you’d like to access) think of the proxy is your traffic.

The beauty of this system is that you can connect to any proxy server in the world.

Say you want to access UK’s BBC. You’ll quickly find out that most of their content is blocked and inaccessible for people outside the United Kingdom. In comes the Proxy server. You connect to a UK based Proxy and voila – for all intents and purposes, you’re henceforth as British as fish and chips.

Proxy servers are very efficient at low profile necessities such as bypassing geo-blocked content or IP restrictions.

Being able to mask your real IP address is where the similarities between VPNs and Proxies end.

While being more than adept at handling Netflix geo-restricted content, Proxies can’t compete with a VPN’s many layers of security. Outside spoofing your IP address, Proxy servers neither encrypt your data nor remove any identifiable markers from it. Proxies will do nothing to shield you from the prying eyes of your ISP, government or anyone with access to your data.

The final big difference between Proxies and VPNs is the former’s lack of encompassing spoofing. While a VPN will encrypt any and all data coming into and out of your system, a Proxy will intercept traffic on a per-application basis.

Say you connect your web browser to a proxy server. Great! You can watch all the Netflix you want, don’t go torrenting files, however. Your torrenting traffic won’t be intercepted by your Proxy and your ISP can easily see what you’re up to.

Further reading: Difference between VPN and Proxy

3. Use TOR – FREE

TOR, named after the original project “The Onion Router” is a free client which anonymously connects you to volunteer-operated network of servers. This enables you to be assigned a new IP address, on the same basis as a VPN client.

TOR Network Structure

Also known as the “dark/deep” web, Tor has the added benefit of enabling you to access websites, otherwise inaccessible with normal browsers. Such “onion” websites have very different domain names as they are mostly randomly generated.

Check out the domain name of the anonymity search engine DuckDuckGo:

 http://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion

TOR being a widely accessible, free and anonymous network, it has become a hub for criminal activity. Also one of the reasons why you may be put on a “list” if you access TOR, a big chunk of the network’s users connect to it to carry out illegal transactions. From false identities to heavy drugs and even weaponry.

Another big drawback of TOR is the extremely slow loading times. These long loading times are predicated on the inefficient and long-winded routes that your data packets are sent on, relayed from server to server, until they finally hit their destination. This, of course, is all done in the name of safety.

Make no mistake, TOR isn’t entirely foolproof. Certain software vulnerabilities and website admin errors can and are exploited by Government agency.

Further reading: Tor vs. VPN (What is the difference)

4. Use Mobile Network – Slow and not encrypted

A quick way to change your IP address, if you fear yours has been compromised, is to use your cell phone’s data. As it’s a different system, it will have a different IP address.

This, of course, is no substitute to a laptop/PC workstation. It may aid you in rare emergency situations, when your IP is obviously being attacked, but outside of that, relying on Mobile Data is both ineffective and short-sighted.

5. Connect to Public Wi-Fi – Not Secure

As IP addresses don’t travel with you, using your laptop to connect to a coffee shop’s open Wi-Fi network is an easy way to change your IP address. Same as with Mobile Data, this is neither an effective IP change method, nor a sustainable way of surfing anonymously & securely.

Unfortunately, there are many risks when using such open hotspots networks.

6. Call Your Internet Service Provider

The bitter truth is that we have zero influence on what IP address our systems get assigned to. We can only ask or force our Internet Service Providers to change our IPs for us.

There are two types of IP addresses that your ISP will assign to you. Static and Dynamic. A static IP is difficult to change as you’ll have to go through a lengthy process with your ISP. Most internet providers will, fortunately, assign dynamic IPs.

Asking nicely, so Mom thought me, is always step one. Calling up your ISP and simply asking for an IP change will often do the trick, though you may have to face some unexpected and forward questions as to your motivation behind such a request. Telling them you’re teaching son or younger brother the basics of networking, seems to do the trick.

Force an IP change by unplugging your modem

If being nice fails, an easy way to attempt to force an IP change by your ISP, is to unhook your modem and reconnect it after a little while. By severing your connection to your ISP, you’re very likely to be assigned a new IP range. This only works if you operate on dynamic IPs, however. You also have to remain disconnected from the internet for many hours to prompt a change in IP address.

Here are some additional steps you can take on Windows before unhooking your Modem:

How To Release IP Address On WIndowsWindows system connected via cable

  1. Open Command Prompt as Administrator
  2. Type “ipconfig /release“, without the quotes and hit Enter
  3. Type “ipconfig /renew“, without the quotes and hit Enter
  4. Shut down your system.
  5. Turn off all ethernet hubs/switches.
  6. Unplug cable/DSL modem.
  7. Leave off as long as you can bare (overnight)
  8. Turn everything back on.

Windows system connected via router

  1. Log into the router’s admin console.
  2. Release the IP address (Every router is different, Google yours)
  3. Shut down your system.
  4. Turn off all ethernet hubs/switches.
  5. Unplug cable/DSL modem.
  6. Leave off as long as you can bare (overnight)
  7. Turn everything back on.

Are you chuckling yet? I sure am 🙂

I’m not saying the above doesn’t work – it works just fine. I’m saying I’m not about to dial my phone and sit on hold for half an hour or disconnect myself from the internet every time I want to change my IP address.

With ISP’s selling my browsing history to the highest bidder, I sure wouldn’t trust them to help me out either.

Effective? Yes! Practical? Heck No!

Unfortunately for you and me, this about sums up the ways we can change our IP address. Sure, there are others, more technical ones. If you’re an expert in networking you can modify your router and force a dynamic IP change that way – but that’s neither simple, nor quick, nor guaranteed.

Changing IP addresses simply isn’t the way to go, hiding them, however, is another story entirely 🙂

 

Why Hide IP?

How To Hide My IP Address

It is very much in our interest to make sure no wrong-doers ever get their hands on such an important identifier as our IP Address. Let’s take a look at the main reasons why you would want to hide your IP address.

1. Hide Your Location

As mentioned above, your IP address functions much like the street address of your home; it tells the Internet Protocol where to send your requested information packets. This is predicated on the IP’s ability to pinpoint your exact location, enabling it to connect you to your nearest network and from there to the world.

Here is a list of geo-location information that your IP address harbors:

  • Country
  • Region
  • City
  • ZIP code
  • Longitude and latitude

Pretty scary to think that a criminal could have access to your GPS coordinates by simply finding out your IP, isn’t it?

2. Circumvent IP restrictions

Being a very precise location identifier, your IP address is often used to block you from accessing certain information which someone has deemed inaccessible for you.

When governments like those in China, Russia and, Yes, the United States restrict access to certain websites and services by blocking their nation’s IP addresses, “spoofing, the act of masking your IP address, comes in handy.

From journalists to activists and your everyday person, nobody should be oppressed and restricted to share their views in the information era.

Colleges and universities also love to meddle with their student’s internet access. Many schools have banned online video game servers from being accessed. This means no League of Legends, World of Warcraft, CS:GO and so on.

I guess these students are mature enough to rack up $200K in debt for a four-year degree, but giving them access to online games? That’s too much.

Circumventing such IP restrictions is important to make sure you, and only you, get to decide which content you’d like to access.

3. Negate IP Bans

Banning your IP address is an easy way for websites and services to immediately block your access to them. This quickly becomes a problem as you try to connect to your paid-for Netflix account, a service which blocks any and all IPs outside the USA from accessing their US library of moves and TV shows, when you’re sitting in your hotel room overseas.

Spoofing or changing your IP address is a quick and easy way of loopholing your way back into services you’ve been mistakenly or unjustly banned from.

4. Block Targeted Attacks

Hiding your IP address quickly becomes a must-do security step once you’ve been targeted by a cyber-criminal, who is after your personal records.

By changing your vulnerable IP address you can throw off and block this specific type of cyber attack on your system.

5. Remain Anonymous on Internet

Anonymity is to be expected, not asked for. Well, not anymore.

When our Congress passes bills, allowing Internet Service Providers to sell your private web surfing data & browsing history to the highest bidder, retaining anonymity in an ever-shrinking world seems all the more precious and important.

Conclusion

Changing your IP address is one of many security steps as you embark on the journey of securing yourself and your data. While there are more comprehensive ways of protection, such as using a VPN, I commend you on your desire and prudence to seek out ways to shield your IP address from hackers and no-gooders.

I sincerely hope this article has helped you find your preferred method of keeping your IP address safe on the inter-webs. Please share it with your friends and colleagues and let me know about your experiences with IP addresses.

Finish guide
Time to drop the mic, you made it!

Surf Safe,

Andrey from TheBestVPN.com team

Fastest VPNs (Ultimate Speed Test)

Finding the fast VPN for us was quite straightforward.

We bought, installed and set up 35 most popular VPN services on our Lenovo IdeaPad 120S-14IAP and conducted multiple speed test with the help of speedtest.net

Our benchmark was 100 Mbps up & down using cable connection while located in Europe.

P.S. Always take speed tests with a grain of salt as they vary on multiple factors like your computer, connection, wi-fi strength and so on.

Since we tested both EU and US download speed three times to find the average, we’ve added these two speeds together, where 200 Mbps would be the benchmark (max).

For example, HotSpot Shield had the fastest EU download speed, but not that good US download speed, hence the reason it’s not ranking first in our list.

Last test performed: March, 2018

Benchmark (without VPN) was ~100 Mbps Up & Down.

1. PIAEU Download: 81.46 / US Download: 77.56 / Total = 159.02 Mbps
2. AstrillEU Download: 78.85 / US Download: 78.65 / Total = 147.73 Mbps
3. ExpressVPNEU Download: 81.35 / US Download: 60.04 / Total = 143.19 Mbps
4. SaferVPNEU Download: 79.23 / US Download: 57.47 / Total = 136.70 Mbps
5. Avast SecurelineEU Download: 65.97 / US Download: 67.94 / Total = 133.91 Mbps
6. Trust.ZoneEU Download: 69.82 / US Download: 60.61 / Total = 130.43 Mbps
7. NordVPNEU Download: 74.15 / US Download: 56.00 / Total = 130.15 Mbps
8. VyprVPNEU Download: 74.48 / US Download: 51.09 / Total = 125.57 Mbps
9. HideMyAssEU Download: 63.34 / US Download: 58.98 / Total = 122.32 Mbps
10. Hotspot ShieldEU Download: 92.28 / US Download: 28.66 / Total = 120.94 Mbps
11. ZenMateEU Download: 63.44 / US Download: 57.03 / Total = 120.47 Mbps
12. IPVanishEU Download: 82.67 / US Download: 34.71 / Total = 117.38 Mbps
13. IvacyEU Download: 53.04 / US Download: 45.86 / Total = 98.90 Mbps
14. BufferedEU Download: 46.78 / US Download: 51.49 / Total = 98.27 Mbps
15. iVPNEU Download: 63.89 / US Download: 32.20 / Total = 96.09 Mbps
16. ProxPNEU Download: 51.11 / US Download: 43.10 / Total = 94.21 Mbps
17. AirVPNEU Download: 61.48 / US Download: 27.79 / Total = 89.27 Mbps
18. TunnelbearEU Download: 52.26 / US Download: 33.38 / Total = 85.64 Mbps
19. TorGuardEU Download: 53.83 / US Download: 31.66 / Total = 85.49 Mbps
20. ZoogVPNEU Download: 57.99 / US Download: 24.82 / Total = 82.81 Mbps
21. VPNSecure.meEU Download: 53.62 / US Download: 27.18 / Total = 80.80 Mbps
22. ProtonVPNEU Download: 54.46 / US Download: 24.60 / Total = 79.06 Mbps
23. VPN UnlimitedEU Download: 47.13 / US Download: 25.69 / Total = 72.82 Mbps
24. SurfEasyEU Download: 34.53 / US Download: 39.28 / Total = 73.81 Mbps
25. WindscribeEU Download: 42.97 / US Download: 29.74 / Total = 72.71 Mbps
26. CyberghostEU Download: 51.10 / US Download: 18.41 / Total = 69.51 Mbps
27. PureVPNEU Download: 35.49 / US Download: 29.41 / Total = 64.9 Mbps
28. VPNAreaEU Download: 47.36 / US Download: 10.05 / Total = 57.41 Mbps
29. StrongVPNEU Download: 11.36 / US Download: 38.96 / Total = 50.32 Mbps
30. TigerVPNEU Download: 33.60 / US Download: 14.53 / Total = 48.13 Mbps
31. Hide.meEU Download: 27.60 / US Download: 17.17 / Total = 44.77 Mbps
32. FrootVPNEU Download: 18.59 / US Download: 19.47 / Total = 38.06 Mbps
33. MullvadEU Download: 17.58 / US Download: 19.20 / Total = 36.78 Mbps
34. Avira PhantomEU Download: 12.18 / US Download: 4.34 / Total = 16.52 Mbps
35. BetternetUS Download: 3.18 (only US server available)  Total = 3.18 Mbps

1. Private Internet Access: Fastest VPN Across All Servers

  • EU Download: 81.46 Mbps (4th)
  • US Download: 77.56 Mbps (2nd)

Private Internet Access or PIA, as it’s commonly known, is one of the fastest and most reliable VPNs that we’ve reviewed to date. The company operates more than 3,000 highly optimized servers all over the world and, although none of these servers are the fastest on this list, PIA’s average server speed consistently beat out all of the competition. If you can overlook the lack of Netflix compatibility and a less than ideal jurisdiction, PIA is easily one of the best VPN providers on the market.

Pros: Fast and stable download speeds across EU, US and Asia servers, low ping, torrenting is allowed.
Cons: Does not work with Netflix, no live chat, located in the US (5 eyes jurisdiction).

Read in-depth Private Internet Access review here

2) Astrill VPN: The Runner Up

  • EU Download: 69.08 Mbps (10th)
  • US Download: 78.65 Mbps (1st)

Astrill VPN speed

In second place, we have Astrill VPN, a well-known and reliable VPN provider with the top 3 fastest U.S. servers. Although their lightning-fast performance should make them the obvious choice for US-based users, the company’s logging policy, lack of Netflix compatibility, and 2-device simultaneous connection limit prevent them from being our go-to company.

Pros: Fast and stable download and upload speeds.
Cons: Some logging, only 2 simultaneous connections & 336 servers, doesn’t work with Netflix.

Read in-depth Astrill review here

3) ExpressVPN: Third Fastest VPN and First Overall

  • EU Download: 81.35 Mbps (2nd)
  • US Download: 60.04 Mbps (4th)

expressvpn speed

ExpressVPN is currently our first in our best VPN comparison list. With the second fastest download times in the EU and the fourth fastest in the US, their collection of 1500+ servers is admittedly impressive. They also offer a strict “no logging policy”, Netflix compatibility, and easy torrenting. If you decide to try out ExpressVPN for yourself you can save more than 50% on the monthly rate by upgrading to a 15-month deal.

Pros: Fast download speed in EU and US, strict no logging, packed with features, works with torrenting and Netflix.
Cons: High cost for month-to-month users, slower upload speed.

Read in-depth ExpressVPN review here

4) SaferVPN

  • EU Download: 79.23 Mbps (5th)
  • US Download: 57.47 Mbps (7th)

SaferVPN download and upload speed

Although their US servers are nothing exceptional, the extraordinary speed (79.23 Mbps) and reliability of SaferVPN’s EU servers make them one of the fastest VPNs on this list. When you combine their lightning fast download times with a generous 5-device limit, killswitch, and $4/mo price tag it’s ‘safe’ (pun intended) to say that SaferVPN is solid VPN. Before you jump the gun and sign up, it’s important to note that they have a questionable logging policy and very limited torrenting capabilities.

Pros: Great download speeds, 5 simultaneous connections, kill-switch.
Cons: Limited torrenting, questionable logging policy, doesn’t work in China.

Read in-depth SaferVPN review here

5) Avast Secureline VPN

  • EU Download: 65.97 Mbps (10th)
  • US Download: 67.94 Mbps (3rd)

Avast Secureline speed

With a household name like Avast backing your VPN service, I think it’s fair to say that the service should be nothing short of exceptional. While it’s true that Avast Secureline does offer consistently fast download speeds, torrenting, and a no logs policy, their misleading privacy policy, excessive price tag, and limited server park make it difficult to recommend them.

Pros: Top 10 download speed, torrenting is allowed, no logs policy, phone support.
Cons: No router support, doesn’t work with Netflix.

Read in-depth Avast VPN review here

6) Trust.Zone

  • EU Download: 69.46 Mbps (8th)
  • US Download: 60.61 Mbps (4th)

Although their servers speeds are marginally slower than Avast Secureline at 69.46 Mbps in the EU and 60.61 Mbps in the US, Trust.Zone’s consistent performance, live customer support, and easy to use interface makes them an overall solid VPN. We did have some issues with performance and connectivity based on our browsing region, so be sure to try out the 7-day free trial before making a final decision.

Pros: Stable connection speeds, low pricing, torrenting is allowed.
Cons: Poor customer support, not working with Netflix.

Read in-depth Trust.Zone review here

7) NordVPN

  • EU Download: 74.15 Mbps (7th)
  • US Download: 56.00 Mbps (9th)

Although the performance of their U.S. servers is underwhelming (to say the least) NordVPN’s lightning fast EU servers, easy usability, strict no logs policy, and Netflix compatibility makes them one of the best VPNs on the market today. When you throw in easy torrenting and a price tag of only $2.75/month it’s easy to see why they’re ranked #2 overall. If you are purchasing a VPN anywhere outside of the United States, then NordVPN should be one of the first providers you consider.

Pros: 3000+ servers, most popular and well-known VPN, strict no logs, allows torrenting, works with Netflix.
Cons: Average US download speed.

Read in-depth NordVPN review here

8) VyprVPN

  • EU Download: 74.48 Mbps (6th)
  • US Download: 51.09 Mbps (11th)

Switzerland based VPN provider VyprVPN offers decent download speeds and high-quality service. Although their US servers only clock in at 51.09 Mbps, their fast EU servers, torrenting friendly platform, and Netflix compatibility make them a great choice for European residents who haven’t been sold on any of the previous VPNs. Before you buy, it’s important to note that VyprVPN does keep some logs for up to 30 days after your connection and they don’t offer any sort of live customer support.

Pros: Affordable, torrenting allowed, free trial, works with Netflix.
Cons: Some logging, no live chat, no anonymous payment options.

Read in-depth VyprVPN review here

9) HideMyAss

  • EU Download: 63.34 Mbps
  • US Download: 58.98 Mbps

With their services extending to 45 countries and more than 800 servers, HideMyAss is one of the most well known and commonly used VPN services. Although their download speeds aren’t particularly exceptional, both their EU and US servers consistently ran at 63.34 Mbps and 53.98 Mbps respectively. Unfortunately, the company has a very questionable logging policy and is currently being accused of selling customer data.

Pros: Simple and easy app, good download speed, works with Netflix and allows torrenting.
Cons: High, cost, Blocked in some China provinces, sketchy logging policy, located in the US.

Read in-depth HideMyAss review here

10) HotSpot Shield

  • EU Download: 92.28 Mbps (1st)
  • US Download: 28.66 Mbps (22nd)

HotSpot shield speed

HotSpot Shield is, by far, one of the most frustrating VPN providers I’ve ever reviewed. They offer the fastest EU download times I’ve ever seen, a platform that is easy to use, fully support torrenting, and are compatible with Netflix. But the company is also mired in privacy allegations, keeps unnecessary logs, and has nothing to offer their US customers.

Pros: Fastest speed in the EU, torrenting fully supported, works with Netflix.
Cons: Slow US speed, privacy allegations, some logging, ticketed support, located in the US (5 eyes).

Read in-depth HotSpot Shield review here

11) Zenmate

  • EU Download: 63.44 Mbps (12th)
  • US Download: 57.03 Mbps (8th)

Although their download speeds were only fast enough to keep them out of the top 10 fastest VPNs, ZenMate is still an excellent provider that brings plenty to the table. However, what they do well is quickly overshadowed by their shady logging policy, sparse server park, and AES-128 encryption standard.

Pros: Decent download/upload speed in all servers, torrenting is allowed.
Cons: No live chat, no Netflix, questionable logging policy.

Read in-depth Zenmate review here

12) IPVanish

  • EU Download: 82.67 Mbps (3rd)
  • US Download: 34.71 Mbps (16th)

Although IPVanish is one of the fastest VPN providers in the EU, their unusable download speeds in the United States and exorbitant cost make them difficult to recommend. They offer a zero logging policy, strong encryption, and a vast park including more than 1,000 servers. However, they lack Netflix compatibility and blatantly lie to their customers about alleged 24/7 customer support.

Pros: Very fast EU speed, 1000+ servers, decent working app, zero logging, strong encryption.
Cons: Located in the US (5 eyes), no Netflix, no 24/7 support (although advertised), high cost.

Read in-depth IPVanish review here

Does a fast VPN necessarily a good VPN?

Now that you’ve seen the 12 fastest VPNs, some of you are probably wondering – “Just because a VPN is fast does that mean I should use it?

Unfortunately, there are countless factors to take into consideration when choosing a VPN, and speed is only one of those factors. 

Some fast VPNs have few major drawbacks that can take a shot at your privacy or a wallet. Furthermore, some of them may not allow torrenting and streaming Netflix.

If you’re goal is to use VPN all-around, take a look at this best vpn comparison chart.

If you’re goal is to solely watch Netflix, considering getting a VPN that actually works with Netflix (only few are able to bypass Netflix nowadays).

If you’re goal is to safely browse, consider getting a VPN that is best for torrenting (some VPNs may not allow torrenting).

If your privacy is the most important thing, definitely read this piece on VPNs logging policy.

How Can I Speed Up My VPN Connection?

If you want to maximize your VPN connection speeds or you find that your network is particularly slow on any given day, there are a number of different ways to resolve the issue.

  1. Change Servers – Like most things in this world, servers fluctuate. Their speeds change, they experience delays, downtime, and a whole host of other issues that could be affecting your speed. If you find that your VPN connected network is slower than usual, try switching to a different server before attempting any of the other steps on this list.
  2.  Connect Using L2TP or IPSec Protocols – If you aren’t using your VPN for security purposes (e.g. bypassing a location specific content filter) you can connect your device using the faster L2TP or IPSec protocols.
  3. Temporarily Disable All Extra Features – If your connection is still lagging after changing servers and protocols, then I recommend that you go into the advanced settings of your VPN client and temporarily disable ALL extra security features. If your speed has improved reactivate the features one by one until you find the culprit through the process of elimination.

If your VPN connection is still slower than usual after following the above tips, then throw a Hail Mary and reboot everything. Restart your router, modem, device, and VPN and when you connect, try using a different country.

P.S. If you see a VPN that is not listed in this test – get in touch with us and we’ll be glad to test it out and include on this page.

VPN Protocols

A VPN creates a secure ‘tunnel’ around your internet sessions.

It’s also private so that your browsing activities are kept away from prying eyes like said lurkers, your internet service provider, or even government agencies (for the most part).

A protocol simply describes how each ‘tunnel’ works.

On the one hand, they ‘encapsulate’ or encrypt the session so it’s kept safe. And on the other, they hide or mask the original source of who’s sending and receiving the little bits of data.

PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, IKEV2, and OpenVPN are different protocols options for a VPN connection. You can, theoretically, choose whichever one you want. But each packs their own pros and cons. And some, you want to avoid at all costs.

Here’s a complete breakdown of PPTP vs. L2TP vs. SSTP vs. IKEV2 vs. OpenVPN:

  1. PPTP
  2. IPSec/L2TP
  3. SSTP
  4. IKEv2
  5. OpenVPN

 

1. PPTP (Point-To-Point Tunneling Protocol)

PPTPThe Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) was originally developed by Microsoft in the ‘90’s.

(Alarm bells should be ringing in your head right now.)

First, the good.

It’s still commonly used today though to ‘secure’ many business networks. That’s because it’s relatively easy to setup and doesn’t require a lot of extra software or maintenance (shipping standard with most Windows machines of old), while also offering decent connection speeds.

For example, if you’re in a large office building with tons of other people and you want to keep your financial or client-sensitive information under wraps. Or if you have employees out of the office and in different locations around the world, they can securely log in to your network to access documents and communicate with everyone else.

Many times, consumers might also be forced to rely on PPTP because of old technology at your disposal or poor internet connectivity. Not much you can do otherwise in those cases.

Ok. Fine. Here’s the bad part.

Wikipedia refers to PPTP as “an obsolete method”. Ouch. Let’s not blame them though. It was intended for use on dial-up modems. You know, that unforgettable sound like the bastard child of a rotary telephone and fax machine. The biggest problem with PPTP? It’s barely secure. Just barely. Someone who knows what they’re doing can break a PPTP “encryption” in less than a single day.

Resilient Chief Technology Officer and Harvard Berkman Center fellow, Bruce Schneier, cracked PPTP with a group of researchers. Over fifteen years ago…

These problems have existed forever. People knew about them. And yet many of them haven’t been addressed. (Wait… are we talking about Internet Explorer?) Here’s how to break it.

1. Use an MS-CHAPv2 network handshake in order to lower the security standard used.

This is kinda like greasing the bouncer at the front of a club to let you and ten of your best guy friends in (better be a C-note with that many bros).

It says, “Hey. You know me. We’re good people. Gimmie a shot here.”

That effectively lowers security down to a single Data Encryption Standard (DES) 56-bit key, which Wikipedia calls a “relatively low level of security”.

2. Run a simple brute-force attack.

These cycle through letters and numbers – often a single digit at a time before progressing to two-integer combinations – until they eventually find the ‘key’ to unlock the proverbial doors.

Back in the day, when this protocol was first created, it would take a few months to crack. Then a few days. And today, only a few hours.

Most entry-level hackers can do it with one of the widely available, free tools out there. Online Hash Crack for starters.

And that’s it! Literally only two steps.

PPTP is OK in some cases. Where security or safety might not be an issue.

Wanna catch the latest shows on US Netflix that aren’t available in your area yet? Go for it. You’ll get some of the other basic VPN benefits.

Trying to protect your bank account? Move to another option below.

 

2. L2TP/IPsec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol)

IPSec protocolThe Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol is a mashup between the aforementioned PPTP and Cisco’s equally dated Layer 2 Forwarding Protocol (L2F).

VPN ‘tunnels’ have two endpoints. These connections link your device (no matter if it’s a desktop, laptop, tablet, or browser) with a remote server.

L2TP can “isolate” traffic sessions with a funnel so that you can even have “multiple virtual networks across a single tunnel”, according to Wikipedia.

Authentication and ‘keys’ are used to create secure connections on each end of the tunnel. That way, nobody (except only those that should) can gain access to the tunneled data.

At least, that’s how it should work in theory.

Let’s just get it out of the way at the beginning: L2TP, by itself, isn’t secure. At all.

Which is why it’s often paired with Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) to provide at least some measure of encryption. IPsec is mostly secure. There are no major workarounds or hacks known. Except one reported. In the treasure trove of documents Edward Snowden leaked to the world (before his Russian summer vacation), was a little detail about how the NSA was aggressively going after both SSL and IPsec data.

So while IPsec is mostly safe, there’s a slight chance that some security agencies (like the NSA) can access it. Which may be good for bad, because L2TP and IPsec is the default VPN protocol for that iPhone you’re holding and the iPad at home on the couch.

Apple (in their infinite wisdom and dictatorial approach) has set up iOS to only allow a few VPN options. Which by default, makes the L2TP/IPsec combo the strongest currently available for their suite of mobile devices.

Bottom line: L2TP + IPsec is secure. Especially when you’re primarily concerned with ‘eavesdropping’ on public WiFi networks in coffee shops, airports, or hotels.

It also, like PPTP, is relatively easy to setup and ships on many different devices or platforms. The bad news is that some of this additional security comes at a cost. Namely, speed.

 

3. SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol)

SSTPThe Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) is another Microsoft product originally created for Windows.

This time though, they use the same SSL/TLS encryption that we now know and love from all of our favorite websites on the internet.

The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) are a one-in-the-same (TLS is basically the new and improved SSL) “cryptographic protocol that provides communications security over a computer network”.

That ‘cryptography’ part has been around for years. Like, centuries; used to encrypt secret messages since Ancient Greece and Sparta.

Today, SSL/TLS is the security layer added to HTTP to create secure connections between your device and popular websites when entering credit card information or trying to access sensitive data (like your email or even Facebook).

Its strength relies on a “symmetric-key cryptography” that only the two parties (your device and the website’s server) share. Before any data is transmitted either way, both parties are authenticated based on that secret key. The creates a secure, impenetrable connection.

So you’re sitting in a coffee shop. You connect to their network. Access a website using SSL/TLS on top of HTTP (or, HTTPS), and their network can no longer see what happens on that site.

Most reputable, modern websites already use HTTPS. And Google is making sure of it by recently announcing that it would basically force all websites on their Chrome browser to start using HTTPS. Or else an ugly warning sign would pop up, surely scaring off most website visitors from ever entering the website.

This, in a nutshell, is the same approach used by SSTP (but applied to an entire internet connection and not just a single website). That means SSTP is SUPER SECURE. (Maybe that would be a catchier “SS” in the name?) Because it’s a Microsoft product, it also works seamlessly on Windows devices. Others? Less so. They have rolled out versions for other platforms like Linux. However, it’s best suited to default Windows devices.

And generally speaking, the more secure an option (which SSTP ranks near the top), the slower performance can be.

 

4. IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange, Version 2)

IKEv2 protocolThe Internet Key Exchange, version 2 (IKEv2) is another IPsec-based protocol from Microsoft and Cisco.

It’s a new and improved option on some of their earlier collaborations (fresh with that new protocol smell), created specifically for Windows 7+ devices. It’s still available for MacOS “Sierra” (and above) users.

IKEv2 is a state-of-the-art protocol option that’s faster than most options listed so far, without sacrificing stability or security either.

A unique aspect of IKEv2 lies in its ability to hop between connections. For example, it can automatically jump from WiFi to your cell network without losing or dropping the secure VPN connection.

That (A) provides a better experience for you because it just ‘works’ in the background, while also (B) providing an additional layer of security so there’s not a way for someone to get in or eavesdrop while a connection temporarily goes down.

Why would this last point be important on mobile devices?

Because believe it or not, mobile intrusion and malware are on the rise. Here’s why – Last year, former US President Obama introduced an updated cybersecurity plan that urged citizens to start using ‘two-factor authentication’. When enabled, it adds an additional layer of security to make sure whoever’s trying to gain access to a sensitive website (like Gmail or your bank account) is the right person.

So you log in online like you would with any other website, first entering a username and then a (hopefully) random password. BUT, before gaining access, you see a new screen. It’s another required login, but this time an expiring code will be sent to your mobile device.

After a few seconds a brand new text message should pop up, containing a random key code that needs to be inputted within a short amount of time. Otherwise, it expires. That’s the “two-factor” part: you essentially need to login twice and have access to at least two unique devices in order to gain access.

But guess what? Hackers aren’t dumb (newsflash). So they’ve reacted accordingly.

One million Android devices were injected with malware by just a single strain! The catchy-sounding Gooligan infected devices when people tried to download apps from suspicious sources (outside the normal app store). Many times this malware will lay dormant. You won’t even know it exists.

But it’s there, watching and recording all data transmitted from that device. Including, SMS or text messages that contain special passcodes for your two-factor authentication.

IKEv2’s ability to maintain a secure VPN connection, even if your WiFi signal drops, significantly reduces that risk though. Which can make a BIG difference for Windows-based mobile devices.

 

5. OpenVPN (Most Recommended)

OpenVPN protocolNo need to bury the lead at this stage of the game.

OpenVPN is the default (and recommended) choice by top VPN providers. It’s your all-around option. The winner in aggregate.

Here’s why.

It’s based on the same underlying technology used in the aforementioned SSL/TLS security layer. This technology is Open Sourced, so it’s constantly being scrutinized, maintained, and updated by the security community (and not just a single company or two).

That means each side of the virtual tunnel, your device, and a server, uses a key and cipher to establish a secure connection. That keeps out ‘man in the middle’ attacks which put hackers in between you and the intended server (so they can intercept and change everything – like deposit amounts – being sent back and forth).

And it’s able to bypass restrictive firewalls from companies or governments, too.

China, as just one example, has a firewall used to control what happens through their state-owned internet service providers. That means their government can dictate what is seen or not seen. While also policing when people try to bypass this firewall. People within China commonly use VPN’s to bypass this firewall. Except, China’s obviously aware of this and is trying to stop it.

So the never-ending cat-and-mouse game continues. For instance, VyprVPN has introduced Chameleon as a response. It uses OpenVPN versatility and flexibility to “scramble” your “packet metadata” to make it unsusceptible to ‘deep packet inspection’ (or DPI, one of the primary ways governments, corporations and internet service providers identify who’s using a VPN).

OpenVPN

OpenVPN’s crowning achievement though is security.

Earlier, you saw how weak PPTP’s encryption was with a single, 56-bit key.

Even modern-day encryption is still just simple math at the end of the day. The stronger the key, the more variations required in order to figure out what it is. The possible combinations you’d need to guess in order to hack PPTP isn’t very many (using today’s souped-up computers). That’s why it only takes a few hours to crack.

Now compare that to the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption used by both OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols. This is the strongest encryption available today, relied on by both governments and top security pros to keep safe stuff, safe.

“AES 256-bit” refers to 2256, which is the number of combinations required to eventually crack. Spelled out, that equals 115,792,089,237,316,195,423,570,985,008,687,907,853,269,984,665,640,560,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Which is… a few more than a million? (I can’t even count that high.)

That means brute-force attacks, which are so common that there were “6,611,909 attacks targeting 72,532 individual WordPress websites” in a 16-hour window a few months ago, are virtually useless. There’s no point. No shot.

It does all of this without sacrificing speed and performance.

So it works across all devices and platforms. It’s secure. Flexible. And fast.

Conclusion: PPTP vs. L2TP vs. IPsec vs. OpenVPN

That was a lot of technical stuff.

Still unsure of what to choose? Here are the Cliff Notes:

  • Never choose PPTP. Unless you have to. In which case, stick to basic activities like streaming Netflix which don’t require security or safety.
  • Use L2TP/IPsec when you have to. Like on iOS devices, which don’t work with other popular methods that might be faster or more secure.
  • SSTP is a good alternative to those two for Windows devices who want stronger security.
  • While IKEv2 is the latest and greatest offering that’s perfect for new Windows mobile devices because it won’t drop a secure VPN connection when switching between a WiFi network or cell connection.

When in doubt, or if you’re unable to use those other options, always default to OpenVPN. It combines the best of all categories and is widely available across any device or platform.