DotVPN Review

John Mason

John Mason

In this review, I’ll figure out whether DotVPN is actually a good VPN, or just another free VPN to sell your data to 3rd party companies…

DotVPN owned by a company called Smart Security Limited out of Hong Kong.

But despite their status as a Hong Kong company, their website is hosted out of Frankfurt Germany.

DotVPN says that their product is “a better way to VPN.”

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Ignoring their unfortunate decision to use VPN as a verb, this also isn’t the first time we’ve heard this same line.

And most of them fall short.

So, the question becomes, is Dot all smoke and bluster, or can they back up their boasting where it really counts?

Let’s find out together in this DotVPN review.

General Information

OVERALL RANK 70/74
USABILITY 5/5
ENCRYPTION AES-128, 4096-Bit Key
VPN PROTOCOLS OpenVPN, TLS 1.2, Proxy Tunneling
SPEED Slow
NETFLIX 0/5 Worked
TORRENTING Allowed With Premium Plan
LOG FILES/JURISDICTION No Logging Important Info, Hong Kong
SUPPORT Contact Form, No Response
COST $2.99 per month

DotVPN Pros

There are a few. No logging, unlimited torrenting, and low pricing got our ears perked up.

Check it out.

1. No Logging Policy

Many VPNs have this mentality that you can be invisible to everyone except for them. And they log information, both on you personally and your internet activity.

DotVPN claims that they don’t do that.

no logging policy

They’re saying up front that they have a strict no logging policy. They’re also adding a few other factoids to differentiate them from Hola VPN, a proxy browser add-on that logs all of your information, has no servers, and routes users through one another’s devices.

I took a gander at their privacy policy to make sure everything was on the up and up.

privacy policy

The only real information they’re keeping on you is your email address.

That’s not identifying personal information at all. You could easily create an email address unattached to your name before using the service.

The policy goes on to talk about keeping track of your username and password, making no mention of any identifying information or activity logging.

This is a VPN service that is sticking by its pledge to keep your information private, and that’s commendable.

2. Safe Encryption for Mobile Apps

DotVPN is two different products. There’s a browser extension and a mobile app for both Android and iOS.

While both are called DotVPN, they’re very different products.

The browser add-on isn’t really a true VPN at all, it’s a proxy server. A proxy protects your web browser, while a true VPN protects 100% of your internet use on or off the browser.

SSL Proxy

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer, and it is the tunneling protocol used by most proxy servers. DotVPN is coupling this with a 4096-bit encryption kit.

As far as proxies go, this isn’t terrible, but it won’t give you even a fraction of the security offered by a full VPN.

The mobile apps are true VPNs, safeguarding all of your activity on your phone or tablet.

VPN protocols - OpenVPN and IPSec

It’s great to see them using OpenVPN as a tunneling protocol. This is widely accepted to be the best and most secure VPN protocol in existence.

That’s because OpenVPN is a labor of ever-evolving love from the entire security community. It is open sourced, meaning no one single company is maintaining it. Rather, the security community maintains it as a whole, adding to it and making it stronger as technology advances.

The one drawback to OpenVPN is that some slower systems and iOS have a hard time with it. That’s probably why DotVPN is using IPSec for their iOS app.

IPSec is an encryption protocol usually paired with either L2TP or IKEv2 protocols.

aes encryption

As far as encryption goes, Dot is using AES-128 instead of its more powerful cousin AES-256. While they state that there are vulnerabilities to AES-256, that would be news to us.

AES-256 is the standard used all over the industry, from Fortune 500 companies to the federal government to many of the best VPNs in the world.

While we maintain that the 256 is stronger, the 128 is still a secure encryption that will serve these apps well.

3. Large Server Park, Impressive Features, Multiple Connections

Dot gives you a lot of options with over 700 servers in 12 different countries.

server network

The ability to switch servers at will is an important feature for any VPN, as is the number of servers you have to choose from.

DotVPN premium

Dot can be used by five devices at a time, perfect for a family looking to browse anonymously.

There’s unlimited bandwidth on both the free and premium plans.

A lot of VPNs that offer a free component throttle its usage and Dot is no different. It limits the amount of speed that the free plan gets, which can be problematic if you want to stream content.

DotVPN uses TOR, too

It also embraces the use of the TOR network, which I always love to see. TOR is an anonymous web browser that’s free to use, but has some security concerns.

For instance, while a government agency can’t see your activity on TOR, they can see that you’re using it. Pairing a VPN with TOR closes that window and grants you a truly anonymous experience.

If I had to pick one thing to gripe about, it’d be the relatively-low country total. Twelve countries is pretty low.

But we’re still giving them the benefit of the doubt because the total server count is so high.

4. Easy to Install and Use

Installation of the Google Chrome browser add-on was very easy, downloading in under 30 seconds.

I clicked the link on their official download page, selecting Chrome as my preferred platform.

That opened up the Chrome marketplace.

DotVPN proxy for Chrome

I clicked “Add to Chrome” and the download began.

No problems whatsoever, and it started up quickly.

DotVPN android app

It brought me to a page full of countries, allowing me to choose a server. I chose Paris, France.

Connected to France

I really liked this screen. It told me my speed (which was awful, more on that later) and ping, and kept track of the amount of time I spent connected and how many advertisers and trackers it blocked.

I went over to YouTube and was able to watch a 10-minute video with no problems.

YouTube logo

I then switched over to a server in the Netherlands. The speed dropped a bit but the transition was nice and smooth.

All in all, this is a browser add-on that installs and works very efficiently.

 

DotVPN Cons

While I appreciate their lack of logging and impressive features, there’s still quite a bit about this VPN that worries me.

First off, we found leaks through our testing process and this VPN has no kill switch. So your IP could be leaking out and you’d have no way of knowing.

It doesn’t work with Netflix and they flat out ban torrenting applications, so their claim of internet freedom is a little overstated.

Their lack of a full desktop VPN app also frustrates me, as is their underwhelming device line up and non-existent customer support.

1. Located in Hong Kong (Outside of 14 Eyes Alliance)

DotVPN’s status as a Hong-Kong based company is a very good thing.

Hong Kong is not a part of the 14 Eyes surveillance alliance, which pools the information gathering efforts of the US and 13 other countries.

Most of the top VPNs that we review have one thing in common. They exist outside of the alliance’s official jurisdiction.

A US-based VPN could have all of the right answers. It could be leak free, log free, lightning fast, with outstanding customer service. But it will always fall to the wayside against a VPN that doesn’t answer to the 14 Eyes alliance.

A word of warning, though.

Only “government approved” VPNs are allowed in China. Which means they’re still firmly under the Chinese government. Which means there’s a pretty good (almost certain) chance your personal data (if a VPN has it) will flow into their hands.

That’s why I’m lumping this under a Con at the end of the day. It’s not as bad as being under 5 Eyes. But still not good, either.

2. IP Leaks Detected

The whole purpose of a VPN is to shield your IP and grant you an anonymous browsing and streaming experience.

The presence of leaks completely undermines this.

DNS leaks are one of the main culprits. They drill a big hole in your tunneling protocol and expose your original IP.

The other big offender is WebRTC leaks. WebRTC is a system developed for web browsers that helps them to create more effective real-time communication apps. The problem with WebRTC is that the APIs which allow it to fulfill its purpose also play havoc with a VPN’s security.

Leaks are serious business. That’s why we test all of our VPNs six different times to make sure everything is functioning properly.

We put DotVPN through our string of tests, and it did not fare well.

At the start it was promising, we detected no IP or DNS leaks.

IP leak test Not using perfect privacy

However, when we tested for WebRTC leaks, we found out that DotVPN was leaking our original IP address from Estonia:

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

The presence of a WebRTC leak undermines DotVPN’s entire system. Leaks make their no logging policy pointless and their encryption meaningless.

3. No Servers Worked With Netflix

Do you want to use your VPN to watch Netflix, right?

Well, Netflix doesn’t want you to.

In fact, Netflix goes out of its way to ensure that you can’t.

Netflix Media Center

Despite this hard line in the sand, there are many VPNs who have managed to squeak through Netflix’s ban.

DotVPN is not one of them.

We tested five of Dot’s servers with Netflix and none of them worked.

4. No Torrenting Allowed

Torrenting is a service coveted by VPN users. While the ability to connect through a peer-to-peer network can be beneficial for downloading large files at fast speeds, it also opens you up to a multitude of threats.

Having a VPN to shield your personal information from hackers hoping to exploit this backdoor into your system is extremely beneficial and solves the most glaring issue with the torrenting process.

DotVPN, however, does not allow torrenting of any kind on any of its servers.

DotVPN support torrenting

This is disappointing, but it’s good that they’re not ruling it out for the future. I’ve seen some VPNs take this grand moral stance against torrenting, but Dot has more of a “we don’t have it now, but hopefully soon” mentality about the whole thing.

If you’re looking for a torrenting VPN, check out our list of the best VPNs that work with torrenting.

5. Limited Device Support

DotVPN falls woefully short in this department.

As a browsing add-on, DotVPN supports Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. It is also usable on both iOS and Android platforms.

There have been promises of a desktop app, which would be a full VPN. However, they don’t seem to be committing to a time frame.

DotVPN has no desktop app

Seeing as how I’m writing this on June 12, 2018, their promise of mid-2017 has come and gone.

They also don’t support routers. Which means you won’t be able to encrypt smart TVs or gaming consoles, either.

Your options are extremely limited.

6. No Kill Switch

As stated above, we found IP leaks. That’s cause for major alarm.

The only thing that ever eases my leak concern is the presence of a kill switch.

A kill switch is a built-in security measure, sort of like the ejector seat on a fighter jet. If your connection becomes unstable and you’re leaking your IP, the kill switch abruptly ends your session before any damage can occur.

The presence of a kill switch might have restored some of my faith in DotVPN’s security.

Unfortunately, they don’t have one.

7. Contact Form Support, No Response

Dot has a customer service form that you can fill out, located under the help tab on their menu.

Once you click on Send Us Your Feedback it will take you to the form.

Customer support on DotVPN

It’s a pretty straightforward contact form. I filled out my information and asked about their encryption and VPN protocols.

Three days and counting… and I have heard nothing back. I even sent them a follow-up, noting that it was my second attempt to reach out, and still I’ve heard nothing.

Customer support is important when dealing with a tech product and this was a big strikeout.

8. Absolutely Decimates Internet Speed

While any VPN will slow your speed down, this was a dumpster fire.

A lot of people see speed loss as the cost of internet security. But the fastest VPNs we’ve reviewed see only a slight dip in performance levels.

Nothing like this.

Normally we test all of our VPNs in the same way. We look at a server in the EU and one in the US. We always use speedtest.net to do this, so our speed screenshots usually look the same.

But when I tried to do that with DotVPN, it wasn’t working.

latency test error

I tried on multiple servers and I was met with the same issue over and over. I disconnected from the service and tried again. It worked fine, so it was clearly the VPN.

I ended up having to use Google’s speed test tool, so these results will look a bit different from our normal testing.

The EU speed test came out of Paris, and it was pretty abysmal. Speeds plummeted all around.

EU Speed test

EU Speed Test

  • Ping: 57 ms
  • Download: 3.32 Mbps (90% Slower Than 30 Mbps Benchmark)
  • Upload: 1.85 Mbps (85.7% Slower Than 13 Mbps Benchmark)

As bad as this was, the US speed test was even worse.

US speed test

US Speed Test

  • Ping: 22 ms
  • Download: 1.58 Mbps (94.7% Slower Than 30 Mbps Benchmark)
  • Upload: 1.87 Mbps (85.6% Slower Than 13 Mbps Benchmark)

DotVPN Costs, Plans, & Payment Options

DotVPN has two plans. A free option and a premium service.

DotVPN costs and pricing

The free service is super limited but, you do get what you pay for.

The premium has a number of different options as far as commitment goes. A month to month plan will run you $4.99 per month.

The annual rate will cost $2.99 per month, which is another awesome rate, right up there with some of the most affordable services we’ve seen.

When it comes to payment options, you have a few to choose from.

DotVPN payment methods

PayPal, credit cards, local payment systems, or cryptocurrencies are accepted. I always love when a VPN allows crypto payments. It’s like an additional layer of security on top of their service.

If you cancel within 30 days you can receive a full refund. Anything after that can still be refunded, but it will be prorated.

Do I Recommend DotVPN?

No, I do not.

From the butchering of my speed levels to a lack of decent security on the browser level, I can’t in good conscience recommend this VPN.

Speaking of the speed, it’s a little suspicious how our regular speed test program didn’t work while connected to DotVPN. On the VPN dashboard they give you your speed and when I was able to find a speed test that worked, I saw that they were grossly inflating it. I can’t prove that they were purposely trying to mislead me, but it’s definitely on my mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I find their logging policies commendable, but the WebRTC leak completely undo it. And with no kill switch, I have no faith in its ability to protect me.

I also need more than just mobile apps and browser proxies. They’re already a year late on their promise of a desktop app, so I’m not holding my breath.

Customer support completely blew off my questions, and while the price is good, there are infinitely better systems out there for the same or less money.

They only managed to rank 70th out of the 74 VPNs we’ve reviewed.

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