Black Friday

5 Best VPNs for Usenet

Stephen Cooper

Stephen Cooper

October 27, 2017

What is Usenet?

Usenet is a message board that existed before the World Wide Web. It existed before Windows. It existed before cell phones. Usenet was started up in 1979. It was a revolution because it enabled techies to share tips and trade insults. It spread office banter across the world and helped promote the social potential of the internet, as well as its use for research and industry.

Now that Facebook and Twitter exist, you may wonder why anyone would bother with this dusty old corner of the internet that they forgot to shut down. The answer to that is “NZB.” Although Usenet provides fond memories for those who were there when it all kicked off, even the system’s creators realized that Usenet had served its purpose. Duke University and the University of North Carolina, where it all began, turned off their Usenet servers in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Although some older geeks still trade insults over the remnants of the Usenet system, younger techies prefer the image-rich 4Chan. The empty space that the crowd left behind at Usenet when they moved on has been occupied by file distributors with their NZB files.

 

A big disadvantage of the Usenet system for downloading is that it isn’t a free-for-all, like BitTorrent. You have to get an access point, and most of those services charge. Where you have to pay, you can be traced. Although the NZB service you choose may be very anti-establishment, if the police kick down their doors and take their servers, your happy pirating activities will be exposed.

You need a VPN to create a hideyhole from the authorities in case things go wrong. However, not all VPNs are as anonymous as they claim to be. Some keep logs of their users’ activities and even sell that information. You don’t want to be caught out by a VPN that wasn’t truthful when it said it didn’t keep any activity logs. You need cast-iron anonymity when you access files through Usenet. This review recommends the five best VPNs for Usenet. The services in our list really don’t keep any logs. Net neutrality activists and those who downloaded pirated material themselves created the services. These are the people you can trust.

 

Best VPNs for Usenet: Summary

BestVPN Editor's Choice Award
Buffered Homepage
PROS:
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Strict no logs policy
  • Allowance of five simultaneous connections
  • Private Domain Name System (DNS)
  • Good speeds
CONS:
  • Can't get into all streaming services

Buffered has a strong commitment to protecting the identity of downloaders. The company moved from its original based in Hungary to Gibraltar because it felt that the legal regime there was better suited to privacy services. The company doesn't keep activity logs beyond the end of a connection.

The location of the VPN server that you use for downloading from Usenet servers doesn't really matter. The important factor you need is speed. Buffered's network has brilliant speeds for downloading. The server network has a presence in 37 countries.

Get the best VPN for Usenet now!

Visit Buffered »30-day money-back guarantee
Nomination
ExpressVPN Homepage
PROS:
  • Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Easy-to-use app
  • No logs
  • Based in the British Virgin Islands
  • Private DNS
CONS:
  • Only three simultaneous connections allowed

ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which is a difficult place for copyright lawyers to reach. The company keeps no logs and has never been served with a court order for information on user activities. This is a very comprehensive service, which will prove useful to you for a whole range of activities, not just NZB downloading.

The company's network has very high speeds and includes servers in 94 servers. The app for this VPN is very easy to use. You can load it onto routers to protect every gadget in your home.

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3. Best VPN for Usenet: CyberGhost

CyberGhost Homepage
PROS:
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Fast network speeds
  • Account anonymity
  • No logs
  • Strong security procedures
CONS:
  • Sets up a repeat billing agreement on your bank account

CyberGhost is a very funky app. Its activities screen shows when you open up the app. You choose an activity option, then the VPN client adjusts all of its settings automatically to optimize the connection for your preferred activity. One of those settings is for torrenting. Although Usenet downloading with NZB files works differently to the BitTorrent method, the fact that CyberGhost specifically caters to torrenters shows that it has no problems with users downloading copyrighted material.

You don't need to identify yourself to the VPN company in order to set up an account. A separate company performs the payment processing. All that CyberGhost keeps on file is the credit assigned to each account number. If you need to communicate with the help desk, you compromise your anonymity. However, you can set up a webmail account for that purpose. CyberGhost is based in Romania, where data privacy is a legal priority. The high court there has abolished all data retention laws. This VPN keeps no logs of user activities.

4. Best VPN for Usenet: Mullvad

Mullvad Homepage
PROS:
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Three-hour free trial
  • Account anonymity
  • Allowance of five simultaneous connections
  • Choice of encryption methods
CONS:
  • No live support

Mullvad is based in Sweden. That's an EU location. However, recent European Court of Justice rulings have thrown out all data retention laws in the EU specifically as a judgement in a case brought against Swedish Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Thus there are no data retention laws in Sweden any more. In addition, Mullvad keeps no logs.

Mullvad uses similar account anonymity procedures to those that CyberGhost practices. You pay a different company and Mullvad only knows you by an account number. The payment processing company accepts Bitcoin and store gift cards. You can even mail cash anonymously, but don't forget to write your account number somewhere in with the money.

You can try out the VPN for free for three hours. When you sign up for the paid version, you can connect five devices to the network simultaneously. Security procedures are strong and you have a choice of using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption, or Blowfish. The VPN network is relatively small, with servers in 22 countries.

5. Best VPN for Usenet: BTGuard

BTGuard Homepage
PROS:
  • Configured for downloading
  • Strong encryption
  • No logs
  • High speed network
  • Easy to use
CONS:
  • Not suitable for use with other online activities

BTGuard exists to serve the BitTorrent community. As such, it's very different to the rest of the VPNs on this list, which cater to a range of activities. Although downloading through Usenet isn't the same as torrent downloading, the protection you need in both cases is very similar. The provider only has servers in three locations: Toronto, Canada; Amsterdam in the Netherlands; and Singapore. For downloading, the availability of different server locations isn't an issue.

The company offers an anonymizing proxy service. However, don't be tempted by that. Go for the VPN service instead, because you're going to need the privacy that the total encryption of a VPN offers. The company vows that it doesn't keep user activity logs.

VPN Logging

It doesn’t take much research into VPN processes to work out that any services that say they don’t log activities have to stretch the truth a little. The procedures of a VPN service require that there is at least a mapping of customers to temporary IP addresses during the period of a connection. The main issue is whether the VPN stores records of those sessions after the user disconnects. Some do.

Usage limits are one reason that a VPN might keep activity records. If you sign up for a free service that has a monthly data throughput cap, the VPN has to store records of your connections and data usage. Although that might seem harmless, any record of your connections with timestamps could be enough for copyright lawyers to match up the VPN IP address in the logs that they seized from the NZB service to the customers of the VPN that were connected at that time.

The VPN may swear that it would never hand over connection logs. However, the police generally don’t ask nicely when they have a court order to seize servers. They don’t take “No” for an answer. Be sure that all the police could ever get their hands on is empty discs.

NZB Site Access

As well as the cost of legal action, one of the factors that made Newzbin’s owners close down the site was that ISPs in the UK blocked access to it. An ISP has a number of methods available for preventing people getting through to blacklisted sites. One of the easiest is to not tell the requesting computer the proper address for a site.

NZB sites have typical World Wide Web addresses. You type that address into your browser in order to access the page. However, the browser has get the internet address of the computer that hosts the site before it can request the page you asked for. This cross-reference stage is performed with the assistance of a Domain Name System (DNS) server. If the ISP deletes the entry for a site from the DNS, your browser won’t be able to contact the site. This is how UK ISPs made Newzbin impossible to reach.

VPNs run their own DNS servers. They also encrypt all communication between your computer and the VPN server. As such, when your browser requests the IP address of your chosen NZB site, the DNS request is carried through to the VPN server. That then returns the proper address back through the encrypted connection. The ISP doesn’t get to see the contents of any of these DNS calls, so can’t block access to NZB sites.

Conclusion

Downloading files with Usenet is an act of piracy. You could get caught. Make sure you cover your tracks when you download with NZB files. Use a VPN to protect your identity.

Not all VPNs are as airtight as they claim. However, the services on our list of the five best VPNs for Usenet will keep your secret. Ensure you’re anonymous when you download through Usenet – only employ a VPN that you can trust.

Image Credit: Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shutterstock.com

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