5 Best VPNs for Signal That Work in 2017

Stephen Cooper

Stephen Cooper

August 3, 2017

What is Signal?

Signal is a secure messaging system. Users can connect one-to-one, or organize a group chat. Communication can be carried out using text, graphics, audio, or video. As Signal is encrypted, you might wonder why you would need to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect your privacy during connections. The answer to that lies in the difference between “secure” connections and “private” connections.

Secure systems such as Signal encrypt the data payload of each packet that forms a connection. When you use a streaming application, you don’t actually have a dedicated line between you and your caller. The sounds seem to run continuously. However, the sending computer actually breaks them up into small segments. The receiving computer reassembles them. Sending all of those little segments of sound across the internet involves the chunks mingling with other data heading for other destinations.

Those data chunks have administration details on them. This ensures they can reach the correct destination and be reassembled in the right order. The pieces transport and reassembly details go into a header on the front of the data payload. When you use a secure application, such as Signal, the contents of the payload are encrypted. However, the header remains in plain text. VPNs create privacy by encrypting the header data as well as the payload. Thus, no one is able to see the source and destination of each packet.

As such, applying a VPN to Signal traffic isn’t about ensuring security. Signal already takes care of that. VPNs give Signal connections added privacy. Unfortunately, not everyone in the world is happy about people using secure chat applications. Some countries ban Signal. In those locations, the only way to prevent your Signal traffic from being blocked is to hide the header information on all of the packets of the connection.

You can read all about the problems faced by Signal users later on in this article. First, let’s take a look at our list of the five best VPNs for Signal.

Quick Links to our 5 best VPNs for Signal

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. Buffered
  3. VPNArea
  4. IPVanish
  5. VyprVPN

Best VPNs for Signal: Summary

BestVPN Editor's Choice Award
ExpressVPN Homepage
  • Special Deal: Save 49% Today!
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Servers in 94 countries
  • Fast network
  • Uses stealth technology
  • Gets through the Great Firewall of China
  • Expensive

ExpressVPN has particularly high speeds. This is a good attribute for any VPN service that you want to combine with Signal. Signal runs on iOS and Android smartphones and through the home browser on Windows PCs and Mac OS X. Express has an app for all of those operating systems. It can also be installed on routers. This VPN is a good choice if you're having difficulties getting a Signal connection in China. ExpressVPN can evade detection in the People's Republic, so you should be able to contact friends abroad when this service is running on your device. ExpressVPN is the top pick as a VPN for Signal because it has a large server network that includes a presence in 94 countries. The company's great customer service team is another factor that earns this VPN full marks.

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2. Best VPN for Signal: Buffered

Buffered Homepage
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Good speeds for VoIP and video streams
  • Mobile-friendly app
  • Servers in 37 countries
  • Avoids detection
  • No live chat for customer support

Although ExpressVPN is the top VPN on this list, it isn’t the only VPN service that we recommend for use with Signal. If you find the price of ExpressVPN a little high, check out Buffered instead. There are some compromises in service that you have to make for that cheaper price. For example, Buffered only has servers in 37 countries. Despite that, Buffered provides good speeds and has an easy-to-use app that was designed for the small screens of smartphones. Buffered offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can give it a try risk free.

3. Best VPN for Signal: VPNArea

VPNArea Homepage
  • Seven-day money-back guarantee
  • Servers in 60 countries
  • Allowance of six simultaneous connections
  • Good for China
  • Strong encryption
  • Not the fastest VPN on the list

VPNArea is a good choice for users in China - it has never been blocked in that country. The VPN has servers in 60 countries, which gives you more options than the Buffered service. If you want a VPN to get around regional restrictions on video streaming sites as well as for Signal, then this is a great choice. VPNArea can get around just about any VPN detection system in the world. You get a generous allowance of six simultaneous connections with this service, which should be enough to cover your family's devices. VPNArea's session establishment security is strong as that of ExpressVPN and makes this service uncrackable.

4. Best VPN for Signal: IPVanish

IPVanish Homepage
  • Seven-day money-back guarantee
  • Servers in 60 countries
  • Allowance of five simultaneous connections
  • Very fast transfer speeds
  • Automatic WiFi protection
  • Quite expensive

IPVanish invested heavily in an infrastructure that is optimized for VPN services. All of the company's cabling and servers are owned and run in-house, so there are no third party companies accessing your activity information with this service. The company has its operational base in the United States, which worries some privacy experts. The worry is that the company could be vulnerable to pressure by US government security agencies. However, IPVanish keeps no logs of user activities and certainly wouldn't ever be able to record the conversations on Signal that it tunnels, because the app has another built in layer of encryption. Your main requirements from a VPN when you use Signal are that it has fast transfer speeds and it can get through foreign government blocks. IPVanish fits the bill on both of these.

5. Best VPN for Signal: VyprVPN

VyprVPN Homepage
  • Three-day free trial
  • Servers in 58 countries
  • Proprietary cloaking technology
  • Allowance of five simultaneous connections
  • Automatic WiFi protection
  • Low encryption security with Basic plan

VyprVPN has a strong track record on evading detection. The company's main feature for making its traffic undetectable as VPN messages is its proprietary Chameleon cloaking technology. The authorities in China are regularly fooled by Chameleon. If a VPN can get through the Great Firewall of China, it can get your Signal connections through any ISP blocks in the world. You will see that VyprVPN offers two levels of service - a Basic plan and a Premium package. The Chameleon cloaking system is only available with the Premium plan, so avoid the Basic option. You get an allowance of five simultaneous connections with VyprVPN.

Signal Ban

Several governments block Signal connections. The most well-known national ban of Signal is in Egypt. Users have experienced outages in the UAE and Oman as well. Turkey has also started blocking messenger apps. These countries’ governments are concerned that dissatisfied citizens could plot demos and revolutions on encrypted messaging apps, with secret services unable to monitor developing insurgencies.

Users in China also report that connections between Signal users within the country and Signal users outside of the People’s Republic never go through.

VPN for Signal: Considerations

VPNs encapsulate the encrypted packets inside outer packets. This is because routers need to be able to read the source and destination addresses in packet headers in order to forward them on across the internet. Routers need to send the packets somewhere, but that doesn’t mean that they need to know the real destination.

The VPN client on your computer puts the address of one of its company’s servers as the destination in the carrier packet header. This gets your Signal packets past your Internet Service Provider’s filter programs. When the VPN server receives those protected packets, it strips off the outer layer and decrypts the inner packet. Those inner packets are sent on to their intended destination. The VPN server puts its own address in the packet as the source. When a reply is made, it goes to the VPN server. Each VPN company has a pool of thousands of IP addresses. It allocates you one for the duration of your session.

When a reply packet arrives at the VPN server, it looks up which client it allocated that particular IP address to. It then forwards the response. That response is encrypted and encapsulated, so when it passes through the ISP on the way to your computer, it has the VPN’s address on it as the source. On arrival, the VPN client on your computer intercepts the encrypted packet. It strips off the outer layer and passes the packet on to Signal.

ISP Throttling

ISPs implement government-ordered interceptions of Signal connections. However, even without an order from the government, ISPs may interfere with your Signal connections. ISPs don’t like internet telephony applications because they generate a lot of traffic. A larger volume of data passing through the computers and cables of the ISP requires expansion of hardware in order to cope with demand. That costs money. Instead of putting on more bandwidth, ISPs try to discourage the use of applications like Signal. They do this by giving them a lower quality of service. This selective allocation of slower speeds to specific applications is called “throttling.”

When you use a VPN, your ISP’s programs can’t tell that the contents of each packet contribute to a Signal connection. Thus it doesn’t divert them onto a slower line. This factor could account for reports by Signal users that the application of a VPN speeds up their connections. Even though VPNs impose a lot of extra processing and diversion on each packet, their ability to foil throttling schemes means that you may not experience any slowing of the connection.

Signal VPN: Conclusion

The governments that invest in systems to block Signal usually don’t like people using VPNs. Not every VPN in the world will work in those countries. In China, for example, blocking internet access is such a government priority that the authorities have invested millions in systems to monitor traffic.

Therefore, you not only have to choose a VPN that can hide Signal connections, but one that can hide itself. All of the VPNs on this list are renowned for their ability to obscure their real identity. They get traffic through VPN detection systems as well as government blocks on Signal connections. Take advantage of the free trials and refund periods that these VPNs offer so that you can see which works best for you when you use Signal.

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