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Betternet Review 2018 – Try Before You Buy With One-Week Free Trial

Our summary

This Betternet review looks at both the paid “Premium” and free VPN service. In it, you will discover the differences between the two services. I found the free version to be quite useful despite serving adverts. The paid service, on the other hand, doesn’t have all the necessary features to truly be considered “Premium” and is a little bit slow.

1/5.0

Our Score

2.0

Highlights

  • Proven : 38 million+ users around the world
  • Free version: Try before you pay for Premium
  • Easy to use software: Clean and friendly
  • Browser Extension Available: Use it with Chrome
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What Is Betternet?

Betternet is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) provider with 38 million users worldwide. It is a free service that has come under a lot of criticism in the past year. This is mainly due to a CSIRO study that found it to be serving adverts to its users. However, that same study discovered that 75% of free VPN apps use similar tracking to serve adverts.

This is one reason why BestVPN.com regularly reminds consumers about the difference between paid VPNs and free VPNs. Running a VPN isn’t easy – or cheap. Thus it’s common for free VPN services to create revenue by serving adverts. Is Betternet guilty of this? Yes. Is it any worse than the other 75% of free VPNs out there? Well, with 14 tracking libraries for serving adverts, it may not be worse, but it is definitely better at it.

This review is of Betternet’s premium (paid) service. The paid Betternet service wasn’t criticized by the CSIRO study and isn’t funded by advertising. As such, any complaints made about Betternet’s free VPN do not necessarily apply to the premium service.

If the free Betternet VPN service is your only interest, then please check out the relevant subsection below. For everybody else, let’s dive in and see if the paid Betternet service can compete with other premium VPN services.

  • ProsPROS
  • No adverts on the premium version
  • Fast connection speeds
  • Seven-day free trial for premium service
  • 30-day money-back guarantee for premium service
  • Free version
  • ConsCONS
  • Poor privacy policy (collects and sells data on user activities)
  • Free version serves adverts (has tracking libraries)
  • Keeps logs (free version)
  • Cooperates with information demands by the authorities
  • IP address and Domain Name System (DNS) leaks
  • No kill switch
  • Slow connections (on free version)
  • Free service only has US servers

Visit Betternet »

Betternet Pricing and Plans

To access the premium version of Betternet, you must first download the free version. Using that software, you can then upgrade. Betternet VPN premium only comes in one plan, with price variations based on the subscription period. Committing for a longer period of time gives you a hefty loyalty discount. The three price options are as follows:

Betternet prices

Betternet Premium service income

You can subscribe for one month, six months, or a year. The payment process sets up a recurring billing agreement. If you don’t cancel the agreement before your subscription ends, Betternet will automatically charge you for another period.

The Betternet Refund Policy

Betternet provides a 30-day money-back guarantee to allow you to test the premium service. However, the refund is only given if you’ve used less than 50 MB of data. As such, you have to ask for your money back during the 30-day period and with only minimal use. 50 Mb is a very small amount of usage allowance. This means that, in reality, it’s very hard to qualify for a refund. This is really mean: it’s the worst 30-day money back guarantee I have seen from a VPN.

A better option is to use the seven-day free trial of the premium account. Sadly, to use the free trial you must enter your credit card details. If you don’t cancel within the seven-day trial period, Betternet will automatically put you onto the monthly tariff, which is the most expensive plan. As such, be sure to cancel before your seven days are up if you’re not keen on the service.

Betternet VPN Premium Features

The paid Betternet plan provides the following features:

  • Servers in ten countries: Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Australia, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Canada and seven US cities. With the free VPN, subscribers only get access to one server in the US, which is allocated at random.
  • Five simultaneous connections
  • No adverts (unlike the free version)
  • Free access to a browser extension for Chrome
  • Apps for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android
  • OpenVPN encryption

Visit Betternet »

Is Betternet Secure?

Sadly, Betternet is based in Canada, which is one of the nations in the Five Eyes surveillance agreement. This means that Betternet is not in a country that we consider to be good for privacy.

Here is the Betternet privacy promise from its homepage:

Betternet privacy statement 1/2

Despite this promise, the privacy policy states that Betternet keeps connection logs (connection time and bandwidth used). In addition, despite saying it won’t collect any “identifiable personal information,” Betternet doesn’t specify what counts as personal information. IP addresses aren’t specified as personal data anywhere in the privacy policy.

This means that it’s possible for a time correlation attack to be mounted on users of Betternet’s premium and free services. This kind of attack uses the connection timestamps and IP address logs. For an example of how this kind of attack can be exploited, please look here.

This is a poorly written policy that leaves too many questions unanswered to provide peace of mind.

Betternet privacy statement 2/2

In addition, Betternet discloses that it will hand over its connection logs to the authorities if asked. This really isn’t great for privacy; there are many other VPNs on the market that don’t keep connection logs. There are also plenty of VPNs that do keep connection logs – but not stored alongside IP addresses. This is fine – it’s called “aggregated” connection logs. We urge Betternet to consider changing its privacy policy and stop storing IP addresses with connection timestamps.

Cookies

The Betternet terms of service (ToS) allow third-party advertisers to deliver cookies onto your devices. The ToS explains that this is to enable advertisers to estimate the effectiveness of their campaigns. Betternet also says that it doesn’t exert any control over the practices of those third parties. Finally, Betternet absolves itself from any responsibility for loss or damage caused by those third parties. This is troubling, particularly when you realize that it isn’t clear whether this is only happening on the free version.

I suspect that, because the paid version doesn’t deliver adverts, it isn’t delivering cookies, either. However, the privacy policy leaves this as a gray area. As far as I can tell, the policy legally permits the firm to deliver cookies and adverts even on the premium version.

Considering the cost of the premium VPN, this privacy policy is badly written, purposefully uninformative, and in opposition to privacy claims made on the website. A good VPN is always judged on its privacy policy. On that point, Betternet falls at the first hurdle. If the firm wants to be taken seriously, the premium version needs a watertight privacy policy.

Security

Betternet isn’t forthcoming with details about its encryption standards. In my experience, this is always the case with VPNs that have weak or outdated encryption. The Betternet FAQ says the VPN uses OpenVPN with AES-256 encryption and also has L2TP/IPSec with a 128-bit key.

Sadly, it doesn’t explain where it deploys these different tunneling protocols. There’s no option on the desktop or mobile apps to change the encryption protocol. This means that some versions of the Betternet software run OpenVPN, while others run L2TP/IPsec. I asked Betternet to tell me which client runs which protocol, but they didn’t answer. In fact, my ticket went from “open” to “solved” without any response from the firm whatsoever.

I was also unable to get information about which data authentication method Betternet uses. The staff couldn’t tell me what encryption is used for session establishment and key distribution, hash size, or authentication. In addition, I couldn’t find out the difference between the encryption on the data and control channels – or if Betternet VPN implements Perfect Forward Secrecy.

These are important details. VPN encryption is only as strong as its weakest point. This means that, despite being “OpenVPN” that implements “AES-256,” Betternet could actually fall short of our stringent minimum standards for security. This would make it easy to hack into the VPN tunnel and discover what you’re doing online. Without that data, I can’t tell you how secure Betternet is. To be safe, we must presume that it is weak.

VPNs that don’t disclose their encryption are always lacking in one way or another – because good encryption is worth shouting from the rooftops about.

The Betternet VPN Website

The website is professional and easy to navigate. There aren’t a huge number of pages on the site. Visitors are directed to the free app download button. Frustratingly, you can’t see the cost of the premium service without downloading the free app. In fact, you would never even know Betternet VPN had a premium service from visiting the website.

Betternet Review

Eventually, I did find a mention of the premium service on the “How We Make Money” page (and in a few responses displayed in the help center’s knowledge base).

How does Betternet make money?

The website’s main menu purposefully follows you down the page as you scroll down, which is useful. On the right-hand side, you’ll find the link to download the VPN client. If you’re going to use the free VPN, or want access to the premium service – including the 7-day free trial – you’ll need to click here.

Access Betternet downloads

Betternet Customer Support

Premium users should be able to access support through the app. To do so, click on the hamburger menu in the top left, followed by “Contact Us” on the next screen. You must specify the nature of your help request at this stage.

Betternet Premium support access

Sadly, clicking on any of those choices just opens your browser on its standard start page. It seems that the app is buggy and Betternet hasn’t bothered to fix it: customer care doesn’t seem to be high on the agenda.

As such, you’ll need to go to the website to access the help desk. Even this can be frustrating, because there’s no obvious link in the main menu for customer support. To find it, scroll down to the bottom of the homepage and click on “Help Center.”

Considering that the best VPN providers (which cost a similar amount) have 24/7 live chat support, Betternet isn’t fulfilling the promise of being a “proper” premium VPN.

Betternet website footer

The help center is a page where you can search for common answers to problems. The FAQs are categorized by operating system. You can search for help by using the search box above those operating system buttons.

Betternet Help Center

The Betternet Help Desk Team

To get help, open a support ticket by clicking on “Submit a request” at the top of the help center.

After selecting the subject of your message, other fields appear below. In addition to normal information like your email address (so that they can reply), you have to provide a whole host of details, including which country you’re in, and which operating system you use. I found this to be rather invasive, but thankfully you don’t have to fill in every field to ask your question. Below is my attempt to find out what encryption Betternet uses:

When you click “Submit,” you’ll receive an auto-response email. The response to your help request will also come by email. You’ll receive a further email prompting you to set up a support account at the Betternet site.

You can check your ‘activity’ (support tickets) by logging into the help center with your email address and password. You can respond to support responses by email or by using the help center support ticket records.

Betternet support ticket center

The support team responds slowly. Agents don’t seem to know ‘techy’ details about the service. This is fairly typical and not particularly troubling. However, what is worrying is that Betternet wasn’t able to come up with any good answers even after I pressed. Each time I tried, I had to wait about a day for the reply, which then contained little to no valuable information.

What’s more, although Betternet promises better response times on the premium service, from my experience this doesn’t seem to be true. In the end, I decided to ditch my role as a “mystery shopper” and came clean about being a professional VPN reviewer. Even then responses took ages, and Betternet didn’t supply me with the important encryption details I needed.

The Process

Getting hold of the Betternet app isn’t hard. Simply head over to the website and download via the right-hand corner at the top of the page. When you launch the app, it will ask if you want to trial the premium VPN for seven days. If you prefer to use the free VPN, decline. Once the app has launched, you can still upgrade to premium (including using the seven-day free trial).

I couldn’t see the premium plan in the app until I turned off my ad blockers (Privacy Badger and ABP). This is a weird bug because I was using the standalone VPN client for Windows – not a Chrome extension.

Once you’ve upgraded to premium by selecting a plan and paying (or selecting the seven-day free trial), you can select from one of the ten country locations. To connect, simply select a server from the list and press the “Connect” button. I found the VPN to connect quickly and without issues.

Free Betternet app disconnected

When a connection is established, the shield turns blue and looks happy to let you know all is well.

The free Betternet app connected

Signing Up

If you’re signing up to Betternet for the first time, I suggest using the “Try Free” option. Although this leads on to the more expensive monthly plan, you can simply cancel the free trial and join up using the yearly plan if you like the service. Using the free trial will give you a good idea of what Betternet is like, allowing you to decide whether you want to invest.

Betternet prices

Click on the green button to sign up for the free trial. This opens up a page in your default browser, where you need to fill in your credit card details.

Betternet Premium free trial sign up

Once your credit card is authorized, the cartoon shield on the website turns happy and green. Check your inbox for an invoice from Betternet – you now have a bill for $0. You will know that you’ve gone pro because the shield in the app will now be wearing a crown.

Betternet Premium notification

The Betternet App

As a premium customer, you can select a server from the server list. Sadly, this is all you can do. Betternet doesn’t permit users to change VPN protocol or specify whether they want to use OpenVPN Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or User Datagram Protocol (UDP).

In fact, Betternet is missing all of the VPN features that would usually lead one to call a service “premium.” There’s no kill switch, no DNS leak protection, no auto-connect, no cloaking and no “stealth” technology. Nor are there port forwarding options. Nothing. Considering this is the paid service, it is completely underwhelming.

List of Betternet Premium servers

To select a server location, click on ‘Select Virtual Location.’ You get ten countries, and seven cities in the US to choose from. This is a reasonable amount of choice. However, considering that there are many VPNs on the market with upwards of 50 countries in their repertoire, it’s hardly mind-blowing.

The Betternet Premium app

To switch between server locations,  click on a new server. You don’t need to disconnect before switching servers and reconnecting – it will do it automatically.

Betternet’s VPN Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Tests)

I performed speed tests from the UK, using beta.speedtest.net. For each category, I performed five tests. Base tests were done for both the US and UK without a VPN first. I used test servers in the US (New York) and UK (London). The Netherlands VPN server was tested from the London test server. The US New York server was tested from a New York test server.

Betternet download speed test

Betternet upload speed test

The graphs show the highest, lowest, and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.

As you can see, the VPN slowed my download speeds considerably. The good news is that upload speeds remained pretty similar with and without the VPN engaged. In the UK tests, the UK Betternet server brought down the average connection speed from 48.20 Mbps to 18.62 Mbps. The Dutch server fared a little better. Its average download speed over five tests was 29.86 Mbps. Although these are pretty big drops, they aren’t the worst I’ve seen by any stretch of the imagination. You could still stream in HD.

The performance on the New York server was worse. My base test from the UK to the US achieved an average speed of 38.78 Mbps. Betternet’s New York server brought my average download speed down to 7.82 Mbps. Not great.

I checked online, and it appears that I got lucky with my download speeds. Subscribers often complain of even slower speeds. Most people don’t believe that Betternet can be used to unblock streams as it’s just too slow and results in a lot of buffering.

IP Leaks and DNS Leaks

 I checked for Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) and DNS leaks using ipleak.net. I performed these tests while using the Betternet London server. In both tests, Betternet for Windows showed no IP leaks or DNS leaks on my system. I was unable to test for IPv6 leaks because my Internet Service Provider (ISP) doesn’t provide IPv6 connections.

The Chrome proxy browser extension did result in a DNS leak and a Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) leak. As such, I recommend against using the Betternet browser proxy extensions for privacy. For unblocking content they may well work, but for concealing what you did online you’ll need to stick to the full VPN service.

The Firefox proxy browser should be avoided. It doesn’t even conceal your true IP address and is literally completely useless.

Streaming Services

I tried to access US streaming services from the UK by using the VPN to mask my true location. I was unable to access US Netflix using the premium VPN connected to a US server. The ABC website, however, allowed me to watch a show without any issues. Betternet VPN also successfully unblocked NBC.com. I tested the UK server to see if I could watch iPlayer, and found it to work fine.

Other Platforms

The Betternet app is available for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android devices. The browser extension is available for Chrome and Firefox.

Sadly, the browser extensions are not well designed and have a number of bugs. I found the Chrome extension to lie about server locations (the UK server actually provided me with an IP address in the US). The Firefox extension doesn’t work properly at all. All in all, I recommend staying away from these extensions completely.

Firefox Extension

The Firefox proxy extension is a disaster. In order to get it to work, you first have to follow a guide in its FAQ. Following the guide to make the extension actually connect to the correct proxy server is an annoyance. Even when you go the trouble of doing it, the extension fails to conceal your true IP address. Betternet ought to just delete this app, but for some unknown reason, it persists with providing it. I recommend staying away from this extension. I can only presume that Betternet keeps this extension available to make the service seem better than it really is.

If you’re looking to stay secure when surfing the internet with a Firefox browser, we recommend taking a look at our top five VPNs for Firefox.

Chrome Extension

The Chrome extension is much better than it’s Firefox counterpart. However, it does have the odd bug here and there. Connecting to the UK server doesn’t always work, and tests using ipleak.net revealed a US IP address on some occasions and a US IP address on others. This is frustrating if you specifically want to use British services, such as BBC iPlayer.

Unlike the Firefox extension, the Chrome app is clearly recent (it has the same graphical interface as the current version of the app), and it does get the job done.  If you intend to use this extension, however, I recommend keeping an eye on where it has actually connected you.
The Betternet extension for Chrome

When you turn on the Chrome extension, it takes over your Chrome browser’s proxy settings. It is a proxy rather than a full VPN service. Also worth remembering is the fact that this extension was found to have both DNS leaks and WebRTC bug leaks (these reveal where you really are). For this reason, the Betternet Chrome proxy app is good for unblocking content but not for privacy or security.

Chrome setting with Betternet extension active

Betternet Free VPN

Perhaps the best thing about Betternet’s free app is that you can use it without handing over any personal data – not even an email address. Having said that, Betternet does install a number of tracking libraries onto the machine that you install the free VPN on. This is done to figure out your preferences and serve adverts to your IP address.

What’s more, the advertising companies that Betternet works with (Anchor Free and all of its affiliates) are permitted to install extra cookies onto your devices in order to keep tabs on whether the adverts work (if you actually visit one of the sites that they advertise, they will know that the Betternet advert succeeded in interesting you).

If this doesn’t bother you, then Betternet is a pretty good free VPN that will allow you to unblock content. However, if privacy and security are a concern, I recommend looking elsewhere

Betternet income explanation

To use the free service, Betternet asks you to download a couple of apps that it recommends, and watch a few promotional videos. This is in addition to the advert tracking and cookies mentioned in the privacy policy.

Betternet Review: Conclusion

I liked:

  • No IP leaks or DNS leaks on the Windows app
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • One-week free trial
  • Free VPN
  • Easy to use

I wasn’t so sure about:

  • Encryption implementation is unclear.
  • Privacy policy has too many gray areas.
  • Based in Canada (part of the Five Eyes surveillance agreement)

I hated:

  • Slows connections
  • No kill switch
  • No auto connect
  • No stealth mode
  • No DNS leak protection
  • Broken Firefox add-on
  • Chrome extension sends UK traffic to US server
  • Willingness to cooperate with court orders
  • 50 MB data limit for refund (insanely small)
  • Possible JavaScript injection
  • Terrible customer support

The Betternet premium app is very basic VPN software that doesn’t come with any of the features that you usually get with a premium VPN.  During my time testing the premium app, I found it to be an adequate VPN that allowed me to stream without too many troubles. However, at times it did get slow and cause a lot of buffering. Although Betternet premium doesn’t appear to serve adverts (I didn’t notice any at all during my time using it), the privacy policy is brief and leaves too many grey areas to make you feel secure. In addition, the browser extension apps (proxies) aren’t worth the trouble of installing them: there are just too many similar products on the market for free that work much better.

For free, Betternet serves adverts and is slow. However, it does have its uses for people in desperate need of a free VPN (for getting around news website blocks in harsh political regimes, for example). That said, I just don’t think Betternet is worth paying any money for. As such, I recommend looking elsewhere for a truly premium service.

Visit Betternet »

Ray Walsh

I am a freelance journalist and blogger from England. I am highly interested in politics and in particular the subject of IR. I am an advocate for freedom of speech, equality, and personal privacy. On a more personal level I like to stay active, love snowboarding, swimming and cycling, enjoy seafood, and love to listen to trap music.

12 responses to “Betternet Review 2018 – Try Before You Buy With One-Week Free Trial

  1. The Windows version sucks, indeed.
    But once you get the Mac version, you’ll realise that it’s an entirely free VPN that works (probably the only one). Forget about the subscriptions because you don’t need them. As long as I can access google and youtube using it from China, I’m satisfied.
    However, I tested this and found that only network in some places responds to the server, so good luck with that.

  2. I use mobile banking applications, wallets and internet banking throuth my android handset (Samsung Galaxy Note 4). Will it be safe use Betternet on my android handset?

    1. Hi Dip,

      As now noted at the beginning of this article, Betternet is one of the VPN providers called out by a new research paper which highlights the dangers of many free mobile VPN apps. It’s Androi app, specifically, has an VirusTotal AV-rank of 13 (1 being best), which is, frankly, shocking. IMO this malware-ridden service should be avoided at all costs, and certainly should not be trusted on a handset you use form internet banking!

    1. Hi Jim,

      As now noted at the top of this article, Betternet was recently called out by a new research paper which highlights the dangers of many free mobile VPN apps. It has an VirusTotal AV-rank of 13 (1 being best), which is, frankly, shocking. This malware-ridden service should be avoided at all costs.

    2. I am a desktop user running windows os with firefox derivative as browser. Since this is a “Betternet Review” and not “Betternet for mobile app/Android device Review” I think my experience with Betternet is relevant since Betternet also support windows and Mac OS.

      To begin with, I would expected that Betternet’s app downloaded and installed should work the same way across all the platform they supported.

      In my experience it have never asked me for my credit card detail so how can they bill you at all or charge you any monthly subscription?

      The app I downloaded is a desktop application and not a browser addon which is approx 10Mb in size and runs in the background. I only run this app and connect to vpn when I want to so it is not active by default when the PC boot up.

      Betternet service have its limitation being a free service and the only limit I have experienced is the choice of servers since it choose whatever it like assuming it will connect to whichever free server available and so far, not a Canadian server.

      I have tried running internet games on it and it shows the wrong IP address (ie not my actual IP address). I have ran several VPN testing services via my browser such as IPLeak, DoILeak, DNSLeak, BrowserLeak and all showing the wrong IP address. I have WebRTC browser addon installed so it is not relevant to these test as all these test also showing no WebRTC leak.

      I have not done an “Extensive” test on this service as I only run this application and connect to VPN when I want to access restricted site like video streaming which is blocked by my ISP but so far, Betternet Have been working perfectly (at least for me).

      I don’t use any IOS or Android devices so I cannot comment on it but, I would recommend PC desktop users to give this service a try. As I have mentioned above, It have never asked me for my credit card detail so how can they make a monthly charge against you. Since this is a free service, why would they ask for your credit card details in the first place.

      PS I am in the UK and have been running Betternet on and off for about a month. Only time will tell if any problem with this service will manifest itself.

  3. Betternet was exposed as one of the most malware-infested VPN apps for Android. Do your research people. This BEST VPN site is a joke.

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      A very recently published research paper, which I wrote an article about last week, did indeed call the Betternet Android app out for being a infested in malware. This information was not available when I wrote this review last August. I have now added an update to the review highlighting the findings.

  4. I’ve been using Betternet for 2 months now with no issues, it connects fast and never fails, downloads are pretty good, sometimes a bit slow to get going but so what? No more letters from the ISP, I live in Eastern Canada most times I get transferred to Switzerland. The Adds are minimal, they tell you with a web page pop up that you are connected, no usage limits and really and honestly free. I can’t say much about security because I don’t know, I don’t keep anything important on my media computer any way so I’m unconcerned, if you want pictures of my Dog, come and git em.

    1. Hi Yani,

      I do cover this in the review,

      “As noted below, I have attempted to contact the Betternet team in order to learn more, but have received no reply. So I cannot comment on RSA handshake key encryption size, authentication method, or whether Perfect Forward Secrecy is used for OpenVPN connections. If I ever do hear back from Betternet about my quires, I will be very surprised if the answers impress me.”

      In my experience as a long-time VPN reviewer, when a VPN company makes no real effort to advertise the encryption it uses and refuses to respond to questions about it, it can be safely assumed that the encryption is nothing to shout about (or it would be shouting about it!).

    If you want a free VPN service that permits P2P, then Betternet is just about your only option!

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