Privatoria offer a low price VPN service which comes bundled with plenty of extra features – including the facility to use the Tor network through Privatoria’s VPN without having to use the Tor browser. With their stated mission to uphold the right to privacy, they provide good security and high anonymity, though there’s definitely room for improvement in the area of performance.
Pricing & Plans
Privatoria’s service can be had for as little as $1.90 a month with a yearly subscription; subscribing on a month-by-month basis puts the price up to $3.90 a month, but this is still a very low price for a VPN service, even without Privatoria’s extra frills – more on this below.
New users begin with a free trial, though this is limited to only two hours before the VPN is locked, and there’s no money-back guarantee if you go ahead and buy the service. Payment can be made by BitCoin for a high potential degree of anonymity, as well as by PayPal or credit card.
Privatoria is based in the Czech Republic. As a user of their VPN, you gain access to VPN servers in twenty-one countries including the USA, UK and Japan, granting a good amount of flexibility for unblocking geo-locked content. Five simultaneous connections means that you can use the service across several devices at once. What’s more, as part of their package, Privatoria also offer secure web chat, anonymous email, secure file transfer and an anonymous web proxy as well.
Security & Privacy
You can connect to Privatoria using L2TP/IPSec or OpenVPN, with the former utilising the excellent AES-256 standard for encryption with a pre-shared key. Privatoria’s OpenVPN offering also uses AES encryption – a step up from OpenVPN’s default BlowFish cipher – though only at 128 bits. SHA1 is used for hash authentication and handshaking is handled very securely by 2048-bit RSA. There’s also the option to use Privatoria as a gateway to connect to the Tor network. When doing this, Privatoria’s client jumps between locations every ten minutes or so on their end while checking the viability of chains in real-time to prevent connecting to non-working nodes. This can make Tor more accessible and easier to use, provided you don’t mind using Privatoria as a go-between, or dispensing with the specially-hardened Tor browser. You can read more about using Tor over a VPN in our feature on the subject.
Privatoria have a no-log policy, and state that they keep neither traffic logs nor any logs which would allow the matching of a user’s IP address to a time stamp. Also, the Czech Republic is not currently subject to any data retention laws.
Peer-to-peer file transfers are allowed on all servers except for the USA and Canada.
Privatoria have a slick and professional website which immediately makes you feel like you’re in safe hands. The most interesting features – security, anonymity and their secure data transfer service – are presented clearly and up-front, along with their most appealing policy promises: no personal data collection, and a guarantee that their software is free from government interference.
The user account area is also clean, easy to navigate and highly functional – we found it a pleasure to use.
Support is easy to access both from the main website and the user account dashboard. During Central European office hours, users seeking assistance will be directed to the excellent Live Chat service, which we found to be prompt, helpful and polite. Email support is available out of hours.
Helpful and comprehensive setup guides are available in the user account area, but we were slightly disappointed by the lack of a complete and searchable knowledge base. We’d especially like to see provision of more information about the technical details of the VPN service, such as encryption type and strength, or a guide to setting up the SoftEther client which is mentioned without explanation in the VPN server details.
Registration couldn’t be easier, with the site asking you to choose a username and password and providing immediate feedback as to whether the username is available and how strong the password you’ve entered is. And that’s it – no email address or personal information is requested. After signing up, you can immediately login and access your personal account area.
The Privatoria Windows VPN client
Privatoria don’t provide a bespoke VPN client of their own, instead providing setup instructions for Windows’ built in L2TP/IPSec capabilities, as well as server details and configuration files for the free and open source OpenVPN client. Using these files is fairly easy if you’re comfortable with navigating to a subfolder in your Program Files to drag and drop, and the OpenVPN client itself is basic but robust and functional. It’s also fairly painless to use if you’re happy interacting with it entirely from the system tray, though it does lack accessible advanced features found on some bespoke clients such as a kill switch or automatic connection. A fair bit of advanced tinkering is possible, but even just to store your login details you’ll have to search for instructions and be comfortable editing text configuration files with notepad, or using Windows’ command line.
There are a number of other clients out there which can make use of OpenVPN config files and offer a little more usability and functionality, but again it’s up to the user to find these if not happy with the vanilla OpenVPN offering.
Performance (Speed, DNS and IP Test)
Performance is the biggest area where Privatoria’s service could use improvement. Even given the worse-than-usual quality of the test connection we used, we saw a clear and consistent drop in speed to levels which are OK for browsing, but poor for streaming or downloading large files; HD streaming in particular would be out of the question without significant delays for buffering. It’s worth noting, however, that US servers were only 1 Mbps slower than our baseline.
|Graphs show highest, lowest and average speeds for each location/VPN. See our post on our new speed tests for more information.|
Unfortunately we did occasionally experience some problems connecting both to the VPN and the proxy, which does cost Privatoria some points for reliability. DNS and IP checks were all OK though, and we didn’t have any problems with DNS request leakage: this means Privatoria does pass the anonymity and privacy check with flying colours.
Privatoria provides guides for setting up L2TP/IPSec using the built-in capabilities of Windows, Mac OSX, iOS and Android. OpenVPN setup guides are also provided for Windows (using the above mentioned OpenVPN client) and Ubuntu Linux – with a choice of using the UI or command-line interface for the latter.
The Privatoria Android App
We got a chance to try out Privatoria’s new Android app, which is currently in beta. As you can see from the screenshots below, it’s already a great looking piece of kit offering a serious amount of functionality. Their secure chat service is prominently built-in, and we were impressed to see Privatoria’s anonymous email seamlessly make an appearance too – and seemingly based on the excellent K-9 Mail app for Android.
The actual VPN part of the app is a little more basic, with just a server selection menu and an on/off switch at present. It’s functional, though, and as the app hasn’t even been officially released yet we look forward to seeing more options added soon.
In addition to the VPN, Privatoria provide a plethora of other features bundled with their service. There isn’t space in this review to fully evaluate each one, but we had no problems getting any to work and they seemed to function as advertised.
The anonymous email was set up automatically for us as soon as we registered, and we were immediately able to click through and check it out. The interface is impressively fast and slick. It’s worth noting that SMTP is only unlocked with a paid-for account – that is, you can’t send email until you’ve bought the service.
Their ‘cloud storage’ service, meanwhile, is a way to securely transfer files or messages to someone else. You can upload a file or a message using a simple web interface, then send a unique ID to the person you want to share it with. They can then enter the ID into the web interface and access the file or message. As soon as the other party accesses the content it’s deleted from Privatoria’s servers, and if it’s not accessed within 24 hours it’s deleted anyway – preventing its use as a long-term file storage solution, but making it very secure for user-to-single-user file transfers. What’s more, you don’t have to be registered with Privatoria to use the service either to upload or retrieve a file.
Their secure web chat uses the WebRTC system built into Firefox and Chrome to chat between browsers, with Chrome in particular offering voice calls, video calls and file transfers. At the moment it’s still in beta, and as we couldn’t get it to work we couldn’t test it out – but Privatoria have promised updates soon.
There’s also a web proxy with Tor integration for quick and dirty anonymization, with country and quality level selectable through the web interface. Although we did experience some difficulty trying to connect on a couple of occasions, when it worked speeds and reliability were good.
Privatoria Review Conclusion
- Decent security
- No logs
- High anonymity
- Low price
- BitCoin payment options
- Up to five simultaneous connections
- Long list of included services
- Seamless access to Tor network
- Nice new Android app
We weren’t so sure about
- Disappointing speeds on non-US servers
- Occasional connection issues
- Technical info on website lacks detail
Privatoria’s pricing is low, their additional services are generous – we especially like the seamless Tor gateway – and their mission statement is commendable. The basic VPN does work, but it also has some issues with reliability and speed which we’d really like to see addressed. As it stands, it is nonetheless good value, and with the free trial and simple registration process it’s easy to find out whether it’s the VPN for you.