Review

TorVPN Review


Disclosure: compensated affiliate: click here for more information
Review of: TorVPN
Product by:
Dimitri

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On January 19, 2016
Last modified:September 21, 2016

Summary:

TorVPN provide an above average service, with a few distinct caveats. Read our review for more.

TorVPN offer up a somewhat skeletal service in some respects, but their server speeds and reliability are top-notch. With a commendable, forthright attitude, dedication to privacy and transparency, and a forward-thinking business model, maybe it’s time to try TorVPN out for yourself.

Visit TorVPN »

Pricing & Plans

TorVPN Review

TorVPN offer several basic pricing packages as seen above, with the cheapest scaling from free to £.50, to £1.00, and benefits increasing in direct proportion to price (or length of commitment, if that’s your preferred metric). The Custom VPN option to the far right allows you to pick and choose exactly the features you may need for home or business usage (up to a one year subscription, up to all seven servers, and up to 20 simultaneous connections). You may also allot yourself up to 200 GB of data though, at that rate, it might be best to check the premium plans below.

TorVPN_Pricing 2

The premium plans have the benefit of much higher traffic allocation, or unlimited browsing if you sign-up for a year, which is to say there are no caps data on data used while connected to TorVPN. The Pro VPN plan should be enough to download a movie a day for a month while the Silver Plan is good for average to high-level usage for three months. All plans save the free include the choice between OpenVPN or PPTP (though we always recommend you stick with the former, for various reasons), and SSH tunneling, in addition to unlimited speed. Sadly, only the Silver or Gold plans allow the usage of all servers. Whatever your choice may be, you may check your data balance in the user area.TorVPN_Referals

The overall pricing is certainly on the cheaper end of VPN competitors, and something for TorVPN to rightfully tout as an advantage. Additionally, their referral plan is a fabulous incentive to refer your friends, should you enjoy and rate the service highly.

Features

Founded in 2010, TorVPN are registered in the UK, operate out of Hungary, and are subject to EU data retention laws, under the technical umbrella of British legal jurisdiction. Reassuringly, though, a Warrant Canary (further reading, and in the next section below), provides some comfort.

The TorVPN team currently operates 28 servers in seven countries, with four servers in each nation – two over tcp and two over udp. The range of choices between either of the aforementioned transmission protocols and the fact that each country has dedicated servers equals excellent speed, practically speaking.

What’s more, the handy ‘VPN Servers’ page reproduced below gives you a close-to-real-time idea of which servers are busiest (though I never spotted more than 30 people on any particular server, at any given time). Each server shares a name with a celestial body in our solar system, with Hungary being Earth, the US Saturn, and Sweden named Pluto (glad some people still recognize it as a full-fledged planet!)

TorVPN_Server Listing

 

P2P activity is allowed and encouraged, but do try and use the Hungarian ‘Earth” servers where possible, as they are physically hosted by the TorVPN team and should provide the lowest latency.

Visit TorVPN »

Security & Privacy

The Privacy Policy and Terms of Service are typical enough fare. Both seek indemnity from misuse of the service, as each contract spells out exactly what constitutes said shady business from a user’s perspective.

TorVPN_Disclosure

It’s a step beyond refreshing to see VPN companies use Warrant Canary to report any court gag orders against them (more info here). In their own eloquent – and rarely so forthright when looking at the competition – words.

“Many VPN providers advertise ‘no logging’ but still have logging in place. Advertising this policy is a marketing ploy. Even if a VPN provider does not have logging, the ISP they use is required to keep Netflow logs that could help in a police investigation in case of criminal activities. If you use a VPN with no logging at all, you are more likely to end up sharing an internet address with abusers. Your connections to internet hosts may be blocked or categorised as high risk. This could prevent you from visiting websites, sending emails, making payments online. Our policy is to never log, dismantle or interfere with data you send to or receive from remote hosts on the internet. We do keep connection logs for a brief time in order to be able to put a stop to mass scans, denial of service attacks and other abuse of the system. With the warrant canary, you have a way to know even if we receive a gag order and are forced by any government entities to breach your privacy.”

Regrettably, you should be aware that TorVPN do collect connection logs, something that would ideally be done away with moving forward. That the entire logging process is presented clearly, under no pretexts, is definitely something to weigh – on the other hand. Ultimately, our company would be glad to see logless policies implemented industry-wide as a competitive benchmark, though it’s understandable why some companies and users don’t (wouldn’t) feel the same way.

TorVPN_Plain Text Password

More pressing still is the availability of your password in plaintext when logged into the client area of the website, once you click on any of the server icons. That’s plainly bad practice, plaintext passwords are easily compromised, especially not knowing what could be on your device prior to installing a VPN – all the more puzzling when the memorization problem is something easily solved with a password manager.

We received word from the team at TorVPN on the password matter, so it’s only fair to leave the matter for you to decide. Their perfectly logical riposte: the user password is only needed to open the control panel. Meanwhile, service accounts have a randomly generated password and are only used to connect to the VPN servers through PPTP. Therefore, you don’t even need the password to connect using OpenVPN. The comments below have been edited solely for clarity.

“It’s meant to connect to the servers, nothing else … “You can download the configuration files anyway – so removing the ability to see the random password would not prevent an adversary with temporary access to the control panel from logging on with your account. Removing the plaintext password would not make it more secure, but it would make it less convenient. I think it’s less secure for a VPN provider to expect the user to use the same password they signed up with to be stored in VPN connections and configuration files. Here we generate a random password, that’s hardly ever used (except PPTP).”

On an altogether more positive note, the fact that TorVPN’s encryption is achieved using AES 256-bit, with 4096-bit RSA for handshaking purposes and SHA-256-bit authentication over OpenVPN is admittedly impressive, and should theoretically be unbeatable by everyone bar sophisticated governmental adversaries. You may choose to use PPTP, or SSH tunneling, but it would be an inadvisable course of action, unless OpenVPN wasn’t an option – security and privacy-wise – though pure speed would be a valid-ish reason. Dynamic Port Forwarding is also available as seen in the Account Area screenshot above.

The website

TorVPN_Homepage

TorVPN’s website is a class act all the way through. The front-page is informative but well-spaced, and more than readable. Menus are well-placed and easily accessible. Furthermore, you aren’t inundated with too many options screaming for attention, as the sidebar and dropdown menus serve to break up the options well. It was simple to find setup guides, server locations and the FAQ section, as well as a list of disposable proxies and emails. The download section was similarly painless to navigate to, and there’s a quick IP checker as well.

TorVPN_Client Area

The client (My Account) area was no less simple to navigate through, though far from simplistic in design – again – without overdoing it. The subsection on the sidebar mirror their counterparts on the homepage, except for the Warrant Canary, and Quota parts, the latter of which shows your full usage statistics. That quota data would be especially useful for those users with a limited data allowance. Ultimately, It’s always a bonus to interact with a well-designed website, and TorVPN are definitely in the upper echelon in that regard.

Support

Support could improve with a 24/7 Livechat window (which purportedly exists), though I only experienced ticket support. That said, the responses were within 24 hours and quite courteous, not to mention, thorough.

TorVPN_Support

Detailed setup guides are present for each available protocol, and TOR over VPN (discussed in the other platforms section further on). The guides were exhaustive without pandering – appropriate for novice and power users alike.

TorVPN_Knowledgbase

Unfortunately, troubleshooting resources consist of only a single FAQ page, well populated as it may be. It would be excellent to see an expanded section and perhaps a user forum implemented to fully flesh out bugs and overall service concerns, establishing a balanced dialogue between company and clientele.

The Process

Signing Up

Signing up is quite easy, just enter you desired username and password, and an email address. You’ll be prompted to the Account Area to choose your plan and proceed to payment.

TorVPN_Getting Started

Once you’ve completed payment via the billing tab, there’s only a bit of legwork before you’re web-connected through TorVPN. Check your email inbox for how to proceed. Alternatively, jump over to the relevant setup guide, download the OpenVPN GUI (if it isn’t already on your machine), and follow the instructions to copy/paste the configuration files in the relevant folder. The process was well laid out, and took me about five minutes to get through. Yes, it’s a one-time effort.

Admittedly, TorVPN should look towards providing at least a bespoke Windows client in the future, including DNS leak protection, a killswitch, and IPv6 leak protection in terms of being forward-thinking. Users will have to settle for getting a bit more hands-on with more nuanced OpenVPN setup.

Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC and IPv6 Tests)

Speed testing was conducted on a 30 Mbps test connection. In line with the superb encryption employed in the software, TorVPN didn’t have the absolute best speed I’ve come across. However, their speed was above average to adequate nearly always. Connection and disconnection from any particular server was a speedy process  no more than 15 seconds either way.

I found the Hungarian servers particularly speedy, averaging a bit over 20 Mbps downstream, and 2 upstream. As a reminder, TorVPN physically host and recommend the Hungarian server. US speed hovered around the 3 Mbps mark, which still isn’t bad, but could affect high-quality streaming. Then again, geographic proximity to our test location also impacts the numbers. I was quite pleased with the overall speed performance.

TorVPN_download
TorVPN_upload.
Graphs show highest, lowest and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.

You are vulnerable to the WebRTC bug (click for a quick guide) when using TorVPN but, as it isn’t a strictly provider based issue, it isn’t worth faulting the them for. We at BestVPN would like to see it accounted for provider-side in the industry, and would certainly give special praise to early adopters. Check both ipleak.net and testipv6.com periodically for any DNS leakage (which somewhat invalidates using and paying for a VPN in the first place!)

Commendably, TorVPN suffered no other DNS leaks during the course of testing, despite its hefty encryption. Skype calls were quite possibly the best I’ve ever experienced, on a more personal note.

Other Platforms

TorVPN software is compatible with iOS, Android, desktops, and multiple routers, should you wish to route your home WiFi over VPN. Windows, Linux, and MacOS are also supported. All OpenVPN TCP+UDP, PPTP and SSH protocols available, you can’t go wrong.

TorVPN over TOR

TorVPN would seem phony if nothing in their service package had to do with TOR though they are in no way affiliated brand-wise, other than the shared moniker. Where they do intersect, however, is that TorVPN have a dedicated setup guide for using Tor over VPN, something which we also cover in detail. More importantly, they have a “transparent TOR routing option” (pictured below), with VPN service accounts, in addition to supporting .onion sites (essentially commandeering DNS requests and substituting in local IPs with a path to the chosen .onion site, provided you’ve enabled the TOR feature, of course).

The pros and cons boil down to: a VPN is speedier, better for P2P activity, and requires faith in your VPN provider not abusing the information you’ve entrusted them with (and recording your browsing through their network). TOR is significantly slower, has limited access to certain sites – but requires no trust as the ‘onion routed layers’ obfuscate your actions to a much higher degree – though do remember full anonymity is likely unachievable, and TORVPN’s service theoretically has only a single exit node, therefore, requiring explicit faith that possible disclosure requests will be countered and trust in the Warrant Canary. Although, if you aren’t using the darkweb to traffic in weapons, drugs, or other forms of global contraband – there probably isn’t much to worry over.

TorVPN_TOR OV VPN

To connect to the TorVPN service, you click on check-button ‘Enable transparent TOR proxy’, and connect to the chosen server normally through the OpenVPN GUI. Anyone looking at your IP will see it routed through the TorVPN exit node in Hungary, which is not to be confused with the same level of anonymity provided by setting up TOR independently.

It would be remiss not to include TorVPNs extensive disclaimer on using their service with the TOR network, as reproducing it in summary would do the message therein insufficient justice, concurrent with leaving it out altogether. It’s 500 words long, so skip straight down to this review’s conclusion, if you aren’t interested.

“TorVPN is NOT affiliated with the TOR project. The TOR project is a completely free solution made possible by volunteers all over the world, who dedicate expensive bandwidth and processing power for the benefit of your privacy. TorVPN however is a business relying on its own bandwidth and servers, offering transparent TOR network routing strictly as an additional option only suitable in a limited number of cases.

The part about using the official TOR client may be outdated in this tutorial. Always check the TOR project‘s official website and see if maybe their tutorials are easier to follow or contain updated information.

The second method mentioned on this page (using TorVPN to access .onion sites) is NOT recommended, as it significantly reduces your privacy from a technical aspect. When you use TorVPN to surf .onion sites, the encryption of data happens by the TOR client installed on the TorVPN server instead of your computer. This means that TorVPN administrators in theory could intercept your communications before it gets re-encrypted and sent into the TOR network. Needless to say, we value our customers’ privacy greatly and would never spy on them, but you should not take our word for it! There may be some special cases where using transparent TOR routing through TorVPN is helpful, that’s why we still include it as an option, but recommend using the client on your computer unless you have a good reason not to.

If you still decide to use transparent TOR routing through TorVPN, keep in mind that not all volunteers who run an exit node do so with good intentions: anyone can run a TOR exit node, so malicious operators can inject data into your stream, occasionally browser exploits. There is a good reason why we recommend using the TOR browser bundle, because it also contains plugins that significantly enhance your privacy, reduce the chances of data leak, exploits, and provide a better experience.

You can access .onion sites without enabling transparent TOR routing (TorVPN’s special DNS server and TOR’s virtual address mapping makes this hybrid mode possible), but then you risk DNS leaks and even worse, all of your ‘regular’ connections will be unhidden apart from the hidden service that you are visiting. If the webmaster of the hidden service includes a link to a non-onion site, the hidden and unhidden sessions could be tied together easily.

If you decide to visit .onion sites because of and/or based on this tutorial, please understand that you do so at your own risk. There are very real dangers that go with all of this and your anonymity is easily compromised unless you understand how it works. And even if you do, there are and always will be fresh exploits that you may simply not have protection against, even with up-to-date software. Therefore, we cannot be held responsible for anything you decide to do on the dark web or any damages that arise from it.”

TorVPN Review Conclusion

I liked

  • Price
  • No ‘website filler’ – clean & functional
  • Warrant Canary
  • Wide range of Plan Customization
  • Thorough Guides

I wasn’t so sure about

  • No bespoke client, including some resultant functions
  • Sparse FAQ section
  • Limited Support

I hated

  • Connection Logs kept indefinitely

What TorVPN lack in native software and support, they atone for with the triple threat of speed, transparency, and polish. There’s certainly some room for improvement in a few privacy related areas, but full-anonymity is something achieved in meatspace – cyberspace requires occasional compromise. With prices low (not to mention a free plan) and strong encryption methods, now could be the right time to sample TorVPN.

Visit TorVPN»


Dimitri M Expat in Europe - pathos for good conversation and Italia's Grande Juventus.

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