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5 Best VPNs for Switzerland

Switzerland, as is typical of the country in so many other regards, is somewhat at odds with the rest of Europe when it comes to internet surveillance, data retention and on-line piracy.

Although not part of the European Union, and therefore not subject to the EU Data Retention Directive 2006, Switzerland introduced its own Data Retention Laws, which came into force as early as January 2002 (Article 15 Federal Law of 6 October 2000 on the monitoring of Posts and Telecommunications (BÜPF), and Regulation of 31 October 2001 on the monitoring of Posts and Telecommunications (VÜPF)). These laws require ISPs to log IP addresses and web servers access details, and retain them for 6 months (mobile and fixed line phone operators are also required to do this).

In addition to this, the Swiss government has fairly wide powers of internet surveillance, including the legal right to employ spyware for ‘particularly serious offences’, such as the financing of terrorism, criminal organizations or child pornography. It should be noted however that such methods are only permitted when law enforcement authorities have been able to demonstrate that a crime has been committed beyond reasonable doubt, and not as a preventative method.

In January this year (2013), Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga announced that the government was looking into expanding these surveillance powers to include the ability to monitor VoIP and instant messaging (IM) services. How this might be achieved is unclear in cases where the communications are encrypted, but the government talked of increasing the range of bodies that would be required to cooperate with law enforcement bodies, including hotels, hospitals, and schools (who would not be forced to carry out the surveillance themselves). This sounds very heavy handed to us, and confirms Switzerland’s reputation as an electronic police state.

VPNs and Piracy

Simply put, the mandatory data retention laws in Switzerland do not apply to VPN providers, so VPN providers are under no obligation to keep logs of their users’ activities.

This on its own would make Switzerland a very good location to locate VPN servers, but the real icing on the cake is that the Swiss government has decided that piracy for personal use is legal.

In September 2010 the Swiss High Court ruled that notorious copyright troll legal firm Logistep AG was acting illegally when it collected IP addresses of people it believed were guilty of copyright infringement, as it amounted to a breach of the county’s privacy laws, a ruling that not only protects downloaders, but also casual uploaders.

Aghast at the decision, entertainment industry pressure groups campaigned for a change in the law, citing damage to business and loss of profits for entertainers, so in 2011 the Swiss government commissioned a study on the matter.

Somewhat to the surprise of copyright enforcement bodies, the study concluded that, despite around a third of the Swiss population being involved in downloading movies and music, there was no negative impact on the amount people spend on entertainment (and may in fact be a slight gain, as results extrapolated from a Dutch study in 2010 indicated that ‘pirates’ spend more on media, attend more concerts, and visit gaming websites more than ‘non-pirates’).

The study also concluded that piracy was almost impossible to prevent, so the onus lay on the entertainment industry to adapt to the new realities if it wished to survive;

“Every time a new media technology has been made available, it has always been ‘abused’. This is the price we pay for progress. Winners will be those who are able to use the new technology to their advantages and losers those who missed this development and continue to follow old business models.”

The government decided in light of this report that no change in law the was necessary, and also rejected blocking website IPs on the grounds that doing so would damage freedom of speech and violate privacy protection laws.

Using VPN in Switzerland

Swiss internet users therefore have no need to use a VPN service to protect themselves against copyright enforcement, but have a strong incentive to use one in order to defend themselves against government surveillance.

It is usually a bad idea to use a VPN service (and servers) located in your own country, as this makes it easy for authorities to demand logs be handed over. However, with no required data retention for VPN providers and no legal framework (as there is in the US for example even without the NSA spying) for demanding they be made, there is no good reason for Swiss users not to choose servers located locally.

For those outside the country, Switzerland makes an ideal server location, joining the likes of Romania, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Sweden as one of the best locations for VPN.

Summary

Rank Provider Starting Price Grade Link

1

ExpressVPN_Logo $8.32/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

2

logo $9.00/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

3

logo $6.95/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

4

$6.99/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

5

logo $7.00/mo Read Review > Visit Site >
Winner

ExpressVPN

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  • PROS
  • Easy-to-use software
  • Excellent speeds
  • Good customer service
  • CONS
  • Bit pricy, but worth it for the features

ExpressVPN have been around for a while, and have slowly and methodically built a great company. When we tested them their speeds were excellent, the sofware was really easy to use, and their 24/7 customer service also delivered on the promises.

Their pricing is not the cheapest, but you do get what you pay for. As I said above, the price is worth these positive points. The company boasts servers in 78 different countries, which means you can appear to be in any country you want.

Try Out the Best VPN for Switzerland Today!

Visit ExpressVPN »

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2nd place

AirVPN

  • PROS
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • No logs
  • 256-bit AES encryption
  • Dynamic port forwarding
  • Real-time user and server statistics
  • Support for Tor over VPN and VPN through SSL and SSH tunnels
  • Good speeds
  • 3 day free trial
  • P2P: yes
  • Servers in Switzerland
  • CONS
  • Only one device can connected at a time

From a technical standpoint, AirVPN is probably the best VPN provider we have come across. It uses 256-bit AES encryption, provides ‘network transparency’ with a series of beautifully presented server information graphs, and supports ultra-stealth VPN technologies such as VPN over Tor, and VPN through SSL and SSH tunnels. The AirVPN crew, activists and hactivists who met at a Pirate Party festival in Rome, also have a sterling attitude to privacy, keeping no logs, accepting Bitcoin payment, and voluntarily subscribing to various EU privacy directives and codes of best practice (but not the Data Retention Directive which, as in Switzerland, does not apply in Italy). The only downsides to AirVPN are that its VPN client is a bit basic, and it only allows one device to be connected to its service at a time.

» Visit AirVPN


3rd place

PIA

  • PROS
  • No logs
  • Great attitude to privacy
  • Very fast
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • VPN client has some great features
  • P2P: yes
  • Android app
  • Pre-configured routers available
  • Servers in Switzerland
  • CONS
  • US company

Still in many ways the king of the VPN world for us, PIA combines strong privacy measures (in the form of keeping no logs, accepting Bitcoin payment and using shared IPs), an excellent and feature-full Windows and OSX client (with DNS leak protection, IPv6 leak protection, port forwarding and an internet kill switch), and some great extras (such as an Android app and pre-configures routers) into a very compelling package. If only for the fact that it being a US company didn’t make us wince…

» Visit PIA


4th place

CyberGhost

  • PROS
  • No logs
  • Speedy
  • Great free service
  • Groovy VPN client
  • P2P: yes
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • 14 servers in Switzerland
  • CONS
  • VPN client is Windows only (although OpenVPN setup guides are provided for other platforms)

We have always liked CyberGhost thanks to its groovy Windows client (which, among other things includes an internet kill switch), its no logs policy, its good free service, and its 30 day free trial of the Premium service. The biggest let-down was that it didn’t accept Bitcoin payment, but this has apparently now changed, which is great news, although we are not sure from the website how you go about it. Still, once we have figured this out, CyberGhost has everything you could want from a VPN provider.

» Visit CyberGhost


5th place

Kepard

logo

  • PROS
  • Great VPN client (especially for Android)
  • Logs only kept for 3 days
  • 15 day free trial
  • UK servers
  • P2P: yes
  • Servers in the Netherlands
  • CONS
  • Limited logs kept for 3 days
  • Not amazingly fast

This small Moldovan provider wins us over with a simple service, but one that just works. The Windows client is one the best looking and easy to use pieces of VPN software we have encountered, and the Android app is fantastic. Kepard does keep some logs for 3 days, but the information kept is minimal, and Moldova is beyond the reach of most copyright enforcement and foreign government bodies, so this is probably not a big problem.

» Visit Kepard


Conclusion

Despite some quite scary and big brother-esq surveillance and data retention laws (with worse likely still to come), Switzerland is a haven for VPN. It is an excellent place to locate VPN servers, and if you live in Switzerland you can either use local servers, or ones in a nearby European country where VPNs are also not required to keep logs.


And here’s the summary once more:

Summary

Rank Provider Starting Price Grade Link

1

ExpressVPN_Logo $8.32/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

2

logo $9.00/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

3

logo $6.95/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

4

$6.99/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

5

logo $7.00/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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