Review

5 Best VPNs for home use


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Despite the surge in popularity of mobile devices, most of us still do the majority of our internet surfing at home, either on a laptop or more traditional desktop PC. Even when curled up on a sofa reading a tablet, or browsing the net on a smart phone while tucked up in bed, we are still connected to the home WiFi network.

Fortunately then, pretty near all VPN services are setup to cater primarily for the home user, usually concentrating their support on Windows, Mac, and (to a lesser extent) Linux machines.

At the end of this article we will look at reasons for using VPN at home, and at the features you should look out for to ensure the VPN service you pick matches your needs.


Summary

Rank Provider Starting
Price
Review Link

1

logo $6.95/mo Read Review > Visit Site

2

logo $9.00/mo Read Review > Visit Site

3

logo $7.00/mo Read Review > Visit Site

4

logo $6.99/mo Read Review > Visit Site

5

logo $4.99/mo Read Review > Visit Site
Editor’s Choice

Winner – PIA

Positives: accepts Bitcoin, no logs, fast, up to 256-bit AES OpenVPN encryption, client features port forwarding, VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection, P2P: yes, 3 simultaneous connections

Negatives: No free trial, US based company

As a US based company we are concerned about possible (likely?) NSA tapering with PIA, but in all other respects it is an excellent provider. It keeps no logs, uses shared IPs (making individual identification of users with net activity very hard), and accepts anonymous payment via Bitcoins. It also features an Windows and OSX client with DNS leak protection, IPv6 leak protection, port forwarding and an internet kill switch, the Android app is excellent, up to 5 devices can connect at once, and it was the winner of our ‘fastest VPN’ award. Encryption is also fantastic, as the client now supports up to 256-bit AES OpenVPN, SHA-256 hash authentication and 4096-bit RSA handshake.

» Visit PIA


2. AirVPN

Positives: 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

Negatives: 0 simultaneous connections by default (but more can be purchased)

Based in Italy where the DRD does not apply to VPNs, AirVPN is our number one choice for NSA-free and security conscious VPNing. It was founded by net neutrality activists and hactivists, a fact that shines though in its attention to privacy and security related detail, and keeps no logs, uses strong 256-bit AES encryption, uses shared IPs, accepts Bitcoins, and offers ‘net transparency’ using detailed real-time server statistics. It also supports unusual technologies such as VPN over Tor, and VPN through SSH and SSL tunnels, which make determining that you are even using VPN very difficult. By default only one device can connect at once, but more can be added for $2 per month.

» Visit AirVPN


3. Mullvad


Positives: accepts Bitcoin, no logs, good speeds, cheap, client features internet kill switch and DNS leak protection, P2P: yes, servers in Sweden and Netherlands, 3 simultaneous connections

Negatives: Avoid servers in Germany, encryption could be better

Mullvad is a small company who cares about privacy and features an excellent Windows, OSX and Linux client with DNS leak protection, internet kill switch, port forwarding, and server load information. Based in Sweden, Mulllvad keeps no logs, uses shared IPs, and accepts payment not just in Bitcoins, but in cash sent by post! The 128-bit blowfish encryption used is a little weak in light of the NSA’s efforts to undermine encryption, and its Germany based servers should be avoided as Germany has awful privacy and copyright laws, but overall Mullvad gets a lot of love from us.

» Visit Mullvad


4. IronSocket

Positives: no usage logs, 256-bit AES OpenVPN encryption, fast, servers in 36 countries, shared IPs, accepts Bitcoins, based in Hong Kong, 7 day money back guarantee, up to 3 simultaneous connections, P2P: yes

Negatives: Keeps a lot of session logs but it keeps these for no more than 72 hours

For VPN use in the Far East, Asia, Australia, or New Zealand, IronSocket is a great choice (although users in China may bet more mileage out of LiquidVPN, Witopia, BolehVPN  or VyprVPN’s stealth / cloaked servers). It does keep too many connection logs (although no usage logs), but being under Hong Kong (Edward Snowden’s first choice of refuge) jurisdiction offsets this somewhat, as does its use of shared IP’s, accepting payment by Bitcoins, 256-bit AES encryption, servers everywhere, and 3 simultaneous connections (more can be purchased and proxy use is unlimited). We will note however that BolehVPN is also very good, and contends for this position if you are located in Asia.

» Visit IronSocket


5. CactusVPN

Positives: no usage logs, 256-bit AES OpenVPN and SSTP encryption, blazing fast, AutoProxy, neat client with Application Killer, P2P: yes, based in Moldova

Negatives: does not accept Bitcoins, restrictive policy on multiple connections (better than none though!)

Based in wild and woolly Moldova (where little oversight occurs), CactusVPN keeps no usage logs (although some connection logs are kept for 3 days), uses strong 256-bit AES encryption, allows P2P downloading, is very quick, and is also very cheap. The Windows and OSX software is very smart, and it is one of the few services we know of to feature a per-application kill switch (for in the event of disconnecting from a VPN server). We have received user-warnings about CactusVPN’s long-term reliability, which we will monitor, but for now CactusVPN still looks great.

» Visit CactusVPN

*Regarding logs, please see our policy on how we define usage logs, connection logs etc.



Issues for home VPN

The main reasons for using VPN at home are:

Watching geo-restricted media content

Whether it’s watching TV shows on Hulu, or streaming your favourite music via Spotify, watching geo-restricted media content is one of the most popular uses of VPN. Most VPN providers have servers located in the US and UK (the most popular countries for this), but if you want to access content from elsewhere then make sure that the provider has servers there!

Evading censorship

Using VPN will evade most attempts to censor the internet, be it governments blocking access to politically sensitive material, blocking access to ‘pirate’ sites (as is becoming increasingly popular in Europe, and especially the UK), or colleges and offices who don’t want you to waste time looking at kittens on Facebook. Even in cases where meaningful and sophisticated attempts are made to disrupt VPN use (such as by the Great Firewall of China), success is usually only very partial, and even then there are ways around it.

In most cases, any VPN service is equally effective at evading censorship, although if you live somewhere such as China or Iran you may want to find a VPN who runs special ‘stealth or ‘cloaked’ servers designed to evade more robust censorship measures.

Evading surveillance

Edward Snowden’s revelations over the last year have dramatically raised our awareness of the amount our own government organizations (and the NSA generally!) snoop on every aspect of our online lives. VPN is not a complete answer to protecting your privacy, but it is a very powerful and important one, as it hides all your internet traffic between your home computer and the VPN server, and masks your outfacing IP address.

Of course, your VPN provider can see your home IP address, so if privacy is important to you then you should always choose a provider who keeps no logs of its users activities. Other things to look out for are use of shared IPs (where many users use the same IP address, making individually identifying them very hard), accepting anonymous payment by Bitcoin, and using of strong encryption.

Although 128-bit encryption actually has a stronger key schedule, 256-bit is considered more secure in this post-Snowden world. We only really recommend the OpenVPN protocol these days (and never PPTP unless you have no choice), and AES is generally considered the gold standard, even if it was developed by the NSA.

Which legal jurisdiction a provider falls under is also important. In the US, the NSA can legally get direct access to servers in the US or run by US companies, (although on the other hand there is no US law stopping them hacking servers anywhere else in the world), while in most (but not all) European countries VPN providers are obliged by the EU Data Retention Directive to keep logs.

Simultaneous devices

Even around the home we increasingly use many devices to connect to the internet, and that is not even considering other family members! One solution is to use a DD-WRT or Tomato flashed router set up for VPN, but this can be slow, and you might like to use your devices when away from home too! For this reason it is always good to look out for providers who let you connect many devices at once.

Performance

Performance is always important, but no more than when streaming a high definition movie to your living room TV! VPN does slow down your internet connection, although this is typically by less than 10 percent, and is often negligible. The best way to see details of how well a service performs is to check out our reviews, which always include speedtest results.

» Visit CactusVPN


Summary

Rank Provider Starting
Price
Review Link

1

logo $6.95/mo Read Review > Visit Site

2

logo $9.00/mo Read Review > Visit Site

3

logo $7.00/mo Read Review > Visit Site

4

logo $6.99/mo Read Review > Visit Site

5

logo $4.99/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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