When you arrive at the DefenceVPN website you are greeted by the bold claim, “Get the fastest, most reliable VPN on the Internet!” This is a claim that we at BestVPN.com are well accustomed to seeing, with a large proportion of commercial VPNs claiming the same thing. It is my job, however, to find out the truth, and in the course of this review I promise I will.
This VPN provider is brand spanking new. You can tell this as soon as you visit their blog page, due to the fact that all of the blogs start in November of last year. A quick nip around its website reveals that they have setup guides for OpenVPN encryption on Android, iOS, Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, which is a great start. I also notice that on the bottom of each page there is navigation to an on-site DNS leak test. These are promising signs, and the VPN is certainly priced modestly, so I am excited to get stuck into the review.
- Zero logs
- Strong encryption
- Budget prices
- 24/7 customer support for subscribers
- P2P: yes (on certain plans)
- Few server locations
- No custom clients
- Based in Canada (Five Eyes)
Pricing and Plans
DefenceVPN has two different pricing plans. Subscribers can choose between a monthly, quarterly, or yearly pricing structure, with or without peer-to-peer (P2P) connectivity. The good news is that the prices are a bargain across the board. This definitely qualifies as a cheap VPN.
The three plans without P2P all have the same features as one another and are priced at $2.99 (billed monthly), $9.99 (billed every three months), and $28.99 (billed annually). All of those plans offer access to servers in nine countries.
All three P2P packages have the same features as the regular plans, but with the added availability of three P2P servers. The monthly plan is $3.99, the quarterly plan is $10.99, and the yearly plan is $29.99.
Money-back offer or free trial
DefenceVPN allows potential subscribers to try the service for one day with a free trial. This is better than you get with many VPNs (which don’t give a trial at all). Sadly, however, you have to sign up with a credit card or PayPal in order to use the one-day free trial, which is far from ideal. I signed up for a month and tested the service during my free trial.
DefenceVPN is a pretty basic service, which provides the bare essentials needed from a VPN. It doesn’t have its own client, so users have to connect using third party OpenVPN GUI software. That means it has none of the features that would lead us to call it ‘fully featured.’ This includes things like a kill switch and auto-connect. You won’t find the likes of double encryption on DefenceVPN, either. The VPN does have DNS leak protection, because this is now standard in the latest OpenVPN GUI (as well as IPv4 and IPv6 compatibility).
Encryption protocols on offer are PPTP (which is outdated and not considered secure) and OpenVPN (the best VPN encryption available). Many VPNs offer more protocols (such as L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2 and SSTP). Here at BestVPN.com, however, we recommend OpenVPN – so DefenceVPN is definitely on the right track.
One thing to bear in mind is that OpenVPN alone isn’t enough to keep you secure. Implementation of the protocol can make or break the security of the VPN (please read the security section later on in this review for a breakdown of DefenceVPN’s OpenVPN implementation).
On the plus side, DefenceVPN does allow peer-to-peer, so if torrenting is your thing then you should be happy using their specific P2P-friendly servers. Do bear in mind, however, that in order to access those P2P-friendly servers, the website says the following:
“To Torrent or stream P2P traffic you will need a torrenting subscription. It will come with 3 extra servers that are dedicated to P2P. Regular users will not be able to log into these servers.
“Any torrenting or P2P on servers not marked with [P2P FRIENDLY] will result in suspension of service.”
DefenceVPN offers a NAT firewall service between the VPN server and the internet, so that all internet traffic is filtered through the NAT firewall. This is good for security generally (though arguably isn’t as useful as VPNs like to pretend, because most operating systems’ firewalls are probably better). One drawback is that a NAT firewall can reek havoc when torrenting.
Other features: by default subscribers to DefenceVPN get access to shared IP addresses. This is usually considered better for privacy as the traffic (and therefore usage) on the VPN server is that of many different subscribers. However, for some purposes VPN users do at times wish to have access to a dedicated server. The good news is that a dedicated IP address is available with DefenceVPN. In its FAQ section it says:
“IPs are shared. If you want a dedicated server, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote.”
DefenceVPN allows subscribers to use the service on two simultaneous devices. That means that you can use it on a smartphone and a laptop, or perhaps a PC and a tablet at the same time (the option is yours). This is adequate considering the price-tag of the VPN service, and certainly can’t be considered a fault. However, do bear in mind that there are VPNs on the market that allow up to six simultaneous connections.
“We take your privacy seriously here at Defence. We will never log any activities of our users or divulge any information to third-parties or law enforcement agencies.”
This appears to be great news and certainly ticks the right box. Also good news: DefenceVPN does have a warrant canary, though the effectiveness of one is still a hotly contested point. A warrant canary is a way of informing users that the government has not served the provider with any secret subpoenas. If the warrant canary is removed, or not updated within a specified timescale, users may assume that the government has served such a subpoena.
As is always the case with VPNs, there is an element of trust involved. While established VPNs have a huge client base and a proven track record of not divulging information, this can’t be said yet for DefenceVPN.
What is more, the VPN is registered in Canada. Although it told us that it rents its servers ‘offshore,’ it is still not ideal that it is registered within a Five Eyes nation. Having said that, the fact that it keeps zero logs is admirable and means that even if it is approached with a warrant, it won’t actually be able to comply with an investigation (because it has nothing to hand over).
DefenceVPN offers two encryption protocols: PPTP (which will unblock restricted content but is insecure), and OpenVPN. OpenVPN is a fantastic encryption protocol that is the most recommended protocol for privacy and security throughout the industry. With that in mind, we were happy to see OpenVPN available on all platforms.
No Custom Clients
DefenceVPN does not have a custom client: it just uses the OpenVPN GUI application, which is third-party and has nothing to do with the provider. In reality, this is quite poor for a commercial VPN (because they haven’t actually got their own software).
However, OpenVPN GUI does do the job well and the latest version includes WebRTC leak, IPv4, and IPv6 DNS leak protection. As such, this is actually a very reliable method for connecting to DefenceVPN’s servers.
When I asked the firm to provide details about the implementation of OpenVPN, they told me the following specifications: Cipher AES-256-CBC, Handshake: RSA 2028 and hash authentication: SHA-512. In addition, the firm told me that:
“ECDH (Elliptic curve Diffie–Hellman) has been implemented on all servers. Our actual company is located in Canada but we buy all of our servers from an offshore provider. We are in a country with data retention laws however we will be offering a warrant canary soon to assure users of the integrity of your privacy.”
Diffie-Hellman (DH) implementation is great. We always recommend people subscribe to VPNs with perfect forward secrecy (PFS), so we were very happy to see PFS using DH. AES-256-CBC is also highly robust. In addition, the authentication size is also excellent: SHA-512 is part of the “SHA 2” family, which is highly robust. Finally, the handshake of RSA 2028 is also considered strong. All in all, this is great news for DefenceVPN subscribers, as it means that OpenVPN is implemented securely.
DefenceVPN told me that they use unlogged dns.watch servers. I used ipleak.net to test their claim and found it to be true. No DNS leaks were detected (which is not a surprise due to the fact that OpenVPN GUI has built in DNS leak protection).
The website for DefenceVPN is not bad looking. Although it doesn’t try to be very “glossy,” it certainly couldn’t be considered ugly. What is nice, is that the website is easy to navigate and sets out all the necessary information in a clear manner.
The blog section of the site is a little on the slim side, but it does serve as a good setup resource, with guides for getting both the PPTP and OpenVPN protocols going on all popular platforms (Android, iOS, Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux). Due to the fact that the VPN is new, this is nothing to be particularly concerned about. Furthermore, DefenceVPN has assured me that they are planning to add more to the blog on a regular basis.
The website claims that support is available 24/7, 365 days a year. I tested this and although it does have a live chat feature, this was not online during UK working hours. As such, I suspect live chat is handled during Canadian daylight hours. This is still good, as many VPNs don’t have a live chat feature at all.
After I joined the VPN, I sent them a question via the ticket system. I was happy to find that the answer came in good time. All in all, I wouldn’t really complain about this VPN’s support, which was handled pretty effectively. If I had any complaint, it would be that this VPN provider wasn’t as knowledgeable as the “top dog” VPNs that have been around for years.
Signing up to the VPN is admittedly pretty easy. I simply chose the plan I wanted, entered my email address and a password and then my card details. Do be aware, however, that because the firm doesn’t have a custom client, to use OpenVPN encryption you will need to do a certain amount of setup. This involves downloading the OpenVPN GUI software and .ovpn files. The good news is that DefenceVPN provides easy to follow, step-by-step guides on how to do this on its blog.
Payment can be made by either credit card or Paypal. Sadly, subscribers cannot pay with bitcoins or cash for added anonymity.
The DefenceVPN Windows Client
As mentioned, DefenceVPN does not have a custom client. It just provides .ovpn files that you must run on the third party OpenVPN GUI software. For this reason, this section of the review is empty.
The DefenceVPN Android Client
DefenceVPN doesn’t have an Android client. For this reason, you must download OpenVPN Connect for Android, then import the .ovpn files for each of the servers on the plan that you are subscribed to. Due to the fact that the .ovpn files come zipped up, you will need to extract the files and then email them to yourself. Following that, open the email and download the files. They will now be in your downloads folder, where you can run them in the OpenVPN application. OpenVPN GUI is highly easy to use on both Android and Windows, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Tests)
Tests were conducted using a UK Virgin Media 50 Mbps/3 Mbps connection. All tests were conducted over the course of two separate days and were done on testmy.net. OpenVPN GUI was used for all tests.
As you can see, speed tests revealed a similar drop in performance on all servers. This isn’t great news. The good news is that upload speeds fared much better.
As far as DNS leaks and WebRTC leaks are concerned, the latest version of the third-party OpenVPN GUI has all of these covered. It also protects against IPv4 and IPv6 leaks. The result is that I discovered no DNS leaks whatsoever.
- The cost of plans
- Two simultaneous connections
- DNS leak and WebRTC protection (because of third-party app)
- Upload speeds
- 24/7 customer support
- Strong encryption implementation
I wasn’t so sure about:
- Download speeds
- Doesn’t unblock US Netflix
- No kill switch
- Lack of custom apps for any platforms
- Doesn’t unblock BBC iPlayer on the London server
DefenceVPN is a provider that looks promising from the outset. The good news is that in terms of security the VPN really does deliver. Sadly, the lack of a custom client is a bit of a disappointment, because you don’t get a kill switch or auto-connect features. However, the reality is that the third party OpenVPN software is very good.
Download speeds weren’t the best we’ve ever seen, but not the slowest either. Upload speeds, on the other hand, were stable, which is excellent. The price is definitely cheap and this VPN is in no way amongst the worst that are out there. However, this new VPN still has a lot to do if it wants to climb the ladder of VPN rankings. Everyone has to start somewhere, though, and I have high hopes for this new Canadian VPN service.