SaferVPN has made some major improvements, and is now close to being a great service. It uses excellent encryption, has plenty of servers in useful locations, and has a good logging policy. It also offers some very handy bells and whistles, such a Chrome extension and strong support for IKEv2.
Only somewhat underwhelming speed performance and sub-par (but friendly!) customer support now holds SaferVPN back.
SaferVPN is an expanding VPN provider serving customers all over the world. It has recently has upped its game, and is now a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service that we can broadly recommend. Connection speeds and customer support are areas that it could still improve, but SaferVPN has all the privacy and security requirements of a good VPN service nailed down pretty tight.
Servers in 36 countries
24/7 live chat support
Five simultaneous connections
Strong encryption (assuming perfect forward secrecy is used)
SaferVPN offers two plans. The standard plan currently costs $8.99 per month, with heavy reductions for one-year or two-year purchases. This price is billed as a limited time offer, but is the same price that was quoted when we published a SaferVPN review a year ago.
A 24-hour free trial is available, which is nice. No credit card details are required for this. SaferVPN also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Payment can be made via credit/debit card, Paypal, or Bitcoin. More obscure payment options are also available courtesy of Paymentwall.
SaferVPN offers the following features:
700+ servers in 36 countries
Five simultaneous connections
24/7 live chat support
Support for Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)/Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2), and OpenVPN protocols
Automatic location selection algorithm
Peer-to-peer (P2P) torrenting is permitted (Netherlands server only)
Servers are located around the world, with some in more unusual locations such as South Africa, Brazil, India, Australia, and New Zealand.
Automatic Location Selection Algorithm
This is a feature that SaferVPN appears very proud of, but which leaves me rather perplexed.
“We have a diagnose fix feature that runs in the background and selects the best VPN protocol to be used based on the system configuration. In the most cases, we use IKEv2 over IPSEC (AES 256) and falling back to OpenVPN (AES 256).”
Under almost any circumstance, OpenVPN with AES-256 is the best protocol. IKEv2 is good, and is particularly great when regularly switching between WiFi and mobile, or between different WiFi networks, but OpenVPN is always our default recommendation. Please see my VPN Encryption Guide for a detailed discussion on this subject.
This feature is entirely optional, however, so if you don’t like it then it’s no big deal.
SaferVPN is based in Israel. My initial reaction to this was that Israel is bad news when it comes to privacy. After lengthy discussion with SaferVPN, however, my view has largely shifted on this point. Israel has some very strong privacy laws. Crucially, they also apply (.pdf) specifically to the state. Please see this document (.pdf) sent to me by SaferVPN for a full discussion on the relevant laws.
I remain somewhat uncomfortable about Israel’s close cooperation with the United States’ NSA in its mass surveillance operations. However, I am now reassured that this does not present any major threat to the privacy of VPN customers.
SaferVPN is also keen to point out that it has “partnered with an NGO ‘Advancing Human Rights’ to give free VPN for dissidents in closed societies. I strongly encourage you to read the piece on IndieHackers that tells our journey.” This is commendable.
On its homepage, SaferVPN says:
“No Logging Policy! We value and respect your privacy — in and out of the web. We never log or monitor your VPN network traffic.”
It is true that SaferVPN doesn’t log your browsing activity, although some connection logs are kept.
“We collect minimal usage statistics to maintain our quality of service, our VPN servers log the following information each time a User activates and uses the Service (“Session“): (1) date and time on which the Session began, date and time on which the Session ended, (2) the amount of data transmitted during each Session, (3) to which VPN location and (4) to from which country you’ve been connected to (we do not hold IP addresses).”
In response to comments initially made in this review, SaferVPN no longer logs users’ IP addresses. This means that none of the above logs can be connected to an individual.
This is great, as the minimal logs that are kept present little or no privacy threat to users. Please see our Five Best No Logs VPNs feature for a full discussion on VPN logs and logging.
SaferVPN uses the following OpenVPN encryption: AES-256 for data channel cipher, RSA-2048 for the Transport Layer Security (TLS) handshake, and SHA-256 for control channel hash authentication.
Logs & Legal
Support was unable to tell me any more details, so I will guess that SaferVPN uses SHA-1 is for the data channel handshake (which is fine). SaferVPN has now confirmed that it does use perfect forward secrecy (PFS) for all OpenVPN and IKEv2 connections.
This is a strong OpenVPN setup. The SaferVPN Windows and Mac OS X apps also include Domain Name System (DNS) leak protection and a kill switch. Interestingly, SaferVPN’s Android and iOS apps are the only ones I know of to also also include a kill switch (although you can configure OpenVPN for Android to react in a similar way).
The SaferVPN Website
The website looks very smart, and offers a variety of well-presented setup guides. There’s also a blog, which features some interesting-looking articles. Technical details are a little light on the ground, but the page explaining encryption for the different VPN protocols is quite good.
SaferVPN Customer Support
Other than the setup guides, support is primarily via 24/7 live chat. A ticketed email system is also in place. When I contacted SaferVPN’s support via live chat, responses were almost instant, and very friendly.
I do not consider it fair to expect front-line support staff to have in-depth technical knowledge, but I was a little annoyed to be repeatedly given “I can assure you that we use the best possible encryption” answers when asking for details.
More importantly, when my queries were escalated via ticketed email for attention by more knowledgeable staff members, I found the answers rather unsatisfactory. Good examples of this are when I asked about Chrome extension security, and when I unable to discover if perfect forward secrecy is deployed.
As already noted, a 24-hour fee trial is on offer before you need to provide any payment details. This requires only a valid email address. If you wish to pay anonymously, you can do so using properly mixed Bitcoins. Please always remember, however, that a VPN will always know your real IP address, regardless of how you pay.
Once signed up, you receive a welcome email with account information and download links.
The SaferVPN Windows VPN Client
The SaferVPN client is quite simple, but looks nice and gets the job done.
It isn’t clear which protocol is used when the default “Automatic” is selected. Support was unable to tell me this, either.
The SaferVPN Windows client has a kill switch. I tested this by force-closing the app in Windows Task Manager, but found myself still connected to the internet.
This means that the kill switch is reactive – it shuts down the internet when it detects that the VPN has disconnected. It does not work, for example, if the VPN client itself suffers a crash.
A firewall-based kill switch that prevents any connections outside the VPN would be better, although any kill switch is preferable to none.
I did notice that the client connects to VPN servers very quickly, which is nice. As already noted, SaferVPN includes DNS leak protection.
SaferVPN offers an interesting feature that I haven’t seen before. WiFi Security will alert you whenever you connect to an unsecured WiFi network, and will automatically enable the VPN if it is not active.
I have not been able to test this feature, but it certainly sounds like it could be useful.
SaferVPN Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Tests)
I allowed SaferVPN to auto-select servers in a given location.
The graphs show the highest, lowest, and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more details.
I have seen worse results, but meh.
Most of the time, DNS resolution was correctly performed by third-party servers. SaferVPN uses Google DNS for this, but the results are proxied to prevent Google from knowing who made them. Although not as good as a provider performing its own DNS resolution, I think this is fine. I did detect an IP leak during my tests, but SaferVPN assures me that the issue has been resolved since version 4.0.6 of its software. I have not tested this claim.
Please note that Private Use RFC IPs are local IPs only. They cannot be used to identify an individual, and so do not constitute an IP leak. Unfortunately, my ISP (Virgin Media UK) does not yet support Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) connections, so I am unable to test for IPv6 leaks at this time. This is a situation that will hopefully change in the near future.
I was able to stream BBC iPlayer when connected to a UK server, but was unable to stream Netflix when connected to a US server. This applied even when connected to SaferVPN’s special “US Streaming” server. *
*Update 06 November 2017: “We are now Netflix compatible and there is no issue to stream Netflix, Hulu and all other services in the US while utilizing our ‘US Streaming’ server which utilize residential US IP addresses.”
SaferVPN offers custom apps for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android. The mobile apps use OpenVPN with the same encryption settings as the desktop apps. SaferVPN also provides good manual setup guides for Linux, Blackberry phones, Windows phones, numerous routers, and various media steaming platforms.
I own an Android phone, so I downloaded the Android app from the Play Store.
SaferVPN has greatly reduced the number of permissions its app requires. The above list is now very reasonable.
The app also looks good.
I detected no IP leaks while using the Android app.
SaferVPN offers a Chrome browser extension, which works well for changing your location.
“We do not explicitly use the encryption within our Chrome extension. The Chrome itself (internally) use SSL as security layer on top on http protocol to secure a user session data from being stolen by “bad” people.”
I think this means it uses HTTPS, but am far from sure. If you want an encrypted connection then stick with using the full VPN client.
I’ll just note that I would prefer to see a browser extension for open source Firefox rather than for what is basically Google spyware.
SaferVPN Review: Conclusion
Servers in 30 countries
24/7 live chat support
Five simultaneous connections
WiFi protections looks interesting
Strong encryption (assuming PFS is used)
Good cross-platform support
24-hour free trial
30-day money-back guarantee
P2P permitted (Netherlands server only)
Support for IKEv2
Kill switch (but reactive only)
Good for BBC iPlayer
I wasn’t so sure about:
Support did not seem very knowledgeable, even when queries were “escalated”
Very uninspiring speed tests results
IP leak detected (but issue should now be fixed)
SaferVPN has made some major improvements, and is now close to being a great service. It uses excellent encryption, has plenty of servers in useful locations, allows five connections at once, and has a good logging policy. It also offers some very handy bells and whistles, such a Chrome extension and strong support for IKEv2. Only somewhat underwhelming speed performance and sub-par (but friendly!) customer support now holds SaferVPN back.
With a 24-hour free trial and 30-day money-back guarantee, there’s little reason not to check this highly competent service out for yourself.