Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

May 25, 2018

Pornhub is one of the (if not the) biggest adult video sites on the internet.  It may sound a little strange to those not in the know, but Pornhub has always been something of an innovator in the “porn tech” space. It should therefore come as no surprise it has launched its very own VPN service – VPNhub.

In a world that is becoming increasingly prurient and authoritarian when it comes to porn, this move makes perfect sense. After all,  using a VPN is a very effective way to unblock porn. The timing of this move also coincides with the UK’s push to introduce mandatory porn filters, which require every UK resident to prove they are over 18 before they can access pornographic content on the internet.

Using a VPN will save Brits from having to tell the government they watch porn, or if buying a porn pass, the embarrassment of looking their newsagent in eye while doing so. Pornhub’s vice president Corey Price said in a statement:

With 90 million visitors a day, the vast majority of whom are using devices on the go, it’s especially important that we continue to ensure the privacy of our users.

In the next few days we will publish a full VPNhub Review, but these are our first impressions…

Pricing and Plans

VPNhub offers two plans. There is a free version for Android and iOS users (only), and a premium version. The free version is supported by ads, has limited customer support, has restricted speeds, and is limited to just one US-based server in Los Angeles. It does, however, offer unlimited bandwidth (data transfer).

Although the VPN service is free, mobile users should be aware that normal data charges apply.

The premium plan opens VPNhub to Windows and Mac desktop users. It also removes all ads, improves speeds, and adds 24/7 customer support. VPNhub Premium costs UKP £10.49 per month (approx. USD $14) if paid monthly, or £5.33 per month (approx. USD $7) per month if paid annually.

A 7-day free trial of VPNhub Premium is available. To upgrade from the free to premium plan you must first install the mobile app and upgrade via an in-app purchase. The desktop apps are only available once you have upgraded in this way.

To cancel the free trial or Premium plan, you must use the regular Android and iOS channels.

Privacy

The VPNhub has been developed by AppAtomic, and is subject to AppAtomic’s privacy policy.  This is currently a general privacy policy, and not does address the VPNhub app specifically.

Appatomic does not collect or log any traffic or use of its Applications or Services.

Other than some website tracking, the only information collected that it mentions is users’ advertiser (device) ID, which may be shared with third-party service providers. “Aggregate or non-personally identifiable information” may also be shared with “non-affiliated third parties for advertising, marketing or research purposes.”

Security

No information is currently available on the VPN protocols or encryption used by the mobile the apps. The Windows app, however, uses OpenVPN. From the config files we can determine that this uses the following settings:

Data channel: an AES-128-CBC or AES-256-CBC (default) cipher with HMAC SHA256 hash authentication.

Control channel: an AES-256-CBC cipher. Data authentication and handshake encryption is undefined in the config file, but a Diffie-Hellman exchange (DHE) provides perfect forward secrecy,

With OpenVPN the devil is in the detail, so we will try to uncover the rest of the details for our upcoming full VPNhub review. From what we do know now, however, the settings look promising.

The Android App

The app looks good and is very easy to use.


Free users can only connect to a server in Los Angeles, but Premium users have access to servers located in 13 countries around the world.  Lots of servers are located in both the UK and US.

We detected no IP leaks when using the app. It has no bells and whistles but works flawlessly. It is also early days for VPNhub, so we can expect to see more features down the line.

The Windows App

Much like its Android sibling, the Windows app is smart looking and easy to use.

It also packs all the most important features that a VPN app should. This includes IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leak protection and a kill switch. The ability to switch to OpenVPN TCP port 443 is also very handy for defeating VPN censorship blocks.

The ability to pick server location based on lead and ping times is useful.

We must say that our first impressions of the Windows client are good.

Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Tests)

Speed tests

We will publish full speed tests with our full VPNhub Review. These quick provisional tests, however, should give an indication of how VPNhub performs. All tests were performed in the UK using OpenVPN-UDP with AES-256 encryption.

No VPN (control)

Connected to LA server using the Free plan

Connected to LA server using the Premium Plan

Connected to a UK (nearby) sever using the Premium plan

Although the east coast US is a fair distance from our UK test location, the Free plan offered very usable speeds on our broadband connection. Premium plan speeds to LA are also very decent for a paid-for service, which makes the local UK result a little disappointing.

As we say, though, these are just quick provisional tests.

 IP leak tests

We ran basic IP leak tests by visiting ipleak.net. These include IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leak tests and Ipv4 and IPv6 WebRTC leak tests.

The Windows VPNhub correctly routed IPv4 requests and blocked IPv6 request, but leaked our IPv6 location via WebRTC. Please see A Complete Guide to IP Leaks for a full discussion of what all this means.

VPNhub Preview: Conclusion

Perhaps the only surprise about Pornhub offering a VPN service is that it hasn’t done so before now. Indeed, porn app store MiKandi did a similar thing in 2017 when its co-founder helped release the Tenta Browser with built-in VPN. One suspects that the UK’s new porn filters have a great deal to do with Pornhub’s timing.

Other than the IPv6 WebRTC leak, Pornhub has released a product that is already polished on its day of launch. Most importantly, the mobile app will unblock websites for free. And even all the way from the UK, it is fast enough to… well, stream porn without buffering issues (of course).

The premium service is expensive given the very limited number of features available at this time. It remains to be seen if Pornhub will increase its value proposition moving forward (and hopefully at least fix that IPv6 WebRTC leak!).

It also remains to be seen how a VPN app by a well-known porn company will actually go down with the public. Remember that any VPN service will unblock porn sites just as well as VPNhub – including Pornhub itself. And ExpressVPN and CyberGhost, for example, are both cheaper and more fully featured than VPNhub.