Review

PrivateVPN Review


PrivateVPN is a Swedish based VPN that has a lot on offer. Security is strong, and subscribers get a lot of different encryption options. In addition, the firm provides an outstanding zero logs policy. The software is great and is available for all popular platforms. The only slight drawback is a lack of built-in DNS leak protection. Finally, it has a good spread of server locations and connection speeds were pretty fast – and definitely good enough for streaming.
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Review of: PrivateVPN
VPN by PrivateVPN:
PrivateVPN

Reviewed by:
Rating:
3
On February 28, 2017
Last modified:February 28, 2017

Summary:

PrivateVPN is a Swedish based VPN that really performs. Encryption is strong OpenVPN, it has a zero logs policy, and servers are fast and in 29 countries.

PrivateVPN is an established VPN service based in Sweden. It is a secure service with a bespoke client that can be used on up to six devices simultaneously. It is a zero logs VPN service that has servers in 29 countries around the world. Although that is fewer locations than some other top VPN providers, the VPN servers are extremely well placed and give subscribers plenty of opportunities for overcoming geo-restrictions.

The website is informative, and doesn’t make any bold claims about being “the fastest VPN in the world”. This is a refreshing change from the vast majority of VPNs on the market who often lie through their teeth about nonexistent privacy levels and connection speeds. PrivateVPN’s custom VPN client is now available for all popular OS platforms. The service also boasts of impressive 98.8% uptime, a seven-day money back guarantee, and 24/7 customer support. With so much on offer, PrivateVPN looks highly promising. Let’s dive in head first and take a closer look!

  • ProsPROS
  • Seven-day money back guarantee
  • Servers in 29 countries
  • Strong OpenVPN encryption
  • Zero logs
  • 24/7 customer support
  • ConsCONS
  • Data channel could also be encrypted with 256 AES (but this is a minor quibble and they told me they were changing this soon.)
  • No built-in DNS leak protection and DNS must be set up manually on devices.

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Pricing & Plans

PrivateVPN doesn’t mess around with splitting its VPN service into various plans, which is good. However, the VPN is priced slightly cheaper for people that decide to commit for longer periods of time: rewarding customer loyalty with a discount. Prices start at a not unreasonable $8.95 for a one-month subscription, which drops to $7.31 if users subscribe for a three-month period. The best value package is awarded to those that subscribe for a year. They’re charged $71.40 annually (just $5.95 per month).

PrivateVPN pricing plans

Also a big plus is the fact that PrivateVPN offers a highly generous seven-day money back guarantee. This is much better than many VPNs on the market. Although subscribers do have to initially outlay the subscription fee, the no quibbles guarantee means that people get a chance to try the service risk-free. It is also a little-known secret, that if you contact the provider directly it is possible to get a gift code to test the service for 24 hours free of charge. Shush!

Features

PrivateVPN operates servers in 29 countries. Those locations include five cities in the US (including West and East coast), the UK, all over Europe (including the Netherlands and Switzerland). Plus: Brazil, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Russia. The only places that don’t really get a look-in are Africa, the Middle East, and China. As such, if these locations are of particular interest to you, I suggest you look elsewhere.

PrivateVPN Features

Subscribers may connect up to six devices to PrivateVPN at once. This is truly outstanding and very few VPNs on the market offer more. With this is mind, PrivateVPN can be considered a highly useful VPN for large families that have VPN requirements on a number of phones, tablets, and laptops, both at home and when out and about using public WiFi.

Lots of VPN protocols are supported including OpenVPN, which is the most secure VPN protocol on the market and our recommended protocol here at BestVPN.com. Available protocols include OpenVPN (UDP and TCP), L2TP, PPTP, IPSec, IKEv2, HTTP Proxy and SOCKS5. This is an impressive amount of choice, all of which can all be toggled within the client.

privateVPN encryption diagram

Security Features

The PrivateVPN software is well designed and has a kill switch to cut the internet should the VPN connection be lost. This is a useful feature that allows its subscribers to guarantee that they don’t accidentally leak their web traffic to their ISP. In addition, users can specify software to be included in the kill switch feature. Do bear in mind, however, that although a per-app kill switch is handy, it is not as secure as firewall-based kill switches which prevent any internet traffic outside the VPN.

In addition, port forwarding is also supported by PrivateVPN. Though you will need to check its server list or communicate with them directly to figure out which server or servers have the features necessary to set up a particular device.

HQN servers

High-Quality Network servers are available on the PrivateVPN network. PrivateVPN say that it aims “to purchase Internet capacity directly from the IP transit provider”. These tier-1 servers allows PrivateVPN to have no middlemen in its network which it says allows it to deliver better connections speeds. Please check the connection speeds section of the review for speed test results.

Remote control

For real technophobes, a remote installation feature is available. When implemented, it will allow a PrivateVPN customer support technician to remotely take over a subscriber’s machine momentarily to help them set up the VPN. This shouldn’t be necessary, because the VPN is very easy to setup. However, the feature is an excellent addition that certainly can be considered a selling point that sets it apart from its competitors. The feature is also available for general maintenance and is handled with TeamViewer remote support software. PrivateVPN even provides a guide for getting remote control set up in its resources area.

Privacy

PrivateVPN is based in the Sweden. Due to the fact that Sweden has data retention laws this is far from ideal, so let’s take a closer look. In  2008, the Swedish parliament passed an incredibly controversial law that permits the Swedish government to monitor all internet traffic, without a warrant.

The law was set up under the auspices of national security (to monitor for terrorist communications). Thankfully, in 2009 that FRA law was updated to include political oversight. In 2010 ‘technical difficulties’ were cited for the law’s apparent implementation failure – and it is unclear if the intelligence agency that was setup to monitor the internet traffic – is doing its job in an unsupervised manner.

In addition, in 2009 Sweden passed an anti-copyright piracy law called IPRED. IPRED permits copyright holders to make Swedish ISPs reveal the personal information of users under suspicion of sharing copyrighted files (with a warrant). This led to a sharp rise in VPN subscribers in Sweden itself (no doubt many of which subscribed to PrivateVPN).

Next, in March 2012, Sweden passed a mandatory data retention (MDR) law that forces ISPs to retain all data for six months. This includes login times, email logs and websites visited. In 2014, the European Court of Justice decided that MDR was unlawful citing human rights. Then in December of 2016, the EU court of Justice once more found that blanket surveillance was unlawful. The rulings mean that, if challenged, data retention laws in Sweden could be overturned.

Zero logs

What this all means, is that Sweden is not the most ideal place for a VPN company to be based. In fact, under the circumstances, if PrivateVPN kept any logs at all (even just connection logs) I would probably advise against it. The good news is that it doesn’t.  PrivateVPN doesn’t keep any logs whatsoever. As such, if it is asked to comply with an investigation (using a warrant) PrivateVPN can’t actually provide anything at all about its subscribers to the authorities.

I asked PrivateVPN directly about how it gets around local data retention laws and IPRED and it told me that IPRED applies only to ISPs and that it is not bound to keep any logs. The firm was also honest enough to admit to me that they have been coming under pressure “we’re getting complaints” its representative told me, but because it has “no such information about our customers” it can’t help with any investigations.

In addition, PrivateVPN informed me that it has a 100% record of providing privacy for its clients. I asked it the following question: has anybody ever got into trouble for piracy – or anything else – using your service? And it gave me the decisive reply: “No, never”.

All things considered, it would appear that subscribers are indeed safe using PrivateVPN. Its zero logs policy is watertight, and its privacy policy, which includes never sharing data with third parties, is highly commendable. As such, we give PrivateVPN a thumbs up for privacy: though the question of whether Sweden is the best location to base a VPN remains valid.

Security

OpenVPN Encryption

Control cipher
AES-256
Data cipher
Blowfish-128
Handshake
RSA-2048
Data auth
HMAC SHA-1
Forward Secrecy
DHE-2048

Logs & Legal
Connection
None
Traffic
None
Country
Ok

On the technical front, the encryption used by PrivateVPN for OpenVPN connections is a little unorthodox. The reason being that it is implemented differently for TAP and TUN. We recommend that you stick with TAP (as it will allow you to stream etc.) OpenVPN encryption on TAP is as follows: AES-256 cipher (control channel) and Blowfish-128 cipher (data channel). On both channels an RSA-2048 handshake and HMAC SHA1 data auth are used, and 2048-bit DHE keys provide Perfect Forward Secrecy. 

At first glance, Blowfish-128 could be considered weak. However, in reality, because the control channel is encrypted with AES-256, in order to hack the traffic you would first need to hack the AES-256 control channel and then hack the bf-128. As such, this can be considered strongly implemented encryption.

In addition, a number of other encryption protocols are available natively in the PrivateVPN client. PPTP is among those, but because it is no longer strong enough to protect users’ privacy, we strongly recommend against it. Instead we encourage you to select one of the others (preferably OpenVPN). Available protocols are OpenVPN (UDP and TCP), L2TP, PPTP, IPSec, IKEv2, HTTP Proxy, and SOCKS5.

Although no DNS leak protection is built into its clients, PrivateVPN does handle DNS requests via its own servers. In order to set this up, users need to set their DNS settings manually. This is very easy to do, and the PrivateVPN team has both guides and a great customer service team available to walk you through the process.

The website

The PrivateVPN website looks really tidy. It is presented in a lush purple color scheme that is easy on the eye and the more I used it the more it impressed me. In addition, the not overly boastful website lays out a lot of information clearly. It is also frank about encryption: disclosing details about its implementation in its features list. With some VPNs, getting this information can be like getting blood from a stone. This is not the case with PrivateVPN. The information is always a click away, which makes the company come across as trustworthy. This is a website that many VPN providers could learn from.

privatevpn website 1

A Support section of the website is packed with guides for setting up everything a user might be interested in. The different protocols and OS versions all have excellent, clearly stated, setup guides. So whether it is SSTP or OpenVPN on Android, Windows, iOS or Linux, it has got you covered.

In addition, PrivateVPN has setup guides for routers including DD-WRT, Tomato routers, and many others. Overall, I was really impressed with the setup guides and FAQ section, and this is most definitely a highly valuable resource for its subscribers.

PrivateVPN homepage

PrivateVPN also has a blog section that alerts users to any upgrades on the service (such as new servers). The Blog is split into three separate areas: VPN Client, VPN Service, and Website. Each section has a lot of useful blogs that appear to be well written. This is a valuable form of communication with its subscribers that I would strongly recommend subscribers to keep a watchful eye on for valuable information.

Finally, the website is available in English, Dutch, German and Swedish.

Support

PrivateVPN has 24/7 support, which is handled via emails and a live chat feature on its website. I tried the live chat feature at the weekend and found it to be unavailable. However, it did prompt me to send a message which was answered in good time. I suspect therefore that while the chat feature is not 24/7, they do have support staff working around the clock.

To be absolutely certain, I tried the live chat again on Monday morning (during European working hours) and found it to be up and running. The representative was friendly and did his best to answer all my questions. In conclusion, I suspect that live chat is probably only available in European daylight hours. As such, if you live elsewhere you will have to communicate via email (which isn’t really a problem because they answer quickly).

The Process

Signing Up

Signing up is as easy as with any of the other VPNs that I have ever used. Subscribers can pay with a credit card, PayPal or Stripe. In addition, people can choose to pay with Bitcoins for added anonymity and privacy levels if they wish. Minimal details are required (an email account), and PrivateVPN does not keep any logs that connect the payment to the users IP Address.

The PrivateVPN Windows Client

PrivateVPN definitely attempts to make everything as simple possible as it can for its subscribers. The VPN software is nice and easy to use on both the versions that I tested (Windows and Android clients). In addition, PrivateVPN is packed with encryption protocol options and excellent privacy features to keep its subscribers secure.

The Windows client is straightforward and not particularly feature packed. It does, however, give users the ability to toggle lots of protocol options. DNS leak protection is not a specific feature in the software, which means you need to set the DNS address manually. Doing so is easy and shouldn’t be daunting. However, if need be you could always fall back on the remote control feature and have one of the PrivateVPN operatives set it up for you.

The PrivateVPN client does have a kill switch called “Connection Guard” (which prevents internet traffic entering or leaving the PC unless the VPN is connected). In addition, the kill switch allows you to select specific software – which is a nice touch.

connection guard killswitch

Overall the client was superb and certainly as good as any other that I have ever used in terms of ease of use and functionality. It even has an auto-connect feature that will reconnect your VPN in sequence with the killswitch should the connection

Other Platforms

I don’t have a Mac, so I was unable to test this software personally. However, I did do a little research and it would appear that it is a similar client to those provided by other VPN companies. The firm provides setup guides for its Mac and iOS clients and I can only assume from my experience with the Windows and Mac clients that they are just as well designed. Certainly, I have no reason to suspect otherwise from the research that I did.

PrivateVPN offers full GUI apps for Windows, Mac OS / OSX, Android, and iOS. It also offers setup guides for getting it working on Linux with the third party OpenVPN software (command line prompt installation in the console). You will also need curl to be installed to get it working.

Detailed guides are available for every single platform, and it even has guides for setting it up on a variety of routers. This is a great plus as it helps non-techy people to be able to get the VPN working on any device. Also, due to the fact that subscribers are permitted to install the VPN on six devices, these guides are bound to come in very useful.

The Android app

The Android app can be used with Android 4.0.3 and above. It is available on the Google Play store or can be downloaded as an .apk file.

PrivateVPN Android play store

The app is a brand new addition (January 2017) to the PrivateVPN family (before users had to use third-party OpenVPN software). Just like the desktop app, the Android app is intuitively designed and works well. Also good news, I detected no DNS leaks when using the software.

Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC and IPv6 Tests)

Tests were performed using a UK 50 Mbps / 3 Mbps fiber connection. All tests for this PrivateVPN review were performed using the OpenVPN (UDP) protocol on its Windows client.

Graphs show highest, lowest and average speeds for each server and location that I tested. For more info feel free to check out full speed test explanation. As you can see from the graphs, the results were pretty impressive with only small drops in connection speeds when compared to my averages without a VPN. Sadly, my Internet connection was averaging about 10 Mbps slower than my ISP advertises. However, most people where I live suffer from the same problem.

privatevpn download speedsprivatevpn upload tests

PrivateVPN also passed all DNS leak and WebRTC leak tests, which is great news for their subscribers. As it doesn’t have built-in DNS leak protection PrivateVPN recommends that you manually update your local DNS settings. Having said that, I tested without updating them manually and still detected no DNS leaks. Due to that fact that there is no per-app built-in protection, however, we do recommend that subscribers check for leaks regularly at ipleak.net

Using PrivateVPN I was also able to stream content from both US Netflix and BBC iPlayer. So, PrivateVPN gets a streaming gold star from me.

PrivateVPN Review Recap

I liked

  • Helpful customer service
  • Seven-day money-back guarantee
  • Strong encryption (with Perfect Forward Secrecy)
  • HTTPS Proxy and SOCKS5
  • Excellent mobile apps
  • Servers in 29 countries
  • Six simultaneous connections
  • Fast connections
  • Works with US Netflix and iPlayer (at date tested)
  • Killswitch and auto-connect features
  • Website available in English, German, Dutch, and Swedish

I wasn’t so sure about

  • No built-in DNS leak protection (but no DNS leaks detected)

I hated

  • Nothing

PrivateVPN Conclusion

PrivateVPN is a VPN that has been around for a number of years. In that time it has established a top-notch service. Subscribers get access to a tier 1 network of servers placed in excellent locations around the world. Speeds fared well across the servers, with only slight drops between slowest average connection speed without a VPN and highest average speeds with.

Privacy with the VPN is great, and the zero logs policy speaks for itself. Encryption is also strong, and the ability to toggle between UDP and TCP in the client is fantastic. Availability of HTTP Proxy, SOCKS5, and port forwarding, is also a huge benefit. Finally, the auto-reconnect and killswitch features are a nice addition. The only slight drawback is the lack of built-in DNS leak protection (meaning that DNS setting must be done manually for maximum security).

With servers located in excellent locations around the world, my overall impression of PrivateVPN is that it is a decent VPN service that is worth the money it asks (particularly if you sign up for a year). Thanks to its seven-day money back guarantee, anybody can do this risk-free to make sure it works well for them.

Visit PrivateVPN »


Ray Walsh I am a freelance journalist and blogger from England. I am highly interested in politics and in particular the subject of IR. I am an advocate for freedom of speech, equality, and personal privacy. On a more personal level I like to stay active, love snowboarding, swimming and cycling, enjoy seafood, and love to listen to trap music.

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3 responses to “PrivateVPN Review

  1. I have to say I am very impressed with the performance of this VPN service provider.
    The biggest advantage this provider has is obviously the dynamic public IP service.
    This software is lightweight is loading fast and is very fast in connecting.

  2. These guys are top notch. Kevin went out of his way to help me get a newer version of DD-WRT setup on my router so the service would work. I had been looking for a Netflix work around for a long time. This is it!

    Amazing customer service, great speed, and it just works. I’ve tried many different VPN providers, but none were ever as easy and straight forward as PrivateVPN. I would definitely recommend this to anyone seeking a decent VPN service with die hard reliability.

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