We’ve created a video review so you can see how iPredator works.
Pricing and package features
Pricing is a very simple and no-nonsense $8 per month. For that you can connect to iPredator’s servers using the PPTP and OpenVPN protocols (iPredator claims it will support SSTP and L2TP/IPsec ‘by the end of the year’).
And that’s about it for the main features really. Only one device can be connected at the same time, and static IP addresses are not currently available (although iPredator is working on this). iPredator maintains 50 servers in Sweden, but that is the only country to can connect to, so the service is useless for watching geo-restricted media anywhere else.
There are however a couple of interesting side features that are worth noting. iPredator runs its own non-logging HHTP proxy, its own DNS server, and its own Tor exit node. The HHTP proxy is only available from within iPredator’s VPN, but the DNS server and Tor exit node are free for anybody to use.
These little extra features are nice, but we can’t help feeling that you don’t get very much for your $8 per month.
There is a 3 day free trial on offer to give you a taste of the service, which while nowhere near as generous as say, CyberGhost’s 30 day free trial, is nevertheless commendable. Unfortunately to activate this trial you must send a request by either irc or email, which left us hanging around for a bit before we could give the service a spin.
The website and support
The website feels a little minimal, but is otherwise attractive and well laid out. In addition to a reasonably informative FAQ (which includes details of iPredator’s ongoing troubles with payment proceeding companies) and setup guides, there is an interesting Blog page and a ‘Cool stuff’ section dealing with the extras mentioned above.
The members section has the usual account information bits, plus a nice overview of iPredator’s configuration settings.
Customer support is via email or irc chat session (and a public Jabber instance is also available for encrypted messaging, which is nice touch). We joined the irc chat to ask a technical question, but found the response slow, with other users joining then leaving the chat in frustration.
Response to our email request was much better however, although it still took half an hour for our 3 days free trial request to be accepted. Not a big problem by any means, but mildly irritating.
Privacy and Security
This is an area where we expected iPredator to score well, given its connection to The Pirate Bay, and by and large we were not disappointed. As you can see from the screenshot above, OpenVPN encryption is of the rock-solid CBC 256-bit AES variety (as used by the US government for secure communication) and uses SHA1 hash authentication, which is great.
Privacy is also good, although it falls a little short of the ‘no logs whatever’ policies claimed by a few rival providers (of course, iPredator could just be being more honest). Most importantly, no traffic logs are retained, although connection logs are kept ‘for debugging purposes’. These are encrypted and kept off-site to ensure that only iPredator can access them.
In addition to this, the transaction ID and emails received from payment processors are kept for a little over 6 months, also ‘stored on a separate system inside an encrypted partition’.
While we really like the idea of ‘no logs at all’, iPredator’s privacy procedures appear pretty robust, and should be more than sufficient for most purposes. As iPredator told TorentFreak, ‘We try to store the least amount legally possible anywhere. IP-addresses are encrypted and can only be decrypted by non-support staff to ensure a proper process. For example, to work around issues where the police ruffles up the support staff a bit to get data for an abuse report. In the database we only store the details users give us on sign-up and a limited backlog of payments.’
One final observation is that iPredator’s close association with The Pirate Bay means that, almost uniquely, we can be pretty much absolutely sure that it is not a ‘honeypot’ run by government authorities.
The signing up process is as easy as entering a user name, password and email address. As noted above, if you want to take advantage of the 3 day free trial you must write to iPredator via irc chat or email and request it. We got bored of waiting for an answer on irc, but were given confirmation of our free trial after about half an hour when we contacted iPredator by email.
When it comes to paying, iPredator’s association with The Pirate Bay has caused it a few headaches, with Payson refusing to accept credit card payments from it, Paysafecard banning it, and PayPal freezing its account (now resolved).
iPredator now accepts PayPal, OK Pay, Payza and Payson (but not using credit cards) payments, plus Bitcoins so you can pay anonymously.
The OpenVPN Windows client
iPredator does not supply its own VPN client, but instead provides setup instructions for the open source OpenVPN client and, more unusually, the Viscosity client. Viscosity is a commercial OpenVPN client ($9 with 30 day free trial) which iPredator recommends because it ‘handles administrator permissions properly and thus adjusts the routing table correctly’.
We decided to go with iPredator’s recommendation, and installed Viscosity.
1. Download, install and launch Viscosity.
2. Download the iPredator OpenVPN configuration files. Right-click on the Viscosity icon in the Notification Area of the Task Bar and select ‘Preferences’.
3. Click on the ‘+’ sign to at the bottom left of the Preferences window and select Import Connection -> From File.
4. Navigate to where you saved the OpenVPN configuration file and click ‘Open’ (then ‘OK at the confirmation dialogue). Right-click the icon in the Task Bar and select ‘Connect IPredator-Windows-Password.ovpn’.
5. And ta-da! You are connected.
Viscosity has a couple of features not found in the open source OpenVPN client, most notably auto-login and auto-reconnect. This is quite useful, especially as, rather annoyingly, iPredator disconnects you if the VPN connection is not used for 10 minutes.
Viscosity also has a pretty connection details window.
Other platforms and protocols
iPredator supplies detailed setup guides for Windows (PPTP and OpenVPN via open source OpenVPN client or Viscosity), OSX (PPTP and OpenVPN via Tunnelblick or Viscocity), and Linux/BSD (PPTP and OpenVPN in Debian,FreeBSD, OpenBSD and Ubuntu).
Mobile devices are less well supported, with only PPTP guides provided for Android and iOS. There is no reason we know of however why the OpenVPN for Android and OpenVPN Connect for iOS apps won’t work, although you are left on your own to figure this out.
Using our 20 meg UK broadband, we put iPredator through its paces.
With VPN, connected to the same server in Oslo
As you can see, we saw a large reduction in speed when using the VPN, although some of this can be attributed our geographical distance from iPredator’s Sweden only servers. Even with that taken into consideration though, speeds are disappointing.
No traffic logs (but connection and payment logs kept)
Affiliation with The Pirate Bay guarantees VPN is not a honeypot
CBC 256-bit AES OpenVPN encryption
Accepts Bitcoin payments
3 day free trial
Some nice little extras
We weren’t so sure about
connection and payment logs kept
basically a very bare-bones service
No OpenVPN support for iOS or Android
irc chat support response slow
Have to manually apply for free trial and wait for confirmation
Connection speeds poor
Servers only in Sweden
No simultaneous connections
Thanks to a good no connection logs policy and some great encryption you can do a lot worse that iPredator, but the very stripped back nature of the service, the fact that we would prefer it if no logs of any kind were kept at all, and the very disappointing speedtest.net results, mean that we also think you can do a lot better. It’s still early days, and iPredator has been struggling with unwelcome attention from financial processors, so we’ll offer it our support. However, we also feel that before we can fully recommend the service, it needs to add some more attractive features, including adding some international servers and improving connection speeds.