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VPNGate Review

VPNGate

BestVPN.com Score 6 out of 10
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VPN Gate is a volunteer-run VPN network. It was designed to research “a good distributed VPN system,” and is a side-project of SoftEther VPN. This is free and open source multi-protocol software, developed by the University of Tsukuba in Japan. VPN Gate users can connect using the SoftEther VPN protocol, or using more conventional VPN protocols.

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations N/A
  • Average Speed N/A Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections N/A
  • Jurisdiction N/A

Likes

  • Free
  • Open source
  • Lots of server locations
  • No DNS or WebRTC leaks
  • Great anti-censorship tool

Dislikes

  • Extensive connection logs kept
  • Painfully slow

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Features

Users can freely connect to any of thousands of servers run by volunteers around the world. As I write this, there are 9,111 registered public VPN relay servers, of which 96 are online. This number will vary somewhat from day-to-day, but there will always be lots of them to choose from.

Servers are located pretty much everywhere! A full and up-to-date server list is always available.

The SoftEther server software used by VPN Gate VPN relay servers can accept connections using the SoftEther VPN protocol (see below), OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, SSTP, and more.

In practice, SoftEther and OpenVPN are the best-supported protocols. Please see here for more information on VPN protocols.

SoftEther

SoftEther is a free and open source alternative VPN platform. The SoftEther VPN protocol is also referred to as SSL-VPN. This is because it is based on HTTPS and therefore uses SSL/TLS encryption and TCP port 443.

This makes SoftEther VPN traffic all but indistinguishable from regular secure HTTPS traffic. Thus it is very difficult for firewalls to block. The SoftEther SSL-VPN protocol is therefore great for overcoming various forms of VPN blocks.

In addition to using its own VPN protocol, SoftEther VPN Server software can be connected to using a variety of other VPN protocols.

SoftEther VPN is available for Windows, Linux, Mac, FreeBSD and Solaris. Other devices can connect to SoftEther VPN servers using a different supported protocol. This includes Android, iOS, and other devices.

Its developers claim that SoftEther is faster than OpenVPN.

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Speed and performance

Each VPN Gate server is privately run by a volunteer, which means that you can expect no consistency in performance between servers. And this is even before you take factors such as geographic distance from you into consideration.

These results should, therefore, be viewed purely as a rough indication of the sorts of speeds you might expect when using VPN Gate. Servers were chosen more or less at random, based on location and advertised performance metrics.

Note that I was unable to connect to roughly half of all servers I tried connecting to. The servers I did test were:

  • Japan (Line speed 207.7 Mbps, Ping 21,21)
  • United States (Line speed 32.7, Mbps Ping 11,11)
  • UK (Line speed 16.1, Mbps Ping -,-)

The graphs show the highest, lowest and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.

These results are unlikely to keep any commercial VPN providers awake at night! In fact, in my tests, all VPN Gate servers were considerably slower than using the Tor Network. Download speeds were often down to a just a few Kbps!

It should be noted, however, that the fastest servers are located in East Asia. So if you are geographically closer to places such as Japan and South Korea, performance may be much better.

IP Leak Tests

I detected no IPv4 DNS leaks or WebRTC leaks while using SoftEther VPN. Note that my ISP (Virgin Media UK) does not support IPv6, so I cannot test for IPv6 leaks.

If connecting via OpenVPN, you can choose to download .ovpn files that specify a suitable DNS server in order to prevent DNS leaks.

US Netflix did not block me when using the US server I tested, although the connection speed was so poor that video playback was impossible in practice. If you are able to find a US server that is fast enough to stream video content, then you will probably be able to do so using VPN Gate.

Price

VPN Gate will NEVER be a paying service in future.

Much like the Tor Network, all VPN Gate servers are run by volunteers. This means that VPN Gate is completely free to use.

“Moreover, the Japanese Telecommunication Law requires any 'paying network service' to be registered to the government, and to comply with the order of the minister of Internal Affairs and Communications. Thus if VPN Gate becomes a paying service we will be interfered by Japanese Government. To avoid it, we don't want to be a paying service. The factor that VPN Gate consists of a lot of volunteers around the world should make the situation more difficult to become a paying service.”

So “free” really does mean free! This is everyone’s favorite price. Yay!

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Ease of use

Signing Up

No sign-up or personal details are required. Available servers are listed on the VPN Servers List page. Each server provides a guide and any relevant configuration files necessary to connect to it via any of the protocols it supports.

The server list shows a summary of stats, such as throughput server ping time, to help you chose a server that is suitable for you.

Customer service

VPN Gate is a side-project SoftEther VPN, developed by the University of Tsukuba in Japan. It therefore not surprising that the website (and related SoftEther VPN website) is stuffed full of useful technical information. After all, the guys at Tsukuba University are very keen to show off their technology!

The information is well organized, and key concepts are well explained. Infographics and screenshots are generously used to illustrate points made.

Although the English used occasionally falters a little, I never had any problem understanding what was being said.

Support

VPN Gate is not a commercial service. So there is no support team on call to assist you if you run into problems. There is, however, a VPN Gate User Forum where you can post questions.

This is quite active, and most sensible (non-spam) questions seem to get a reply. Please remember, however, that all assistance is voluntary on the part of forum members.

Privacy and security

The most important thing to understand about VPN Gate is that it is run by volunteers. This means anyone can volunteer to operate a VPN Gate server. And any volunteer can therefore spy on your internet activity (unless it is hidden by HTTPS).

On the VPN Servers List page, each entry clearly states that server’s logging policy.

In practice, this is usually for two weeks.

There is no way to guarantee that this logging policy is followed, however, and it is entirely possible that some servers act as honeypots.

In addition to this, as part of its anti-abuse policy, the University of Tsukuba keeps connection logs (not usage logs) for “three or more months.” These logs include:

  • Date and time
  • ID, IP address and hostname of destination VPN server
  • Type of action (connect or disconnect)
  • Raw IP address and hostname of the source VPN client computer
  • Type of VPN protocols (SSL-VPN, L2TP, OpenVPN or SSTP)
  • VPN client software-name, version and ID (if available)
  • Number of packets and bytes during a VPN connection, and debug information of communication errors

This information is automatically transmitted to the university’s logging server by each VPN Gate server.

“Analyzing VPN Connection Log is helpful to investigate the source global IP address of him. We will disclosure the VPN Connection Logs to a policeman, a prosecutor, a lawyer or a court who is authorized by applicable laws.

VPN Gate is therefore not suitable for those wanting privacy (let alone “anonymity!). If you want privacy, then use a good commercial no-logs VPN service or the Tor Network instead.

In fairness, privacy is not what VPN Gate is for. It should instead be seen as an anti-censorship and anti-public WiFi hacking tool.

Encryption Protocols

SoftEtherVPN accepts a variety of encryption options.

Each VPN Gate server operator is free to choose which encryption options to use on their server.

Up to a 256-bit AES cipher with RSA 4096-bit key encryption, SHA-1 HMAC hash authentication with Perfect Forward Secrecy (various Diffie Hellman groups) is supported.

It is difficult to tell, however, what encryption each server uses in practice. For what it’s worth, I downloaded and inspected a number of OpenVPN config files from random VPN Gate servers. In all cases, AES-128 with SHA-1 HMAC hash authentication was used.

In theory, then, VPN Gate servers can use very strong encryption. However, in practice it is safest to assume that they don’t. Given that VPN Gate is not really about privacy, anyway, this is unlikely to be a major problem for most users.

Final thoughts

As a free, volunteer-run, anti-censorship tool, VPN Gate is difficult to knock. So respect to the VPN Gate developers at the University of Tsukuba, and all VPN Gate server volunteers. Unfortunately, in practice, I found VPN Gate far too slow to ever be worth my while using.

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15 Comments

  1. Austin Wong
    on November 1, 2017
    Reply

    VPN Gate is not safe at all. Once I used it to play Minecraft and my account got stolen in the same day.

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Austin Wong
      on November 2, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Austin, As I explain this review, VPN Gate is a volunteer-run VPN network. This means anyone can volunteer to operate a VPN Gate server. And any volunteer can therefore spy on your internet activity (unless it is hidden by HTTPS).

  2. Born Just in Time to Browse Dank Memes
    on July 22, 2017
    Reply

    I don't think this review is fair in saying it's painfully slow. I sorted the list by ping, and picked the best one (which was hosted by the actual website itself, I believe.) and tried an online game using it. The free trial of Tunnelbear wouldn't let me connect to the game, so I didn't expect this to work either. It'd time out during the initial "connecting" phase. And even though I expected my US (me) to South Korea (VPN) back to US (game servers) route to go super slow, the worst I experienced was a 1/2 second to 1 second delay before an action (such as going through doors or interacting with things). Even loading web pages was LIGHTNING fast compared to Tor. And I didn't experience any problems after I disconnected and went about my normal business.

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Born Just in Time to Browse Dank Memes
      on July 24, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Born Just in Time to Browse Dank Memes, Its not a matter of being fair or unfair. I ran speed tests, and those are results I got. In the review I freely admit that being based in the UK (which is far away from most VPN Gate servers as its possibly to get!) might be big factor. But I can only report as I find. I am glad you get better results in the US, but for me, Tor is much faster.

  3. guider nhatelo
    on July 18, 2017
    Reply

    i am from mozambique i would like to if can i use this service and not pay my local network or any contract is it free also for peoplo who are in mozambique

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to guider nhatelo
      on July 19, 2017
      Reply

      Hi guider, VPN Gate should be available in Mozambique, although I imagine it would be very slow there (I found it all but unusable where in the UK!). More importantly, I fear you misunderstand the technology. A VPN will hide what you get up to on the internet from your ISP (your local internet provider), but it won't allow you to have free internet access. You still need an ISP in order to connect to the internet, and that ISP will always know how much data you use (even if it can't see what it is).

  4. Max
    on April 10, 2017
    Reply

    How about a write-up on the best free vpn services?

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Max
      on April 11, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Max, For reasons such as this and this, BestVPN advises against using free VPN services. Legitimate free services do exist, but they are invariably very limited, as they invariably exist to promote their Premium plans (after all, a VPN must pay for itself somehow!). We do however, have a 5 Best Free VPNs list.

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