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5 Best VPNs for Ubuntu 2018 - The Best Ubuntu VPN Clients Reviewed

Unbuntu is the natural choice for a privacy conscious Linux user. But, a VPN can still be a useful tool for any Ubuntu advocate. Below we show you which VPNs are best for Ubuntu and how to go about setting one up.

VPN for Ubuntu

The Best VPNs for Ubuntu: Summary

Here's our list of recommended VPNs for Ubuntu:

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If you're serious about privacy then you should switch to Linux, rather than trusting spyware created by Microsoft or Apple. By far the most popular version of Linux is Ubuntu. This means that many Virtual Private Network (VPN) services support Ubuntu well.

Ubuntu has always been particularly popular among Linux newbies. It makes the transition from more traditional desktop operating systems to Linux as painless as possible. A very large and active user-base also means that plenty of support is available for new users.

Best VPN for Ubuntu: Summary

How We Picked the Top VPN for Ubuntu 2018

Here at BestVPN.com, we’re fortunate to have some of the VPN industry’s foremost experts as staff members. Based on our detailed VPN reviews, and data collected as part of our BestVPN.com Awards process, we’ve carefully considered a range of factors that go into making a great all-round Linux VPN service.

This includes things such as speed performance, encryption strength, privacy policy, legal jurisdiction, price, VPN with free trial or money-back guarantees, actual support for Ubuntu (or Linux in general), and much more.

We recognize that due to the versatility of VPN technology, what makes a great Linux VPN for one user may miss the mark for another. As such, these top VPN for Ubuntu picks are a consensus choice made after much careful deliberation by the BestVPN.com staff.

For more information about how we review VPNs visit our BestVPN.com's review process overview. 

What Is a VPN for Ubuntu?

A VPN is a way to securely connect your Ubuntu Linux machine to a “VPN server” run by a commercial VPN provider. Your Ubuntu PC then connects to the internet via this VPN server.

  • Using a VPN is arguably the single most effective measure you can take to improve your online privacy and security.
  • All data passing between your Ubuntu PC and the VPN server is encrypted. This is sometimes referred to as an “encrypted tunnel.” The VPN hides your data from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) so that it cannot spy on what you do online.
  • VPN providers usually run servers in different locations around the world. This is great for avoiding censorship, as you can simply connect to a server located in a country where there is no such censorship.
  • When you connect to the internet via a VPN server, anyone on the internet will see the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the VPN server, not your real IP.

Only a very few VPN services offer custom VPN clients for Linux, although most provide manual Linux setup guides. Almost invariably, these setup guides focus on Ubuntu. This is hardly surprising, as Ubuntu is far and away the most popular Linux distro out there.

The change over from Unity to GNOME in the most recent version of Ubuntu (see below) may complicate matters a little, but Ubuntu is still Ubuntu. This means that Linux apps optimised for Ubuntu will still work just fine and that most setup guides are still current (except for maybe a tweak here and there).

Why Do I Need a VPN for Ubuntu?

Ubuntu has always been particularly popular among Linux newbies. It makes the transition from more traditional desktop operating systems to Linux as painless as possible. A very large and active user-base also means that plenty of support is available for new users.

If privacy was part of the reason you've made (or are contemplating making) the jump to Ubuntu, then using a VPN is a no-brainer. VPNs are something of a Swiss Army knife; they should part of every serious Linux user’s toolkit.

Use a VPN in Ubuntu for Privacy

Ubuntu is a great choice for privacy-heads, thanks largely to the fact that is (at least mainly) open source.

This means that no-one – not your ISP or even the NSA – can see what you get up to on the internet. Although you still need an ISP to connect your Ubuntu PC to the VPN sever, it can't see any data that passes between your PC and the VPN server. It also can't see which websites you visit beyond the initial connection to the VPN server.

On the flip-side, websites you visit will see the IP address of the VPN server, not your real IP. The VPN acts as an IP blocker, helping to keep your identity safe when surfing the web.

Use a VPN for Ubuntu to Unblock Netflix and BBC iPlayer

If you connect to a VPN server in another country, as far as websites are concerned you appear to be in that country! This is a great way to access restricted websites that ban overseas visitors or which have regional restrictions on the content available.

If you would like to know more about unblocking Netflix on other devices, check out our Netflix VPN guide.

Sports fans are also in for a treat when using a VPN. A VPN allows you to unblock live sporting events from around the world. It can also allow you to subscribe to services such as BeIN, which provide a cheap way to watch the English Premier League and other competitions.

Use a VPN in Ubuntu to Evade Censorship

As I’ve already noted, a VPN prevents your ISP and government from seeing what you get up to online. If you connect to a VPN server in another country, you’ll be able to access the full range of internet content available to citizens of that country.

Using a VPN client, therefore, is a great way to evade censorship and access restricted websites – be it on social, religious, moral, political, or copyright grounds.

A VPN Will Protect You from WiFi Hackers

A VPN setup in Ubuntu will protect you from hackers when using public WiFi hotspots, as your data is secure between your PC and the VPN server. Even if you connect to a fake “evil twin” hotspot, your data will be protected because it is encrypted.

A VPN connection will also protect you when peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing. Anyone monitoring a torrent will only see the IP address of the VPN server, not your real IP address. Do be sure, however, to choose a provider that permits P2P use. Not all do.

How to Choose an Ubuntu Linux VPN

For Protecting Yourself from Hackers

Any VPN will protect you when using public WiFi, and in situations where you don’t trust the WiFi operator. It will also protect you against KRACK attacks. Strong encryption is ideal, but even weak encryption should stump most WiFi hackers.

For Spoofing Your Location

The first consideration, of course, is that the VPN client offers servers in the location you want to spoof! Speed is also important if you want to avoid buffering problems, so try to choose a VPN with the fastest servers.

It’s also important to check that a VPN service works with the content you want to access before you subscribe. We try to keep up-to-date on which VPNs work for services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer, but nothing beats taking advantage of free trials and money-back guarantees in order to check for yourself.

For Hiding Your Online Activity from Your ISP and Government

Any VPN connection will hide your online activity from your ISP or mobile provider. If you’re worried about your government (or the NSA) pressuring your VPN provider in some way for this information, be sure to choose a good no logs provider.

Strong technical security isn’t as important for privacy as a VPN’s logging policy, but it is a factor.

For Preventing Tracking by Websites

Again, any VPN will do. However, you should also use privacy browser extensions to give you more complete protection. Firefox for Linux is open source and is compatible with all Firefox privacy add-ons.

For Bypassing Censorship

In most situations, any VPN setup will do for bypassing censorship and accessing restricted websites. Just pick an international VPN service and use a VPN server located somewhere that isn't censored.

If VPN websites and/or the VPN protocols themselves are blocked where you are, please see How to Bypass VPN Blocks – A Guide.

For more information about low cost VPNs, take a look at the guides below:

For Torrenting

Please check out Best VPN for Torrenting guide for more information about using a VPN for torrent sites.

For Gaming

Linux (including Ubuntu) is not known for its gaming library, although Steam does have a catalog of Linux games. A better option is probably to dual-boot into Windows using the GRUB bootloader.

This will allow you access the huge selection of Windows games available, and to run them as fast as your hardware will allow.

Although it is theoretically possible to play games in Ubuntu using virtualization software such as VM Virtualbox, doing so will seriously damage games’ performance. Playing games using Wine can be a very hit and miss affair, but if you can get them to work, this might produce better results.

Be sure to check out Five Best VPNs for Gaming for further information on how a VPN can help you when gaming.

Which VPNs to Avoid for Ubuntu Users

As noted below, if you want a dedicated and fully featured custom VPN client for Ubuntu, then you have a very limited selection of providers to choose from. If you don’t mind manually setting up a VPN in Ubuntu, then most comments on the rest of this site apply as much to Ubuntu and Linux users as to anybody else.

PureVPN is the most complained-about VPN service we have reviewed, while Hide My Ass (HMA) is based in the UK and has a history of handing over logs to the authorities. VyprVPN is in many ways an excellent VPN service, but it keeps extensive connection logs and only permits legal torrenting.

If you're interested in any particular VPN service, please check out our review of it before handing over your hard-earned cash.

Ubuntu 17.10 GNOME

2018 is a momentous year for Ubuntu, as Canonical has just dropped its homegrown Unity desktop as the default shell for GNOME. Unity is still "available in the archives" for diehards, and you can always use alternative flavors, such as KDE or MATE. But the default supported desktop is now GNOME 3.

Ubuntu Privacy Concerns

No More Dash

For privacy-heads, this is no bad thing. Since Canonical released Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) in 2012, Unity used Dash. This was a unified search bar that allowed you to search locally for files, apps, and suchlike. It also performed searches on the internet.

Unfortunately, Canonical decided to try and monetize Ubuntu by partnering with Amazon. Thus, whenever you entered a search term into Dash, the query was also sent to Amazon so that it could target you with ads relating to your search terms! This lost Ubuntu a great deal of support in the privacy community. The good news is that Dash is not a "feature" of Ubuntu GNOME.

How to Fix Privacy Issues with Ubuntu - Still Some Amazon

Recent versions of Ubuntu Unity disabled this Dash feature and removed Amazon from the search results. A special Amazon search option, however, still appeared in Unity’s Launcher Bar. This “feature” is still present in Ubuntu 17.10 GNOME quick-launch bar.

Clicking on it opens the Amazon store in a new browser tab with a referral code. This means that Canonical gets a small referral fee for each item you buy from Amazon.

Ubuntu Amazon

Now, you could argue that this is not the end of the world and that if you don’t like it, then just don’t click on the Amazon button. However, it is a form of tracking, which is something us VPN users tend to take a dim view of!

To simply not see the Amazon webapp, right-click on the icon -> Remove from Favorites. This only hides it, though. To remove it from your system completely, open Terminal and enter:

sudo apt purge ubuntu-web-launchers

Other Ubuntu Privacy Issues

Dash was not, unfortunately, the only privacy problem to plague Ubuntu Unity. A quick peek at its third-party privacy policies shows that Ubuntu always shared a huge amount of personal information with companies such as Facebook, the BBC, eBay, Google (via YouTube), and more.

Ubuntu GNOME uses a fairly stock version of GNOME 3, however. As far as I am aware, GNOME doesn't share any personal information with anybody.

Ubuntu Error Reporting

You may, however, want to disable automatic error reporting, which can send various logs to Canonical. To do this, go to Show Applications (the grid icon at the bottom left of the screen) -> Settings -> Privacy -> Problem Reporting ->.

How to Install and Connect to OpenVPN in Ubuntu 17.10 GNOME

Using Network Manager.

  1. Download your VPN provider’s OpenVPN config file or files and extract them to a convenient location (if zipped). The exact configuration files used can vary by provider.
  2. Install Ubuntu GNOME OpenVPN packages and dependencies for Network Manager by opening a Terminal window and typing:

sudo apt-get install --reinstall network-manager network-manager-gnome network-manager-openvpn network-manager-openvpn-gnome 

  1. Restart Network Manager. This can be done by restarting Ubuntu or logging out and in again, but the easiest way is to enter the following at the Terminal command prompt:

sudo restart network-manager

  1. Click the Network Manager icon in the GNOME Task Bar -> VPN Off -> VPN Settings.

Gnome Vpn 1

  1. Click the + icon next to VPN.

Gnome Vpn 2

  1. Select Import from file…

Gnome Vpn 3

  1. Navigate to where your extracted OpenVPN config files are stored (step one) and select either a .ovpn file or a .conf file for a server you wish to connect to.

Gnome Vpn 4

  1. The relevant settings should be filled in automatically. You may need to specify a username and password by going to Authentication -> Type -> Password, or this may be included in the setup files you have downloaded. Your VPN provider should give you guidance on this.

Gnome Vpn 5

  1. The VPN is now set up! To connect, click Network Manager -> VPN Off -> Connect (or the name of the connection, if you have set up multiple VPN connections).

Gnome Vpn 6

A padlock icon will appear in the Task Bar to indicate, at-a-glance, that the VPN is connected. Y0u should then check to ensure that you are suffering no IP leaks...

Gnome Vpn 7

 How to Test Your VPN

To test that your VPN is working, visit ipleak.net. If the VPN is working then “Your IP addresses” should show the IP of the VPN server, not your real IP address. If you’ve connected to a VPN server in a different country, it is very easy to see whether your IP has changed.

Ip Leak Test

Here I am in the UK, connected to a Swiss VPN server with no IP leaks.

If you see an IP address anywhere on the webpage that belongs to either to yourself or your ISP, you have an IP leak. This includes IPv4 Domain Name System (DNS) leaks, IPv6 leaks, and Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) leaks. DNS leaks occur when a third-party DNS server (such as one operated by your ISP) resolves your DNS requests, instead of a DNS server run by your VPN service.

Please consult A Complete Guide to IP Leaks to find out why this might be, and how to fix the issue. In the past, using OpenVPN through Ubuntu’s Network Manager provided no DNS leak protection, so DNS leaks could only be prevented using iptables firewall rules (see below).

While writing this article, however, I detected no DNS or WebRTC leaks using vanilla Ubuntu GNOME. The latest versions of OpenVPN for Windows include IPv4 and IPv6, and WebRTC leak protection, and it may be that these improvements have made their way to the OpenVPN package for Network Manager.

VPN Kill Switch and DNS Leak Protection for Ubuntu

 What Is a Kill Switch?

Sometimes VPN connections fail. With a good VPN provider, this shouldn't happen very often, but it occasionally happens even to the best. If your computer remains connected to the internet after this happens, then your real IP will be exposed.

You may then think that you are protected by the VPN, when in fact the whole world can see your IP address. Needless to say, this is very dangerous.

The usual solution to this problem on other platforms is to build a kill switch into the custom VPN client. This solves this problem by preventing your computer from connecting to the internet when a VPN connection is not active.

Firewall-based kill switches block all internet traffic, except that which goes through the VPN. Reactive kill switches detect that the VPN has disconnected, then shut down your internet connection (or sometimes individual apps that you specify). Firewall-based solutions are more secure, but any kill switch is better than none!

Kill Switches for Linux

The problem for Ubuntu fans is the lack of custom Linux VPN clients. Good news is that both the AirVPN and Mullvad Linux clients include a kill switch.

If using another service, however, you are somewhat on your own. This is because neither the built-in Linux VPN client nor OpenVPN for Linux includes a kill switch.

The solution is to manually configure the iptables firewall to act as a kill switch. This will also 100% prevent DNS and other forms of IP leak (if this is still a problem). IVPN has a fantastic guide on how to configure IP tables in this way here.

Best VPN Protocols for Ubuntu

A VPN protocol is the set of instructions used to negotiate a secure encrypted connection between two computers. Commercial VPNs commonly support a number of such VPN protocols. The most notable of these are Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), OpenVPN, and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP).

PPTP

This is an old VPN protocol that hasn’t been considered secure for years. It is therefore not a good idea to use PPTP. For some reason, Ubuntu’s Network Manager supports PPTP out-of-the-box, but I strongly recommend using OpenVPN instead.

L2TP/IPSec

This is usually implemented with the Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) authentication suite (L2TP/IPsec). It is most certainly not secure against the NSA, but for most purposes is generally regarded as being secure if openly published pre-shared keys aren’t used (a practice that is worryingly common with VPN services!).

I can’t really think of a good reason to use L2TP/IPsec rather than OpenVPN, but if you really want to, these instructions for Ubuntu 16.04 should still work.

OpenVPN

This open source and now fully audited protocol is widely regarded as the most secure and versatile VPN protocol available (if well implemented). My general recommendation is to use OpenVPN whenever possible.

Be wary, however, about the much-advertised use of AES-256. This is indeed a gold-standard cipher, but it is in itself fairly meaningless, as the devil is in the detail.

For more information on this subject please check out VPN Encryption: The Complete Guide, which is designed to be as layman-friendly as possible.

Ubuntu VPNs: Conclusion

The switch to GMOME as the default desktop for Ubuntu is the most dramatic change in the operating system for years. Ubuntu is the Linux distro that is by far the most supported by VPN services, but this support is currently almost all for Unity.

The underlying architecture of Ubuntu, however, has not changed. This means that Linux apps optimised for Ubuntu, and most Ubuntu setup instructions, remain fully compatible with Ubuntu GNOME.

There may be the odd kink as VPNs transition to support for GNOME, but as an Ubuntu user who has shrugged off the Microsoft and Apple straightjacket, you've already demonstrated an intrepid spirit that will not be daunted by the occasional challenge along the way!

Everyone should use a VPN, but this is perhaps even more true of Linux users, who have shown they are willing to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to privacy.

Editor's Choice 1. From $5.18 / month
BestVPN.com Score 9.9 out of 10
Visit Site   Read Review
2. From $5.50 / month
BestVPN.com Score 9.5 out of 10
Visit Site   Read Review
3. From $2.91 / month
BestVPN.com Score 8.4 out of 10
Visit Site   Read Review
4. From $6.67 / month
BestVPN.com Score 8 out of 10
Visit Site   Read Review
5. From $7.62 / month
BestVPN.com Score 7.8 out of 10
Visit Site   Read Review

Written by: Douglas Crawford

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

7 Comments

  1. sue audett
    on December 27, 2016
    Reply

    I want to purchase a vpn,but need someone to walk me through the installation. Got any suggestion? I am dummy 101, but do not want to use windows os

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to sue audett
      on December 27, 2016
      Reply

      Hi sue, In this article is a section tilted "Setting up OpenVPN in Ubuntu", which provides a step-by-step guide to doing just that. Many VPN services also provide detailed setup guides on their websites, and which are tailored to their specific settings.

  2. poop
    on September 8, 2016
    Reply

    None of these are free

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to poop
      on September 8, 2016
      Reply

      Hi poop, Nope. There is no such thing, really, as a good free VPN. Running a VPN is a very expensive business, and the only way to run a good one is if customers pay for it.

  3. Don G
    on June 23, 2016
    Reply

    ExpressVPN is completely useless in Linux unless you want to type lots of command lines every time you use it. There is no GUI app and configuration in Linux for this app via the command line is awful. Also as soon as you mention you are using Linux, all their support staff just begin to quote the "we don't support Linux" matra and won't help further. ExpressVPN is great for Windows but is really awful for Linux. Did the authors of this article even try it? How did this get to be number 1 when it has no Linux app and the company says they don't support Linux? If you like typing a command line for everything you do, you might be able to use this VPN. Otherwise avoid it.

    1. wanna vpn replied to Don G
      on December 6, 2016
      Reply

      How odd then that it is rated #1?!?! The title of this page is "best vpn for ubuntu"

      1. Douglas Crawford replied to wanna vpn
        on December 6, 2016
        Reply

        Hi wanna vpn (and Don), As discussed in the more recent 5 Best VPNs for Linux article, ExpressVPN now offers a basic custom Linux VPN client. It is Terminal command-line only, but when I tested it, I found that it worked well and was simple enough to use. It now also features DNS leak protection. The reason ExpressVPN was placed at the top if this list is that the BestVPN.com team decided that great speeds, 24/7 customer support, a genuinely no-quibble money back guarantee etc., offset the sightly flaky Ubuntu support (even for Ubuntu users). And I did clearly explain the limitations of ExpressVPN's Ubuntu support (now improved, although not perfect) in the article. And yes, I did setup ExpressVPN manually using the excellent setup guide provided. TBH, if you are not happy typing a little text into a command line, then you should probably not be using Linux/Ubunutu in the first place!

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