Best Tools You Can Use to Keep Your Browsing History Truly Private

When the House of Representatives repealed internet privacy rules that were designed to allow you to search without worrying about your search histories being used or reviewed or worse sold, they put every internet search you make open to your ISP. On March 27th the President signed the bill which means finding ways to keep your search histories safe should be your top priority. All of your unencrypted

With everything you search for, and yes that includes your porn library, shopping history, your location and everything else you do online possibly made public. If you haven’t thought about protecting your internet searches, you need to now. Using private browsing features or Incognito will not work to keep your search history private. These features are most often offered by the very ISPs that are about to start poaching and selling your browsing histories.

So what do you need to know about the repeal?

What congress did when they overturned rules that had been put in place with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now means that your internet provider no longer needs to get permission from you before they can collect and sell your online information. This includes everything you search for online.

In reality, we have been living online with no real privacy at all. While the rules were passed they never took effect, so your Internet provider has been monitoring your network traffic and sharing your search history and even selling or sharing it with marketing companies that use it to send you targeted ads.

Then why does this matter?

It matters because the law, when it was enacted would have given us protections that now we will not have. So it’s not so much about what we don’t have today, it’s about what we lost tomorrow. It can also give your Internet providers the sense that they are now more embolden to collect and retain and sell your personal data.

It is about the protections we should have had, even if we didn’t have them yet.

How does data collection happen?

You choose an Internet service provider, and in turn, they provide you with access to the internet. Every device you use has an identifier assigned by your Internet service provider. That allows them to see when you access the Internet and what you access while you are browsing.

They are the ones that get you to the site you want to search for, so they know what websites you use.  They can store that information and then use your data for themselves or sell it to a marketing company.

What can I do to protect myself?

All is not lost. There are a few ways that you can protect your search histories from the vultures that are waiting to sell your personal search data to any and every marketing firm. So what can happen to your search history when it is placed in the hands of your ISP? It depends. ISP providers have set rules on how and to whom they sell your information. Should a provider break the rules they created the FCC could take action and sue the provider.

With most of the government offices like the FCC find themselves understaffed and losing the power to make their own decisions (which is a whole other story), it is more likely the FCC won’t be able to take action, and that means your ISP can do anything they want with your personal search data.  But that is on the unlikely side, even more, rare is the idea that an ISP would sell your data to a person. What is most likely to happen is that things will stay largely the same.

What happens today is that a marketing company like Twitter will want to target a demographic like college students between 18-24 years of age. So your ISP and Twitter will come to an agreement that allows Twitter to place ads on the pages frequented by the selected demographic. One of the reasons that you won’t see much of a change in how things work has nothing to do with the congress trying to destroy your privacy (nothing can stop that) and everything to do with your ISP. Your ISP wants you to stay a customer, and for the most part, they work to protect your privacy out of respect for you.

What is a VPN and what does it do?

If you are still concerned about your privacy, which you should be, loosened rules can often be very enticing, there are ways that you can beef up your privacy protection. One of the first things you can do is get VPN also known as a Virtual Private Network they give you the best chance of hiding your online identity and location. VPNs encrypt your Internet traffic, which will let no one from outside know that you are searching for or what pages you visit.

VPNs can have several different services that they provide, here are some of the more common features they offer:

  • Access to your company network when you are traveling: VPNs are common for most businesses, and one benefit they offer is the ability to access your company network from any location. You can even access local network resources without using the internet. But if you want to check your email or calendar, you will still need to find a secure Internet connection.
  • Access to your home network when you are away from home: if you have a VPN set up for personal use, you can also get access to your network through access to a Windows remote desktop, there you can access files, and work on the internet as if you were on your home LAN.
  • Keep your browsing activity from your ISP and your local network: if you don’t have, or haven’t considered getting a VPN, this is why you need to look into one now. Keeping your browsing activity from being sold is preventable if you have the right VPN. Your VPN will encrypt your browsing activity, which will keep you ISP from being able to identify it, which means they can’t sell it or use it for their own purposes.
  • Access geo-blocked sites while abroad: if you are traveling outside of the United States accessing some of your favorite media sites can be challenging. If you have access to a VPN and you are in a restricted region, you can use the VPN to access media through sites like Netflix and Hulu.
  • Ability to download files using BitTorrent: If you have to download documents, you can do so using your VPN and connecting to BitTorrent. One downside is that your ISP may throttle BitTorrent making it move extremely slow.

How to Find the Right VPN for You

There are several different ways that you can find and setup a VPN that can help keep your personal browsing private. Most of what you choose depends on your level of confidence when it comes to setting up and using your VPN. If you want the security and protection, but you aren’t that tech savvy, no worries. We are here to help you find exactly what you need and to help you get everything setup and running quickly.

If you are new to VPNs some of the terminologies can be confusing, before we go into a deeper dive into what the do, let’s break down some of the terms you will come across in the buying process.

PPTP: Point-to-Point is a tunneling protocol that is largely considered to be obsolete. However, there are still a few VPNs from the early days that use PPTP to setup private networks. PPTP works by using a control channel over TCP and a GRE tunnel operating to encapsulate PPP (Point-to-Point protocols) packets.

L2TP: Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol

TCP: Transmission Control Protocol is one of the main protocols in TCP/IP networks. The IP protocol deals strictly with packets, TCP enables two hosts to create a connection and exchange streams of data. TCP guarantees the delivery of data and that packets will be delivered in the same order in which they were sent.

IKEv2: Internet Key Exchange (IKEv1 or IKEv2) is the protocol that sets up a security associates (SA) in the IPSec protocol suite. It is largely built on Oakley protocols and ISAKMP.

SA: An SA is a relationship between two or more entities that explains how the entities use security services to create secure communications.

IPsec: IPsec provides options for performing network encryption and authentication. Each IPSEC connection provides integrity, authenticity, encryption as independent options, or it can provide all three as one option.

Key Exchange: Symmetric key cryptology can only work for online communications when a secret key is securely shared with authorized parties that are involved in the communication and protected from being found and used by unauthorized parties.

Diffie-Hellman: Diffie-Hellman (DH) groups set the strength of the key used in the key exchange process. The higher the group number the more security, but they require more time to compute the key.

RSA Key Exchange: The Rivest-Shamir-Adleman algorithms can be found at RSA Data security and are the most used public key cryptography algorithms. Only the intended recipient can decrypt the secret key because it requires the recipient to use their private key.

OpenVPN: An OpenVPN is an open-source software application that implements VPN (virtual private network) protocols for creating secure point-to-point or site-to-site connections.

VPN Reviews

NordVPN

Not only can a VPN help keep your browsing habits safe, they can also protect you from network level attacks. So even when you are traveling to a foreign country you can feel confident that your data is protected. Nord VPN does both, it will make sure no one knows what you are searching for, which includes you searching for your old boyfriend or girlfriend that you can’t stop thinking about, and it will make sure when you are searching for him or her it’s not on a sketchy site.

With servers that span the world, you can stream video without the worry that someone is tracking your every move. And they make it easy to use by giving you an easy to use Windows client. You want to watch Netflix or Hulu in Germany, Nord VPN will make it happen.

What does the NordVPN do?

Like most VPNs, the Nord VPN will allow your data to be funneled through an encrypted tunnel that runs between your device and the server used by Nord. By routing your web traffic through this encrypted tunnel, no one can see your data.

In addition, it will stop hackers and other nefarious internet creeps from stealing your data or using other techniques to trick you into visiting phishing sites that will steal your data, and your identity if you let them.

Nord also guards against ISP data mining, which is especially important in the wake of President Trump signing a repeal of the law that used to protect us from having our data collected and sold. Which is exactly what is about to happen.

If you are new to VPNs some of the terminologies can be confusing, before we go into a deeper dive into what the do, let’s break down some of the terms you will come across in the buying process.

Features

Linux, Windows, and MacOS are all supported by Nord VPN. In addition, they also have apps for both iPhone and Android devices. If you want to cover all of your devices you can configure some routers, that will allow the router to support Nord VPN.

Nord VPN, while still supporting older protocols like PPTP and L2TP, is more focused on adding servers that use newer advanced technologies. NordVPN also supports IKEv2 on all of their servers, so now you can manually setup your MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and Windows to connect to this protocol. Currently, MacOS and iOS clients support IKEv2 by default, with Android to follow soon.

NordVPN is also able to implement perfect forward secrecy with 3072-bit Duffie-Hellmann keys. They also support OpenVPN and uses it by default in Windows. OpenVPN has some distinct advantages, mainly when it comes to security and that it is open-source.

NordVPN also supports up to six devices at the same time. Which is great when you are considering the cost.

Pricing

There are three pricing tiers that you can choose from with NordVPN:

  • $11.95 per month
  • $42.00 every six months
  • $69.00 annually

You can pay using PayPal, Paysera, Webmoney, Bitcoin and of course by credit card. You do get a 30-day money back refund guarantee from NordVPN, but it is only usable if your NordVPN doesn’t work as promised. You can get a free three-day trial but activating it is a bit of pain.

With NordVPN you can choose one of the companies 733 VPN servers that are located in 58 countries. It’s a more than a decent selector, and while there are other providers with more servers, NordVPN can hold its own. They operate under the laws of Panama, where there are no requirements for data storage. This means they do not collect log data, so your browsing and online activities cannot be detected.

Which given the current state of our internet privacy in the US, makes NordVPN one of the best ways to keep your data secure.

PROS:
  • NordVPN has 733 servers in 58 countries
  • They also provide ultra-fast and ultra-secure servers
  • You can connect up to six devices
  • You can choose the location and country of the server you connect with

CONS:
  • There are less expensive providers with similar services
  • NordVPN doesn’t block ads

KeepSolid VPN Unlimited

One of the least expensive options is actually one of the of the better VPNs you can find. Their flexible solutions and low price are just the beginning. KeepSolid VPN Unlimited has impressive speed scores and comes wth more features than you might expect. So before you think you have to pay more to get the protection you need, you should give KeepSolid VPN Unlimited a chance.

What does KeepSolid VPN Unlimited do?

If you just want a VPN to protect you if you are traveling to a foreign country, VPN Unlimited is down with that. You can buy short periods of VPN access, so if you are going to be done for more than a week, $4.99 will give you a month of secure internet access.

They have servers in 39 countries in most of the most popular destination points. However, if you are looking for a P2 traffic and Bit Torrent downloads you can only find them in the US, Romania, Luxembourg, Canada and France.

Another nice thing about VPN Unlimited is that they have a 10-day money back guaranteed, which kind of makes up for their total lack of a trial period.

Features

When it comes to features VPN Unlimited is not lacking in that area. VPN Unlimited supports 1,273 services across a diverse landscape that includes regions that are often neglected like Africa, China, Mexico, Russian, Isle of Man and South America. And they do all this with one of the most sensible price structures around.

However, if you want to file share there are only five servers that can support file sharing, they are located in France, Luxembourg, Ontario, California and Romania. That may seem like a small amount but it is better than most of the other VPN providers, some block file sharing completely.

One of the most impressive features is the KeepSolid Wise, which will disguise VPN traffic as HTTPS traffic. Designed to be used in countries where there is no free internet access and where VPN use is blocked. VPN Unlimited uses IPsec IKEv1 for MacOS and iOS and OpenVPN protocol for Windows, Linux, and Android.

Another new recent addition to the VPN Unlimited features is something they call the Censorship Test. This will scan your internet connection to identify services and websites that could be blocked in your geographic region.

You can also use browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox that can connect you to the VPN if you don’t want to use the stand-alone client. You can just install the extension, log in and then anything you do on the browser will be secure.

The browser extensions have the same features as the client desktop, and it allows you the ability to manage some additional function. One thing you can do using the extension is turn off several WebRTC functions. Websites will use WebRTC functions to communicate with your mic or webcam and that is fine. What is not fine is that WebRTC has the potential to release your IP address without your permission.

Pricing

KeepSolid VPN Unlimited has six different payment options, which allows you to choose the service that works best for you.

  • Vacation: if you are just in need of a VPN while you are away, at 2.99 for seven days the vacation plan is a great way to keep your data secure.
  • Economy: this plan has a very friendly price if you want monthly service at $6.99 Economy is a pretty good deal.
  • Standard: at $11.99 for three months this plan is a good way to get to know VPN Unlimited without making a big investment.
  • Professional: for $39.99 you can have a year of service with this plan if you want a longer plan you can also get a three-year option for $79.99

If you have fallen in love with VPN Unlimited, and you know you will be happy forever and ever, you can plop down $499.99 and live the rest of your lives together on this 100-year plan. You can even ask for an extension, so should we all become immortal, you can still enjoy the security of keeping your data safe.

If you cannot find the plan on their website, try downloading the free client you should be able to make your purchase there. It can be a bit of a pain, but you can still get the plan you want, which depending on your needs will make it worth it.

PROS:
  • Provides servers access all over the world
  • Inexpensive plans make it easy to get started
  • Provide Chrome and Firefox browser extensions
  • You can add a static IP address with VPN Unlimited

CONS:
  • Doesn’t provide a free trial or a free version
  • If you love Netflix, you may find yourself frustrated as it can be challenging to use

Private Internet Access VPN

Privacy, especially online, should be something that we protect. But now that we find ourselves in a time when our browsing history can be sold to the highest bidder, we have to find ways to keep our private things private. What once felt like an endless world where anything and everything was possible is now becoming something that we find ourselves needing protection from.

What does Private Internet Access do?

And the best way to protect your privacy is by using a VPN. Private Internet Access is more than just one of the best VPN services around, they also offer a wide variety of features that makes their service more than worth the $6.95 per month you will pay for it. If you are looking for a superior VPN that won’t leave you broke, Private Internet Access is a great one to choose.

While there are better-designed VPNs out there if you can learn to accept PIAs less than stellar appearance you will find yourself with an affordable VPN that gets the job done. Looks aren’t everything, and with this what you get is worth getting a little ugly.

Features

With no browser logging, or collection of meta-data they are exactly what you need in light of recent events. They also have features like their kill switch that makes sure that all of your users are always secure. You can also get a DNS leak protection feature that adds even more security.

You can use up to five devices with your subscription. You also get Private Internet Access’ VPN on the go, with apps for Android and iOS devices. So you can browse with confidence while you are away, or if you are just on the sofa with your iPhone and some Ben and Jerry’s, we don’t judge, we have been there with our Chunky Monkey we get it.

If you are looking for a provider with a lot of servers, PIA is the VPN you are looking for. With 3,263 serves over 25 countries you will be able to have protection almost anywhere you go. Which makes the Private Internet Access VPN look a lot prettier. They cover everything from Central America to India, which means you should be able to find a server to support you.

If you are concerned about ads, you needn’t be. PIA has added an ad and tracking blocker that they call MACE…I know, but if you can take a little ugly, you probably handle a little cheesy too. It will block ads and trackers which keep your searches yours and yours alone.

Another benefit of MACE (I know, it’s bad) is that it protects you from ads that are used by hackers. Ads have become the new email link. You think its just an ad, and it turns out to be a malicious attack. Having this added protection built in is a really nice feature.

One place where you won’t find PIA servers is in Russia, it removed its servers in response to new Russian laws that they felt would compromise the security of their users. While other VPNs remain in Russia, PIA felt it was in the best interest of their users to remove themselves completely.

Private Internet Access uses OpenVPN protocol with their MacOS, Linux, Windows and Android clients. You can find older protocols like PPTP and L2PT, but unless you have to use them, they are better left in the past.

The app for Apple iOS is a bit different as it uses IPsec. Apple is known for requiring additional security when it comes to using OpenVPN with their iOS client, so you will see this deviation on most of the providers that work with Apple.

Another nice feature that PIA includes is access to a private DNS server. It’s not a surprise that hackers and other malicious players work to improve their skills and abilities, so making sure that you are doing everything you can to keep your personal and business data protected is more than just important, it’s critical. Seeing more and more providers allowing access to P2P file sharing and BitTorrent is also refreshing.

Pricing

While these prices may seem low, don’t allow that to keep you from trying one of the best VPN services around. I mean who doesn’t love to get quality services that come with a low price tag. These are the current plans offered by PIA:

  • Monthly Plan: $6.95
  • Six Month Plan: $35.95
  • Annual Plan: $39.95

My advice here is don’t buy a six-month plan unless you only need the service for six months if you want to keep it longer, the extra $4.00 for the annual plan is worth it.

PROS:
  • If you want an inexpensive service that has great protection and features you can find it here
  • PIA has more than 3000 servers around the world, which is pretty sweet
  • P2p and BitTorrent are supported by PIA
  • For the price, it is feature rich

CONS:
  • The interface could be better
  • If you love Netflix, you may find yourself frustrated as it can be challenging to use

TorGuard VPN

TorGuard is designed to help protect your privacy while you are torrenting. Its name is a reference to BitTorrent. So from there, it is appropriate to assume that torrenting is allowed on TorGuard, as is P2P sharing. By using an anonymous proxy service they are able to unblock geo-restricted content as well.

With a focus on safe P2P file sharing using BitTorren clients and other programs that support Shadow Socks5 proxies. If you have your BitTorrent client properly configure you can direct web traffic through anonymous connections to over 200 proxy IPs.

TorGuard is focused on services that are committed to protecting privacy and anonymity online. They have some add-on features that you can purchase a la carte, you can add an Anonymous Torrent Proxy feature, Anonymous Email, and a Privacy Bundle that include both VPN and Proxy support. The Anonymous Proxy feature only filters BitTorrent traffic, so you will still need an additional service to protect you while you are online.

You can buy routers from TorGuard if you want to skip the software, they come with TorGuard already installed. Which makes it easy for you to get everything setup and running. There are a variety of popular models you can choose from.

One of the benefits of adding a router loaded with TorGuard is that it protects everything that is connected to your Wi-Fi network. In addition to offering preloaded routers, you can also get unlocked streaming devices from TorGuard.

Pricing

TorGuard falls in line with the majority of its competitors when it comes to pricing structure by providing pricing tiers. Theirs include:

  • Monthly Plan: $9.99
  • Six Month Plan: $19.99
  • Annual Plan: $59.99
  • Two Year Plan: $119.98

Your subscription will allow you to connect up to five devices, but TorGuard makes it easy to add more devices, you can add as many as devices as you want, you will just be assessed a fee of  $1 per month for each device after you have exhausted the first five.

TorGuard also has mobile apps for iPhone and Android devices which allow you to be protected on any device almost anywhere. If you love you some BitTorrent there are a few paid features that you can add. You can purchase a static dedicated address which will run you a reasonable $7.99. Additionally,

Additionally, DDos protected IP address in Romania will only set you back $11.99 per month. And for $19.99 per month, you can buy your way into TorGuards 10Gb network. These features aren’t ones you will find with the majority of other providers, they are unique to TorGuard.

PROS:
  • If you are a regular user of BitTorrent and P2P sharing this is the VPN you need
  • They have a more than decent amount of servers worldwide
  • Their BitTorrent add-ins are pretty sweet and not common
  • They also are legit when it comes to ad blocking

CONS:
  • It can be challenging to set up your account
  • If you love Netflix, you may find yourself frustrated as it can be challenging to use
  • The interface needs updating

IPVanish VPN

You may be skeptical of UUS-based VPNs, and given our current climate, as it relates to internet privacy laws, I don’t blame you. Even if all you do on the internet is send kitten pictures to your mom, you should still be concerned about your privacy. It’s something that everyone should be aware of, and more importantly know what they need to do to protect their browser history from being sold, or worse.

So your concern about a US based VPN service is not without merit. Pressure is a dangerous thing, and so while companies may emphatically state that your personal internet data is safe, you may still find yourself feeling uneasy choosing one. But when I tell you IPVanish, which is based in the US, is as concerned about your privacy as you are, you can believe it. Like all of us, they value privacy and security. One of the things I like about IPVanish, is that they are true to their name. They will make your real IP address disappear, which means what you do online is untraceable.

But when I tell you IPVanish, which is based in the US, is as concerned about your privacy as you are, you can believe it. Like all of us, they value privacy and security. One of the things I like about IPVanish is that they are true to their name. They will make your real IP address disappear, which means what you do online is untraceable.

They have also made some updates to their interface, they have kept the style, which is disappointing but some of the updates have made the customer experience easier. You can select the specific server in the country of your choice, but it’s much easier to let IPVanish pick the best one for you.

IPVanish has also made it easier to check the vitals of its servers, you can now see how each server is performing you can check the time connected, protocol, server, and data upload and download speeds.

Features

IPVanish plays very well with others, you can configure most of the devices you own to use IPVanish. Which means you are protected everywhere you go. When you use the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks, don’t deny it, we all do it, you are protected. When you are traveling abroad, you are safe. If someone tries to hack you, IPVanish will keep them out.

You can also connect to IPVanish to your router, they were even nice enough to give you exactly need to configure your devices. So when you are stuck because you are too stubborn to read the instructions, they won’t tell anyone.

They also have censorship filters, which allows you to experience the closest thing to a fully open and pure internet. IPVanish manages its entire network and provides over 750 company owned anonymous servers that can provide access to the majority of the globe.

Pricing

With a straightforward pricing structure, IPVanish has three options that are based on billing frequency, all of them share the same services and features:

  • Monthly Plan: $11.99 per month
  • Three Month Plan: $35.97 every three months
  • Annual Plan: $143.88 per year

That’s really it. Nothing complicated, choose how often you want to pay, and you get every feature they have. While you may think the price is high when you take into consideration what you get from IPVanish its worth it. You don’t have to pay for addition features, which makes them a nice and easy way to protect your internet activities, whatever they may be.

PROS:
  • Over 750 servers around the world
  • Works well with BitTorrent
  • Make your IP address undetectable
  • They have simple pricing structures and all features available regardless of the plan you choose.

CONS:
  • It is more expensive than some other services
  • While the interface is updated it still needs some improvements

Hide My Ass

I would totally hang out with the people who created this VPN, it is a refreshing and blunt statement on what VPNs do. I had a fleeting thought about comparing VPNs to underpants, but then I realized that I need to focus on the things you need rather than the ones that make me giggle. Although while this is a serious contender with some awesome services, it makes me LOL.

Hide My Ass has a service that is great, but it is missing the opportunity to be more than great. One thing that it has nailed is the interface, it is user-friendly and thoughtfully designed. But great design does not a solid VPN make, at least when it comes to Hide My Ass. They also suffer from some bad press so they are most likely trying to hide their own ass.

While HMA (if I say ass too much I am sure my mother will somehow sense it and send me a sad face to express her disappointment) is one of the largest VPN providers they struggle in the most important metric. Privacy. And being based in the UK doesn’t help them get out of this quandary.

The UK is not known for protecting the privacy of its people when they are online. They allow the government to hack individuals and store the web history of pretty much everyone that lives and visits there. Which might make you think that a VPN is the solution to the UKs privacy problems, and it can be. But you need the right VPN provider and even though they are based in the

Which might make you think that a VPN is the solution to the UKs privacy problems, and it can be. But you need the right VPN provider and even though they are based in the UK, HMA doesn’t seem to be that provider.

I lived in Ireland for several years, and while the quality of the Internet was, for lack of a better word craptastic, you didn’t feel that your privacy was in peril. But the surveillance bill has opened up most of the UK to intrusion at will. It is important to note that the Republic of Ireland is a sovereign nation and not a part of the UK, only Northern Ireland remains under British rule.

Features

HMA offers four protocols OpenVPN, OpenVPN, PPTP and L2PT, the latter two are older protocols that are not used all that often. But what is concerning is the 128-bit Blowfish encryption they choose to use, with AES-256 being the standard, I am unsure why Blowfish encryption was their first choice in encryption.

While HMA says strongly that they do not maintain usage logs, what has happened in the past contradicts their statement. They do confirm that they keep connection logs for diagnostic reasons. But not everything about Hide My Ass is bad news, sure they have had their fair share of issues, but they do have some redeeming qualities.

The first thing we liked about HMA is the number of servers they have and the location that they are placed in. Hide My Ass provides 859 services in 190 countries, this is a plus for them as they reach areas that other providers have been reluctant to go into, which gives them an edge in places like Africa, South America, and Central America. This gives HMA an edge when it comes to coverage, while there are few VPNs with more servers, Hide My Ass covers more of the globe than they do.

When it comes to connecting devices, Hide My Ass only lets you add two devices. Which is a bit of a bummer, I mean I have four devices on my desk right now. Hopefully, they will recognize that most people have more than two devices in their house and up the number, you can add.

Pricing

HMA doesn’t give you a sneak peek, you have to make a commitment on the first date. But they do guarantee your happiness for 30 days and if you stay loyal to them they will reward you. So you can be friends with benefits.

If you aren’t sure about Hide My Ass after the first date you can choose the monthly plan at $11.52, which will allow you to see how you feel about them without a long term commitment. If you are looking for a longer relationship you can make a six-month commitment for $49.99, but if you are hearing wedding bells you can show them how much you love them with a one-year commitment for $78.66.

PROS:
  • They have an awesome interface that is user-friendly
  • Works with BitTorrent
  • Has hundreds of servers that cover the majority of the globe.

CONS:
  • You can only add two devices
  • HMA doesn’t have ad blocking and it has no advanced features and no free version
  • It has a higher price tag than some of their other competitors.
  • Logs some user data

Pure VPN

It is easy to compare all of the features and pricing that is pretty simple really, but before you can know what you want in a VPN you need to know what you need. If you are more concerned about the number of servers than you are the encryption method, then you know what you need. And you can properly direct your search.

If you want to try PureVPN, you will be disappointed to hear they lack both a free version and a free trial. But should you try it and be bitterly disappointed, there is a 7-day money back guarantee. But before you continue your search for the perfect free trial, there are some features that Pure VPN offers that may make the lack of a free trial seem trivial.

Features

PureVPN gives you five licenses to connect with your devices. Devices you can connect to include Linux, Windows, MacOS along with Android and iOS. You can also use PureVPN’s software for routers and some streaming devices.

There are advantages when you use their software to connect to a router. Using PureVPNs software with your router means that every device connects to the router receives the benefit of the VPN. So if you don’t have a router today you should consider getting one if you have a lot of smart devices that you need to connect it will make them easy to use and even easier to protect.

With PureVPN you can use P2P file sharing and BitTorrent on more than 200 of PureVPN’s servers. They also allow you to select what traffic is passed through the VPN with a clever split tunneling feature.This allows you to better manage your data usage by only sending data you want to be protected.

Pricing

PureVPN offers three different pricing options:

  • Monthly Plan: $10.95
  • Six Month Plan: $53.70
  • Two-Year Plan: $70.80

The nice thing is that all of the features are available on all tiers. They also let you pay with a ride range o options, from a variety of payment services like Cashu and PayPal to Bitcoin and even a Starbucks card. So if you don’t have cash in hand, there are other ways that you can pay.

PROS:
  • You can access BitTorrent and P2p file sharing on over 200 of PureVPN’s servers
  • Split tunneling features allows you to choose what traffic flows through the VPN
  • You can add dedicated IP and Firewall features

CONS:
  • Don’t have a free trial period
  • Like most VPNs, Netflix is a non-starter
  • Doesn’t block ads, and has no feature you can add to block them.

AnchorFree Hotspot Shield

If you are looking for a free VPN service…tada! Hotspot Shield has one, while they only allow access to servers in the US, if you can accept that you can get a pretty solid VPN for the price of on the house. They also have an Elite plan that adds some additional features.

The free version in addition to restricting you to US based servers, also have limits on bandwidth based what device you are using, if you have a PC or Mac you can use 1GB per day, and if you have an Android device you are limited to 300MB, but should you be an iPhone owner you are freed from any restriction on your bandwidth.

Features

If you are an Elite subscriber you can choose 20 servers to connect to out of the over 2000 servers that Hotspot has around the world. With servers in Europe, Central America, North America, South America and Asia there are a lot of places to choose from. You can also access servers from China, Russia, and Turkey, but your data is not as protected as the other countries. You could find your data stored or compromised as they have highly restrictive policies when it comes to internet access and use.

Hotspot Shield does more than just secure your internet traffic, they also warn you when they land on a phishing website or sites that are known to host malware. They are one of the only VPN providers that provide this kind of added protection. While it isn’t clear how they protect you from malware, you may still want to look into a more traditional malware program to keep yourself safe.

One thing that is unique to AnchorFree and Hotspot Shield is their protocol, while the majority of providers stick to standards like IKWv2 or OpenVPN, AnchorFree has decided to create their own protocol they call Catapult Hydra, it is the only protocol they use. So if you love OpenVPN and who doesn’t, you will not be able to use it with Hotpot Shield.

It is their own not uncommon for VP providers to build their own protocols, what is unusual is that ANchorFree uses theirs exclusvily, most of the other VPN services will still allow you to choose another option like IKEv2 or OpenVPN.

It is concerning that they have created and use only their protocol, but if you want to put all of you chickens in one basket, you can do it here. Just make sure that the hen house is well protected.

Pricing

You have several options when it comes to pricing, these are the current pricing tiers for Hotspot Shield Elite:

  • Monthly Plan: $12.99
  • Six-Month Plan: $29.99
  • Annual Plan: $40.00
  • Forever: $99.99

You can seal your fate with Hotspot Shield and  make them your VPN for the rest of eternity. Or you can just have a month fling, it’s really up to you to decide the level of commitment you need. If it were me, I would give it six months to show me what it can do.

PROS:
  • We saw improved speeds when we connected to Hotspot
  • Decent amount of pricing options, including a forever option
  • P2p and BitTorrent are welcome

CONS:
  • Their free version restricts access
  • The price is higher than other competitors
  • Lacks a number of servers compared to other services

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is in line with its competitors as they do not store your data logs, which means only you know what you are searching for. The protection of a VPN allows you the freedom of not having to worry if someone, and by someone I mean you ISP, is selling your browser history.

One of the most comforting things about Express VPN is where they are located, they reside in the British Virgin Islands, where there are no data retention laws. If someone wants your user data, they will have to go to court to get it.

ExpressVPN has also designed a network that adds additional protection. Their network cannot match a user to an IP address, which means that you and your data can feel safe with them.  While there are other providers that have more servers than Express VPN, they aren’t that far behind.

With over 1000 servers in 145 locations in 94 countries, they certainly aren’t slouching. They also keep servers in China, Russia and Turkey, which are all countries that have more control over the internet than you may be comfortable with.

The remainder of their servers are in less repressive areas, they currently cover South America, Central America, North America, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia. Which gives you a great range when it comes to server placement.

These are the current protocols that are supported by ExpressVPN; OpenVPN (both TCP and UDP), PPTP, L2TP, SSTP and IPsec. OpenVPN is the most current protocol, which means you can expect faster speeds and more reliability than some of the older protocols like PPTP and L2TP.

While even the legacy protocols have their place, some protocols are specific to a platform. IPSec is used to secure iOS, while SSTP is only for Windows and L2TP and PPTP are used for MAC and Windows. Its good to know what works with what when you are choosing a VPN service.

Another plus for ExpressVPN is that they do not allow ads and they don’t try to earn a quick buck from your data.

Pricing

ExpressVPN has three pricing options that are based on your level of commitment:

  • Monthly Plan: $12.95
  • Six-Month Plan: $99.84
  • Annual Plan: $99.84

While they have no trial period, ExpressVPN has a 30-day guarantee with no caveats, if you are unhappy they will refund the full amount you paid.

PROS:
  • P2p and BitTorrent are welcome
  • Wide variety of servers that are well placed
  • User-friendly simple interface

CONS:
  • Their free version restricts access
  • The price is higher than other competitors
  • Lacks a number of servers compared to other services

Jennifer Kelley is an author and technology blogger. She feels weird writing about herself in the third person, but does so when asked. A graduate of The Ohio State University she is a dedicated football fan and a total dork who loves all things written. You can follow her on twitter @theonlyjen

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