VPN Recs?
March 28, 2017 3:26 PM   Subscribe

Congress just passed S.J.Res.34. So... I'm looking for VPN service recommendations/advice. I'm happy to pay (within reason) for reliability, privacy, and... any other considerations?
posted by coffee and minarets to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 70 users marked this as a favorite
I've used Private Internet Access for several years and I've been very pleased. Pretty low cost, high standards, and good privacy practices.

I'm going to bet that you're going to get a lot of other recommendations for them and for good reason.
posted by VTX at 3:31 PM on March 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

Seconding PIA, it works a treat on macOS Sierra.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 3:45 PM on March 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I use Private Internet Access as well, but this is entirely based on the recommendation of a friend who does more research into these things. One thing I will say is that its Android app doesn't work on my phone, but with the settings they provide I can still connect my phone when needed. It used to be good for getting around geographic restrictions for Netflix but not anymore. But that was never one of my main reasons for getting it so in my case it wasn't a big loss.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:04 PM on March 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've used Express VPN in the past but just switched to NordVPN, they have some great deals on before the end of March.


They rate reasonably highly in terms of privacy, I have seen reports of slow customer service and connection speeds. The former I haven't had cause to use and the latter seems good to me. I don't use it for streaming geo locked content however.

Their OSX and iOS software installs quickly and runs smoothly.

PIA always gets good reviews and scores highly on privacy also.

You might want try them out on a month by month plan at first before taking the plunge for a 1 or 2 year contract.

Whichever route you choose you are making a wise decision to secure your Internet traffic from being sold as an asset. While advertising is the first obvious market I can assure you that the primary purchasers will be hedge funds and Wall St in general. They will use Machine Learning to profile millions of users browsing and Internet habits in order to inform their trading algorithms.
posted by rollinson at 4:14 PM on March 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm PIA user as well, what sold me on it was that it was really simple to set-up.
posted by SageLeVoid at 4:31 PM on March 28, 2017

Uh, so how about configuring my *router* to send all traffic via the VPN so I don't have to set this up on each of my devices?
posted by notyou at 4:35 PM on March 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

> Uh, so how about configuring my *router* to send all traffic via the VPN so I don't have to set this up on each of my devices?

You don't want to do that notyou. There are too many things that'll break if you route everything through a vpn - there are many use cases where you'll need to disconnect from it.

But, if you must, this is a good spot to start.

Also, plus one for Private Internet Access
posted by durandal at 4:43 PM on March 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that the vpn provider is under no obligation to protect your privacy either, and they're juicy targets for hackers and intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
posted by empath at 5:15 PM on March 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Tor browser is free, no VPN needed. It may be a little slow for video but it's reasonable for regular internet browsing and it takes care of everything including DNS lookups. Conversely, VPN's can leak your DNS lookups giving the ISP's the ability to log which websites you visit, even if they cannot see what you actually do on those websites. If you end up choosing a VPN, please make sure the DNS lookups don't default to your ISP's DNS service.
posted by rada at 6:57 PM on March 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another satisfied PIA user here.
posted by zebra at 8:20 PM on March 28, 2017

Seconding Tor browser, or you can go the whole hog and use Tails.
posted by rd45 at 12:46 AM on March 29, 2017

NB just for downloading Tails or Tor your IP will be on yet another list, of course.
As VPN's go I've tried Air but will try Express next. Air definitely has the most connection options - different protocols, ports, alternate entry IP's, SSH or SSL to encrypt your connection to the VPN server. The latter is useful because the ISP does deep packet inspection on your end. Air's forums are good.
A good feature in a VPN is a "network lock" which keeps apps from using the normal connection in the case that the VPN drops out. Also try a DNS leak test once VPN is running. The last thing is all very 2014 but just to say a VPN will not defend against browser/device fingerprinting. Try out Panopticlick, amiunique and see how they don't care about which VPN server you're logged in from, or watch how sites do this with the ScriptSafe extension with Chrome. (Also of course Macs phone home ten different ways from Sunday, viewable with eg the Private Eye app)
posted by yoHighness at 4:47 AM on March 29, 2017

I use Mullvad which is based in Sweden. Everyone's recommending PIA but it is US-based.
Mullvad handles DNS leaks among other things.

I pretty much concur with the list here for the reasons given.
posted by vacapinta at 7:30 AM on March 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

This article at freecodecamp is illuminating. It recommends Opera's built in VPN, among other things and says "the NSA will still put you on a list if you purchased a VPN."
posted by soelo at 8:33 AM on March 29, 2017

Thirding Tor. Simple install and no browser fingerprinting if you use TorBrowser - though any site you visit will know you're using Tor, just like any site you visit from a VPN can see it's being visited from a VPN. And your ISP (and Big Brother) can tell if you're using either Tor or a VPN in any case, so you're gonna be on a list one way or another.
posted by MoTLD at 10:15 AM on March 29, 2017

I have been using TunnelBear for several years and find it to be frictionless. They're based in Canada, so if Five Eyes is a concern it may not be for you. If, on the other hand, you just want your ISP to keep its nose out of your business, I endorse it wholeheartedly.
posted by mumkin at 12:30 PM on March 29, 2017

I have been using F-Secure's Freedome for a long while on both iPhone, iPad, and Windows, using their 3-device plan. Works great for me. They are running a 50% off promo through the end of March.
posted by gemmy at 8:47 PM on March 29, 2017

Just coming to say

1. I too use PIA. It's in the states, which isn't great, but doesn't log, which is.
2. I may try to switch to something foreign that also doesn't log. we'll see.
posted by sazerac at 2:13 PM on March 30, 2017

Hmm...Tor alone is not enough, true, but then neither is a VPN. For privacy from your ISP (as the OP is concerned with), either is adequate and both hide your activity the same way, by tunneling your traffic to another exit point. Both suffer from potential browser fingerprinting, but that's not an ISP thing, it's something the web server can do, and the Tor browser mitigates this considerably.

The WebRTC leak that's mentioned in that link is also a problem when using a VPN and should be blocked with an appropriate browser plugin. The Tor browser is invulnerable to this exploit.

As also mentioned in the link, Tor doesn't encrypt end-to-end, but neither does a VPN (the link is absolutely wrong when it claims a VPN encrypts end-to-end, it only encrypts from you to the VPN server). Your traffic is visible when it exits the Tor network as well as when it leaves the VPN's server, and is only encrypted in either case if you're accessing a site via https. Tor does include so called hidden services, web sites with addresses ending in .onion, and those are encrypted end-to-end by Tor. Facebook, for instance, runs a server at facebookcorewwwi.onion and accessing that address means your traffic never leaves the Tor network, and thus is only visible by you and Facebook.

Tor's major disadvantage, also mentioned in that link, is its latency. There is always a delay between clicking on a link and the page beginning to load, and streaming video is usually choppy via Tor. Streaming audio works fine in my experience. The delay, while noticeable, isn't annoying enough to me to want to pay for a VPN service just for the sake of more responsive browsing.

A disadvantage of both Tor and VPNs is that, as mentioned above, your traffic is visible when it leaves the Tor network or the VPN server and enters the internet at large. With Tor, this is mostly a concern for those worried about state-level actors, as the whole entire Tor network can be surveilled by those powerful enough and traffic patterns can be determined that may deanonymize some of your traffic. However, those same state-level actors just have to hack into, buy, or otherwise force the VPN operator to turn over their records and your complete activity is compromised. This is why choosing a trustworthy VPN provider is critical.
posted by MoTLD at 4:47 PM on March 30, 2017

@sazerac: I don't want to sound like I'm wearing a tinfoil hat, but if you go across international boundaries, the federal government has established that you have fewer rights to privacy, and are perhaps more subject to interception.

@WCityMike empath's not wrong, though. If they used National Security Letters separately, things get weird.
posted by talldean at 10:20 AM on March 31, 2017

PIA here. But remember, if you use it, you're allowing your VPN provider to have access to your history (not that they will) instead of your ISP.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 1:00 PM on March 31, 2017

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