A VPN by Any Other Name
However, it is only as logical as the VPN provider you choose. Whilst there may be some fantastic free options available, you might not be as truly anonymous as other, paid-for options.
A truly private and anonymous service does not maintain any logs detailing your Internet use while connected to their servers. They should actively ensure your personal details remain private, offer a consistently encrypted Internet connection, and ideally operate their own DNS to further alleviate any external logging that usually takes place.
We’ve taken a look at six VPNs that take your anonymity seriously, and here they are — in no particular order, we must add.
Private Internet Access (PIA) is currently one of the best VPN providers, offering a substantial amount of services for a very reasonable amount of money. They’ve won multiple awards, and are used by many major organizations for their steadfast approach to privacy and anonymity.
PIA has publicly stated “We do not store logs relating to traffic, session, DNS or metadata,” as well as operating “our own DNS servers on our high throughput network.” PIA offer high levels of privacy and anonymity, as well as the option to choose either 128- or 256-bit encryption (or interestingly, none at all).
@raena I've been using Private Internet Access for a year now with no issues. Fast & reliable, plus they leave you alone.
— Dollah (@jinkies) August 31, 2015
Due to the size and spread of their network infrastructure, PIA also offer a fast and stable connection, as well as an integrated VPN kill switch to immediately disconnect from the Internet in the event the VPN fails.
Private Internet Access comes in at $6.95 for a single month, dropping to $3.33/$39.95 for a 12-month subscription.
ExpressVPN has become one of the most popular VPN services through a combination of hard-work and consumer awareness. In the modern digital age we demand service, and ExpressVPN delivers this in many ways.
As well as offering a 30-day money-back guarantee, and a rarely-seen referral system to encourage you to spread the word, an ExpressVPN account comes with zero logging of your activities, 256-bit encryption, and a range of VPN protocols to suit your connection.
Many users report ExpressVPN as the fastest and most stable solution they’ve used, with others commending the excellent ticket-response time from its customer support team.
Shout out to Noel and @expressvpn for great online customer service. This company deliver every time!
— Clare Biddle (@BiddleClare) May 9, 2016
ExpressVPN comes in at $12.95 for a single month, dropping to $8.32/$99.84 for a 12-month subscription.
TorGuard is another VPN service that has substantially expanded throughout the last few years. Even with expansion, TorGuard takes its responsibility to maintain your privacy seriously, as “No logs or time stamps are kept whatsoever. [They] do not store any traffic logs or user session data” on its network, and uses a shared IP configuration across all internal servers. This makes it impossible to match a single user IP address with a single time stamp, ensuring your privacy.
TorGuard suggests using the OpenVPN protocol with high level encryption, offering users a choice of 128- and 256-bit, depending on their requirements and local network infrastructure. The package also includes “a connection kill switch, application kill switch, DNS leak protection, IPv6 leak protection, WebRTC leak protection, and Stealth VPN services,” as well as the choice between its own private TorGuard DNS servers, or Google DNS servers.
@TorGuard Best VPN that works!
— Keith See (@keithsee) May 14, 2016
TorGuard offers a range of solutions, starting at $9.99 for a single month, dropping to $4.99/$59.99 for a 12-month subscription.
Onto the Swedish VPN service named “Mole.” With a growing reputation for privacy, anonymity, and reliability, Mullvad is fast becoming a global VPN favorite. Mullvad does not maintain any logs as “This would make both us and our users more vulnerable,” as well as using a range of private servers “lovingly assembled and configured by us.”
— CHRISTIANGIRL9925 (@acex222_2) February 6, 2016
Mullvad supports a range of VPN protocols, including OpenVPN, as well as offering DNS leak protection, a VPN kill switch, active filter detection and automatic reconnections, and strong encryption credentials. However, Mullvad has a limited range of servers, currently only located in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Canada, and the US, so some users may find speeds somewhat limited.
A Mullvad VPN solution is available for roughly $5.66 per month.
IVPN is seemingly one of the most ardent supports of your right to privacy and anonymity while browsing the Internet. No records of your time online are created or maintained; IVPN believes it is “fundamental to the service we provide.” Furthermore, IVPN considers that “It is also in our interests not to do so as it minimizes our own liability and is not required by law,” giving you a clear understanding of their stance on user monitoring and logging.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that IVPN uses 256-bit encryption, utilizing the OpenVPN protocol to offer you maximum security, as well as an “advanced VPN firewall” to block any potential IP leaking. The firewall is activated during the boot process to ensure no network traffic can take place outside of the VPN tunnel, further guaranteeing your privacy.
My only slight concern would be IVPN’s Gibraltar-registered status, and whether any pending or future alterations to United Kingdom and European Union digital privacy laws will have an immediate effect on its users. However, for the time being, this is not a worry!
An IVPN solution comes in at $15 for a single month, dropping to $8.33/$100 for a 12-month subscription.
We finish our list with one of the best VPN packages around, but one that doesn’t always gather the kudos it might deserve for a job well done. CryptoStorm is the VPN of choice for many users because of its additional features, and the additional choices available in accessing the service. Want to pay using alternative Bitcoin currencies? Sure, send us some Dogecoin (such wow, very pay). Need a VPN provider actively supporting worldwide open-data culture? CryptoStorm are there again.
— thomas (@sehque) February 6, 2016
Their network is slightly different to your run of the mill VPN providers, too. CryptoStorm offers a token-based authentication system to do away with anything resembling identification, at the same time distancing themselves from the users accessing the network. You purchase a token from a dedicated reseller, such as vpndark.net, then activate your VPN service, leaving no discernable trace of purchasing the service in the hands of CryptoStorm.
It also uses “OpenVPN with logs set to /dev/null” and have “even gone the extra mile by preventing client IPs from appearing in the temporary ‘status’ logs.”
CryptoStorm is serious about your privacy, and you can access a single month of privacy for $6.99, or select a 12-month subscription for $4.58/$54.99.
Are You Ready To Choose?
It is a somewhat problematic decision, but it isn’t difficult to understand the importance of using a VPN, or why so many global citizens are concerned about the reach of both government and corporations alike. The Snowden revelations didn’t so much as kick-start a movement, but breathed life into and gave weight to the feeling of surveillance and tracking many believed existed.
You don’t have to secede your right to privacy and anonymity just because of the Internet, and with these VPNs, you can begin to take some of it back.
What is your favorite VPN provider? What are the best free VPNs for privacy and anonymity? Or do you believe once you’re the product, nothing is really free? Let us know below!