Access Betting Websites Abroad with a VPN: Is it Safe and Legal?

Today, we’ll show you everything you need to know to unblock betting sites from anywhere in the world. After all, it can be frustrating if you travel to a country where your favorite gambling site is blocked. Just follow our step by step instructions on choosing and using a VPN to access betting sites abroad.

Staying safe online has become a widespread concern in recent years. Casual web users have started taking note of all the private information companies collect and store, as well as the extreme measures some governments will take to censor and control online activity. Keeping the internet private and accessible is an even bigger concern for anyone who accesses betting, gambling, and online poker websites. As these industries are so tightly controlled, you can be certain that everything you do is being watched.

The best way to protect yourself from surveillance and other online threats is to use a virtual private network. VPNs encrypt data and assign it a new IP address, both measures that make it nearly impossible to determine who you are and what websites you’re using. VPNs also allow you to change your virtual location, allowing you to access betting websites abroad while staying safely hidden behind a wall of anonymity.

Is it Legal to Access Betting Websites Abroad with a VPN?

VPNs are incredibly useful tools that add privacy and anonymity to all of your online activities. They don’t, however, allow you to circumvent local laws without consequence. Each state within the United States, as well as every country in the world, has its own set of regulations governing online gambling. Using a VPN to access a betting website while you’re in a region that forbids online gambling is still breaking the law. You can also run into legal issues by accessing betting sites across borders, so always be cautious and do your research before placing your first bet.

The best use for virtual private networks is to keep your identity and location hidden from nefarious third parties. ISPs often log things like website requests and traffic history, government agencies engage in mass surveillance, and hackers are always looking for new ways to exploit unsuspecting users. VPNs protect you from all of that. If you’re using a betting website you may be triggering a few warning flags in automated monitoring systems. By using a VPN, you can access any betting website you like in complete privacy.

Evaluating the Best VPN to Access Betting Websites Abroad

Privacy is extremely important when selecting a VPN for online betting, so much so that nearly every other feature can be sacrificed for added security. Trust is also a key component of privacy. VPNs handle a lot of important data. If the company isn’t reliable, they could be taking that information and selling it without anyone’s knowledge. A VPN’s reputation is often just as important as its actual privacy policies, especially when online betting is concerned.

We’ve made the decision easier by offering a few recommended VPNs below. We used the following criteria to rank and select them, as well, so you know you’re getting a reliable and private online experience no matter which one you decide is the best VPN.

  • Reputation – The most difficult factor to measure is also the most important. Our VPN recommendations below are with companies that have been in business for years. They have large, established customer bases and are trusted by tens of thousands of people every day, making them some of the best choices for your next VPN.
  • Logging policy – VPN logging policies can make or break your online privacy. Logs can store everything from which websites you visit to your local IP address, all of which could injure your online privacy if the wrong party gained access to it. The best way to keep that data private is to make sure it doesn’t exist. Zero-logging policies on traffic is extremely important in a solid VPN.
  • Additional security protocols – Most VPN users stick with the base OpenVPN protocol their service deploys by default. There are also other options available that can provide added security at the expense of speed, however, including L2TP/IPSec and PPTP protocols. These can be a vital resource in your quest to access betting websites while abroad.
  • Jurisdiction – Closely tied to logging policies, a VPN company’s jurisdiction can have a huge impact on your privacy. If they’re registered in a country that engages in surveillance or shares data with other governments, they could be forced to keep logs in secret and share information without informing customers. A strong privacy policy can be destroyed by poor jurisdiction choices.
  • Payment methods – An often overlooked aspect of online anonymity is how you pay for your VPN. If you use a credit card or PayPal account, it’s shockingly easy to trace your activity back to your identity. Many VPNs offer payment through cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, which adds a new layer of anonymity to the entire process.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a highly praised VPN service that delivers fast downloads, private connections, and user-friendly software. With ExpressVPN, you’ll be able to access the internet privately through any device you own, including desktop PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Finding a fast server is never a problem with the company’s network of 3000 nodes in 94 different countries. And if you ever feel like your connection is lagging behind, simply fire up the built-in speed test feature, check the details, and switch to a faster server!

ExpressVPN makes it easy to stay safe online. Everything that leaves your device is encrypted by 256-bit AES encryption and backed by a zero-logging policy on all traffic, DNS requests, and IP addresses. Local connections are sealed tight with both DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch, ensuring that if your internet drops or the software crashes, your true identity remains safe.

ExpressVPN features at a glance:

  • Top-tier anonymity features that keep your internet connection private, allowing unrestricted access even in countries like China and Turkey
  • Accepts bitcoin payments through BitPay for easy and anonymous subscriptions
  • No restrictions on bandwidth, P2P network downloads or torrent traffic
  • Reliable access to Netflix streams through the website and apps

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Pros

  • Unblocks Netflix and other streaming sites
  • Reliable and fast connections
  • Govt-level AES-256 encryption
  • No logging policy well enforced
  • Live Chat Support.
Cons

  • Month-to-month plan has high cost.
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2. NordVPN

NordVPN is one of the fastest VPNs in the industry, and it boasts a massive server network that dwarfs the competition. It also happens to be a well-established and trusted VPN provider that’s been in business for years. When you sign up, you get access to a constantly growing server network, currently sitting at over 5000+ servers in 61 different countries. Those numbers guarantee you’ll be able to find a speedy connection in the country of your choosing, no matter where you live or where you happen to be traveling. NordVPN provides unlimited access to its entire network with no restrictions on P2P traffic, torrent downloads, or bandwidth.

For privacy, NordVPN deploys one of the best zero-logging policies in the business, covering everything from bandwidth logs to traffic, time stamps, and even IP addresses. This ensures even the smallest traces of your online activity are impossible to discover. Backing that are kill switch and DNS leak protection features, 256-bit AES encryption on all data, special servers capable of 2048-bit encryption, and payments through bitcoin for total anonymity. NordVPN delivers a fantastic online experience that keeps you safe, no matter what.

More of NordVPN’s top features:

  • Specialized servers that offer unique features such as faster P2P downloads, double encryption, onion routing, and DDoS protection
  • Private access to the internet in countries like China, Russia, and Turkey
  • Reliable streaming Netflix streams, even when other VPNs are blocked
  • Lightweight apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and more

Read our full NordVPN review.

Pros

  • Works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer without breaking a sweat
  • Most VPN servers with different IP addresses
  • 2,048-bit SSL keys and DNS leak protection
  • No logs and encrypted connections for total privacy
  • Customer Service (24/7 Chat).
Cons

  • Some servers can have average d/l speeds
  • Apps can sometime be slow to connect.
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3. IPVanish

IPVanish aims to provide the perfect online experience, complete with incredible privacy features and a network of lightning-fast servers. It all starts with 256-bit AES encryption, the industry standard that wraps data in cryptography so complex it would take millions of years to crack. As if this weren’t enough, IPVanish has a strict zero-logging policy on all traffic, along with both kill switch and DNS leak protection features for desktop users. As soon as you log into the VPN, you’re as good as invisible.

IPVanish deploys a massive network of over 850 servers in 60 different countries, providing a combined 40,000 shared IP addresses for its users. This builds a strong foundation for online anonymity and gives you plenty of options for a fast connection anywhere in the world. IPVanish also guarantees unlimited bandwidth, no speed throttling, and unrestricted access to P2P networks and torrent downloads.

IPVanish features at a glance:

  • Secure servers with incredible connection speeds for smooth HD and 4K video streams
  • Lightweight software for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android devices
  • Download movies and TV shows through BitTorrent with full anonymity
  • Pay with bitcoins for increased anonymity

Read our full IPVanish review.

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4. VyprVPN

VyprVPN does some unique things in the name of online privacy, all without sacrificing speed or usability. For one, this provider owns and operates its entire network of servers, over 700 in 70 different countries. Those are strong numbers for any VPN, but the impressive part is that VyprVPN handles all maintenance, upgrades, and software configurations. Third parties never have access to the servers, providing an added layer of security for your online activities. Completing that privacy package is 256-bit AES encryption, a zero-logging policy for DNS requests and traffic, and both DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch.

VyprVPN also has a unique protocol, Chameleon, that delivers even more security. Chameleon takes encrypted data packets and wraps their metadata in a new layer of encryption, a process that helps defeat deep packet inspection (DPI) commonly used by ISPs and government agencies to throttle connections or spy on user activity. With DPI out of the picture you gain an incredible amount of online freedom, busting through censorship filters in places like China, Turkey, and the Middle East. You’ll also have greater freedom to access betting websites abroad.

VyprVPN’s standout features include:

  • Unique protocols that help provide additional anonymity and privacy features
  • Unlimited bandwidth and no restrictions on P2P traffic or torrent downloads
  • Custom-built apps for all modern devices, tablets, smartphones, and more
  • No restrictions on P2P or torrent traffic

Read our full VyprVPN review.

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5. PureVPN

PureVPN steps beyond the usual VPN offerings to provide an entire set of privacy features that help protect you online. You’ll get access to a built-in ad-blocker, web filtering options, malware protection, and even anti-virus scanners, all in addition to the usual set of VPN benefits. These make an incredible addition to anyone’s privacy arsenal, but it’s especially effective for staying safe while accessing betting websites abroad. Add in PureVPN’s DNS leak protection and automatic kill switch features and you’ve got protection from all sides.

PureVPN doesn’t cut back on the VPN features just because it offers these extras. Data that leaves your device gets locked down with 256-bit AES encryption, and it’s protected behind the scenes with a strict zero-logging policy on all traffic. Server selection is also impressive with over 750 nodes in 141 countries, all of which are owned and operated by PureVPN themselves! As an added bonus, you can pay for subscriptions using a wide variety of anonymous cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Dash, and more. For complete privacy that comes with easy to use side benefits, PureVPN is by far the best choice.

PureVPN’s best features at a glance:

  • Custom-built apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and even a Chrome extension
  • No restriction on torrent or P2P traffic and completely unlimited bandwidth
  • Advanced anti-virus protection, web filters, and anti-phishing features
  • Unlimited server switching and five simultaneous connections

Read our full PureVPN review.

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How to Stay Hidden when Betting Online

Online privacy is difficult to achieve for casual surfers and video streamers. When you start accessing betting websites abroad, you can attract a lot more unwanted attention. Hackers regularly target gambling sites in the hopes of getting credit card or account information. Government agencies also monitor betting outlets to watch for illegal activity, often targeting innocent users for minor, accidental infractions. Everyone’s eager to cause you trouble, which makes staying hidden all the more important.

Using a VPN is an excellent first step in concealing your identity online. There are a few more measures you can take to make your internet betting adventures a little more secure. Follow any or all of the tips below to stay safe.

  • Avoid free VPNs – Free VPN services may seem like a quick and easy way to secure your identity, but in reality they often collect and sell user information to the highest bidder. If you’re going to access betting and gambling sites, you need real privacy that you can trust, not some shady VPN.
  • Use incognito/private tabs – Most modern browsers have a private mode that lets you surf without leaving a breadcrumb trail. If you’re using a public or shared computer, always make use of these tabs. It’s important to remember, though, that incognito mode only affects data on your local device, it doesn’t keep you safe online.
  • Use the Tor Browser – The Tor Browser utilizes onion routing to encrypt and anonymize your data, sending it through a distributed network of computers to make it nearly impossible to trace or identify. Tor is completely free to use and highly effective at keeping your activity safe when using betting sites abroad. It can be much slower than a standard browser, however.
  • Use a live operating system – The best way to stay hidden is to leave no trace behind. Live operating systems such as TailsOS give you a secure and temporary way to access the internet. When you’re done, no one will know you were even there.
  • Install privacy browser plug-ins – The right browser extensions can add a little bit of security and privacy to your online activities. Privacy Badger is a great start, as it strips out harmful tracking code that can follow you across the web. HTTPS Everywhere forces websites to use the HTTPS protocol, which encrypts information to keep it private.

Need more info? Check out our guides on how to hide your IP address and how to stay completely hidden online!

Where is it Legal to Access Betting Websites?

Online betting websites come in many forms. Some are simple poker sites that let you play and bet against other players, while others offer a casino style interface, lotteries, sports or horse betting, and even bingo! The laws surrounding online gambling can vary subtly depending on the type of betting taking place, but the wording is generally clear.

Below are a few countries and their official policies in regards to online betting. If you reside in or visit one of these areas, you must adhere to their laws, even if you have a VPN or are accessing sites located in other regions.

  • Australia – Online poker, casino games, and sports betting through licensed operations is legal
  • Canada – Online gambling of any type isn’t explicitly forbidden, but it must take place through an establishment owned and licensed by a provincial government
  • China – Online poker, casino, sports, and betting games that use real money are all illegal
  • France – Online betting exchanges are illegal, but other types of online gambling are allowed, provided the operator is licensed
  • Germany – Most online gambling is illegal, with the exception of horse racing wagers. Certain states within the country have licensed outlets that provide legal online alternatives, and more are expected to follow suit
  • India – Online betting is illegal in certain states within the country, as is playing online card games like poker and blackjack
  • Japan – Sports gambling over the internet is legal but falls under strict guidelines. Poker and casino games that use real money are illegal
  • Russia – Online gambling and betting are strictly prohibited
  • Singapore – All online gambling, casino, poker, and betting games are illegal
  • United Kingdom – Online betting is considered unlawful unless the participating business is granted a license
  • United States – Placing bets and engaging in online gambling is illegal throughout the country. Exceptions include free online games, fantasy leagues, and Indian gaming sites that aren’t strictly defined as online gambling. Some states are currently fighting for the right to allow online betting within their borders

Read Access Betting Websites Abroad with a VPN: Is it Safe and Legal? by Geoffrey Walters on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to Install a VPN on Synology NAS: Beginner and Expert Fixes Included

Need help setting up a VPN on your Synology NAS device? In today’s guide, we’ll walk you through the process of choosing the best VPN provider with out of the box NAS support from a crowded marketplace. If you’d rather configure your VPN connection manually, we’ll show you how to do so via OpenVPN and PPTP.

Network Attached Storage devices, or simply NAS devices, are incredibly powerful pieces of hardware that bring centralized data storage to your home or office. NAS technology includes everything from standalone hard drives to routers with built-in NAS capabilities. All you have to do is give the device access to the internet and all of the computers, smartphones, and tablets on your local network can wirelessly access files stored on the NAS.

Synology is one of the better-known NAS manufacturers and offers a wide range of devices for home, office, and even corporate use. They can hold hundreds of terabytes of files and come with plug-and-play bays that make them easy to expand. They’re so flexible you can even install a virtual private network (VPN) and use it to encrypt all of your network traffic without having to rely on expensive off-site servers.

Option 1: Supported VPN Services (Beginner)

Adding a virtual private network to your Synology NAS is a fairly straightforward process. There are a couple of things you’ll need to prepare beforehand, however, the most important of which is VPN support. Make sure your existing VPN provider offers at least one of two protocol options: OpenVPN and PPTP. OpenVPN is generally the far superior choice and is fortunately supported by the vast majority of VPNs on the market, so chances are you don’t have anything to worry about.

Not sure which VPN to use? There are hundreds of providers out there who claim everything from the fastest speeds to the toughest encryption and lowest prices. Picking through their feature sets can be a confusing mess, especially if you want a VPN for a specific purpose. We’ve narrowed things down to the most important criteria, listed below. We use these to select our recommended VPNs to ensure you get the fastest, the most secure, and the best overall VPN around.

  • Zero-logging policy – Sensitive data that travels to and from your network can be logged by ISPs and VPN services alike. If those logs fall into the wrong hands, your data is no longer private. The top VPNs have strict zero-logging policies to ensure that never happens.
  • Speed – Encryption often slows VPNs down by as much as 20%, largely due to encryption overhead. Our recommended VPN services have developed workarounds to deliver the fastest speeds without sacrificing privacy.
  • Protocols and software support – Some VPN services only offer the basic security protocols and custom apps for a few common operating systems. If you’re a power user and want to experiment with alternative encryption methods, or if you need to use your VPN from non-standard devices, make sure your VPN is set up to handle it.
  • Bandwidth and traffic – Some VPNs throttle download speeds, put caps on maximum bandwidth usage, and block protocols like torrents and P2P networks. Top services offer completely unmonitored, unlimited traffic so you can surf and download anything you like.

Below are our best VPNs you should use to install on a NAS:

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is fast, easy to use, and extremely reliable. The service offers custom software for a wide variety of devices, including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android operating systems, all backed by a large network of over 3000 servers in 94 different countries. Speed test scores are consistently high throughout this network, regardless of your physical location. This allows you to connect at top speeds to any country at any time of day without having to worry about slowdown or lag. ExpressVPN backs this up with excellent security practices, including 256-bit AES encryption and a no-exceptions zero-traffic logging policy to keep your activity private and safe.

ExpressVPN offers both OpenVPN and PPTP protocols for all users. When installing the software to your Synology NAS device, however, ExpressVPN recommends using PPTP. Follow our instructions below to add the VPN to your NAS, or use ExpressVPN’s step-by-step installation guide.

More ExpressVPN features:

  • An automatic kill switch and DNS leak protection on several versions of their custom apps.
  • Built-in speed tests to ensure you always get the fastest connection possible.
  • Reliable access to Netflix through the website as well as Netflix apps.
  • Unlimited bandwidth and no restrictions on P2P or torrent traffic.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Pros

  • Unblocks American Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu
  • Fast serves with minimal speed loss
  • No DNS/IP leaks found
  • No personal information logs kept
  • Live chat support available.
Cons

  • Power-users configuration options.
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2. NordVPN

NordVPN has a stellar reputation in the VPN community, and it’s well-deserved, too. The service has been in operation for years, providing incredible speeds and strong privacy policies for users around the globe. NordVPN’s biggest standout feature is the size of its network: over 5,000 servers in 60 different countries. This incredible number of nodes gives you the ability to find lightning-fast, no-lag connections to any country, all with unlimited bandwidth, no traffic monitoring, and no blocked P2P networks or torrents.

NordVPN offers both OpenVPN and PPTP connections through a Synology NAS device. Our instructions below will help you get things set up in a matter of minutes. You can also follow NordVPN’s step-by-step guide for both protocols.

More of NordVPN’s best features:

  • A completely private connection that delivers reliable access even in censorship heavy areas like China, Turkey, Russia, and the Middle East.
  • Unique, specialized servers that deliver double encryption, onion routing, and anti-DDoS features.
  • Zero-logging policy covers traffic, time stamps, bandwidth, and IP address logs.
  • One of the few VPNs that maintains reliable access to Netflix.

Read our full NordVPN review.

Pros

  • Best Budget Choice
  • Extensive server park of over 5,400 different servers
  • Tor over VPN, double VPN
  • Retains no metadata of your browsing
  • 24/7 Chat Support.
Cons

  • Apps can be a bit cumbersome to use.
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3. IPVanish

IPVanish is the best VPN for staying hidden online. Speed, privacy, and security are its focal points, offering unbeatable 256-bit AES encryption on all transfers and absolutely no traffic logs to keep that activity safe. DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch will keep your identity a secret even if something goes wrong. All of this is routed through IPVanish’s massive network of over 1300 servers in 60 different countries, all of which are lightning-fast and incredibly reliable.

IPVanish offers both OpenVPN and PPTP encryption for VPN customers, but when using the service with a Synology NAS it’s recommended you stick with PPTP. Once you’ve signed up with IPVanish, use our guide below to complete the NAS installation.

IPVanish includes the following features:

  • Easy to use custom software and apps for all major operating systems, smartphones, and mobile devices.
  • Download torrents with full privacy and anonymity, keeping you safe from ISP warning messages.
  • Fast and secure servers allow for incredible video streams through Kodi.

Read our full IPVanish review.

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4. VyprVPN

VyprVPN goes to great lengths to provide the best privacy features on the market. One of the biggest contributing factors is the fact that VyprVPN owns its entire server network, allowing the company to perform all hardware and software upgrades without third-party intervention. In other words, your data has never been safer! There’s also VyprVPN’s unique Chameleon protocol that helps defeat deep packet inspection. If your ISP or a local government uses DPI to investigate VPN traffic for censorship or throttling purposes, Chameleon can cut through the firewall to keep your internet connection fast, safe, and secure.

VyprVPN supports NAS set-ups through OpenVPN, which is generally considered more secure and reliable than its PPTP counterpart. Follow our instructions below to install the VPN, or use VyprVPN’s detailed custom guide.

VyprVPN includes the following features:

  • Support for a wide variety of operating systems, including desktops, Android, and iOS smartphones.
  • Unlimited bandwidth and no restriction on P2P traffic or torrent downloads.
  • Strict zero-logging policy that covers both traffic and DNS request logs.
  • A large network of 700 servers in 70 different countries.

Read our full VyprVPN review.

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Option 2: OpenVPN Guide (Expert)

Adding a virtual private network to your Synology NAS device is easy, straightforward, and should only take a minute or two of your time, all thanks to Synology’s built-in support for virtual private networks. You’ll need access to your VPN credentials before you begin, however, and you’ll also need to be able to log into the NAS device. Once that’s secured, simply follow the steps below.

Step 1: Gather your VPN credentials

Most VPN services allow you to generate custom .ovpn files to use for manual set-ups, which is exactly what you’ll be doing here. If you can’t find the option in your provider’s membership area, visit their support pages and look for articles titled “OpenVPN configuration files”. These files include server information that allows the VPN to connect through the NAS. Save this file somewhere convenient, as you’ll need it just a few seconds.

If you can’t get the .ovpn file for any reason, make sure you have access to the following:

  • Login name for your VPN provider
  • Password for your VPN provider
  • Server address for the VPN server you want to connect to
  • Port and protocol information (usually 1194 UDP, though not always)

Step 2a: Configuring the NAS with an .ovpn file

With access to your Synology device and a generated .ovpn file you can upload and configure the VPN in just a few seconds.

  1. Log into your Synology NAS.
  2. Open the “Network” icon.
  3. Click on “Create” then choose “Create VPN profile”
  4. Select OpenVPN.
  5. Fill in the boxes with your VPN login and account information.
  6. Upload your .ovpn file on this same screen.
  7. Click “Next”
  8. Choose the profile you just created and click “Connect”

Step 2b: Configuring the NAS manually

If you can’t create or simply can’t use an .ovpn file for the installation process, don’t worry, you can always do it manually. Instead of uploading the file just enter the details listed below into the appropriate boxes.

  • Profile name: Choose an easy to recognize name.
  • Server Address: Enter a server hostname from your VPN provider.
  • Username: Your VPN service’s username.
  • Password: Your VPN service’s password.
  • Port: 1194 (this can vary between VPNs)
  • Protocol: UDP (this can vary between VPNs

RELATED READING: How to Change to an American IP Address

Option 3: PPTP Guide (Medium)

The PPTP method requires a lot of the same information as an OpenVPN setup. There’s no .ovpn file to generate and upload, which means you’ll need to configure your Synology NAS manually. The information presented below will work for the vast majority of VPNs on the market. Double check your service provider’s details just to make sure nothing needs to be different.

  1. Log into your Synology NAS.
  2. Open the “Network” icon.
  3. Click on “Create” then choose “Create VPN profile”
  4. Select PPTP and click “Next”
  5. Fill in the boxes with your VPN service credentials.
  6. Locate server information on your VPN provider’s support pages and enter that in the boxes, as well.
  7. When everything is filled out, click “Next”
  8. Fill in the advanced settings with the appropriate information. The info below is most commonly used. Double check your VPN service provider’s specifications if you’re unsure.

Authentication: MS CHAP v2

Encryption: Maximum MPPE (128 bit)

CHECK the box next to “use default gateway on remote network”

UNCHECK the box next to “allow other network devices to connect…”

CHECK the box next to “reconnect when the VPN connection is lost”

  1. Apply these changes.
  2. Choose the profile you just created and click “Connect”

INTERESTING READ: Looking for an Iranian web proxy? Better try these VPNs.

What’s the Difference Between OpenVPN and PPTP?

VPN services use a variety of protocols to encrypt and manage traffic that passes through their servers. You’ll see lots of abbreviations like L2TP/IPSec, SSL/TLS, SSTP, and so on. On the whole these “extra” features are designed for specific purposes, such as breaking through censorship firewalls or defeating ISP throttling. For the vast majority of users these won’t have any effect on daily VPN usage, even though it’s nice knowing they’re there, just in case!

OpenVPN has largely taken over as the dominant protocol in the virtual private network industry. In essence, OpenVPN pulls together a variety of protocols to create a single unified networking experience, complete with encryption and authentication, both of which are absolutely necessary for a secure online connection. Most other protocols rely on separate technologies to provide some of these features, which is what makes OpenVPN so attractive to VPN providers.

PPTP, or Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol, is another commonly used style of VPN that helps deliver privacy and anonymity online. It doesn’t use encryption or authentication on its own, relying instead on a stack of technologies to add these features before it carries out its direct connection. PPTP is largely considered an obsolete method of online privacy, however, as there are many known security issues. It’s still used in a variety of VPN applications when a fast, low overhead method of data protection is needed, however.

Read How to Install a VPN on Synology NAS: Beginner and Expert Fixes Included by Geoffrey Walters on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

Best VPN for Chromebooks in 2019: Bypass Censorship and Protect Privacy

Deciding on the best VPN for Chromebooks isn’t as much of a challenge as it first seems. In a flooded market where hundreds of providers make competing claims as the best service for your money, we’re here to help you separate the wheat from the chaff, and help you install the right VPN on your Chromebook.

Google first introduced the Chromebook back in 2011. The low-powered, low cost laptop runs a version of Chrome OS as its operating system, providing a computing environment that’s similar to the Chrome browser. Nearly everything you do on a Chromebook takes place in the cloud. Documents, storage, music, and videos, all are stored online so the laptop stays as lightweight and minimalist as possible.

The familiar interface mixed with a friendly price point made Chromebooks extremely popular, especially with students and travelers. The heavy reliance upon online services raised a few eyebrows in the privacy community, however. Sharing all of your data through an internet connection can lead to some serious information leaks. Since so much vital work on Chromebooks takes place online, it’s extremely important to use a virtual private network every time you boot up.

Advantages of Using a VPN with Chromebook

Virtual private networks are a tremendous first step in regaining your online privacy. A VPN is a tool that encrypts and anonymizes your connection. Think of it like a private tunnel to the internet. Normally your laptop sends unencrypted data through a local service provider. This raw information can be viewed or stored by hackers and even legally sold by your ISP. Everything you do while connected is tagged with an IP address that points to your location. Even a simple act like watching a YouTube video divulges part of your identity.

A VPN works to restore your privacy by encrypting everything that leaves your Chromebook. Instead of sending raw data through servers, you only send scrambled information. No one can view the contents of encrypted data, which means any request you make or documents you send remain private. On top of that VPNs decouple your local IP address with a new one that isn’t associated with your location. Encrypted data plus a new IP address equals an incredible amount of safety and privacy, all from a single service.

Some of the benefits of a VPN include:

  • Stop surveillance and tracking – In some countries ISPs have the legal right to track and share your data with third parties, all without your permission. Governments even engage in mass surveillance operations that compromise individual privacy. With a VPN in place, your data remains yours, no matter what.
  • Protect mobile devices while traveling – Devices like smartphones, laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks go everywhere we go. They also carry a ton of personal information and connect to public Wi-Fi networks on a regular basis. With open hotspots you never know who might be watching. Even the ISP delivering the Wi-Fi can’t be trusted. With a VPN on your mobile device, you can be sure your data stays safe, no matter where it goes or who is trying to take it.
  • Watch Netflix from other countries – Video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Go restrict which shows and movies are available in different countries. A VPN allows you to change your virtual location instantly. If you can’t watch a video because it’s not available in your country, simply switch to another server, reload, and start streaming.
  • Access blocked content – VPNs work wonders when it comes to accessing blocked or censored websites. If your workplace or school doesn’t allow Facebook or Wikipedia, for example, switch on a VPN and you’ll have access. If you live or travel to countries that have strict online regulations such as China or Turkey, you’ll find you won’t be able to use big portions of the web. Again, using a VPN can grant you instant access.

RELATED READING: Does ExpressVPN work in China? Yes. Read this.

Choosing the Best VPN for Chromebook

Selecting a good virtual private network can be a difficult process. There are countless companies on the market offering VPN services, each one promising fast speeds and the ultimate in privacy. It’s easy to get caught up comparing all of the features, especially when you get into detailed things like encryption strength and server distribution.

The best VPN for any Chromebook is lightweight, easy to use, and most importantly, private. Use the criteria below to help narrow down the list and choose the one that’s right for you.

  • Compatibility – Not all VPNs support Chromebook. The unusual operating system is based on Linux, but its design is fundamentally different, which means you can’t just download the Linux version and start surfing. Make sure your chosen VPN specifically states it supports Chrome OS, or at the very least, L2TP/IPsec protocols (see below). Our featured VPNs below offer custom software made just for Chromebooks.
  • Logging – Logging policies determine how effective a VPN’s privacy efforts are. The data you send through a VPN can theoretically be stored on an indefinite basis, making it possible for governments or third parties to demand access. If a VPN doesn’t keep logs, however, they won’t have any data to share. A good zero-logging policy is one of the top features a VPN should have, and they shouldn’t be shy about promoting it.
  • Speed – VPNs tend to be a bit slower than most local internet connectioiwns. Encryption adds 20-50% more data to each packet you send, which means the files you transfer end up being a lot bigger than normal. On top of that, data needs to travel to the VPN’s servers, which can be located around the world. The best VPNs take these speed issues into consideration and work to offset the loss.
  • Blocked file types – A somewhat hidden but extremely important factor in choosing a VPN is whether or not it monitors traffic. Some VPNs specifically block P2P downloads and torrent files, cutting off access to a large resource of files. Chromebooks may be limited in some ways, but the Chrome OS is capable of downloading and putting to use just about every type of file a standard operating system can. Make sure your VPN doesn’t restrict what you can download.

1. ExpressVPN

When you need the best in speed, ExpressVPN should be the first place you go. ExpressVPN operates a large network of over 3000 servers in 94 different countries, enough to ensure you always find a reliable connection. These are all backed by top tier speed test results, unlimited bandwidth, and no restrictions on P2P or torrent files. ExpressVPN doesn’t keep traffic logs, either, which is one of the biggest weak points for leaking user data.

ExpressVPN supports Chromebooks by way of a Chrome extension. The add-on is extremely easy to use and gives you access to all the basic features of a VPN, including switching to faster servers. It also comes with a kill switch and DNS leak protection for even stronger security. Once you sign up with ExpressVPN you can add the extension to your browser and protect your entire device with a simple, lightweight plug-in.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Pros

  • Unblocks American Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu
  • Super fast, reliable connection
  • AES-256 encryption
  • Strict no-logs policy for personal information
  • Customer Service (24/7 Chat).
Cons

  • Expensive month-to-month plan.
BEST OVERALL VPN: ExpressVPN is our top choice for Chromebooks. Get 3 months free and save 49% on the annual plan. 30-day money back guarantee included.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN delivers a great balance of extreme privacy and fast speed. The company offers double encryption on select servers, wrapping important data in 2048-bit SSL encryption, and backs it all up with one of the most thorough zero-logging policies in the business. Speed is never an issue with NordVPN since you have over 5,000 servers to choose from in 59 different countries, all with unlimited bandwidth and no traffic or file type restrictions.

NordVPN doesn’t directly offer a Chrome extension to access its VPN service. It does, however, let you set up a private network connection inside your Chromebook using L2TP (see below). This delivers the encryption through IPsec as well as a non-local IP address, ensuring you get almost all the benefits of a VPN while taking advantage of NordVPN’s unique privacy and speed features.

Read our full NordVPN review.

Pros

  • Servers optimized for unblocking Netflix
  • 5,400+ servers globally
  • Torrenting/P2P explicitly allowed
  • Extra-secure Double VPN for data encryption
  • 24/7 Live Chat.
Cons

  • Some servers can be slow and unreliable
  • Refund processing can take up to 30 days.
BEST BUDGET VPN: Get a huge 75% discount for signing up for the 3-year plan, taking the monthly price down to only $2.99. Also note that all plans come with a “no hassle” 30-day money-back guarantee.

3. PureVPN

There are a lot of advantages to using PureVPN. The service is a self-managed VPN network that deploys over 750 servers in 141 different countries. No third parties are involved with any of the company’s activities, which allows PureVPN to offer a reliable zero-logging policy, 256-bit encryption, ISP packet inspection workarounds, and a number of extra privacy features designed to keep you safe online.

PureVPN delivers Chromium protection through an extension, and it might be the most full-featured VPN add-on around. All the basic functionalities are there, including server switching and IP hiding. You also get access to an ad-blocker, tracker blocker, and protection from malware, which are three features VPNs normally don’t offer. If you’re looking for an all-in-one way to stay safe and secure on your Chromebook, PureVPN is one of the best out there.
Read our full PureVPN review.

HUGE DISCOUNT: Pick the 2-year plan which will take a solid 74% OFF the price taking it down to $2.88 per month if you do the math.

A Note about Free VPNs

There’s a big temptation to install a free VPN service on a Chromebook. The extension marketplace is filled with no-cost providers that promise everything from blazing fast speeds to unlimited data and access to worldwide video content. While you may receive some of those benefits with a free VPN, there are some potential trade-offs you might not be aware of.

Free VPNs are businesses, just like paid VPNs. They have to have a source of income to maintain their server network, pay workers, etc. Since the money isn’t coming from customers, free VPNs have to seek alternative sources of revenue. The most common method for doing this is logging and selling user data. You might think your information is in good hands with a free VPN, but in reality they’re profiting off of your personal details.

Good, paid VPN services are not expensive. They offer features free VPNs can’t match, and there’s the added bonus of not betraying your confidential browsing information. It’s a very low investment to undertake, but it’s absolutely worth it, especially if you regularly use a Chromebook.

INTERESTING READ: Minecraft unblocked at school online, here’s how.

Does a Chrome Extension Protect My Entire Chromebook?

Normally, installing a browser extension to access your VPN carries one big caveat: it doesn’t protect your entire connection. Anything outside of the browser will link directly to your local internet service provider, including things like Dropbox, torrent clients, and instant messengers. It’s always better to use a full piece of software to access your VPN. With  Chromebook, however, things are a little different.

Thanks to the Chrome operating system’s unique design, everything on a Chromebook technically goes through the browser. This means you can use a Chrome extension to protect your entire internet connection without having to worry about non-browser programs leaking through. If your VPN offers a Chrome extension, it’s essentially the same as installing a full app on your Chromebook.

VPNs on Chromebook with L2TP/IPsec

Although not every VPN provider offers a Chrome extension, many will allow you to set up a private connection through the settings page and connect through there. This is done using a tunneling protocol called L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol), which is usually paired with IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) encryption to keep the connection secure. Thankfully, you don’t need to know anything about the protocols to use them, and set-up is as easy as changing some options in the settings menu.

A few noteworthy VPN providers that don’t offer a Chrome extension but do allow you to connect through L2TP/IPsec are NordVPN, StrongVPN, and VyprVPN. All three deliver incredible speeds, spectacular privacy policies, and tons of features that will help you stay safe online.

How to set up a VPN on Chromebook with L2TP/IPsec:

  1. Click the username icon in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  2. Click “Settings”
  3. Scroll to “Internet connection”
  4. Click “Add connection” followed by “Add private network…”
  5. In the window that pops up, enter your VPN provider’s details. Check their support pages for things like server hostname, provider type, and pre-shared key.
  6. Click “Save identity and password”, then click “Connect”
  7. Go back to the Settings page and click “Private network”
  8. Choose the VPN connection you just created.
  9. In the window that pops up, make sure the “Automatically connect to this network” option is checked. This will ensure you always use the VPN when you go online.
  10. Close the window and exit the Settings page.

Tips on How to Secure Your Chromebook

Online privacy is more than just running a VPN and occasionally scanning your device for viruses. We give away private data every second we’re online. Watching videos, checking e-mail, shopping, or just randomly surfing the web, it all shares information with outside servers, and it can put our privacy at risk. A VPN is a great way to keep prying eyes out of your business, but there are other steps you can take to help lock down your Chromebook.

Install Essential Privacy Add-ons

Since Chromebooks exclusively use web browsing technology to access the internet, installing privacy add-ons can have some amazing benefits. This is especially useful if you’re on a public network and need a little extra privacy. The extensions below can be used with or without a VPN.

  • HTTPS Everywhere – An extension made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that forces several websites to use a secure (HTTPS) connection, including all of Google’s Chromebook related services.
  • Privacy Badger – Another add-on made by the EFF. This one blocks invasive ads, spying trackers, and helps discourage browser fingerprinting, all without breaking website layouts.
  • uBlock Origin – An efficient adblocking plug-in that keeps your browser free from pop-ups and other invasive content. Free and open source.

Switch to a Search Engine that Doesn’t Track You

Google is notorious for tracking everything we do online. Since Chromebooks use Google’s services, you’re never free from their grasp. You can take back a bit of your privacy by changing your default search engine to one that doesn’t track or log your information, DuckDuckGo.

  1. Open the Chrome menu and go to “Settings”
  2. Choose “Manage search engines…”
  3. In the “Other search engines” area, fill out the following:
  • Add a new search engine: DuckDuckGo
  • Keyword: duckduckgo.com
  1. Click “Done” and return to the “Manage search engines…” page.
  2. Mouse over the DuckDuckGo entry.
  3. Select “Make default”, then click “Done”.
  4. Searches you make in the omnibox will now default to DuckDuckGo.

Disable Form Fills and Chrome Sync

It may be convenient to have Chrome automatically fill in forms with your name and address, but if your Chromebook is stolen or otherwise compromised, the thieves would have instant access to all of your details. Help keep yourself safe by disabling auto form filling, and while you’re at it, turn off Chrome sync to make sure that information doesn’t leave your device.

  1. Click the username icon in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  2. Click “Settings”
  3. At the top of the settings page, uncheck the following options:
  • Enable Autofill to fill out web forms in a single click
  • Offer to save your web passwords
  1. Click the “Advanced Settings” button.
  2. From the dropdown menu, select “Choose what to sync”
  3. Uncheck all of the boxes, then click OK.

How to Encrypt Synced Data on Chromebook

Every login, every password, every bookmark you create on a Chromebook is synchronized with Google’s servers. This is an incredible amount of information concentrated in one place, and it can lead to a massive breach of your privacy. To help make sure that data can never be compromised, either disable the sync feature as shown above, or enable the encryption option in your Chromebook’s settings.

  1. Click the username icon in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  2. Click “Settings”
  3. Click the “Advanced Settings” button.
  4. Click the radio button next to “Encrypt all synced data with your own sync passphrase”
  5. Set a strong password for Chrome Sync.
  6. Click OK to save your changes.

Adjust Chromebook Privacy Settings

Chromebooks share a lot of information by default. Google does this to make the experience a little smoother, but the amount of data it causes you to store online can be dangerous. Follow the steps below to switch some of Chromebook’s privacy settings to a more security-oriented state of being.

  1. Click the username icon in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  2. Click “Settings”
  3. Scroll down to the privacy section.
  4. Check the following options:
  • Protect you and your device from dangerous sites
  • Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic
  1. Uncheck all of the following options:
  • Use a web service to help resolve navigation errors
  • Use a prediction service to help complete searches…”
  • Pre-fetch resources to load pages more quickly
  • Automatically report details of possible security incidents
  • Use a web service to help resolve spelling errors
  • Automatically send usage statistics and crash reports to Google
  • Enable ‘Ok Google’ to start a voice search
  1. Scroll to the “Content settings…” button and click it.
  2. Under “Cookies” check both “Keep local data only until you quit your browser” and “Block third-party cookies and site data”
  3. Under “Location” check “Do not allow any site to track physical location”
  4. Under “Protected content” uncheck “Allow identifiers for protected content”
  5. Click the Done button and close the settings window.

Read Best VPN for Chromebooks in 2019: Bypass Censorship and Protect Privacy by Geoffrey Walters on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

The History of NSA and FBI Snooping and Cyber-surveillance

You’ve probably heard about mass governmental cyber surveillance programs (unless you’ve been living under a rock without Wi-Fi), but how much do you actually know about them? Today, we’ll share all the important details, plus recommend the best VPNs against government snooping you can use to keep the NSA and FBI out of your business.

Most major powers in the world today have domestic intelligence services, some of which are more famous than others. In the United States, there’s the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), two agencies that have made headlines in recent years for engaging in online snooping and mass surveillance. Leaked documents recently showed the extent of those data-collecting efforts, which has caused many internet users to rethink just how safe their information is when they go online.

What Do the NSA and the FBI Do?

The FBI was founded in 1908 with the goal of protecting the rights and liberties of United States citizens while enforcing criminal law throughout the country. Their somewhat vague mission statement gives the FBI a large amount of latitude to carry out their tasks, which include everything from stopping organized crime to preventing terrorism. The original benefit to having an FBI is access to government intelligence and resources along with the ability to cross state lines without jurisdiction issues (something local police forces can’t do).

The NSA was founded in 1952 and is responsible for global monitoring, information collecting, and protecting U.S. communications networks. This is carried out through surveillance efforts that include everything from physically bugging electronic systems to wiretapping and monitoring internet activity. The NSA’s job description is even less precise than the FBI’s, allowing it to bend an enormous number of rules in the name of protecting U.S. citizens and the integrity of the U.S. government.

As cliché as it may sound, most of what the FBI and NSA can do is classified. The agencies operate under extreme secrecy, which has led to countless conspiracy theories over the years. FBI agents are spotted wearing dark glasses loitering in public parks, for example, and the NSA has electronic bugs placed in every commercially produced smoke detector. While there may have been truth to some of these rumors, nothing compares to the paranoia brought about by the internet.

When ordinary people started using computers, going online, and carrying cell phones in their pockets, the NSA and the FBI took notice. Trillions of pieces of personal data were uploaded on a regular basis, all by willing participants using websites and social media. Tools were developed to capture and collect this information, which kicked off the age of data snooping and mass surveillance.

RELATED READING: How to pretend you’re in another country, with a VPN

Cyber-surveillance Verified: The Snowden Leaks

In 2013, former NSA and CIA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents pertaining to mass surveillance efforts carried out by worldwide government agencies. The initial revelations showed extensive, invasive measures taken by the NSA to spy on U.S. citizens, foreign travelers, and visiting government officials. Other intelligence groups were also implicated in these attacks, providing evidence of a network of cooperation between governments.

The Snowden leaks revealed a pattern of increasing surveillance from both the NSA and the FBI. The days of recording phone calls and copying security camera footage were over. Now these agencies can easily gather any personal information about anyone, usually without a warrant and without any kind of oversight.

Below is a short list of some of the information contained in Snowden’s early leaks. For a more in-depth look, take a look at the following list of Snowden revelations.

  • A loophole exists that allows government agencies to search U.S. citizens’ e-mail and phone call records without a warrant
  • Britain’s intelligence agency, GCHQ, intercepted phone and internet communications of foreign politicians visiting London
  • GCHQ taps fiber-optic cables to collect global e-mail message, Facebook posts, internet histories and more. This information is then shared with the NSA
  • The NSA accessed data through back doors built into U.S.-based internet companies such as Google and Facebook
  • The NSA pays hundreds of millions of dollars per year to several U.S. companies in exchange for access to their networks
  • The NSA spies on millions of phone calls, e-mails, and text messages of ordinary German and Brazilian citizens
  • The U.S. government placed electronic bugs in European Union offices throughout New York, Washington, and Brussels
  • The U.S. government spies on at least 38 foreign embassies using a variety of surveillance methods

As frightening as the above data sounds, it gets worse. The NSA and the FBI have ready access to e-mails, phone records, text messages, and much more. They aren’t bound by international borders, and they even share information with other government intelligence agencies. Documents obtained from an internal audit revealed the NSA broke its own privacy rules thousands of times per year, illustrating just how much power these agencies can wield, and how little privacy we have online.

FBI and NSA Mass Surveillance Programs

Snowden’s documents indicated the snooping and cyber-surveillance efforts by the NSA, FBI, and other government agencies are ongoing and invasive. If you have a cell phone, swipe a credit card, or use the internet, chances are your data has already been gathered and stored by at least one of these agencies.

Below are a few of the more noteworthy surveillance programs carried out by the NSA and FBI.

  • PRISM – A system used by the NSA to gain unlimited access to private communications of users on nine popular internet services. Companies that actively cooperate with PRISM include Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook
  • Carnivore (DCS1000) – Software used by the FBI to monitor e-mail and electronic communications. Carnivore has been replaced with more efficient software capable of snooping on a massive scale
  • EvilOlive – A program designed to collect and store large amounts of internet metadata generated by American citizens, including e-mail sender/recipient addresses and time stamps. EvilOlive gathered at least one trillion records by the end of 2012, with half of that number being processed in that year alone
  • ECHELON – ECHELON was originally a military surveillance program designed in the 1960s to monitor communications of Soviet Union officials. By the end of the century, it evolved beyond military applications and was used to intercept both private and commercial communications of U.S. citizens and citizens of the Five Eyes countries. The existence of ECHELON was confirmed by Snowden revelations in 2015
  • DISHFIRE – A collection system run by the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ that gathers hundreds of millions of text messages from citizens of both countries on a daily basis

The Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance

The Five Eyes is a comprehensive espionage alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Its origins can be traced to the post World War II period when the ECHELON surveillance system was developed. The listed countries had similar common laws blocking domestic surveillance on their respective soils. To gain better data on movements within their borders, they formed agreements that allowed intelligence sharing between agencies, neatly bypassing domestic laws to ensure everyone was under surveillance.

Snowden himself described Five Eyes as an organization that doesn’t answer to the known laws of its own countries, which put privacy advocates on edge. Furthermore, the Five Eyes countries have expanded to include limited participation by as many as fourteen nations, adding Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Norway, and Sweden to the list.

The Future of NSA and FBI Snooping

It’s estimated Snowden copied anywhere between 200,000 and 1.7 million documents. Only a small percentage of those have been released to the public. We may have just a fraction of the full picture, but what we know is terrifying nonetheless. As technology progresses the NSA and FBI are likely to find more efficient ways to monitor and gather information, making it more difficult to protect your privacy as the years go by.

RELATED READING: Is ExpressVPN blockd in China? Read this to see why this VPN is still working in China

Protect Against Mass Surveillance and Online Snooping with a VPN

The level of access the NSA and FBI have to everyone’s personal information is staggering. But with every new technology they deploy another one pops up to protect users against snooping and cyber-surveillance. Virtual private networks are currently gaining incredible traction as people deploy them to help protect their identity and activity on the internet. They’re fast, easy to use, and surprisingly effective at keeping you safe online.

VPNs work by encrypting data before it leaves your device, making it nearly impossible to determine the contents or origin of each packet. You also gain a measure of anonymity by replacing your local IP address with one from the VPN’s servers. You’ll be able to stay safe while using public Wi-Fi, protect against hacking attempts, access censored websites, and unblock region restricted content like videos and TV shows. All you have to do is choose a VPN, sign up, and enjoy a private internet experience.

How to Evaluate the Best VPN for Privacy

Diving into the world of VPNs and online privacy can be overwhelming at first. There are encryption protocols to research, logging policies to compare, security audits to sift through, and much more. We’ve made the process easier by providing a list of recommended VPNs below. Each was chosen based on the following criteria, ensuring you’ll always have the best VPN experience possible.

  • Reputation – Using a VPN means sending all of your data through their servers. If you choose a less-than-reputable company, there’s no guarantee your information isn’t being shared with the NSA. Our VPN providers are all well-established and trusted by the online privacy community to keep your data safe no matter what
  • Logging policy – VPNs can log and store your information just like a local internet service provider. Logs make it possible for government agencies to request or demand copies, which puts your privacy at risk. The best way to keep information safe is to make sure it doesn’t exist, which is why zero-logging policies are a vital component to your online privacy
  • Jurisdiction – Where a VPN company is registered can make a huge difference. If the service is located in a Five Eyes country, they’re bound by those governments’ laws, meaning you can’t trust them to put your privacy first. It’s best to choose a VPN that isn’t based in a Five or Fourteen Eyes location
  • Security and encryption protocols – VPN providers generally use the OpenVPN protocol for traffic and encryption. There are other options that can exchange speed for added privacy, however, including SSH and SSL tunneling. Both are excellent alternatives when you need added security or anonymity
  • Payment methods – Paying for a VPN leaves a paper trail, especially if you use a credit card tied to your identity. By using a cryptocurrency such as bitcoin, you can get VPN service that isn’t directly associated with your name

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a well-established VPN provider with a great reputation for speed and security. You’ll never have a problem finding a fast server on the company’s network of 3,000 nodes in 94 different countries. Built-in speed test software lets you look at every connection’s download rate and latency scores, then switch to a better server in an instant. And because ExpressVPN offers unlimited bandwidth and no restrictions on P2P or torrent traffic, you’ll want every scrap of extra speed you can get!

Staying safe online isn’t a problem with ExpressVPN. Everything that leaves your computer is locked down by 256-bit AES encryption and backed by a zero-logging policy on traffic, DNS requests, and IP addresses. Custom software ensures your identity never escapes with both DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch. ExpressVPN gives you the tools you need to defeat mass surveillance, all while enjoying a fast and unrestricted internet.

ExpressVPN features at a glance:

  • Anonymity features that keep your internet private, even in countries like China and Turkey
  • Accepts bitcoin payments through BitPay for easy and anonymous subscriptions
  • No restrictions on bandwidth, P2P network downloads or torrent traffic
  • Reliable access to Netflix streams through the website and apps

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Pros

  • Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime
  • 3,000+ super fast servers
  • Torrenting allowed
  • No logs for personal data
  • Live chat support available.
Cons

  • High cost for month-to-month users.
BEST FOR U.S.: ExpressVPN is our top choice to get a US IP address. Get 3 months free and save 49% on the annual plan. 30-day money back guarantee included.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN’s standout feature is its amazing network of servers, over 5000+ in 61 different countries. The list is constantly growing, too, providing users more connection options as well as better download speeds. A unique benefit of this incredible network is how NordVPN uses it to deliver customized speed and privacy features. Need faster P2P downloads? There are servers tasked to do just that. There’s also double encryption and onion routing servers that offer an amazing amount of security. All you have to do is log in, choose a node, and you’re set!

NordVPN extends its privacy features further with an incredible zero-logging policy that covers everything from bandwidth logs to traffic, time stamps, and even IP addresses. It’s one of the most comprehensive in the industry, and it ensures none of your information stays on NordVPN’s servers. Traffic is also locked down with 256-bit AES encryption with kill switch and DNS leak protection features on most versions of NordVPN’s custom software.

More of NordVPN’s top features:

  • Servers that offer specialized features such as faster P2P downloads, double encryption, onion routing, and DDoS protection
  • A private connection to the internet, even in countries like China, Russia, and Turkey
  • Unlimited bandwidth and no restrictions on P2P traffic or torrent downloads
  • Reliable access to Netflix streams, even when other VPNs are blocked
  • Subscribe with bitcoin for extra anonymity

Read our full NordVPN review.

Pros

  • SPECIAL OFFER: 3-year plan (75% off – link below)
  • Different IP addresses aervers
  • Tor over VPN, double VPN
  • “Double” data protection
  • Great customer service via chat.
Cons

  • Not much
  • Sometimes slow in procesing refunds (but always do).
BEST BUDGET VPN: Get a huge 75% discount for signing up for the 3-year plan, taking the monthly price down to only $2.99. Also note that all plans come with a “no hassle” 30-day money-back guarantee.

3. IPVanish

IPVanish wants the internet to be free, open, and safe for everyone. To help deliver on this promise, IPVanish has some of the sturdiest and most reliable privacy features around. It starts with 256-bit AES encryption, which wraps data in complex cryptography to make it impossible to read. Once your data passes through their servers barely a trace is left behind, all thanks to a strict zero-logging policy on all traffic. Custom software for desktops and smartphones also provide DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch to make sure your identity stays hidden even if you lose your connection.

IPVanish has an incredible network of over 1300 servers in 60 different countries with a combined 40,000 IP addresses shared among its users. This ensures you’ll always be able to find a fast, open server in the location you need. Downloads are fast and unlimited with no restrictions on speed, and if you want to grab a torrent file or use a P2P network, IPVanish won’t object!

IPVanish features at a glance:

  • Incredible connection speeds that are perfect for HD, 4K, and ultra HD movie streams
  • Lightweight software for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android devices
  • Download movies and TV shows through BitTorrent with full anonymity
  • Pay with bitcoins for increased anonymity

Read our full IPVanish review.

EXCLUSIVE DEAL: AddictiveTips readers can save a massive 60% here on the IPVanish annual plan, taking the monthly price down to only $4.87/mo.

Read The History of NSA and FBI Snooping and Cyber-surveillance by Geoffrey Walters on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to Hide OpenVPN Traffic with an SSH Tunnel

Secure Shell Tunnels are an effective way to hide OpenVPN traffic, but it’s useless if you’re not sure how it works! Today’s beginner-friendly guide will walk you through everything you need to know in order to configure a highly private and secure VPN connection in just a few minutes.

SSH tunnels, or secure shell tunnels, are designed to send encrypted data across an unsecured network. They’re most often used to safely transfer files or to log into services like remote servers. They can also be repurposed to carry a wider variety of network traffic, which allows it to be used as a basic VPN-style service to keep certain activities hidden online.

One of the more useful applications of SSH tunnels is to pair it with OpenVPN for an incredibly dynamic and configurable virtual private network. This set-up will help bypass filters that block VPNs, allowing you to freely browse the internet in countries that restrict access as well as use sites like Netflix without having to disable your VPN.

Do You Need to Hide VPN Traffic with an SSH Tunnel?

VPN traffic is an encrypted version of normal internet traffic. The contents are unreadable without decryption, but there are telltale signs that the traffic is coming from a VPN. Websites and external firewalls can detect these signs and block requests that originate from a virtual private network, locking you out of the internet unless you disable the VPN. The workaround is to use an SSH tunnel to wrap another layer of encryption around your VPN traffic, disguising its origin so you can access the internet more freely.

The main reason you’d want to use an SSH tunnel alongside your OpenVPN traffic is your VPN is being aggressively blocked. This could be due to an external network firewall, port blocking, or local ISP throttling. Secure corporate environments and countries that heavily monitor their internet often use similar methods to prevent people from using VPNs. If you live in or are visiting an area known to block VPNs, it’s a good idea to check into SSH tunneling to see if it can keep your connection alive.

SSH Tunnels vs VPNs

If you’ve messed around with your router settings or needed to open ports for online gaming, you’ve probably seen the UDP and TCP labels before. Both of these are protocols used to transfer data across the internet in different ways. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, which is why certain programs prefer using one over the other.

RELATED READING: How to play Fortnite on school WiFi

TCP is a bit like firing an arrow from a bow. You’re in no hurry to aim, and as a result, you hit the target most of the time, it just takes a while. UDP is like loading all of your arrows into a catapult and flinging them towards the target. Some, maybe even most of those arrows will get to where they’re supposed to go, but a great many will miss. Everything arrived quickly, however, which is the chief advantage of UDP. Most traffic we’re familiar with, including browser and FTP transfers, takes place using TCP. Online games and BitTorrents most frequently deploy UDP, since accuracy isn’t as important to them as speed.

One of the biggest differences between a full-on VPN and SSH tunneling is the latter only covers TCP traffic. VPNs encrypt every piece of data that leaves your computer, from IM services to cloud storage, browser data, torrents, P2P transfers, and online gaming. If you just set up an SSH tunnel you only cover your browser and FTP traffic through TCP, leaving things like torrents completely unprotected.

Recommended VPNs with Tunneling Support

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN remains one of the fastest VPNs available. The service delivers top connection speeds to most of its network, encompassing 3000 servers in 94 different countries. Several versions of its custom apps also feature a built-in speed test to make it easy for you to connect, evaluate, and reconnect to find the best servers available. To top it all off, ExpressVPN delivers smart privacy features such as no traffic logging, DNS leak protection, and an automatic kill switch.

ExpressVPN doesn’t directly support SSH tunnels. However, it does allow for SSL tunnels on its main apps, which provides a similar sort of VPN traffic obfuscation that will help you defeat blocks and website censorship.

ExpressVPN’s best features include:

  • Unlimited bandwidth and no restrictions on P2P or torrent traffic.
  • Zero traffic logs, 256-bit SSL encryption, and ultra fast servers.
  • Speed test option built into multiple versions of its software.
  • Custom software for a wide variety of operating systems.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Pros

  • SPECIAL OFFER: 3 months free (49% off – link below)
  • Super fast servers
  • Very simple and easy to use
  • Strict no-logging policy
  • Great support (24/7 chat).
Cons

  • Limited configuration options
  • Priced slightly higher.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is a fantastic all-around VPN provider. The service stays on top thanks to an incredible double encryption feature that wraps important data in 2048-bit SSL encryption, locking it so tightly that not even a supercomputer can break it. NordVPN also has one of the most thorough anti-logging policies on the market, covering everything from traffic to bandwidth, IP addresses, and even time stamps. Nothing you do is stored on NordVPN’s servers, making it one of the most privacy friendly VPNs around.

NordVPN doesn’t offer SSH tunnel support, but it does offer obfsproxy and SSL tunnels through its main apps. These methods offer VPN traffic obfuscation that’s very similar to SSH tunneling, which should help you defeat website blocks and throttling efforts just as easily.

Some of NordVPN’s other great features:

  • Fast connection speeds, unlimited bandwidth, and no restrictions on P2P or torrent traffic.
  • A massive and ever-growing network with over 5000+ servers in 59 different countries.
  • Custom app support for all major operating systems, smartphones, and tablets.
  • Jurisdiction in the privacy-friendly country of Panama.

Read our full NordVPN review.

Pros

  • Highly affordable plans
  • Mind-boggling number of servers
  • Torrenting/P2P explicitly allowed
  • Based in Panama
  • Money back guarantee policy (30-days).
Cons

  • They can take 30 days to process refunds.
BEST BUDGET VPN: Get a huge 75% discount for signing up for the 3-year plan, taking the monthly price down to only $2.99. Also note that all plans come with a “no hassle” 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pros and Cons of SSH Tunnels

Setting up an SSH tunnel for your OpenVPN traffic doesn’t come without its drawbacks. You’ll gain some security and you’ll boost your privacy, but you’ll sacrifice convenience and usability in the process. Weigh the pros and cons of the procedure before you get started, otherwise you might not be happy with the results.

Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using SSH tunnels.

  • They help bypass countrywide censorship – If you live in a country like China or Turkey that systematically blocks access to portions of the internet, an SSH tunnel could help you break free. There is some evidence China is slowing down SSH traffic, but for now it’s a valid method for wrapping your VPN traffic in a cloak and letting it slip through the toughest of firewalls.
  • They let you access websites that block VPNs – Several websites have begun blocking access to VPNs, including big ones like Netflix. Depending on the methods used to enact these blocks, you can often bypass the walls by using an SSH tunnel.
  • They defeat ISP throttlingIs your ISP slowing down your VPN traffic? Deploying an SSH tunnel can defeat throttles instantly.
  • Easy on, easy off – SSH tunnels are extremely easy to turn on and off. You don’t have to set them up for the long haul. Instead, just switch it on when you need it, and off when you don’t.
  • Extra encryption slows down your connection – A VPN encrypts your traffic once. An SSH tunnel encrypts it yet again. This double layer of encryption can dramatically increase the data you send across the internet, which results in a much slower connection, even for simple tasks.
  • SSH itself can be blocked – While SSH tunnels can mask VPNs so the traffic can pass through, it’s possible (though less common) that SSH traffic itself can be blocked.
  • SSH tunnels only work with a few VPNs – Unless you set up and manage your own VPN, you won’t have a lot of luck using SSH tunnels with your existing service. A few do support SSL tunnels and similar alternatives, however. See below for more information.
  • Setting up an SSH tunnel can be technical – Are you familiar with PuTTY? How about terminal commands? If neither of those words ring a bell, you’ll have a few technical hurdles to overcome before you can get your SSH tunnel up and running. Our guide below removes some of those barriers with straightforward, step by step instructions.

Setting Up Your Own VPN

Most commercial VPN providers don’t support SSH tunneling. A few such as AirVPN allow you to select tunnels from their custom apps, and a few others allow alternate forms of obfuscation, such as SSL tunnels or obfsproxy. The best way to ensure complete compatibility is to run your own VPN. It can take some time and technical knowledge to get it right, but the monthly costs are about the same, and you can arguably get better security by doing things yourself.

How to set up your own VPN:

  1. Sign up for an account with Digital Ocean.
  2. In the Digital Ocean dashboard, click “Create” to make a droplet.
  3. Choose a hostname for your droplet. Anything will do, such as yournameVPN
  4. Choose a droplet size. The smallest package will serve your needs just fine.
  5. Choose a server location, then select CentOS 7 as your distribution.
  6. Create the droplet.
  7. Follow Digital Ocean’s instructions to configure the OpenVPN server. Take your time, this is the longest and most complicated part of the procedure.

Creating an SSH Tunnel on Windows

SSH tunnels work by taking local data from your computer, wrapping it in a special layer of encryption, then sending it over the internet. In order to activate the tunnel you’ll need to create some settings on your local device so your operating system knows what to do.

How to create an SSH tunnel on Windows:

  1. Download PuTTY and run the program.
  2. In the “Host Name” box, enter the address of your VPN.
  3. In the menu tree to the left, unfold “SSH” and click on “Tunnels”
  4. Enter 8080 as the port. Make sure both “Auto” and “Dynamic” are selected, then click “Add”
  5. Click “Session” on the left menu to back to the main screen.
  6. Type a name in the top box beneath “Saved Sessions”, then click “Save”
  7. Click “Open” to connect to the server.
  8. A PuTTY security alert window will open. Click “Yes”
  9. Enter your server username and password and press ENTER.

Each time you start your computer you’ll need to run PuTTY and initiate the SSH tunnel. You won’t have to enter the information again, just select the saved session and you’re good to go.

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Creating an SSH Tunnel on Mac and Linux

If you’re using a Mac or Linux PC your life just got a lot easier. Both operating systems have SSH commands build into their terminals, meaning you won’t have to install PuTTY to start your tunnel. In fact, you can type a single command to get things going.

Open a terminal in your Mac or Linux environment and run the following command, replacing the last part with your own details:

ssh -ND 8080 user@your.server.com

You’ll need to run this each time you start your computer, or set up a script to do it automatically.

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Setting Your Browser to Use the SSH Tunnel

With the SSH tunnel in place it’s time to teach your local programs how to send data through the new double secure connection. Most of your web traffic is handled by a browser, so changing proxy settings here can effectively encrypt most of your online activity.

Using Firefox as a proxy:

  1. Follow the instructions above to create and run your SSH tunnel.
  2. In Firefox, go to the Settings menu and select “Manual proxy configuration”
  3. Next to “SOCKS Host” enter “localhost” without the quotes followed by 8080 as the port.
  4. Select SOCKS v5 below.
  5. Save the settings.

Using Chrome as a proxy:

  1. Follow the instructions above to create and run your SSH tunnel.
  2. In Chrome, go to Preferences, then select “Under the Hood”
  3. Beside Network click “Change Proxy Settings”
  4. Select “Manual Proxy Configuration”
  5. Next to “SOCKS Host” enter “localhost” without the quotes followed by 8080 as the port.
  6. Save the settings.

You don’t have to limit your SSH tunnel usage to web browsers. Many other internet-enabled programs have an advanced settings page you can use to enter the same details as above. Just look for a settings tab marked “proxy server”, enter your details, and you’re done.

Read How to Hide OpenVPN Traffic with an SSH Tunnel by Geoffrey Walters on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter