Surf the Internet anonymously with VPNSecure

VPNSecure is long standing VPN provider based in Australia, currently in the process of moving their head quarters to Hong Kong to avoid being forced to spy on its users by the new Australian Data Retention law. Knowing that management has scrutinized legal advice about the latest legal developments in Australia and that the company is willing to do what it takes, even moving abroad, to honour their no logging policy, tells you how genuinely they care about customer privacy.

I have been on and off this VPN provider a couple of times, I switched to a different company in the past because I found cheaper VPN services of comparable high privacy standard, with far less servers than VPNSecure but I didn’t need exotic locations like Japan, Egypt, New Zealand, Brazil or South Africa included in VPNSecure. I have been back for another test drive and this review is based on the last week of usage.

One thing I rapidly noticed, and something that could make sign up with them again, is the price reduction in yearly packages.

Anonymous Internet surfing
Anonymous Internet surfing

There are multiple things that I like of VPNSecure, the top one is the secure IP binding, an option in the software settings that lets you add any application, like an Internet browser or torrent client, to stop it from accessing the Internet when it is not connected to the VPN.

When using other VPN providers, it happened often that my Wi-fi goes down, causing the tunnel to break and automatically reconnect exposing my real IP. I have had two fake Facebook accounts closed because of this, there is an automatic check in Facebook detecting when you change country, a one time geolocation IP change is enough for Facebook to ask you to verify your account with a mobile phone number.

Other nifty VPNSecure features found in settings are being able to fix DNS leaks ticking a simple checkbox, being able to start the VPN on startup and disabling the Internet when you disconnect from the VPN, a little different from the Secure Bind, the former stops all activity, secure binding only stops the program attached to it. You will also see that the VPN servers have a TCP option, this is for people living in China or Middle East countries where the ISP firewall blocks access to websites.

VPNSecure caters to all kind of needs, it offers OpenVPN the most secure protocol, PPTP, for mobile devices without a VPN client, HTTP proxy, not encrypted but enough to hide your IP, and SmartDNS to watch georestricted TV or game from abroad without you doing anything other than changing the DNS servers in the router.

The company has servers in more than 40 countries covering all continents, I am on a 10Mbps home connection and the speed was nearly always close to what I pulled without the VPN, I also tested the USA servers in Hulu and to watch online series that I am not supposed to access from my country and not once I had a problem.

I liked that VPNSecure has a dedicated VPN server labelled “TV”, when you want to watch online TV you don’t have to keep trying what server works and which one has been blocked by Hulu, a one click on the VPN set up specially for that purpose does the job.

VPNSecure Chrome Extension HTTP proxy
VPNSecure Chrome Extension HTTP proxy

There is an option where you can use a US VPN server for free for 30 days, with 2GB bandwidth cap, it is meant to be a trial without having to enter any payment details, when you are satisfied all works fine in your computer and you decide you like VPNSecure software interface, you can buy an account with unlimited bandwidth and all locations, payments can be made with Paypal, credit card or Bitcoin for more privacy.

A single VPN account can be used on multiple devices even at the same time, the only condition is that they all are under the same Internet connection, this means that all your family can be protected at home paying for a single account.

For those on a budget, there is a Chrome extension to manage VPNSecure proxies, the cheapest of their anonymous Internet surfing plans. For people in need of encryption as well as hiding their computer IP, OpenVPN is the one to go for, and gamers will want to go for the SmartDNS package.

If I had to mention any kind of fault with VPNSecure, it is that the connected and disconnected notice on the software is not very visible, in other VPN programs you get a clear red/green colour that quickly indicates to the user if the VPN is still on or off.

There are a few other quality VPN providers out there with similar specs but I see two reasons that make VPNSecure stand out of the crowd.

First of all the company is very clear that they only keep logs for a few hours and the second good reason to sign up with them is the secure binding in the software stopping your computer IP from being exposed when your Internet connection goes down. Add to this OpenVPN encryption and server locations outside of the five eyes country jurisdiction (UK,NZ,AUS,US,CA) and you end with a very powerful online privacy tool.

Visit VPNSecure homepage

Review no logs VPN OkayFreedom

This review is based on the one year unlimited bandwidth OkayFreedom VPN premium service that I won online during a give away, I have been using them for two months now. I initially liked that this VPN parent company is a well known security German company called Steganos. I have tested other of their security products and most of them are excellent, I also appreciated that as a German company, in my view, Steganos is less open to government blackmail than USA, UK or Chinese companies are.

This VPN is being marketed as a tool to help you get around online content regional restrictions, bypass firewalls censoring the Internet, to anonymise your computer IP, and encrypt your Internet browsing, stopping hackers and government agencies intercepting it. OkayFreedom has servers covering all continents, you can get an IP from the USA, UK, Germany, Egypt, Singapore, Japan, Turkey and others. The VPN software is only available for Windows, no smarphone app, no Mac computer and no Linux support.

I sporadically watch Canadian TV online (GlobalTV, CTV), not having any Canadian server was a downer, I can live with it since I get most of my content out of USA TV websites, my only contention is that OkayFreedom competitors with a similar price also cover Canada.

It is very exotic getting an Egyptian or Japanese computer IP and learn how people from those countries see the web, but in reality, I can’t use any of those locations, the lagging slows down my web browsing and I always end up sticking to European or North American servers, I would imagine that it is the same for other users, so, best not to get too impressed just because far away locations are available, unless you live nearby they will not be of much use.

OkayFreedom VPN location
OkayFreedom VPN location

During installation OkayFreedom will install a browser extension for Chrome or Firefox, this is in addition to the VPN and it doesn’t have to be necessarily activated, but if you turn it on you will be able to automatically trigger the VPN in the browser when you visit websites delivering georestricted content, it worked everytime I listened to Pandora radio.

OkayFreedom VPN free edition has a shopping toolbar that pops up with discount offers when visiting e-commerce sites, in the premium OkayFreedom VPN you will not find this adware.

Be mindful that OkayFreedom does not have a full VPN interface, to switch country you have to right click on the Windows taskbar, and you can’t choose the server you want, the VPN software finds out the least loaded server and automatically assigns you the one with the best performance, you can’t choose a different city, or select an East or West coast USA IP. The upside of this is that you know this is the leading speed for that location, the downside, is that if you are not happy with one IP, you can’t manually get a new city.

I tried numerous times for more than a month to watch content in Hulu with OkayFreedom VPN and I was always blocked, Hulu detected that I was using a proxy, I had no problem using OkayFreedom to listen and watch Pandora radio, Slacker, CWTV and, Hulu was the only site that did not work with this VPN. It is only one site, but it is the most requested, if other VPN services can make it work, why not OkayFreedom?

I should give top marks to this VPN for their free no registration trial to future customers and for their 30 day money back guarantee to present customers but they get bottom marks for not allowing Bitcoin payments as an option.

OkayFreedom VPN using Pandora radio
OkayFreedom VPN using Pandora radio

For people after an advanced VPN, OkayFreedom is not for you, there are very few settings you can change, it is Windows only and selecting a city is automatic.

For people with high privacy standards, OkayFreedom is the one you should go for.

The company does not mention this on their front page but their privacy policy states that they do not keep any logs and it is impossible for OkayFreedom to link somebody with the assigned IP, furthermore, you don’t need a username or password for this VPN, a pseudo ID is derived out of your computer MAC address, a unique hardware number linked to a computer network card that can not be associated with any real name or address even if it were to posted on the Internet. As for payments, OkayFreedom never gets access to those details, a third party processes them, this is written in capital letters in their privacy policy.

This is a mixed outcome VPN review, whether you should choose this VPN or not, it will depend on what you want it for, the person who needs thousands of computer IPs and be able to manually rotate them, should choose a different provider. If  your main concern is online privacy and you don’t care about Hulu or about a full fledged VPN interface, OkayFreedom will be ideal for you.

Visit OkayFreedom homepage

Review Invisible Browsing VPN – ibVPN

I have been with Invisible Browsing VPN, ibVPN, for three months now, I subscribed to their Total VPN package, slightly more expensive than the low end US IP only VPN package but it included many more locations from all over the world and ibDNS to configure your router and be able to watch georestricted online TV or play games without having to start the VPN, ibDNS detects when you visit Hulu or Pandora radio and allows you to stream the music without having to change your device settings, something you can’t do in the Xbox or my Logitech Squeezebox radio streaming device.

ibVPN is owned by Amplusnet, a Romanian based business that has been providing VPN services for more than ten years, they have server locations in all continents and over 30 countries, during my time with them they added Belgium as new location, there are thousands of available IPs and many US servers, Regrettably nearly all of ibVPN US servers were blocked by Hulu, save yourself time by looking for the word “Hulu” written next to the US server location, e.g. Miami (Hulu), this indicates that the server will not be blacklisted and ibVPN lets you know this way, I was only able to see a single server with this label but I had no speed issues.

Invisible browsing VPN ibVPN control panel
Invisible browsing VPN ibVPN control panel

Another solution around the Hulu block is setting up ibDNS, this can be done using ibVPN Windows client choosing “Country streaming preferences” (US, UK, Canada, Panama, Netherlands, Finland) and clicking on “Start ibDNS“, extremely easy, you will not have to manually change any Windows setting for this to work.

You can use ibVPN in Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices, with L2TP, PPTP, SSTP or OpenVPN protocols, the first two are meant to be used in mobile phones, with OpenVPN and SSTP targeted at desktop computers, if your concern is privacy, use OpenVPN whenever possible, encryption is harder to crack, and if you are behind a restrictive firewall, for example in China or at work, change the UDP protocol to TCP.

For most people the default settings will be good enough, in case of problems, ibVPN 24/7 support via ticket or live chat will guide you through the process of making the VPN work. You should not have to spend time playing with settings, the ibVPN Windows client is very light and easy to use, within a couple of clicks and a drop down menu you can change VPN server as many times as you like.

What I liked the most of their client is the “kill switch“, found by going to “Settings“>”Advanced” you can tick a checkbox and add apps, like a web browser or Usenet software that will automatically close when the VPN connection drops, and it will happen, there were one or two disconnections during my time with them, if you use torrents you better use that feature or you will risk your home IP being left out in the clear and one time is already too many when privacy is at risk.

I am on a 10Mbps Internet home connection and speed was not an issue, ibVPN servers matched my own ISP speed most times, bandwidth is unmetered. The diverse number of VPN locations in the Total package should satisfy everybody, from the expected Germany, UK, France and US, to the usually more expensive locations in Australia, Panama and Hong Kong. If you are a Pandora radio listener, here goes a free tip, Pandora works with an Australian or New Zealand VPN IP and they broadcast half the advertisements than they do with a US location.

Privacy wise, ibVPN keeps no traffic logs but connection logs are kept for one week,  you will not get away with major crime, this is not what the VPN is for, you are protected from privacy invasion reducing logs to a minimum with a considerably much shorter lifespan than the 6 months logs email providers normally keep but you are not totally invisible like you would be in Tor.

ibVPN Windows client VPN provider
ibVPN Windows client VPN provider

Payments can be made anonymously with Bitcoin, there are discounts for businesses and family VPN accounts that allow simultaneous VPN connections from multiple devices and a special Torrent only package to be exclusively used in torrents with certain servers in countries where copyright is not strictly enforced.

ibVPN US&Canada VPN yearly package is unquestionably cheap, if your main reason for a VPN is to be able to watch online US TV I would buy this package or the ibDNS. They both cost the same, by choosing ibVPN over ibDNS you will not only be able to stream restricted video content but also protect your online privacy when surfing the Internet or downloading files. Their Total VPN package is competitively priced in comparison with similar services, the main reason why I would recommend ibVPN over other VPN companies is because the DNS streaming services are included in the Total VPN price and other companies charge for this separately.

Privacy paranoid types might want to look for a different VPN provider with zero logs like iVPN due to Invisible Browsing VPN one week connection logs retention, other than that this is a good service.

Visit ibVPN homepage

Review cheap VPN provider SMOZ VPN

SMOZ VPN is a new budget vpn provider with servers in Canada, USA, UK, Spain, Italy, Russia and a four other European countries. I have been using SMOZ VPN for one month, I got the account for free in their opening give away but they did not know I was about to review it, this is an impartial review and they don´t have any affiliate program that pays me for writting this.

I had high expectations from SMOZ VPN because, although the brand is new, their parent company, VPNSecure, has been around for quiet a few years and having used them in the past I was upbeat with VPNSecure quality of services and support. SMOZ VPN is a cheap version of VPNSecure with less servers than their parent company but the same support and the same 24 hours log retention privacy policy. I also spotted the staff names of the people that provided me support in VPNSecure answering SMOZ VPN questions.

SMOZ VPN budget VPN provider
SMOZ VPN budget VPN provider

I give SMOZ VPN Windows client a satisfactory rating, but not amazing. I liked the simplicity of being able to select any server with just a click and the clear layout informing you of the vpn server IP you are utilizing. As a downside, I did not like that you are not informed of the city where the vpn is located, you are only told the country, and in the USA you only know if the server is in the East or West coast.

The VPN client settings allows you to configure it to stop DNS leaks and to stop all Internet activity when your VPN connection drops by simply ticking a checkbox. These are two very common privacy threats and I was delighted to be able to secure myself with little effort.

You can use the VPN in Linux, Mac, Windows, Android and iPhone but not the Chromebook, the ultra secure SMOZ SSL VPN protocol is not supported by Chrome OS, Google, Chrome OS developer, is to blame for this.

Strong points of SMOZ VPN are that there is no bandwidth cap, you can use it for P2P and the subscription includes a firewall and malware protection at VPN level. Another extra point should be added to SMOZ VPN for allowing Bitcoin payments as well as Paypal, and for automatic activation of your account within minutes. Server speed was awesome, matching my home ISP 10Mbps most times, but bear in mind that they just opened for business, and I can’t tell if lack of customers was the reason for the great VPN speed.

A couple of bad points I would give to this VPN are that they don’t have any server in Asia and that a few of their USA VPN nodes were blocked by Hulu when I tried them. In the end I managed to find a US server that worked in Hulu and I don´t wish to be too hard on SMOZ VPN for having a few of their servers blocked, this is common with all vpn providers, as long one of the server works that is all I need.

Android OpenVPN client
Android OpenVPN client

You can connect as many devices as you like with a single VPN account, mobile, laptop or desktop computers, but all of them will have to be on the same network/home Internet connection. SMOZ VPN monthly prices are not competitive having into account that this is a cut out version with less than a dozen servers.

To get a cheap deal you will have to pay for SMOZ VPN yearly. A 7 day money back guarantee that covers all payment methods, including Bitcoins, will allow you try out SMOZ VPN with peace of mind.

As long as you don’t need a server in Asia and you don’t mind not knowing in what cities the server is located in, I don’t see anything wrong with SMOZ VPN. Their excellent privacy policy deleting logs in 24 hours is what makes this company to stand out of the competition, together with an impressive support team that includes live chat, I totally recommend them.

Visit SMOZ VPN homepage

Review VPN provider IPVanish

IPVanish VPN provider has thousands of available IPs,their servers can be found scattered all over the world in places as exotic as Japan, Malaysia, Austria, Spain, USA, Canada and many more. Some locations have various servers, making this VPN provider one of the biggest out there, with the added benefit that there is no bandwidth limit.

IPVanish prices are reasonable and their services can be used in Windows, Mac OS and Linux as well as mobile devices like the iPad/iPhone, Android (LT2P&PPTP) and dd-wrt compatible routers. The digital certificates to connect to their severs can be downloaded from within your control panel, that will allow you to use IPVanish in any Unix operating systems able to run OpenVPN, like OpenBSD, NetBSD or Solaris.

OpenVPN Windows client 

I have been with IPVanish for two weeks now, their proprietary OpenVPN Windows client is the most inadequate OpenVPN client I have ever seen. Every time you launch IPVanish VPN client you will see a popup a window that says “verifying application requirements” and it makes you wait for a few seconds, after that the client will download the list of servers and will start pinging all of them waiting for the response time. A very bad idea when you have dozens of servers, you can expect wasting a minute of your time while server pings resolve, not happy with that, in the middle of the session every certain length of time the VPN client will refresh the ping rate stopping you from changing server until it has finished.

This is not even necessary, as the ping rate alone does not determine the best VPN server, you also need to know the server load which can only be found in IPVanish control panel, the software wastes your time for nothing. IPVanish VPN client preferences allow you to save your username and password, and that is about as much freedom as you will get out of the settings.

VPN provider IPVanish
VPN provider IPVanish

Once you are connected to a server it will be difficult for you to know if you remain connected and what server is the one you are using, the green/red button (see screenshot) is very tiny and there is no clear indication of what server you are using except by a cryptic server name that is meant to show the server country location.

IPVanish server speed 

Server speed was fine, tested from Europe, USA servers can get 6 to 8Mbps, Canadian servers were on 2Mbps and European servers reached around 9Mbps (my home ISP is 10Mbps), during all this time I didn’t find any noticeable slow down, just the usual Asian servers making it difficult for me to browse the Internet because I am too far from them (ping rate problem),  nothing unusual. I was able to watch online USA/Canada TV, none of IPVanish servers I used were blocked by Hulu, GlobalTV or Slacker Radio, what I did find is that some of their servers in Spain, Sweden and Malaysia are falsely reported in different locations by various websites, IPVanish claims that they escalate these issues with geolocation software vendors but it takes time for the database to update because the companies providing these services treat it as a low priority.

IPVanish support quality 

I contacted support through their forums asking how long they keep connection logs, I was told that at the moment IPVanish keeps logs for 30 days, this can be obviously changed any time they like and since the details are not included anywhere in their privacy policy you will never know for sure, maybe by next week log keeping will be 5 years or 5 days, no way of knowing other than asking daily. I also contacted support once through email, it only took them a few hours to get back to me, just unlucky that support did not paid too much attention to my message because kept asking the same questions all the time, in fairness, I noticed that there were two different people dealing with the ticket but they should be reading the messages from the beginning instead of keep asking the same all over again, in the end I got my problem solved by a third person. Altogether it felt amateurish and not professional, specially as I never got a reply to my forum question when I was told they would find out.

Conclusion IPVanish review 

If you are a Windows user I would stay away from IPVanish until they release a better VPN client, I know of small VPN companies that beat IPVanish OpenVPN client hands down, once they solve that problem this provider can compete with the big league, until then I would call IPVanish low standard and it is a pity that what looks like a big company could not invest the necessary resources releasing a decent Windows OpenVPN client.