The 10 most secure VPN services to keep you safe online in 2021

In this guide we list the five most secure VPN services according to our rigorous testing, so you can be sure your chosen VPN provider takes your privacy as seriously as you do. We will also give you some helpful tips on staying secure online with a VPN.

What are the most secure VPNs available?

Our testing shows these are the safest and most secure VPNs available today:

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All VPNs should be able to provide users with a secure connection. That much is fundamental, but some services do a much better job of this than others. Because the VPN market is so overcrowded, however, it can be difficult to find a truly secure VPN service that offers you all the features you need to properly safeguard your digital privacy.

The true mark of a secure VPN lies in its technical security to keep you safe online. To accomplish this, a VPN service must offer the following features:

We make sure to thoroughly check each of these aspects when reviewing the security of all the VPNs we test. So, let’s take a closer look at our shortlist of the most secure VPN services available today.

The 10 most secure VPN services in 2020

These are the most secure VPNs you can get right now:

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Are secure VPNs fast?

Yes, all of our recommended secure VPNs are fast enough to handle even the most data-intensive tasks, such as online gaming, VoIP calls, and streaming in full HD. To help you better understand what speeds you can expect from our top secure VPN picks, we run speed tests on them three times a day and display the most recent results in the table below. This way, you know which secure VPNs are the fastest at any given moment.

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How to determine how secure a VPN is?

There are lots of things that a VPN can do for you, but let’s acknowledge that it is, first and foremost, a tool to protect your privacy online. If a VPN can’t do this, it’s putting your privacy at risk and creating a false sense of security – the exact opposite of what you’d want from a VPN.

The most important things that we look at when determining the security of a VPN are:

We cover the different ways that you can determine how secure a VPN is below.

Which is the most secure VPN protocol?

In order to establish a secure connection, the VPN software on your device negotiates an encrypted connection with the VPN server. The mechanism used to do this is called the VPN protocol, which uses a series of authentication and encryption algorithms to ensure the connection is secure.

The main VPN protocols you are likely to encounter are:

PPTP – Not Secure

A widely supported VPN protocol that is no longer considered secure. There is very little to reason to use it these days, and it should, therefore, be avoided.

L2TP – Will Not Secure Your Data From Surveillance

A widely supported protocol. It’s not secure against the NSA but is suitable for general use. That said, why bother when IKEv2 and OpenVPN are available?

IKEv2 – Secure and ideal for Android & iOS

IKEv2 stands for Internet Key Exchange Version 2. The protocol is often referred to as IKEv2/IPsec because IKEv2 is never implemented without the IPsec encryption.

It is generally considered more lightweight and stable than OpenVPN, but it is only available over UDP, which is blocked by some firewalls.

OpenVPN – The most secure VPN protocol & recommended

An open-source protocol that is widely regarded as the most secure and versatile VPN protocol available. We generally always recommend using OpenVPN whenever possible (although IKEv2 is also a good option).

How we assess encryption

We focus on OpenVPN encryption when assessing the encryption used by VPN providers. This is because:

OpenVPN is made up of several elements – but the devil is in the detail. The security of OpenVPN comes from how well it has been implemented. Meaning that if OpenVPN has been implemented poorly by a VPN service, then it’s no better than the other (lesser) protocols we mentioned.

Below is a list of the component parts of the OpenVPN protocol:

  • Cipher AES-256-CGM
  • Control hash auth HMAC SHA-1
  • Handshake RSA-4096 
  • Forward security DHE-4096
  • Connection logs 
  • Traffic logs

We recognize that implementing encryption protocols like OpenVPN to a high standard is a key feature of a secure VPN – so, we made it one of our main considerations when coming up with our list of the ten most secure VPN services. Simply put, if we find that a particular VPN service can’t implement encryption protocols to a high standard, we don’t recommend the service.

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Secure no logs VPNs

In our opinion, a VPN cannot be considered secure if it keeps logs of your connection and traffic. This is because a VPN that keeps logs of your activity is liable to hand that data over to authorities at a moment’s notice. This is not at all something you’d want your VPN provider doing, especially if you’re using your VPN to download torrents.

Because of this, all of the secure VPN providers we recommend in this guide have strict no-logs policies to ensure that none of your online activity while connected to their networks is ever logged. Since a secure, no-logs VPN provider will never have any data related to what you get up to on its network, it will have literally nothing whatsoever to hand over to authorities, even if served with a warrant. This means that you can rest assured that your online privacy will be fully protected by a VPN that doesn’t keep logs.

IP leaks

The second key element to a VPN’s technical security is to have IP leak protection.

An IP leak happens when your VPN leaks your real IP address to a website or service that you visit online. This is very dangerous, of course, particularly if you’re using a VPN to keep your identity private while accessing the internet.

When using a VPN, no website you visit should be able to see your real IP address, or one belonging to your ISP that can be traced back to you. We have tested all the services in the list above to ensure that they do not leak your real IP Address. 

How to test for IP Leaks yourself

We recommend testing your VPN service for leaks when you first sign-up for it. You can do this by using ProPrivacy’s leak testing tool – and don’t worry, we’ve made the process incredibly easy! All you need to do is follow the on-screen instructions:

  1. Make sure you are disconnected from the VPN and visit our VPN leak testing tool.
  2. Read the instructions and click Continue twice.
  3. Select your country or give the browser permission to access your location. Please note, ProPrivacy does not keep your location or any other information about you on record.
  4. Connect to a VPN server in a different country. This is important because connecting to a server in the same country can cause the results to be less accurate.
  5. Click “I’ve connected to a VPN” and let the automated process begin.

Once completed, your results will be displayed in a digestible format so you will know for certain whether you have a leak or not.

VPN leak test image

All tests were passed in the example image above, as indicated by the checkmarks to the right. You can find out more information by clicking on the drop-down boxes. If you instead see a red cross next to IPv4, IPv6, DNS, or WebRTC, then you have experienced a leak. In this case, you can troubleshoot by turning IPv6 off manually and disabling WebRTC, but it might be easier to just switch providers at that point if you detect a leak of any kind.

Check out our guide on how to fix the WebRTC bug if you are experiencing any WebRTC related issues. 

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Kill switches

VPN connections do sometimes drop – for various reasons – and this is something that can happen to even the best VPN. A secure VPN provider will ensure that you are kept secure if your internet connection drops, meaning your real IP address will not be exposed for the world to see.

Kill switches shut down your internet connection when your VPN is not connected in order to protect your privacy. They can be either reactive or firewall-based.

Reactive kill switches

Reactive kill switches detect that the connection to the VPN server has dropped, then shut down your internet connection to prevent leaks.

There is a danger, however, that an IP leak could occur during the micro-seconds it takes to detect the VPN dropout and to shut down your internet connection.

Firewall kill switches

Firewall-based kill switches solve the IP leak problem by simply routing all internet connections through the VPN interface. If the VPN is not running, then no traffic can enter or leave your device. Firewall-based kill switches are therefore better than reactive ones, but any kill switch is better than none!

Firewall-based kill switches come in two types. The first kind is implemented in the client, and will therefore not work if the client crashes. The second kind modifies the Windows or macOS firewall rules so that even if the VPN software crashes, traffic cannot enter or exit your device.

The only problem with the second method is that it could, at least in theory, cause conflicts if you use a third-party firewall.

Are there free secure VPNs?

Yes, if you don’t feel like spending any money, then you can get a quality, reliable free VPN that is secure and will allow you to sufficiently protect your privacy without having to pay a single cent. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that free VPN services are typically restricted in various ways such as in connection speeds, number of server locations, premium features, and data limits.

It’s also important to understand that genuine, high-quality free VPN services are exceedingly rare. So if you do opt for a free VPN, then make certain that it does its part to protect your privacy and keep you secure. Why? Because the vast majority of free VPN services are either completely useless and provide little to no online security, or they make their money by selling your data to the highest bidder. Some free options can even be outright dangerous to use since they can be crawling with malware.

If you don’t mind dropping a few bucks a month for one of the premium services listed in this guide, then you’d really be better off securing your connection with one of our recommended secure VPNs.

Most secure VPNs for Android and iPhone

If protecting your online privacy while you’re out and about is your main concern, you’ll be happy to know that all our VPN recommendations also apply to the Android and iPhone apps as well. A quality, secure VPN provider will keep you secure on smartphones and tablets since it will offer the same privacy protections it offers on other platforms.

In fact, using a VPN on mobile is the best way to protect your privacy on the go, especially if you’re connecting your mobile device to a public wifi hotspot. Check out our iOS VPN or Android VPN pages for more infromation about using one on your mobile. 

Has your data been compromised?

Check if your data has been compromised by using our tool below. It will tell your email has ever been exposed in a data breach. Simply enter your email address above to find out.

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FAQs

[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”Can my ISP see that I am using a VPN?” answer=”Normally, when you use a VPN, your ISP will be able to see that you are using a VPN. However, since all the data you are sending and receiving through the VPN tunnel is encrypted, <a href=’/privacy-service/guides/hide-from-isp’>your ISP will not be able to see what you are actually doing</a> online when connected to the VPN. That said, many of the most secure VPNs offer <a href=’/vpn/guides/openvpn-scramble-xor-obfuscation’>obfuscated (stealth) servers</a> which will effectively hide the fact that you’re using a VPN by disguising your online traffic as regular <a href=’/guides/https-explained’>HTTPS traffic</a> rather than VPN traffic. Stealth servers are great for bypassing firewalls and evading heavy-handed government censorship efforts.” /]]

[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”Are VPNs trustworthy?” answer=”If you choose the right one, then yes. The thing is that there are many VPNs out there that simply aren’t trustworthy at all and actually do little to protect your online privacy. But each of the secure VPNs we recommend in this guide can indeed be fully trusted to safeguard your privacy online. We thoroughly researched each recommended provider to ensure that its privacy and security features are all up to snuff. Rest assured that the providers listed in this article are all reliable, quality providers that go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to protecting user privacy.” /]]

[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”Can I unblock streaming services with a VPN?” answer=”Yes, in addition to securing your online privacy, another one of the most popular uses for a VPN is to unblock geographically-restricted content on online streaming services. Since a VPN can allow you to pretend to be in a different country, you can use a VPN to trick streaming services into thinking you’re located in the country where the service is available, even if you’re halfway across the globe! This means that, with your VPN, you can unblock streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO, Amazon Prime Videos, Disney+, Hulu, and much more, regardless of where you are actually located.” /]]

Conclusion

A VPN is a versatile tool with a wealth of functions, whether you want to spoof your location, access restricted sites, or stay safe on public WiFi hotspots – but primarily, a VPN is about security. When you connect to a VPN server, you’re shoring up your privacy. Nobody will be able to snoop on your identifiable information; not your ISP, government, or any malicious cybercriminals.

Now that you know everything that goes into making sure a VPN is secure, here’s a quick reminder of our top picks for the most secure VPNs:

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