The Best VPN Services to Protect Your Privacy in 2023

There’s a joke from the early days of online computing: nobody on the internet knows you’re a dog. In other words, you’re practically invisible; Nobody can see who (or what) you are. Unfortunately, that’s just wishful thinking: hackers may be able to tell exactly who you are — and steal important personal information, too. So how can we protect our identities and activities? While there’s no such thing as absolute privacy, there’s one tool worth considering to add to your arsenal: a virtual private network, or VPN.

What a VPN does and why you should use one

This is one of those things that sounds complicated but really isn’t. Imagine driving your car down the freeway, you and hundreds of other drivers. A hacker flies overhead in a helicopter; It can easily pinpoint your location and follow you everywhere. You are completely unprotected.

Now imagine driving in a tunnel intended only for your car instead. The hacker can’t see you, doesn’t even know you’re there. There’s that “invisibility” we’ve been talking about.

For example, when you connect to an open Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop or on an airplane, you’re driving on that vulnerable highway. But when you use a VPN — a combination of software and service — you’re in a tunnel. It is virtually impossible for a hacker to detect you, monitor you, or steal anything from you.

There are dozens of VPN services out there. Choose one of them to keep your online activities private and secure.

There are dozens of VPN services out there. Choose one of them to keep your online activities private and secure.

VPN pros and cons

Let me pause to get one thing straight: a VPN service will do not doesn’t protect against viruses, nor do they protect against things like phishing threats or ransomware. Its only function is to hide your internet activity from observers who might want to track it for identity theft or other purposes.

Here’s the good news: If you work mostly from home, you probably don’t need a VPN provider. That’s because you connect to your own Wi-Fi network with private internet access. As long as it’s reasonably secure (starting with password protection), a VPN would be overkill. It’s the open, public networks in the world that pose the greatest threat. (That is, if you live in an apartment and you’re, um, Lend Wi-Fi from a neighbor, you’re definitely vulnerable – because if that network is open enough for you to access, it’s open to everyone.)

Person typing on a computer

A VPN helps keep your online activity private, which is especially important when you connect to public Wi-Fi networks. (Photo: Getty Images)

There are a few other caveats to using a VPN provider. First, there is a performance hit as your internet connection is routed through a secure server (the “tunnel” mentioned above). You may find that websites load a little slower or video streaming isn’t quite as reliable when the VPN is turned on. Public Wi-Fi networks tend to be slow initially; This extra layer of protection can make them even slower.

Second, the VPN service itself may collect non-personal information about your browsing activity and may even sell this information to third parties. (I know, quite ironic.) Note that your ISP probably does this too, so you’ll have to decide if this matters or not. If this is the case, choose a VPN that doesn’t log user activity or share data with third parties.

Finally, there’s a cost: most VPNs require a monthly or yearly subscription fee. There are a few decent free VPN providers out there, but they have limitations – and they’re far more likely to log/sell your data.

Choose the right VPN for you

Below I’ve rounded up what I think are the top five VPNs. I made these decisions based on a number of factors including price, personal experience, customer ratings and aggregated reviews found elsewhere.

Unfortunately, very few of these offer free trials, which means you can’t just “kick the hoops.” However, most come with a money-back guarantee. Although you must choose a plan and provide a credit card for billing, you can cancel within this window and receive a full refund.

Best VPN for Global Travelers



CyberGhost VPN

Fear not: in this scenario, you are the ghost. This VPN offers thousands of global servers and promises to protect your digital footprint at home and abroad.

$2 at CyberGhost

One way to judge the effectiveness of a VPN is server locations. The more it has and the further they are spread out, the easier it will be to find one nearby – regardless of where you travel. Closer servers usually mean faster performance.

CyberGhost has almost 7,000 of them in over 90 countries; Few other VPNs can match these numbers. And the service is headquartered in Romania, which has no mandatory data collection laws. Consequently, CyberGhost is able to offer a no-logs policy.

Unfortunately, there is no test option here; You’ll have to decide on a plan from the start, although each one comes with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee. These plans start at $12.99 per month, with significant discounts if you prepay for longer periods. For example, at this writing, you can only pay $57 2 years (that’s only $2.37 per month), then $57 per year.

Sure, any VPN can claim to protect you from prying eyes and protect your personal information, yada-yada-yada. But few put their money where their, uh, tunnel is. TunnelBear (which also has the cutest mascot next to CyberGhost) publishes regular, independent security reviews of its own service.

That’s great, but I like this even better: TunnelBear offers a totally free VPN version that at least lets you try out all the features without committing to a plan. Although you’re limited to 2GB of data, that should be enough to keep you spending some time really kicking the hoops.

From there, you can pay $9.99 monthly, $59.88 for a year, or $120 for three years. TunnelBear is also one of the more beginner-friendly services out there, something to consider if you’re new to all of this.

I’ve been a technology journalist for years, and during that time I’ve seen NordVPN at or near the top of almost every “best VPN” list. In fact, it ticks most of the important boxes – decent speeds, no-logs privacy, robust server/country count, and simple user interface – while offering the comfort of a solid reputation: the company wouldn’t be a top-notch service for so long if they didn’t offer a superior product.

NordVPN allows up to six simultaneous connection options and offers over 5,200 server locations in 60 countries. If anything, it might be overkill for some users and maybe a little intimidating for beginners. While features like Onion Over VPN and Multi-Hop Connections are valuable, they also require a bit of study to fully understand. That goes for any VPN, but I left the NordVPN website and felt like I was overwhelmed.

Pricing is also a little complex, as there are three tiers of service — Standard, Plus, and Complete — starting at $13 per month. There are discounts if you pay for a year or two in advance; For example, $83.76 buys two years of standard service. NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans.

Best for serious privacy freaks



Privatus Limited iVPN

If you’re an off-the-grid anti-Big Brother conspiracy theorist, iVPN is probably just the VPN you want. It’s open source, completely transparent and without user logs.

$2 at iVPN

There is anonymous and then there is anonymous. If you’re serious about online privacy, take a look at iVPN. Although the standard plan limits you to just two devices, it includes some pretty amazing safeguards.

The built-in AntiTracker tool, for example, promises protection against advertising, web trackers and malware. You can sign up for the service without providing an email address and pay via bitcoin for further anonymity. And iVPN promises a no-logs policy and audited operations.

Speaking of payment, iVPN is also quite affordable, especially if you’re looking for a monthly option: the standard plan above costs $6, and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee if you decide it’s not a good fit .

Need coverage for more devices? The Pro plan lets you use seven of these for a still reasonable $10 a month.

Best Budget VPN



Amagicom AB Mullvad VPN

Mullvad VPN is another VPN that advertises external audits and absolutely no logging, and doesn’t even require your email address. And if you want to switch from month to month, it’s among the cheaper options out there.

$5 at Mullvad

As you’ve probably noticed, most VPNs charge around $10-$12 if you opt for a monthly plan. That’s pretty steep. Yes, there are discounts if you prepay for a year or more, but what if you’re not ready for that kind of commitment?

Enter Mullvad, a Sweden-based VPN that charges a flat monthly fee no matter how long you sign up. This course is 5 euros, which is currently just over 5 US dollars. Like iVPN, you can pay with bitcoin or even real cash if that’s your jam. But there are no discounts for longer subscriptions.

Luckily, the cheap price doesn’t come at the expense of privacy or security: like the best VPNs, this one doesn’t keep logs and is subject to external, independent audits. There are also no affiliate partnerships, which means you can rest assured that no one will be paid to review or write about the product. Mullvad supports up to five simultaneous connections and has servers in 36 countries – but fewer than 800 of them in total.

Originally published The Best VPN Services to Protect Your Privacy in 2023

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