The best VPN’s for Online Privacy and Security in the UK
You’ve probably heard the term VPN thrown around a lot in recent years. If you aren’t so tech savvy, you’re probably wondering what all of the fuss is about. Having a VPN is really important, but understanding what one is and finding the best software out there can get pretty confusing. Today, we are going to discuss what a VPN is, why you need one and the best VPN options on the market for the UK.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for ‘Virtual Private Network’. In short, using a VPN makes your internet connection more secure and less vulnerable to hackers/ data stealers. Without a VPN, your data is out in the open- super easy for cybercriminals to access. People can figure out your IP address, check out your online banking details, rea+-
0d your email and more. That’s because your data is being openly shared to internet servers with no safety measures in place.
Using a VPN encrypts your data. Encrypting data means converting it into some form of code. This makes it much harder to be accessed by hackers while it travels from your computer to your internet service provider.
By using a VPN, all of your encrypted data is sent to from your ISP to a VPN server. Whenever you use a website, the website recognises the data traffic as coming from the VPN server rather than your computer. This protects your anonymity.
VPN software usually lends you an IP address, so yours isn’t exposed to other people online. Your IP address is the unique number assigned to your computer- or any other hardware you have that accesses the web. It’s widely known that hiding your IP address gives you a lot more protection when you’re browsing online. Your IP address gives away your geographical location, alongside your online activity- allowing complete strangers to get a good amount of knowledge on the type of person you are. By concealing your IP, you protect your privacy. An IP address will usually look something like this: 126.96.36.199.
Another useful advantage to using VPN is they can allow you to access content only available in other countries. You can connect to a VPN server in a different continent- and the websites that you visit will think you’re browsing from that location. This is great for things like Netflix- where different countries have different shows available to watch.
The 10 Best VPN’s for online privacy and security in the UK
- Best all-round VPN
- 2000+ servers in 94 countries
- Torrenting & Netflix works perfectly.
ExpressVPN is our top choice for VPN software on the market right now. By subscribing to ExpressVPN, you can access to over 2000 servers in 94 different countries. Not just any servers, though, servers that are really fast. We managed to clock download speeds of up to 83.15 Mbps- perfect for streaming high-quality video and downloading larger files.
On top of that, ExpressVPN provides a service that’s about as secure as you can get. They use top-of-the-range AES-256 data encryption, the same as used by the FBI and CIA. This data encryption is impossible to crack, keeping your information under lockdown. Expressen has a no logging policy, and will never track your personal browsing history or connection times. They’ve also passed all of our IP, WebRTC and DNS leak tests.
ExpressVPN is able to bypass Netflix’s anti-VPN security features, unlocking a tonne more shows you can watch that are ordinarily blocked in your location. There are advanced security features such as the kill switch, that switch off all network activity if you accidentally become disconnected from your VPN server.
By no means is ExpressVPN the cheapest software out there, but their service is well worth the money if you can afford it. They offer the most comprehensive VPN package out there that also performs exceedingly well.
- Best "Cheap" VPN - $2.99/month
- 5000+ servers in 62 countries
- Double encryption - using two servers per connection
We’ve put NordVPN as our second top VPN choice because it offers a really similar service to ExpressVPN- but with slower server speeds. The payoff with Nord is that it’s a little cheaper, and it may be a good option if you’re looking for great VPN software for a few extra pounds.
They use the same amazing AES-356 encryption standards as ExpressVPN, and also have a no data logging policy. NordVPN passed all of our data leak tests, and they provide advanced security tools like the Kill Switch ExpressVPNhas- but also double data protection.
Double data protection is a feature you can use in NordVPN that rerouted your signal through not one, but two VPN servers. This is useful if you want that extra layer of security, giving you that extra piece of mind
NordVPN have servers that are compatible with both Netflix and Utorrent, and they boast a huge server list- over 5000 spread across 62 countries. For how reasonable their price is- NordVPN is an amazing choice.
The main downside to NordVPN and ExpressVPN is the limited number of devices you can connect to the VPN service. Express only allow 3 connections, and Nord offers a slightly better 6. PerfectPrivacy blows both of these companies out of the water in this area, offering unlimited device connections to their software.
They’re really secure- using AES-256 encryption, passing all of our data leak tests and promising to never log your personal data. If you want to save money whilst protecting several devices from cybercriminals and prying eyes- PerfectPrivacy is a good option for you.
Of course, this isn’t a perfect world- and PerfectPrivacy has its drawbacks. Their server speeds are average and don’t compare to those seen with other VPN software. They offer a similar price to NordVPN and ExpressVPN- so it’s really a case of choosing your priority. Speed, or the number of device connections?
If you’re looking for another VPN software option, IPVanish is pretty good. They offer you over 1000 servers in 60 different countries. These servers are pretty fast, too- ranking 26th in our speed tests. IPVanish is also secure- with AES-256 data encryption, no data logging and no data leaks. IPvanish have been recognised by some big companies, like CNN, LifeHacker and PCmag.
We managed to find one server that works with Netflix, but IPVanish doesn’t really work with torrenting (they don’t condone it) They don’t support TOR either, which may put you off if you were wanting to combine your VPN with TOR for added security. For what they have to offer, IPVanish is kinda pricey- but they’re still a good service.
The best thing about Mullvad is their signup process- it’s completely anonymous. MullVad doesn’t take your email, phone number or any other personal info. When you sign up, you’re given an account number- which is all you use to sign in in the future. It’s $5 a month, around £3.78- which is pretty cheap.
Mullvad’s servers have really good speeds- placing 10th in our comparison speed tests. They use the best of the best security features- AES-256 encryption, with no data logging or leaks.
Unfortunately, there are only 166 Mullvad servers in 69 countries, which is a pretty poor list when you see how many servers other companies have to offer. Some customers have reported that their Mullvad’s interface is clunky and hard to use- which isn’t ideal if you’re just starting out using VPN’s.
Gcyberghost are another popular VPN company that have over 2,900 servers in 59 different counties. That’s a huge list, giving you plenty of choice. One of the biggest advantages of Cyberghost is their location. They’re based in Romania, where the government cannot demand that VPN’s give up your information for the sake of an investigation. Like the other VPN’s on this list, Cyberghost uses AES-256 data encryption, has a no logging policy and also passed all of our data leak tests.
The downfall of cyber ghost is their server speeds- they aren’t the fastest out there. This may affect video streaming experiences and cause problems when downloading large files. Their parent company is kind of sketchy, and in the past have been known to create/ distribute malware- which doesn’t give us complete peace of mind.
Trust.Zone is a really cheap VPN software. So, if you want to get good online protection at a fraction of the price of our top picks, it may be the best choice for you. Trust.Zone’s VPN capabilities are actually really good. Their server speeds are similar to NordVPN- our second favourite VPN software. Trust.Zone promise not to log your personal data, they use AES-256 encryption and have passed all of our data leaking tests.
Some Trust.Zone servers worked with Netflix, which is great if you want to unlock more TV shows and movies to watch in your free time.
Trust.Zone can be relied upon to keep your online activities private- but there are some issues with their customer service. It would be nice if Trust.Zone could offer 24/7 live chat to quickly solve issues- but instead, you have to send off an email form. This is old fashioned and means if you encounter a problem, it could be a little while before you’re back up and running. They also have a very small server list- only 135 in 31 different countries. Trust.Zone isn’t compatible with as many devices as we’d like- there’s little support for linking Trust.Zone with wifi routers and games consoles.
If you’re looking a basic, secure and cheap VPN- ibVPN is a decent option. They offer high-quality security (AES-125 encryption, no data logging, no data leaks) for pretty much any device you can think of- including games consoles, smart TVs and wifi routers.
Unfortunately, their server speeds aren’t anything to write home about-and are definitely on the slow side. If you want to stream a lot of HD video and look at high file size content- you might struggle a bit if you’re using ibVPN. Some servers have speeds of as low as 15.70mbps- which is pretty useless. You can also have only one device connected to ibVPN at a time- which may be an issue if you have more than a laptop you need covering.
Nevertheless, they do deliver exactly what’s said on the tin for their very reasonable price.
9) Private Internet Access
Private Internet Acess offers some really high-speed servers, and even have an innovative tool that allows you to boost server speeds. If you know you’re browsing a secure site- you can choose to downgrade your encryption from AES-256 to AES-128. This is slightly less secure but is a great feature if you’re simply watching HD films on Netflix. And yes, private internet access is Netflix compatible.
Private Internet Access won’t log your data, and they passed all of our data leak tests. You can also connect up to 5 devices at a time, which is pretty good as far as VPN software goes. Unfortunately, they only have servers in 28 countries- which is rather limited. Their customer service is a bit spotty too- often taking a bit too long to reply for our liking.
Windscribe is the last VPN software we are going to mention and at the bottom of our list. They offer the same great security features as all the other software we have mentioned- AES-256 encryption, no data logs and no data leaks. The good thing about Windscribe if you’re a Netflix junkie is that they have specifically designed servers just for Netflix. They’re called Windflix servers. It’s really simple to connect to a Windflix server, allowing you to access movies and films that are usually geo-blocked in your location. Windscribe supports multiple devices and customers have reported that their user interfaces are really easy to use.
It’s a shame, but we’ve found that Windscribe servers could decrease our internet speed by up to 50 percent. And it’s not great to be spending money on a service only to see a decrease in your internet quality. If your connection speeds are already poor, definitely check out a different software.
TOR- The Onion Router
If you want to take your online anonymity to the next level, you should pair your VPN service with TOR. TOR is a free software designed with one thing in mind- security.
TOR makes your online activities extremely private. The name ‘Onion Router’ actually stems from the fact that your data goes through several ‘onion layers’ of encryption before reaching its destination. TOR was initially developed by the U.S navy- it’s very secure.
Ordinarily, your data will be sent unencrypted to your internet service provider, and then straight to its destination. This allows your ISP to track when you’re doing online, along with shady cybercriminals. TOR sends your data through a string of other random computers- also known as nodes- before it reaches its final destination. This makes it pretty much impossible to track your location or uncover other personal information.
The two main VPN service providers we will be discussing in this article, NordVPN and ExpressVPN- are both compatible with TOR. Your traffic will be rerouted first through a VPN server, and then sent to the TOR browser. If you’re wanting to use TOR alongside your VPN, it’s important to check before buying that the two-software’s work together.
Five eyes friendly
‘Five Eyes’ is an international intelligence sharing agreement between certain countries. The agreement stems all the way back from world war two. The countries in the agreement include the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. If your VPN provider is based in any of these countries- they are subject to the five eyes law. Your VPN provider could be forced to hand over any information they have on you- such as connection logs and browser traffic- essentially what you’re up to online.
To protect yourself from such an invasion of privacy- choose a VPN that’s not located in a Five Eyes friendly jurisdiction. If the VPN you’re interested in does fall under the five eyes law- make sure that at the very least it has no data logging. This won’t protect you from federal organisations though- they can dig much deeper to break down your wall of protection. For maximum protection in a Five Eyes Friendly area, you may want to double up and connect your VPN with TOR.
The Five Eyes agreement has now been extended into what is known as 9 Eyes and 14 Eyes, which essentially means that more countries have been added to the list. These are Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Spain.
It’s a double-edged sword. Many VPN’s that operate in five eyes friendly free areas, instead operate in areas where using a personal VPN is illegal.
Frequently asked questions
You probably have a lot of questions about VPN’s. Virtual Private Networks can seem overwhelming, and so here are some of the most frequently asked VPN questions, answered.
Are VPN’s legal?
Virtual Private Networks are legal in the majority of countries. However, after fact checking 196 VPN country laws, we can confirm that they’re actually illegal in some places. These are.
• United Arab Emirates
In these countries, only ‘government approved’ VPNs are allowed. By using a personal VPN in these places, you could face a fine, jail time- or both. In many cases this is because the government of these countries are very adamant on censoring certain material, and VPNS bypass that.
And it has been known to happen. Unfortunately, using a government-approved VPN isn’t anywhere near as secure as using your own, but if you’re in a country where it’s illegal- you’ll just have to make do.
Will the VPN company log my data?
No reputable VPN company worth its salt will log your personal data and internet browsing history. Before you put your money into any VPN service- check their data logging policy. Some companies will record stuff such as connection dates, server location choice and data usage- but they should never keep track of what you’re doing online.
Can’t I just use a free VPN?
This isn’t a good idea. While it may be tempting to opt for a free VPN to save money, experts say that the risk is just not worth it. VPN servers cost money to run, and they’re never really ‘free’ to use. Most of the time, these ‘free’ VPNs log your data. In the best-case scenario, they’ll sell it to advertising companies. In the worst-case scenario, they’ll sell it to scammers. In reality, they’ll sell to whoever has the highest bid, whoever that may be.
Free VPN’s will often appear to work just fine on a superficial level. Below the surface, however- your data isn’t protected at all. Some won’t even work- you’ll just install them and be greeted with a computer virus, completely defeating the point of trying a VPN. To save your time and avoid risk to your privacy- pay the money for a reputable, safe VPN service.
Can VPN’s be used on game consoles, routers and SmartTV’s?
Yes, depending on the VPN company you’re using. If you have a particular device in mind that you’d like to protect- simply check the VPN company’s website to see if that device is supported. You may want to VPN protect your PlayStation or television to gain access to a much bigger library of television and movies. You may want to VPN protect your router so that all devices connected to it are on lockdown. VPN can be useful for a whole range of devices, and increase the capabilities of what you can do online.
Are VPN’s difficult to set up?
No. With many companies offering super user-friendly software, setting up a VPN on your computer can be as easy as a few clicks. All you have to do is purchase the software, install it on your pc or laptop and choose the settings you desire. Companies understand that not everybody is a tech expert, so they make menu systems that are easy to understand.
Setting up a VPN can be a bit trickier if you’re trying to protect an unsupported device- for example, a ps4 on a VPN that isn’t openly compatible with it. You’d have to resort to manual set-up. If you aren’t computer savvy, just stick to the basic software and it should be easy as pie to understand.
Aren’t VPN’s used by criminals to conduct illegal activities online?
Yes, in some cases. Since VPN’s allow you to leave no trace or connection to your online activities- they are often used by those attempting to evade the law. However, that by no stretch of the imagination means that they’re sketchy- or aren’t important to protect your internet privacy. Anything in this world can be used to the advantage of criminals, but that doesn’t mean the thing they’re using is inherently bad. With cybercrime so prolific in 2019- it’s important to look after yourself by using a VPN.
Are there any cons to using a VPN?
Yes. But the cons certainly don’t outweigh the benefits towards your personal privacy.
- VPN’s slow connection speed.
Since you’re rerouting your data through an additional server before it reaches the world wide web- you’re going to experience slower internet while you’re using a VPN. Luckily, with all of the top of the line VPN software available in this day and age- hits to connection speed are minimal. It’s all about choosing the right VPN software that has been engineered really well. Our top picks are NordVPN and ExpressVPN.
- Privacy isn’t 100 percent guaranteed.
Some VPNs are better than offers and offer more protection. The top VPNs will promise to never log your usage data- such as browser history. However, who’s to say they aren’t? VPN companies are usually very private organisations- offering little information into their activities. In some areas of the world, governments can force VPN companies to give them your information. You can never 100 percent rely on a VPN to protect your privacy. Unfortunately, in this day and age, full internet anonymity is pretty much impossible to achieve. If federal organisations such as the NSA want to learn about you, they can do it. While there’s always that risk, a VPN increases your personal security dramatically- and it is well worth the investment.
How much is a VPN?
VPN prices can vary from anywhere between £2 a month and £20 a month. The cost of a VPN depends on how much security you’re getting, server speed, the number of devices you can connect at a time and ay extra features the software may have. Usually, if you opt for a longer subscription- such as 6 months or a year, the monthly cost of the software will go down. There are some really bad expensive VPN’s, and some really good cheap VPN’s. Price is in no way indicative of quality- unless it’s completely free (don’t waste your time with free software).
Which VPN software should I choose?
All VPN software is different. Some will make it impossible for criminals and third-party companies to access your info, some will actually increase your risk of harm. When considering which VPN software to choose, there are a few things you need to take into consideration.
• Cost and refund options. Some VPN’s are really overpriced for what you’re getting- which is why it’s important to be as informed as possible before making a purchase.
• Download/ upload speed. This dictates how fast your computer will run under a VPN. Some VPN’s will completely destroy internet speed, making it impossible to stream HD videos or download large files.
• Ability to stream Netflix and Torrent. Many people take interest in VPN’s for the ability to stream Netflix from all over the world- unlocking many more TV shows and movies. Unfortunately, Netflix block a lock of VPN’s from working on their site. Some VPN’s don’t condone torrenting, and therefore don’t work with sites such as uTorrent.
• Ease of use. Especially if you’re new to VPN’s, or aren’t much of a computer person- you’ll want to purchase a VPN that has a user-friendly interface. Some VPN’s have really complex, technical menu systems that the average layman would find hard to understand.
• Does the software log which sites you’ve visited, or files downloaded? Don’t go for any website that logs your usage log data. The whole point of a VPN is for that stuff to remain private.
• Privacy and security features. Check for additional security features that will enhance your privacy experience- such as kill switches, or double data protection.
• Customer service. Some VPN’s offer 24/7 live chat, while some only offer support through email. The quicker you can get technical software issues resolved- the quicker you can get back to browsing the web.