VPN, a term that has gained significant traction in the last five years, with a ton of companies now offering the service at admissible rates. We’re sure that every internet user, at some point in time has to resort to the VPN service. This is done to view the blocked content, that your Internet service provider is preventing you to access via the internet. It is not new anymore and there are a huge number of VPN companies that are offering both free and paid service to the users. But the efficacy of the VPN service is another topic to ponder upon, before hopping on to any service.
What is a VPN?
The acronym VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. What a VPN does is that it creates a secure pathway for your requests and data packets to travel from the source (your device) to the destination (requested website) without being visible to any intermediary. The VPN encrypts your connection as soon as you connect your device with it so that the rest of the information exchanged between you and the website is rendered incomprehensible to any third-party.
The third-party seems to be a new term as you might be wondering who can manage to sit between you and the internet. The internet is a place where people exist just to poke their nose in other user’s businesses. Every user is assigned an IP address that serves to be a reference point that contains all your information required to communicate with the internet. The IP address is issued by your internet service provider that has provided you a connection to access the internet.
Whenever you perform a search on the internet the destination always has to know your IP address to communicate with you specifically, and not any other user. Every request that you make is logged on to the website’s server so that it knows about who accessed their website and when. Your internet service provider also does the same, for every request that you send out on the internet. This is implemented to keep track of what IP addresses are accessing on the internet and are logged for sorting out discrepancies if any.
The ancient era of the internet has passed, and the new age demands privacy that the ISP’s lack to provide. Internet users do not want anybody snooping in their interests and profiles on the internet. There have been instances of ISP’s selling your search history and data log to private firms for monetary gain. The hackers have also capitalized on any opportunity to copy the log data and manipulate it for heinous crimes. Moreover, internet laws vary with borders and the ISP’s have to abide by the policies that are crafted by the government of that country.
The government also is an impeding factor in the present age, where they demand wholesome access to what information that the citizens are searching on the internet. The line between privacy and forced-transparency continues to shrink, as every country wants to keep tabs on every byte of information exchanged on the internet. No wonder the users are forced to access only a sub-section of the internet, and that too with increased restrictions. The VPN services exist to solve the above-mentioned problems and strive to provide complete privacy to every user.
The magic is easy to understand and hard to implement. Whenever you initiate a request from your end, the request first goes to the VPN server that reads what information you have requested, encrypts it, and then sends it to the requested website. It then brings back the information on its server decrypts the information so that you can access it anonymously. The website logs the IP address assigned by the VPN server and not your original one. This makes it impossible to know what is the geolocation and the original IP address of the user.
Even if the third party intercepts the communication the encrypted information is of no use. The government and ISP’s are oblivious to the fact that you are even making any such request and that ensures complete privacy and eradicates the chances of someone meddling in your private affairs.
Is it important?
Yes, a reliable VPN service is a quintessential entity due to the abrupt surge in frauds that completely expose the user’s identity as well as misuse the information for monetary gain. The most common yet relatable example is a public Wi-Fi network. These are prevalent in modern coffee shops, restaurants, bars, or any place involved that has to deal with a crowd. People have an incessant urge to check their messages, notifications, do their office-work in a public environment.
The prominent reason for this is that they get a free internet connection with no data caps that lure the public into using public Wi-Fi. But very few know the repercussions of using an unsecured network connection for personal use. Public Wi-Fi is one of the favorite methods that hackers enjoy to gain access and exploit the intercepted data for personal gains. People tend to work a lot in cafes and that can lead to unintended leaks of your company’s data. The same goes for performing monetary transactions over an exploited network. The hackers are on the lookout of confidential banking information, and there is no need to explain to you the gritty details after a successful exploit.
Lastly, many corporations hire them to do the dirty work of collecting data about personal interests just to shape up an irrelevant product that earns them millions in profits. The advertisement pop-ups that come after a random internet search is a relatable example of that. So, a VPN service can help you avoid all that just by tunneling all of your requests through their servers that are almost impenetrable and offer and added layer of security on your device.
What can a VPN protect?
VPNs can protect a complex set of information that can be of the following categories.
The browser history offers an insight into the persons’ nature and thinking that can be used to create a profile and target the user according to that. The most prevalent method is to bombard the user with advertisements matching their search results and browsing habits. It is very unsettling for people who searched for something personal and that information is used to fabricate means to exploit him/her. The web browsers are somewhat private but you can still get an upper hand if you use the VPN on the device rather than the browser itself. ISP’s also are on the prowl for logging user history and selling it to the highest bidder after that.
Geolocation is a primary factor for every service on the internet. It is used to restrict user access beyond a certain region without the permission of the user. For example – streaming services are becoming increasingly sensitive to content available in certain countries of the world. You may have access to only a subsection of their library depending upon the country you live in. This is outrageous because while purchasing the service you are not informed of any such complexities in accessing the media library.
Taste changes over time and you may want to learn more about a particular country cinema, its content, but sadly you can’t. This is where VPN services come in handy as they have data servers located across the world. You just choose a server situated in that location to mask your original location. The steaming service marks it as a request from a similar region and grants you access to that content. This is very helpful for people who travel a lot and have purchased the plan of a different region.
An IP address is the only thing that can be traced back to your device and you via your ISP. To maintain anonymity VPN becomes necessary, as you are using a dynamic IP address of their server and that can be only traced back to the VPN company. There is no point in exploring beyond that and it keeps you from revealing your original IP and your internet identity to the web server, ISP, and the government.
All your devices can be registered on a VPN network so that you minimize the risk of exposing any device to an unsecured network. One implemented, it makes your device insusceptible to the cybercriminals even if the network is compromised. It is a barrier between your device’s internet activity and masks the information being shared on the internet.
The discussion keeps getting interesting and you might be yearning to get a hands-on experience of a VPN service. But wait, just getting a random service might do more harm than good if it doesn’t fit your priorities. We can’t name them all, but here are a few pointers to inquire about the VPN service before buying it.
Cost is an important factor in any purchase and the same goes while buying a VPN service too. There is no point in spending an amount greater than or equivalent to your monthly internet package if you just want to browse the internet. VPNs are necessary only if you value the utmost privacy and are committed to internet usage.
Tired of slow internet speed despite subscribing to exorbitant packages? A VPN service might come in handy as it can utilize the full potential of your connection speed. The requests emanating from a VPN service do not resemble the traditional traffic. This helps it to avoid the throttling mechanism that ISPs use to maintain an average connection speed.
If you’ve ever tried a free version of a reputed VPN service you might have notices that they cap 5 or 10 GB of monthly data. That means if you’ve used up that amount of data you are no more able to use it at the same speed and even block you in some cases. This is of absolute importance, especially for users that have an unlimited bandwidth internet connection and can be left high-and-dry when the limit is reached. So check while purchasing a VPNs service and select only those with no data caps.
Every VPN service comes with a detailed description of its server distribution all over the globe. This can help you to see if the regions that you want to access have a data server in or around that location. If not, you may need to migrate to a different VPN service that has a web server in that location.
A protocol is a geeky term but it is better to know what’s latest and if your VPN service is using it or not. With evolving protocols, the security is heightened with the newer iterations. PPTP is one of the oldest and widely used protocols but is found to be susceptible if paired with poor implementation. Newer VPN brands are integrating IPSec, which offers encryption and is robust too.
It is a must-have feature in any newer generation VPN service. A kill-switch immediately stops the internet access on the device if you are disconnected from the VPN server. This can be exasperating but is important as you are not anonymous anymore and can unknowingly leak your data until the connection to the VPN server is restored.
Number of Devices
Since VPN is a matter of privacy and the device you use it on becomes shrouded in a layer of security. Its usage must be restricted to a specific user and his/her devices only. To implement it the VPN companies put a restriction on the number of devices that can be used with a single plan. It varies between 3-5 devices and can be different for different brands.
China is one of the countries where internet freedom is very little as compared to other countries. The government is very stern about the internet activity of its population and has restrictions on almost any content that is not indigenous to the country. This makes it almost impossible to access any content outside the country and vice versa. It is also difficult for the professionals that migrate to the country for a work commitment and yearn for freedom on the internet. So VPN services that have servers around the neighboring countries as well as China, can be used to hide your activity and browse all the services you require.
So a VPN service that has a sever located in China can be used to bypass the great firewall and use every major service like Google, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and almost all streaming services. Also, keep in mind the number of servers that a particular service has in China. Less number of servers means traffic congestion that can lead to poor connection speed and frequent disconnections from the VPN server. The kill-switch must be present or your IP can be flagged for searching for restricted content in the country.
The top five VPN services globally are as follows –
Express VPN enjoys the most market share of the VPN consumer market. It is the first one to pop in everyone’s mind due to the immense popularity it has drawn in such a short period. It is a much-advertised service that is displayed on almost every website dealing with technology and network security. But does it live up to its hype? The answer is, yes. Express VPN is favored by 70 percent of the consumers in search of a VPN service.
It claims to be the number one rated VPN service globally. Express VPN respects the anonymity of each user and works in that direction to provide complete anonymity via their service. It is not limited to a single operating system and is available on almost all leading OS and communicating devices. The app list includes the following devices, Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, IOS, Chromebook, Kindle, and, routers. It is also available for smart televisions, and casting devices. They have even managed to include the gaming community with applications for PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and a few other game consoles.
Express VPN uses the best-in-class 256-bit encryption that is impervious to the attacks. It has 160 VPN server locations in 94 countries and has four server locations in Hong Kong. The best VPN service to opt, if you are in China or intend to visit the country. It also offers a split-tunneling mechanism and kill-switch that bolster your security while providing decent speed. It also supports torrenting so that is a plus coming from a reputed brand. They do not log any fragment of your data once you are on their network to ensure the utmost privacy.
Numero-Uno VPN service
Comes with a 30-day buyback guarantee
The largest number of servers
Reliable customer support
Expensive than other VPN
Allows only 5 devices
Nord VPN has a slightly different approach than Express VPN. It covers all the bases when it comes to being a VPN network and has a better pricing mechanism than most of the VPN services. It is one of the few ones to boast on the front page that it works in China. It is one of the best value VPN services that you can buy right now, and their sale is right around the corner if you are serious about your privacy.
Nord VPN works are china and enable them to enjoy popular streaming websites like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc, and work seamlessly. It is one of the few VPNs that unblocks the US-based content for users from China. It is possible due to the 60 plus servers that are has built surrounding China and the number continues to grow. A major thing to notice is that is can be used simultaneously on a maximum of 6 devices that can cover most of the gadgets in your household. It also has a strict zero-logs policy and never stores your online activity secretly.
It also supports P2P (Peer to Peer) networks and has hundreds of servers dedicated selectively for that process only. It has a built-in security mechanism to block malware and annoying advertisements that populate websites. The Double-IP features enable you to mask your original address twice so that tracing it back becomes a hopeless trail. Nord VPN has 5461 servers in 59 countries and have you covered even if you reside in remote corners of the globe.
Cheaper than most offerings in the market
Double-IP feature with IP masking
Support for P2P networks
Manual tuning with tech support available for devices
Can be used on 6 devices
Poor speed in Malaysia
Lacks split-tunneling feature
SurfShark deserves to be the second in our lineup as far as the pricing goes. But we’re are not only concerned with the price factor but also keep account of all factors before assigning a position. SurfShark is one the best VPN is your primary concern is accessing region-restricted content on popular streaming services. It gives you access to over 15 Netflix libraries by default. That is a treat for video streamers around the globe. It comes with unblocking access for Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu. That is the best pricing associated if you need it solely for accessing region-restricted content.
SurfShark has an adblocker built into it that removes persistent ads that are prevalent on almost every non-paid website. It also suppresses any malware encounter of possible phishing scams that can steal your personal information and credentials. It uses a whitelisting feature that selectively allows you to unblock sites such as banking websites by using the split-tunneling mechanism. SurfShark also allows you to use the VPN services on an unlimited number of devices, a feature that the top-contenders in our list lack, as of now. It has 1700 plus servers in 63 countries including the Hong Kong province and promises to help regain the right to freedom of expression.
SurfShark has a strict no-logs policy in place along with a ton of impressive features. It comes with a camouflage mode that even confuses your ISP about your VPN usage. The No-Borders mode enables you to use the internet without any restrictions and removes the process of manually selecting networks. It provides a kill-switch feature and private DNS & leak protection among the other important features. Surfshark uses IKEv2/IPsec as the default protocol on all of our apps. If you prefer, you can still select to use OpenVPN. All that for a price under 2 dollars per month is very impressive for a VPN service.
Can be used on an unlimited number of devices
Cheaper than most counterparts
Camouflage mode to enable complete privacy
Access to 15 Netflix libraries
Hotspot Shield is another one that has managed to bypass the great firewall and has managed to build a few servers in and around China. It makes a bold claim of being the number one VPN service provider, but perceptions vary across people. Yet, it is one of the few companies to offer a 45-day money back guarantee that no other VPN service offers currently. It is the current titleholder of the world’s fastest VPN, certified by none other than Ookla itself.
The pricing of Hotspot Shield is kept to match the existing competition. It uses military-grade exceptions that keep you from falling prey to the ever-growing malware and phishing websites on the internet. A feature that keeps it in-vogue in the VPN market is its proprietary Hydra protocol that offers blazing fast speed without compromising the security of your system. Sadly, the encryption mechanism is only usable on Windows and leaves out the rest of the user base. The VPN is also among the widely used free-service among mobile and computer users. It comes with restricted speed and less number of server availability for free users.
Hotspot Shield has 3200 plus servers in more than 80 countries, that includes China as well. Apart from Windows, it is available for macOS, Android, Linux, Chrome, IOS, TVs, and routers. The company claims to not keep a log of your internet activity but keeps your real IP address, mobile number, network information, and other information that might be helpful to advertisers. The information about free users such as hardware ID, model number, and other intricacies is recorded too. The opinion about Hotspot Shield is slowly changing as they continue to work on updating their privacy policies.
Free and Paid Version
Most secure for Windows users
45-days money back guarantee
Servers in China have mixed-responses
The logging policy needs to improve
Trouble in accessing a few streaming websites
Vypr VPN is somewhat different from the other VPN services in the marketplace. It is because it does not deal with any third-party to offer their services. Each location is owned and managed by the company itself and that ensures minimal intrusion and breach of privacy. Very few of the VPN services follow this approach and this makes Vypr VPN a refined choice for users.
The company offers Chameleon Protocol to get past the barrier that the great firewall creates for users located in china. It can avoid the deep packet filtering protocol by scrambling the data packets. That makes it a top choice for user whose ISPs fall under the jurisdiction of the Chinese government. The brand offers access to all the top streaming services across the globe at a good speed, that can be used to combat the throttling measures imposed by your ISP.
Vypr VPN is a little bit on the pricier side and that is mainly due to the investment that the company puts in its server locations. The cost of utmost privacy is somewhat unbearable but still a good alternative for Chinese users. The bad news is that it does not encourage P2P networks and that includes torrenting too. Vypr VPN is improving and the speed is not on par with the Express VPN and Nord VPN. The pricing compels you to go for the annual plan and that deters users on a budget. The chameleon protocol is only available in the premium plan and not in the basic plan.
Robust server connectivity
No third-party access
24/7 customer chat support
Chameleon protocol available in premium plans
Sluggish speed in some regions
This was our list of the top VPN services that work in China presently. The pricing and privacy policies may vary from company to company.