VPN services have become an important tool to counter the growing threat of Internet surveillance. Encrypting one's traffic through a VPN connection helps to keep online communications private, but is your VPN truly anonymous? We take a look at the logging policies of dozens of top VPN providers.
Millions of Internet users around the world use a VPN to protect their privacy online.
Unfortunately, however, not all VPN services are as private as you might think. In fact, some are known to keep extensive logs that can easily identify specific users on their network.
This is the main reason why we have launched a yearly VPN review, asking providers about their respective logging policies as well as other security and privacy aspects. This year’s questions are as follows:
1. Do you keep ANY logs which would allow you to match an IP-address and a time stamp to a user/users of your service? If so, what information do you hold and for how long?
2. What is the registered name of the company and under what jurisdiction(s) does it operate?
3. Do you use any external visitor tracking, email providers or support tools that hold information about your users/visitors?
4. In the event you receive a takedown notice (DMCA or other), how are these handled?
5. What steps are taken when a valid court order or subpoena requires your company to identify an active user of your service? Has this ever happened?
6. Is BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic allowed (and treated equally to other traffic) on all servers? If not, why?
7. Which payment systems do you use and how are these linked to individual user accounts?
8. What is the most secure VPN connection and encryption algorithm you would recommend to your users?
9. How do you currently handle IPv6 connections and potential IPv6 leaks? Do you provide DNS leak protection and tools such as “kill switches” if a connection drops?
10. Do you offer a custom VPN application to your users? If so, for which platforms?
11. Do you have physical control over your VPN servers and network or are they hosted by/accessible to a third party? Do you use your own DNS servers?
12. What countries are your servers located in?
Below is the list of responses from the VPN services in their own words. Providers who didn’t answer our questions directly or failed by logging extensively were excluded. We specifically chose to leave room for detailed answers where needed. The order of the list holds no value.
1. We do not store any logs relating to traffic, session, DNS or metadata. There are no logs for any person or entity to match an IP address and a timestamp to a user of our service. In other words, we do not log, period. Privacy is our policy.
2. Private Internet Access is operated by London Trust Media, Inc., with branches in the US and Iceland, which are a few of the countries that still respect privacy and do not have a mandatory data retention policy. Additionally, since we operate from the countries with the strongest of consumer protection laws, our beloved customers are able to purchase with confidence.
3. All of our VPN systems and tools are proprietary and maintained in house. We utilize some third-party tools in order to provide a better customer experience. By Q3 2017, all of these third party tools will be transitioned to in-house solutions.
4. We do not monitor our users, and we keep no logs, period. That said, we have an active, proprietary system in place to help mitigate abuse.
5. Every subpoena is scrutinized to the highest extent for compliance with both the “spirit” and “letter of the law.” While we have not received valid court orders, we periodically receive subpoenas from law enforcement agencies that we scrutinize for compliance and respond accordingly. This is all driven based upon our commitment to privacy. All this being said, we do not log and do not have any data on our customers other than their signup e-mail and account username.
6. BitTorrent and file-sharing traffic are allowed and treated equally to all other traffic (although it’s routed through a second VPN in some cases). We do not censor our traffic, period.
7. We utilize a variety of payment systems, including, but not limited to: PayPal, Credit Card (with Stripe), Amazon, Google, Bitcoin, CashU, and any major store-bought gift card and OKPay. Payment data is not linked nor linkable to user activity.
8. Currently, the most secure and practical encryption algorithm that we recommend to our users would be our cipher suite of AES-256 + RSA4096 + SHA256.
9. Yes, our users gain a plethora of additional protections, including but not limited to:
(a) Kill Switch: Ensures that traffic is routed through the VPN such that if the VPN connection is unexpectedly terminated, the traffic will not route.
(b) IPv6 Leak Protection: Protects clients from websites which may include IPv6 embeds, which could lead to IPv6 IP information coming out.
(c) DNS Leak Protection: This is built-in and ensures that DNS requests are made through the VPN on a safe, private, no-log DNS daemon.
(d) Shared IP System: We mix clients’ traffic with many other clients’ traffic through the use of an anonymous shared-IP system ensuring that our users blend in with the crowd.
(e) MACE™: Protects users from malware, trackers, and ads
10. We have custom applications to which our users have left amazing reviews. PIA has clients for the following platforms: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS and a Chrome Extension (Coming soon). Additionally, users of other operating systems can connect with other protocols including OpenVPN, SOCKS5 (unencrypted), and IPSec, among others.
11. We utilize our own bare metal servers in third-party datacenters that are operated by trusted friends and, now, business partners whom we have met and on which we have completed serious due diligence. Our servers are located in facilities including 100TB, Choopa, Leaseweb, among others.
We also operate our own DNS servers on our high throughput network. These servers are private and do not log.
12. As of the beginning of 2017, We operate 3283 servers across 37 locations in 25 countries. For more information on what countries are available, please visit our network information page.
Private Internet Access website
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