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ProtonVPN Review 2023: Security insights after privacy scandals

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ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN is the product of Proton Technologies, the same company behind ProtonMail. However, the company was under fire when ProtonMail gave authorities the French activist’s IP address. This event also makes people question the credibility of ProtonVPN; and whether its claims of providing robust online protection to users are valid. The recent introduction of the anti-censorship protocol and log audit report makes ProtonVPN rank as one of the best VPN providers.

The VPN provider has been the most preferred choice of users because of its impressive range of features, super-fast speeds, and the highest level of security and privacy. To know more about ProtonVPN features, consider the table below:

Security and Privacy:

  • AES-256 bit encryption
  • ChaCha20 encryption 2048 bit RSA key
  • SHA-384 authentication key
Jurisdiction
  • Switzerland
Log Policy

Follows a verified no-log policy

Security Features
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling
  • Smart Protocol
  • Full Disk Encryption
  • Stealth Mode
  • Alternate Routing technology
  • NetShield
  • Tor over VPN
  • Perfect Forward Secrecy

Streaming and Torrenting

List of Compatible Streaming Platforms 
  • YouTube
  • Amazon
  • PrimeDisney
  • PlusHBO Max
  • Netflix
  • ESPN Plus
List of Torrenting Features
  • Split tunneling
  • Torrent IP leak protection

User-friendliness 

No. of Servers 
  • More than 1600 servers in 67 countries
Pricing
  • Free version
  • €9.99/m on a monthly plan
  • €5.99/m on a yearly plan
  • €4.99/m on a two-years plan
Customer Support 
  • Email
  • Online resources
Compatible Devices 
  • Android iOS
  • MacOS
  • Linux
  • Windows
  • Streaming devices
  • Gaming consoles

ProtonVPN makes big claims about its services but are all these claims valid? To dig out more about the VPN’s claims, keep reading this ProtonVPN review and get answers to all your questions.

Security and Privacy

A VPN ensures maximum user privacy and security by using strong encryption protocols, operating from a secure jurisdiction, and having a strict no-logs policy. Therefore, it is crucial to look into these aspects of a VPN provider to gauge its security. 

– What Encryption Does ProtonVPN Uses?

ProtonVPN uses modern encryption to boost your online security. The VPN uses the industry’s highest AES-256 bit encryption or ChaCha20 to encrypt your internet traffic. In addition, it uses an RSA-2048 handshake for establishing connections and an SHA-384 hash key for authentication.

The VPN provider also uses the Diffie-Hellman key exchange for generating session keys. It enables the server and the client to agree on a key without communicating.

ProtonVPN makes it impossible for any snooping eye to intercept your data traffic and learn about your online activities with such high encryption.

– Where Is ProtonVPN Located?

ProtonVPN belongs to a safe jurisdiction that isn’t a global alliance member state. The VPN provider has its headquarters in the privacy-heaven jurisdiction of Switzerland. The country is not bound by any formal agreement to collect and share users’ browsing data with international agencies. 

Moreover, Switzerland respects users’ privacy and has strong privacy laws that don’t require VPN providers to retain your data. Also, the data retention laws introduced by BUPF do not apply to ProtonVPN and Proton Technologies because they are not major telecommunication operators

 Thus, you can trust ProtonVPN and use it without worrying about your activities getting recorded. 

– Does ProtonVPN Keeps Logs?

ProtonVPN is a no-log VPN provider that promises to record and share users’ browsing data and other sensitive information like IP address and connection timestamp. Here’s a look at ProtonVPN’s privacy policy:

ProtonVPN Log Policy

But, the VPN provider does collect a minimal amount of information, such as:

  • Email address
  • Support requests
  • Payment information

The company collects this information for account creation and makes its service better. Since this information can’t expose your identity and activities, there is no need to worry. In April 2022, ProtonVPN conducted an independent audit to double-check its no-log policy and found that they were honest with its claims.  

The VPN provider also issues an annual transparency report to make people believe their stance on being a no-log VPN is true. The report highlights how users’ data is untraceable. For instance, in 2019, the Swiss court approved a foreign country’s request to provide users’ logs. But the company didn’t give any data because they don’t store data on their servers. 

Moreover, the VPN has undergone an audit of its apps. The ProtonVPN apps are open-sourced, and the code is available for review on GitHub. The entire audit process was built in partnership with Mozilla, and for this job, the company hired a third-party audit firm SEC Consult.

The audit report highlights the issues and flaws found in each app. The report further revealed that the macOS app was the most secure and found no bugs. The iOS app had problems using the hardcoded credentials and other data in the memory, while the Windows app discovered issues related to jailbreaking. The least unsecure app was Android, as it had logout issues. 

But, soon, these problems were fixed, and now all apps are safe to use. As a whole, ProtonVPN is a genuinely private VPN that neither logs nor shares your data, and even its apps are free from any vulnerability. 

– Which Tunneling Protocols Does ProtonVPN supports?

ProtonVPN uses secure tunneling protocols that protect your internet connection like:

  • WireGuard
  • OpenVPN
  • IKEv2

WireGuard is a lightweight and open-source protocol much faster than traditional VPN protocols. It utilizes the ChaCha20 encryption cipher that protects your VPN connection and boosts your online security. In addition, it enables perfect forward secrecy, ensuring new keys are generated every session. You can use this protocol on all platforms except for Linux. 

Besides this, the VPN also deploys the OpenVPN protocol and allows UDP or TCP transmission protocols. OpenVPN uses the OpenSSL library to encrypt the data traffic and is implemented with perfect forward secrecy. The protocol is compatible with all major operating systems and devices. 

Similarly, ProtonVPN also uses the IKEv2 protocol that uses a range of cryptographic algorithms like AES, Blowfish, and Camellia and thus is fast, secure, and reliable. Since it uses the Diffie-Hellman process to exchange keys, the perfect forward secrecy is automatically implemented. The Android, iOS, and MacOS apps can use the IKEv2 protocol to establish an encrypted VPN tunnel to keep your connection and activities private. 

Depending on your preferences and activities, you can choose the protocol of your choice.

– How Good Is ProtonVPN At Bypassing Censorship?

ProtonVPN is among some of the best VPN providers that circumvent censorship and helps you to browse the web safely. Using the recently introduced anti-censorship protocol ”Stealth mode”, you can easily defeat censorship and access any website, service, or app. Also, by switching to the OpenVPN protocol. It uses the same port as HTTPS, secures all the sensitive data, and makes it impossible for anyone to know about your activities. 

ProtonVPN also launched an advanced alternative routing technology feature in 2020. It bypasses censorship and allows users to access any website or service blocked by the government and ISP. The VPN also uses a Smart Protocol, another impressive anti-censorship feature that automatically connects you with ProtonVPN when someone tries to block your access. Because of advanced anti-censorship features, you can even use ProtonVPN in countries that follow extremely high censorship, like China, Russia, and UAE. But these features are available on Windows, Android, iOS, and MacOS devices.

The best thing about ProtonVPN is that it even allows you to bypass censorship in the free version. The free version of the ProtonVPN will enable you to access blocked content like social media, news sites, and YouTube, regardless of location. 

Past History of VPN Provider

A VPN’s parent company might significantly impact its credibility; hence, the company and the owner mustn’t have a bad track record like involvement in violating users’ privacy. ProtonVPN doesn’t have a shady track record, but the company does experience severe backlash during the past few years, which is enough to question its credibility. 

 A team of scientists who met at the CERN founded Proton Technologies. Before the VPN, the company introduced ProtonMail, the largest encrypted email service. The fundamental purpose of this email service was to allow activists and journalists to communicate over the web privately. 

But in 2021, the company, especially ProtonMail, came under fire as they gave the French climate activist IP address. The event also raised questions and speculations on the credibility of ProtonVPN, whether they are honest with their claims or not. 

Later, the company CEO issued a statement and said that since the company uses encryption, it helps prevent the authorities from viewing the contents and identity of the ProtonMail account. But no proof shows that encryption prevented content from being reviewed. ProtonVPN should audit its log policy to win its trust. 

Extra Privacy and Security Features

ProtonVPN offers a range of privacy and security-focused features. However, accessing those features depends on the VPN subscription plan. The VPN provider also offers a free version, but you can’t access any advanced features. 

Selecting ProtonVPN plus and the visionary plan allows you to benefit from the following features:

NetShield

Pop-ups and ads irritate the most while browsing the web. ProtonVPN is among the few reliable VPN providers that offer an ad blocker feature that ensures a smooth user experience. It uses the DNS filtering method to block privacy-invading ads and allows you to browse the web without interruption. Besides this, it prevents your device from unnecessary loading and improves your page loading and overall browsing speed. You can even block trackers, cookies, and malware and enjoy an anonymous browsing experience. However, this feature is only available on Windows, Linux, and MacOS devices.

Full Disk Encryption

The VPN uses full disk encryption to secure its servers from man-in-the-middle attacks. This feature is rolled out on the Russian servers, but soon it will upgrade to other servers. The disk encryption feature won’t change your overall experience, and you can still benefit from all other features. 

Tor Over VPN

Tor is a great anonymity tool, but it is also a fact that it comes with a plethora of security and privacy risks, and experts suggest using it with a VPN. Another impressive feature offered by ProtonVPN is its built-in support for the Tor browser. The VPN provider has Tor servers in various countries that safely connect you to the Tor network. Also, you can access the hidden onion sites by connecting to the Tor servers without compromising your security. As a whole, it is a great feature that offers a convenient way to access the onion sites.

Perfect Forward Secrecy

ProtonVPN uses a perfect forward secrecy feature that ensures that your browsing history remains secure even if the encryption keys are compromised. Each time when you connect to ProtonVPN, it generates a new encryption key to keep your VPN connection secure. 

Kill Switch

ProtonVPN offers a built-in kill switch or the Always-on VPN feature. It blocks the VPN traffic when you lose the connection, and later, when the connection resorts, it establishes the connection with the VPN server. This way, it also protects the IP address and DNS queries from getting exposed and ensures a private browsing experience. Using a kill switch feature is of great value whether you’re streaming, torrenting, or wants to enjoy an anonymous browsing experience. You can use the ProtonVPN kill switch feature on all major supported devices like Android, Apple, and Windows.

Split Tunneling

Another impressive feature that ProtonVPN offers is the split tunneling feature. With this feature, you can control how to use your data. It allows you to route some connections via the VPN tunnel while excluding others. This feature proves useful during torrenting as it improves the downloading speed. However, this feature is only available on Android and Windows devices.

– Stealth Mode

ProtonVPN introduced a stealth mode feature which is the anti-censorship protocol. It avoids detection and enables users to defeat censorship. With this feature, all your connections and activities are untrackable. This amazing feature allows you to surf the web from any restrictive regimes with complete freedom. In addition, you can use this feature to access blocked websites and services. By navigating into the settings, you can turn on this feature, but at the moment, this feature is only available on Android, iOS, and MacOS devices.

Besides this, ProtonVPN also uses the Smart protocol and alternate routing technology that have functions as anti-censorship features and are available on all supported devices. As a whole, ProtonVPN ensures a private and secure web browsing experience with all these features. 

Streaming and Torrenting

Streaming and torrenting without a VPN might cause you to experience frequent buffering and connection lags. It’s all because your ISP is throttling your connection for using much bandwidth. Also, because of geographical restrictions, you might be unable to unlock the websites for downloading and watching the blocked streaming content.  Another area where ProtonVPN remains on top is streaming and torrenting. The VPN provider consistently has fast connection speeds and features that ensure a fantastic streaming and downloading experience. 

Compatible Streaming Platforms

If you’re looking for a reliable VPN for streaming, then ProtonVPN won’t disappoint you. Though the VPN doesn’t offer dedicated streaming servers or a SmartDNS feature, still it’s an excellent option to use. ProtonVPN’s vast server network, fast connection speeds, anti-censorship feature, and ability to work on all major streaming platforms make it the best option. 

The VPN provider works on several streaming platforms like:

  • YouTube
  • Amazon Prime
  • Disney Plus
  • HBO Max
  • Netflix
  • ESPN Plus

ProtonVPN’s fast speed ensures you can watch your favorite streaming content in HD and 4k without any buffering. The VPN gives off exceptional results on Netflix. You can unblock major Netflix libraries like the US, Australia, and Canada. By default, the VPN allows you to access the US Netflix catalog. Whenever you’re accessing Netflix with ProtonVPN, always connect to plus servers (labeled as P). It’s because they help in bypassing the Netflix block.  

However, you can enjoy a seamless streaming experience only if you subscribe to a plus and visionary plan. ProtonVPN’s basic plan does allow streaming but with a limited server network, so choose wisely. 

Is ProtonVPN Good For Torrenting?

ProtonVPN is the perfect choice for torrenting because it supports P2P file sharing and works well with the BitTorrent client. However, the VPN doesn’t support downloading and sharing any copyrighted content. 

The VPN offers unlimited bandwidth and 140 optimized servers denoted by a two-arrow icon for P2P file sharing. You can enjoy a fast torrent downloading experience by connecting to the servers. In addition, it comes with an impressive VPN accelerator feature that increases speed even if you’re not connected to a P2P server. 

Moreover, the VPN provider belongs to a safe jurisdiction and follows a strict no-log policy; your data will be shared with anyone. You can also connect to the secure core servers in Switzerland, Iceland, and Sweden to route your traffic behind two layers of encryption and enjoy greater online security during torrenting. 

 ProtonVPN also uses a kill switch and split tunneling feature that boosts your online security while torrenting. Besides this, the VPN provider protects from DNS and torrent IP leaks and keeps your torrent activities private.

Overall, ProtonVPN is among the best VPN for torrenting. However, remember that the VPN allows unlimited torrenting in basic, plus, and visionary plans. If you’re using the free version, you won’t be eligible for downloading torrents. 

How Fast Is ProtonVPN?

ProtonVPN’s speed has improved significantly from the past. Previously, it offered average speeds, but now the speeds are super-fast; hence, the VPN is often rated among the fastest VPN providers. The VPN provides blazing-fast speeds on local and remote servers while streaming, torrenting, and browsing with little lagging. 

When you tap to choose a server, it informs how much load a server can bear. The servers labeled with a green icon are best to select, while the ones labeled with yellow and red have more users connected and might not fit your preferred activities. 

Furthermore, ProtonVPN’s fast connection speed is also because of the WireGuard protocol and unique feature like VPN accelerators. It is an impressive feature that increases your speed drastically when connecting to remote servers. It creates multiple simultaneous connections to get around hurdles that might slow your speed. 

Since ProtonVPN offers limited server access in different subscription plans, you can enjoy the blazing fast connection in Plus and visionary plans. Also, don’t forget to enable the VPN accelerator feature by navigating the connection tab. However, you get average speeds if you use the free version of ProtonVPN.

In addition, ProtonVPN also offers an impressive quick connect feature that allows you to connect to the fastest available server. As a whole, ProtonVPN gives remarkable speeds, and it comes with a couple of features that boost and guarantee the fastest connections. 

User-Friendliness

ProtonVPN offers dedicated apps that have a simple and intuitive user interface. The apps are well-designed and offer various customization options. For instance, you can create custom connection profiles and configure the background color, server, and protocols according to your wish.

The Number of Servers ProtonVPN Provides 

ProtonVPN is also among those VPN providers that offer a vast server network. The VPN comprises more than 1900 servers in 67 countries, and they are updating their servers constantly. They have servers on almost every continent and ensure global connectivity. However, because of India’s data retention laws, ProtonVPN shut down its servers in India.

The ProtonVPN servers are of the following types:

  • 1603 Plus servers in 67 countries
  • 100 secure core servers in 67 countries
  • 127 free servers in three countries

The Plus servers are the ones available in the Plus and visionary plan. They offer numerous benefits to the users, like streaming, downloading, and safe access to the Tor network. Also, they provide an ad-blocker feature and the highest speed, up to 10Gbps. In contrast, secure core servers add an extra security layer while browsing the web. They protect your connection by routing your traffic via multiple servers before leaving the network. These servers are owned and operated by ProtonVPN and located in the privacy-friendly jurisdiction of Iceland or Switzerland. 

Meanwhile, basic servers support P2P file sharing but don’t come with any other advanced features offered by the Plus servers. The VPN offers 24 free servers available in three locations i.e, Japan, the Netherlands, and the US. They provide medium browsing speed but do not provide any advanced features. 

How Good Is ProtonVPN Customer Support?

Like every other VPN, ProtonVPN also has an effective customer support team to assist the users. However, ProtonVPN’s customer support options are pretty limited. The VPN lacks the most impressive 24/7 live chat option that gives responsive and timely answers. You can contact the customer support team via email support, but the replies are not instantaneous, and you might have to wait for a few hours and even for days. 

Besides this, ProtonVPN has a resourceful online website. You can find guidelines, FAQs, blogs, news, and troubleshooting that are useful to the users.  

What Devices Is It Compatible With?

ProtonVPN is compatible with multiple devices and platforms. You can install and download the VPN within a few minutes on the following devices:

  • Android
  • iOS
  • MacOS
  • Linux
  • Windows
  • Gaming consoles (Xbox, PS4, and PS5)
  • Streaming devices (Android TV)

The VPN offers dedicated apps for these platforms, which are easy to use and ensures the best user experience. The ProtonVPN Android and Windows apps are the best in terms of functionality. It’s easy to use and ensures the best user experience.

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FAQs

How many simultaneous connections does ProtonVPN allow?

If you’re using the free version of ProtonVPN, you can only connect to a single device, while the basic plan allows up to two devices. In contrast, the Plus and the visionary plan allow up to ten simultaneous device connections. 

Does ProtonVPN offer a free trial period?

ProtonVPN offers a free version, so it doesn’t offer any trial period. But, the VPN provider is backed with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee offer. If you’re not satisfied with the VPN’s performance, you can ask for a refund via the support form and will get the refund within 14 days.  

Is the ProtonVPN free version good to use?

ProtonVPN ranks among the few VPN providers that come with a free version. You can consider using the free version of ProtonVPN, but it’s not recommended. The free version has certain limitations and doesn’t guarantee the same user experience you enjoy in the Plus and visionary plans. Here are a few reasons why ProtonVPN’s free version is not much worthy of use:

  • The VPN offers 127 servers in only three locations, including Japan, the Netherlands, and the US. You might experience slow speeds, and frequent connection lags with a limited server network. 
  • You can access the blocked social media and news sites and unblock YouTube, but you can’t access Netflix or any other streaming service. 
  • The free version of ProtonVPN doesn’t allow torrenting and P2P-file sharing. 
  • You can’t access advanced features like alternate routing technology and secure core servers. 

The free version is a good option to consider for short-term use. But for long-term use, you should subscribe to the premium plans. 

Does ProtonVPN block ads?

ProtonVPN offers a NetShield ad-blocker that ensures a private and secure browsing experience. It helps in blocking out intrusive ads. They also block trackers and malware that can infect your device. Also, they improve the overall browsing speed and ensure that you won’t encounter any interruption during browsing. 

Final Verdict

ProtonVPN ranks as the top-rated VPN provider in 2022, and there’s no doubt about this. The VPN provider maintains maximum online security using robust encryption and VPN protocols. It’s also a private and reliable VPN provider that belongs to a privacy-heaven jurisdiction and doesn’t log users’ data. Also, all its apps are open-sourced and audited, making it a preferred choice for users. 

Besides this, the VPN provider offers outstanding speed and performs exceptionally well on Netflix. You can even torrent and download large files within a few minutes. ProtonVPN offers various subscription plans, including the free version. You can choose the plan according to your preference and budget.  

Overall, ProtonVPN is best in all areas, and you must consider to use it.

ProtonVPN Overview

Privacy Level
5 / 5
100%
Security Level
5 / 5
100%
Unblocking
5 / 5
100%
Streaming & Downloading
5 / 5
100%
Anonymity Level
5 / 5
100%

1 Review

Karl
5

easy to use

the best part of using ProtonVPN is free, you can get started without payment.

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Rebecca James is an IT consultant with forward thinking approach toward developing IT infrastructures of SMEs. She writes to engage with individuals and raise awareness of digital security, privacy, and better IT infrastructure.

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