Private Internet Access Full Review: Exceptional Security
Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of the well-known VPNs on the market. Private Internet Access offers exceptional security with its military-grade encryption. This thorough review will discuss how Private Internet Access performs in categories like streaming, torrenting, and safety? And is Private Internet Access truly as reliable as they claim regarding protecting user privacy and anonymity?
Private Internet Access (PIA) is a user-friendly VPN, so you won't face many add-ons, additional privacy, and security features. Private Internet Access's malware blocker promises to protect against adware and different sort of viruses. Besides being super user-friendly, they allow you to connect up to ten devices at once, and it's compatible with all major platforms.
Private Internet Access Speed
In this section, we checked how Private Internet Access fairs against its competitors in terms of speed tests, number of servers, their geographic distribution, and their fastest available protocol.
1. Private Internet Access in speed tests
Private Internet Access is reportedly one of the fastest VPNs. It scores top points when it comes down to the speed it provides. Whether it's for streaming, torrenting, or gaming, Private Internet Access, with its huge number of servers, makes sure you won't feel any lags or speed drops.
2. Number of servers and geographic distribution
Short explanation: Private Internet Access has an extensive network of 35,000+ servers in more than 77 countries that grow by the day.
Long explanation: Private Internet Access is undoubtedly the VPN service with the highest number of servers. Typically more servers mean less crowding and higher speeds which is better for users. However, other factors such as the quality of servers and bandwidth also come into play.
When it comes to everyday online activities such as browsing and streaming, inconsistent speeds can get frustrating. Thus, it must be noted that they offer excellent speeds in many locations. However, like other VPN providers, these speeds aren't stable, and there are significant drops in speed in several servers in different locations around the world.
3. Fastest available protocol
Short explanation: WireGuard is the fastest available protocol by Private Internet Access (recommended to use).
Long explanation: in the VPN world, many protocols exist, with differences between protocols making the difference in how secure a VPN is, how fast, and whether it can bypass geo-censorship.
Typically, the trade-off is between speed and security, with the PPTP protocol typically being the fastest but the least secure. WireGuard is a new technology developed in 2016. PIA has recently added it as one of its protocols.WireGuard provides high speed and very good encryption.
Private Internet Access Security and Privacy
One of the main reasons a person might use a VPN is because they want to secure their VPN connection and stay anonymous while privately surfing the internet.
The most important features regarding security and privacy include:
1. Private Internet Access encryption and protocols
When it comes to encryption, you can customize encryption protocols. The default encryption setting is AES 128-bit encryption. While it's not as secure as the latest AES 256-bit encryption. It's still extremely secure, and many argue it is more than enough and is usually used instead for higher speed, as more intricate encryption hinders speed.
While the more secure AES 256-bit encryption is offered as a default by NordVPN and ExpressVPN, if you decide you want more safety, then you can manually switch to a 256-bit encryption formulation.
Are you new to VPNs?
For Private Internet Access, use WireGuard protocol for speed, use OpenVPN protocol for security, use the SOCKS5 protocol to bypass geo-censorship (obfuscation).
PIA isn't the best VPN for Obfuscation as it is inconsistent in bypassing geo-censorship. For a better result, try using ExpressVPN or NordVPN, as they have the best results in Obfuscation.
Pro mode: The protocols available for Private Internet Access include:
|Platforms||iOS||All platforms||All platforms||All platforms|
|Security||IPsec encryption||AES encryption (most secure)||ChaCha20 for symmetric encryption with poly1305 for message authentication||SOCKS5, Best for Obfuscationin high censorship countries. Relatively less secure than other protocols.|
|Firewall||UDP ports 500 and 4500, and ESP IP protocol 50||Uses 443 port (hard to block)||The port
If no port is
|Uses multiple TCP ports|
|Speed||Very fast||Slower than IKEv2 and WireGuard||Fastest in this list||Slowest in this list|
2. Private Internet Access logs policy
Short explanation: Private Internet Access does not have a true no-log policy, but rather a no-activity logs policy.
Long explanation: Private Internet Access has a no activity logs policy (i.e., they gather some information such as email address, billing method, etc.), but no online activity is logged.
3. Kill switch
Short explanation: Private Internet Access has a kill switch feature.
Long explanation: Private Internet Access offers an automatic kill switch, which will keep your P2P activity secure even if the VPN connection surprisingly drops. It provides many security and privacy features, including IP masking, data encryption, IPv6 leak protection, DNS leak protection, and a firewall.
4. Private Internet Access RAM-based servers
Short explanation: Private Internet Access has RAM-based servers.
Long explanation: PIA recently installed RAM-based servers and made them available for all users. RAM-based means that the data, instead of being saved to SSD drives, is saved on RAMs. This is advantageous to security, especially for a country inside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance because a RAM is wiped clean every time the servers reboot.
5. VPN based country
Short explanation: Private Internet Access is based in the US.
Long explanation: Private Internet Access is a US-based company and required by law to comply with the government's requests to hand over any relevant data they have collected. However, they claim a no-logs policy which can only be 100% check via physical unannounced audits. Unfortunately, no such reports are available for the public.
As a US-based company, Private Internet Access falls under the jurisdiction of the 5/9/14-Eyes Alliance, which is not the best news for privacy fans.
6. Warrant canary
Short explanation: Private Internet Access doesn’t have a warrant canary system.
Long explanation: A warrant canary is an indirect method to warn customers of governmental attempts to subpoena where the presence of the warrant on the company’s official website means the local government hasn’t tried anything yet.
In the event the warrant canary is removed from the company’s page, it means they were asked. PIA claims that when a warrant canary is removed, it's already too late; hence it's not very handy to use.
What makes PIA relatively better than other 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance companies in terms of security is the RAM-based servers, as it's harder to collect data from those.
PIA has open-sourced all of its desktop and mobile applications for extra measures of transparency to allow any users to review their source code. This transparency ensures that they keep their promises.
Private Internet Access in Practice
In terms of the applications of VPN in the real world, we dive further into how Private Internet Access fares against the rest in the following categories:
Most VPNs on the market don't guarantee access to geo-blocked streaming content. That being said, we can assure you that Private Internet Access' technology allows you to watch Netflix US, UK, and Australia.
You can watch other streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, and many more. However, Private Internet Access struggles to unblock some streaming platforms in different countries in Asia or South America.
So, you might face some challenges before you gain access to geo-blocked content. Hence, we don't see PIA as the ideal VPN for streaming. Several other trustworthy VPNs let you access any streaming platform without breaking a sweat.
Short explanation: Private Internet Access allows torrenting.
Long explanation: Private Internet Access offers well-established P2P support, and Torrenting is allowed on all servers across the PIA network. They have a strict no-logs policy is excellent for torrenting as it keeps you and your traffic data anonymous.
In the event you decide to torrent with Private Internet Access, we recommend you pick a server situated in a country situated outside the 5-9-14 Eyes Alliance.
Short explanation: Private Internet Access doesn’t have specialized gaming servers.
Long explanation: when it comes to gaming, the reason why you would want to use a VPN for games is variable, but one thing is clear, which is no one wants to lag at all. Companies with specialized gaming servers make sure your gaming experience will be smoother than with companies that don’t have specialized gaming servers.
4. Dedicated IP servers
Short explanation: Private Internet Access has dedicated IP servers.
Long explanation: As of December 2020, Private Internet Access started providing dedicated IP servers, as per requests from users. A dedicated IP server is a server assigned solely for your use, meaning you don't share an IP with others.
A dedicated IP isn't something that is necessarily better than a shared IP. Whether you need a dedicated IP or not depends on what you use a VPN for.
When would I need a dedicated IP server?
A dedicated IP server is recommending for the following reasons:
This comes to play when one needs to secure their business server access for the purpose of security. Typically, in a business service setting, you want encryption of data, as well as a select group of people to be able to login to your system.
This is done by allowing particular IP addresses to log in. If your IP is shared and is not static, then this won't be possible. On the other hand, a dedicated IP means it's static and can be set as a log in condition.
Regular secure online payments
You might be wondering why shouldn't I just pay with the standard shared IP VPN service? Now I want you to imagine this picture from the bank's viewpoint. Someone with a certain card number has processed payments from 10 different countries around the world in the past week; for banks, that sounds like a sane reason to block the card marking it as suspicious activity. However, when having a static IP, this issue is avoided as you are paying from the same IP/location every time.
Avoid getting blacklisted
The Blacklist effect, also known as the bad neighbor effect, revolves around the issue that other people with the same IP address could do things that might end up banning the owner of that specific IP address. However, you might have done nothing wrong nonetheless since you share the same IP as the person who got blacklisted. You get banned/blacklisted as well. Since a dedicated IP means it's yours and yours only, this wouldn't happen.
Do you know these pesky bots with the audacity to question whether you're a bot or not? This CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) system is a security measure to protect you from getting your password hacked, protect you from spam, and many other uses. With a dedicated IP, you are less likely to encounter a CAPTCHA.
5. Geo-censorship bypass (obfuscation)
Private Internet Access isn't the best when it comes to Obfuscation. Despite the large number of servers they have, PIA suffers when attempting to bypass geo-censorship, such as dealing with the Great Firewall of China.
6. Split tunneling
Short explanation: Private Internet Access has the split tunneling feature on both the mobile app and desktop.
Long explanation: The split tunneling feature means you can selectively use your VPN on a certain type/source of data outgoing from your device. It is done by adding certain applications to the network page in the PIA app.
Split tunneling in certain situations is favorable. For example, you're torrenting while playing a videogame or watching a YouTube video. In such a scenario, you would want only the torrenting to be encrypted. VPN encryption will slow down the connection speed relative to not using a VPN since the encrypted data is larger than non-encrypted.
7. Tor over VPN
Short explanation: Private Internet Access has Tor over VPN support.
Long explanation: Torrent onion router (Tor) is a P2P program used to enter the dark web. Using a VPN adds an extra layer of anonymity, especially at the entry node, with the addition of data encryption.
Private Internet Access Compatibility Support
Private Internet Access is compatible with all the major platforms, including; Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. Other features and add-ons are pretty much similar on all the platforms.
Private Internet Access also provides you with secure browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. You can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously with a single subscription plan, which is an advantage compared to other competitors.
Private Internet Access is compatible with:
Private Internet Access is available as an extension on:
- Google Chrome
Private Internet Access User Experience
Private Internet Access provides its users with high versatility in terms of:
1. Supported languages
Private Internet Access supports the following languages:
2. Customer support
Private Internet Access offers 24/7 live chat support. If you don't want to contact an agent, you can check their website. You'll find easy-to-follow installation guides, troubleshooting walkthroughs, knowledgebase, and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section.
Private Internet Access provides customer support in the following forms:
- Live chat
- Knowledge base
- Email and tickets
- Community threads
Pricing and Payment
Private Internet Access offers three main pricing plans starting from $2.69 per month. All these plans have the same features; the only difference between them is the subscription duration and price. Longer subscription plans are affordable and offer better value for money.
While there's no free trial or a free version, there's a 30-day money-back guarantee for you to try and decide if it's the VPN for you.
You can pay for your plan using credit cards, PayPal, and several forms of anonymous payment like gift cards and cryptocurrencies, making it very variable in terms of payment options.
Available payment methods summary:
- Major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, etc.)
- Amazon Pay
Even with the few downsides we mentioned in the article, Private Internet Access is an affordable and user-friendly VPN. With its satisfying security features and ease of use, and the largest number of available servers for a VPN company, we believe that PIA is one of the best VPNs in the market. Only a few competitors can match both their features and price.