ProtonVPN Review: Free Secure Email and Reliable VPN
ProtonVPN: Security at the Software and Hardware Level
You don’t have to look things up on dozens of websites to get what you need. Several.com brings you comprehensive yet fast-digested information. The VPN we chose is ProtonVPN; you probably have heard about it before, especially when the name calls for their earlier product "ProtonMail".
The company's services include a free private email and reliable VPN, which gets more global every day, with more than 1,059 servers in 54 countries around the globe.
More About ProtonVPN
ProtonVPN is a Swiss cybersecurity company with its headquarters in Switzerland. It started with the first product, "ProtonMail" in 2014 to provide decent privacy for internet users in general, especially people at-risk, including journalists and democracy activists. The application had great popularity in no time, and now it is available for users worldwide.
The email is safe and ensures that your data, emails, and accounts are unreachable for intruders and third parties. One more amazing thing is the fact that their code is open source, making it available and free for everyone.
ProtonMail came to the world of privacy with steady steps; it uses end-to-end encryption, which leaves nothing behind for third parties. Creating your email does not require personal information, and you can be linked to an anonymous email account.
ProtonVPN Launches VPN
Three years later, the company launched ProtonVPN. After one year of development and four months of testing, the team of ProtonMail has brought ProtonVPN to the public. Online freedom also means zero limits to your online activity. Therefore, ProtonVPN puts down the walls that stand between you and your constrained online content.
ProtonVPN has a no-logs policy that leaves no data on their servers to be saved or stolen. It has a free VPN version with servers in the US, Netherlands, and Japan that connect to one device. Users need to upgrade to paid subscriptions for more devices, which offer more than 1,059 servers in 54 countries worldwide. You can also protect up to 10 devices at the same time.
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This section checks how ProtonVPN fares against its competitors regarding speed tests, number of servers, geographic distribution, and their fastest available protocol.
1. Speed tests
All ProtonVPN servers have at minimum 1 Gbps bandwidth, and many of their servers also use 10 Gbps connections. That's so promising, but what about the speed tests? Users of ProtonVPN were amazed by how fast ProtonVPN worked in different locations at a fairly consistent speed. Using ProtonVPN's Secure Core could slow your connection down but not to a bothering extent.
2. Number of servers and geographic distribution
Short explanation: ProtonVPN has more than 1,059 servers in 54 countries worldwide.
Long explanation: A VPN that provides a large number of servers with good distribution is more likely to be faster and more effective when it comes to streaming and bypassing geo-restrictions. More servers mean less traffic on the same server and faster connection for all users.
3. Fastest available protocol
Short Explanation: IKEv2 is the fastest available protocol by ProtonVPN (recommended to use).
Long Explanation: Many aspects depend on a protocol's type. In terms of privacy, OpenVPN and WireGuard are highly recommended and pretty safe to use. In terms of speed, the PPTP protocol is very fast but less secure than other protocols. It all depends on what you prioritize and need.
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ProtonVPN Security and Privacy
ProtonVPN promises to provide security at both the hardware and software levels. Let's find out what it offers to maintain high privacy and security:
1. Encryption and protocols
Your traffic is encrypted using AES-256 encryption, the key change is done with 4096-bit RSA, and HMAC with SHA384 is used for message authentication. It is such a comfort to know that what you do online can't be seen or reached by third parties. Another feature related to this one is the "Forward Secrecy"; if you got lost on this, allow us to explain.
ProtonVPN attentively picks encryption cipher suites to ensure that your encrypted traffic can't be collected and decrypted by a third party. ProtonVPN changes the encryption key with each new connection, and the encryption key, as a result, is never used for more than one session.
ProtonVPN announced a new feature in 2020, the "Full-Desk Encryption"; this feature prevents attacks, especially those that can come from high-risk countries. Such attacks could be made by governments and agencies.
Similar attacks include man-in-the-middle attacks (MITM), which means the attacker takes place in the connection between the user and the server they use, which puts the attacker directly in connection with the victimized user. As a result, the attacker can reach and use all messages, conversations, online activity, web browsing, and more information.
Full disk encryption secures server certificates and all other configurations and software stored on an existing server. So even if the server is somehow reached, data stored on it won't be reachable.
Pro mode: Some protocols cost less to operate, like PPTP and L2TP/IPSec, but ProtonVPN servers do not use any out of the list. Instead, it uses only protocols known to be secure like IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN, which ensures that your traffic goes through a secure tunnel.
|Platform||All platforms (default for macOS and iOS)||All platforms|
|Security||IPsec encryption||AES encryption (most secure)|
|Firewall||UDP ports 500 and 4500, and ESP IP Protocol 50||Uses 443 port (hard to block)|
|Speed||Generally fast (faster than OpenVPN)||Slowest of the three (around 400,000 lines of code)|
2. ProtonVPN logs policy
Short explanation: ProtonVPN has a no-log policy.
Long explanation: ProtonVPN is supported by Swiss law, which does not obligate certain logging on specific users. According to the same laws, VPN providers are obligated not to save any connection logs under any circumstances. The good news is that the no-log policy applies to all users, even those who use the free version of ProtonVPN.
3. ProtonVPN kill switch
Short explanation: ProtonVPN has a fully functioning kill switch feature.
Long explanation: When you lose connection to your VPN server, the kill switch feature in ProtonVPN stops your internet connection to prevent any leaks, finds another VPN server for you automatically, and re-establishes a connection in no time with the Always-On-VPN feature.
4. ProtonVPN RAM-based servers
Short explanation: ProtonVPN doesn't have RAM-based servers.
Long explanation: A RAM-based server means that the data, instead of being saved to SSD drives, is saved on RAMs. This is advantageous to security because RAMs are wiped clean every time the servers reboot.
5. Based country
Short explanation: ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland.
Long explanation: ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland, which is outside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance. This adds as a plus point to security since VPN companies based inside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance are considered a possible security threat, as these countries are known to spy on their citizens and share information internally.
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6. Warrant Canary
Short explanation: ProtonVPN has 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.
7. Secure Core VPN
It protects your connection from the attacks that target the VPN server. It is a kind of attack that classic VPNs can't avoid, especially in countries with highly restrictive internet regulations, like China, Iran, Russia, or countries with broad surveillance power, like the USA and UK. Secure Core VPN passes your traffic through the Secure Core VPN first, then the Secure Core VPN passes user's traffic in multiple servers, making it difficult to unveil both the real IP address and the locations of ProtonVPN users.
Secure Core is available on Plus and Visionary plans only, on Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, and Linux.
It beefs up your device by blocking ads, trackers, and malware. How does it work exactly?
The DNS server is responsible for all domain requests for every resource. When you enable NetShield on your device, the DNS server checks these domains and eliminates them if they match the databases of domains with ads, malware, or trackers. As a result, it speeds up your device and keeps it protected from cyber-attacks.
If you change your NetShield settings, you need to disconnect and reconnect to the VPN server to notice any changes.
9. Security at the Hardware Level
ProtonVPN Secure Core servers are 1000 meters below the surface in a former Swiss army fallout shelter. Servers in Iceland also reside in a former military base. By doing so, ProtonVPN makes sure that not only your information is secured, but also the servers are secured at the hardware level.
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ProtonVPN in Practice
In terms of the application of VPNs in the real world, we dive further into how ProtonVPN fares against the rest in the following categories:
ProtonVPN allows you to enjoy smooth streaming on many platforms like the US and UK Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO GO., and Disney+.
Short explanation: ProtonVPN allows torrenting.
Long explanation: ProtonVPN allows P2P BitTorrent on three servers for the free VPN and on all servers for other premium plans. The servers are both secure and fast, which guarantees smooth torrenting and file sharing.
Short explanation: ProtonVPN provides a great speed for gaming.
Long explanation: ProtonVPN supports gaming with P2P networks and fast servers. It is both secure and fast, with a great ability to unblock limitations on games you wish to play. However, for the free VPN provided by ProtonVPN, don't expect much. To enjoy a fast gaming experience that has zero lags, you will need to subscribe to the premium plans.
4. Tor over VPN
Short explanation: ProtonVPN supports Tor over VPN.
Long explanation: You can route your traffic into the Tor anonymity network, which provides access to dark websites through the Onion network with a single click.
5. ProtonVPN dedicated IP
Short explanation: ProtonVPN doesn't have a dedicated IP.
Long explanation: Mostly, when using a VPN, you want a dynamic IP (an IP that changes whenever you reconnect to a server). In certain situations, this is not the case. A dedicated server is recommended in the following situations:
- Business security.
- Secure online payment.
- Avoid getting blacklisted.
- Avoid CAPTCHAs.
6. Geo-censorship bypass (obfuscation)
Short explanation: ProtonVPN bypasses geo-restricted content by masking your IP.
Long explanation: ProtonVPN provides detailed guides on how to unblock the majority of streaming services and unblocks a good amount of content in many locations around the world. However, ProtonVPN made things clear on the website about which plans can let you access these services and turned to be limited to Visionary Plan and Plus Plan users only.
7. Split tunneling
Short explanation: ProtonVPN has the split tunneling feature.
Long explanation: Split tunneling is a feature provided by many VPNs and is considered important by many to stratify the use of VPN on your device.
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Extensions and Compatibility
ProtonVPN is compatible with:
ProtonVPN is available as an extension on:
- Google Chrome
- Microsoft Edge
Most VPN providers offer live chat or email assistance. Unfortunately, ProtonVPN is not one of them, but their knowledge base is comprehensive, and you will probably find what you are looking for. You can post your question, and they will respond within two days, which is considered a slow response by many users. Let's find more about it.
1. Supported languages
ProtonVPN supports the English language only.
2. Customer support
ProtonVPN supports you via the following options:
- Knowledge base
- Articles and guides
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Pricing and Payments
ProtonVPN offers various options in terms of both duration and features. A free VPN version is available, too. Let's compare the subscriptions in the table below:
|Plans||Free VPN||Basic Plan||Plus Plan||Visionary Plan|
$4 per month
$10 per month
$30 per month
$4 per month
Charging $48 yearly (Save $12)
$8 per month
Charging $96 yearly (Save $24)
$24 per month
Charging $288 yearly (Save $72)
Charging $79 every 2 years (Save $41)
Charging $159 every 2 years (Save $81)
Charging $479 every 2 years (Save $241)
|Number of devices||1 VPN connection||2 VPN connections||5 VPN connections||10 VPN connections|
|P2P BitTorrent support||Servers in 3 countries||Servers in 54 countries||Servers in 54 countries||Servers in 54 countries|
|Speed||Medium Speed||High Speed||High Speed||High Speed|
|Tor over VPN||N/A||N/A||Included||Included|
|Access blocked content||N/A||N/A||Included||Included|
|Secure Core VPN||N/A||N/A||Included||Included|
|ProtonMail visionary account||N/A||N/A||N/A||Included|
If you're not satisfied with the service, you can get your money back within the first 30 days of purchase due to their 30-day money-back guarantee.
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Launching ProtonMail in 2014 was a turning point in the world of privacy, and the company has thrived since then with new technologies afterward. Three years later, ProtonVPN came to support their first accomplishment and ensures that individuals' privacy is under ProtonVPN protection.
We can't agree more on how trustworthy their services are, especially with their restless efforts and work to make a difference, mentioning here the "Full-Desk Encryption" that was added to the long list of features in 2020.
ProtonVPN uses AES-256 encryption, the key change is done with 4096-bit RSA, and HMAC with SHA384 is used for message authentication. Along with the Full-Desk encryption that was announced in 2020, this encryption prevents attacks, especially those that can come from high-risk countries.
Yes, and their free version is available for all users worldwide, but with some limitations; it can be used only for one device, and connects to three servers only. In terms of speed, it is medium and does not support the Secure Core feature.
It depends on the plan you choose, the free VPN supports one device, the Basic subscription supports 2 devices, the Plus subscription supports 5 devices, and the Visionary subscription supports up to 10 devices.
For Plus and Visionary subscriptions, we say yes they unblock Netflix libraries and Hulu. However, free and Basic plans do not unblock them.
This kind of attacks must not be taken easily because the attacker takes place in the connection between a user and the server, which puts the attacker directly in connection with the victimized user. As a result, the attacker can reach and use all messages, conversations, online activity, web browsing, and more.
ProtonVPN launched ProtonMail in 2014 to provide decent privacy for internet users in general, especially people at-risk, including journalists and democracy activists. The app had great popularity in no time, and now it is available and free for users worldwide.