A Virtual Private Network creates a temporary, dedicated connection between your device (for example your computer or smartphone) and the internet. On the internet, every device has a unique identifier called IP address, which is similar to a phone number or home address. It gives access to detailed information about the device which makes activities traceable. A VPN allows you to hide this information. In short, the virtual private network server acts as a proxy to your device, establishes a secure connection, encrypts the data. WebRTC leaks and browser leaks could reveal information despite a secure VPN. It is prudential to ensure your service providers possess protocols to work around this problem. IPVanish is one of the prominent service providers in the market of VPN’s. Let’s weigh its advantages and disadvantages in this IPVanish review.
How does VPN work?
A VPN connection mandates the installation of software on the device. The software in your computer/smartphone encrypts the data and transmits to the server (VPN) via a secure connection. The VPN server decrypts the data from the client machine (your device). The server transmits the data on to the internet and receives the data.
The data gets encrypted by the VPN-server before getting forwarded to the client machine. The VPN-software on the client machine (Your device) decrypts the data and fulfils your request. The encryption process by the VPN connection makes it’s difficult for the lurkers to intercept and misuse it. The secure connection hides information about user device, thus the increased anonymity. Since the system uses the VPN server-generated IP address for the transaction, the IP address of the device remains hidden. It makes tracing the activity to the particular device tedious. The VPN software runs in the background of your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Benefits of using a VPN
Internet Anonymity: A Virtual Private Network ensures your IP address and location remain discreet. With a VPN at your disposal, the transactions go via the VPN server. This hides the IP address and the location of your machine. The websites that track online activities won’t be able to trace your identity. Your IP address remains safe with your VPN provider (given they have sufficient security measures in place). The requests, masquerade as requests from the servers of VPN, hence the anonymity.
Security: The understanding of security on the internet is at its initial stages. While the awareness on the vulnerability of the internet is growing, substantial part takes security for granted. In the absence of a secure VPN connection, it is easier to monitor and steal the information available on the internet. Unbeknownst strangers can access your devices and utilise your personal information to their gain. It is relevant in the era which has witnessed the rise of public networks.
The Internet has become affordable to a level that public networks have substantial coverage. It is risky to assume the network has adequate security measures in place. To protect personal data, an additional level of security will create a world of difference. It can be your email login or credit card information, a VPN connection encrypts the information and makes it difficult to decode.
Bypass censor/geographic restrictions: The internet comes with the limitations of a geographical location. The streaming services of BBC are limited to devices accessing the internet via British servers. Few streaming services like Netflix offer distinct content for several geographical zones. The governments (e.g. China, Turkey, and Egypt) restrict access to websites, and applications like WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook or Twitter. By using a VPN one can circumvent the restrictions.
Social profiling: Companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter collect information based on your activities and sell the information to third party vendors. VPN encrypts the data and gives an additional layer of security. It makes this difficult for social media websites and search engines to track your internet activity.
Access to your company’s network: Shared office spaces are starting to change the way the IT companies operated. Working from a remote location has become popular owing to technological advancements. A VPN connection ensures secure access to the company’s network.
IPVanish has over 1,400 servers in 75+ different countries around the world and supports over 40000 IP address. They have extensive coverage North America and Europe. With substantial coverage in Asia, South America, Australia, NewZealand and a bit in Africa, they are expanding their footprint around the world. The distribution numbers are as follows.
- North America – 775 servers
- Europe – 478 servers
- Oceania – 82 servers
- South America – 32 servers
- Asia – 57 servers
- Africa – 10 servers
2. Protocols Supported
IKEv2: Internet Key Exchange Protocol Version 2 is a layer of the protocol over IPSec. The support for IKEv2 is limited to recent mobile devices. It is a more secure addition to the IPSec protocol as devices switch over Wi-Fi and mobile network for uninterrupted service.
Compatibility: The operating system supported are: Windows, Mac, iOS, Linux
OpenVPN: It is one of the popular protocols in the recent times. It has room for multiple authentication methodologies above the SSL/TLS, for the main data exchanges. The speeds are better than L2TP, and the setup is easy with IPVanish. The support for mobile devices is limited compared to the extensive support for routers and PCs. It comes in a combination of two protocols catered towards different purposes.
- TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) – A OpenVPN above the TCP is a predominant and reliable type of VPN connection. It prevents the loss of information during data transfers. The TCP retransmits the lost pieces of information.
- UDP (User Datagram Protocol) – OpenVPN above UDP is faster than TCP owing to the absence of the process of transmitting lost packets. It has applications during real-time data transfers.
Compatibility: Its support is available to Routers, Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, Chrome OS, Fire-TV
L2TP: It is well-suited for mobile devices which don’t have the support of OpenVPN. The L2TP is an upgrade, after fixing the security issues in PPTP. While it may not compete with the speeds of OpenVPN has to offer, it is a better alternative for mobile devices.
Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Chrome OS
IPSec: Internet Protocol Security offers an encryption methodology for networks. It offers a platform for the tunnelling the data packets.
Compatibility: Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
PPTP: One of the earliest protocols, which is in use for older versions of operating systems. Despite its deficiencies in security, PPTP is the least recommended but serves the purpose for quick low-risk surfing.
3. Zero-Log Policy
IPVanish has a Zero-Log policy. IPVanish assures that they don’t collect any personal information related to internet traffic or activity under the purview of VPN Services. To quote them – “IPVanish does not collect, monitor, or log any traffic or use of its Virtual Private Network service on any platform”. In its policy disclosure, it does mention the collection of information using cookies, analytics. This data collection focuses on the performance levels, detection and prevention of fraudulent activities and not on personal information. It is worth mentioning that IPVanish is a US-based company which comes under the jurisdiction of Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreements. It postulates the rules on data-sharing and retention with surveillance organisations.
4. Sugar-Sync Storage
SugarSync is a cloud storage service provider. It offers file storage, sharing, synchronisation services with support in Android, iOS, Mac OS 2X, and Windows-powered devices. IPVanish offers 250 GB of encrypted Sugar-Sync cloud storage.
5. Concurrent connections
IPVanish offers simultaneous access up to 10 devices. But installing the IPVanish in a router circumvents these limitations. The router counts as a single device, and IPVanish doesn’t limit the number of devices accessing the internet via the router.
Reasons To Sign Up for IPVanish VPN
IPVanish safeguards your data with a 256-bit AES encryption. AES, Advanced Encryption Standard is a VPN cipher algorithm used by IPVanish to encrypt your data. The ‘256’ refers to the size of the encryption key (reads as 2 to the power of 256). It denotes the number of combinations required for a brute force attack. This protocol is impenetrable and resilient.
2. DNS Leak Prevention
A DNS leak happens during the transformation of address/URL into an IP address. If the requests go through to a different DNS server instead of the VPN, it is a DNS leak. As per the design, the DNS requests get routed to ISP’s servers, regardless of a VPN. This reveals your IP address and allows your ISP to track your activity. It is a compromise on privacy and can lead to compromise on security. By default, IPVanish uses private DNS servers to resolve web addresses to their respective IP address.
3. Automatic Kill Switch
An automatic kill switch shuts-off the internet if the VPN connection stops working. This feature enables you to maximize privacy and anonymity. A kill switch kills your internet at the instance the connection becomes vulnerable without the VPN. This switch ensures your IP Address remains hidden, in case of a dropped connection with the VPN server. At present, the feature is available for macOS, Android, and Windows.
4. IPVanish for Fire TV Stick
IPVanish is among the few VPN service providers s to offer an application for Amazon Fire TV Stick. This application comes with a simple installation process. It enables you to bypass geological restrictions and access content from different regions.
1. History of Logging
The year before StackPath acquired Highwinds(Parent company of IPVanish), there was an incident related to data logging. Upon request of an investigative organisation, Highwinds furnished the information on a user’s activity. It revealed a violation of their Zero-log policy. After the acquisition by StackPath, there has been an assurance of strict adherence to zero log policy. But the past incidents can be an inhibitor.
2. Lack of Payment options
Lack of Acceptance of cryptocurrency as a mode of payment can be a turn off for people expecting complete anonymity.
With established players in the market with economies at scale in their favor, IPVanish has a simple pricing plan it offers the same package with all the features but at variable prices that get cheaper the longer the buy it for. The three 2021 IPVanish VPN pricing tiers are as follows:
- 1 month: $10/month (Save 17%)
- 1 year: $77.99 @ $6.49/month (Save 46%)
- 2 years: $89 @ $3.30/month (Save 69%)
IPVanish Review 2021 Verdict
If one can see past their past and if the price looks convincing, IPVanish comes with an array of features.
- One of the features worth mentioning is its simple user-friendly interface with room for customisation and experimentation for the curios personalities
- While not closer to NordVPN, growing over 1400 servers is nothing less than a feat
- Support for Torrenting/File sharing, Kill switch, IP cycling
With its support for Fire-TV, ability to circumvent geo-restrictions, it can make an impact. With its strict protocols in place, IPVanish can give a run for the money for the market leaders.
Buyer’s Guide for choosing a VPN
VPN Protocols: OpenVPN: OpenVPN is popular amongst the security protocols. It is open-sourced using OpenSSL and SSLv3/TLSv1 encryption methodologies. OpenVPN is popular as the first choice among the VPN service providers and it is compatible across different operating systems. (e.g. Windows, Mac (OSx), Android, iOS, Linux).
IPSec/L2TP: A combination of IPsec encryption protocol, and L2TP tunnelling protocol, to offer a secure VPN connection. Most operating systems have an inbuilt IPsec/L2TP and easier to configure compared to OpenVPN.
IKEv2: IKEv2 is Internet Key Exchange version 2, a protocol based on IPSec. This protocol features a MOBIKE, which is ideal for mobile devices. It can switch between networks with minimal delay. It makes IKEv2 a good choice for smartphones which involves frequent switching between Wi-Fi and mobile networks.
WireGuard: WireGuard is one of the latest protocols garnering more attention. Starting with a Linux based system, it is expanding its scope to other platforms. Based on a simple yet powerful interface, Wireguard promises to outperform OpenVPN and IPsec.
PPTP: Point to Point Tunneling Protocol is among the earliest of VPN protocols. Infamous for its apparent security flaws, it was preferred for its fast connectivity. This protocol is obsolete.
Softether: Softether VPN is a free, open-source application, that is interoperable across multiple platforms and supports several VPN protocols. It includes L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, and Microsoft Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol.
Server location and strength: VPN service providers come with geographical limitations. Although service providers may have multiple servers spread across various countries, their load balancing is an essential factor. Trying to access European/American content through a VPN service with servers concentrated in Africa /Asia will have limited benefits.
A diverse network of servers in multiple countries is mandatory. With a vast network of VPN providers, one can expect thousands of VPN servers distributed across the world. The level of privacy and anonymity depends on the jurisdiction of the country of company incorporation and VPN servers.
Concurrent Connections: The VPN service is connection specific. Simultaneous access to multiple connections works on pre-established terms of the agreement. It doesn’t come granted. If you want to set up VPN access for the whole household, you’ll require parallel connections to the VPN service. The choice of configuring different devices to use separate exit nodes will offer the necessary protection. Configuring the VPN services in the routers would be a more functional approach.
Restrictions: Bandwidth limiting, ISP throttling remains one of the prime reasons for opting VPN service. In the era of online streaming, bandwidth is vital. It is prudent to avoid VPN service providers imposing bandwidth restrictions unless there is sound reasoning behind it. Understanding the restrictions of any protocols or services by the provider is requisite before subscribing to the services.
User activity logging: In the era of cut-throat competition, VPN service providers use no activity logging as one of their selling propositions. VPN’s don’t keep any logs of user activity. One of the main reason is that the activity logging being a resource extensive exercise. There are different type of logging. It is safe to be clear and understand the policy behind the storage of personal information.
Different types of logs:
Connection logs: The timestamps, bandwidth details of a VPN server on an aggregated basis to improve and maintain operations.
IP Address logs: A VPN serves the purpose of concealing your IP address. If the information with regards to IP gets stored, it has the potential to land in the wrong hands.
Internet traffic logs: Any information identifying a user with their activities defeats the purpose of the service.
Payment Methods: The major purpose of VPN is to remain anonymous, but payment method can reveal your identity. One should favour VPN service providers that accept payment without revealing personal identity. i.e through cryptocurrency or gift card.
If anonymity was not the major concern and but the VPN caters to a different requirement, the argument of anonymous payment becomes moot. If the VPN is necessary to circumvent content or bandwidth restrictions or to maintain a confidential work environment, skip the hassle.
VPN service providers have adopted this requirement and have put it to practise. They accept gift cards from popular retailers (ex: Walmart) in exchange for VPN credit. A combination of cash and gift card can keep the transaction anonymous.