ProtonVPN Swiss-based VPN launches - gHacks Tech News

ProtonVPN Swiss-based VPN launches

ProtonVPN, a VPN service by the makers of the privacy focused ProtonMail email service, is out of beta testing and now available to the public.

The creators of the Swiss-based VPN service promise the same level of trust, transparency, and communication that has been fundamental to the success of ProtonMail.

ProtonVPN ships with four subscription plans, of which the first is entirely free. It is limited in regards to speed, devices that you may run it on simultaneously, and the number of countries you can connect to. It is not limited in terms of bandwidth however.

Update: ProtonVPN has been swarmed by users and demand for its product. The free version uses a waiting list now. New capacities are added according to the creators.

ProtonVPN Review

protonvpn

The first paid plan, ProtonVPN Basic, is available for 4€ per month. It lets you connect to all servers, supports connections on two devices at the same time, and offers high speed.

ProtonVPN has three speed tiers right now. Low for free accounts, high for basic accounts, and highest for the Plus and Visionary subscription. There is no information on what this actually mean in terms of transfer speed. The most likely explanation for that is that there is no transfer speed cap, but that the free account is limited automatically based on the number of users that connect to a server. Basic, Plus and Visionary subscribers get access to other servers, and there is likely a cap on how many can connect to these at the same time to provide good transfer speeds for all users.

The two remaining plans, ProtonVPN Plus and Visionary, for €8 and €24 offer the highest speed, five or ten devices that you may connect from simultaneously, as well as extra features such as Plus servers reserved to these plans, Secure Core which adds extra protection against VPN compromise by routing through the Secure Core Network of ProtonVPN, and Tor Server support to send all traffic through Tor with a single click.

The Visionary plan on top of that includes a ProtonMail email account on top of all that. Free users get an option to join a 7 day free trial of ProtonVPN Plus.

Secure Core is an interesting feature, as it routes traffic through multiple servers before it leaves the ProtonVPN network. This means that anyone monitoring the exit server won't be able to detect the IP address of ProtonVNP users, nor match browser activity to that IP address. Secure servers are located in Switzerland, Iceland and Sweden only.

Secure Core protects your connection by routing your traffic through multiple servers before leaving our network. This means an advanced adversary who can monitor the network traffic at the exit server will not be able to discover the true IP address of ProtonVPN users, nor match browsing activity to that IP.

ProtonVPN encrypts all traffic with AES-256, uses 2048-bit RSA key exchange, and HMAC with SHA256 for message authentication.

Other security related features that are supported include Forward Secrecy, use of OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols only, a strict no logging policy, DNS leak prevention, and Kill switch support. ProtonVPN supports P2P traffic on top of that.

  • Forward Secrecy -- ProtonVPN uses encryption cipher suites that have Perfect Forward Secrecy. New keys are generated with each connection, and it is impossible for past sessions to be decrypted if an encryption key from a subsequent session is compromised.
  • DNS Leak Prevention -- This prevents that connections to the default DNS servers of the system are made to prevent leaks.
  • Kill Switch -- This feature, disabled by default, blocks all network connections if the connection to the VPN network is lost. This is done to prevent that Internet resources are accessed using the device's regular IP address.
  • Tor support -- Plus and Visionary subscribers may route their traffic through the Tor anonymity network on top of that.

ProtonVPN comes with clients for Android and iOS, Windows, Linux and Mac. Users of the service may also configure OpenVPN by downloading OpenVPN configuration files.

ProtonVPN Windows client

protonvpn windows

The ProtonVPN Windows client installs without issues. You need to supply your account credentials to start using it. It displays the current connection status, and the available locations you can connect to.

Once you have established a connection with a click on a country, or one of the available servers, you see additional information in the interface.

This includes the connected server, IP address, up and download speed, server load, a world map with information on the server location, and session information.

As far as options are concerned: you can enable the VPN Kill Switch in the options, change the default protocol from UDP to TCP, and configure auto connect options.

Another interesting feature of the ProtonVNP client for Windows is support for profiles. You can create profiles, and use these profiles to connect to specific servers quickly. This includes, connecting to the fastest available server of a country.

Verdict

ProtonVPN is one of the best, if not the best free VPN options right now, hands down. Since you are not limited in terms of bandwidth, you can use the free account all day and night long. That's good enough for all web browsing and low speed activities that you can run on your system.

You should not expect to get enough bandwidth out of the free plan to stream in 4K or download very large files quickly, but that is to be expected of a free service.

It remains to be seen how well the network will handle the onrush of new users who will certainly flock to the service now that it is out of beta and available to the public.

ProtonVPN Plus and Visionary seem pricey, especially when compared to services that charge less for a lifetime subscription than ProtonVPN does for six months. Still, the extra privacy and security options are one of the best options that you have when it comes to maximum privacy on the Internet.

Now You: Have you tried ProtonVPN? What's your take on the service?

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
ProtonVPN
Author Rating
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Comments

  1. jasray said on June 20, 2017 at 7:59 pm
    Reply

    Yes, Proton Mail, perhaps reviewed here when in Beta, I enrolled in; sweet mail client.

    The VPN–having problems with the opvn certs that one can generate, but the Proton client works well. I only wanted to try the “free” version which was remarkably fast at this point. I’m sure “free” will slow down considerably since the VPN is being touted on so many tech sites this morning.

    It was hard to get a US server, but . . . that’s okay because I like to see the world through other eyes. For instance, there’s a new Google search feature that I ran across on a tech site. Unbelievable function.

    It’s all so fast . . .

  2. TianlanSha said on June 20, 2017 at 9:16 pm
    Reply

    7 days.. meh, even Tunnel Bear is better than that

  3. Croatoan said on June 20, 2017 at 9:21 pm
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    Martin, ProtonVPN link doesn’t work (remove s).

    How much bandwidth do you get with high speed?

  4. Anonymous said on June 20, 2017 at 9:32 pm
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    Oh look, another electron application.
    >Users of the service may also configure OpenVPN by downloading OpenVPN configuration files.
    Yeah, except ovpn are different for linux/mac (updating /etc/openvpn/update-resolv-conf on linux to prevent dns leak) and default option for windows is not to use default openvpn client, but download their electron application. For what purpose?

  5. Coco said on June 20, 2017 at 10:02 pm
    Reply

    All spying agencies launched vpn services. You just buy their services in order to provide them directly exactly what you want to hide… Cool is that you also pay them for that…

    1. Bear said on June 29, 2018 at 9:18 pm
      Reply

      LOL PARANOIA 99 LVL. :D

      CERN IS NOT SPYING AGENCY!

  6. Curtis K said on June 21, 2017 at 6:25 am
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    No, I haven’t tried ProtonVPN (I will wait it out). I have CyberGhost VPN installed on my computer. I have Betternet installed on Android.

  7. David said on June 21, 2017 at 8:18 am
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    Doesn’t mention if it imposes any quota on each plan.

  8. Adrian Kentleton said on June 21, 2017 at 2:01 pm
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    Not impressed so far. Their website didn’t allow sign up to basic service using Firefox (couldn’t enter month of credit card expiry). Site didn’t load at all in IE. Had to use Chrome in the end.
    Now, paid my money, but can’t connect using OpenVPN on Windows 7; the ovpn config files/credentials don’t work, nothing happens, the OpenVPN-GUI stays blank until ‘connection attempt failed’ message appears, nothing logged so can’t dignose issue.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 21, 2017 at 3:33 pm
      Reply

      Have you tried contacting their support?

      1. Adrian Kentleton said on June 21, 2017 at 4:29 pm
        Reply

        I have – still awaiting a response.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on June 21, 2017 at 4:33 pm
        Reply

        They mentioned on Twitter that they are swarmed by user support requests.

    2. BobbyB said on June 22, 2017 at 12:46 am
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      You have to set up OpenVPN via login into your account and creating a separate password for it. Also I think the account is different than your username. Instructions are in support… confused me too.

    3. Lil' ndn said on June 23, 2017 at 11:19 pm
      Reply

      Odd, I use it with both Fx, Nightly too, & PM…no problems whatsoever.

  9. Pekka Reittilä said on June 21, 2017 at 2:48 pm
    Reply

    ProtonVPN doesn’t let me log in after I paid for the license and their support doesn’t answer email. GREAT!

    1. Adrian Kentleton said on June 21, 2017 at 6:18 pm
      Reply

      According to their T&C “You may cancel your account with a full refund within 14 days of the initial purchase.” I’m going to give them 48 hours, and if it’s still not working, will do just that.

      I’m annoyed with myself for going ahead when their website didn’t work on my preferred browser; if an IT business can’t cope with the relatively simple task of coding their websites to work equally on all major browsers, how can you trust them with coding anything else!

      I’ve had a look at their .ovpn config files for Windows, lots of dodgy entries, but removing those doesn’t solve the problem. It’s a shame; I liked the look of a modestly priced VPN headquartered outside the ’14 Eyes’.

      As Martin says eleswhere, support is swamped, victims of their own success in getting plenty of publicity; worth waiting a day or so to see if they sort it out, can get your money back if not.

  10. ilev said on June 21, 2017 at 5:09 pm
    Reply

    Secure Core is NOT secure as Sweden is part of 14 Eyes ! which makes me think the ProtonVPN is not secure.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Eyes

    1. Ravit said on July 19, 2017 at 8:26 pm
      Reply

      Sweden and Switzerland are 2 different countries mate

      1. Haeden said on September 4, 2017 at 6:03 am
        Reply

        The Secure Core routes through Switzerland, Iceland, AND Sweden. He knows they are different countries. He is correct. Not 100% on why they route through Sweden at all.

  11. Pekka Reittilä said on June 21, 2017 at 5:14 pm
    Reply

    20% was offered off if paid annual but I was charged 100%.

  12. Pekka Reittilä said on June 21, 2017 at 5:15 pm
    Reply

    I paid annual but didn’t get 20% they promised :-/

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 21, 2017 at 5:22 pm
      Reply

      I may be wrong, but the price displayed is likely the discounted price already.

  13. Tom Hawack said on June 21, 2017 at 5:31 pm
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    I have a ProtonMail account. I decided to test ProtonVPN (free version), downloaded the installer. The install mentioned two requirements : .Net Framework 4.5 and ‘OpenVPN TAP Adapter Driver’, noticed that I already had the former so downloaded only the latter once I had clicked on ‘Next’. Install proceeded normally, Windows asked me to confirm the driver install, OK. No problem.

    But once asked to login I typed my ProtonMail credentials (because I had read in the ProtonVPN documentation that ProtonMail credentials would apply to ProtonVPN when using the ProtonVPN only by itself) … and those credentials just wouldn’t make it : the login popup would remain, with the notification ‘connection attempt failed” (same as mentioned above by Adrian Kentleton).

    I uninstalled ProtonVPN and then the ‘OpenVPN TAP Adapter Driver’. We’ll see later the hows and whys.

    1. Som said on June 21, 2017 at 9:18 pm
      Reply

      Usually it’s safer to wait it out a little until a brand new product stabilizes. Since they just went full release, I’d give it a try in a month or so.

      Well, except I’m not ready to use a VPN yet. If I decided on doing so, ProtonVPN would probably be the only one I’d deem trustworthy enough to evaluate thoroughly. Like, I’ve been waiting for a service like ProtonMail for at least 10 years, I hope ProtonVPN has this quality level.

  14. jasray said on June 21, 2017 at 9:02 pm
    Reply

    Zero problems on my machine for second day; using the free service now, and there was a significant update installed when I started the Proton client using my Proton Mail credentials. Haven’t bothered a second time with the .ovpn generation today, but my guess is that is all corrected. For users having problems, I have an intuitive feeling that it’s user error, not Proton error. “Just sayin’ . . . .”

  15. Adrian Kentleton said on June 22, 2017 at 10:03 am
    Reply

    Had another go this morning; re-downloaded the .ovpn config files (they haven’t changed), and created a new OpenVPN login as well as password (had created a password yesterday); still no joy: http://itproxy.org/misc/[email protected]

  16. Adrian Kentleton said on June 23, 2017 at 9:35 am
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    Oh dear! ProtonVPN are starting appear both stupid and dishonest.

    Had a reply to my support request this morning, asking me to send the connection logs from their client program. I complained about connection using OpenVPN; I haven’t installed their client!

    Also, they’ve changed their T&C, to a pro-rata (not full) refund (for unused service period) within 60 days!

    I shall request a full refund of money paid today, based on the T&C at time of sign up, since the advertised service has been completely unavailable. Will post back about how I get on

    My advice: avoid like the plague!

  17. Jonnyredhead said on June 23, 2017 at 7:00 pm
    Reply

    Maybe they moved out of beta too soon.

    I’ve found some issues with the client for windows. When I disconnect the vpn it wipes my previous normal connection settings, static IP, subnet mask and default gateway. And also wipes all my DNS entries. Even getting a an update client notification (whilst watching a video in full screen mode – which was not cool), I accepted the update and it installed and then fired up the client and connected at random. Which again wiped all my normal connection settings.

    That sucked. I’ve opened a ticket and reported this, to which support have replied two days later saying they will fix this but with no fix date. You would of thought this sort of windows 7 problem would of been worked out long long time ago in beta.

    I also asked how fast the vpn kill switch acts to cut the connection, but have not had a clear answer yet. As in Milseconds, or faster or slower than the normal ISP connection taking back over again.

    I like the dark mode UI but think it could be a little more forward thinking and offer more options for those who want to dig deeper.

    One would of thought the guys behind the great Signal app would of done a better job during beta before releasing this. I’ve told them I will not pay for this until the client is improved and also does not wipe all my normal connection settings every time I run the client and connect.

    On the whole its a good enough start. But I’m going to wait a while, and give them some space to work things out.

  18. Adrian Kentleton said on June 30, 2017 at 4:48 pm
    Reply

    As promised, an update:

    I had another unintelligent response to my support request, simply asking again for information I’d already supplied.

    However, I got a full refund of the money I paid.

    I now have a free account; still doesn’t work with my OpenVPN setup and their .ovpn config files!

  19. Adrian Kentleton said on July 1, 2017 at 12:09 pm
    Reply

    Footnote: I use my current (free) VPN service via OpenVPN on Windows and Android, using the same .ovpn config files.

    Followed ProtonVPN’s instructions for using their free service via OpenVPN on Android (which involved installing a different OpenVPN client app). Works like a dream!

  20. Adrian Kentleton said on July 1, 2017 at 4:24 pm
    Reply

    Footnote2: As a matter of interest, I installed the Windows ProtonVPN client on a little used Windows 7 laptop, tried switching between Proton and my (other) OpenVPN service, and like Jonnyredhead, had the problem of the Proton client wiping connection settings on disconnect, in my case just for the default gateway.

    Since I launch my current OpenVPN setup with a batch file which randomises the server I connect to, I just put the following command at the top of the file (‘Wireless’ being the name of my wireless NIC):

    netsh interface ipv4 set address Wireless static 192.168.0.51 255.255.255.0 192.168.0.3

    I needed to quote all the relevant IP details, even though only the default gateway was missing.

    One could use a similar command for DNS settings.

    Apart from that problem, the Proton client works well!

  21. Adrian Kentleton said on July 1, 2017 at 5:03 pm
    Reply

    Footnote3: I spoke too soon! Not only does a disconnect wipe connection settings, but a re-connect fails to restore them, so always fails. I’ve also been asked to re-enter my credentials, despite selecting that they be saved.

    So, convenience-wise, on Android, it rocks; on Windows, it sucks!

    However, when connected, the basic free service is surprisingly quick, much faster than my free OpenVPN provider. So, if and when they get it sorted, I’ll probably re-subscribe.

  22. JB said on October 3, 2017 at 12:05 am
    Reply

    Hi Martin, I agree with your assessment that ProtonVPN is the best free vpn option. I’ve never had success with free vpns.
    I see that you used the Windows app. Did you try protonvpn on Linux?
    Some reviews suggest DNS problems:
    https://restoreprivacy.com/protonvpn-review/
    I also see linux users complaining in the reddits :)
    Planning on using protonvpn with Linux and CLI, but was curious on your experiences?
    thank you

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 3, 2017 at 5:13 am
      Reply

      Hi JB, I did not test the VPN on Linux unfortunately.

  23. Jonnyredhead said on October 15, 2017 at 11:36 am
    Reply

    Still wipes and does not return my tcp ipv4 settings when disconnecting the vpn. In fact it wipes and disables my normal isp connection setting it to ‘public’ if I just open the software to update it, and not even connect the vpn. Most times I need to re-enter all my static IP, mask, DNS, default router etc to just make the ‘public network’ clickable to change back to ‘Home network’. For me a serious window 7 issue. I have emailed many times trying to explain the issue (windows 7) and even pointing them to these comments.

  24. Kumpulan Remaja said on January 2, 2018 at 9:26 am
    Reply

    So now, after the updates they don’t have IP leaks anymore? To me it looks like it was your fault in the first place. Maybe you should go through every process and document everything what you are doing. I bet the rest of the issues are on your end as well.

    1. Jonny said on January 2, 2018 at 4:37 pm
      Reply

      The problem of wiping the tcpip info has been experienced by other people in this very comments section. No IP leaks for me as far as I could tell. I liked using their PC software over openvpn, I like a nice modern looking VPN gui, but it seems they have still to either replicated the win7 error or don’t care that much to try. I’ll check back in 6 months.

      1. Jonnyredhead said on January 4, 2018 at 1:57 am
        Reply

        Good news!

        I contacted Proton VPN support again and they now confirm that the issue was fixed within 1.2.6 application release as Static IP addresses are placed back to it’s previous state.

        I downloaded the latest PC version and can confirm its now working as expected. It does not wipe tcpip and DNS settings etc when started, connected/disconnected. And releases normal internet settings back when disconnected.

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