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ProtonVPN: privacy-focused VPN with strong security and features

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Proton VPN is a Swiss-based Virtual Private Network (VPN) service that puts a strong focus on privacy and security.  It offers a strict no-logging policy, apps that are open source and audited, and security features that set it apart from other VPN providers.

VPN services have risen in popularity in recent time, as they provide one of the best options when it comes to protecting Internet traffic against the snooping of third parties, such as your Internet Service Provider or governments.

How much does ProtonVPN cost?

Internet users may sign up to ProtonVPN's free or paid plans to protect Internet traffic. The free plan lets you use a full-functioning VPB but limits access to some advanced features, like streaming support.

However, the free plan does not limit the data amount that users may use; this sets it apart from most free services out there, which do limit data or impose other restrictions on accounts. Free users get 1 simultaneous VPN connection and access to VPN servers in three locations (Japan, US, and the Netherlands), which is excellent for testing the core service. All Proton VPN plans implement a strict no-logs policy.

Overview of paid plans

BasicPlusVisionary
Connections21010
VPN Regions435555
Speedhighhighesthighest
Loggingno-logsno-logsno-logs
P2P supportyesyesyes
Adblockernoyesyes
Secure Corenoyesyes
Tor over VPNnoyesyes
Access blocked contentnoyesyes

The Basic plan starts at $5 per month, but all ProtonVPN plans are discounted heavily if you pay for an entire year. The Basic plan is available for $48 per year, a saving of $12.

The Plus plan is available for $10 per month, or $96 per year, a saving of $24, and the Visionary plan is available for $30 per month or $288 per year, a saving of $72.

Secure Core feature and Tor over VPN

secure core proton vpn

Plus and Visionary plan users get access to the Secure Core feature. Secure Core improves user privacy and security significantly by passing user traffic through multiple servers. A few VPN services support this feature, but ProtonVPN improves this security feature further in several meaningful ways.

Secure Core servers are located in Iceland, Sweden and Switzerland, known for their strong privacy laws. The servers are placed in high-security data centers and are owned and provisioned by ProtonVPN. Additionally, Secure Core servers are connected to the Internet using ProtonVPNs own dedicated network that is owned by the company's Local Internet Registry. In other words: the servers are controlled fully by ProtonVPN.

With Secure Core enabled, traffic will always go through one of the Secure Core servers first before it connects to the exit server in the target country, e.g. a ProtonVPN user who wanted to establish a connection to the United States would see traffic routed through one of the Secure Core locations, e.g. Iceland, before it established the connection to the United States server.

If an attacker or government is monitoring a VPN server, it cannot uncover the IP address of the ProtonVPN user, as it will only see the Secure Core network IP address instead. In other words: even if a VPN server is compromised in a region, the attacker can't reveal the true identity of the user based on connection details.

Secure Core works similarly to Tor, but Tor is more complicated to use, whereas Secure Core requires just a configuration switch to start using it.

ProtonVPN's Plus and Visionary plans support Tor over VPN, which lets users access Tor-based .onion sites with a single click. One of the benefits of using the feature is that it does not require any special setup, as it is supported out of the box.

Ad-blocking and P2P support

All paid plans include support for P2P traffic and ad-blocking. The ad-blocker is DNS based, and it will protect user devices from malware, advertisement and tracking while the connection to ProtonVPN is active.

ProtonVPN users may customize the level of protection:

  • Don't block to disable the feature.
  • Block malware only to protect against known malicious sources only.
  • Block malware, ads & trackers to protect against malware, ads and trackers.

Some users may prefer no blocking, for instance if they use a different solution already. Others benefit from the blocking at the DNS level, and may use it next to other protective options.

Privacy and Security

ProtonVPN's privacy policy states clearly that it does not log user activity or IP addresses. The company earns money through subscriptions only: it does not sell user information, uses profiling or tracking, or advertisement.

The company's Privacy Transparency report lists a single request for information that it received, and that it could not provide the information as it does not log or store customer IP information.

The service makes use of strong privacy and security features, including:

  • Strong encryption algorithms, by encrypting all network traffic with AES-256 and doing key exchanges with 4096-bit RSA, and HMAC with SHA384 for message authentication.
  • Support for Perfect Forward Secrecy.
  • Support for strong VPN protocols: IKEv2/IPSect and OpenVPN.
  • All ProtonVPN servers are fully encrypted.
  • DNS Leak prevention.
  • Internet Kill Switch and Always-On VPN feature.

The clients

proton vpn interface windows

ProtonVPN maintains Windows, MacOS and GNU/Linux desktop clients, and apps for Android and iOS. All clients are easy to install and use. Installation of the Windows client happened in less than 30 seconds, and users may get started using the client in under a minute if they have their login credentials at hand.

A tour is available that acts as an introduction for users new to VPN services. Veteran users may click it away and get started right away. The main interface displays connection and security options in a sidebar, and a worldmap with server locations and traffic information.

The company operates servers in 55 different countries of the world. All servers are listed and it is easy to select one to connect to. You may also use quick connect to the fasted server without having to select one. Options to enable Secure Core, change ad-blocking, and to enable the kill switch are provided in the form of buttons. It takes just two clicks to manage each.

Session Traffic is displayed in real-time when connected to a VPN server, and the server load as well its IP address are highlighted as well. The options list additional interesting preferences, such as a toggle to enable auto-connections to a specific server, change the quick connect logic, or enable custom DNS servers.

Users may create profiles for quick connections, e.g. to connect quickly using Secure Core or to a P2P supporting server. All clients are easy to manage, even for users who never used a VPN before.

Verdict

ProtonVPN is an excellent choice when it comes to the selection of a VPN provider. It ticks all the right boxes when it comes to security and privacy. Especially the Secure Core feature needs to be mentioned in this regard, as it improves the protection significantly thanks to its two server connection approach and ProtonVPNs full control of the Secure Core server infrastructure.

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Comments

  1. blackmojo said on April 26, 2021 at 4:40 pm
    Reply

    NO post but a comment …

    1. blackmojo said on April 26, 2021 at 4:41 pm
      Reply

      WAS : “ProtonVPN: privacy-focused VPN with strong security and features”

    2. Anonymous said on April 28, 2021 at 2:45 am
      Reply

      Because it’s not an article, it’s an ad (“sponsored content”), blocked by Easylist.

      The Easylist blocking is suboptimal as the sponsored articles should be hidden in the articles list instead of after clicking on them by mistake, but looking more closely, I was not able to find a way to create a cosmetic filter for these ads in the articles list, while it was easy to do after the click, so maybe it’s why Easylist blocks it this way.

      Sadly I discovered that AdGuard Base whitelisted these ads one month ago, which overrides the Easylist blocking if both are present:

      https://github.com/AdguardTeam/AdguardFilters/issues/78495

      If like me you use both lists, you can manually add this rule, which adds the “important” modifier, to restore priority to the blocking rule over the ad whitelisting by AdGuard:

      ghacks.net##.category-sponsored,important

      1. Ivan said on April 28, 2021 at 9:03 am
        Reply

        Thanks. I was also wondering. I deactivated uBlock and still couldn’t see it. Also had to deactivate the built in ad blocking of Vivaldi.

  2. Louliz said on April 27, 2021 at 8:07 am
    Reply

    No doubt about ProtonVPN, the fact that it has a free plan with absolute guaranteed privacy and speed is just legendary.

  3. MattE' said on April 27, 2021 at 1:40 pm
    Reply

    Using the “Kill Switch” has caused me much an unneeded headache but overall I’m very satisfied with the experience.

  4. Eric Moore said on April 27, 2021 at 3:50 pm
    Reply

    It supports IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN protocols.

    I found https://protonvpn.com/support/protonvpn-split-tunneling/ which claims it supports split tunneling. If it works that means I could have my browser use the VPN while my email client doesn’t. That’s important to me because the last time I used a vpn I had serious problems with my Gmail.com and Outlook.com accounts because they detected I was using a vpn and threw a hissy fit. Having to login using a browser and confirm that was really me etc. each time was really annoying. I didn’t have that problem with my other email providers.

    1. sammy said on May 8, 2021 at 9:35 pm
      Reply

      @Eric Moore

      I had that issue with Gmail. Now I use Outlook with Edge on Windows 10 and have no such issues, without the use of split tunneling. Hence when I sign-in to Outlook with a VPN, I guess Microsoft still knows who I am somehow.

  5. John said on April 28, 2021 at 2:00 am
    Reply

    Can it access the BBC I Player?

    1. Uwe said on April 28, 2021 at 9:06 pm
      Reply

      Yes, works fine.

  6. beemeup5 said on May 6, 2021 at 3:31 am
    Reply

    Perhaps I’m missing something but there doesn’t seem to be any difference between the Plus and Visionary tiers aside from price?

    Is Visionary just an extra “donation tier” for people who really want to support the Proton team?

  7. ivacy said on May 8, 2021 at 9:16 pm
    Reply

    Note that the free version is limited to servers that are mostly always near full capacity. When full capacity is reached, the connection is dropped. Also, some of those servers are slow.

    Also, they sometimes cut my connection with a warning that says I’m using more than one connection, which is not the case, and I never access BitTorrent with it. Their customer service said when that happens to restart it, which helps, but doesn’t resolve the actual issue, which I find rather sketchy.

    That said, although the free version is fine for testing out the GUI before you pay, I would still shop around for better deals.

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