ProtonVPN – Not The Cheapest But One Of The Best

in Security, VPN

ProtonVPN Review

I am a firm believer in that we must protect our online privacy and that the use of a VPN (virtual private network) is an essential tool that people should invest in.  In the past, I have reviewed ExpressVPN  and NordVPN among others. In fact, before I got this new Dell PC, I used NordVPN on a daily basis. However, since using the new PC, virtually every VPN service I have tried dropped out after a while and despite excellent help from the customer support team, nothing would resolve the issue.

I went back to try Tunnelbear and that worked perfectly so I bought an annual plan. Then, in recent weeks, came the news that Tunnelbear had been bought out by McAfee. There were, naturally, blog posts etc byTunnelbear saying they would retain their independence etc. but McAfee is based in the US and part of the Five Eyes snooping partnership and Tunnelbear, despite being based in Canada, would fall foul of US government requests for data.

ProtonVPN Trial

I had trialled ProtonVPN based on the security of their email service, ProtonMail, and was impressed by the slickness and robust nature of the package.  I opted for the Plus package which gave me access to the whole global network of servers, could be used over five devices, would push me through dedicated, faster servers for Plus and Visionary subscribers and I could access the core servers which provide additional security.

ProtonVPN’s Secure Core architecture gives the service the ability to defend against network-based attacks. 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.

Top Level Secure Browsing In  Minutes

Once I had subscribed, the change from free to plus member took a matter of minutes and I was securely browsing after I chose the server with the lowest load in the UK. There is a quick connect button which works it all out for you if you are chronically lazy!

One thing I would like to see is the national servers including the name of the server location, ie Manchester, so I would choose the nearest connection.

Note that you don’t have to pay a subscription to access ProtonVPN. The free version will provide no-limit bandwidth access, but you are limited in the choice of servers and you are routed through slower servers. But, it does provide a time-free trial if you want to put it through its paces over weeks/months/ years before succumbing to the conclusion that the extra services available are worth paying for.

I am a sucker for a good GUI (graphical user interface) and ProtonVPN is up there with the best. Hounds of Hades, it is verging on positively gorgeous.  The control panel shows you where you are connected to with an arrow pointing to the location if you are geographically challenged, the server number, the IP address, time connected, server load and down and up bandwidth activity.

ProtonVPN profilesFrom here you can create profiles which allow you to access the system at various levels. For example, you can create a top-level security profile pushing your traffic through the core servers, etc and just utilise that for seriously sensitive stuff and that will be available at the click of a button when you log on.

Again, it is not a surprise to see the kill switch option included.

As you would expect, security protocols are up there with the best. ProtonVPN only the highest strength encryption to protect your Internet connection. This means all network traffic is encrypted with an AES-256, key exchange with 2048-bit RSA, and HMAC with SHA256 is used for message authentication.

ProtonVPN carefully selects its encryption cypher suites to only include ones that have Perfect Forward Secrecy. This means that your encrypted traffic cannot be captured and decrypted later if the encryption key from a subsequent session gets compromised. With each connection, we generate a new encryption key, so a key is never used for more than one session.

Geographic Privacy

Like its ProtonMail sibling, ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland protected by some of the world’s strongest privacy laws and remains outside of US and EU jurisdiction. This means that unlike VPN providers based in a fourteen eyes country, it cannot be coerced into spying on its users.

ProtonVPN’s website further explains: We have gone to extreme lengths to protect ProtonVPN’s Secure Core servers to ensure their security. Critical infrastructure in Switzerland is located in a former Swiss army fallout shelter 1000 meters below the surface. Similarly, our Iceland infrastructure resides in a secure former military base. Our servers in Sweden are also located in an underground data centre. By shipping our own equipment to these locations, we ensure that our servers are also secure at the hardware level.”

In recent weeks I have made an investment in upgrading my email client to eM Client  and password manager to 1Password. By changing horses midstream from Tunnelbear to ProtonVPN I am more than confident that this is money well spent.

 

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