After the 2013 events involving the US National Security Agency, the world realized that being online was not safe. Surveillance agencies are constantly monitoring the activity of most internet users, and as people get used to putting more and more personal information on their phones, it has never been more important to find ways to protect ourselves from these entities.
There are many tools and attitudes you can adopt to protect your privacy while online, but most of them are usually tedious or require you to acquire some sort of knowledge about digital security and that might not be easy for everyone. Instead, we recommend you give a try to the privacy tool that’s become more popular since the Snowden scandal: Virtual Private Networks.
You may have heard of them already as VPNs. These networks are services offered by private companies that let you change the route of your internet traffic and encrypt it so that anyone can neither intercept it nor trace it back to you. The advantage they present over other security measures like manual encryption or antispyware software is the fact that they very easy to use. Their user interfaces are really simple and, in most cases, connecting to a VPN server is a matter of turning a switch.
VPNs are also great tools to bypass region locks, which is particularly useful if you live in countries like the UAE, China or Venezuela, where governments put strict regulations on internet usage. However, many people have tried to take advantage of this sudden increase in the demand for VPN services around the world, and many companies who have claimed to be protecting their users’ privacy have in fact been doing the opposite.
Take for example a very popular VPN service provider that’s been around since the 90’s, HideMyAss VPN. They became part of a scandal in 2011 when they admittedly handed over logs of Cody Kretsinger’s online activity. The problem was not that they complied with law enforcement, any company with no other choice would have done the same. It was the fact that they weren’t supposed to be keeping any logs about their users’ activity, or at least that’s what their official service policies said. These logs eventually led to Kretsinger’s arrest, staining the public image of the company irreversibly.
And this was not the only scandal they were involved in. They were confirmed to be cooperating with US law enforcement agencies in the process of investigation of Chris Dupuy, a former US district judge. On top of this, their headquarters are located in the UK, where bilk collection of data from ISPs was made legal last year. Meaning ISPs have to hand over their users’ navigation information to surveillance agencies as the latter find it convenient.
It is clear that HideMyAss is not a VPN provider that’s really concerned about the privacy of their users, and they’re surely not the only ones. This is why today we’ve brought you some recommendations to help you pick a better VPN provider. As far as we’re concerned, all of these HideMyAss alternatives make your privacy their top concern and are true to their policies:
As one of the best HideMyAss alternatives available, this VPN provider has over 3000 servers spread across 55 countries. TorGuard uses OpenConnec SSL, which is the fastest VPN protocol available. This, put on top of the PGP encryption (the most widely used type of encryption) and their 99.9% server uptime makes it an incredibly solid option for your privacy.
Like its competitors, it has no speed or bandwidth limit and they keep no activity logs, but the best part of their service is actually the little details. Their software supports scripting, they have proxies for all major web browsers as well as ad-blocking services.
They feature 24/7 customer support which you can talk to in a nicely embedded chat box on their website to ask any questions before you hire their service. This support covers all the platforms in which the VPN can be installed on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS and Linux.
Private Internet Access
Usually referred to as PIA, this VPN provider featured in top 10 is surely one good option for your privacy. They have the usual repertoire of features: hundreds of servers across dozens of countries, strong encryption protocols, no traffic logs and so on. They also allow torrenting and up to 5 simultaneous connections, which is something not so common among other HideMyAss alternatives.
They’ve been positively reviewed by almost every major tech site, but the truly special thing about them is perhaps their competitive price, which puts it ahead of many other services with the same features.
As one of the strongest competitors of this list, IPVanish makes its way into this list thanks to the strong reviews it has received. It’s in our 10 and has been reviewed by almost every respectable tech site. As it would be expected, they feature fast connections, strong protocols, a catalog of more than 60 countries and a bunch other perks you can check on their website.
They consider themselves a top tier VPN service, meaning their servers offer top quality connections hardly equaled by the competition. Although this amount of quality usually comes at a cost. Their service is a bit pricier than average VPN services, but they are surely worth it.
GhostVPN perhaps the youngest VPN on this list. They do not even feature a mobile app yet, but that doesn’t mean they’re not as good. GhostVPN claims to have over 1600 servers distributed in 51 countries, which is a pretty good repertoire. They also have a 15-day money back guarantee that may not be the longest, but should be enough to let you try all the aspects of the service.
Like the others, they feature AES 256bit encryption, they also have no limits on speed or bandwidth, which is good for power users. They claim to keep no logs of user activity and also feature 24/7 customer support, which is a nice extra.
Beware Free Services
Free VPN services do exist, but we strongly recommend you avoid using them since you might end up compromising your privacy instead of protecting it. Free VPN services have a bad record for monitoring their users’ online activity and selling it to advertisers, which is pretty much the kind of thing VPNs are supposed to prevent.
Be aware that no good service is ever free. While they might advertise themselves that way, chances are you’ll end up paying with assets more valuable than money: your personal information. The worst cases of misleading advertising from VPN providers have even ended up spreading malware and selling users’ bandwidth, giving you another reason to think twice before you install one of these.
If you are truly concerned about your privacy then try to give the recommendations we’ve given you a try and judge them for yourself. Most of them feature money back guarantees so you can cancel your subscription if you’re not satisfied. Just don’t forget that browsing the internet without protection is really unsafe in this era of omnipresent surveillance.