nVPNs are an Internet sensation. Many people looking for extra privacy and security are getting this service, which allows users to hide their IP addresses and traffic from prying eyes while using encryption protocols such as OpenVPN, IPSec, SSL, L2TP, PPTP, and more.
Unencrypted traffic is vulnerable!
These “prying eyes” are generally hackers, governmental institutions, Internet service providers and advertisers/online retail stores. If your traffic is unencrypted, it means that anyone can easily intercept it and use to their benefit and to your harm.
Hackers can spy on you and, based on your traffic, check out your passwords and online banking accounts. God forbids you to leave your credit card number on a public Wi-Fi network, unprotected and ready to be stolen. The government, on the other hand, can look t your browsing history and traffic to see what kinds of sites you are visiting, and if they find something they don’t like, there can be consequences.
HIDE YOUR IP!
By hiding your IP address and traffic, your online identity is a mystery for everybody on the web, even big Internet companies like Google or Facebook tracking your movements and visited sites through your browser and/or mapping services and apps.
VPNs work Anywhere!
Also, reliable VPN usually have a long list of servers and countries available for connection. That scenario allows you to unblock restricted international sites and services no matter where you are. If you live in Brazil but want to watch the American version of Netflix, all you need to do is connect to a US server and that nation’s content will become instantly available for you.
Open Source vs VPN Clients from Providers?
Now, there are two types of VPN services: open source VPN clients and traditional VPN provider apps. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, but both can work under the right scenario and circumstances. Which one is better? Let’s take a deeper look.
What are VPN provider apps?
VPN provider apps are the traditional VPN services that are created, developed, distributed and marketed by a person or group, and are not of the open source variety. That means that the community cannot directly contribute to its improvement because we are talking about a private enterprise.
Custom VPNs, or VPN provider apps, usually come with other encryption options other than the OpenVPN, which is often associated with open source VPN clients. In VPN apps, the instructions are quite easy to understand and put to practice, and the configuration files are built into the app.
In addition to that, the VPN provider apps come with extra features that can’t be found on open source VPN clients. The most common are the DNS leak protection and a killswitch, both of which come in handy to users in need of privacy and security reinforcement.
The thing with VPN apps, or custom VPN, is that you have to find a trustworthy alternative. Numerous people defend the former against the latter, saying that being of the open source variety, it can expose their entire systems at unknown threats and dangers. However, an important aspect to take into account is that while your regular VPN client will protect your traffic from spying of hackers, government, and your ISP, it will be able to see and share the traffic itself. That is why you need to find a client in which you can trust, preferably one with a strong no logging policy.
What are Open source VPN clients?
Open source VPN clients are platforms built on the OpenVPN protocol, which has demonstrated to be the most reliable and secure of all the existing ones. OpenVPN is an open source initiative and has long successfully passed audits.
Most VPN providers, whether they are custom or open source, use OpenVPN as their de-facto encryption protocol. Because of their open source condition, this software can receive contributions from the community.
However, open source VPN clients only provide the VPN client software, so there is still a need for signing up to a VPN provider to establish an encrypted connection via the OpenVPN protocol. In fact, OpenVPN requires that the configuration files are downloaded from a custom VPN provider and then imported to the open source client, making the setup process difficult and intricate. There are many tutorials and guides on how to achieve all of this, though.
Open source VPN clients are good because they constantly update when it comes to encryption and privacy, but they lack the overall usefulness and features that a VPN provider of the custom variety can offer users.
What are the pros and cons of VPN provider apps?
One drawback against VPN provider apps is that some of them can be rather expensive, surpassing $10 per month. While it may not seem like much, not everybody’s wallet can endure the cumulative expenses of the everyday life with ease.
Aside from all that, most of the characteristics of VPN provider apps are positive. They provide robust encryption for the most part, and they come with functionalities and features that are rarely common in open source VPN clients.
Some of them are:
- Killswitch: If your VPN connection is lost, you may keep sharing data while you are not protected, and you may be so focused on your task that you may not even notice. A killswitch ‘kills’ your Internet connection when your VPN goes down, protecting you in the process.
- Port forwarding: Some sites and services can be configured to block specific ports, but with this feature, the user will be able to reroute all traffic at its convenience. It is a great measure to bypass strong firewalls.
- DNS leak protection: The event of your IP address being leaked to your Internet Service Provider by a misroute or malfunction in your configuration can bring consequences. Most VPN apps can offer protection in these events.
- Configurable encryption: Most VPN provider apps offer several encryption levels and protocols, so you can use the built-in configuration, or you can choose your preferred options manually.
What are the pros and cons of Open source VPN clients?
As a con, open source VPN clients can take significantly more time to configure and adjust the user’s needs and requirements, as the setup process is done manually. It can also be dependent on VPN provider apps for certain things or steps.
But one positive thing about them is transparency. Open source VPN clients display their source code to everybody, so they can inspect and audit it. It doesn’t have any considerable security issues or vulnerabilities.
Another positive outcome of using an open source VPN client is that you can check for security weaknesses and minor loopholes for yourself, whereas you have to put your entire trust in a VPN app being completely safe to use.
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Best Open source VPN clients
- OpenVPN GUI for Windows.
- OpenVPN Connect for Android.
- Tunnelblick for Mac.
- OpenVPN Connect for iOS.
- OpenVPN Network Manager plugin for Ubuntu Linux (sudo apt-get install network-manager-openvpn.)
- Built-in OpenVPN clients on DD-WRT and Tomato firmware for routers.
In conclusion, VPNs are highly useful Internet resources for encryption, which leads to privacy and anonymity. However, there are various types of configurations and setups, resulting in major VPN groups: Open source VPN clients and the traditional custom VPN apps.
Open source VPN clients have a source code editable by the community, is auditable, and can be checked for loopholes. However, VPN apps come with more exciting features, such as a DNS leak protection, a killswitch, port forwarding and configurable encryption, giving them the slight edge.