Not all VPNs are created equal.
And with so many misleading claims in the VPN industry, choosing a safe and secure VPN can be a pretty daunting task.
I’ve used hundreds of VPNs over the last decade. Free, paid, and everything in between.
But what is the best service for privacy in 2021?
After researching and testing over a hundred premium VPNs, I found NordVPN to be the best VPN for privacy. It’s highly reliable, does not keep logs, and is based in a privacy-friendly country.
Keep reading to see my complete analysis of NordVPN as well as the other premium VPNs that make the cut.
Let’s jump in.
The Top 5 VPNs for Privacy
Best VPNs for Privacy in 2021
When selecting the VPNs in this list, I looked at privacy policies, security features, jurisdiction, and conducted thorough leak tests.
So here are my top 5 VPN service providers that I would recommend to all my friends, and of course – to all the readers that are interested in online anonymity.
- Keeps zero logs
- Offers robust encryption
- Apps are secure and audited
- Located in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction
NordVPN is one of the most popular VPNs today.
It’s been around a long time and ticks all the right boxes when it comes to privacy.
If you’re wondering what makes NordVPN my top pick for privacy, the first thing would be its privacy practices.
The provider maintains a strict no-logging policy and is based in Panama – a country with no mandatory data retention laws.
The VPN uses the AES 256-bit algorithm, which is the gold standard in VPN encryption. As for the protocols, you can choose either OpenVPN, IKEv2, or NordLynx, a proprietary technology built around WireGuard.
However, if you use Windows, you’ll need to set up the NordVPN IKEv2 connection manually.
Like all the VPNs on this list, NordVPN offers an internet kill switch. If your VPN connection drops, the kill switch prevents your traffic leaks by blocking your internet access.
Besides the internet kill switch, NordVPN also has an app-level kill switch that blocks selected apps only.
Another thing I like about NordVPN is its “Invisibility in LAN” feature, which is available on Windows. When enabled, it makes your computer invisible to others on the same local area network.
Although this tool will keep you completely safe on LAN, it’s not without a few caveats. The main thing I noticed is that it does not let you use connected devices like printers.
NordVPN is free of connection leaks. With the VPN, you won’t have to worry about your IP, DNS, or WebRTC information falling into the wrong hands.
The provider uses self-operated DNS servers, which adds an extra layer of protection. Its CyberSec feature is another winner for me. It protects you from malware and blocks trackers, phishing sites, and ads.
You’ll be pleased to know that NordVPN has had its apps and operations independently audited by leading security and assurance firms. And in both cases, the company aced the tests.
If you’re looking for a VPN that provides more than privacy, NordVPN is ideal. It offers speedy connections and works well with streaming services. I didn’t experience any issues whatsoever accessing Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu.
NordVPN is an excellent option for torrenting, and I’ve only heard nothing but good news about its reliability against the Great Firewall of China.
The VPN is compatible with most devices, and with a single license, you can cover up to 6 devices at a go.
Looking at all these features, you might think the VPN costs a fortune? But NordVPN remains one of the best-priced VPNs in the market.
If you want to check it out, you can do so risk-free using its 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Does not keep activity logs
- Has excellent encryption
- Offers DNS & WebRTC leak protection
- Located in a non-14 Eyes jurisdiction
ExpressVPN is the first premium VPN that I ever used.
That was a decade ago, and the VPN has continued to amaze me with its reliability.
It makes the cut for being both private and secure. I was impressed by its privacy features, and the service passed every leak test I threw at it.
ExpressVPN maintains a no-logs policy, which has been tested in independent security audits by Cure53 and PwC.
And with its new TrustedServer Technology, they take their commitment to privacy to a whole new level.
Unlike other VPNs, the provider’s servers are diskless and run only on volatile memory (RAM). That means all your information on the VPN servers is wiped clean with every reboot.
In regards to encryption, you’ll enjoy military-grade AES 256-bit over either IKEV2, L2TP/IPsec, or OpenVPN (UDP/TCP) protocols.
They also offer Perfect Forward Secrecy, which reduces the risk of being compromised by creating a unique encryption key for each session.
Plus there’s an automatic kill switch and DNS leak protection to prevent traffic leaks exposing your internet activities. Like NordVPN, the VPN also offers Tor compatibility for added privacy.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, outside the 14-Eyes sphere of influence. That means you don’t have to worry about the provider being forced to share any information with the likes of the US, UK, and Canada.
ExpressVPN is lightning fast and a great option for streaming. You can set it up on all primary devices, including routers.
I’ve never had any setup issues with the VPN, but if you run into any challenges, there’s a helpful 24/7 live chat support.
ExpressVPN covers virtually everything, but it’s also quite expensive. On the bright side, a no-questions-asked 30-day money-back guarantee allows you to test it risk-free.
- Offers powerful encryption
- Does not keep logs
- Guards against IP/DNS leaks
If you are looking for a privacy-focused VPN with a pocket-friendly price, Surfshark is a perfect choice.
It has a strict no-logs policy, which has been audited by Cure53 as well.
It’s jurisdiction – the British Virgin Islands – is one of the best countries for a VPN. It’s not a member of any spy alliance and does not have mandatory data retention laws.
Surfshark protects your data with best-in-class AES 256-bit encryption, which is virtually impenetrable. As for the protocols, they offer OpenVPN, IKEv2, and Shadowsocks.
The provider also offers an internet kill switch and DNS/WebRTC leak prevention. Additional privacy features include Perfect Forward Secrecy and CleanWeb, a malware blocking tool.
Like NordVPN, Surfshark comes with obfuscated servers, which make your VPN connection seem like regular traffic.
Surfshark is one of the few VPNs that offer two-factor authentication (2FA). With this login security feature, you can effectively guard against automated attacks like brute-forcing.
If you’re looking to secure your email and passwords, you’ll like Surfshark even more. It has a built-in Password and Email Hack Detection tool that helps thwart attacks.
Something else I liked and I think you might like as well is its GPS spoofing for Android. With this feature, you can change not only your IP but also your device’s default GPS location. Pretty cool, right?
If that didn’t have you loving them, maybe your wallet will. At $1.99 per month, Surfshark is the cheapest option on this list. And that’s not all. If you’re in school, you’ll get an additional student discount on your subscription.
Surfshark supports most devices and allows you to set up unlimited connections. You get a 30-day money-back guarantee, and I found their customer support to be very responsive.
- Excellent security encryption
- Does not keep logs
- Located in a non-14 Eyes jurisdiction
Another great VPN for privacy, CyberGhost boasts excellent privacy features. The VPN is based in Romania, outside the 14-Eyes alliance.
The jurisdiction does not have mandatory data retention laws, so the provider can’t be mandated to share your information.
CyberGhost collects neither connection nor activity logs, and it accepts cryptocurrency if you’re looking to pay anonymously.
I also love that they use AES 256-bit encryption with IKEv2 and OpenVPN over TC and UDP. If you’re a Linux user like me, you’ll also be able to access the secure and super-fast WireGuard protocol.
Some of the other great features you’ll get with CyberGhost include an internet kill switch, DNS leak prevention, and Perfect Forward Secrecy.
In terms of compatibility, CyberGhost is among the top VPNs as well. It offers native apps for a wide range of devices, including Linux. Having a custom GUI app for Linux is rare, so this is a huge win for Linux users.
CyberGhost is reasonably priced and features a generous 45-day money-back guarantee. With a single subscription, you can cover up to 7 devices simultaneously.
If you find yourself struggling with anything CyberGhost, I found its 24/7 live chat support to be quite helpful.
- Offers robust encryption
- Maintains zero activity logs
- Based in a privacy-friendly country
ProtonVPN is a user-friendly VPN that offers exciting privacy and security features. The most impressive is its Secure Core architecture, which protects your data by routing your connection through multiple servers.
ProtonVPN keeps absolutely no logs. The provider is based in Switzerland, which is arguably the safest VPN jurisdiction in the world.
All its secure core servers are located in privacy-friendly countries, so you don’t have to look behind your back.
We saw why that’s quite important when looking at the best jurisdictions for privacy. I might not get much into that here, but the bottom line is that ProtonVPN rocks when it comes to online privacy.
Under current laws, the Swiss authorities cannot obligate the provider to monitor, record, and store your online activities.
ProtonVPN is equipped with AES 256-bit encryption, and you can opt for either OpenVPN or IKEv2/IPsec protocol.
ProtonVPN further offers an automatic internet kill switch, DNS leak prevention, and perfect forward secrecy. Other great security features include ‘Always On VPN’ and ‘Tor Over VPN,’ which routes your traffic through the Onion network giving you an extra layer of security.
You can use ProtonVPN with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and Routers. A single license supports up to 10 devices.
ProtonVPN has a nice free version that offers unlimited bandwidth but is restricted to medium speed and only 3 servers. To enjoy its premium privacy features, you will need to upgrade to a paid subscription.
If you want to test the premium variant, you can take advantage of ProtonVPN’s 30-day money-back guarantee.
I also tested their customer support, and it’s as reliable as advertised. So, if you encounter any issues with setup, connections, or billing, you can get everything resolved quickly.
Are Free VPNs Good for Privacy?
While enticing, free VPNs can be a recipe for disaster. Many do live up to their “no-logs” claims and collect not only connection data but also your online activities.
If there is one you should know, is that there is no such thing as free lunch. I learned this the hard way when I received DMCA notices despite being connected to a VPN.
I do not encourage copyright infringement, but that’s beside the point.
You should know that every VPN service has to find a way to make money. And while some free VPNs rely on advertising, a majority sell user data to third parties to generate more revenue.
Even more disturbing, a study of over 280 VPNs showed many free VPNs contain malware – including popular services like SuperVPN, and CrossVPN.
I really don’t recommend using free VPN – the risks are just too significant to ignore. If you’re looking to stay safe and anonymous on the internet, I suggest getting a reputable service like NordVPN.
What Should You Look for in a VPN for Privacy?
Before anything else, I always look at the following few key aspects first:
- No logs policy: You want to make sure your VPN keeps zero connection and activity logs. That means no IP address, DNS address, or browsing history.
- Powerful encryption: There are several capable encryption options available, but for ultimate privacy, I recommend AES 256-bit cipher over the OpenVPN protocol.
- Trustworthiness: Not many VPN providers live up their claims. You should look at the VPN’s reputation and whether or not they have a history of cooperating with the authorities.
- Privacy-friendly jurisdiction: Make sure the VPN’s headquarters are in a privacy-friendly country. Avoid VPNs located in 14-Eyes jurisdiction or any nation that shares intelligence with the country you’re in.
- Reliable customer support: If you run into problems with your VPN, you most certainly want them resolved quickly. I suggest getting a VPN that has 24/7 live chat support.
How Important Is a VPN Security Audit?
Independent security audits are becoming more prevalent in the VPN industry. Basically, there are two common VPN audits:
- Privacy audits
- Security audits
Privacy audits focus on the provider’s logging practices while security audits take a broader look at the company, its infrastructure, and its operations.
But are they really essential?
Absolutely. Reputable independent audits conducted by trusted companies like PwC and Cure53 help verify whether a VPN’s logging policy is as safe as advertised.
Additionally, they help expose any potential security threats that may risk your data and identity.
Do All VPNs Keep Logs?
Can Your ISP See Your Browsing History With a VPN?
No. When you connect to a VPN, your ISP can’t see your browsing history.
However, you should pick your provider carefully. If your VPN has connection leaks, your ISP will be able to see what you do online.
Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN?
Can Google Track Me If I Use a VPN?
No. A VPN will stop Google from tracking you and targeting you with ads.
I’ve spent days going over hundreds of VPN services, and I’ve narrowed it down to my top 5 picks for the best VPN for privacy.
All the VPNs in this list are secure, do not keep logs, and are located in privacy-friendly jurisdictions.
NordVPN is my top choice, thanks to its reliability and advanced privacy features.
But whether you’re searching for the most secure, or the most affordable, or the easiest to use, you will find a fantastic option with these services.
Pick your preferred VPN and let me know what you think in the comment section below.