NordVPN Review & Comprehensive Tests (2020)

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NordVPN small logo
MY VERDICT:
RECOMMENDED
MY SCORE:
4.8 / 5

In my years of working in the digital space, I’ve always promised my clients to keep data secure and private. A VPN is a way to do just that.

And NordVPN promises “advanced security and complete privacy”, with features like secure P2P file sharing, dedicated servers and 256-bit encryption with no logging and access across many platforms.

Sounds nice and secure, right?

I’d never put my clients’ files in jeopardy by using an unvetted vendor, however, so I decided to test NordVPN for myself.

In this NordVPN review, I’ll tell you about my experiences with this service.

Keep reading to find out whether NordVPN is as good as it claims.

Name:NordVPN
Logs:No Logging Policy
Servers:5468 (59 Countries)
Price:$3.49/mo
Discount:70% Discount + A Gift
Contents show

General Info & Features

CriteriaDetails
JurisdictionPanama
LoggingNo-logging policy
Locations & Servers5364 servers in 58 countries
PriceView Best Price
Payment MethodsCredit/debit card, cryptocurrency, AliPay, WeChat Payments, Qiwi, Webmoney, UnionPay, iTunes, Google Play, cash (in the USA)
Free TrialNo, but 30-day money-back guarantee
Simultaneous ConnectionsUp to 6
Encryption256-bits
Torrenting and P2PYes, on dedicated servers
SpeedModerate
Live ChatYes
Corporate PackageNordVPN Teams
Usability4.5/5
Router CompatibilityWith configuration
Supported PlatformsWindows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire Stick, Routers, Firefox browsers
Official Website:www.NordVPN.com

NordVPN Full In-Depth Review

Who Is Behind It?

The NordVPN trademark is owned by a company called Tefincom S.A. registered in Panama., according to the US Patent and Trademark Office.

NordVPN small logo

The terms of service warranties, which are a binding agreement between the user and the service, confirm that they’re governed by Panama laws.

The same company is listed as a developer in the iOS app:

Tefincom SA is listed as a developer in the iOS app

Tefincom S.A. also developed other security tools, such as NordPass Password Manager, NordLocker File Encryption and NordVPN Teams for B2B connections.

NordVPN service was first created in 2012 by “free Internet enthusiasts who believe in a common secure future online”.

It claims to offer Internet security and privacy, access to your favorite websites and streaming services from any location, seamless P2P file sharing and other features across all devices for less than $5 per month.

"We believe the internet could be better than it is today. That’s why we do our best to make it free from censorship and surveillance, as envisioned in 1989 – the year the World Wide Web was invented.."

- NordVPN
Does that look cheap to you, given the breadth of stuff on offer?
 

Initially, that’s what I thought.

Security of data isn’t something I’d ever skimp on, and I’m wary of cheap services.

The 30-day money-back guarantee has, however, convinced me to give NordVPN a chance because it gave me enough time to see it in action.

Pros

  • Privacy-friendly jurisdiction
  • No-logging policy
  • Netflix, BBC iPlayer support
  • AES-256-bits encryption
  • Extra features – Double VPN, Onion, obfuscated servers, Dedicated IP
  • A large number of servers
  • Good customer support

Cons

  • Slower speeds
  • No free trial
  • No PayPal payments

How Does NordVPN Work?

Privacy & Jurisdiction

As I stated, the information in the NordVPN description states that it’s owned by a company registered in Panama.

The country is not in a 5-eyes or a 14-eyes jurisdiction. US Department of State report confirms that interference with privacy is prohibited in Panama.

Looks pretty good, right?

I thought so too. But then I stumbled upon a concerning allegation, claiming that NordVPN was engaged in data mining.

So, I embarked upon further research to verify this.

Are the Rumors True? (Panama & Lithuania)

It was reported that NordVPN is actually owned by a Lithuania-based company Tesonet. This information has spread around very quickly, as things tend to over the Internet, but I eventually got to the root of it all.

It’s a lawsuit filed against Tesonet by Luminati Networks Ltd at the Eastern District Court of Texas. 

Luminati is a company behind another VPN service provider, HolaVPN.

The action is for patent infringement. Luminati claims that they had a business relationship with “Tesonet’s VPN service called NordVPN”.

That’s the only time the service is mentioned in the claim.

As tenuous as it seems, it was, however, enough of a springboard for social media to brew up a storm. This is not least because Tesonet is a company that creates digital marketing products.

And that inevitably involves data collection on a wide scale.

You don’t want a VPN provider that’s engaged in data mining and then uses that data in their products sold to third parties.

To assuage my doubts, I used the OCCRP database of companies to check Tefincom S.A.

Here’s what I found:

As you can see, it’s registered in both Panama and Cyprus – an EU jurisdiction.

After some further checking of the Cyprus Registrar of Companies, I found that the Cypriot entity is registered as an “Overseas Company”.

Cyprus registrar of companies

As you can see, the country of incorporation is listed as the “Republic of Panama”.

Under Cypriot law, an “overseas company” may operate in Cyprus as a branch.

That means that they’re obliged to submit copies of its financial statements every year published in accordance with a country of incorporation.

Tefincom S.A. is therefore obliged to show the Cypriot authorities its financial statements. Nothing else needs to be shared.

To go back to the US Patent and Trademark Office entry, it clearly shows that Tefincom S.A. (a Panama-based corporation owns the NORDVPN trademark, classified under Class 38 – Providing VPN Services.

Tefincom S.A. owns the NORDVPN trademark

NordVPN’s terms of services also state that Tefincom S.A. is the developer of the service. Therefore, we can surmise that NordVPN is wholly owned by Tefincom S.A. and not Tesonet.

To rectify the losses caused to their reputation by this misleading information, NordVPN announced an independent audit of their no-logs policy and implemented a Bug Bounty Program. 

Independently-audited No-logs Policy

NordVPN’s no-logs service is accurate

In 2018, Tefincom S.A. Cyprus commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers A.G. in Switzerland to audit the NordVPN service and to verify that the company doesn’t retain any logs. The audit report is available to existing users of NordVPN.

Unfortunately, I had to agree to not share the report, but I read it and can tell you the following:

  • The audit included interviews with employees, inspections of configurations, and databases;
  • It was found that the information Tefincom S.A. presents about NordVPN’s no-logs service is accurate and the service is compliant with the privacy policy.

The service’s no-logs policy specifies the minimal user data it collects.

This includes your e-mail and your payment information.

Some cookies are also collected. Since NordVPN is based out of Panama, they can maintain this no-logs policy.

There’s a caveat, however. The policy also states that a “designated subsidiary” in your country may also process your personal data.

Guaranteed NordVPN's no-logging policy

There’s a caveat, however. The policy also states that a “designated subsidiary” in your country may also process your personal data.

Since a company located on a specific country’s territory has to comply with the laws of that country, it means that any subsidiary of NordVPN located outside Panama is not subject to Panama’s laws but rather, the laws of the country in question. Many of such countries have much stricter laws than Panama. 

As an example of this, Russia has attempted to compel NordVPN to change their service last year to allow the government access to NordVPN’s servers in the country. The service didn’t comply because doing so would violate their policies and make them process and store a lot more data than they do.

As a result, the company had to shut down their Russian servers.

This example has reassured me that NordVPN’s commitment to privacy is genuine.

The data that’s currently used by them is a requirement for the service to function properly. Russia’s example shows that the limits imposed on that data apply to all NordVPN’s subsidiaries.

Double Protection with Double VPN (Multi-hop)

DoubleVPN feature

One of NordVPN’s extra security features is called Double VPN.

As the name might suggest, it’s double encryption of your data.

In addition to the initial encryption by the first server, your traffic is then encrypted again by a server in another country.

Only then is your traffic sent to the destination server.

So, you get your IP address obscured twice as a result of the traffic multi-hop.

This could be useful if a data center in one server’s country is compromised, for instance – something that NordVPN has learned the hard way is possible (more on that later). 

Double VPN does, however, slow down my connection.

Before I activated NordVPN, my Internet speed on my Desktop was like this:

Internet speed without using any VPN service

That’s my speed when I’m using NordVPN without DoubleVPN feature and connecting to a Latvian server (via QuickConnect):

Connected to a Latvian server (via QuickConnect)

And that’s my speed when the DoubleVPN Canada-USA is activated:

Connected to Canada-USA

Finally, the DoubleVPN Netherlands-Sweden:

Connected to Netherlands-Sweden

The reduction isn’t as dire as one would imagine.

Nonetheless, if I’m transmitting secure files to clients, I would use DoubleVPN, but I’d turn it off for streaming and games.

NordVPN's Kill Switch – the Facts

A kill-switch is a VPN feature that activates when your connection breaks unexpectedly. If enabled, your connection to the network is severed instantly if a VPN disconnects for some reason. This ensures that your ISP doesn’t see your traffic.

With NordVPN, you can customize the kill switch to turn itself on automatically upon the app’s launch.

"The Kill Switch is an advanced security measure, which prevents your data from leaking to the web."

- NordVPN
If you’re, for example, working in a coffee shop and are connected to NordVPN on a public Wi-Fi, you should protect your data in case the connection drops and your traffic is exposed.
 

Public wireless networks are vulnerable to hacking, and a kill-switch is a way to interrupt your connection in case of VPN failure.

If it’s not enabled, you risk someone hacking your device through the unprotected network, or at the very least data theft.

Desktop Kill Switch – App and Internet

Here’s what NordVPN Internet and Application kill-switch buttons look like on my Windows Desktop:

Internet kill switch option
App kill switch feature

As you can see, it lists applications to be “killed” when the connection unexpectedly drops. You can customize that list.

I, for example, added my browser and OneDrive – the apps I use most often for work to make sure the information on them isn’t compromised.

If your issue is that you don’t want your music preferences to be known, you can choose iTunes from the list. And so on. But of course, if you’re using the Internet Kill Switch, you don’t need the App Kill Switch enabled.

The Kill Switch works the same way on Mac laptops and PCs.

However, it uses OpenVPN for App Kill Switch and IKEv2 for the Internet Kill Switch.

App Kill Switch

The NordVPN kill switch is also enabled on my iOS app.

Unlike the desktop app, however, the mobile app doesn’t provide an opportunity to cherry-pick the apps to kill if a connection drops unexpectedly.

Rather, the iOS kill switch “switches off” the internet access system-wide.

That way, the apps aren’t terminated, but you can’t connect to them.

And neither can any malicious actor, which I found to be quite useful for traveling to countries where accessing restricted content is a criminal offense.

I couldn’t find the kill-switch in the mobile app settings, but with NordVPN’s helpful Support Guide I realized that it’s enabled by default, and not customizable on my iPhone.

Is NordVPN Secure?

Tunneling Protocols & Encryption

Major messaging services like WhatsApp have adopted an end-to-end encryption over the last few years. This level of protection stops anyone accessing messages without the user’s permission. Encryption of transmitting data done by a VPN service should work in the same way.

I reviewed NordVPN’s security specifications to check whether it’s up to the job.

Military grade encryption
Currently, the standard for optimal encryption is AES-256 bit (Advanced Encryption Standard), also known as Rijndael. The algorithm in this standard is considered the most secure today. Therefore, a secure service like NordVPN should comply with that standard.
 

In his memoir “Permanent Record”, privacy activist Edward Snowden describes encryption algorithms that scramble the data to make it unreadable as “sets of math problems designed to be incredibly difficult to solve”, with only an encryption key there to help them.

These math problems are in fact a cipher which encrypts data on a per-block basis, thus protecting each piece from a network attack. Each block is 128-bits long.

All the math is done in binary as follows:

  • The data is divided into a 4-by-4 column of 16 bytes;
  • This is followed by the key expansion, where the initial key is used to create other keys;
  • These keys are then set aside, and the initial key is added to the data block;
  • The bytes in the block are then substituted to different characters according to a table stored in the algorithm;
  • The rows in the column of 16 bytes are then shifted and mixed through further mathematical operations;
  • The keys from the second space are added into the mix of data;
  • The above steps are repeated 13 times with the 256-bit key.

NordVPN advertises that it uses AES-256 bits encryption.

The “256 bit” refer to the length of the key to the cipher – it has 2^256 possible key combinations. With current technology, it would take billions of years to crack by trying all these combinations, according to cybersecurity consultants

Complicated stuff, right?

The process took me a while to understand but I’m glad I took the time to figure out and I can now see that the 256-bit key would indeed be impossible to break.

Which is why it’s used by the military and the NSA and offered by NordVPN.

It’s enabled by default, so I didn’t have to tweak any settings upon the setup.

In addition to the industry-standard encryption, NordVPN also offers two different secure protocols – IKEv2/IPsec and OpenVPN. The first is used for iOS and macOS apps, whereas the latter is the default for Windows PC, macOS and Android.

IKEv2/IPsec

Different encryption protocols

This protocol, which stands for “Internet Security Exchange/Internet Protocol Security”, is a set of instructions for establishing a secure connection between you and the VPN server. Developed together by Cisco and Microsoft, it first came out in 1998 and is standardized in RFC 7296.

It’s a proprietary protocol supported by iOS that operates at the network layer.

NordVPN uses Next Generation Encryption (NGE) in this protocol.

This means that the algorithms are accepted by the industry as highly secure.

The ciphers used by NordVPN at IKEv2/IPsec are AES-256 bit-GCM for encryption, SHA2-384 for integrity, PFS and 3072-bit Diffie Hellman keys.

Let’s go through them one-by-one:

  • The SHA2-384 designed by the NSA stands for “Secure Hash Algorithms” and is used to condense data to a fixed size – a digest. SSL certificates’ usage of SHAs for digital signatures is only one example. The number 384 refers to the size of a digest;
  • PFS, or Perfect Forward Secrecy, is a warranty which assures that session keys wouldn’t be compromised, even if a private key of the server is. This is useful for protecting any future communications against attacks and is achieved by generating a unique session key every time you connect to a VPN server. Kind of like a two-factor authentication used by some bank apps, when a unique code is sent to your phone each time you log in;
  • 3072-bit Diffie Hellman (DH) keys refers to a cryptographic protocol which allows a user and a server who’ve never interacted with one another before to create a key used to secure their communications. This key is created through a series of mathematical operations. The 3072 refers to its length, which means that it’s good until 2030.

OpenVPN

OpenVPN protocol

Unlike IKEv2/IPsec, OpenVPN is open-source and uses the transport layer security (TLS) protocols. It can be used on both TCP and UDP ports.

OpenVPN has passed third-party audits, confirming its security and reliability.

It uses AES-256 bit CB encryption and a 2048 bit Diffie Hellman key.

It was certainly tough to get my head around all the information about cryptographic algorithms – but I had to, to understand how well NordVPN can protect my data. Both the encryption and the secure protocols have reassured me that I can work securely when NordVPN is on, wherever I am.

NordLynx - A Safe Implementation of WireGuard

NordLynx technology
Image via https://nordvpn.com/blog/nordlynx-protocol-wireguard/

Last year, NordVPN launched a new solution for speedy and secure connection called NordLynx. It’s based on WireGuard– an open-source VPN protocol.

Currently, it’s still in experimental mode and still has some bugs to take care of before it can be an 1.0 MVP. Despite that, a US senator has already endorsed it to the NSA, so it’s something to pay attention to.

NordLynx is a VPN tool for Linux-based devices. The developers at NordVPN claim that they’ve eliminated the privacy safeguards’ deficiencies in WireGuard by developing a double NAT (Network Address Translation) system.

Essentially, it’s a way of remapping a user’s IP address twice by creating two local network interfaces. The first assigns an IP to all network users, and the second assigns a unique IP to each VPN tunnel.

This eliminates the need for logging static IP addresses, which was the problem with WireGuard.

Since I don’t have a Linux device to test NordLynx on, I can’t say with a hundred percent certainty whether it surpasses OpenVPN.

I did, however, spot it in my iPhone’s choice of protocols.

To test the connection speed, I ran it through Pingify.

These are the results I received when connected without a VPN:

Speed on Pingify without a VPN

These are the results I got with NordVPN on, using IKEv2 (server in Finland):

NordVPN on, using IKEv2 (server in Finland)

And these are the results I got using NordVPN with NordLynx (server in Denmark):

NordLynx speed

It seems that NordLynx does indeed speed up the connection, albeit not by much.

Will I keep using it on my iPhone?

Not at this stage – it’s still a very incomplete product. But I’ll certainly keep monitoring WireGuard developments.

CyberSec – a Built-in AdBlock

Ads can be used both as a source of revenue by companies today, but along with suspicious websites they can also be used by malicious actors for DDoS attacks and phishing. An adblock can only go so far – but a VPN can protect you.

NordVPN’s CyberSec solution adds an additional level of protection.

CyberSec blocks dangerous websites by comparing the URL against a database of blacklisted links. It also blocks all the communications between your device and DDoS botnet’ Command and Control Center, if you were infected.

CyberSec also functions as an adblock and pop-up blocker.

If you need a site’s pop-up windows, you can unblock CyberSec.

You can do that in NordVPN settings:

CyberSec feature

Was NordVPN Hacked?

The more secure a service is promising to be, the more likely it is that any breaches would instantly make the headlines.

That happened last year with NordVPN.

The hack of its data center vendor in Finland was big news in the tech community.

Like with the Tesonet questions, I went straight to the source – NordVPN’s statement and the official story. I gathered that what’s happened is that in March 2018, a third-party server was breached in Finland.

This happened because the intruder found a TLS key he nevertheless couldn’t use because it was expired.

The data center has engaged a remote management system account without NordVPN’s knowledge, and it got breached due to security flaws.

"This was an isolated case, and no other servers or datacenter providers we use have been affected."

- NordVPN
According to NordVPN’s official statement, no logs were obtained because they don’t exist. The TLS key couldn’t have been used to break into the service’s traffic
 

As a result of this breach, NordVPN dropped the Finnish vendor as soon as they heard about it and carried out an audit for a few months.

That’s why the public didn’t know about the breach until it was complete.

So, it’s safe to say that NordVPN technically wasn’t hacked – its third-party provider was, and no traffic was breached.

However, it’s not something a service should ignore – and NordVPN definitely hasn’t.

Security Audit and Bug Bounty Program

In addition to the audit, NordVPN has also engaged a US cybersecurity firm VerSprite to conduct penetration testing and rectify any breaches in their system.

This was followed by their new Bug Bounty program

VerSprite’s testing of NordVPN revealed the following:

"NordVPN 6.12.7.0 for Windows suffers from a SYSTEM privilege escalation vulnerability through the "nordvpn-service" service. This service establishes an NetNamedPipe endpoint that allows arbitrary installed applications to connect and call publicly exposed methods. The "Connect" method accepts a class instance argument that provides attacker control of the OpenVPN command line. An attacker can specify a dynamic library plugin that should run for every new VPN connection attempt. This plugin will execute code in the context of the SYSTEM user."

So, the testing has shown some vulnerabilities.

As any person concerned with cyber security, I’m glad to see the service provider taking steps to combat them, such as this audit and the Big Bounty Program.

Such programs aim towards discovering and resolving bugs by the general public, for which rewards are offered. Large tech companies like Facebook and Microsoft have conducted them, and even the US Department of Defense has found it helpful. NordVPN’s project would allow independent security professionals to report flaws on HackerOne NordVPN page in return for a reward.

The rewards can range from $5k to $50k. Although only launched two months ago, the program’s already received 362 reports.

I and my fellow cybersecurity enthusiasts definitely appreciate a chance to contribute to the overall safety of the service.

Other Security Features

  • LAN Invisibility Setting – NordVPN allows you to hide your Windows 10 device from other devices on your local area network. This can be achieved by enabling the “Invisibility on LAN” setting upon setup. Having it on would, however, stop you from using your LAN printers.
  • Auto-connect – clicking on this button would enable the service to choose the optimal country and server for you. You can enable it upon set up or turn it on every time you boot up NordVPN if you want specific servers.
  • Switching between TCP and UDP – you can do that in Advanced settings when you want to change the purpose of VPN usage. For instance, UDP is better for streaming but TCP is a more secure method of file transfer.
  • Dedicated IP address servers – you can use this feature if you need a consistent IP address to access certain files or ensure your bank doesn’t flag your VPN usage as suspicious activity with the constantly changing IP addresses. NordVPN offers a list of dedicated IP servers that retain the same virtual location at all times.

No Leaks in Three Tests

If a VPN provider wants to be the best, it needs to hide your DNS requests from your ISP, lest it sees what URLs you’re visiting. If there’s a DNS leak, your traffic is vulnerable.

Fortunately, there are several tests you can do online to see whether there are any leaks. I connected to three servers of NordVPN (Latvia, U.K., and Canada) to run them.

I used several websites just to make sure:

SourceIPv4/IPv6 Leak TestDNS Leak TestWebRTC Leak Test
IPLeak.netLatvia – Passed
UK – Not Reachable
Canada - Passed
Latvia – Passed
UK – Passed
Canada - Passed
Latvia – Passed
UK – Passed
Canada - Passed
IpLeak.OrgLatvia – Passed
UK – Passed
Canada - Passed
Latvia – Passed
UK – Passed
Canada - Passed
Latvia – Passed
UK – Passed
Canada - Passed
Ip8.ComN/AN/ALatvia – Passed
UK – Passed
Canada - Passed
IPX.acLatvia – Passed
UK – Not Reachable
Canada - Passed
Latvia – Passed
UK – Passed
Canada - Passed
Latvia – Passed
UK – Not Reachable
Canada - Passed
dnsleaktest.comN/ALatvia – Passed
UK – Passed
Canada - Passed
N/A
BrowserLeaks.comN/ALatvia – Passed
UK – Passed
Canada - Passed
Latvia – Passed
UK – Passed
Canada - Passed
Perfect-Privacy.comN/ALatvia – Passed
UK – Passed
Canada - Passed
Latvia – Passed
UK – Passed
Canada - Passed

As you can see, the DNS requests didn’t leak in any cases, which means that they’re routed through NordVPN’s DNS rather than my ISP’s and therefore go through the VPN tunnel, obscured from prying eyes.

Speed and Performance

Usually you need your Internet connection to be speedy, as well as secure.

A VPN’s connection speed depends on a number of servers available and the distance from your device. The more users connect to the same server, the slower the connection – which is why a VPN provider should have many servers close to your location.

To get a clear picture of what servers I should use for a speedy connection, I tested nine NordVPN locations. The results are below:

LOCATIONPING
(ms)
DOWNLOAD
Mbps
UPLOAD
Mbps
Speed without using NordVPN
2212.970.96
USA – New York1545.121.23
USA - Chicago1850.170.03
Canada1602.601.83
Germany778.741.70
United Kingdom
778.731.38
South Africa5933.171.76
Switzerland734.340.97
Australia2803.641.57
Japan3173.142.32
AVERAGE:2134.411.42

As you can see from the data, the connection speeds in Europe, which is where I am, were much better than North American, Asian or African ones.

As you probably know from my previous NordVPN vs ExpressVPN article, it’s not the best speed – but my speed without a VPN connection also leaves a lot to be desired.

Quick Connect Feature

NordVPN Quick Connect feature connects you to a server the program deems the best option for you at the time.

The feature works on both Desktop, iOS and Android apps.

When I tried it on my iPhone, it instantly connected me to a server in a bordering country. Therefore, it’s a good option for those of you who want security and speed only, without any other VPN features.

Quick Connect button wouldn’t, however, connect you to Dedicated IP or DoubleVPN servers. Those ones you’d have to choose on your own.

Steaming Support

If you’re someone like me who enjoys streaming video content, but has limited access to it due to geographical restrictions, a VPN service can help.

I tested NordVPN to see whether it unblocked different streaming platforms and devices. Here’s what I found:

Streaming Services:Unblocks?
NetflixYes, with specific servers
HuluYes, US servers
HBOYes, US servers
Amazon PrimeYes, specific regions
ABC.comYes, with CyberSec off
BBC iPlayer
Yes, with correct configurations

Does NordVPN Work with Netflix?

I travel a lot, but I want to enjoy Netflix content wherever I may be.

Due to licensing restrictions, however, it’s not available outside specific regions.

I tested NordVPN to see whether I can get around these geoblocks.

According to NordVPN’s chatbot, NordVPN currently supports Netflix in the US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Germany and Japan. It also helpfully provides a list of servers for Netflix on mobile devices.

Finding the right server is only half of it, however. You need to make sure you have enough bandwidth to watch Netflix. The minimum speed requirement is 3 Mbps.

As you gathered from my speed testing, I can only achieve that on European servers. For me, that’s not a problem since UK Netflix has the shows that I like.

If I want US Netflix, however, I’d need more bandwidth.

For me, NordVPN does work with Netflix when I connect to UK servers.

NordVPN chatbot also provides helpful instructions on what to do when you still can’t access Netflix:

NordVPN chatbot also provides helpful instructions

Does NordVPN Work With Hulu?

Hulu is currently accessible from the US and Japan only.

Therefore, you would have to connect to an American or a Japanese server to enjoy the new season of “Veronica Mars”. But even in that case, there’s a risk of Hulu matching your VPN IP against a list of well-known ones.

I tried doing that with NordVPN’s American servers, as the service recommends doing. Its wide breadth of US servers (1528) increases your chances of not being flagged as a VPN IP.

Initially, the NordVPN IP I received WAS flagged by Hulu.

However, when I tried using obfuscated servers (can be enabled in Advanced settings), I had more luck. So, NordVPN does work with Hulu – but you might have to try it a few times to get access.

Does NordVPN Work with HBO GO?

Content on this platform is only available to US residents.

If you’d like to enjoy shows like “Westworld” when traveling outside the US without having to avoid spoilers-riddled social media, a VPN is your best bet.

NordVPN has a helpful guide on how to access HBO Go.

Again, the large number of US servers is your friend here.

You can ask Live Chat support for the best one. So, NordVPN does work with HBO Go.

Does NordVPN Work with Amazon Prime?

If you want to enjoy the content on Amazon Prime you have to reside in a specific region. But if you want to access one of the biggest streaming platforms when traveling, you should use a VPN.

Thanks to NordVPN’s instructions and a new helpful chat bot, I got the answer to my question about how to watch Amazon Prime fairly quickly.

NordVPN does work with Amazon prime. To watch Amazon Prime US, you should connect to any server in the world except for the UK and Japan.

For Amazon Prime GB, connect to any of 568 UK servers. Same with Japan.

NordVPN’s instructions and a new helpful chat bot

Does NordVPN Work with ABC.com?

You can stream ABC.com channel free of charge, but only if you’re in the US.

So, I tried doing just that whilst connected to a NordVPN USA server.

Initially, that didn’t work, so I sought help from the Live Chat feature.

After verifying the security of my connection, the agent suggested disabling CyberSec. Doing so required me to reconnect to the VPN, so I connected to a US server again. I was pleased to see that the agent’s advice worked, and I could stream the channel.

So, NordVPN does work with ABC.com.

Help from live chat

Does NordVPN Work with BBC iPlayer?

As a fan of Doctor Who and other British TV, it was important for me to find a VPN that allows me to enjoy BBC iPlayer whilst I’m outside the UK.

A UK IP address was the first thing I needed, which I got by connecting to a UK server. However, I also needed to log into my account when connected to the VPN to confirm my TV license – a UK legal requirement.

After that, I was able to access BBC iPlayer content (but not until I played around with the servers – the BBC is pretty good at detecting VPN IPs).

To speed up the buffering of my shows, I switched my protocols from UDP to TCP.

That gave me access to my shows and freed me from having to wait for ages for them to buffer. So, NordVPN does work with BBC iPlayer.

Can You Use Kodi With NordVPN?

Kodi is a free open-source media player application, customizable to fit many platforms. Theoretically, an open-source software should be available to everyone across the world. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case in practice – some Kodi add-ons have geo-restrictions. 

Therefore, you might need a VPN to bypass them, and to make sure that your browsing of digital content of Kodi is secure.

According to NordVPN’s guide, its compatibility with Kodi depends on a device you’re using – if it supports both Kodi and NordVPN, the service will work.

The video tutorial stipulates that OpenVPN is a must, and that you should download an add-on from NordVPN and customize it on Kodi interface for it to work. I tested it on my Windows PC and can confirm that NordVPN does work with Kodi, provided you have OpenVPN configured on your device.

A SmartPlay Feature

NordVPN achieves its streaming capabilities via its SmartPlay feature.

It’s implemented in the program upon setup, so there’s no additional configuration needed on your part. It’s a combination of VPN technology and Smart DNS.

The former allows for privacy, whereas the latter is a proxy service that changes the Domain Name Server of your device. So, with SmartPlay, you’re able to enjoy your favorite video content on Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. whilst keeping your online activities private.

Is NordVPN Good for Torrenting?

Torrenting, or peer-to-peer (P2P) is a method of file-sharing between users that reduces download time.

Although it’s often used to share copyrighted files, torrenting isn’t illegal and is in fact used quite often for sharing large quantities of perfectly legal data. It is, however, not a secure form of communication since your IP address is clearly visible to all downloaders of a file.

To combat that problem, NordVPN offers a whole category of specialty servers dedicated to P2P communication. They provide you with a new IP address to make sure your actual one is private. If you want to do some torrenting, simply connect to a P2P server in the app’s list.

NordVPN p2p optimized servers

When I connected to a P2P server in the UK deemed fastest by NordVPN, my download speed was 0.51 Mbps.

Given that my speed without a VPN connection is 12,97 Mbps, and 8.73 Mbps when connected to a regular NordVPN UK server, it’s not an ideal solution.

But for my clients, I prioritize security over speed.

And on that front, given its no-logging policy, an automatic kill switch and encryption of the highest industry standard, NordVPN is good for torrenting.

Tor (Onion Over VPN)

The Onion Router, or Tor, is a software created by the Tor Project for anonymous browsing. When you’re using it, your traffic goes through an overlay network before reaching the Internet. Usually, you need a Tor browser for that.

Your ISP, however, sees that you’re using the Onion, although they can’t tell your activities on it.

To make Onion browsing more private, NordVPN has developed an Onion over VPN solution. It routes your traffic through a NordVPN server, and it gets to the overlay network after that.

You don’t need to download the browser – all you have to do is choose Onion over VPN from the list of specialized servers:

Onion over VPN servers

I could only see two servers, both located in the Netherlands.

The connection was established, but it was considerably slower than the speed I usually have with NordVPN.

SOCKS5 Proxies

NordVPN is compatible with torrenting programs like BitTorrent and uTorrent.

This compatibility is achieved through SOCKS5. That’s an Internet protocol operating on a session level. It moves data packets between the client and the server through a proxy server, masking your IP address.

Although you don’t have to use it when you’re already using a VPN, sometimes speed would be more important to you than security.

I don’t foresee an occasion when that would be my reality. 

NordVPN explains how to configure the SOCKS5 proxy on BitTorrent and uTorrent.

The best way to test whether it worked is to check the IP address on sites like whatismyip.com when you’re torrenting.

Countries and Servers

NordVPN servers map

NordVPN has 5279 servers in 58 countries.

Amongst them, there are 2004 servers in the Americas, 2941 in Europe, 676 in APAC, and 108 in the Middle East, India and Africa.

This wide range of choice of servers signifies high-speed performance, because the speed is affected by how many people are using a server at that moment.

So, if you’re, for instance, located in Canada or Venezuela, but want access to US content, you can choose the servers closest to you in the US.

Of course, the reality of your speed depends on your actual Internet connection – if it’s not great, a VPN would be unlikely to make it better.

In addition, this many servers provide many opportunities for streaming. Many streaming services block VPN-like IP addresses, so having a lot of them at your disposal makes enjoying your favorite shows possible, wherever you may be.

Does NordVPN Use Virtual Server Locations?

A virtual server is a server that’s located in a place other than what it seems to be.

For instance, if a VPN service advertises that it has physical servers in location A but actually doesn’t, it’s possible that they’re using virtual servers.

In those cases, you receive an IP address based in location A via a connection through a server in location B.

The primary risk of usage of such virtual servers is that you don’t actually know where your traffic is routed through. That country might have stricter privacy laws than the one you think you’re using. For that reason, it’s important to choose a VPN that doesn’t use virtual servers and doesn’t keep logs.

As proven by the audit I discussed earlier, NordVPN doesn’t retain logs.

To check that none of their services are virtual, I contacted Live Chat support.

Here’s the response I received:

Chat support response regarding to virtual servers

Unfortunately, NordVPN refused to disclose if any of their servers are virtual.

So I cannot say with certainty whether NordVPN does or doesn’t use virtual server locations.

NordVPN's Specialty Servers

Obfuscated Servers

NordVPN Obfuscated servers feature is intended to bypass network restrictions.

It’s useful for traveling to countries with strict Internet laws that restrict access to websites or even ban VPNs altogether.

Basically, they obfuscate the fact that you’re using a VPN by turning your VPN traffic into HTTPS-encrypted traffic, since in many such countries, you could get in serious trouble for VPN usage.

You can find a list of obfuscated servers by turning it on in Advanced settings.

NordVPN uses an algorithm to find the fastest server for you.

When I tested it, NordVPN chose an obfuscated server in Sweden as the fastest for me. According to the speed test I ran, my download speed when connected to it was 1.01 Mbps – quite a reduction from my usual one of 10-12 Mbps, but when it comes to personal online safety, privacy trumps speed. 

I’ll give you a real-life example of how they work later on in this NordVPN review.

Server Recommendation Tool

In addition to its Quick Connect Feature, NordVPN also offers a Server Recommendation Tool. It selects a server most suitable for you at the time using its proprietary algorithm.

You can adjust the selection to your preferences by choosing a country where you’d like that server to be.

For example, I chose UK, and I got a server recommended for me: #805.

After checking it in the NordVPN app, I could see that it was indeed the least loaded server (only 8%). So, the server recommendation tool definitely comes in handy.

Connected to the recommended server

Multi-Platform Compatibility

Desktop Apps – Windows, macOS, Linux

NordVPN is compatible with all desktop systems, whether you’re using Windows, macOS or Linux. If you’re a Microsoft aficionado, you can use NordVPN from Windows XP onwards – on XP, Vista, 7 and 10.

OpenVPN works across all of them, and IKEv2/IPsec works on Windows 7 and newer versions. You can set up NordVPN on Windows by downloading the app and follow the steps in the set-up wizard. I found the process to be very fuss-free on Windows 10.

NordVPN devices

For macOS, NordVPN supports OpenVPN. The setup begins automatically after you download – you just have to follow the installation instructions.

Once it’s installed, you can find it in your Launchpad.

Then you can sign up or sign in with your NordVPN account and tweak the settings to your liking.

For Linux, NordVPN supports OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec protocols.

If you have Debian, Ubuntu or Linux Mint, you can set it up with the help of Terminal – Linux’s equivalent of the Command line.

The NordVPN tutorial provides clear instructions on how to do that. The same goes for other Linux systems.

Mobile Apps – Android & iOS

NordVPN works on both popular mobile platforms – Android and iOS.

You can find the app in Play Store and App Store. Please note that only apps developed by Tefincom S.A. are native NordVPN apps.

Once I downloaded the app on my phone and iPad, I proceeded to sign in with the account I created earlier and saw the familiar Quick Connect button.

Same as with Desktop it chose the best server – close to me and with a low percentage of users.

Browser Extensions – Chrome & Firefox

In addition to the devices, your NordVPN subscription also includes browser extension for Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

They work on Desktop and Android devices and conceal your IP address the same way as the NordVPN does, allowing you to browse securely.

The extensions use the same Auto Connect algorithm as the app, or users can choose a server of their preference.

This is particularly useful for browsing websites without HTTPS protection – those sites without the Lock icon are particularly vulnerable to activities of malicious actors because they can see what info you’re submitting to a website (cookies etc.) when it’s not encrypted by HTTPS.

Instructions for Routers

If you have a lot of devices on your home or office network, you might want to check out the NordVPN solution for routers. If configured correctly, all devices connected to this router would have NordVPN protection.

A router has to be VPN-compatible for the configuration to work.

Usually, if the specifications state that the router supports OpenVPN, it is compatible. NordVPN recommends FlashRouters.

They already support NordVPN, so if you’re happy with the service and want to protect a bigger network than your subscription allows, consider investing in a NordVPN-enabled router.

You can configure the VPN settings on your Flashrouter through its proprietary app. All that’s required is entering your NordVPN account details and choosing your preferred server.

How many Simultaneous Devices Can I Use With NordVPN?

NordVPN allows for up to 6 simultaneous connections with a single account.

For me, this is quite convenient since I often multitask across several devices.

User Experience & Usability

A product/service may be good, but it’s not always presented as such.

For an e-commerce service like a VPN especially, there are several things that would make or break the first impression:

  • A website’s usability. If I can’t find the information I need on a website with little effort, I have concerns about whether the service really cares about transparency. A client shouldn’t have to struggle to find out information about a service that’s important to them;
  • Information presented on landing page. Ideally, I’d want to see an “About us”, a “What we offer”, commercial terms, a knowledge base and a link to policies. A search button for navigation would also be my preference;
  • Encryption – the Lock on the address bar is an absolute must for a cybersecurity product. It signifies that they themselves take their cybersecurity seriously and have an SSL certificate to protect their users’ information.

When I perused NordVPN’s website, my overall first impression was quite positive.

Service Website

How to Cancel NordVPN and Get a Refund?

NordVPN has a sleek and eye-catching color scheme of blues, greys and blacks with occasional pops of color. The main pages I mentioned are all presented at either the top or the bottom of the landing page – the product and pricing information at the top and the legal info, the knowledge base and the FAQs at the bottom.

This, together with the clear links on the page, made it very easy for me to navigate to every feature I wanted more info on. I also appreciated that all the download links were on one page.

The rest of the website was just as easy to get around. I appreciated having a chat feature which allowed me to find answers to my questions through keywords and being re-directed to helpful pages. The search button is in the help section and works in the same way. Both features helped me get a lot of answers about the product and prepare this NordVPN review, very quickly.

The NordVPN blog is an effective marketing tool – it provides general insights on cyber security and keeps users updated on the product news.

If you’re interested in what it can offer, consider subscribing to the blog.

NordVPN website does have an SSL certificate. It’s a DigiCert SHA2 Extended Validation Server CA.

Service Applications

The NordVPN application interface is in the same color scheme as the site.

The muted blues and greys don’t irritate the eyes and make for a smooth UX.

You can choose your preferred server on an interactive map or click the Auto-Connect button. The servers are also listed on the left-hand side in the Desktop app and you can scroll through them down to the bottom of the mobile app interface.

In both cases, you can press on the 3 dots to see more detailed information about them and add to your favorites.

Overall, I found operating NordVPN apps to be a smooth process, with straightforward switching between protocols and servers.

The only disadvantage is that I couldn’t see on the map where specific servers in a specific country are located.

However, I could choose city-specific servers in some countries (e.g. Australia and USA) from the drop-down menu on the left-hand side.

Customer Support

It’s important for me that a VPN provider can support me in case of any bugs or installation errors, or general queries. For that reason, I paid attention to NordVPN’s:

  • New chatbot;
  • Live Chat;
  • FAQs, blog and knowledge base.

Overall, I’m quite impressed with the results of my testing of NordVPN customer support features.

Live Chat & Email

I used the live chat and the chat bot quite extensively during this NordVPN review, because it’s a very convenient tool. The algorithm uses keywords in my query and provides links to the website content that answer it.

E-mail support for more technical questions is also enabled via a ticket-based system. Both systems provided informative and relevant answers to my questions.

Live Chat took less than a minute to connect and the team was quite helpful.

The new NordVPN chatbot is an interesting tool that needs a bit of work (currently, it only recognizes the most popular queries like streaming, protocol configuration etc.), but there’s potential.

NordVPN Knowledge Base

NordVPN has a “Help” page with an extensive knowledge base. It’s divided into four categories – FAQ, General Info, Billing and Connectivity.

If you’re unsure as to what you need – I, for one wasn’t sure whether my question on region-specific servers was “General info” or “Connectivity” – you can just type your query to the search box and a list of suggestions will drop down.

If you want more information, there’s a convenient “Email us” button next to each article.

Value for Money – Is NordVPN Worth the Price?

If you choose to get a NordVPN subscription, you have several options:

3-year plan

$ 3
49
per month
  • $125.64 billed every 3 years
  • No logs policy
  • Connect 6 devices at the same time
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
Most popular

2-year plan

$ 4
49
per month
  • $119.76 billed every 2 years
  • No logs policy
  • Connect 6 devices at the same time
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

1-year plan

$ 6
99
per month
  • $83.88 billed every year
  • No logs policy
  • Connect 6 devices at the same time
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

1-month plan

$ 11
95
per month
  • $11.95 billed every month
  • No logs policy
  • Connect 6 devices at the same time
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

All the plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Payment Options – Cash, Card, PayPal, Cryptocurrency?

You can pay for your NordVPN subscription with all major cards on offer – MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. 

If you prefer other payment methods, NordVPN accepts AliPay, WeChatPay, Qiwi, Amazon Pay, UnionPay, WebMoney, GiroPay, MINT, iTunes, and others.

PayPal payments were, however, discontinued to increase NordVPN’s control over the process. If you’re in the USA, you can also pay cash for your NordVPN subscription.

NordVPN also supports payment by cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dash, BTT, Tronix and ZCash. This payment method is more secure than others, but harder to execute. Worth to mention that NordVPN doesn’t offer any lifetime deals.

Money-Back Guarantee & Refund

The 30-day money-back guarantee allows you to properly test the NordVPN service and make an informed choice as to whether it’s for you.

I suggest buying via Desktop since no refunds are provided if you purchase NordVPN through the App Store.

Special Offers & Discounts

Throughout the year, NordVPN offers coupon codes and discounts on their services.

For example, last year they offered a Halloween and a Black Friday discount, amongst others. I expect they’ll do the same in 2020.

Does NordVPN Have a Free Trial?

NordVPN doesn’t have a free trial.

However, it does have a 30-day money-back guarantee, which was enough time for me to get to know its features.

FAQ

Is NordVPN Legal?

Yes, NordVPN is completely legal, as long as you are using it without breaking the law. However, some countries ban the use of VPNs, including Belarus, China, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Russia, Turkey, Uganda, UAE, and Venezuela.

Is NordVPN Better Than Norton?

Although both VPN service providers will do an excellent job of protecting you online, NordVPN shows better results than Norton Secure VPN. It’s faster, more secure, and has significantly larger server count.

Can NordVPN Be Tracked?

NordVPN is a secure VPN service provider that keeps you anonymous online. Your activity while using NordVPN can’t be tracked, since NordVPN does not keep any logs on its users.

Is NordVPN Owned by Norton?

No, NordVPN is not owned by Norton.

Does NordVPN Work in China?

China has some of the most restrictive laws in the world on Internet regulation.

For a VPN to work legally in PRC, they need to be on a government-approved list of VPNs. NordVPN is not on such a list – but it doesn’t have any servers in China either.

This means that the authorities can’t compel them to hand over any data, simply because they don’t have any presence in the country.

Despite that, NordVPN does work in China.

Thanks to its Obfuscated Servers feature that works on OpenVPN protocol (available on Windows, macOS, Android and Linux but currently not iOS), you can access your favorite websites in China.

You should download NordVPN before your visit, since you won’t be able to access its site on the Chinese territory. After you download, enable “Obfuscated Servers” in Advanced settings and choose one from the list on the home page:

Turn on obfuscated mode
Connect to internet using obfuscated servers

How to Fix the NordVPN Background Process is not Running (Error)?

Even the best programs get bugs and errors sometimes.

The error I encountered with NordVPN was the “Background Process is not running” error on Windows 10. After doing the usual “turning my computer off and back on again”, I reached out to the NordVPN support team in Live Chat.

I got a step-by-step response:

  • Download and launch the NordVPN Windows Application Installer;
  • Click on Repair button and wait until the installer finishes repairing the application;
  • Reboot your PC and try again.

I can confirm that doing the above worked, and NordVPN is running perfectly well in the background.

Instructions part 1
Instructions part 2

NordVPN Alternatives

ExpressVPN – Best for Overall Privacy

ExpressVPN is a BVI-based VPN service that uses AES-256 bits encryption and doesn’t keep logs. This fact was confirmed by real-life cases and an audit.

Their security features mostly overlap with NordVPN’s, but ExpressVPN also offers Network Lock kill switch, which turns on every time you’re connected to the Internet, even in sleep mode.

ExpressVPN also offers “split-tunneling” – a feature that allows you to pick and choose the programs you protected by VPN.

They confirmed recently that they use virtual server locations, in addition to physical ones, for better user experience. On the one hand, it helps people in the countries where there are no physical servers, like Venezuela and Russia.

On the other hand, however, virtual servers don’t guarantee the privacy of the jurisdiction where you think you’re connected to.

ExpressVPN’s cheapest package is $6.67 per month, for 15 months.

That’s considerably more expensive than NordVPN, and there’s no free trial, although there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not concerned about virtual servers and are willing to pay extra for additional privacy features, consider ExpressVPN.

CyberGhost – Best for UX

This VPN is based in Romania – a country with no 14-eyes membership and data retention laws like NordVPN’s home jurisdiction Panama.

Like NordVPN, they have AES-256 bits encryption.

CyberGhost website features are very smooth and interactive, and at the same time it’s very easy to find all the information I wanted.

The layout is comfortable on both Desktop and mobile interface.

The “one-click solution” provides access to 6200 servers in 90 countries – a few more than NordVPN and gives you options of servers optimized for streaming.

The “Support” button is also a treasure trove – it finds relevant FAQs based on the key words in your query. When I looked for “Server security policy” I got a detailed technical response which was written very accessible.

CyberGhost’s best deal is $2.75 per month or $99 for 3 years.

This is slightly cheaper than NordVPN’s same term deal and it also offers a free trial of 1 day and a 45-day money-back guarantee. If you want a secure VPN with lots of sources and a user-friendly website, check out CyberGhost.

Surfshark – Best for Value for Money

A relative newcomer on the market, Surfshark is a virtual private network service based in the BVI which offers 1041 servers in 61 countries.

Slightly fewer than NordVPN, but BVI, like Panama isn’t a 14-eyes jurisdiction.

Surfshark is cheaper than NordVPN – only $1.99 per month.

This subscription includes:

  • AES-256-bits encryption, private DNS on each server and Kill-Switch;
  • Unlimited number of simultaneous connections including browser extensions verified by an independent audit;
  • P2P support across all servers;
  • Multi-Hop (double data encryption like DoubleVPN);
  • Proprietary ad-free search tool and adblocker.

The speed of Surfshark, however, is slower than NordVPN’s, because they have fewer servers. If you prefer to sacrifice speed for a cheaper VPN provider with lots of features, consider Surfshark.

Do I Recommend NordVPN?

As a cyber security solution provider, NordVPN certainly delivers.

The levels of encryption meeting the industry standard combined with the verified no-logging policy and additional features like Double VPN and Obfuscated servers have proven to me its genuine commitment to its clients’ security.

This is important for me because I work with sensitive client information.

The fact that NordVPN is still perfecting their solution with the Bug Bounty only convinces me further – no product is perfect, but there’s a lot to be said for striving for improvement.

In terms of other functions, I’m quite pleased with NordVPN’s functioning with my favorite streaming services Netflix and BBC iPlayer, as well as others.

Thanks to its algorithm of choosing the best server, there’s usually little need for me to spend time on that. This is convenient when I travel. The option for six simultaneous connections is another point in their favor.

Overall, I would say that I do recommend NordVPN.

For only $3.49 per month for three years, I get a lot of features that I will most likely use.

If you, like me, prioritize security and convenience, you should choose NordVPN!

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