As we perform the vast majority of our crucial activities over the internet, we need reassurances about our safety. And while we always hear and read about a hacking attack here, a malware infection there, or a phishing email elsewhere, we tend to underestimate the value of online privacy and security.
If somebody is snooping on our traffic and looking at our online interactions, there could be severe consequences to our online privacy and security. In that scenario, our data logs would be compromised or handed to third-parties, and the definition of “third parties” is very broad: it could be a hacker, a cybercriminal, a scammer, a copyright enforcer, or a government agent in a censorship-heavy nation.
To protect our digital assets and prevent our Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from keeping and sharing logs of our data, we can use VPNs as tools to mask our online traffic, identity, and location from external agents that may pose a threat.
However, even some VPN brands can claim that they don’t keep or share our activity and interactions when they actually do it, which is the worst type of security hazard because we trust our online privacy and security to them and they “betray” us. Fortunately, not all VPN companies do that, and the technology still represents a positive development towards the safe use of the internet.
VPN technology: the Xs and the Os
VPN means Virtual Private Network. They are traffic encryption tools that people use to mask their shared online content, identity, and location information from potentially dangerous agents, such as hackers, cybercriminals, malware developers, crypto miners, and others.
Since VPNs facilitate anonymous browsing by hiding your real IP address, you can also avoid unwanted situations that can affect your online experience, such as government surveillance, censorship, copyright enforcement, targeted advertising, and others.
The Virtual Private Network technology implements VPN protocols (such as OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP, IKEv2, PPTP, and others) to create a virtual tunnel, through which your encrypted information (browsing history, identity, location data, timestamps, traffic, and other details) will pass, protected from the aforementioned scenarios.
VPN technology was invented in 1996 but became popular after the millennium turned its page. Now, it is more than just a tool to enhance people’s security and privacy: due to their location-spoofing capabilities, people use it to gain access to websites and services that fall under geo-blocking restrictions.
Essentially, a VPN app will position itself between the user and the web server they’re trying to access. The VPN client or app will serve as a “middleman” because it will receive the user’s connection request and relay it to the web under a different IP address. The best VPN companies have thousands of servers and dozens of locations.
VPN technology, as a whole, can help you enhance your security. However, not all brands fall under that categorization, as some of them, in an attempt to make additional profit, keep logs of your traffic and activity to sell them to the highest bidder.
ProtonVPN: prices and offerings
ProtonVPN is a VPN brand that offers four types of subscription, one of them being free. The costless version only has three servers (in the United States, Japan, and the Netherlands) but it doesn’t cap data usage, making it a very enticing alternative is you have no budget.
The other plans are the Basic ($4 per month,) the Plus ($8 per month,) and the Visionary ($24 per month,) and the features and efficiency naturally increase in each case. The Basic plan includes P2P capabilities and two simultaneous connections.
The Plus mode allows five connections at the same time and offers other features such as Plus Servers, Secure Core, Tor Servers, and the Secure Streaming feature. The Visionary account includes the ProtonMail service and ten simultaneous connections with all the traits found in the Plus plan.
ProtonVPN offers compatibility with iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, and Linux. The payment methods are plenty: all the major credit cards, PayPal, gift cards, and Bitcoin (for existing users). The ProtonVPN Android app offers over 450 servers in 35 nations around the world.
The crucial question: Is ProtonVPN safe?
ProtonVPN offers a clear no-logging policy. The company explains that “when you use ProtonVPN, we do NOT do any of the following:
- Log users’ traffic or the content of any communications
- Discriminate against devices, protocols, or applications
- Throttle your internet connection.”
The brand does explain it logs your email address, support tickets, and payment details, such as your name and the last four digits of your credit card, as well as a timestamp, but they state that it gets “overwritten each time you successfully log in” and you can ask the staff to erase it. While there are several elements logged, the company has had no issues regarding the sharing of those data bits.
While nearly half of the developing team is in the United States (a country with data retention laws,) ProtonVPN’s origins are tied to talented people from the MIT, specialists in online security and data protection.
As far as security features go, ProtonVPN is safe. Extremely safe: it implements the military-grade AES 256-bit encryption, which is the gold standard for the industry. ProtonVPN states that its “key exchange is done with 2048-bit RSA, and HMAC with SHA256 is used for message authentication.”
It offers OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec as VPN protocols, which isn’t too much, but it’s enough for most users, as the former is very secure.
The company is also in a position to offer other traits, such as “Tor over VPN” and “Secure Core” servers. “ProtonVPN’s Secure Core architecture gives our secure VPN service the unique ability to defend against network-based attacks.”
So, is ProtonVPN safe? The answer is yes, and you can rest easy knowing your information, documents, and other digital assets all go through the virtual tunnel that this security-driven VPN brand creates.