Browsec holds out the promise of hassle-free browser security, and almost achieves its goal. However, frustrating lapses relegate it to the middle ranks of browser VPNs.
Based in Russia, Browsec is a popular browser-based VPN. Available for multiple browsers and both major smartphone platforms, it promises to be an accessible, reliable tool that anyone can use. And it partly delivers on that promise.
As this Browsec VPN review will show, the VPN offers a decent degree of privacy protection and scores well in some key areas, but it also has plenty of weak spots – not least speed and logging. It might be right for you, but read on to make sure.
Security and privacy
Browsec promises encryption for every byte of traffic users send, full protection from malicious actors like data sniffers, coverage for home and public wifi, and fully anonymous browsing. So in theory, the VPN offers a wide range of security features that add up to comprehensive protection.
However, the first thing that strikes customers before they download is how vague these claims are, and how little detail Browsec provides in its FAQ. This is clearly a VPN that’s happy to leave users in the dark about the infrastructure lying behind its client – and that’s a first red flag for this Browsec VPN review.
Here’s a quick rundown of the basic security features on offer:
- Military grade encryption via 256-bit IPSec
- In-browser IP anonymization via DNS leak protection
- Standard HTTP proxy for encrypting web links
When we installed the VPN on Firefox, things became slightly clearer. Users can choose IPSec with 256-bit encryption (which qualifies as “military grade”). That’s not as secure as OpenVPN, but not a bad level of protection as far as tunneling goes. It also uses a standard HTTP proxy for all browsers.
There’s no kill switch, which aroused our suspicion further. This is something we’d look for in all good VPNs, as it provides insurance against instances when your VPN coverage suddenly drops. And the company is a little vague here. When asked, they state that a kill switch isn’t needed for browser-based VPNs, but that’s not always the case. And it’s not explained on the Browsec download page, which would clear things up.
Then again, from what we could see, DNS leak performance was pretty solid, and our connection was anonymized as requested. That’s reassuring. We didn’t like the request for 4 separate browser permissions, but some Firefox-based VPNs go further, so it’s actually at the less intrusive end of the spectrum.
Overall, it’s a mixed performance. Encryption is good, DNS leak protection is solid, but features are lacking that other VPNs provide. Still, for a lightweight browser app, it’s not bad.
Does Browsec VPN keep logs?
Logging is always top of our priorities when assessing VPNs, and this Browsec VPN review is no exception.
On the face of it, Browsec does well here. The VPN promises “zero logs” and full anonymization. However, as with most commercial VPNs, it does entail a limited amount of information collection.
This raises the question of how much personal data is being collected, and if it could be useful for individual law enforcement investigations?
Jurisdiction is another concern. Browsec is based in Russia, where the state is cracking down on VPNs vigorously. This may mean that user data is shielded from US authorities, but trusting Moscow’s regulators to keep data safe from organized crime and state censors might not be too everyone’s taste.
And if you’re keen on smashing through government censorship, this won’t be the tool for you.
Speed and performance
Good speeds can partially rescue VPNs with slightly rocky privacy credentials. Is this the case with Browsec?
The VPN promises a “high connection speed” of up to 100 Mbps – although if you delve deeper, you’ll see that this refers to the Premium product, not the free Browsec add-on, which guarantees just 1Mbps.
When we loaded up the app for a speed test, our fears were confirmed. With the free app, few of the 4 servers managed anything above pedestrian speeds. Things improved with the Premium package, but not by much. Peak download speed rarely topped 10 Mbps, and upload speed struggled to get over 30 Mbps.
Moreover, signing on to Browsec took a huge chunk out of our normal connection speed. So we’d have to advise against using the VPN if speed really matters.
The free version of Browsec offers 4 servers, with locations in the United Kingdom, the United States, Singapore, and the Netherlands.
The Premium versions widens the choices available dramatically. Paid customers can access 36 additional server locations, including options in Australia, India, France, South Africa, Turkey, Hong Kong and Spain. That represents decent global coverage. However, South America is totally excluded, and Asian coverage isn’t stellar.
So don’t rely on Browsec for privacy while backpacking.
Ease of use and multiplatform support
Browsec markets itself as a lightweight, easy-to-use browser extension, and it largely delivers on this promise.
Users can download the VPN for the following platforms:
- Mozilla Firefox
- Google Chrome
Getting started couldn’t be much simpler. Users can just head to the relevant download pages, click to download the client, then press the “Protect Me” button to install Browsec on their browser. There’s no need to make lengthy changes to your browser settings, and everything can be completed in seconds.
The VPN is genuinely multi-platform, and the service for Mac is as easy and quick to install as the service for Mac. In our testing, the mobile app was just as slick and user-friendly as the desktop versions, so iPhone and Android users won’t be left struggling with their phone settings.
The app itself is relatively basic. You can choose servers and turn on “smart protection” which engages the VPN on websites you choose. That’s great for entry-level users, but may turn off serious privacy fans. However, overall Browsec delivers on its fundamental mission: to let browser users download an effective, stripped-down VPN for everyday use. And no one should have any difficulty getting it up and running.
Unblocking Netflix and other streaming platforms
Browsec doesn’t explicitly market itself as a Netflix workaround, but streaming fans may well be able to use it to access geo-restricted content nonetheless.
When we tested the browser VPN against Netflix and Hulu geo-blocking, the results were patchy. However, roughly a third of the Premium servers we tried made it through blocking systems, allowing us to access much wider content libraries than would normally be the case.
As a browser app, there’s no opportunity to install Browsec with Amazon Fire or the Fire Stick, and don’t look to it for Kodi or Roku streaming. But if you need to stream within a browser, it might work (and there’s no harm experimenting with the free version).
P2P and torrenting
Torrenting is always a risky activity, and everyone establishing a P2P connection should have some form of P2P protection. Sadly, that won’t apply to Browsec, which is purely a browser-based VPN. In any case, there’s no kill switch, which is essential for torrenting safely.
Torrenters will probably prefer a stand-alone client with a SOCKS5 proxy for secure torrenting. However, if you want to access blocked libraries of potential torrent downloads to see what’s available, Browsec may be a handy tool.
Online censorship in China and elsewhere
As we mentioned earlier in this Browsec VPN review, the Russian jurisdiction doesn’t inspire confidence that Browsec will help web users avoid censorship in repressive jurisdictions.
In fact, many users report that Browsec has been banned in China, and is not currently available. There is a Hong Kong server, so local coverage may be possible, but feedback from Chinese users isn’t encouraging.
At the same time, there’s no indication that Browsec has invested in technology to escape the Deep Packet Inspection used by Beijing’s censors.
So, if you are traveling to China and want to ignore the Great Firewall or evade state surveillance, it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere.
Browsec are very underwhelming where customer support is concerned. Here’s what you’ll get:
- The “Support” button on their homepage calls up a simple contact form and nothing else.
- There’s no live chat, and definitely no direct phone support for customers.
- There’s no user forum.
- The FAQ offers uninformative answers to just 3 questions.
However, while live support is lacking, the VPN’s technical team actually do respond promptly and helpfully to queries. So while Browsec doesn’t sell its support well, it isn’t the worst provider around.
Browsec offers the following payment options:
- The free version
- A monthly Browsec Premium package for $4.99/month
- Annual Browsec Premium packages priced at $3.33/month
That’s not too expensive by mainstream VPN standards. Customers can pay via Visa and Mastercard, as well as PayPal and American Express (meaning cryptocurrencies aren’t included).
Browsec has opted to offer a permanent free version instead of a free trial, which is a welcome decision. And the refund policy is fairly clear. Users have just 7 days to use the Browsec money-back guarantee.
To do so, they need to email the VPN at “[email protected]” and provide a list of payment details. It’s a little clumsy, and users should send the email well before the 7 days elapse. But it seems to work well.
Having weighed up its features, Browsec comes out as an average provider. If users need a lightweight, easy-to-use browser add-on for desktop or smartphone use, it could be suitable. However, there are some major question marks about the degree of privacy protection and the logging policy, while speeds aren’t good enough to overlook those flaws. Even so, as far as free browser VPNs go, it really isn’t that bad.