CryptoStorm is a Canadian (5 Eyes alliance member) VPN that appears to have been designed by specialists for specialists. As we began to write our CryptoStorm review, we were blown away by the amount of technical information they were offering. Hands-on tests, however, opened some cracks beneath the veneer of expert knowledge. Let’s see what those are.
CryptoStorm VPN has the following security features:
- Military-grade AES-256-bit encryption
- OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols
- Kill switch
- IP and DNS leak protection
- Ad & tracker blocker
So, is CryptoStorm safe to use? Quite simply, it is one of the most secure pieces of software you can get your hands on in this day and age – something the company is evidently proud of.
If the core features aren’t enough, CryptoStorm also provides an anonymous token-based network access system, ditching the usernames, passwords, and emails. By using this method, the VPN removes the need for personal information that could identify users. The token-based system also has no relation to your payments, which is a weak spot of many regular account-based VPNs.
Sadly, while OpenVPN and WireGuard is a dynamic duo of secure tunneling protocols, the latter isn’t available on Windows yet.
Does CryptoStorm keep logs?
Although the website claims “Icelandic roots” and uses the .is top-level domain, the company behind CryptoStorm, Baneki Privacy Computing Inc., is actually based in Canada. As you may know, Canada is one of the members of the 5 Eyes alliance. This means that information collected by CryptoStorm (if there is any) may travel throughout one of the most powerful intelligence alliances on the planet.
Nevertheless, CryptoStorm is admirable in its no-logging policy, which seems to be an important part of the service and upheld strictly. Having its official business location be Iceland should help with this.
Is CryptoStorm leak-proof?
Despite all the ground-breaking security features, CryptoStorm VPN has DNS leaks. We did five different leak tests (DNS, IPv6, WebRTC), and this tool failed two. That’s not a good sign for a service that markets itself as offering “battle-tested privacy.” It seems that some of these battles are yet to be won.
For the sake of clarity, we must note that we made our tests with CryptoStorm’s DNS leak protection turned off. The reason is simple: when connecting with DNS leak protection on, the app would return a DNS_PROBE_FINISHED_BAD_CONFIG error. Hopefully there’ll be a fix for this soon.
Speed and performance
Speed and performance are key for every VPN service. After all, what good is a tool that slows your connection down to make streaming, torrenting, or gaming painful? Let’s see how CryptoStorm fares in this area.
CryptoStorm has a small server fleet: just 30 servers spread out across 17 countries. These countries, furthermore, are mostly in Europe and North America. This means that users in Asia or Australia will probably suffer a noticeable drop-off with this tool, especially when there are no servers in Australia or Japan.
Speed test results
We ran our speed tests from Europe, using the OpenVPN protocol. Here is our baseline connection speed at the time of the tests:
First, we connected to a nearby location to see what the drop-off was when connecting to a nearby server.
- Download: 37.93 Mbps (85% drop-off)
- Upload: 43.16 Mbps (84% drop-off)
As you can see, that’s nowhere near the “astonishing network speed” that CryptoStrom boasts about on the website. Going further away made the situation worse still:
- Download: 9.97 Mbps (96% drop-off)
- Upload: 8.81 Mbps (97% drop-off)
New York, United States
- Download: 15.47 Mbps (94% drop-off)
- Upload: 15.69 Mbps (94% drop-off)
Los Angeles, United States
- Download: 10.57 Mbps (96% drop-off)
- Upload: 2.81 Mbps (99% drop-off)
- Download: 2.97 Mbps (99% drop-off)
- Upload: 1.77 Mbps (99% drop-off)
It’s common for VPN services to slow your connection down – particularly where sturdier security features are involved. But not by this much. CryptoStorm’s speeds are plain bad.
In fact, most servers we tried for our CryptoStorm review – even the nearby ones – were maddeningly slow.
Ease of use and multiplatform support
CryptoStorm is available on a relatively standard selection of platforms:
We’re happy with the inclusion of Linux, but the absence of browser extensions or apps for smart TVs gives CryptoStorm less appeal for the mainstream audience.
It does, however, support a bunch of router types. Setup instructions are available for OpenWRT, DD-WRT, pfSense, Raspberry Pi 3, Asus, and OpenBSD routers.
Downloading and installing CryptoStorm VPN is easy. After launching the app, the first difference you’ll notice is the absence of any login information. To connect to CryptoStorm servers, you only need an anonymous hashed token that you can get by following the link in the main menu.
There’s an option to connect using the free Cryptofree mode, which limits your connection speed. If you’ve read our Speed and performance section, you probably already know that doing this will only let you reap the fruits from the Tree of Frustration.
Speaking of options, there are lots of them on the CryptoStorm client. Clicking Options in the main menu leads you to four tabs: Startup, Connecting, Security, and Advanced. While the first one is pretty basic, Connecting lets you choose the port, the protocol (OpenVPN over UDP or TCP), and the amount of time before the client stops trying to connect.
The Security tab has some serious choices and while we’d like to see all of them ticked by default, enabling DNS leak prevention has resulted in us going offline. We were happy to see the IPv6 disabling option but placing the mind-boggling ECC curve selection right at the top seems like a strange decision. There’s virtually no reason to toggle it unless you know what you’re doing.
The Advanced tab brings some heavy artillery. Fancy switching your ip-win32 from ipapi to netsh? Feel like exe should be your route method when you’re binding to IP 0.0.0.0? CryptoStorm has it all.
On a more serious note, the only reason why regular folks will ever visit this tab is to turn on the SOCKS proxy or reset DNS to DHCP (also known as DNS flushing), to protect your browsing history.
Unblocking Netflix and other streaming platforms
We were able to unblock Netflix, but not without the help of a server in Hong Kong.
However, the question isn’t whether CryptoStorm can unblock Netflix, but rather whether you’d be able to use CryptoStorm without making a face like the one seen below:
The answer to that question is: probably not.
Again, we’d like to reiterate that CryptoStorm provides painfully slow connection speeds. Any attempts we made to stream video content on Netflix were scuppered by extensive buffering pauses. What’s more, to stream in HD you will need at least 5 Mbps, and for that you’ll need more luck than we had.
This means that you’ll probably have a bad time using BBC iPlayer, Hulu, or any other streaming platform.
Fortunately, salvation lies on our Best VPNs for Netflix list.
P2P and torrenting
At the risk of our CryptoStorm review reading like a broken record, we have to reiterate the slow connection speeds once more.
Yes, CryptoStorm supports torrenting and P2P networking on all servers – but it’d be quite annoying to use it for that purpose.
That’s why we recommend checking our Best VPN for torrenting list.
Online censorship in China and elsewhere
The only tunneling protocol available to CryptoStorm’s Windows users is OpenVPN, which is known as unreliable for bypassing the Great Firewall of China. Even if others have an alternative in WireGuard, there’s no stealth protocol to avoid DPI (Deep Packet Inspection).
With CryptoStorm’s servers being so slow, and with the majority of them being located so far away from China, we cannot recommend this service for users in this country. Users in other countries with restricted VPN use may have more luck.
If you need a reliable VPN service, you’d better pick something from the list of best VPNs for China.
CryptoStorm VPN users have these support options:
- IRC (unofficial)
As a service aimed at advanced users, this VPN is unlikely to offer a 24/7 live chat option anytime soon. While the forum is lively, only a minor part of it is dedicated to actual tech assistance. And some subscribers may feel lost among posts such as “linux equivalent to random ports in windows client?”
The payment options for CryptoStorm are strange and plentiful:
- 1-week plan, 1 device – $1.86
- 1-month plan, 1 device – $6.00/month
- 3-month plan, 2 devices – $16 ($5.33/month/month)
- 5-month plan, 1 device – $24 ($4.80/month/month)
- 6-month plan, 3 devices – $28 ($4.66/month/month)
- 11-month plan, 1 device – $48 ($4.36/month/month)
- 1-year plan, 4 devices – $52 ($4.33/month/month)
- 2-year plan, 5 devices – $94 ($3.91/month/month)
- 25-month plan, 1 device – $97 ($3.88/month/month)
- Lifetime subscription, 6 devices – $500
As you can see, the number of simultaneous connections depends on the pricing plan.
We’d like to dispel any notion that lifetime subscription is a bargain. For $500 to be of greater value than the 25-month bundle, you’d need to use CryptoStorm regularly for 11 years. And the saddest part – it’s the only option to get six simultaneous connections.
While the prices themselves are relatively reasonable, we are suspicious of the fact that the price per device increases so inordinately.
The fact that CryptoStorm doesn’t have a money-back guarantee but offers a worthless free version works against them. With a debilitating 160 KB/s download limit, one can only guess at his chances of streaming Game of Thrones in HD with the premium version.
Fortunately, you can pay by credit card, PayPal, BitCoin, and many other cryptocurrencies.
As secure and advanced CryptoStorm may be, we cannot recommend this VPN because of its speed. There’s no point in unblocking Netflix, being able to torrent, and doing many other great things if the speed drop is so frustrating. Because of its lack of a stealth protocol, this service also fails as a VPN for China, Russia, Iran, and other repressive countries.