Algo VPN is a relatively new way to protect your anonymity and data security when surfing the web. Essentially offering a way to create a personalized IPsec VPN within the Cloud, an Algo VPN setup could balance security, speed, and ease-of-use in ways that traditional client and server-based VPNs can’t.
Based on Ansible scripts, Algo won’t generally require the installation of much software (if anything). It applies IKEv2 encryption via a wide choice of servers and can be “dropped” into place in an instant, making it handy for travelers.
However, before singing its praises, there’s some testing to do. In this Algo VPN review I will try to answer some important questions:
Is Algo VPN safe? Is it good for Netflix? Crucially, is Algo VPN easy to use, as the developer claims?
Security and privacy
Safety matters more than anything else when grading and using VPNs, so it’s a sensible place to start the review. Here are a few basic security features provided with every Algo VPN install:
- IKEv2 VPN tunneling and an IPsec-based VPN solution
- Supports AES-GCM, SHA2 HMAC, and P-256 DH encryption
- HTTP Proxy and local DNS resolver to effectively block ads
- Temporary, personalized VPN connections are hard to trace and disappear when users log off.
- Algo VPN servers are completely separated from Algo’s developers, ensuring a high level of confidentiality.
Given those features, Algo VPN can create bespoke VPN solutions in the Cloud, with strong encryption and privacy. However, it’s worth noting that many people have questioned the integrity of IPsec in the past, alleging that the protocol has been “backdoored” by the FBI from the beginning.
That conspiracy theory continues to circulate, and Algo VPN developers are aware of it, as this FAQ suggests.
However, there are potentially bigger issues with Algo VPN security. Namely, the developer Trail Of Bits is a security consultancy firm with government agencies among its clients.
Overall, the security features deployed with Algo VPN are strong and reassuring.
How to use Algo VPN?
Installing Algo VPN is easy. Although there are some variations between platforms, the basic installation process would go something like this:
- Download Bash for Ubuntu to create a Linux-based command line
Head here and choose the Windows Bash download, then fire up the terminal.
- Use the Bash command line to download Algo VPN.
Just type the command: “wget https://github.com/trailofbits/algo/archive/master.zip”
- Now, unzip the Algo VPN files with: unzip master.zip
- Change directory to Algo-master
- The next part is slightly fiddly, but these commands will install all of Algo VPN’s components:
- sudo apt-get install build-essential -y
- sudo apt-get install libssl-dev -y
- sudo apt-get install libffi-dev -y
- sudo apt-get install python-dev -y
- sudo apt-get install python-pip -y
- sudo apt-get install python-setuptools -y
- sudo apt-get install python-virtualenv -y
- python -m virtualenv env && source env/bin/activate && python -m pip install -U pip && python -m pip install -r requirements.txt.
- Create an Algo VPN DigitalOcean Setup
Now, we’ll need to create a DigitalOcean Cloud account to actually host our VPN server. To do so, head here and follow the account setup procedures (warning: payment details will be required to authenticate your account).
- Generate an Algo API Key
Next, we need to create an API key, which allows Algo to access our DigitalOcean account to deposit the VPN scripts.
Go to the DigitalOcean API pages and click “generate token.” Ensure that both “write” and “read” are toggled under the “select scopes” options, then confirm that you’d like to “generate token”. Remember to note down the generated string of numbers and letters.
- Setup your Algo VPN user list
Now, head back to the Bash terminal and open the config file by typing the command: “nano config.cfg”.
Get rid of any excess names and replace them with names of users who are authorized to access your VPN, placing a “-” before each name. Save the file.
- Run Algo VPN
Head back to the Bash terminal, and change the directory to Algo-master.
Type the command: “./algo”. Choose DigitalOcean as your provider, and enter the API token key we noted down earlier.
Pick a server name (it doesn’t matter what), then a server location. Then follow the fairly self-explanatory questions.
In the end, you’ll receive a message stating that Algo has been setup. Note down the SSH and P12 passwords, and you’re good to go.
What about Mac installation?
The process for installing Algo onto Macs isn’t much different to the Windows method outlined above. Users have to go through the same process of using a Linux shell to download the same Algo files. However, pay close attention to the questions asked during installation, as there are few iOS/macOS specific options that you’ll want to toggle.
By the way, if any of this is unclear, or you have any queries about how to download Algo, the developers have created a doc hub to go along with their downloads, and it can be found here. Anyone who regularly uses Algo should give it a read through and keep it close to the top of their bookmarks.
Algo VPN troubleshooting
Algo isn’t a perfect VPN deployment by any means, and users sometimes run into errors. Before we finish, it’s well worth checking out some common queries, as they are likely to crop up for new users.
1. “Algo VPN Policy Match Error”
Probably the most common Algo VPN error, this comes up a lot with Windows 10, especially when other VPNs are installed on the same machine. It took a while to work out what was happening, but the issue can seemingly be resolved by changing a file located at “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\RasMan\Parameter” and setting the “NegotiateDH2048_AES256” value to 0.
2. “Algo VPN Slow Connection”
As with all VPNs, slow speeds can sometimes be experienced with Algo VPN. Causes vary in this case, but the problem can often be resolved by switching between different VPN servers.
3. “Algo VPN Ad Blocking”
Algo’s ad-blocking abilities are a key selling point, but they can sometimes cause conflicts with DNS, compromising user privacy. In this case, changing the setting “dns_encryption: false” can help. Running the command “sudo /usr/local/sbin/adblock.sh” on the Linux shell terminal can often help out here as well.
Algo VPN vs OpenVPN
Finally, we come to a key question: Algo VPN vs OpenVPN. Both offer a DIY VPN service based on Linux, and both are open source, so they benefit from having the scrutiny of a well-informed user base.
Algo VPN is much, much simpler than OpenVPN – which is its great strength, and biggest weakness. But if you just want to set up a lightweight IPsec VPN in the Cloud, it gets the job done quickly and effectively.
OpenVPN is harder to implement out of the box, but it offers much more flexibility for users who know what they are doing. And that’s the issue here. If you just want a disposable VPN for travel or specific tasks, Algo VPN will be far simpler.