With new software solutions for online privacy popping up every day, it can be hard to stay aware of the best ones on the market. Privacy software is always changing and updating to keep up with the threats and technology available in the world today. One of the most popular solutions for adding privacy to our internet connections is to us a Virtual Private Network, or VPN.
One option for a good VPN solution is offered by Unblock-us. While they do not use strong encryption to safeguard user data, they do “seal” the contents of their customers’ data to avoid snooping of DNS traffic, as well as spying from entities like Google. Their SmartVPN solution is able to effectively obscure the source of users’ IP addresses, and adds a layer of security to your connection.
Security and privacy
Unblock-us security features include:
- Security layer added to proxy service for added security
- Unlocks strategic blocking that stops Unblock-us’ regular Smart DNS service
- PPTP protocol
For Unblock-us, the client works a little differently from how VPN services typically work. Instead of encrypting your data in order to protect it from prying eyes, Unblock-us claims that they “seal” your data so that it is protected. They do not give any details to how this “seal” works, but since it doesn’t use encryption, their connections are lightning-fast.
Although this is good news for people who don’t need very stringent protection, it isn’t a very good sign for those of us who are used to working with powerful encryption standards. It isn’t a good idea to trust a company with your data if you don’t know how they intend to protect it. There also doesn’t seem to be any information about which secure protocols the client uses either, which is another red flag.
Moving on to the legal information, the Unblock-us service is based in Toronto, Ontario, which places it within Canadian jurisdiction. Although Canada doesn’t have any strict laws governing VPN usage, they are part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, meaning that data gathered by agents in Canada may be shared with other countries in the alliance. This isn’t optimal, but it isn’t the worst jurisdiction on the planet.
Does Unblock-us log your data?
Short answer: some.
Although they will protect this information and promise not to share it with any corporations or private entities, it can still be requested by law enforcement agents or lawyers representing clients who have had their copyrights infringed. These red flags make Unblock-us less attractive than some of the safer VPN services on the market. That being said, their service should still be safe to use for a wide range of internet privacy applications that don’t require such stringent security and privacy.
Speed and performance
Since, as we said before, Unblock-us doesn’t actually encrypt your data, the speeds it is able to connect with are very very fast. Although the service doesn’t do a very good job of protecting your identity or traffic, from the looks of it, it is definitely quite fast.
The company seems to operate over 100 servers, and promise 20 connection locations including some in Europe, the US, Canada, South America, and Australia.
Speed test results
First up is our baseline speed test:
This shows our connection speed without any VPN services or proxies running. We’ll be looking at Unblock-us’s performance speed in relation to this as a sort of benchmark. Next up is the speed test after configuring and starting Unblock-us:
As you can see, the speed actually went up. The download speed is slightly slower, but the upload speed and ping have improved. This is typical for privacy solutions that don’t employ encryption, but it is still a very good sign in terms of Unblock-us’s performance.
Overall, Unblock-us’s speed performance was very promising. Although the service doesn’t use any strong encryption to protect your data, the speed makes the service practical for a range of different applications.
Ease of use and multi-platform support
Unblock-us offers support for a wide range of devices for their VPN service. Their smart DNS service can be used on a much wider range of devices, including media players and routers, but the VPN is limited to these devices. The full list of supported platforms includes:
In the future, it would be nice to see them extend support for their VPN service to include other operating systems such as Linux.
With VPN solutions that require you to configure network settings, it can be a bit of a pain o set them up. Luckily, Unblock-us offers an easy-setup tool for quickly configuring the proper settings on your machine.
The application itself is very straightforward. Once you’ve registered your email, you can connect using the client itself, or even run the connection by clicking the right button on the account page on the Unblock-us website. The only settings it offers are reconfiguration of your registered email, and custom locations for unblocking streaming services.
Unblocking Netflix and other streaming platforms
In terms of Netflix, Unblock us seems to be effective for unlocking region-specific content. There are some issues with reliability, but users have reported being able to access US content on Netflix at least some of the time with Unblock-us smartVPN.
The number of countries offered for connection through Unblock-us is competent. They also offer connection locations that correspond to major region-locked content. Although it may take users some tweaking to be able to connect, it is definitely possible to unblock Netflix and other streaming services with Unblock-us.
P2P and torrenting
For torrenting, while some users report good speeds while torrenting with the Unblock-us VPN, the security features and other qualities make it less preferable compared to the competition. Since the app does not use encryption, like we said earlier, it trades off some security in exchange for speed. This is less than preferable in a lot of situations, as torrenting can get you into trouble depending on the content you are downloading.
Online censorship in China and elsewhere
Users from china will be curious about whether or not Unblock-us can be used effectively from behind the Great Firewall. Unfortunately, since the client doesn’t employ strict encryption standards or extra security features, it is very likely that it will not be effective in protecting you against being identified and blocked from within China. There is also no guarantee that Chinese users will be able to access the website or registration services, either.
Another thing to consider is the fact that purchasing a subscription requires a credit card. This is obviously another red flag for users in China as there is no way for them to anonymously purchase the service. Overall, it is not recommended to use this service from inside China.
Unblock-us offers customer support in the form of a competent knowledge base, as well as direct support through a ticket system. While the knowledge base has a lot of information on the technical specs and how to set up the service, the ticket system can be a bit slow. It would be nice to see them implement a live chat system or 24-7 support line.
Unblock-us has a very straightforward pricing structure. The service costs $4.99 per month, or $4.16/month for 12 months. Since they don’t have multiple subscription levels, all of the features are included with the package. They only support payment through credit card, which is a bit of a bummer.
Purchasing things on a credit card means that you can be identified through the transaction. Seeing them introduce more private payment methods would be nice. The service comes with a 7-day free trial which allows you to test out the VPN for yourself.
Unblock-us offers a unique smart VPN solution that is capable of giving users very good speeds with their VPN experience. They also have a smart DNS solution if you just want to access region-specific content online. Although their VPN service is able to deliver very good speeds, the lack of encryption and relative opaqueness of their tech and policies is a bit of a red flag.
For example, there is no information on how they “seal” the data that moves over their VPN service. They also have a policy for logging some user information, which can be a big no-no for certain users. While they promise not to sell the data or use it for things other than maintaining the service, your data can still be handed over to law enforcement or government agencies which request it.
Tech writer and privacy advocate
Julie is a firm believer in equal rights for everyone. She is a traveler and blogger, focusing her efforts on exposing censorship and discrimination around the world. She wants to hold corrupt governments and shady companies accountable by writing investigative articles and helpful guides.