- Good Speeds
- Trusted Apps & WiFi Networks' List is Handy
- Robust Security Features (DNS & Cloud)
- Beautiful Design
- Works on Many Platforms
- Some Glitches Here and There
- Kill Switch Behaves Rather Oddly
- Only 3 Simultaneous Connections for the Basic Subscription
- Server Network Could Have Been Better
For the fourth installment of our VPN reviews series, my choice landed on VyprVPN.
Swiss-based VyprVPN is developed by a company called Golden Frog. Golden Frog boasts a long and active history defending online privacy: the company was founded back in 1994 following a scandal involving the NSA illegally spying on citizens (bad habits die). The founding story on their website states that “We filed papers with the FCC to bring this alarming activity to their attention, but were ignored. Instead of waiting around for the government to protect Internet users, our response was to found Golden Frog to build tools that help preserve an open and secure Internet experience while respecting user privacy.”
Golden Frog’s beginnings tell an inspiring story. My beginnings with VyprVPN wasn’t very encouraging though, but things did pick up during my use.
Installation & Initial Use
I hit a minor snag while activating my account. I had purchased a subscription, created an account – the usual drill: email, password, plan, etc – and downloaded to the Mac app. When I tried to log in, all my attempts solicited “an invalid username or password” message. I used this opportunity to test out their support service. I used the live chat feature on their website, the response was fast – I only had to wait a minute or so – but the response was rather generic: I was emailed a password reset email.
I followed the link, tried to change my password, only to be greeted by an error message, twice. On my third attempt, I decided to try a longer password – the one I was using before was 7 characters – and it finally worked. My guess is that the password was too short, yet I was never notified about that, neither during my attempt to change the password – I kept receiving a message that reads “Failed to set your password. Please check that the link is correct and try again” – nor during sign up. Regardless, I log on and was greeted by a pleasant looking app.
And things did pick up as I mentioned. After installation, I was greeted by a handy 4-step tutorial. The tutorial lets you enable auto connect for untrusted wifi networks, specify which apps automatically connect through a proxy, as well as enabling blocking of malicious websites and the Kill Switch.
The first thing I look at when evaluating a VPN service is security, starting with protocols.
There is OpenVPN – the most popular protocol – which comes with an extra layer of customization: you can pick between 256 and 160-bit encryption – the former, more secure, the latter, faster – and either automatic or manual port selection. The service claims that the automatic setting “scans for open ports to defeat international port blocking or throttling.”
In addition, there is L2TP/IPSec and PPTP. If you want to know more about protocols, be sure to check out our explanatory article.
Unique to VyprVPN is the trademarked Chameleon technology, a premium feature. Chameleon uses the unmodified OpenVPN 256-bit protocol, scrambles metadata packets to ensure that it is not recognizable via deep packet inspection. The goal is to bypass tougher restrictive networks, making it easier to use in countries such as China – whose Great Firewall has been able to identify and throttle encrypted communication by recognizing packet data on the OpenVPN protocol – Russia, India, Turkey, Iran, and Syria. The extra level of anonymity also works to prevent bandwidth throttling.
VyprVPN does keep logs. The service gathers the IP addresses used by users, the connection start and stop times, and the total number of bytes used and stores them for 30 days.
There is also the fact that Golden Frog is required by the Law to not divulge the fact of the investigation to the member during a criminal investigation.
VyprVPN apps provide a connection log as well, accessible through the ‘Window’ menu. That information is stored on the VPN client only for diagnostic and troubleshooting purposes and is never sent to Golden Frog unless a customer chooses to do so for customer support.
Golden Frog is incorporated in Switzerland, a country that falls outside of five, nine, and fourteen eyes countries, but with ostensibly favorable privacy laws: it guarantees the right to privacy in Article 13 of its Federal Constitution, under the Swiss Federal Data Protection Act (DPA), and the Swiss Federal Data Protection Ordinance (DPO).
Paradoxically, Switzerland does data retention laws in place, laws that grant police probing powers which extend to various forms of communication – i.e. online posts, email, phone, text messages, IP addresses, and metadata – for a period of 12 months.
VyprVPN does feature a kill switch, a feature that, when enabled, kills your connection to the internet in the event that your VPN connection fails, preventing you from having your traffic compromised inadvertently. The Kill Switch is turned off by default, but you will be asked to turn it on while navigating the app for the first time. The Kill Switch button is also featured permanently on the main screen on the desktop app.
Platforms & Simultaneous Connections
VyprVPN has apps for Windows and Mac machines, Android and iOS devices. It can also be set up on routers, smart TVs (including Android TV, Apple TV), as well as the following niche devices:
- Blackphone: an encrypted smartphone that runs on a modified version of Android that includes a bundle of security-minded tools
- QNAP devices: QNAP is a Taiwanese corporation that provides network attached storage (NAS) solutions.
Anonabox devices: Anonabox is a hardware company that produces Tor and VPN routers.
- OpenELEC/Kodi: OpenELEC is a Linux based operating system that turns a computer into a Kodi media center.
VyprVPN has two plans on offer; the base subscription allows for 3 simultaneous connections while the premium package allows for 5. There are also no bandwidth caps.
Server & Network Switches
VyprVPN runs more than 700 servers located in over 70 countries across 6 continents, with 200,000+ global IPs. Here is a list of those countries:
- North America: Canada, Mexico, and the USA
- Central America: Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador
- South America: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay
- Europe: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Luxembourg, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland,Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK, and Ukraine
- Asia: Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam
- Middle East: Bahrain, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE
- Africa: Algiers and Cairo
- Oceania: Australia, New Zealand, and the Marshall Islands
There is no cap on the number of server switches, and the app does offer to pick the fastest route for you.
Trusted Apps & Wifi Networks
As we mentioned in Installation section above, VyprVPN lets you pick trusted wifi networks and apps. Specified trusted wifi networks will be excluded from the auto-connect feature; when it comes to apps, you can decide whether the VPN should require a connection to a server or bypass the service.
VyprVPN Cloud, VyprDNS, NAT Firewall, & P2P Sharing
VpyrVPN Cloud, a premium only feature, is a VPN server deployment solution that is meant to add a layer of security when accessing cloud servers; it currently works with Amazon Web Services (AWS), DigitalOcean, and VirtualBox.
It is becoming more common for VPN services to provide their own DNS servers; VyprVPN is one of those apps. A welcome addition to any VPN service, proprietary DNS servers protect users from DNS poisoning attacks.
VPN services that don’t have proprietary DNS servers route traffic to third-party DNS servers; that’s another minor, yet not insignificant security worry. The VyprDNS service does not log any information.
VyperVPN also includes a Network Address Translation (NAT) Firewall that which blocks unsolicited inbound traffic. Though not strong enough to replace a firewall, it is a nice addition.
And unlike some VPN services out there that restrict P2P file sharing to select servers, VyprVPN allows users to share files via P2P or BitTorrent on any of their servers.
I tested VyprVPN’s effect on the connection speed using 4 different locations: US (New York), the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK. The results were mostly very encouraging. When it came to downloads, most of my tests showed almost negligible reductions in speed: 6.2%, 17.25%, 48.2%, and 7.1% respectively, Germany being the obvious exception here. The upload struggled though, suffering 68.5%, 21.21%, 35.15, and 27.47 reductions respectively.
The mobile app looks modern – more modern than most apps out there – and is quite easy to navigate. The main tab lets you pick a server and connect. It also displays some relevant info such as your IP address – while connected or disconnected from one of their VPN servers – and whether the NAT Firewall is enabled or not. A NAT Firewall blocks unsolicited inbound traffic.
Clicking on the location icon will reveal the list of available countries and cities. Each listed city name has a tiny colored vertical bar next to it – green, orange, or red – that indicates the ping – the time it takes to get a response a request has been sent.
The rest of the settings are all crammed into the settings menu, which is accessible from the top right on the app’s interface.
The desktop app interface is slightly different. It features quick access to a few options: auto connect on untrusted wifi, Kill Switch and Malicious Site blocking toggles. And similar to IPVanish, the main screen features a speed graph.
Here I must note that the Kill Switch behaves rather oddly on the desktop app: The Kill Switch will be inactive so long as you’re connected through the app. Normally, I would expect it to kick in only when the VPN connection fails unexpectedly, but VyprVPN will kill your connection as long as you’re not connected through it, even if you disconnect manually. So to connect using your regular connection, you would have to turn off the app.
The settings are accessible from the desktop menu bar. It contains 6 tabs: Connection, Protocols, DNS, General, Advanced, and Account.
After my brief struggle logging in (mentioned above), I contacted support via the live chat box on the main page. The response was very fast, though it did not answer my question – I ended up deducing that my password was too short.
To be fair, customer support employees don’t have access to such information. The problem was with the app and not the support staff.
Support on iOS has an insignificant yet annoying quirk: I couldn’t start a new line in the complaint text box. The response was fairly prompt though – I received an answer to my complaint in about an hour’s time – and comprehensive.
Price & Final Verdict
The company offers VyprVPN and VyperVPN Premium packages. The premium package includes additional features: VyprVPN Cloud, the Chameleon Protocol, and the ability to have 5 simultaneous connections – instead of 3 for the regular package.
The regular package can cost as little as $5 a month if you purchase a whole year, or $9.95 if you subscribe per month; the premium package can cost $6.67 a month if you opt for a yearly plan or $12.95 for a monthly plan.
Minor quirks aside, VyprVPN is a very robust solution. I was particularly pleased with the trusted apps and wifi networks, it also performed rather satisfactorily when it came to speed, and comes packed with quite a few interesting features (Cloud, NAT Firewall, etc). Its cross-platform footprint is impressive as well.
The downsides: the server reach is not as impressive as some other networks out there; it is a bit slow to connect; and in this day and age, 3 simultaneous connections are just not enough.
Still undecided, see how VyprVPN compares with the competition:
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