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Best VPN Deals : ExpressVPN, NordVPN, PIA, CyberGhost VPN, Surfshark

Best VPN Deals : ExpressVPN, NordVPN, PIA, CyberGhost VPN, Surfshark


What is a VPN?

A VPN is a safe, secure connection created over a public network that sends the traffic from your device through an encrypted link to a remote server. In the most basic sense, it's like the internet version of driving an armored, tinted Humvee through a private underground tunnel instead of taking a naked Jeep out on the highway, where anyone can see who you are, where you're going, and what you've got in the backseat. 

You'll often see the term "protocol" brought up in VPN reviews and forums, which refers to the set of instructions and processes that determine how the VPN software communicates with one of its provider's servers. (To continue the analogy, it's the tunnel's construction blueprint.)

The technology's origin story isn't well-documented, but it's believed to have emerged in the mid-1990s when a Microsoft employee developed an encryption method called peer-to-peer tunneling protocol (PPTP). Initially used exclusively by businesses, subscription-based VPN services for the general public starting gaining popularity a little over a decade ago "after a flood of security breaches," per the cybersecurity and antivirus giant Kapersky.

What are the benefits of using a VPN?

There are a number of reasons why you might want to use a VPN, the main one being simply to stay anonymous online. The process of routing your traffic through a VPN masks your internet protocol (IP) address — the specific number that's assigned to your device when it's connected to a local network — which can otherwise reveal a surprising amount of personal information (including your approximate whereabouts and the name of your ISP). If someone decides to look up your device's IP address, they'll see your VPN server's location, not yours.

Along those same lines, using a VPN will allow you to access websites and services that may be blocked in certain places (like Netflix in China or YouTube at your school); you can choose a server in a region where your desired content is available to skirt geo-restrictions and firewalls.

Using a VPN is especially important if you regularly connect to public WiFi networks, even those that are password-protected — it's not difficult for nefarious parties to crack WiFi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) encryption, the security protocol most coffee shops, airports, hotels, and subway stations use to protect their hotspots, and exploit any network vulnerabilities vulnerabilities for so-called man-in-the-middle attacks. (One of the more popular methods is known as WiFi eavesdropping, or an "evil twin" attack, where hackers set up fake WiFi access points and trick users into connecting to them.)

But even the WFH crew can get some good use out of a VPN: Aside from the obvious privacy factor when it comes to confidential company information, a VPN can establish a remote connection with your office's server so you've got access to internal networks and resources from home.

It's important to note that while some VPN plans come with malware and ad blockers, those are just bonuses. The VPN itself will disguise and conceal your traffic, but it can't shield you or your device from other online threats. (We recommend picking up some separate antivirus software for that kind of protection, even if you're on a Mac.)

are VPNs legal?

Aside from the few countries that have restricted or outright banned them (including Belarus, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Oman, Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates), VPNs are perfectly legal in most of the world. However, keep in mind that illegal activities like torrent copyrighted material, buying prohibited goods, and hacking are still illegal even with a VPN. Let's not get too brazen, here.

Keep in mind that using a VPN to unblock streaming services like Netflix from a country where it's not available isn't technically against the law, but it *is* a violation of the company's terms of use and you may get slapped with a warning or error message if caught.

best VPNs of 2021 based on research and online reviews

ExpressVPN

With a large server network, a sleek app that works on virtually any platform, and an industry-leading commitment to privacy, this well-established provider ticks all the right boxes.
  • Monthly plan: $12.95/month
  • Six-month plan: $9.99/month (billed $59.95 every six months)
  • Annual plan: $8.32/month (billed $99.95 every 12 months)

Private Internet Access

A little cash goes a long way with PIA, a solid general-purpose VPN with an enormous network and support for up to 10 devices.
  • Monthly plan: $11.95/month
  • Annual plan: $4.16/month (billed $49.95 every year)
  • Two-year plan: $2.59/month (billed $69.95 every two years)

NordVPN

This beast of a VPN quells privacy concerns with double encryption, Tor (The Onion Router) access, a no-logs policy that's been verified by third-party audits, and optional add-ons like cloud storage.
  • Monthly plan: $11.95/month
  • Annual plan: $4.92/month (billed $59 upfront) for your first year
  • Two-year plan: $3.71/month (billed $89 upfront) for your first two years

CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhost takes the VPN experience into its own hands with a reputable in-house support team and private servers for security maximalists.
  • Monthly plan: $12.99/month
  • Annual plan: $3.99/month (billed $47.88 every year)
  • Two-year plan: $3.49/month (billed $83.76 every two years)

TunnelBear

It doesn't offer much in the realm of features (besides a free ad blocker for Chrome), but this bear-bones VPN is unrivaled in its simplicity and user-friendliness.
  • Monthly plan: $9.99/month
  • Annual plan: $4.99/month (billed $59.88 every 12 months)
  • Three-year plan: $3.33/month ($120 billed once)

Surfshark

This up-and-comer shows *huge* promise with a plethora of security features and unlimited simultaneous connections.
  • Monthly plan: $12.95/month
  • Six-month plan: $6.49/month (billed $38.94 every six months)
  • Two-year plan: $2.49/month (billed $59.76 upfront, then annually after the first 24 months)



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