Disclaimer: Partnerships & affiliate links help us create better content. Learn how.
In the VPN world, users mix up security and privacy a lot. Yet, make no mistake, they are two distinct VPN features that serve important functions.
The primary purpose of a VPN is to keep your online activity concealed. Virtual Private Networks do this in a few ways. They hide your IP address and practice a no-logs policy to protect your personal data. This protects your data from being linked to you or sold to third parties.
The secondary purpose of a VPN is to protect your data from malicious threats and hackers. A secure VPN should offer strong protocol and encryption options, a kill switch, and leak protection to shield you from any breaches.
We reviewed top-rated VPNs on these criteria and found the five best VPNs for security and privacy in 2021. See who makes our shortlist below.
Top 5 VPNs for Security & Privacy
Best VPN overall with multiple encryption protocols and zero-logs Read More
Go-to solution with DoubleVPN routing and two kill switches Read More
|3||Norton Secure VPN|
Strong security VPN with AES 256-bit encryption and a password manager Read More
|4||Private Internet Access|
Feature-rich VPN with split tunneling and dedicated IPs Read More
Excellent privacy VPN with OpenVPN (TCP/UDP) and leak protection Read More
A fast, affordable VPN with advanced security featuresVisit IPVanish
- Supports torrenting & P2P
- No IP address/DNS/IPV6 leaks
- Unlimited device connections
- Cluttered interface
- Under 5 Eyes surveillance
- Doesn’t work in China
IPvanish is a quality VPN that puts security and privacy first. IPVanish employs industry-approved AES 256-bit encryption and OpenVPN/IKEv2 protocols to secure your data transfers at all times. It also gives users customizable settings that include features like port selection, split tunneling, and a kill switch.
This information-rich app comes with unlimited device connections and promises an airtight no-logging policy, which is crucial for users in need of a private VPN on multiple devices. If you’re as intrigued as we were when testing it, consider trying IPVanish out risk-free for 30 days.
For more in-depth information, read our IPVanish VPN Review.
Feature-rich VPN with strong privacy practicesVisit NordVPN
- Slick UI, making it exceedingly easy to use
- Vast array of security features
- Massive list of high speed U.S. servers
- One of the pricier VPNs
- Replaced free trial with money-back guarantee
A real powerhouse, NordVPN comes in second as the best VPN for security and privacy. This security giant provides AES 256-bit encryption and a host of extra features like DoubleVPN routing and CyberSec (an ad-blocker) for added protection online.
The NordVPN app is also easy to configure and runs “Onion over VPN” and WireGuard (branded as NordLynx) protocols for secure tunnels between your device and a VPN server. Even if you think you have nothing to hide online, you likely don’t want the information below getting into the wrong hands:
From our tests, NordVPN delivered impressive speeds and includes two kill switches and WebRTC/DNS leak protection that you can have on up to 6 devices at once, so your workflow is never slowed down.
For more in-depth information, read our NordVPN Review.
3. Norton Secure VPN
An affordable midtier service with standard capabilities.Visit Norton Secure VPN
- 60-day money back guarantee
- Up to 10 simultaneous connections
- Very fast on nearby servers
- Affordable, flexible pricing
- No VPN kill switch
- Torrenting blocked on servers
- Small server network
With a proven track record for security, Norton Secure VPN is a fan-favorite for online safety. It promises a strict no-logs policy and comes with extra security features like Norton password manager and adblocking.
In addition, Norton Secure VPN passed our IP and DNS leak tests, which is a must for anyone serious about having a private VPN. You get 10 connections with your subscription and the option to bundle the service with other Norton security products. To fully grasp its capabilities, consider trying Norton Secure VPN risk-free with its 60-day money-back guarantee.
For more in-depth information, read our Norton Secure VPN Review.
4. Private Internet Access
Long-standing provider with robust security featuresVisit Private Internet Access
- Verified zero-logs policy
- Up to 10 simultaneous connections
- PIA uses open source software
- One of the few VPNs that can unblock streaming sites
- Could improve UI
- Limited additional features
Packed with advanced settings and an attractive VPN app, PIA is among the best secure VPNs out there. You can protect up to 10 devices at once with your PIA subscription and get standard AES 256-bit encryption and multiple protocols like IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN (TCP/UDP) for airtight protection.
PIA also comes with a handful of bonus features including dedicated IPs, IPV6/DNS/WebRTC leak blocking, and a kill switch. These are especially important for reporters and businessmen who rely on a private connection at all times.
Overall, it’s an extremely safe VPN and does exactly what you’d hope for in a VPN – hide your IP address and securely encrypt all your data sent and received.
For more in-depth information, read our Private Internet Access VPN Review.
An honest provider that’s a bit rough around the edgesVisit AirVPN
- Heavy emphasis on privacy
- Strong “no-logs” policy
- Cheap, flexible payment options
- Slower speeds
- Small server network
- Not the best for streaming
Ran exclusively on OpenVPN, AirVPN is an excellent private VPN. It successfully hid my IP address while offering multiple means for security including an automatic kill switch and 100% IPV6, WebRTC, and DNS leak protection.
AirVPN operates its own DNS servers, so whatever account information it does collect is completely confidential. Users can also access the Tor (The Onion Router) browser, which provides an extra layer of encryption when online.
It accepts various cryptocurrencies as payment and manages its entire network by itself. What AirVPN lacks in aesthetics it quickly makes up for in privacy and security measures.
For more in-depth information, read our AirVPN Review.
Security & Privacy VPN FAQs
- Are VPNs safe?
- What is the best VPN?
- Can I get a VPN for free?
- How secure is a VPN?
- What are the limitations of using a VPN?
- What is OpenVPN?
- How safe is AES 256-bit encryption?
- How does a VPN work?
1. Are VPNs safe?
While some premium VPNs offer bonus security features to protect you online, it’s important to remember that the main function of a VPN is privacy first. VPNs don’t work in the same way as anti-virus software.
Instead, VPNs provide security in the way of hiding your IP address and using industry-standard encryption for your personal online data. This encryption keeps users safe from cybercriminals, government officials, and even internet service providers (ISP). However, it cannot protect users who visit phishing websites or download compromised files on their own devices.
2. What is the best VPN?
There are thousands of VPNs out there, so picking one is nearly impossible. Instead, think of VPN providers like ISPs – each comes with its own pros and cons to fit different online needs.
Overall, the best providers will legally hide your IP address, unblock geo-restricted content, and protect your personal online data from nosey third parties.
To find the perfect solution for you, explore the Best VPNs to make our user list.
3. Can I get a VPN for free?
Yes. There are hundreds of free VPNs available in the Google Play Store and App Store. Be careful, though. Free still comes with a price; what you don’t pay for with money you end up making up for with your personal data being sold to third parties.
If privacy is your number one concern with using a VPN, we recommend checking out premium VPNs instead.
4. How secure is a VPN?
VPNs have varying levels of security. Quality services will follow industry standards, though, with military-grade AES 256-bit encryption and OpenVPN protocol that safeguards user data while connected to the internet. Check out the most secure VPN above.
5. What are the limitations of using a VPN?
A VPN is a great tool for improving your online privacy and security. However, even the best VPN services have limitations.
Here are a few examples:
- Increase your internet speed. Aside from the case where an ISP is throttling your connection, all VPNs inevitably slow down your internet speed due to the rerouting nature of the program.
- Provide complete malware protection. VPN encryption helps to safeguard your devices against malware attacks and cybercriminals, but it is not a complete security tool. For that, we recommend using a dedicated malware program.
- Securely store passwords. Some VPNs offer additional features like a password management tool, but that is separate from the VPN itself. Use a dedicated password manager like LastPass to protect your logins.
6. What is OpenVPN?
OpenVPN is an open-source VPN protocol that enables people to run secured internet connections. It uses OpenSSL library and military-grade AES 256-bit encryption over UDP (User Datagram protocol) to establish a secure “tunnel” between a VPN server and the VPN client.
Since it is open-source code, it is constantly being inspected by third parties and improved upon. For this reason, most VPN providers offer OpenVPN by default.
Note: this is not to be confused with OpenVPN Inc. which is a VPN service of its own.
7. How safe is AES 256-bit encryption?
Advanced Encryption Security (AES) 256-bit encryption is virtually impenetrable using standard computing technology. AES is a symmetric key cipher that uses 128-bit data blocks that would take a hacker billions of years of computing power to crack.
For example, you would need to check 2256 different combinations to verify the key that matches both the encryption and decryption. That’s an astronomically large 78 digit number.
It was initially created for federal government purposes, but it is now the industry standard for secure encryption. Most VPNs use this method of security by default.
8. How does a VPN work?
A VPN is a service that redirects your internet requests through a VPN provider’s private server, encrypting the data sent and received from your device(s). This essentially hides your IP address and helps protect your personal information from being hacked and stolen.