WHAT’S IN THIS REVIEW?
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Whether you’re an occasional online shopper or remote worker, you rely on a certain level of security when accessing the internet. Unfortunately, online security isn’t a guarantee unless you take the proper steps to protect yourself.
The main way people accomplish this is by investing in and utilizing a virtual private network (VPN) that secures internet connections, protects private information, and enables unfettered access to geo-restricted content. There are thousands of free and paid VPNs to choose from, but it isn’t always easy to sift through the many options.
In this Norton Secure VPN review, we discuss the different features of this midtier provider to give you a better sense of what to look for in a VPN and what to avoid.
Known for its popular antivirus software, Norton also offers a midtier VPN solution called Norton Secure VPN. It can be purchased as a standalone service or bundled with other Norton products at a discounted price.
Norton Secure VPN offers flexible pricing and standard VPN features that promise basic security and identity protection. We wanted to put Norton to the test to see how it stacks up against other major competitors like CyberGhost and NordVPN.
What we discovered is that, while Norton Secure VPN provides basic online protection, it also has issues worth considering. Check out our breakdown below.
About Norton Secure VPN
Norton Secure VPN is both a standalone VPN offering and an add-on to Norton 360 Deluxe. As a subscription platform, its customers receive basic VPN features with state-of-the-art encryption, one VPN protocol, and a decent “no-logs” policy.
Norton Secure VPN has a 29-country network of secure VPN servers, but it does not disclose city locations in those countries.
Officially, Norton’s corporation name is NortonLifeLock Inc. (formerly known as Symantec). Norton is an American software company, headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, with development centers in Pune, Chennai, and Bangalore, India. NortonLifeLock has been a member of the S&P stock market index and nears the Fortune 500 company list.
Founded by Peter Norton, the company was an early developer of the Norton Utilities software, which did not include anti-malware. In 1991, Symantec’s Norton Group released Norton AntiVirus 1.0 for PCs. Since that time, Norton has updated and diversified its product line for a combination of offerings into a popular, seamless product called Norton Security.
This review covers the Norton Secure VPN product as a standalone VPN product.
Pros & Cons
With so many VPN providers to choose from, it can be difficult to differentiate between them all. To help sift through the jargon, we tested Norton Secure VPN for a week to uncover both its advantages and disadvantages.
As a mid-tier provider, Norton Secure VPN does provide basic features you’d expect from a VPN, and we list the most notable ones here:
- Web privacy and location masking with 256-bit encryption
- Solid no-logs policy
- Simple to install and intuitive interface
- Works with Windows, Apple, Android, and iOS
- Built-in adblocker
- Up to 10 simultaneous connections
- Long 60-day money back guarantee
Despite having standard features, Norton Secure VPN still has room to grow. Here are a few cons we uncovered:
- Headquartered in U.S. (5 Eyes)
- Just one encryption standard available with no option to switch protocols
- No automatic kill switch (except for Android VPN)
- Difficulty with streaming services because of no P2P or BitTorrent support
- Works with Netflix but does not bypass VPN blocker
- Testers found DNS and IPv6 leaks, which compromised online masking
- Small pool of connection servers (29 countries) with no listing of city locations
- Small server network. Has no servers in China, Russia, or Vietnam, and needs more coverage in Africa and South America
Norton Secure VPN is an average service if you consider its lacking features. We tested the VPN out over the last seven days to see how its features hold up.
We distinguish Norton Secure VPN different features as either standard features or advanced features typical of premium VPNs.
Norton Secure VPN provides a Wi-Fi security encryption (AES 256-bit) currently used by banks and government agencies. It passes governmental requirements and is considered industry standard.
A “no-logs” policy
Norton Secure VPN provides this assurance: “Lets you browse the Web anonymously so your online privacy is protected from being tracked by online advertisers and other companies.”
One feature that distinguishes premium-grade VPNs from free services is the no-logs policy. Data-mining giants like Google and Amazon have harvested online usage records for marketing and ad targeting. Free VPN providers want a piece of that action and only remain “free” through exploiting users’ records of online browsing and financial activity.
Friendly user interface
The Norton Secure VPN app is simple and easy to use. It is easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. Its platform is intuitive and friendly to the inexperienced VPN user. The Norton VPN app installs quickly and has a quick-connect feature that automatically loads the VPN connection.
Norton offers smartphone apps for both Android and iPhone Devices. While smartphones are generally secure from PC and Mac malware attacks, today’s smartphone users are prone to signing on to WiFi servers as a way to cut smartphone data costs.
So, one security vulnerability problem is that mobile users are exposed on unsecured public WiFi networks. Loading a VPN on a smartphone is the safest way to protect a smartphone from so-called “man-in-the-middle” attacks. Norton Secure VPN offers the same protection for a smartphone on a Wi-Fi connection as for a tablet or laptop.
Norton Secure VPN is safe to use on an Android device and iOS (iPhones and iPads). The app provides full VPN protection—end-to-end encryption, no-logs, and secure protocols.
The Norton Secure VPN ad blocker shields the user against ad trackers that can gather user data. The ad blocker prevents advertisers from collecting information on websites the user visits.
While most popular ad-blocking browser extensions block ads, banners, and pop-ups on a browser level, Norton adblock provides wider coverage to include apps. It is a natural partner to the traditional VPN and it blocks potential malware infections inherent in web advertising.
Bundles with Norton 360
Norton 360 users can access Norton Secure VPN as a seamless feature for an additional level of security in their web browsing. This bundle comes at a discounted rate that makes it cheaper than other premium VPN providers.
As you can see, Norton does offer features you’d expect from a basic VPN service. Yet, as a premium model, it comes a bit short when compared to older providers like Private Internet Access
- 1 Device: $4.99/mo. or $39.99/yr
- 5 Devices: $7.99/mo. or $39.99/yr
- 10 Devices: $9.99/mo. or $59.99/yr
Norton Secure VPN has very flexible pricing compared to other VPN providers, split into annual or monthly subscriptions. Even its most expensive 1-month plan comes out cheaper than bigger premium VPNs.
However, the above prices are just for the first year. After 12 months if the user doesn’t cancel, the subscription automatically renews at the following higher regular subscription prices:
- 1 Device: $9.99/mo. or $49.99/yr.
- 5 Devices: $7.99/mo. or $79.99/yr.
- 10 Devices: $4.99/mo. or $99.99/yr.
Norton Secure VPN is also included in single subscriptions to 12 versions of Norton 360, beginning with Norton 360 Standard at $84.99 per year.
Users can select from a variety of payment options including Visa, JCB, Master Card, PayPal and American Express. Norton subscriptions and automatic renewals also come with a 60-Day Money-Back guarantee within 60 days of the purchase date.
Lastly, Norton Secure VPN also includes 24/7 customer service, yet users often find it to be poor quality.
As previously mentioned, a premium VPN like Norton Secure VPN typically comes with a “no-log” feature. That means that the provider does not log or collect any information the user transmits through the network. The no-logs VPN service, likewise does not save personal details, where the user goes online, what has been downloaded, or which search engine activity the user engaged in.
On its webpage “What is a no-log VPN,” Norton assures the reader that “Norton Secure VPN does not keep logs…Norton Secure VPN collects subscriber information for communication purposes, mobile service data, and aggregate bandwidth usage. Norton Secure VPN does not log information about where you go on the internet.”
The following “subscriber information” Norton Secure VPN stores include:
- The user email address, only for the purposes of customer service and account management
- The user’s fully encrypted password
- Billing information (if on an automatic payment or annual subscription plan)
Norton’s no-log policy states it does not collect tracking details including:
- Information about current sessions
- Network traffic and time stamps
- The user’s browsing history
- The user’s IP address
- The aggregate amount of bandwidth used
It’s expected that no matter what VPN you use, your internet speeds are usually slowed. However, premium VPNs today have advanced technology that, in most cases, reduces speed slowdown to a nominal amount.
Normally, about 10-12 Mbps is acceptable for normal web surfing and video streaming. Gamers, however, want more data in real time and need an uptick of 20 or 30 Mbps. We discovered inconsistent speed performance while trying to play games using Norton Secure VPN which means that it is just barely fast enough for gaming.
Our testers found out that when it comes to speed, Norton matches up with the middle of the pack. Norton Secure VPN achieved about 75% of base speeds on fiber and cable connections. Which, for a VPN service, is pretty great.
Still, one downside is that Norton Secure VPN does not allow the user to choose a city connection—only the country. And the further distance you are from your server of choice, the greater speed loss you experience.
Users looking for the best Norton Secure VPN country speeds should jump around a bit and perform their own speed tests. There are, however, other factors that affect a VPN’s speed performance—your internet service provider, your internet bandwidth, how far away you are from the VPN server, the time of day, and technical things like lags caused by VPN encryption.
Depending on which server you connect to, Norton Secure VPN only causes between a 15-30% download speed loss for most tests we performed.
Server Locations & Network
It is difficult to find Norton Secure VPN’s server locations and overall network range, as their website lacks full transparency on this unless you’re a registered customer. However, we’ve gathered that Norton Secure VPN supports at least 1,500 servers located in 29 countries. Norton does not offer city-connection options, just by country.
Here is a list of all locations:
- United States
- New Zealand
- Czech Republic
- United Kingdom
- South Africa
Norton Secure VPN is one of those VPN services that relies heavily on virtual servers, which are software-defined and allow several servers to run on just one physical server. However, with Norton Secure VPN, those servers are located within the country they are listed.
Nevertheless, the number of Norton Secure VPN servers is on the low side. ExpressVPN, for example, has servers in 94 countries. However, except for scant coverage in Africa, Norton Secure VPN’s servers span the globe. That coverage, though, does not include VPN servers in China, Russia, or Vietnam, countries with repressive internet policies.
Streaming & Torrenting
Streaming and torrenting are two activities where having a VPN really comes in handy. Torrenting peer-to-peer (P2P) content and streaming geo-restricted content requires a certain level of anonymity only a VPN can provide. Yet, not all VPN providers offer streaming and torrenting support.
Norton Secure VPN makes no big claims about unlocking major streaming platforms like Netflix or Hulu. That is because Norton does not support P2P BitTorrenting. BitTorrent is the most common protocol for transferring video and digital audio (TV and music).
While Norton Secure VPN can access Netflix local libraries for secure web browsing, users wanting to bypass VPN blocks and thwart geo-blocking won’t be able to hide their real address to access global content. To be specific, we could not get past those blocks on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO GO, and BBC iPlayer.
Norton’s main claim to fame is protecting the user’s online details from cybercriminals. Users looking for access to worldwide streaming services have very limited choices with Norton Secure VPN. You’re better off using streaming-friendly VPN services like Surfshark or CyberGhost.
Simply put, Norton Secure VPN does not work in China – or any other internet-repressive countries – from what we can tell. Due to its lack of added security features and obfuscation tools, Norton Secure VPN seriously lacks in the realm of bypassing net censorship.
In order to circumvent strict censor firewalls like China’s, VPNs must possess special masking tools that hide regular HTTPS traffic and IP addresses. Without these added measures, VPNs are routinely blocked from mainland servers.
Additionally, Norton does not support peer-to-peer networks and does not overcome VPN blocking. If you’re looking for a VPN service that permits access to your normal subscriptions abroad, we recommend seeking a different VPN for now.
Platforms & Devices
A big positive thing about Norton Secure VPN is its compatibility with the most popular devices and operating systems today. Norton offers simultaneous connections with up to 10 devices and allows the user to connect to its VPN on Mac OSX, Windows 10, and iOS/Android smartphones. Also, Norton Secure VPN requires no browser extensions.
Below we list a handful of devices and platforms compatible with Norton Secure VPN:
Microsoft Windows Specs:
- 150 MB of hard disk space required
- Windows 10 (including all versions except Windows 10S)
- Windows 8/8.1 (all versions)
- Windows 7 (all versions) with Service Pack 1 (SP 1) or later
Mac OSX Specs:
- 150 MB of available hard disk space
- Current and previous two versions of MacOS
- Android Operating Systems running 4.4 or later
- iOS iPhones or iPads running the current and previous two versions of Apple iOS
Router setup—not for the faint of heart
Users can install Norton’s VPN at the source of their internet access—the router. Doing so makes every device controlled by the router a VPN-protected device. The device does not have to be specially configured, nor even VPN compatible, so long as it is connected to the router.
There are inherent problems with installing a VPN on a router, rather than on every device. First, if the user is away from the home router, the device is unprotected. Next, not every router is VPN compatible, so it could be necessary to upgrade and purchase a replacement.
Norton is upfront with its caution in their router setup guide: “Installing VPN on your router is not the easiest of tasks. You’ll need some tech skills. And be warned: If you install VPN incorrectly, you could damage your router.” Norton also warns that “with each device that you connect to a VPN-enabled router, you will likely have to sacrifice a bit of speed.”
There are currently no Norton Secure VPN apps for game consoles—Xbox, PlayStation, etc. However, that does not mean you don’t need a VPN for gaming. Online user accounts are vulnerable to hacking through phishing scams and social engineering.
Norton 360 for Gamers is a separate service with features to defend against cyber threats. The $7.99/mo. plan includes Norton Secure VPN coverage for three devices.
There are currently no Norton Secure VPN apps for smart TVs. About the best advice Norton provides in avoiding smart TV privacy risks is to disconnect it from the home network.
However, there are workarounds, including installing a VPN on a router (described above), plugging a VPN protected laptop into the television, or using a VPN that can be configured for a smart TV.
Encryption & Security
Norton Secure VPN has decent encryption and security features, however, it lags behind top VPN providers who can guarantee zero data leaks and no third-party tracking. We tested out Norton Secure VPN’s advertised encryption features to give you an idea of what works and what doesn’t.
Norton Secure VPN uses the industry-leading AES-256 encryption standard. AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) is the highest cloud encryption standard. It employs a single, varying length key with an algorithm working on a single block of data that encrypts and re-encrypts the data 10 to 14 times. AES meets all federal government requirements for protection of health and financial data security.
Norton Secure VPN uses two VPN protocols. For Windows, macOS, and Android devices, it uses the popular OpenVPN protocol. For Apple iOS devices it uses the L2TP/IPSec protocol, which is not as advanced and secured as OpenVPN, but provides adequate protection. Norton does not provide the option to use the more flexible IKEv2 protocol and supports a wider range of encryption demands. However, it is not as configurable as OpenVPN.
Automatic “kill switch”
The Norton VPN does not have an automatic kill switch. An unstable internet connection can cause the VPN server to drop while the user continues transmitting data. A VPN “kill switch” will detect a VPN disconnect and take the user offline. A kill switch is especially important for those who always need a reliable private connection— journalists, business owners, etc. The kill switch feature ensures that no data goes through the user’s connection unless it is through the VPN.
DNS data leak protection
Norton Secure VPN has problems with DNS leaks. DNS leak protection prevents the operating system from defaulting to the Internet Service Provider’s DNS (Dynamic Name System) when the user connects to a web address. Without the DNS leak protection, the user’s original IP address is shown, defeating the original purpose of a VPN. Testers have found that their true location was detected even while connected to outside servers. Others, however, found no DNS leak problems.
Overall, Norton doesn’t quite live up to its “Secure” name. Breaches like DNS data leaks and no kill switch are seemingly small errors in software, yet they can have detrimental consequences for cyberattacks.
Norton Secure VPN is both a standalone and add-in product for Norton 360 web security offerings.
It comes down to expectations. Users who want to seamlessly integrate a VPN into their existing Norton 360 suite will like the extra security running in the background. For those who just want a full-featured VPN with all the bells and whistles of geo-blocking and air-tight security through a VPN tunnel, Norton is a “middle-of-the-pack” performer.
Pros include Norton Secure VPN’s web privacy and location masking with high-powered 256-bit encryption protocols. It has a no-logs policy that ensures users’ web activity is never tracked. It is simple to install and works with Mac, PC, Android, and iOS devices. Its built-in adblocker is a plus, and so are its useful help resources.
Cons are the service’s vulnerability to U.S. internet regulation. Norton Secure VPN also has just one encryption standard with no option to switch for more flexible platform use. Norton Secure VPN does not support BitTorrent, so it will not download P2P data necessary in video and audio entertainment access. Finally, Norton has a relatively small inventory of servers, and does not work in China.
Norton standalone pricing is somewhat of a bait-and-switch proposition. Users sign on for a low price, depending on the number of devices covered. After the first year, Norton bumps the price up to a $10, $30, or $40 increase annually for 1, 5, and 10 devices respectively.
Norton Secure VPN has a no-logs policy, but does share some user data. Its speed is about average for VPNs, but it drops significantly, depending on how far away the VPN server is from your true location. Norton has 24/7 customer support, chat ,and phone services. Its FAQ and knowledge base are extensive, but users will have to dig for VPN topics among the extensive Norton 360 product help topics.
Finally, Norton Secure VPN has state-of-the-art encryption. That encryption meets federal government requirements for the protection of health and financial security data. OpenVPN protocols is a popular, blazing fast VPN connection. We rate Norton’s VPN highly as a midtier VPN provider that does a pretty good job.