WHAT’S IN THIS REVIEW?
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VirtualShield, compared to other VPNs, seems to be at odds with what its priced at and what it provides.
If you packaged most of what they offer into one slightly more expensive service, it would probably be a top tier VPN, with a few exceptions.
Here’s the lowdown on what to expect in this VirtualShield review, as we take an in-depth look at the supposed ‘family friendly’ service.
In relation to the rest of the market, VirtualShield is a little overpriced. Some VPNs specialize in privacy or ensure that they’re able to unblock the most popular streaming platforms with ease.
Unfortunately, VirtualShield does none of the above with the entry-level version of their software.
There are, however, some redeeming features we’ll discuss below that make it a viable option for users in a crunch.
First released in 2017, VirtualShield is owned by the appropriately named VirtualShield VPN LLC, which is supposedly based in Delaware.
They say that ‘VirtualShield is a family friendly Virtual Private Network’, which is seen “as one of the most prominent Virtual Private Networks available online that doesn’t keep or store any user browsing logs.”
That’s not entirely true, as they’re not especially well known by any means. Take the Play Store app, which has only 675 reviews and a middling score.
Their given business address is:
VirtualShield LLC 1055 West 7th Street, 33rd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017
However, that’s actually a fake address that can be purchased online for $60.
The business trademark names Phillip Thomas Horton on the correspondences, but that’s about it.
In other words, the company has gone to great lengths to hide details about their ownership and true location, which doesn’t bode well considering they’ve been tasked with looking after user data.
Privacy and transparency are generally on the forefront of the agenda for any serious VPN, but there’s no chance of finding either with VirtualShield.
It’s true that VPN ownership can often be confusing, but few go so far as to use a fake address, with little to no other information available about the business. I’m also not sure how that makes for a ‘family-friendly’ provider.
Pros & Cons
There are a number of notable pros and cons that we saw while using VirtualShield. Here’s a roundup of what we discovered during our review.
Below you’ll find the main perks of working with a VirtualShield VPN. See if any speak to you:
- Lots of additional features on offer (for a price)
- App is clean and easy to use
- 30-day money back guarantee, which also doubles as a free trial
- P2P friendly
- Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera
Like all VPNs, VirtualShield isn’t without its own drawbacks. Here’s what to consider before checking out your cart:
- You have to pay more for features such as unblocking streaming services
- Registered under a fake business address
- Small server network, and India has been removed
- Basic application
- Lacking privacy/security features
- Expensive in relation to what is on offer
- Difficult to find information about the owners
As I progressed through to the billing page, I was hit with a range of additional features, as seen in the image above. Disappointingly, each one was a premium option, and the majority cost far more than the VPN itself.
In terms of the app, it was especially bare on macOS. For example, they added Kill Switch functionality for Windows back in December 2019, but there was no sign of it on my Apple device.
Here’s a roundup of each and every one of the paid features listed above.
An ‘extra layer of protection that blocks malicious attacks’, they say;
“Our Protection Plus add-on works a little bit differently from an anti-virus, but it will protect your security in a similar way. You can use this add-on in combination with your existing anti-virus/firewall to help provide an additional layer of security if you’d like.”
One added bonus is that the user will access greater speeds;
“Protection+ servers are much faster than our standard VPN servers. This is due to less traffic, since they are used by only a small fraction of our customers. They are also equipped with an extra layer of protection that scans and blocks even the most malicious DDoS and cyber attacks. All servers are fast, secure, and unlimited.”
However, you could just use a faster provider such as ExpressVPN, or any that won’t hide their best speeds behind a paywall.
Premium Phone Support
I mean, being asked to pay $14.99 per month for the chance to ‘get exclusive access to a team of certified security specialists’ via the phone literally sounds like a scam.
They should probably spend more time improving their helpline, while there were no shortage of agents waiting to speak to me on the VirtualShield webpage I left open while writing this review.
Webcam Privacy Basic/Plus
Instead of paying $79.99 per year for their Webcam Privacy service, it’s probably easier to cover your webcam whenever it’s not in use. Again, it feels like the kind of service used to trick old people, rather than a useful feature.
However, it also:
‘Works to block unauthorised access to your webcam and microphone, clears your offline browsing data, clears tracking cookies, and more. Webcam Privacy Plus has even more capabilities, including secure “shredding” of files, secure deletion of your trash can files, and registry cleanup’.
Unless you’re the laziest person ever, have cash to burn, and you can’t be bothered to check yourself, there’s absolutely no reason to sign up for paid ‘monthly account maintenance’.
Finally, a feature that is objectively worth something to the average user. The Unrestricted Streaming add-on ‘allows you to stream video on popular apps and websites like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube Red, HBO Go, and more from anywhere in the world, no matter where you’re located.’
However, it’s priced at an additional $9.99 per month, which is the average fee for a one month sub to any quality VPN provider. I know what I would pick if I had the choice.
- 1 Month: $10.99/mo.
- 12 months: $5.99/mo.
- 2 Years: $4.99/mo.
The basic VirtualShield VPN package is priced at $10.99 per month, dropping to $5.99 per month for a yearly subscription, and $4.99 per month for a 24-months subscription.
You’ll have to pay for the entire contract up front, but there are decent savings to be found if you’re willing to stick with the service.
The basic package can only be used on three devices at the same time, rather than the five simultaneous connections that is typically found with premium VPN services. Perhaps this is to market their “Protect My Family” package, which can be used on 15 devices, justifiably a higher fee.
Major credit card carriers and PayPal are the only payment methods available, which is decent. However, there are no anonymous options such as Bitcoin. We’ll keep tabs on any changes here, but for now, it’s limited.
In terms of their money-back guarantee doubling as a free trial, it was quick and easy to cancel the service by logging into their website.
However, they don’t offer refunds of any kind. When coupled with the additional paid features and the high asking price, it doesn’t make VirtualShield the best option from a budget-friendly standpoint.
“While using our Service, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you. Personally, identifiable information may include, but is not limited to, your email address, name, phone number, postal address (Personal Information).”
There’s absolutely no reason for them to have that information, and it will be an impediment if they’re aiming to keep their users’ data safe and anonymous. Why would they need your postal address or phone number?
They also go into detail when discussing how and why they track the user while the app is running:
“When a successful connection is established with one of our servers, it is counted as an “active connection” which is temporarily inserted into our database for the sole purpose of limiting an account’s simultaneous connections. This “active connection” data contains your Account ID and a randomly generated Connection ID.”
“This ‘active connection’ data is REMOVED from our database upon disconnection by the end-user from our VPN server. This “active connection” data does NOT contain the time at which you connected, which server you connected to, which location you connected from, which device you connected from, or any other information that could be used to track any activity back to a single user.”
Meanwhile, VirtualShield spammed me a few times to verify my email address, which I refused to do.
If you’re worried about logging policies or personal data issues, I’d avoid the VPN company using a fake address.
They collect a lot of personally identifiable information about every user, while there’s no third-party audit of their software to be found.
How fast is VirtualShield? The short answer is, not very.
There’s always going to be a slight impact on download speeds while using a VPN, unless you’re unknowingly being capped by your ISP.
Nonetheless, it’s often a fair trade-off, and the best providers will have high-speed servers to send data to and from your device with little delay.
After downloading the VirtualShield app, I opened up speedtest.net to get a better idea of exactly what it had to offer.
I began by checking out my download/upload speeds with no VPN connected. Nothing was out of the ordinary, although it was a bit slower than usual at just over 300 Mbps.
First up was VirtualShield’s recommended location, which just so happens to be found in London where I’m based. Their UK server was decent, but 94 Mbps download speeds are just 33% of what I’d normally get.
By the FCC’s standard, that’s more than the minimum broadband speeds needed to complete normal online activities. However, the more devices you connect to and the more tabs and apps using the internet at once, the slower your speeds will perform.
The ever-popular VirtualShield U.S. server was next. Results from the test can be found below:
Speeds were down into the sub-50 Mbps range, or half of what was achievable with their recommended location. It’s exceptionally slow, especially as of 2021 when the typical provider will offer hundreds of high-speed servers.
I planned to check Germany next, but I found that I wasn’t connected to a server in Frankfurt, as the VPN claimed.
I took a screenshot of the VPN and the speed test, running alongside each other.
Instead, I was still connected to the U.S., which makes sense considering the large ping and the poor download speeds. I reconnected to Germany, and tried again, but the results were the same.
My “German” IP was actually based in Haviland, KS.
Overall, speeds were disappointing, especially when factoring in for the high asking price. However, we recommend testing it our for yourself, as speeds vary based on when and where you access a server from.
Server Locations & Network
A support page from 2018 lists 10 countries where VirtualShield has servers. They include:
- United States
- United Kingdom
It goes on to say, “Stay tuned! We are adding new servers and new locations very often.”
Three years have passed, and they now have servers in 11 countries. So, they haven’t added locations “very often,” and it’s one of the smaller networks overall.
As you can see, they’ve added new locations in Serbia and Switzerland, although India no longer appears on the list.
You’ll find no servers in regions such as the Middle East or Africa, which means it’s not useful for anyone located nearby.
A typical small VPN will have a network of servers numbered in the low hundreds. A larger provider such as ExpressVPN boasts over 3,000.
Given the price, it’s another poor showing from VirtualShield.
Streaming & Torrenting
I wasn’t expecting much, given VirtualShield’s limited server network and the fact that they offer “Unrestricted Streaming” as a paid add-on. After all, why offer a premium extra if the basic service does it anyway?
Regardless, I decided to test a few streaming services quickly, such as BBC iPlayer in the U.K., and the U.S. version of Netflix.
Nothing worked, which was unsurprising. Once again, you can either pay $9.99 per month, or opt for an alternative provider like CyberGhost that can unblock streams consistently at no extra cost.
“Our desktop/mobile application will protect and encrypt your entire internet connection. It also scrambles your IP address for additional privacy.”
However, they also say, “many torrents have copyright violation norms, hence we do not encourage it.” This we’re okay with. It’s common among most major VPN services that look to cover their legal bases.
A decent anti-censorship tool on the surface, VirtualShield goes no further than the absolute minimum.
They support no causes, while they’re happy to keep users from being able to access streaming websites unless they pay more to do so.
They do allow for P2P sharing and don’t outright ban the use of torrents, which does earn a few extra points. However, it’s probably not the best candidate if you’re basing your choice solely on their stance against censorship.
Platforms & Devices
VirtualShield has native apps/browser extensions for the following platforms:
However, the app was basic in every sense of the word on my macOS device, as there was no option to configure passed turning it on.
Take the Settings menu. It’s virtually empty, as everything of note has been stripped away to be sold separately, or is missing entirely.
Of course, that’s their decision to make, but it does make it harder to justify the premium price tag attached to VirtualShield.
It’s fair to say that the macOS version does lag behind Windows, but they don’t make that clear on the website.
With an uneven playing field, it’s another poor showing for VirtualShield when looking at compatible platforms and devices.
Encryption & Security
They note that “VirtualShield uses up to 256-bit encryption”, which will differ depending on your OS. There’s no clear record of the protocols used, although it works using OpenVPN.
Windows, Linus, macOS, and Android versions support UDP, TCP, and L2TP.
A lack of advanced encryption options is another major flaw found with VirtualShield. This is relevant on such a lightweight app, touching on the verge of emptiness.
Security features are also non-existent unless you’re willing to spend significant $$$ every month. For example, there’s no ad-blocker, no Double VPN capabilities, or anything worth mentioning to justify the layout.
Of the features they provide, we’d give the majority a miss, and advise looking for a more privacy-focused provider.
From the use of a virtual address to the piecemeal service, VirtualShield is somewhat left wanting in terms of privacy and trust. While their 30-day money-back guarantee doubles as a free trial, they don’t actually offer refunds after the trial expires. It’s also difficult to find information about the protocols used or the company itself. For a VPN that frames itself as a ‘family friendly’ provider, however, we’re on the fence after testing it.
VirtualShield comes with standard features and a relatively small server network, so depending on what your VPN needs are, you’ll have to be strategic about how you use it. The app froze on my macOS a few times, but it still worked for what it was. You’ll fare slightly better while using Windows devices.
As far as price goes, it’s the middle of the road for a premium VPN. Arguably, the basic version costs too much, and that’s without factoring in the numerous add-ons and extras that are difficult to justify. One month of coverage is priced at $10.99 per month, if you added Protection Plus ($12.99 per month), Premium Phone Support ($14.99 per month), and Unrestricted Streaming ($9.99 per month), it would work out to just under $50 per month. That’s unheard of for a VPN, and multiple times the amount you should be expecting to pay for a quality provider in this day and age. If you simply choose their cheapest plan at $4.99 per month, though, it’s not the worst.
Speeds cap out at roughly 100 Mbps on my bandwidth of 350 Mbps when connected to the nearest server, which is near average for a VPN service. For 1-2 users, this should be plenty to go about your day.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s probably cost-effective for VirtualShield to attract fewer users, as long as they’re willing to pay more to access the full range of services on offer. However, there are better options on the market, and VirtualShield gets low marks in almost every category at the moment.