Online privacy is a huge industry, and it’s only set to get bigger. In 2017 alone, around $500 million was spent in the USA on Virtual Private Network (VPN) solutions. And this growth has sparked a kind of gold rush phenomenon as new entrants seek to make their mark.
The past couple of years have seen some impressive (and not so impressive) VPNs take center stage. Some refine what older providers have to offer. Others offer something entirely new. And all of them are desperate to gain our attention.
So here’s our pick of 5 new rising stars in the online privacy industry that you’ll want to keep an eye on.
Proton Mail has long been one of the most secure email providers around, offering encrypted mailboxes, and ensuring total privacy. In 2017, they extended the concept to Virtual Private Networks with ProtonVPN.
The VPN was road tested within the Proton Mail community, so it had a helpful head start that most VPN startups lack, and it offers a pretty attractive package.
Pros: The Swiss location leaps out as a major plus. Switzerland has an excellent record in safeguarding user privacy and isn’t involved with intelligence sharing networks like the 5 eyes. Perfect Forward Secrecy adds an extra layer of security, while ProtonVPN integrates seamlessly with the Tor network as well – a sign of how committed the developers are to privacy.
Cons: What’s not to like here? Not much, actually. The price is a little higher than some VPN users will be accustomed to, but you’re paying for high-end security. And the server network may be secure, but it’s not huge. This probably isn’t the VPN for people who just want to unblock Netflix wherever they travel.
One thing to note about ProtonVPN is that while it’s ready for action, it’s also constantly being updated. So expect a broader server portfolio in the future and plenty of additional features.
SurfShark is another privacy tool that has set the VPN community alight in 2018, and it’s easy to see why. With its torrent-friendly connections, excellent unblocking capabilities and bargain bundles, SurfShark has taken a bite out of the competition.
Pros: There are plenty of upsides about SurfShark, so it’s not easy to know where to begin. For starters, this is a seriously quick provider, which benefits from maintaining over 500 servers around the world. The CleanWeb add-on hoovers up malware and other nasties, customers can connect as many devices as they like, and some of the discount subscriptions are incredibly cheap (as little as $1.99 per month). Moreover, you can pay securely, as almost all cryptocurrencies are supported.
Cons: Well, no VPN is perfect. While you can certainly find some bargain deals at SurfShark, we recommend snapping them up quickly, as the regular prices aren’t that cheap. Secondly, SurfShark doesn’t offer a free trial for users. Instead, it has opted for a money back guarantee. That’s a little bit more inconvenient and may snare some people in subscriptions that they don’t want. Finally, SurfShark exists as a browser extension and Android app right now, and we’re waiting for a fully-featured desktop client.
- Avira Phantom
Developed by German security company Avira, the Avira Phantom VPN is a natural addition to the company’s portfolio. Offering customers the chance to become an “online phantom” (CyberGhost’s lawyers might want to take note), this VPN integrates neatly with some of the most popular antivirus tools around. But does it actually offer what privacy fans require?
Pros: One of the best things about Phantom is how many devices it works with. Whether you’re an Android phone owner, a Mac user or you need privacy on your tablet, there will be a client here to meet your needs. Aside from that, the security features are absolutely rock solid, even for the free version. And we appreciated the one-month free trial, which lets you get a flavor for what’ on offer.
Cons: Avira Phantom is not the fastest Virtual Private Network available, and its server portfolio is relatively small (in the 20s). And we had a few issues when trying to unblock Netflix, which is a major reason for many people to get a VPN in the first place. It’s also very much an entry-level option, with very few options to customize the way you use it. For example, there’s no scope for hardware installations or tinkering with OpenVPN. But if you’re an Avira antivirus user, it’s a convenient option.
Leaping out of the traps with bold claims about being the “world’s fastest VPN”, Hide.me isn’t afraid to put itself in the firing line. And with a watertight no logging policy, industry-leading security features, and a slick interface which works across multiple platforms, they might just deliver.
Pros: Hide.me talk a good game when it comes to privacy and security, offering 256-bit AES encryption, a zero logging policy that has been audited by external experts, and a choice of fixed or shared IPs that can be switched at any time. And, as their marketing material suggests, the speeds are impressive. Moreover, if you need a VPN for P2P downloads the “no limits” policy will be ideal.
Cons: The major drawback of Hide.me is probably that the free version only supports a single device. So if you want to connect multiple computers in a family network, you’ll have to pay extra. That’s not ideal. And the Hide.me trial version is also a little tight where data is concerned, restricting users to a ration of 2GB per month. Finally, Hide.me doesn’t have a great Netflix unblocking reputation.
Christened as a “new kind of VPN”, Izzbie offers end to end encryption which does away with third-party VPN servers. Based on Android technology, Izzbie relies on a piece of hardware called an Izzbie One box to turn home networks into privacy machines. Sounds neat, doesn’t it?
Pros: If you are concerned about Virtual Private Networks having access to your data, turning your home network into a VPN is the perfect solution. Offering end-to-end 256-bit AES encryption, Izzbie should be pretty much impregnable to hackers, and you can use it to create custom-built secure networks – great for small businesses.
Cons: Not everyone will have the skills to set up an Izzbie network safely. Also, while it’s great that you can add devices to build your own VPN, there’s an initial limit of 3 devices, and you’ll have to pay extra to go above that. Perhaps most importantly, Izzbie is ethernet only, so we’ll have to wait for a wi-fi update. But it’s a neat piece of kit.
Keep tabs on the VPN sector as innovation accelerates
Izzbie gives a taste of how the VPN sector is developing. Traditional desktop clients are being joined by innovative lightweight browser or mobile competitors, as well as hardware-based versions that challenge the whole idea of a third party VPN.
That’s great news for users, so stay alert to new releases and be sure to try the latest entrants into the VPN market. They could have everything you need.