You’re not being paranoid if strangers really are snooping for sensitive online information that threatens your privacy and security. There’s a good reason for wanting to shield your location and personal data from prying eyes and nosey corporations intent on selling your browser history for profit, especially since the U.S. government now allows your ISP to sell anonymized user data to third parties. A virtual private network or VPN can put a stop to that nefarious activity by letting you interact more safely on the internet. A VPN lets your data flow through an encrypted tunnel to a VPN server, so anyone monitoring your connection sees unintelligible data — the VPN server’s IP address instead of your device.
However, not all Android VPN apps are of equal quality and trustworthiness. In choosing a VPN, consider the business models of VPN companies, especially those offering their services for free. Make sure you understand their privacy policies before signing on. We’ve identified several excellent VPN services for the Android platform, and all services on this list support the OpenVPN protocol — the most secure option for Android.
Created by Swiss-based CERN scientists — the company that created ProtonMail, the encrypted email service — the free version of ProtonVPN will not record browsing history, display privacy-invading ads, sell private data to third parties, or limit your downloads. Instead, it encrypts your data using AES-256 and 4096 RSA, and thus cannot share your data with any authorities. ProtonVPN supports two secure VPN protocols — IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN — and it encrypts your DNS so that your browsing cannot be found via DNS queries. It also features split tunnel support, letting you choose which traffic flows through the VPN, and a kill switch to guard against disconnects. Free users can only connect one device to free servers in Japan, the Netherlands, or the U.S., while paid subscribers can access 577 servers in 44 countries, and access blocked or censored content and stream videos. Paid versions — which cost $48 (Basic) or $96 per year (Plus) — support a range of features like file sharing, BitTorrent, and Tor over VPN, and the ability to connect two and five devices at a time, respectively.
VyprVPN, from Switzerland-based Golden Frog, has a solid track record for online privacy and security. It owns and runs its own networks independent of third parties, doesn’t share your data with anyone, and only keeps logs of IP addresses, connection times, and bytes used for 30 days. It offers 70 server locations spread across more than 700 servers worldwide, support for 256-bit encryption, and more than 200,000 IPs spanning 70 countries and six continents, allowing you to freely browse from anywhere.
It does this via the proprietary Chameleon technology, which masks the VPN service, especially if you want to stream content from a different country and bypass censorship and other restrictions. VyprVPN lets you configure the app to automatically connect based on your preferences — such as any time you join an untrustworthy network. Accounts cost $13 per month. Test drive the service with a free, three-day, ad-free trial.
ExpressVPN offers a choice of more than 3,000 VPN servers in 160 locations and 94 countries featuring unlimited speed and bandwidth for downloading or streaming. The service works with Wi-Fi, LTE/4G, 3G, and all mobile data carriers, and touts 24/7 customer support, along with support for encryption via OpenVPN, UDP, and TCP protocols. The app does not log traffic data or browsing activity, and its kill switch network protection halts internet traffic if the VPN can’t connect — for Android 8 or higher. The app also facilitates split tunneling, allowing you to route some device traffic through the VPN, while the rest accesses the internet directly. You can try ExpressVPN free for seven days. After that, you’re looking at $13 per month, $60 for six months, or $100 per year.
TunnelBear is a free VPN with a friendly bear-themed interface. The service offers quick speeds and is audited by a third party for its security and privacy features. There is no IP logging, and TunnelBear does not track your online activities or share them with anyone. It supports 256-bit encryption with servers in more than 22 countries and offers a kill switch feature. You can see server locations on a map and tap to have your bear tunnel connect to them. TunnelBear is free with 500MB of browsing data per month — no credit card required. A Wi-Fi VPN with unlimited data is available with the premium plan, which you can purchase in-app. A subscription costs $3.33 per month or $40 for the year, which features unlimited use on up to five devices simultaneously.
F-Secure’s Freedome promises not to log your data and allows you to create a VPN account without registering. Use the app to connect to any hotspot anonymously and encrypt your personal traffic with the VPN. The Android app is simple to use — just fire it up and a large button lets you tap the service on or off. You can change location and use the kill switch, if needed. F-Secure is also an antivirus provider, so it offers other apps and services to guard against viruses, malware, and dodgy websites. Try the app for free for five days. After that, it costs $35 per year for three devices, $70 per year for seven devices, and $90 for two years for seven devices.
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