When I think of VPNs my mind automatically wanders to encrypting your data. Most people assume that using a VPN service means their data is being encrypted but that isn’t always the case. You will run into some providers who use faulty encryption that will leave you at risk. Today I’m going to share five providers that take security very seriously. They offer high levels of encryption to help protect your data and your privacy.
There are a few things to consider when choosing a VPN provider. The first is your goal for using the service. What do you want to do with the VPN? If you simply want to access geo-blocked sites in other countries then encryption isn’t as important. However, if your goal is to protect your online privacy and anonymity then the level of encryption along with the VPN company’s log policy are critical to your decision. Let’s take a closer look at some different scenarios.
Gain Access to Geo-Blocked Websites
If your goal is to gain access to sites that are geo-blocked then encryption may not be your number one goal. It really depends on what sites you are trying to access. For example, if you plan to use a VPN to watch your favorite shows on Netflix US or to stream BBC iPlayer programs then encryption strength isn’t all that important. However, if you want to gain access to sites that are censored in your country like social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or The Pirate Bay then strong encryption is critical.
Protect Your Online Privacy
If your top priority is to protect your privacy while online then encryption is very important. You will find lots of VPN companies that offer either free service or very cheap plans. Be careful when choosing a VPN. Think about it, where do those offering free privacy services make their money? They either bombard you with ads or they are selling off your usage to advertisers. Neither scenario is acceptable. Cheap VPNs often make the protocols they use hard to find on their site or only offer PPTP which is the least secure protocol and definitely not recommended.
Protect Your Anonymity
It’s one thing to protect your data through the use of encryption. It’s another to hide your identity online. A good VPN will help ensure your anonymity when using the service. This is an area that’s hard to judge because you have to trust the company that’s providing your VPN service. I’ve used the services listed in this post and recommend them all. With that said when it comes to anonymity I recommend ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access. Both providers have a “no-log” policy meaning they do not log users activities on their network. They also have kill switch features to help protect your privacy if the VPN ever drops.
A lot of people will confuse encryption with the protocols being used to connect to a VPN service. For those who aren’t looking for a technical deep dive, I suggest thinking of the two together. Here’s my quick lesson on selecting a protocol to protect your privacy. Follow this list for the most secure connection.
- OpenVPN – best choice, most secure
- SSTP – good choice for Windows
- L2TP/IPSec – decent alternative if OpenVPN isn’t supported
- PPTP – worst option but compatible with more devices
Now for those tech savvy users who want more control over encryption I recommend Private Internet Access. They offer customized settings for data encryption, data authentication, and handshake authentication. I’ll share a brief summary. You can visit PIA’s encryption page for more details.
PIA Data Encryption Settings:
- AES 128 – advanced encryption standard (128 bit) in CBC mode
- AES 256 – advanced encryption standard (256 bit) in CBC mode
- Blowfish – Blowfish (128 bit) in CBC mode
PIA Data Authentication Settings:
- SHA1 – HMAC using secure hash algorithm (160 bit)
- SHA256 – HMAC using secure hash algorithm (256 bit)
PIA Handshake Encryption Settings:
- RSA-2048 – 2048 bit Ephemeral Diffie-Hellman (DH) key exchange and 2048 bit RSA certificate
- RSA-3072 – 3072 bit Ephemeral Diffie-Hellman (DH) key exchange and 3072 bit RSA certificate
- RSA-4096 – 4096 bit Ephemeral Diffie-Hellman (DH) key exchange and 4096 bit RSA certificate
- ECC-256k1 – Ephemeral Elliptic Curve DH key exchange and an ECDSA certificate using curve secp256k1 (256 bit)
- ECC-256r1 – Ephemeral Elliptic Curve DH key exchange and an ECDSA certificate prime256v1 (256 bit)
- ECC-521 – Ephemeral Elliptic Curve DH key exchange and an ECDSA certificate secp521r1 (521 bit)
You can read over our list of the top 10 VPN services for more options but I highly recommend the services listed above for those seeking a high level of encryption. We selected them over other leading VPN services based on encryption levels, privacy (log policy), support for P2P / file sharing, availability of server locations in key locations, performance, reliability and price. You will want a reliable, trustworthy VPN provider to help secure your online privacy. You may also want a fast network to download and stream HD content. The services shared in the post are the best encrypted VPNs. They will help secure your privacy along with unblocking geo-restrictions for streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, and hundreds of other popular sites that might otherwise be blocked.