Urban VPN is labeled as a free VPN service with 81 locations. While it shows up as a proxy in browsers, it also has free software for all operating systems. That said, seeing claims like this always make us nervous. If you are familiar with the expression “there is no free lunch”, you have to wonder what the catch is for this one. In this review, we plan on doing just that. When looking at Google Play Store downloads, Google shows 50k+. Depending on when it launched, of course, that is not great if it has been around for any length of time. Immediately, we noticed something concerning when checking the permissions. It is unusual that a VPN would need access to your photos/media/files folder and needs to read the contents of your USB storage as you see in the image.
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About the Company
We can tell you off the bat that there is very little information available on this VPN or its parent company, which is allegedly called “Urban Cybersecurity”. There are very few references to that company, and the ones we did find were tied to the VPN itself. What we can tell you, based on the on the information to the right is that the site is registered in Scottsdale, Arizona. That is a bit concerning because that leaves it open to the “14 Eyes” countries. Those are countries that share information with each other. In other words, it is like all 14 countries in the program being able to see your actions. Of course, that makes many nervous.
One thing we can talk about is the security in the Urban VPN system. On their website, they ask the question to themselves why the VPN is free. They then state that it is free because “Urban VPN is powered by the Urban VPN’s community (Peer-to-Peer) VPN. All our users help each other unblock the internet, by sharing their network resources.” Whereas that sounds like a lovely idea, it raises a few questions and shows a few other concerns like these:
- How does Urban VPN actually encrypt and protect your data?
- Since the traffic is being routed through your system as well, what if someone is doing something illegal?
- Does traffic get routed through your machine if the app is only open and not connected?
Add those questions to the lack of transparency in the company as well as their data retention policy (yes, they apparently keep logs), you can see why we have some questions about it.
Features-wise, The company offers very little. We were not able to find a list of much of anything it does besides offer the member many different locations and give the user the ability to unblock some streaming services. They list “14 ways for free and fast usage.” Apparently they have products for the major operating systems. However, some of the other ways seem a bit questionable to us. When you see headings like free Reddit VPN, etc, they seem to be only there to get the traffic count up and there for marketing purposes. They do talk about keeping the members safe but do not offer information on how they do so.
Server Locations and Countries
Here is where the company shines a bit. It lists a massive 81 locations. However, their use of the word VPN after each country’s name seems like another trick to get Google to rank them highly. Each country does have its own landing page as well, which is unusual. At any rate, let’s take a look at the locations it has to offer. United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Burgaria, Canada, Colombia, Switzerland, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Estonia, Ecuador, Spain, Egypt, Finland, France, Great Britain, Guatemala, Honduras, Croatia, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, India, Iran, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Paraguay, Romania, Serbia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Singapore, Slovenia, Turkey, Thailand, Taiwan, Ukraine, US, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Vietnam. As you see, there are a number of counties that you can access. Please note that some countries (like the US) you can only access from the browser instead of the client.
As far as the VPN goes, it is pretty straight forward. After you add it to your browser (whichever one you use), there are only a few steps you have to do.
- Locate the robot badge.
- Open the panel. As you see, you can change servers here at the top. You can also turn on the switch to block ads. Simply move the slider to the on position, and push the “play” button in the center.
- Close the console. You will notice now the flag of whatever country you chose.
Now that you have connected, it is time to test the speed.
UrbanVPN Speed Test
UrbanVPN is suspiciously fast. As you can see in the image below, there is very little difference in speed with than without. More than likely, that means there is a lack of encryption. Otherwise, you would see more overhead. Since the company is very vague on any kind of encryption, you can guess that your connection is either not encrypted or has very little encryption to speak of. Please be aware that other servers might be different, but that makes the company even more suspicious.
Why you should use a VPN
Since so many establishments now offer free WiFi, you will want to use a VPN when you connect. While WiFi is great, the cybercriminals think it is great as well. By connecting to the server of your choice, you create a secure and encrypted connection. That way, you greatly reduce the risk that criminals or cyberthieves will steal your private information.
Another reason to use a VPN is to help you get around geo-restrictions. No matter where you are, connecting to a server there will help. That is because it makes the blocking software think you are located somewhere else. That can be a real advantage if you are trying to access certain regions or you are being blocked from viewing content. Simply connect to a server and you can start browsing or viewing the content you want to access.
What About Leaks?
While this is a free VPN service, we were a bit surprised to see that we did not have any leaking issues. To find that out, we used our favorite comprehensive leak tester at www.doileak.com. We like using this one because it shows you the different areas where it detects problems. As you can see by the image to the right, the only issue is the multiple OS issue. According to the testing site, the multiple OS issue can indicate you are using a VPN or proxy. Other than that, there are no issues except for the personal preference issues on our machine.
Should I Use this VPN?
Getting down to the basics, using this VPN service may be an ok idea if you want to unblock geo-restrictions. That said, If you are the least bit concerned about your privacy, you will want to stay away from this one. Additionally, since you have the potential of other people doing illegal things and having the traffic run through your system, that is another reason to avoid this one if at all possible. There are plenty of other options.
Final Thoughts About UrbanVPN
There are several things that make using this VPN a bad choice. Those include the lack of transparency with the company, the retention of logs, the locaton of the headquarters (the US), the lack of encryption, the promise to fully cooperate with the laws of the US, and more. However, it may not be bad if you are just trying to unblock a show and not worried about illegal traffic coming through your comp. It could help you get around geo-restrictions if you want to use something like SoundCloud, Pandora, or others. Feel free to take a look at our top 10 VPNs for comparison.