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Don't use VPN services.

Don't use VPN services.

No, seriously, don't. You're probably reading this because you've asked what VPN service to use, and this is the answer.

Note: The content in this post does not apply to using VPN for their intended purpose; that is, as a virtual private (internal) network. It only applies to using it as a glorified proxy, which is what every third-party "VPN provider" does.

  • A Russian translation of this article can be found here, contributed by Timur Demin.
  • A Turkish translation can be found here, contributed by agyild.
  • There's also this article about VPN services, which is honestly better written (and has more cat pictures!) than my article.

Why not?

Because a VPN in this sense is just a glorified proxy. The VPN provider can see all your traffic, and do with it what they want - including logging.

But my provider doesn't log!

There is no way for you to verify that, and of course this is what a malicious VPN provider would claim as well. In short: the only safe assumption is that every VPN provider logs.

And remember that it is in a VPN provider's best interest to log their users - it lets them deflect blame to the customer, if they ever were to get into legal trouble. The $10/month that you're paying for your VPN service doesn't even pay for the lawyer's coffee, so expect them to hand you over.

But a provider would lose business if they did that!

I'll believe that when HideMyAss goes out of business. They gave up their users years ago, and this was widely publicized. The reality is that most of their customers will either not care or not even be aware of it.

But I pay anonymously, using Bitcoin/PaysafeCard/Cash/drugs!

Doesn't matter. You're still connecting to their service from your own IP, and they can log that.

But I want more security!

VPNs don't provide security. They are just a glorified proxy.

But I want more privacy!

VPNs don't provide privacy, with a few exceptions (detailed below). They are just a proxy. If somebody wants to tap your connection, they can still do so - they just have to do so at a different point (ie. when your traffic leaves the VPN server).

But I want more encryption!

Use SSL/TLS and HTTPS (for centralized services), or end-to-end encryption (for social or P2P applications). VPNs can't magically encrypt your traffic - it's simply not technically possible. If the endpoint expects plaintext, there is nothing you can do about that.

When using a VPN, the only encrypted part of the connection is from you to the VPN provider. From the VPN provider onwards, it is the same as it would have been without a VPN. And remember, the VPN provider can see and mess with all your traffic.

But I want to confuse trackers by sharing an IP address!

Your IP address is a largely irrelevant metric in modern tracking systems. Marketers have gotten wise to these kind of tactics, and combined with increased adoption of CGNAT and an ever-increasing amount of devices per household, it just isn't a reliable data point anymore.

Marketers will almost always use some kind of other metric to identify and distinguish you. That can be anything from a useragent to a fingerprinting profile. A VPN cannot prevent this.

So when should I use a VPN?

There are roughly two usecases where you might want to use a VPN:

  1. You are on a known-hostile network (eg. a public airport WiFi access point, or an ISP that is known to use MITM), and you want to work around that.
  2. You want to hide your IP from a very specific set of non-government-sanctioned adversaries - for example, circumventing a ban in a chatroom or preventing anti-piracy scareletters.

In the second case, you'd probably just want a regular proxy specifically for that traffic - sending all of your traffic over a VPN provider (like is the default with almost every VPN client) will still result in the provider being able to snoop on and mess with your traffic.

However, in practice, just don't use a VPN provider at all, even for these cases.

So, then... what?

If you absolutely need a VPN, and you understand what its limitations are, purchase a VPS and set up your own (either using something like Streisand or manually - I recommend using Wireguard). I will not recommend any specific providers (diversity is good!), but there are plenty of cheap ones to be found on LowEndTalk.

But how is that any better than a VPN service?

A VPN provider specifically seeks out those who are looking for privacy, and who may thus have interesting traffic. Statistically speaking, it is more likely that a VPN provider will be malicious or a honeypot, than that an arbitrary generic VPS provider will be.

So why do VPN services exist? Surely they must serve some purpose?

Because it's easy money. You just set up OpenVPN on a few servers, and essentially start reselling bandwidth with a markup. You can make every promise in the world, because nobody can verify them. You don't even have to know what you're doing, because again, nobody can verify what you say. It is 100% snake-oil.

So yes, VPN services do serve a purpose - it's just one that benefits the provider, not you.


This post is licensed under the WTFPL or CC0, at your choice. You may distribute, use, modify, translate, and license it in any way.


Before you comment: Be aware that any non-constructive comments will be removed. This includes advertising for VPN providers (yes, even when you phrase the marketing claims like a question), trolling, harassment, insults towards other people, claims that have already been addressed in the article, and so on.

If your comment isn't a genuine question or a concrete counterargument supported by evidence, it probably doesn't belong here.

@nukeop
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nukeop commented Jun 2, 2024

That's why the jurisdiction of the VPN provider is important. Yet another thing you could've learned if you had an ability to read the sources provided to you.

You linked an SEO content farm. That's about as poor a source as it gets.

@sneer69
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sneer69 commented Jun 2, 2024

What conspiracy theories? Can you give an example?

Two examples below. Also, that "statistically speaking" phrase. Please provide statistics for this claim.

"But how is that any better than a VPN service?

A VPN provider specifically seeks out those who are looking for privacy, and who may thus have interesting traffic. Statistically speaking, it is more likely that a VPN provider will be malicious or a honeypot, than that an arbitrary generic VPS provider will be.
So why do VPN services exist? Surely they must serve some purpose?

Because it's easy money. You just set up OpenVPN on a few servers, and essentially start reselling bandwidth with a markup. You can make every promise in the world, because nobody can verify them. You don't even have to know what you're doing, because again, nobody can verify what you say. It is 100% snake-oil.

So yes, VPN services do serve a purpose - it's just one that benefits the provider, not you."

@LokiFawkes
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You're doing a huge leap, much bigger than warranted. Any business you interact with will comply with legal orders. That doesn't mean they can't be trusted at all, for any purpose. And I prefer to act on actual, real information, not on paranoid delusions thinking everyone's out to get me. If your goal is to deal drugs on the internet, etc. then yeah sure lol you better be careful who you do business with. Doesn't apply to regular VPN users though, for whom no legal orders will be issued and won't be investigated by Interpol.

Yeah cause a protestor exercising their right to protest, something that is internationally recognized these days, not just in the US, is dealing drugs.
Your average VPN service user doesn't need one at all. It doesn't help their privacy at all. They're just being shilled the service by social media ads and sponsor segments. Most of these services are owned by data brokers and nationstates, and many make outlandish promises such as virus protection, which is a huge red flag. They're not just trying to catch people doing something naughty, they're harvesting you for data and making money from that data. They sell it as a solution to hide from ISPs and data brokers only to be the data brokers themselves. They sell it as a way to protect your logins, protect your online accounts, when really you should never login to an account when using one of these services unless you're just skirting Netflix's region blocks.

You linked an SEO content farm. That's about as poor a source as it gets.

Genetic fallacy much? You can't just dismiss an article because of where it's from. If it dissatisfies you, you always have the option to search for articles elsewhere that could confirm or deny its validity. Remember, you're the one saying to trust what you can't verify. You're the one who has a bar to reach. The argument against using these VPN services is simple: You don't need it, and if you do need it, you need a real VPN, not a tunnel to redirect clearnet traffic to a third party. There are reasons not to trust them, based on jurisdiction, affiliation, and simple probable cause.

@Finoderi
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Finoderi commented Jun 2, 2024

I would call it speculations. Conspiracy theory is something different. But yeah, I agree they should've provided that statistics.

Because it's easy money. You just set up OpenVPN on a few servers, and essentially start reselling bandwidth with a markup.

When I tried to find a cheap VPS provider for my tiny server I've stumbled upon an actual fraudster from UK. And I've stopped receiving spam from him only recently after more than four years I deleted my account on one of his over9000 sites. There was no way to unsubscribe from it.
You can say it's not the same as selling a VPN service but rather similar.

@Finoderi
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Finoderi commented Jun 2, 2024

You linked an SEO content farm. That's about as poor a source as it gets.

You've been leaving comments for quite a while under the article you've never read. Same goes for articles I posted links to.

@nukeop
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nukeop commented Jun 2, 2024

Genetic fallacy much? You can't just dismiss an article because of where it's from

I can, and I just did. Those kinds of "sources" don't do you any favors. They don't bring anything interesting to the discussion, they're based on the weakest possible evidence, and they don't bother to support what they're saying with any facts either. This is because an SEO content farm article is meant to bump the website's position in Google, not to be read by humans.

@LokiFawkes
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I can, and I just did. Those kinds of "sources" don't do you any favors. They don't bring anything interesting to the discussion, they're based on the weakest possible evidence, and they don't bother to support what they're saying with any facts either. This is because an SEO content farm article is meant to bump the website's position in Google, not to be read by humans.

Okay so you claim that there's no evidence supporting the claim that TCL is a state-owned entity based on... The genetic fallacy of one article that mentions it.

Guess what? Every Chinese company is state-owned. It's the CCP's policy. So your argument is literally invalid here. In fact, you accepted this and pulled the "yeah but that's a good thing actually" argument, so what are you arguing against?

@nukeop
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nukeop commented Jun 2, 2024

That is a huge oversimplification and not really accurate; it is also completely not what I said, so you're once again trying to derail the conversation with false claims.

There are many state-owned enterprises in China, just as there are in any country. it's normal for some companies in sensitive sectors like energy to be state-owned. China also has a significant number of private companies, e.g. Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei, and many others. These companies operate independently but are subject to government regulations and policies, just like in any country. Some enterprises have mixed ownership, where both the state and private entities hold stakes.

@LokiFawkes
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China also has a significant number of private companies, e.g. Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei, and many others. These companies operate independently but are subject to government regulations and policies, just like in any country. Some enterprises have mixed ownership, where both the state and private entities hold stakes.

Flaunting your ignorance. CCP holds a stake in every company over there. Confirmed CCP shill.

@nukeop
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nukeop commented Jun 2, 2024

Can you back that with any sources or is it fantasy-land as always with you?

@sneer69
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sneer69 commented Jun 2, 2024

Had to unsubscribe. Spam chat bots.

@LokiFawkes
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Can you back that with any sources or is it fantasy-land as always with you?

Which do you want first? Huawei? https://2017-2021.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/5G-Myth_Fact3-508.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Huawei

How about Alibaba? https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-02-26/alibaba-discloses-state-ownership-in-more-than-12-business-units
https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/chinese-government-alibaba-tencent-stock-purchases-communist-party-tiktok-bytedance-2023-1
And that last link covers Tencent too. Which of course exists simply to be an arm of the CCP to begin with.

Not to mention even when the CCP doesn't "officially" or publicly have shares in a company, they have influence on all companies in China, which is exactly why international companies from outside of China segregate their Chinese operations from the rest of the company. If they didn't, companies like Google and Apple would have to give CCP influence on their entire operations or pull out of China. It's why some movies don't even make it to Chinese Disney but can still release worldwide or why the Chinese version would be censored. Even when the CCP doesn't own your company in China, the CCP owns your company in China.

@nukeop
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nukeop commented Jun 3, 2024

No, I want information backing up that

CCP holds a stake in every company over there

It doesn't matter anyway for the sake of any argument so you are allowed to stop humiliating yourself

@LokiFawkes
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To hold a stake means to hold a share or otherwise exert influence on a company. This would of course be beyond the simple "regulations" like we have here in the US, but instead actual government censorship. But fun fact, any company with a CCP member as an employee (that pretty much encompasses anyone in China who doesn't want to be a slave forever, even if they end up being a slave forever regardless, so most companies fall under this) has to have an in-firm committee or branch of the CCP. That is a stake.

The CCP is buying up "golden shares" of every company in China. That is a stake.

The CCP censors all companies in China to the point of making them all propaganda outlets for the CCP. That is a stake.

Therefore,
The CCP holds a stake in every company over there.

@MrDisguised
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MrDisguised commented Jun 13, 2024

https://www.theverge.com/2023/4/21/23692580/mullvad-vpn-raid-sweden-police
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPrMtIXUh1s
Don't be a paranoid and touch some grass @LokiFawkes

Mental outlaw made a full video on mullvad vpn raid and what happened.

@Finoderi
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Have you watched this video of his: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxVIa3eDdnM ?
And kids using cliche about grass spend too much time on Twitter.

@nukeop
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nukeop commented Jun 17, 2024

To hold a stake means to hold a share or otherwise exert influence on a company. This would of course be beyond the simple "regulations" like we have here in the US, but instead actual government censorship. But fun fact, any company with a CCP member as an employee (that pretty much encompasses anyone in China who doesn't want to be a slave forever, even if they end up being a slave forever regardless, so most companies fall under this) has to have an in-firm committee or branch of the CCP. That is a stake.

The CCP is buying up "golden shares" of every company in China. That is a stake.

The CCP censors all companies in China to the point of making them all propaganda outlets for the CCP. That is a stake.

Therefore, The CCP holds a stake in every company over there.

It's a big fat lie that the government owns a stake in every company in China, there's just no distracting us from the fact that you got caught repeating lies you believed yourself. No amount of handwaving is going to change that. Just like with many other factual matters in this thread.

@LokiFawkes
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You really like flaunting your willful ignorance, don't you, Nukeop
I can lead you to water but I can't make you drink, and honestly, you're probably not a real horse anyway.

@nukeop
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nukeop commented Jun 18, 2024

You were exposed and you have no facts to back that up. Just admit you were wrong and move on.

@iobe-a
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iobe-a commented Jul 5, 2024

Proton has complied to identify a target in the past, so that's probable cause not to use Proton.

AFAIK that was an IP and browser fingerprinting for Proton Mail (which can be accessed via TOR) in a case in 2021 and recovery email from Apple given to Proton Mail upon registration (unnecessarily) from last month. There was no ProtonVPN related cases, were they?

Of course, a proper opsec is the most important, but for daily (legal) use, with just privacy in mind, on a public WiFi for example, the three services I mentioned are the only ones I'd use.

I read the article, and there is a bunch of generalizations and consipracy theories in it. It has its merits, but it does not apply to all VPN services equally, at this point in time, in my opinion.

For critical endeavours total distrust is crucial, but for day to day activities some VPN providers may be valid.

You’re real smart. Sincerely.

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