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Most VPN Services are Terrible

Most VPN Services are Terrible

Short version: I strongly do not recommend using any of these providers. You are, of course, free to use whatever you like. My TL;DR advice: Roll your own and use Algo or Streisand. For messaging & voice, use Signal. For increased anonymity, use Tor for desktop (though recognize that doing so may actually put you at greater risk), and Onion Browser for mobile.

This mini-rant came on the heels of an interesting twitter discussion:

Again I strongly do not recommend using any of these providers.

Provider / known "Secret" Key

Astril / way2stars  
EarthVPN / earthvpn
GFwVPN / gfwvpn  
GoldenFrog / thisisourkey  
IBVPN / ibVPNsharedPSK!  
IPVanish / ipvanish  
NordVPN  / nordvpn
PrivateInternetAccess (PIA) / mysafety  
PureVPN / 12345678  
SlickVPN / gogoVPN
TorGuard / torguard 
TigerVPN / tigerVPN
UnblockVPN / xunblock4me  
VPNReactor / VPNReactor  

Yes, I know. Many/most of these offer OpenVPN, or special clients for IPSec. But for all of the above, they are actively placing a significant portion of their user base (particularly those with older Androids and desktops) at risk by not using per-user PSKs. If your threat model is streaming BBC or helping your cousin geo-shift Hulu, go wild and plug into the Mad Max-esque Thunderdome commons and take your chances. If you're a dissident in Tehran or Riyadh, be extremely cautious of any of these providers.

Lastly, a VPN Hall of Shame honorary mention goes to* on general principle for blatant sexism and utter insincerity. Their privacy/legal policy section includes LGBT slurs and literally has your-mom jokes. But even ignoring that, as of this writing, there is virtually zero technical information provided, only YouTube videos apparently intended for 10 year-old boys.

Moral of the story: Don't believe everything you read on, say, TorrentFreak and PCMagazine. And (crucially) think about your threat model—are you guarding against amateur WiFi snoops at Starbucks or Marriott? Reducing identity monetization profiling by ISPs (ie ad tracking)? Minimizing exposure to government surveillance? Trying to be anonymous online? If the latter, a VPN won't help much.

Citations: Archive: Archive: Archive: Archive: Archive: Archive: Archive: Archive: Archive: Archive: Archive: (scroll down) Archive: Archive: and

* Archive: and and

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lupalby commented Oct 22, 2019

@kennwhite Can you comment on Cyberghost VPN? I've been using it for few years now and it worked well for me and so far I haven't found anybody putting them in the spotlight for something. It was the case for the very famous NordVPN too.. up to now. So now I'm curious about your opinion on Cyberghost.

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This strikes me as rather exaggerated. It's not great that some of these VPN services are providing instructions for using a known IPSec PSK in some cases but I'm going to hazard a guess that the majority of VPN customers are using the native app from their service provider, not following those instructions. In NordVPN's case at least, the Windows app is a wrapper around OpenVPN and the Linux client has Wireguard support, so the IPSec PSK isn't relevant. And even in the worst case where someone's using L2TP/IPSec with a known PSK, it's still better than nothing because IPSec provides forward secrecy if you're not being actively MITM'd. As for no-logs policies, I wouldn't necessarily trust them but "possibly logs" is still better than your ISP which "definitely logs."

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It seems that PIA does specifically note that if you're in a particularly sensitive position you shouldn't use L2TP or older protocols. They say that you should default to OpenVPN if possible, On my desktop (PIA v2.2 on the latest Win10), the only available protocol options are OpenVPN and a beta version of Wireguard.

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ghost commented Oct 27, 2020


Can you provide insight into perfect-privacy? I remember using them long, long before VPNs were thought of something for consumer use.

I also knew back then it was the preferred VPN by fraudsters. There are news articles about one there server locations being raided and them unable to find logs.


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dattapw commented Nov 25, 2020

Doublehop SCAM stole my money and blocked me.

22 Nov: I bought a yearly subscription for $33. I made a payment of 0.00176325 BTC to 18ZcmBksf9GEVxfABYUXUp39oryF7CJkHG for Order ID: 17uGMc. The order did not process.

I sent an e-mail to them. I sent them a WhatsApp message. They said they'd process my order by the weekend.

25 Nov: I pinged them back. They blocked me on WhatsApp.

Scammers took my money and ran away. DO NOT BUY FROM THESE PEOPLE.

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ghost commented Jan 5, 2021

I know this list might be old stuff already (?), but what about these ones, anything?


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upsangel commented Jan 13, 2022

I have been focusing on reviewing the VPN connection speed, it's surprising to read about the pre-shared key issues. I am wondering how to verify is it still a issue in 2022 as this gist was reported in 2016. Now most VPN provider advertise their Wireguard VPN mode. Will this implicitly resolve the disclosed pre-share key issue?

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Many countries do not allow the use of VPNs, and it has to be said that the security of VPNs is an issue that many companies should consider.

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vpnfast commented Sep 20, 2022

some VPNs sell your data connection to other customers.

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Thanks, kennwhite, for the heads-up on VPNs! It’s scary that some well-known ones aren’t safe. I’ll look into Algo, Streisand, and Signal. It’s important for us to pick the right one, especially considering using VPN in places like China. And, wow, really needs to check their behavior! We all need to pick services that are honest and respect all users.

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