NordVPN Review

NordVPN is a Panama based VPN provider that has now grown to be one of the biggest service providers available. Since their humble beginnings, they have applied a strict “no log policy” with great security features. NordVPN supports P2P, and it offers additional security features that allow the service to distinguish from the crowd. They notably provide Tor over VPN and double VPN servers for ultimate security, but also have dedicated video streaming servers for those who need the best possible speeds. The service did not always have a very large coverage, with only a dozen countries a few years back, but the service has significantly improved and it is currently known for its flexibility and cost value. Instead of their old 2 user limit, they now allow up to 6 simultaneous users per account and cover more than 60 countries with over 5,400 servers that can provide optimal speeds to customers around the world.

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Security and Privacy

NordVPN does quite well when it comes to security as it offers solid protection for its customers. To ensure that your data is secured, NordVPN supports OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec, two protocols known for their strong encryption. OpenVPN is available in the Windows, macOs and Android apps. It is known for its top security. It can be used for TCP, as well as UDP ports so you have flexibility to browse the internet securely and enjoy your favorite online games and media content with seamless performance. Currently, 256-bit AES is the leading encryption solution in the industry and this is what NordVPN uses to secure your data. NordVPN uses AES-256-CBC with a 2048-bit DH key to secure your data when you use OpenVPN.

Then we have IKEv2/IPsec, a protocol that uses high-level cryptographic algorithms and keys. On top of the security that this protocol brings by default, NordVPN uses Next Generation Encryption to make IKEv2/IPsec even stronger. It is the ideal option to protect your Apple devices due to the high encryption and efficient performance. NordVPN allows you to enjoy the advantages of IKEv2/IPsec on your iOS and macOS devices.

The two protocols supported by NordVPN are reliable and they are good choices to keep your internet traffic protected. In addition, when you connect to NordVPN, the client selects the encryption settings that better suit your needs. The strong encryption supported is reinforced with another feature known as CyberSec. This is NordVPN’s advanced technology to protect you from malicious websites, ads that spoil your browsing experience and more. CyberSec scans websites to check if they are included in blocklists. It prevents you from accessing dangerous sites and it is designed to protect you from phishing, malware, spyware and other threats. In addition, it can help you to avoid botnet control and it blocks annoying ads.

Privacy is a key element of NordVPN. The provider is based in Panama, a country that is not part of surveillance alliances and that is far from the jurisdiction of privacy enemies such as the NSA. In addition, Panama doesn’t have mandatory data retention laws. This allows NordVPN to offer a strict no logs policy. NordVPN doesn’t keep logs of your activities or any information that could compromise your privacy. Since there are no logs kept, there is no information that they could provide, even if they get a request from third parties such as copyright enforcement agencies. NordVPN’s status as a zero logs provider has been confirmed by independent auditors. Four different auditing firms have put NordVPN’s zero-logging claims and in all cases, the provider received their approval. Here is what NordVPN has to say about its logging practices:

We do not store connection timestamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic data, IP addresses, or other data. Nothing to store – nothing to share with anyone.

IP and DNS leaks test

nordvpn ip leak

DNS or Domain Name System is in charge of “translating” domain names like vpnpick.com into IP addresses to connect to, and vice-versa. The numeric names of web servers that are difficult to remember are translated into language that is easy to understand. It also works the other way. To keep you privacy protected, a VPN routes your entire traffic (including your DNS requests) through its network. The problem is that your system may still use the default DNS servers, which results in DNS leaks that allow your ISP to see what websites you visit. NordVPN addresses this issue using DNS leak protection technology, designed to keep your online activity and privacy intact, even if the DNS servers send unencrypted queries outside a secure VPN tunnel. To confirm that NordVPN truly keeps your privacy protected, we went to DNSleaktest.com. After connecting to NordVPN, we saw that our real IP address and location were hidden. The Extended test showed that there are no DNS leaks either. NordVPN passed the tests, proving its commitment to protect the privacy of its customers.

Features

NordVPN’s strength is privacy and then some. Apart from being a no logs service, NordVPN supports Tor over VPN connections. These servers layer a Tor network connection to the VPN for even higher anonymity. NordVPN allows you to enjoy simultaneously the powerful anonymity functionality of the Onion network, and the protection that a VPN offers to keep your information secure and private. Using the Tor network in combination with a high quality VPN service like NordVPN takes protection to the next level. You won’t need to worry about any vulnerabilities that could expose your real IP address/location or your activities. This is an advanced combination to defeat censorship and it is ideal for users, particularly journalists and activists, who live in countries where the internet is heavily restricted and monitored.

NordVPN also supports double VPN servers, which route the connection twice and doubles up the AES-256 bit encryptions over your data. It may be a little overkill, but if you are looking for the ultimate level of security and don’t mind to take a hit on the connection speed, this could become your favorite feature. While the protection that it offers is complex, the way in which it works is actually quite simple. First, your traffic is routed through a secure VPN server that encrypts it. Then, the encrypted traffic reaches a second VPN server that encrypts it again. Finally, you get to your internet destination with high security and privacy. Double VPN provides an incredible standard of protection that keeps your real IP address hidden. Your IP is masked by the fist server you connect to and the second one won’t have any information about you.

For those more concerned with gaming, or streaming movies and TV shows, NordVPN also has Ultra fast servers that are optimized for streaming. In addition, NordVPN allows you to get access to at least six Netflix libraries, including the one available in the United States, which contains a great deal of entertainment options. Since Netflix is constantly trying to prevent the use of VPNs that help subscribers to get around the geo-restrictions, NordVPN uses advanced technology and it invests on its infrastructure to ensure that you can access the content that you want. If a server is blocked by Netflix, a new one is made available. NordVPN also offers a long list of P2P-safe server locations for safe anonymous torrent use. NordVPN displays the status of their servers as well, although the information is rather basic and focused on what is up and running, available protocols and current loads. Anti-DDoS and Dedicated IP servers are also available for advanced needs ranging from gaming to hosting content.

Beyond the specialized servers, NordVPN offers standard encryption servers and users can select the settings that better suit their needs. There are over 5,500 servers that cover 61 countries and counting. The server list does not display city location, but you can see the number of servers that are available in each country. In every location, you will find a variety of options including P2P, Obfuscated, Double VPN and Onion over Tor. More importantly, they have up-kept the network by increasing server count, and has helped maintain and improve service quality over time.

NordVPN provides nicely designed client software for all major platforms; Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android. The service also offers encrypted proxy extensions for Chrome and Firefox browser. There is also an app for Android TV that gives you the chance to easily set up NordVPN on your device, to enjoy the best international content securely. For other platforms such as Rapsberry Pi, Synology and routers, NordVPN offers tutorials that will allow you to set up the VPN manually.

The VPN client allows you to change standard connection settings such as UDP and TCP protocols, as well as auto-connect and quick server selection. DNS leak protection is turned on by default, but users also have the option to use some advanced functions.

The we have Smart-Play, which is a NordVPN specific service that utilizes a proxy to access streaming services such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and so on, while still keeping the VPN service encrypting the data. It first passes through the VPN tunnel, and than uses the proxy to circumvent geo-blocking and access streaming or gaming services with better speeds. On the surface, it may sound confusing, but ultimately what it does is that it only utilizes the VPN encryption to connect to the proxy, but a direct connection between the proxy is made to any service of your choice, reducing speed loss. This is a good option to turn on for video or music streaming, as well as gaming or any other response time sensitive application. If your main concern is speed, rather than security, this is a very good feature.

Finally, NordVPN also provides a Process kill list, which is simply a customizable killswitch. You can simply drag and drop any application or process into the process kill list and if NordVPN detects a connection drop, all of those applications will cease to transfer or receive any data until the connection is re-established. A great security feature for applications that carry sensitive data. As previously mentioned, NordVPN also has its CyberSec feature that blocks dangerous websites and lets users avoid annoying ads.

NordVPN offers unlimited bandwidth and data transfer and it has improved on speed quite drastically. Previous test results ranged from very fast to slow and intermittent connections that were not exactly heartening. However, the latest tests showed good speeds on the majority of servers, even those very distant. In general, the internet bandwidth suffers minimal to no speed loss when using the standard service, all within limit of course. Using Smart-Play did not provide drastic improvement, but again, there was little to improve on as far as transfer speeds go. Basically, depending on the server that you choose, it will determine the overall connection and performance that you get.

Before Connection

After Connection

Netflix and Streaming Test

NordVPN successfully unblocked american Netflix, and all other international streaming platforms of live television channels tested, which included Amazon Prime, Hulu, Telemundo, Zattoo, and BBC One to name a few. Thanks to their integrated SmartPlay DNS service mentioned in the service features, NordVPN should successfully bypass geo-blocks in more than 150 countries world wide. Not only that, because the Smart DNS proxy has a direct connection to the streaming platform before passing through your VPN, servers are often capable of reaching much faster streaming speeds than regular downloads. A very good choice for heavy streamers.

Pricing

Initially, NordVPN was considered as an expensive solution when compared to other services available. However, they are now a highly competitive service that offers great value for money. One account allows up to 6 simultaneous connections, instead of the previous limit of 2, so the price plans that are currently offered provide solid value per dollar spent. When considering the features and network coverage provided, they now have one of the better offerings on the market.

Simple 1 Month: $11.95/Month USD
1 Year: $6.99/Month – Total $83.88 USD
2-Year plan: $3.99/Month – Total $95.75 USD
Best Offer – 3 Year Deal $2.99/Month – Total $107.55 USD

User satisfaction is now guaranteed with a 30-day no hassle refund. Yet another great improvement, since they only offered refunds for 3-days when they first launched. Now you can test the service for an extended period of time completely risk-free. Bitcoin payments are also accepted for paying anonymously.

Customer Support

Customer service can be accessed through live chat or email, and NordVPN promises prompt replies to a myriad of questions and concerns that is available 24/7, they have a clean and easy to navigate website, which lets you find the pertinent information without delays. We tested the live chat and received a fast and friendly response, right to the point. If you still have any questions, you should be able to find more information through their tutorials, knowledge base, and FAQ pages.

Conclusion

Overall, NordVPN offers solid security and privacy and these days, if you want to make sure you’re data is not being intercepted, it helps to choose an overseas provider in a location where government data collection is not in practice. One of the best thinsg about NordVPN is the fact that it provides specialized servers such as Tor and Double VPN servers. While these features slow down your connection and may not appeal to everyone, there are many security and privacy freaks who want that high level of shielding for both every day web use, or torrent downloads.

On the other side of the coin, NordVPN also caters for streaming and gaming audiences with the Smart-Play proxy option, as well as Ultra-Fast servers and Anti-DDoS protection. Mostly, NordVPN should be commended for regular network updates that have allowed the service to grow into one of the best VPN services available in the market. Competitive pricing plans with a solid 30-day refund policy, mixed with a well-rounded service for every need, NordVPN easily ranks as one of the best VPN services that you can get.

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38 Comments

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