ProtonVPN Review

Pros


  • The company is based in Switzerland, which has what we can say VPN friendly laws and regulations. Switzerland is not among the 14-Eyes countries, and it is outside the jurisdiction of EU.
  • This is an extra layer of security that this VPN service provides. It protects the user’s IP address from being traced even if the some of the servers located in the high-risk jurisdiction countries get compromised. All the traffic in the secure core tunnel passes through specific secure core servers, which are strategically placed in countries with stern privacy laws and less government interference.
  • The provider claims to implement only those encryption cipher suites which have Perfect Forward Secrecy. It protects the data in the future sessions even if the data in a particular session gets compromised. The encryption key is changed every session, and the same key is never used again.
  • ProtonVPN can be easily used along with the Tor network. They have dedicated servers for accessing the Tor anonymity network.
  • The provide claims to have the secure core servers under high physical security and monitoring. The measures include having datacenters and servers built in former army fallout shelters and military bases. They claim to ship their equipment to these places in order to make sure of the security at the hardware level too.
  • ProtonVPN can be traced back to ProtonMail; supposedly the world’s largest encrypted emailing service. The parent organization has a history of working for individual’s privacy online.
  • The VPN provider claims that it prevents DNS leaks by not using any third party servers to route the DNS queries.

Cons

  • There is no live chat facility for the users and the customer support system in place of live chat takes an awful lot of time to respond. In such a scenario, even a minor issue or query can take a lot of time to get sorted. It is a big blow to the whole user experience, especially annoying for the users who are new to the world of VPN.

Official Website: Visit Website

Overview

ProtonVPN is a product from ProtonTechnologies which is a company based in Geneva, Switzerland. They have also talked about their relations with Proton Technologies AG and FONGIT, that is they get financial support from these firms.

Quick Overview
WebsiteVisit Website
ProtocolsOpenVPN
PlatformsWindows, Mac, Android, iOS, Router
JurisdictionSwitzerland
LoggingNo Logs
EncryptionAES-256
ConnectionsUp To 10 Devices
Locations30+ Countries
Servers400+
Netflix/P2PP2P Support
Payment OptionsPayPal, Credit Card
Support OptionsEmail Support, Support Ticket
Pricing From$ 4/mo Billed for 12 Months
Guarantee30 Day
Free TrialYes Limited to 1 Device

ProtonVPN was a result of a need for
a better project after ProtonMail, and it
started as a crowd-funded project.
However, ProtonVPN and ProtnMail are separate entities, but a lot of the knowledge base
is shared between the two.

ProtonVPN Map/UI After logging in

Because
the company is based in Switzerland, it
can stick to the no-log and privacy policies with more conviction. They have
emphasized a lot on the fact that they are based
in a region which lets them protect the user’s privacy, and they are not bound by the law to breach the trust of their
customers in any way.

It
looks a very impressive product at first glance and promises a lot to the user
as he/she goes through the website. They seem to have all the security measures possible for a VPN
service to imply.

Features
such as secure core servers definitely
catch the reader’s eyes, and they boast
of a team full of experts from various
fields, and after looking at each’s description and background, it is tough
to doubt their claims about the product.

But
we are not that easy to please, and mere words written on a screen cannot
persuade us into thinking highly of a product. In this review, we will make all their claims undergo a litmus test and
then see if we end up being positively or
negatively drawn towards ‘Proton’VPN.

Servers

Server Options

First
things first, let us discuss the secure core servers.

Some
countries have strict government regulations against privacy and heavy surveillance systems in place to monitor
the data passing through the servers located in the country. It can be very challenging
to protect the traffic through these servers as not much can be done if the government agencies decide to
breach these servers.

This is when secure core servers come into the picture. These
servers are strategically located in
countries which have strict privacy laws and don’t have any massive surveillance systems in place. On top
of that, they take care of the physical security of the servers as well.

We
have not heard many providers VPN claim that they have their data centers 1000 meters below the surface and
that they use former military bases for their sever locations. We think it is
safe to say that ProtonVPN has gone
‘war-mode’ when it comes to the security of their secure core servers.

When
a user turns on the secure core mode, he/she will always be directed through one these secure core
servers along with other servers. In case there
is a data breach in one of the servers, and the trespassers are able to track
the IP of the server to which it was connected, the connection will always get
traced down to one of these secure core servers, which means the IP cannot be determined
after this and it saves the user’s original IP getting into the hands of the
trespassers.

However,
the use of secure core servers reduces the internet speed by quite some margin, but when security is the
top-most priority, the user can sacrifice a bit of the internet speed for sure.

At the time of this review, ProtonVPN has 400+ servers located across 30 countries with an ability to churn out 490+ Gbps. Some of these are 10 Gbps servers. The number of servers is satisfactory, but the functionality that the client provides with these servers is impressive.

They
have dedicated servers for P2P file sharing and separate ones to connect with
the Tor network. It is very easy to find
these servers on the client as they have
their own little icons.

Perfect
Forward Secrecy

The
VPN providers mention that security was the topmost
priority during the making of this product. They gathered all the experience
which they got while working on ProtonMail and tried making a VPN product which
will suffice all the security needs of a user.

They
claim to have only those encryption cipher suites which include Perfect Forward Secrecy. Under these
cipher suites, the encryption keys change for every session.

So,
if the traffic during a particular session gets
compromised and the data gets captured and decrypted for that session. Perfect Forward Secrecy will prevent the
data from further sessions getting
compromised.

As
the subsequent sessions will have different encryption keys, the data remains
safe, and the previous key cannot be used
to decrypt the data. The encryption keys change
every session, and no key is used again
in any of the future sessions.

DNS
Leak Protection

ProtonVPN
does not use third-party servers from DNS
queries and uses its own DNS servers to
route the DNS queries of the user. They encrypt all the DNS queries, and the traffic moves only through ProtonVPN’s
secure tunnel.

We
also believe that it is vital to have secure
DNS servers to prevent DNS leaks from
happening. Involvement of a third party can sometimes make things complicated, and it is not easy to trust these not so well
known third parties.

ProtonVPN
comes with Internet kill switch which
further strengthens the security of user’s DNS queries. We have talked about
Internet kill switch in the later sections, and
you can have a look if you want to know more about it.

Physical
Security

Now, this is one topic which is
not usually discussed when talking about VPN services. Everyone wants to
know more about protocols and encryptions, but what about the physical security
of the servers. What if someone is able to
access the servers physically?

ProtonVPN
takes care of this crucial issue. They
employ heavy security measures for their Secure core servers. They have mentioned
that their Switzerland facility is located
in a Swiss army’s former fallout structure which is located 1000 meters below
the surface.

In
Iceland, they have their infrastructure based in a former military base which
they claim is very secure. They have servers located in an underground datacenter in Sweden.

They
claim to go the extra step as they ship their own
equipment to these locations and make sure that all the hardware is secure.

All
these measures sound very impressive, and
it appears that ProtonVPN has got its money where its mouth is when it says
that primary emphasis was given on the
security while making the product.

Tor
with VPN

Tor
is already used by a lot of people across the world to access the dark web and
the onion sites. It gives user anonymity by directing the traffic through
various peers using the service. Tor has its own
limitations though.

Tor
is pretty much safe while browsing the internet, but if the user is using some
apps while he/she is on the Tor network, some of the information may get leaked
and compromise the privacy of the user.

ProtonVPN
has dedicated servers for Tor usage. The user
can just connect with these servers and
connect with the Tor network with just a click. It covers the user’s data under
an additional blanket of security and privacy. These Tor servers reroute all
the connections through the Tor network.

P2P File Sharing

The
VPN provider has got specific servers for P2P mode, or we can say that not all
the servers in the VPN support P2P file transfers.

They
say it is the case because some of the data centers they have partnered with
don’t allow P2P traffic. If a user tires P2P file sharing using one of these
servers, the connection gets disabled, and the user gets a pop up which
explains the issue.

However,
they have got a system in place to bypass this issue — Stateful Firewall, which is an automatic mechanism, checks for
torrent fingerprints in the traffic and then redirects it to a server which
allows P2P file sharing if the packet was meant
for P2P data transfer.

Bandwidth and Speed

The
client does not impose any caps on the bandwidth or the internet speeds. They
mentioned that subscriber with different plans may experience different speeds.

The
free servers are the slowest as they experience heavy traffic. Users with the
‘basic’ subscription experience higher speeds because the servers under this
plan are only for the subscribed user.
So, less traffic and more speeds.

Finally,
the ‘plus’ subscription users not only get exclusive
servers, but many of the servers in the plus network are 10 Gbps servers, which
can be expected to give very high speeds. According to the VPN provider, speeds as high as 300 Mbps have been reported through these servers.

Privacy Policy

ProtonVPN
has a no logs policy. The company is based in Switzerland and enjoys the strict
policy laws applicable there. The company is not obliged to store any personal
data under the law.

They
have themselves mentioned this fact a lot of times on the official website
which highlights the importance of strong privacy laws for a VPN service to
work efficiently.

There
is some data storage when it comes to keeping a log
of the payments and user information such as mail id. They have talked about
all the data that is stored and clarified why is that stored.

Apart
from keeping payment logs and storing email ids, they can also share the emails
within the Proton group with companies such as ProtonLabs. They don’t share or
sell user’s information to third-parties. They can use data analytics software to
collect data to improve their services, and
all this is non-personal data.

They
also monitor timestamps, which is information about the last successful login
attempt by the user. It gets overwritten with every login, and no personal information is attached along with this data. They store
timestamps to prevent brute force password hacks. It helps them keep track of
the guessing attempts and keep user’s account safe.

They
can only be bound by the Swiss court to disclose this limited data they possess.

We went through the privacy policy of ProtonVPN and are satisfied with the claims they have made. They have not tried to sneak in any clause which can compromise user’s privacy and security.

Connection Time Analysis

When
it comes to connection time analysis, the client is not the fastest one out
there. However, we have seen many VPN
products which were a lot slower than this. So, when it comes to connection
time, ProtonVPN is a mediocre VPN service.

We
checked connection times for all the dedicated servers also, and there was not any considerable connection
time difference for the servers. As expected, secure core servers took the most
time to connect to the network, but the margins are not a thing to worry.

Speed
Tests

Speed Test Analysis for ProtonVPN

The
client performs very well when it comes to internet speeds through the smart
connect servers. We observed retention of 90% of the original speed. The numbers seen in the speed tests are very
impressive.

For
the secure core servers, the speed was expected to take a dip, and so it did. There was a loss of 60% of the
original speed. However, it is not a significant concern as the secure core servers
are focused on security and not high
speeds.

If
the user is not going to use the secure core servers all the time, then he/she
should have no concerns regarding the speeds through the network.

The
ping rate was also under control during the tests. The secure core servers did
show a considerable increase in the ping
rate, but that is the cost of an extra layer of security which should not
bother a lot of people.

Security

Why ProtonVPN is Secure?

This
product is packed with features which
make it secure, and it is no exception in
the case of protocols and encryption as well.

ProtonVPN
uses 256-bit encryption which is a more than enough secure way to encrypt
user’s data. However, they use only OpenVPN protocol for the product. In their
defense, it is one of the safer options.
But in this day and age when some of the VPN providers are providing as many as
ten protocols, ProtonVPN needs to step up its protocol game.

It
is never a bad thing to have more options in the world of VPN, and we would love to see some more protocols in
the ‘Settings’ tab of ProtonVPN.

We
have already mentioned that the client implies Perfect Forward Secrecy and how it works. DNS leak protection is
also one of the features that all the VPN clients have these days, and the same
is the case with this product.

It
has also got Internet kill switch, which stops the traffic in case the VPN connection drops. This keeps user’s data safe by prohibiting any traffic outside the secure tunnel of the VPN.
Both the features, i.e. DNS leak
protection and Internet kill switch are accessible from the ‘Settings’ tab and
can be activated/deactivated with just a click.

All
the above features along with physical security features that we talked about
earlier in the review make this product the contender for the most secure VPNs
in the market.

User
Interface and Experience

User Interface with Graph

The
client has a gorgeous and interactive
interface. It is among the most beautiful ones that we have come across, and so
was the official website of the product.

The
home screen displays the list of servers, IP address, server locations on the map, session duration, volume downloaded and
uploaded, upload and download speeds and the bandwidth available. The interface
looks very clean even after having all this information on screen all the time.

Some
of the servers which are dedicated for
P2P file sharing and Tor browsing are identifiable with the small icons present
in front of them. The Tor browsers have small onion icons, and the P2P servers have two opposite directed horizontal arrows to identify
them.

The list of servers can be viewed under two tabs, one is the ‘Countries,’ and the other is ‘Profiles.’ Under the countries tab, all the countries are listed with an option to directly connect to any of the country servers or select a particular server from the drop-down menu.

The
other tab is ‘Profiles’ in which the user can save custom server locations
according to his/her needs and access it with one click the next time he/she uses
the client. For instance, one can save
specific servers for torrenting and streaming and use them according to the need without the hassle to go through the
server list each time for the same purpose.

The
secure core mode button is on top of the server list, and the user can turn it on any time he/she feels the need of that
extra robust, secure internet experience.

The
quick connect button is present in the top left section, and above it,
IP address of the user or the server to which he/she is connected is displayed.
The options icon is present on the top left corner of the client. It drops down
to showcase a variety of options such as Account, Settings, Help, Logout, etc.
which are pretty much self-explanatory.

The
settings tab shows a few toggle switches for Auto Connect, Quick connect, DNS leak protection, kill
switch, etc. The user can customize the product for himself using all these options.

The
only thing that we felt missing was any sort of
tray for the people who use the VPN for streaming. However, there is a way to have one’s own customized servers’ settings for streaming, but a dedicated
tray to help the binge-watchers would
have made things even better.

The
overall user experience is very fluid with all the relevant information on the
client. The interface is easy to understand and easily customizable.

Platforms
and Devices

Different Platforms Allowed

The
client works on all the major platforms such as Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS,
routers, etc. The user can login on the
official website and then select the platform for which she needs the product
and download the necessary files or apps.

The
setup guides are available on the official website, and the user can take help of
that. The versatility aspect again seems missing, and we feel that there should be more options to satisfy all the
needs of a customer.

Customer
Support

Usually, the best one is saved
for last, but sadly in our case, it is the worst one for the last. After going through impressive features
and security measures employed by the provider, customer support turned out to
be a big disappointment.

There
is no live chat option available for the product and the query ticket system in
place is very slow and at time useless. We made a query and received a canned
reply after the annoying waiting time of almost 24 hours.

The
support page on the official website is also not very helpful. They could have
added a lot more questions and added an FAQ
section to help some of the novices using their product. Sometimes these minor
inconveniences can make a potential customer change his mind.

The
product itself is competent and top
notch, but what is the use of it if the company can’t back it up with a
suitable customer response system. We would like to see ProtonVPN strengthen
its customer response system.

Final
Words

The
product is very impressive with all the
necessary and then some extra features expected from a VPN service. They have
not left any stone unturned when it comes to safeguarding user’s privacy.

The
speed is among the fastest that we have recorded. The user interface has all
the right components and features. No logging policy, secure core servers,
jurisdiction in Switzerland, Tor-friendly
and many more features are the jewels of this product.

However,
we are not even close to being satisfied
with the customer support, and massive improvements can be made in that department. The number of
protocols can also be improved, even
though OpenVPN is a very safe protocol, the users would love to see more.

This is among the most refined products that we reviewed and genuinely want to see it do well in the future. If the issues that we discussed above are addressed, then it is definitely a product worth investment.

Kim Martin
Kim Martin Administrator
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