Services & SoftwareTechnology

IPVanish Review: This VPN’s Security Issues and a Flawed Quick Connect Feature Hold It Back


a lock, shield and word VPN on a blue phone screen, on a yellow background

IPVanish is a good option for beginners and secure enough for casual VPN users.


IPVanish

IPVanish is a popular virtual private network that’s fast and secure enough for casual VPN use. I was impressed with the user interface and how easy the VPN is to configure. I also like that IPVanish offers phone support and lets you connect an unlimited number of devices at once with a single account. 

IPVanish

Like

  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Simple, user-friendly interface
  • Competitive speeds
  • 24/7 customer support with live chat and phone support

Don’t Like

  • IPVanish identified during DNS leak tests
  • US jurisdiction
  • Supports PPTP
  • Buggy features with platform limitations

IPVanish is a great option for beginners and casual VPN users, but I do not recommend it for critical VPN use because of several issues I found. If you’re a whistleblower or dissident, or if you want to use a VPN to evade censorship in a country where VPNs are banned or illegal, you should look elsewhere. 

Otherwise, IPVanish offers an impressive service, especially for newer users looking for general online privacy. If you’re interested in VPNs but aren’t sure where to begin, IPVanish is a good starting point.    

Speed

  • Average speed loss: 58%
  • Number of servers: 2,000-plus
  • Number of server locations: 75-plus locations across 52 countries
  • Number of IP addresses: 40,000-plus

I completed the latest round of IPVanish speed tests in March from my location in Ohio using the OpenVPN protocol. 

Overall, IPVanish’s average speed performance improved somewhat compared to the previous round of tests conducted by CNET’s Rae Hodge in her 2021 IPVanish review. This time around, the average speed loss was 58%, compared to the previous 65%. My overall speed without the VPN averaged 363.64 megabits per second. With the VPN, my speeds dropped to an average of 152.34 Mbps through IPVanish servers located in New York, the UK, France, Germany, Australia and Singapore. 

Average speeds through New York came out to 258.17 Mbps, while speeds through the UK averaged 119.55 Mbps. Slower speeds to VPN servers located across the ocean are to be expected, but this steep a drop in speeds while connected to the UK was disappointing; customers expect better performance from servers in high-demand locations like the UK. Speeds to the UK servers were erratic and inconsistent, fluctuating between 215.43 Mbps and 57.3 Mbps. 

My average speeds to IPVanish’s Australian servers came out to an impressive 183.72 Mbps — handily surpassing speeds to the UK, despite being about 6,000 miles farther from my location.    

Average speeds to France and Germany came in at 165.49 Mbps, which were also disappointing. The considerable loss here was due mostly to the French servers performing poorly.    

Singapore registered the slowest at 35.61 Mbps, which was a disappointment considering the speeds to Australia were so impressive.

IPVanish isn’t the fastest VPN, but it’s still fast and in the same ballpark as other big names like ExpressVPN — which saw 51.8% speed loss in most recent tests — and NordVPN at 53%. 

Bottom line: IPVanish can give you more than enough speed for regular internet browsing, HD streaming and video calls.

Read more: How to Speed Up Your VPN Connection

Quick Connect feature: Not so quick

During testing, I used IPVanish’s Quick Connect feature, which claims to connect you to the best servers in IPVanish’s network, based on current performance. But I probably would’ve gotten better speeds had I connected manually. 

IPVanish puts its Quick Connect option front and center as you launch its desktop app. Three successive drop-down menus default to the option labeled Best Available for country, city and server. You can also change each menu independently. The feature is there so you can easily and automatically connect to the most optimally performing server available to you at the time you connect. However, I found the results to be disappointing.

Speeds to the UK and France were inconsistent and the speed drop drastic, even though I was supposedly connecting to the best available servers in those countries. So I manually connected to a different server in France showing light user traffic and lower ping rates. My speeds increased fivefold: While connected to the designated Best Available server in France, I got speeds around 55 Mbps, then around 270 Mbps when I connected manually to a French server with a lighter traffic load. Similarly, the Best Available feature connected me to the 45th best UK server in terms of traffic load.

When asked how the Quick Connect feature works, IPVanish said that the Best Available option relies on algorithms to connect you to a server. 

“We use algorithms to determine the location closest to the user, we also have other algorithms to filter out servers with heavy load or even unusual large pings to make sure the best possible server is chosen,” IPVanish said in an email. “There are also randomization selection algorithms of those best possible servers to avoid saturation.”

That sounds good in theory, but it’s not what IPVanish’s customer service representative told me when I took my concerns to the live chat support while testing. The representative said the popularity of the function creates a high load on a single server: “So it is better to select the nearest server with [the lowest] ping for better performance and speed.”

Translation: The feature often does the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to be doing. 

To be fair, I achieved excellent speeds to other locations using the Best Available connection option, which suggests the algorithm may work as intended at times. But it failed on too many occasions to be considered reliable — a shame. The Quick Connect feature should enhance your experience with the product. Instead, it can mislead you into thinking you’re getting the best performance out of your VPN when you’re not.  

Security and privacy

  • Jurisdiction: United States
  • Encryption: AES-256, Perfect Forward Secrecy
  • Leaks: DNS leaks detected 
  • 2022 independent audit found no logging 
  • Obfuscation, killswitch limited on MacOS

In terms of security and privacy, IPVanish is a mixed bag: It’ll do just fine to keep you safe from hackers and people after your browsing data, but don’t count on it to keep you safe from entities that will bust you for using a VPN. 

IPVanish’s military-grade AES 256-bit encryption is consistent with the industry standard. 

During my testing, the killswitch worked as expected on Windows. But if you’re using a Mac, you’ll only be able to enable the killswitch if you’re connecting via OpenVPN. IPVanish’s obfuscation feature, called Scramble, is also limited to OpenVPN connections. 

IPVanish only offers the option to enable DNS leak protection on its Windows client. On its website, IPVanish mentions that its software provides built-in DNS leak protection by using private DNS servers to resolve web addresses. 

I did not detect any IP leaks in any of my recent tests but, like reviewers at CNET’s sister site ZDNet found, I also noticed that DNS leak-testing sites identified an IPVanish host when testing through servers in New York, Toronto and Singapore. This is concerning because even if your actual online activity may not be exposed, it can reveal your VPN usage to websites, schools or business network administrators, and any government authorities. It can also make it harder to overcome geoblocking on streaming sites. This also happened when I enabled the OpenVPN Scramble feature.

Following this review’s publication, IPVanish’s VP of Strategy and Products, Subbu Sthanu, argued consumers can’t hide VPN use because IP address ownership by a VPN is often publicly verifiable.

“Regardless of what the host name is, governments and businesses are very easily able to identify VPN usage by tracing the IP addresses. By using a simple, free lookup service provided by ipinfo.io, any consumer or organization can trace an IP address back to its owner and determine whether it is used by a VPN,” Sthanu said in an email. 

“In short, there is no way for a consumer to hide VPN usage.”

On the contrary, the VPN providers we most strongly recommend all deploy a service which is sufficiently able to disguise VPN-based user traffic as non-VPN traffic. This process, known as obfuscation, effectively hides consumer VPN usage. 

ny-ipvanish-dns.png

An IPVanish host was identified during my leak tests when connected to IPVanish servers in New York and other locations.


Screenshot by Attila Tomaschek/CNET

IPVanish says it keeps zero traffic logs or records of your online activities. To this end, IPVanish released in April an independent audit and certification by Leviathan Security Group, a Seattle-based security consulting and risk management firm. 

“Leviathan found no evidence of logging of IPVanish user traffic, content, or destination addresses that would contradict or violate their published privacy policy,” Leviathan wrote in the audit. “None of the distinctive port numbers, IP addresses, hostnames, or other test data were found to have been logged anywhere on the system.” 

That’s a 180 from what happened in 2018 — and two owners ago — when IPVanish gave authorities customer information that led to the arrest of an accused child predator and upended the VPN’s no-logs claim, which Hodge detailed in her previous IPVanish review.

However, IPVanish’s continued support for the severely outdated and unsecure PPTP VPN protocol gives me pause. The protocol is only available on Windows, and IPVanish recommends it only as a last resort for low-risk activities. But considering PPTP’s many security flaws, it’s curious to see a privacy-focused company even offer it as an option in the first place.

In his email to CNET, Sthanu said that would soon be changing. 

“We have a negligible number of customers who actually use it today, and support for PPTP on Windows is scheduled to cease within the next few weeks with our upcoming version Windows app with the new (user experience),” Sthanu said. 

Ultimately, IPVanish offers adequate security for casual VPN use… but we don’t recommend relying on the service in situations where privacy is critical. 

Support

  • 24/7 live chat
  • Phone support in seven different countries
  • Ticket-based email support
  • Extensive knowledge base with setup guides

IPVanish offers more support options than most VPN providers. In addition to the standard 24/7 live chat, IPVanish offers telephone support in seven countries. Phone support is a great option to have, even if the majority of us prefer texting over talking to another human being.

IPVanish also offers ticket-based email support and an extensive knowledge base with FAQs and troubleshooting guides.

Overall, my experience with IPVanish support was largely positive, thanks to the agents’ professional, friendly attitude. With IPVanish, you’ll reliably have another human on hand to answer your questions.

Cost

  • Monthly subscription: $11 per month
  • Annual subscription: $45 for the first year, $90 after
  • 30-day money-back guarantee on the annual plan
  • Payment methods: major credit cards and PayPal

IPVanish is neither the cheapest VPN nor the most expensive. You can get a nice introductory price for your first year of service at $45, billed in a single sum. After the first year, your subscription price will double to a much less competitive $90 per year.

If a yearly subscription isn’t what you’re after, IPVanish’s monthly plan will set you back $11, which is on par with other VPN providers’ monthly pricing.

IPVanish offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, but only on its annual plan. The guarantee is caveat-free — with no sneaky hidden conditions or limitations based on usage that can void your refund. And as of now, you can pay via any major credit card or with a PayPal account. However, IPVanish says that new payment options are coming down the pipe, including Amazon Pay, Google Pay and Apple Pay. 


Update, April 25: This article has been updated to include comment from IPVanish and include news about the rollback of the VPN’s use of the PPTP protocol.



Source from www.cnet.com

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