VPN Review Methodology

 

Platforms for Privacy:  Many VPN companies support Windows/Mac with their own official, proprietary apps.  Same goes for iOS/Android (Stock).  I don’t think these platforms are ideal when it comes to privacy given the massive amount of data collected and transmitted back “home” on them.  Therefore, all of my tests and impressions will be using the hardware testing setup referred to below (Linux, Google-less Android, etc).  “Grandma’s” setup could realistically never provide the level of privacy that you probably care about or require if you’re reading this.

 

Layers and Common Sense are the best approach:  My testing philosophy covers the “somewhat advanced user” who knows a bit about networking and can change settings and make some tweaks to their system, browser, VPN config for better security.  Certain typical concerns for VPN users (IPv6 leaks, Kill Switch effectiveness, etc) will NOT be covered as the solutions for these should be implemented on a system level between disabling IPv6, properly configuring a firewall, etc.  Don’t rely on an application level feature that attempts to resolve these issues, they simply cannot compare to lower level (system, firewall based) solutions.

 

Publicly available Info:  My VPN Comparison Chart contains a lot of information regarding many aspects of each service I will be reviewing.  To avoid being redundant and bombarding the reader with info that can be seen there, I will be mostly covering my experience and tests performed – in a nutshell, commentary on information NOT publicly available.  I’ll let the Comparison Chart stand as a review supplement as those interested in info like price, number of connections and so forth as my thoughts on these are well documented between the glossary and color coding.  The exception to this will be any red flags from the terms and conditions, privacy policies, etc of a given service as I want to dig into them to warn the reader of potential concerns.

 

Random Selection: As stated in this post, prior to a review, my readers nominate a service of their choice which I choose from randomly using a random.org premium account.  This allows me to leave a “trail” of past rolls which can be used to independently verify the selections.  You can verify the results of the roll here and the list of services nominated for the last roll here.

 

Badges:  In the course of writing reviews, I often want to express my satisfaction or displeasement with certain specific aspects of a VPN service.  I have created “badges” that appear on reviews to indicate this.  More information can be found here.

 

Current Testing Setup:  My current setup consists of a full-featured PC and a smartphone configured as seen below:

 

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Desktop (i5 4670K, 16GB RAM, 500GB SSD, GTX 980 – GPU isn’t really relevant for VPN tests, but somehow feels wrong to leave out)

Linux Mint 18.1

  • IPv6 disabled from GRUB
  • OpenVPN and .ovpn files manually configured

 

Firefox

  • Privacy Tools tweaks
  • uBlock Origin
  • Privacy Badger
  • HTTPS Everywhere

 

Mobile (Huawei/Google Nexus 6P 128GB)

Android 7.1

  • CopperheadOS Custom ROM
  • No G.APPS
  • OpenVPN and .ovpn files manually configured
  • Doze feature disabled for OpenVPN

 

Firefox

  • Privacy Tools tweaks
  • uBlock Origin
  • HTTPS Everywhere

 

Carrier (T-Mobile)

 

Router (TPLINK Archer C7 AC1750)

OpenWrt 15.05

  • Bufferbloat QoS tweaks

 

ISP (Cox Communications)

  • Premier Tier (100mbps D / 10mbps U advertised speeds)

 

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Sources:

Privacy Tools Firefox Tweaks:
https://www.privacytools.io/#webrtc
https://www.privacytools.io/#about_config

 

Speed tests:

beta.speedtest.net (html5 version of the service which should not suffer from misreading compression)

 

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