NordVPN review: breach aftermath and safety questions
NordVPN is owned by Tefincom S.A., a company registered in Panama. It is, therefore, NOT subject to 14-eyes. Read NordVPN review to see the in-depth analysis.
Price Currency: $
Operating System: Windows
Application Category: Utility
Breach aftermath and safety questions
It is still one of the best budget VPNs on the market. Usually, I am not eager to praise a service… I am not going to do it this time either. However…
If you’re looking at this NordVPN review intro, it’s going to say that NordVPN is “probably one of the best budget VPNs on the market”.
So, how did we reached this conclusion?
Well, we looked at the main things that most users would want to know about any virtual service network provider. We looked at its origins, jurisdictional coverage, its safety features, what devices are compatible, the server functionalities, and of course everyone’s favorite features – streaming quality.
The results of our studies are also summarized in our ranking table, which is updated yearly.
Now, let’s get into the details starting with who owns NordVPN.
|Parent company:||NordSec Ltd <- Tefincom SA <- Closely tied with Tesonet (Lithuania)|
|Locations:||60+ countries/5000+ servers|
|Overall test result:||SAFE|
|Torrenting:||PASSED (P2P torrent allowed)|
|Netflix:||PASSED (Unblocks Netflix 3/3)|
|Encryption/protocols:||AES-256/IKEv2/IPsec/OpenVPN UDP & TCP|
|Support:||E-mail response ~30h/Live Chat (24/7)|
NordVPN is owned by Tefincom S.A., a company registered in Panama. It is, therefore, subject to the laws of that country. But, what this also means for users is that it’s not under the pesky and watchful eyes of a 14-eyes country.
All of us are concerned about how much information ISPs attempt to get on us. And with the intrusive nature of these agreements, it’s good to know that NordVPN is not in one of those countries with signal sharing treaties.
Tefincom has also confirmed that they have not received any gag orders, warrants from organizations, or National Security letters.
But even with these assurances, the other good thing about NordVPN is their no logging policy. So, even if they were to be raided or served warrants, they should not have any information stored to share.
We will get into their no logging policy further on in the post. In the meantime, we’ll give you a synopsis of our assessment of the safety features of this virtual private network service.
In looking at NordVPN’s safety features, we first started with the site itself and how well-protected it is from viruses. In our test run on VirusTotal, no viruses were detected for any of the 66 tests.
So, on to the safety features that NordVPN provides for us, the users.
- Encryption protocols
Any VPN worth your time must provide encryption for your online traffic. For NordVPN, they take pride in their “military-grade encryption protocols”. For them, this means OpenVPN, and Ikev2/IPsec support.
OpenVPN is one of the most popular options for VPN security and privacy, especially since it supports all operating systems. With Ikev2/IPsec, we get AES-256-GCM encryption, which is at the higher end of the spectrum for internet security and encryption.
- Data Logging
NordVPN in its Policy statement indicates that it does not log any form of data from a user in a session. And it has backed up this claim through an independent logging audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG, Zurich Switzerland done in November 2018.
(As a NordVPN subscriber, you can access this report.)
That would be a relief in case any of their servers are ever raided, then it means our data would not have been stored for easy access.
- Kill Switches/Data Leaks
One of the things we often fear when using a VPN is that if we lose internet connectivity and then it’s restored, our IP address would be leaked. But NordVPN prevents this with two types of kill switches – one for the internet and another for apps. Should the VPN connection drop, the kill switch ensures that there aren’t any data leaks, DNS leaks, or IP leaks onto the internet.
The general Internet Kill Switch will not allow you to access the internet if NordVPN is off. This option is easily adjusted through an on/off option in Settings.
The App Kill Switch will kill specific applications if your VPN connection unexpectedly drops. You choose which applications you want to set for the app kill switch. Once set, the kill-switch is automatic, so you won’t have to worry about your traffic leaking out by accident.
I noticed that if my computer went to sleep, once I rebooted, I couldn’t access the internet until the VPN was activated. So, I knew I didn’t need to worry about my IP leaking due to a break in the service. Or, if I tried to load a new website while switching between servers, my access to the internet temporarily ceased until a new server connection was established.
- HTTPS Protections (NordVPN’s CyberSec Feature)
Contrary to popular belief, not all HTTPS encrypted sites are safe. There are, in fact, sites with SSL certificates that will infect users’ devices with malware, ransomware, viruses, and other threats. NordVPN’s CyberSec filter blocks users from unknowingly accessing these sites.
NordVPN’s proprietary CyberSec will also auto protect users from ads and unsafe connections. It’s one of the first options you’re presented with when signing into your account. You can also adjust whether to keep this on or off in settings.
- Anti-DDoS Protection
A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a concerted effort to flood your computer or website with more traffic than your system can manage, causing it to crash. This is often the case when you hear that a website was brought down by hackers. Hackers often use this tactic to divert attention while they do something else, such as steal data or install malicious software.
A VPN with anti-DDoS protection can prevent a similar incident from happening to you.
To ensure that all your traffic stays encrypted, you can use one of their DDoS Protected dedicated IPs. This means that all your website traffic goes through and is filtered by these special servers to hide your IP from attackers.
Plus, if you’re a heavy online gamer, then you really need a VPN to protect you from DDoS attacks when things get heated and your opponent tries to play dirty.
Full version with comments:
- This Agreement had no issues with grammar or spelling. A few stylistic notes were all I had regarding the structure of the agreement.
- The “Miscellaneous” section was the only substantive comment I had. NordVPN has their notice of updates to the Terms under the “Miscellaneous” section, where it traditionally would have its own section.
Setting Up Your Account
So, now that we’ve got a handle on the protective features in NordVPN, it’s time to see if it’s easy to set up.
- Compatible Devices & Supported Platforms
NordVPN is accessible on all major operating platforms and devices – Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Linux – especially since it uses OpenVPN. Their dedicated apps for all these devices and platforms ensure that you won’t need any special configuration instructions to set-up your NordVPN account.
Plus, you can also easily download it to your mobile device from the Google Play store or the Apple Store. And you can use up to 6 devices simultaneously with NordVPN.
- Setting up your account
Setting up your NordVPN account is quite simple. All you need to do is go to the website and click download. Once downloaded, you run the auto set-up and installation of the app following the very straightforward instructions.
Now, once the app is installed, you’ll get two options – to sign up as a new user or sign in. As a new user, once you click that section, it will ask you to choose your pricing package and payment options.
If you’ve already signed up for a paid package, then simply sign in with your NordVPN credentials.
Once signed in, you’ll be greeted by this very simple and intuitive home screen.
It gives you a visual representation of the server locations across the world as well as a menu screen to the left to choose specific types of servers and locations. The Settings option is to the top of the screen which gives you more choices for servers and types of connection applications like kill switches.
- Connecting to a server
Once I logged in, I tried accessing a Server in Australia since I needed to research something in that country. I used my mouse to drag the large map across to Australia. (Of course, I could have just used the easily accessible list of countries to the left of the screen, but I felt like testing my geography knowledge).
Now, usually, when I connect using my other VPN service (which comes as an add-on for a general antivirus program), I have to close out my Chrome browser and then reopen it for the VPN location to pick up. Or, I’d have to open Firefox (sometimes in Private mode) for the browser to connect to the VPN in the country selected.
I did not have to do this with NordVPN.
It immediately connected to the server in Australia, AND I got a notification from my email service provider about unusual sign-in activity…from Australia… showing an Australian IP address.
I guess this just goes to show why using a specialized VPN service works best.
- Server options
Now, one of the areas in which NordVPN distinguishes itself from other players in the VPN market is through the number and variety of servers it offers. There are more than 5000 servers in over 60 countries worldwide.
For general use when you just want to protect your identity and systems online, there are standard servers and servers with double VPN.
Then, it gets more technical.
They also offer:
- Onion over VPN
- Dedicated IP servers
- P2P servers
- Obfuscated servers
Double VPN, Dedicated IP, and the obfuscated servers are only available through their OpenVPN apps. So, if you live in a country with restricted access and you want to bypass network firewalls, then you definitely want to use an obfuscated server. (They do tell you, however, that the obfuscated server option may result in a slower connection).
When choosing a server, you can select your preferred server option from the menu to the left of the app.
Now, for each location – unless they only have one server – you can either choose to go with the fastest region and the fastest service (which is what it defaults to). Or, if you want to be a bit more technical with your connections, you can select the region you want and a specific server within that region. That’s gives you more control over where you connect and how.
You may also set up an auto-connect option for a preferred gateway and/or region when the app starts.
Features and Benefits
- Streaming Services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Kodi, etc.)
So, not to go on about my other VPN service (a paid one at that), but I couldn’t access my Amazon prime services when I wasn’t in the States. But, with NordVPN connected, I had no issue connecting, streaming, and watching movies and tv shows on Amazon Prime.
And, it was the same for Netflix.
While VPNs aren’t illegal or banned outright by them, Netflix and other streaming services actively work to limit, if not block, these services from allowing users across their geo-restrictive firewalls. And in fact, some VPN services will not even mention access to geo-blocked content such as Netflix because their services cannot access them.
But, Netflix worked with NordVPN. We tried 3 servers, one in the UK and the United States to stream The End of the F***ing World. We also tried Netflix Japan to watch Terrace House: Opening New Doors and they all streamed without any problems.
In addition to Netflix and Amazon Prime, NordVPN supports other streaming services like Hulu and even the BBC. It was also extremely useful for Kodi media player (including if you need to connect to devices like Raspberry Pi). And we didn’t find any significant lag that could have ruined our viewing experience when streaming videos online.
- P2P Sharing/Torrenting
While NordVPN won’t highlight it on their main pages, they do offer excellent peer-to-peer support through numerous servers across the world. So, when you need to access peer-to-peer traffic, make sure you’re connected to a P2P server. This is quickly done by adjusting your server preferences on the left in the NordVPN display. If you try to access P2P content on a standard server, the system will also automatically re-route you to a P2P server.
So, to test out its torrenting capabilities, we tried downloading Chaplin’s Gold Rush, and, again, we can say – it worked.
Their torrenting speeds are in line with industry averages – sometimes better – through their dedicated P2P servers. And the no data log policy, DNS and traffic leak protection, and options to pay by cryptocurrencies make this VPN a preferred solution for P2P use.
- Server speed tests
We didn’t find accessing sites much slower than normal, so we put it to the test using servers located in the UK, the USA, and Hong Kong. Here are the results of some of our tests through Speedtest by Ookla.
The results – connection speed fluctuates, and as you can see from our VPN Testing ranking table, their speeds are below average compared to other service providers. But, the server speeds aren’t slow enough to substantially impact your online surfing and streaming activities.
Plus, you have the option of selecting the fastest server available in your preferred location.
So, with all the services and options offered by NordVPN, is NordVPN expensive?
…quite the contrary.
NordVPN offers four very simple and easy to use monthly payment plans with discounted annual packages. So, whereas a single month will cost you $11.95, a 1-year plan is $6.99 per month giving you 41% savings. A 3-year plan (36 months) is priced at $2.99 per month. So, the longer you commit to using NordVPN, the cheaper the cost of the package.
So how much is it on monthly basis?
Here are their current packages:
Is there a free version of NordVPN?
As one of the most popular VPN providers, NordVPN does not offer a free trial of their VPN in the traditional sense. The issue with most free trials is that they limit the bandwidth, server location, or you’re given some with other restrictions so you can’t even test out the service properly.
But what you can do with NordVPN is to sign up for the service and you will have 30 days within which to test it. If you’re not at all satisfied within those 30 days – though we are sure you will be – you are free to cancel. And this way, you can test all the features of the VPN at its full capacity.
- Payment methods
NordVPN accepts a variety of payment methods such as credit cards via Stripe, Paymentwall, and cryptocurrencies, Amazon Pay, Alipay, among others.
Another area in which NordVPN excels is in its customer service support. They offer live chat support and you can also email them. Though they are occasionally amongst some of the slowest service providers to respond, when they do, it’s with accurate information.
They have an extensive Help Center on their website to cover a variety of frequently asked questions about NordVPN. The FAQs section helps to address standard concerns such as system set up, connections issues, and technical information.
- Are users happy with the VPN?
Since our happiness with the app doesn’t mean everyone’s happy, we took a quick look at the reviews. At May 2019, the NordVPN app had a 4.4 user rating in the Google Play store from over 100,000 reviews. It also has a 4.6 rating in the Apple Store from over 35,000 reviews.
So, like us who find there are a few areas in which NordVPN could improve, overall, we are pleased with the service and features they offer.
Final Thoughts On The Review
Does NordVPN offer value for money?
That was the focus of this VPN review – to determine how well NordVPN helps us to face every day online threats and some not so common ones. We wanted to see if their services matched up to their marketing and whether we can feel a measure of safety browsing online with NordVPN as our backup.
VPNs like NordVPN are in high demand. Tracking, online monitoring, hacking, identity theft, inability to access resources from certain jurisdictions – you name it, we face in every day at an ever-increasing rate. So, it’s good when we can have reliable methods to keep our privacy when online.
Our results have squarely placed NordVPN as one of the best low-cost VPN services available.
Based on our review, NordVPN is great for privacy, hiding your IP, online gaming, and torrenting. Plus, it also provides unblocking for Netflix and other streaming services. While not the fastest VPN in terms of speed, it is amongst the best, which makes the service suitable for streaming movies.
So, while we can’t tell you which VPN to choose, we can tell you that this one offers quite a bit for the price.
The company does have a good grasp of the privacy and security issues online users face and provide a variety of solutions to tackle them. Plus, you can easily give the paid version of NordVPN a try. With a 30-day money-back guarantee, if you’re not satisfied, you can cancel and get your money back.
So, take it for a spin, and you’ll see exactly what we’ve talked about and why we’ve ranked NordVPN as one of the best.
VPN test and share with us your own experience with NordVPN.