Best VPN practices for maximum VPN performance

VPNs are becoming a required component of internet use. With the increase in internet censorship and monitoring, self-protection has never been more critical. Iran, for example, has accelerated its transition to a restricted internet. With the creation of a national intranet that will offer only government-approved content.

Hong Kong is another significant example from the last few years. Through the repression of opposition and the introduction of severe censorship regulations, China has tightened its hold on the country.

This is where virtual private networks (VPNs) come into play.

They may assist individuals in evading harsh restrictions enacted by their governments and gaining access to a more free internet. However, there are certain VPN best practices that you should be aware of. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your VPN.

Conduct research on privacy policies

It’s generally fair to assume that the overwhelming majority of consumers will skip reading a whole privacy statement. It’s hardly the most exciting of readings. However, examining a prospective VPN provider’s privacy policy reveals a great deal.

Typically, information such as the following is buried deep inside privacy policies:

  • Keep track of policies.
  • Utilization of trackers.
  • What information about you is stored?
  • What data is disclosed to other parties?

While you can and should go through privacy rules if you have the time, this is not always feasible. A simple method to skip through a lot of the legalese is to just search for terms such as “logs” or “trackers” on the website. This way, you may skip to the sections that are most relevant to your problem.

VPNs with no logs are critical

You should avoid VPNs that keep records. By using a VPN service that maintains records, you are just shifting the monitoring of your internet activities away from your ISP and onto your VPN provider. If police come knocking for data, they may be forced to give up, depending on their location.

“Zero logs VPN reveals millions of logs, including user passwords, despite claims of data anonymity.”

— Troy Hunt, @TroyHunt

Typically, you may discover information about logs in a privacy statement. However, some suppliers may outright mislead or just neglect to disclose it. Investigate if there is evidence of an independent audit indicating that the supplier does not maintain logs.

Verify the VPN provider’s location

Around the globe, countries and alliances have enacted legislation governing issues such as data retention. For instance, businesses located in the United States of America are obliged by law to retain traffic and user data for a minimum of one year. Regardless of whether the business needs such data or not. This has been taken a step further by different nations’ data-sharing partnerships.

The so-called “Five Eyes alliance”

One of the most well-known instances of this is “Five Eyes.” Five Eyes is an alliance comprised of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The alliance dates all the way back to post-World War II but has evolved into an extension of the “War on Terror” in recent years.

The five nations that comprise this alliance cooperate in spying on one another’s people. This partnership exists primarily to circumvent national monitoring regulations. Numerous more such partnerships exist.

The location of the VPN provider is critical

This highlights the critical need to avoid VPN providers located in countries that are members of such an alliance or have data retention legislation. For faster reference, you should avoid VPN services located in the following countries:

  • United States of America
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Germany
  • Russia
  • Italy
  • Denmark
  • Sweden

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but one that you can simply refer to while searching for a VPN service.

Thus, a VPN based in a country such as the United States cannot be zero-logged. They are obliged by law to retain consumer data for at least one year. NordVPN is headquartered in Panama, a country that does not have data retention regulations. This enables them to run a genuine zero-log VPN.

Make an attempt to utilize a VPN service that takes cryptocurrency

For individuals who really treasure their privacy, paying for their VPN using bitcoin is a necessity. Cryptocurrencies provide a degree of anonymity not available via more conventional payment methods. And a VPN service that accepts this payment option demonstrates that they respect people who genuinely want privacy.

While the cryptocurrency you choose to pay for your VPN is entirely up to you, many users prefer to use something like Monero. A currency that was developed to ensure privacy, security, and anonymity.

Choose the VPN protocol that is most suitable for you

PPTP, L2TP, IKEv2, SSTP, OpenVPN, WireGuard, SoftEther… The list could go on indefinitely. There are many VPN protocols available, but which one is best for you?

When it comes to VPN protocols, there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” solution. However, there are several that you should avoid today. PPTP is not secure and is known to have flaws. Although it should be avoided, PPTP is essentially obsolete at this time, having been supplanted by more secure protocols.

Another somewhat out-of-date protocol that you should avoid is L2TP. L2TP may be vulnerable if set improperly. L2TP is another defunct protocol on the verge of extinction.

Any recommendations?

With IKEv2, SSTP, OpenVPN, WireGuard, or SoftEther, you can not go wrong. To different degrees, they are all very strong, secure, and have quick protocols. If your VPN provider provides an app, this is often an excellent method to evaluate how each protocol performs in your specific configuration. As they often enable you to switch between protocols fast and effortlessly. Speedtest.net is an excellent resource for determining how your connection to the VPN server affects your speed and latency, as well as verifying that your IP address has changed.

Examine your network for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks

It’s all very well clicking connect and trusting that you’re really safe and private. However, is there a way to check if your VPN is functioning properly?

NordVPN is a convenient tool for checking for IP leaks, DNS leaks, and even WebRTC leaks (though WebRTC is linked to your browser settings, not your VPN). If the program detects an IP or DNS leak, your VPN is not functioning properly and is thus unsafe to use.

Configuration through an application vs manual configuration

The likelihood is that when you select a VPN service nowadays, they will offer you their own app. However, they will also provide manual setup information and files for people who want to configure it manually through their operating system or another application. Is one superior to the other?

Not intrinsically. For those seeking a straightforward method of connecting to a VPN server, the provider app will suffice. Additionally, many have convenient functions. For example, a kill switch that will disconnect your internet connection if your VPN connection fails.

Alternatively, they enable you to divide the tunnel into your VPN connection, allowing just certain applications to utilize the VPN connection and vice versa.

However, this is not for everyone; some individuals prefer to configure their VPN connection manually, either via their operating system or by using a third-party application such as OpenVPN GUI or SoftEther. This means you will miss out on the app’s useful features.

However, many people choose to have fewer applications installed on their devices or are unable to install programs (possibly on things like work or school-provided devices).

In the end, it’s a matter of personal taste. There is no correct response. Try both and see which one works best for you.

Let’s recap

  • Examine privacy policies for references to logging, tracking, and data sharing.
  • A zero-logging VPN is required; anything else compromises your privacy and security.
  • The location of a VPN service will determine how safe and private it is. Ascertain that the provider is headquartered in a nation that does not have data retention regulations.
  • Wherever possible, use cryptocurrency.
  • Experiment with the many VPN protocols available to see which one works best for your setup. However, avoid using protocols such as PPTP and L2TP.
  • Check for IP and DNS leaks since this will indicate if your VPN is functioning properly.
  • Neither the app nor the manual configuration is necessarily superior. Simply utilize whichever method works best for you.

Conclusion

While using a VPN is simpler than ever, there are a few things to consider before entrusting a VPN service with your data and parting with your hard-earned money.

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