Linux users searching for the best VPN, you’re on the right page. Today, we’ll cover the benefits and limitations of using a VPN with Linux, introduce the top 3 VPN providers, plus show you some advanced configurations so that you can enhance your privacy online, no matter what distribution you use.
Using a virtual private network at home and while traveling has become an unfortunate necessity. Online privacy is on everyone’s mind as ISPs collect and sell personal data and hackers snoop public networks for credit card details. In addition to encrypting and securing your data, VPNs also allow you to bypass censored and region locked content to access certain Netflix, Hulu, or BBC iPlayer videos that aren’t available in all areas.
Despite being deployed on servers, mobile devices, and computers around the world, a surprising number of VPN providers overlook Linux when developing their custom apps. Whether you’re running Ubuntu or plain Debian, Red Hat or openSUSE, the services below are reliable, affordable, and offer Linux clients to make your VPN usage as easy as possible.
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How to Evaluate VPNs
- Linux software support – Not every VPN service offers software for Linux, let alone multiple distributions. Custom apps for Ubuntu and other Debian distros are a minimum requirement to be featured below. All support OpenVPN as well.
- Logging policy – One VPN feature that’s non-negotiable is a provider’s logging policy. Even if data is encrypted, keeping server logs builds a trail that leads back to every user on the service, nullifying the privacy effectiveness of a VPN. The providers below have a strict zero-log policy, no exceptions.
- Speed – Having a slow connection to your VPN can be a deal breaker. The overhead introduced by encryption and routing traffic through servers located across the world carries the risk of lag, but many VPN providers have developed clever workarounds to ensure a fast connection without sacrificing security.
- Traffic limitations – Occasionally a VPN provider will impose bandwidth and file type restrictions on its users, cutting out things like P2P sharing or torrent traffic. All of the services below allow unrestricted downloads with absolutely no speed throttling or other limitations.
- Server distribution – VPNs are great for privacy, but they also give users the ability to swap virtual locations at the press of a button. Anyone looking to bypass censored content or stream Hulu, YouTube, or Netflix videos from other regions can use a VPN to quickly change IP addresses. The featured VPNs below all have strong networks of servers located around the world and allow unlimited switching between them.
- Company location – Legal jurisdiction plays a big part in finding a good VPN. If the company is registered in a country with strict data retention policies, the provider must adhere to those laws, nullifying the effectiveness of the VPN. We’ve made sure the services below are based in stable locations with more lenient data laws that allow for zero-logging policies.
The top 4 VPNs for Linux
With the above factors in mind, we set out to narrow down a crowded field to find the best provider. Our research turned up the following four as the best VPNs for Linux:
Accessibility is ExpressVPN‘s main selling point, but the service also offers fast speeds, strong privacy features, and easy to use software. The network is SSL secured with 256-bit encryption optimized for unlimited bandwidth and speed, opening the doors for seamless video streams and fast downloads for any file type, including P2P and torrents. All of this is available through 3,000+ servers in 145 VPN locations spread across 94 countries.
The wide server availability also gives ExpressVPN powerful access to videos and content from a number of regions around the world. Censorship is no longer an issue, nor is accessing streams from YouTube, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and more. Although the feature isn’t available in Linux builds, ExpressVPN offers an in-software speed test that lets you diagnose bandwidth problems from inside the app.
ExpressVPN plans are available for monthly or yearly rates and come with a 30 day money back guarantee. There’s also an easy referral program that offers a month of free service to both parties. Linux support is some of the best in the VPN business, as ExpressVPN offers downloads for Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and CentOS distros along with detailed instructions to use OpenVPN with other Linux varieties.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Unblocking Netflix USA, iPlayer, Amazon Prime
- Super fast servers (minimal speed loss)
- Torrenting allowed
- No logging policy well enforced
- Great customer service via chat.
- Power-users configuration options.
VyprVPN runs a large network with over 700 servers in 70 different countries. The company offers its own DNS service to ensure users get unrestricted access to the internet, and with the VyprVPN Chameleon technology, even VPN blocking and throttling measures can be thwarted. This makes it a prime choice for freedom of information fans or anyone looking to bypass censorship or region blocked content. Users can even deploy VyprVPN to defeat local ISP throttling or bypass network congestion for faster Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu speeds with very little effort.
All of VyprVPN’s software was designed with ease of use in mind, including the Linux builds. Downloadable software can be obtained through the command line for Ubuntu and Mint systems with complete set-up guides provided by VyperVPN’s support section. Security is another one of VyprVPN’s concerns. The service uses multiple encryption protocols to ensure data stays scrambled along with a fantastic zero-logging policy.
VyprVPN’s plans are some of the most affordable in the VPN market and include unlimited data usage and three to five simultaneous connections. The premium plan includes the Chameleon technology mentioned above along with VyperVPN’s own private cloud service.
Read our full VyprVPN review.
Open and private access are StrongVPN‘s biggest selling points. The service has a straightforward zero-logging policy and encrypts connections with PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, and IPSec protocols, perfect for thwarting snoopers from stealing data as well as stopping ISPs from tracking and selling your information.
StrongVPN’s most unique feature is StrongDNS, an extra layer of anonymity for anyone looking to bypass censorship or region blocks. On its own, StrongDNS makes it easier to switch virtual locations so websites and video streaming services think you’re in a different country, all without sacrificing speed or anonymity. Servers are available in 46 cities spread across 24 different countries, giving you plenty of room to find a location that’s both fast and open. StrongDNS is included for free with all VPN plans.
Linux support for StrongVPN includes builds for Debian/Ubuntu as well as Fedora. There are a few quick tutorials to help guide you through setting up the service for other Linux distros via OpenVPN, as well. All StrongVPN packages are competitively priced and come with a 5 day money back guarantee.
4. Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access wants to make the digital world safe for everyone. The company focuses on fast connection speeds and unbeatable anonymity with programs so simple to use that everyone in the family can operate them. The service also bundles the firewall capabilities of the Netfilter Project to help keep malicious connections from ever reaching your computer or mobile device.
Like the name suggests, Private Internet Access goes out of its way to protect user privacy through strong security protocols. Anonymity is boosted through an IP cloak that switches local addresses out with anonymous IPs to prevent tracking and allow for unrestricted content access through censorship blocks. It also makes streaming Hulu videos from other regions as easy as clicking a menu option.
Private Internet Access offers software for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android, along with a Chrome extension any operating system can use. Linux support focuses on Ubuntu distros with a quick terminal driven installation process that only takes a few seconds to complete.
Private Internet Access has some of the most affordable plans of any VPN. There’s even a 7 day money back guarantee along with an affiliate program that offers rewards for referring visitors. Combine that with zero-logging, unlimited bandwidth, over 3,000 servers in 25 different countries, and no file type restrictions and you’ve got a great candidate for a Linux VPN provider.
Benefits of Using a VPN
Keeping your information secure in the digital world has become a major issue in recent years. VPNs are extraordinarily useful tools for anyone concerned about privacy, as well as users who need to get around region blocked content or censored websites. They’re easy to use and offer a wide variety of options for both basic and power users, making them a truly indispensable part of your online world.
Benefits of using a VPN include:
Stop ISPs from Tracking You
Every time you log onto the internet you send traffic through a local service provider. That information is collected and stored unencrypted on the ISP’s servers where it can be sold or shared with third parties at their discretion. Your online activities and your identity simply aren’t safe. With a VPN in place, all data leaving your computer is encrypted. Instead of knowing your shopping habits and location, ISPs get a string of random numbers and letters. This anonymity is why VPNs are popular with torrenters who don’t want their surfing speed throttled or a letter from their ISP.
Secure Public Wi-Fi
Using an unencrypted home network is risky enough, but public Wi-Fi is even worse. Connecting through a portable device while traveling opens your data up to snoopers, the business providing the wireless connection, and the service provider. With a VPN active, however, your data gets encrypted before it leaves your device, securing everything down the line so you stay safe while you travel.
Access Restricted Content
Some users swear by VPNs simply because they offer freedom and flexibility. Geo-locked content is common in a number of countries, blocking access to websites or videos simply because a user lives in a certain part of the world. With a VPN, however, anyone can change their virtual location at the push of a button. Can’t watch a YouTube or Netflix video because it’s blocked in your country? Change that through a VPN.
A VPN can’t do everything. The general rule is VPNs are great at securing data and activity that takes place outside of your devices. What happens on your computer or mobile phone generally isn’t affected by a VPN. Firewalls and virus protection software still play an important role keeping you safe online.
Devices Aren’t Automatically Protected
If you install and use VPN software on your Linux computer, other devices that connect to your network aren’t automatically protected. Each computer, tablet, phone, Chromebook, or e-reader that accesses the internet needs the VPN’s app installed and running in order to be safe. A workaround for this limitation is to install software on your router to encrypt the entire connection as it leaves your home. Note that VPN providers usually limit the number of devices that simultaneously connect using this or other methods.
Viruses and Malware Are Still a Threat
VPNs do nothing to protect your computer from viruses or other forms of malware. A few of the more security conscious VPN providers do offer firewall-type solutions alongside their VPN, but for the most part you’ll still need to be mindful of downloading suspicious files, especially through torrent and P2P networks.
It’s almost a given that using a VPN will slow your connection speed by 10-25%, sometimes even more. There are workarounds to tweak this number slightly, but due to the distance your data is traveling as well as encryption overhead, expect to lose at least a little speed when your VPN is active.
LEARN MORE: Why is my VPN slow, and what can I do about it?
Free VPNs Can be Dangerous
With the rise of privacy awareness comes disguised malware that attempts to take advantage of unsuspecting users. The vast majority of these programs are advertised as VPN solutions that offer unlimited, unrestricted access at no cost to the user. Sometimes they come in the form of browser extensions, sometimes as installable desktop programs or marketplace apps. No matter the source, always be wary of free VPN providers.
If a VPN service doesn’t charge its customers, the company has to bring in revenue from some other stream. The most common source is selling the very user information the VPN promises to protect. If you aren’t paying for the service, you’re not the customer, you’re the product. This holds true for nearly every free VPN service out there, though there are a few moderate exceptions. It’s always best to stick with trusted and reliable paid sources.
Running VPN Software on a Router
VPN providers offer a wide variety of solutions for protecting your devices at home and on the road. One method is to deliver software that installs on your home router to encrypt all data that passes through it, regardless of the source. This has the distinct advantage of not having to run a program on each device that connects to the internet.
The set-up process for each VPN provider will vary from the list below. You’ll also need to configure different options depending on which protocol your VPN supports (PPTP, L2TP, etc.)
- Make sure your router is compatible with the VPN software. If it’s not, custom firmware such as DD-WRT or Tomato are widely supported.
- Navigate to your router’s configuration page.
- Open the setup tab.
- Enter your VPN provider’s IP address and credentials.
- Set the DNS servers as supplied by your VPN service.
- Save the settings and reboot your router.
CHECK OUT: Our complete guide on VPN routers.
OpenVPN is a free and open source VPN software solution packed with useful features designed by the community. Many VPN providers officially support OpenVPN as an alternative to their own apps, especially where unusual or less popular Linux distributions are concerned.
If your VPN supports OpenVPN, the set-up process will be fairly straightforward:
- Install OpenVPN from the website or command line.
- Navigate to the OpenVPN configuration directory, usually /etc/openvpn
- Download the OpenVPN configuration files from your provider’s website.
- Extract the files.
- Start OpenVPN with your provider’s configuration.
- Enter your credentials.
- Surf and stream with complete VPN privacy.
RELATED READING: How to hide OpenVPN traffic with an SSH tunnel
Linux is a platform that affords its users a great deal of customization over their experience, and the best VPNs integrate into that environment seamlessly to augment security and privacy online. We’ve recommended 4 top-tier providers with a proven track record among Linux users, plus provided some useful information about what a VPN can and can’t do. Finally, we covered two ways to protect your device in case it’s running a distro that isn’t plug-and-play with our recommended VPN services.
Are you a Linux user? If so, what are your primary privacy concerns on the platform? Do you have a favorite VPN provider? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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