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NordVPN is one of the most popular VPN services available in the market today. But how safe is NordVPN for users who want complete privacy while browsing or torrenting? Find out the facts in our detailed NordVPN security review.
NordVPN has a global network of over 4,300 servers in 62 countries. They offer military-grade encryption and overall strong security features. They also provide great connection options, app design, and customer service. This and more puts NordVPN at the top of its class.
NordVPN is one of the more prominent VPN companies, serving more than one million people across the globe. They are trusted for their no logging policy and commitment to keeping the internet as free as possible. Although their monthly subscription rate falls on the high end of the price spectrum, the cost of their 1-year plan and especially their 2-year plan are quite affordable for the level of service it provides.
Security – Highly Anonymous / Popular encryption methods (OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, IKEv2/IPsec) / AES-256-CBC with a 2048-bit DH key / Strict no logging policy / Anonymous purchasing available
Connectivity – Comprehensive and Reliable / All major operating systems (Android, Windows, MacOS, and iOS) / Compatible with most streaming and gaming devices/router support, dedicated IP servers / 4,400+ servers in 62 countries / Six simultaneous connections
Usability – Simple and Straightforward / 150+ streaming services with NordVPN / Intuitive client design with great server selection options
Service & Support – Knowledgebase and video tutorials/e-mail and chat
Pricing – Subscription / Expensive (monthly) Inexpensive (one-year and two-year plans) / one-month $11.95, one-year $69 ($5.95/mo), two-year $79 ($3.29/mo), three-year $99.00 ($2.75/month)
- Massive Server Network Provides Consistent Speeds
- Simple Setup & Easy to Use for VPN Any User
- Competitive Encryption, Privacy, & Anonymity
- Double VPN, Proxy Support, & Other Enhanced Security
- App Support for the Most Popular Devices
- Unlimited Bandwidth & Server Switching
- P2P Optimized Servers for Torrenting
- Custom Connection Support
- Detailed Knowledgebase & Great Support
- Six Simultaneous Connections Allowed
- Built-In Ad Block & Malware Protection
- Avoid Geoblocks & Censorship While Streaming
- Excellent Pricing on Long-Term Plan Options
- Client Lacks Some Customizations for Power Users
- Conservative Client Design & Features
- No Built-In Split Tunneling Option
- Average-Sized Server Network
- Lack of Linux and Router Clients
How secure is NordVPN?
NordVPN protects your data with robust encryption.
Security-centric users will be happy to hear that NordVPN provides AES-256 CBC encryption via the OpenVPN protocol. It is considered the most secure VPN protocol and best for users looking to avoid government censorship or surveillance.
OpenVPN is the default for all but NordVPN’s Apple apps. MacOS defaults to IKEv2/IPSec and iOS to IKEv1/IPSec. But OpenVPN is still available.
OpenVPN uses SHA256 for authentication with RSA-2048 keys. They use DHE-4096 key exchanges for perfect forward secrecy. iOS uses SHA2-384 authentication and a DHE-3072 key exchange. Their latest Mac app uses Cisco’s Next Generation Encryption (NGE) protocol.
Overall, these are competitive configurations. However, they aren’t quite the gold standard in the industry. This may be strategic though, as stronger encryption generally means slower speeds.
NordVPN also offers L2TP/IPSec and PPTP connections. These are generally not recommended unless you know what you are doing. Anything other than the defaults must be set up manually. The defaults on these systems should be sufficient for most users. If you’re looking to use NordVPN with a Linux, router, or Raspberry Pi, you’ll have to create a custom connection. So you’ll be limited to what is supported on that device.
NordVPN offers numerous features that keep your data safe and incognito.
First and foremost, NordVPN has a strict no logging policy. They do not collect any of your private data, which means neither can anyone else. Not even you can access your user data, because there is no record of it. They strategically operate under the jurisdiction of Panama so they can legally guarantee this no logging policy. (Some countries require companies to retain information about their users.)
Their website does make use of some cookies. Google Analytics, affiliate cookies, and general site cookies are utilized in order to serve users better. Generally, such data is anonymized. Most VPN companies use these and chalk it up to “good marketing practices”—and we don’t blame them. But it always raises questions about how much they care about online privacy.
As with all VPNs, your traffic is anonymized by sharing NordVPN’s IP addresses with other users. This is generally recommended. Nevertheless, dedicated IPs are available to NordVPN customers for an additional fee.
NordVPN employs DNS and IP leak protection technology to protect users against the slightest network insecurities. Your information stays safe by using their nameservers. They also provide support IPv6 support, forcing your traffic through IPv4. Users always bear part of the responsibility for such leaks though. Luckily, NordVPN delivers a support article outlining how to use their service to protect your IP.
For maximum anonymity, users can combine the Onion network (TOR) and NordVPN to completely conceal their presence online. They offer “Onion over VPN” servers built right into the dashboard. With this feature, traffic is routed through specialty servers before being sent to the Onion Router. If you prefer, you can also use the Onion browser to connect to NordVPN’s standard servers.
If you’re looking to cover your tracks financially, NordVPN accepts payment in Bitcoin, Ether, and Ripple. We’d love to see some sort of cash options, but you can always use a gift card or similar.
Core company values and mission statements are important for VPNs.
After all, these companies are on the frontlines in the fight for online privacy. And because many of them are largely anonymous, company values can be a crucial indicator for understanding a company’s trustworthiness.
NordVPN states that their core goal is to “keep the internet as free as possible.”
The NordVPN about us page cites “Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of a truly open internet” and “Nordic ideals of confidence, trust, and innovation” as inspiration for their effort to “provide absolutely uncompromised safety and privacy on the Web.”
Established in 2012 under the jurisdiction of Panama, NordVPN does not need to worry about data collection laws. This allows them to guarantee their no-logging policy legally.
In addition to their manifesto, their about us page includes this statement:
“As of June 8th, 2018 we state the following:
We have NOT received any National Security letters;
We have NOT received any gag orders;
We have NOT received any warrants from any government organization.
We are 100% committed to our zero-logs policy – we never log the activities of our users to ensure their ultimate privacy and security.”
Keep in mind, this is an entirely anonymous company, and the information about their company values comes from them. While this may make you nervous, it is somewhat standard practice in the industry. It may even contribute to user security.
Ultimately, there is no way to be sure of how any company might use your data. There will always be some degree of risk involved. That being said, NordVPN is one of the more legitimate VPN companies out there. And their business model is built on trust. Seemingly, it would be in their interest to continue providing the service they are known for.
Other Security Features
Encryption and anonymity are the foundations of VPN security.
But there are a variety of features the most secure VPN also have. Some are unique, and others are standard among the leaders. As a leader, NordVPN covers all the basics and pioneers a few extras.
Killswitch – NordVPN provides slightly different versions of their Kill Switch across different devices. Each is designed to sever your internet connection if the connection to their servers is interrupted. This prevents users from unprotected surfing.
Run on Startup – This feature ensures that you are connected to your VPN upon starting your operating system, without having to start it manually every time. That means you’re protected as soon as you push the power switch.
***If Kill Switch is enabled, Run on Startup must be as well. Otherwise, NordVPN will block your connection to the Internet.
Split Tunneling – NordVPN does not offer built-in split tunneling support. That is unfortunate because it is useful for average users and a must-have for particular users. At least they are aware of this, showing you how to segregate your traffic manually.
Virtual Servers – Virtual servers raise security concerns. NordVPN is in the running for most available servers among VPN companies. Despite that, they claim that none of their servers are “virtual” (aka. Spoofing location). If true, this is impressive.
Router Support – While NordVPN doesn’t yet have a router app like ExpressVPN, it is compatible with a wide variety of routers. You’ll have to create a custom connection. But this allows you to protect your home wifi network and all devices connected to it.
Proxy Support – NordVPN offers both HTTP and SOCKS5 proxy support, giving you an added layer of protection. You can enable proxies through their browser extensions. They even provide free SOCKS5 proxies to plan subscribers.
Double VPN – NordVPN has been offering a double VPN option since 2014. They use servers in two different countries to encrypt your traffic twice with AES-256. You can currently choose between 19 double VPN server if you need maximum anonymity.
NordVPN offers a competitive range of compatibility, on par with other VPN industry leaders.
Users can utilize NordVPN on most popular devices via their native platform apps. They also provide custom connection capability for a variety of other devices. They also offer browser extensions and other free tools to help you secure your data online.
They offer apps for:
Aside from these, they provide support for Linux, Blackberry, Raspberry Pi, and a wide range of router models. NordVPN browser extensions make secure browsing easy. They allow you to choose and activate a server from within your browser.
They currently offer extensions for:
Unfortunately, gaming systems and streaming devices rarely have a way to set up custom connections. However, there are still ways to do it. You can even connect and protect other smart devices in your home.
You can do this in one of two ways:
- Sharing the VPN connection from a Windows PC.
- Setting up your router with a VPN connection.
The second way allows you a lot more flexibility and protects all devices using that Internet connection. We strongly recommend this to gamers and streamers looking to secure these devices (or their whole home). This also allows you to exceed the six simultaneous connections limit.
NordVPN offers among the highest number of servers in the industry.
In early 2017, their website claimed 1000+ servers. Now, they claim 4300+. That is a serious investment in infrastructure. You can use their recommended servers tool for a more in-depth look, without creating an account. You can also see which locations offer different types of servers. You can even filter based on location, server type, and encryption protocol. This is extremely useful.
Geoblocking is one of the biggest reasons to buy VPNs. This practice restricts content based on location. It is used by streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube, and others to navigate content rights. That makes sense for their businesses. But it may prevent you from watching your local team when traveling. VPNs help you get around this by spoofing your location. However, such services actively detect and block VPNs. Therefore, VPN companies must continuously innovate to stay ahead.
Governments also engage in geoblocking or location-based firewalls to restrict what their citizens can see. China is notorious for this.
NordVPN gives members access to “obfuscated servers” to beat these blocks. They currently show over 200 of these, across 13 different countries. Over half of these are in the U.S. and U.K., but they also have key locations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. This is good news for the most oppressed among us. For Windows, Mac, and Android, just select one of these servers. On other devices, contact support and they can guide you through some manual options to help you beat the block.
Choosing between standard, P2P, double VPN, obfuscated, and other server types is unlimited and secure. They have a quick connect feature that pairs you with a fast, local server. You can save favorites. And they also display the distance between you and individual servers.
On the downside, there are only 1600+ servers available on mobile. This is still more than many of the competition have overall. And it could be that they are doing mobile users a favor, filtering connections wisely. Still, mobile users should know. We’d also like to see them continue adding locations in different countries. It would be great if they could continue without virtual servers. But covering more of South America, Africa, and elsewhere with a few spoofed locations would be a welcome addition by some users.
NordVPN is as competitive as you would expect from an industry leader in this category.
Speed is probably the hardest topic for an unbiased VPN review to tackle. You can’t put much stock into speed tests. They just aren’t reliable. That’s because location, device, the Internet’s inherent volatility, and many other factors play a role.
Instead, we put stock in technical specs, user feedback, and platform features. These are much more likely to tell the real story. And NordVPN seems to do well here.
You can’t quadruple your servers in a year and a half and not see positive feedback. That’s what NordVPN did, and now many consumer comments and reviews across the Internet have good things to say about speed with NordVPN. You will always see some negative speed comments about VPN companies due to lack of education among newer users. But again, NordVPN does better than most, especially since 2017.
NordVPN knows that most users want speed. Their quick connect feature tries to match you with the fastest connection available, based on your settings. We expect that they also prioritize speed first when it comes to their hardware and software.
The percentage of their servers that P2P enabled also indicates that they prioritize speed across their massive network.
NordVPN undoubtedly didn’t forget about BitTorrent users.
They have more than 3000 servers with peer to peer file sharing capability. Because you’re downloading files, torrenting uses a lot of resources. More than for most other users, connection speed is crucial for VPN torrentors.
However, they really need a good interface for split tunneling. This allows them to segregate some of their web activity through the VPN and route other data through their standard connection. As a result, torrentors can hide what they’re downloading without sacrificing speed elsewhere.
While there are workarounds, we would expect NordVPN to provide this eventually.
Ease of Use
The NordVPN apps are among the easiest to use in the industry.
You often see users of other VPNs complaining that they don’t have a feature that NordVPN executes flawlessly. In this way, they set the standard for VPN usability. Their client designs are the best version of the general VPN look. They provide few, if any, genuinely unique features. But what they do, they do well.
Many VPN users expect a map of server locations and some quick connect feature. NordVPN offers both. The map makes selecting servers based on country a breeze. As mentioned, the quick connect feature prioritizes speed. It is also accessible through the system tray and browser extensions. This means you don’t have to keep the app open.
Overall, NordVPN apps are clean and easy to navigate. If you stay on the map for a few moments, a server selection wizard appears. This will help connect you to servers for “Security,” “Streaming,” “P2P”, or “Anonymity.” Conversely, you can use the search box to find a specific server, country, or type of server. Here is what those mean. You can also use the Servers tab to select based on location or use case. This is also where you designate favorites.
NordVPN doesn’t offer that many customization options within their apps. Other than a few of the safety features, there are only two things of note. First, you can switch your connection between UDP and TCP protocols. Second, you can enable CyberSec—NordVPN’s malware and ad blocker.
Overall, NordVPN is quite easy to use. It makes the grade for family-friendliness.
However, there are quite a few improvements we’d like to see. We’ve already mentioned things like the lack of a split tunneling interface. Other items include the need for a router app, multi-protocol clients, and more built-in customizations. There are also conflicts with connecting to the same server with multiple devices on one account. Finally, servers don’t display locations, forcing you to use an IP checker to figure out where you are connecting to.
Under the Hood
If it isn’t clear by now, we are somewhat disappointed in NordVPN’s client configurability.
With that being said, they offer strong support for custom connections. Not only do they have a wide range of device compatibility, but they will also help you with it. Once you have a subscription, contact them with your questions. They will help walk you through the options you need.
Keep in mind that there are technical details involved. Mistakes could be made on your end or theirs. It’s essential that you at least know a little bit about what you’re doing. But with enough know-how, you do have some configuration options. It would be nice if their client expanded to accommodate multiple protocols, like ExpressVPN.
If you need to achieve tight security, NordVPN’s dedicated server option might offer some exciting testing opportunities.
How to Set Up a VPN with NordVPN
NordVPN might be the easiest VPN to get started with.
All you need to do to sign up is enter your e-mail and choose a payment method. You will receive an email that links to a password creation page. Save your login info, and you’re almost ready to browse securely.
From there, choose the proper app for your device and proceed on to installation.
Here’s what that looks like on different devices:
Service & Support
NordVPN provides one of the best customer support experiences of any VPN company.
Chat support via the website is a welcome sight. They would get points just for having this. But more than that, they may have the best support team running it. Through email support, they may do better with some of the highly technical issues. Yet the average user probably won’t ever need this.
Like other top competitors in this space, they offer an extensive knowledge base. For some reason though, they have two versions. You can find one at support.nordvpn.com and the other at zendesk.nordvpn.com. (Zendesk is a leader in customer support solutions.) They have very similar information, but we find the Zendesk version more comprehensive and user-friendly. They also have tutorials on their YouTube channel.
NordVPN offers a competitively priced service, especially when you consider the quality.
NordVPN offers one package with different time periods. The more extended the period, the steeper the discount. You can take advantage of their free three-day trial before you commit. Or you can pay the first month and utilize their 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re unsatisfied.
***Please note: NordVPN will not refund app purchases through the iTunes/App Store. This is also true of payments made using prepaid credit cards and gift cards.
If you do opt for the most extended plans, you should know that you’re getting one of the best monthly deals on the market.
For those who decide to subscribe, NordVPN offers four packages:
Monthly – $11.95/month
Yealy – $69 ($5.75/month)
Bi-Yearly – $79 ($3.29/month)
Tri-Yearly – $99.00 ($2.75/month)
NordVPN is simply one of the best VPN providers in the industry today.
They use military-grade encryption standards. They go to great lengths to protect user identities and provide additional security features. They support the most popular devices with an easy-to-use app. And they have one of the most impressive server networks on the market—in terms of sheer numbers and applications.
Our few complaints revolve around a lack of features some of their top competitors have. Many users see split tunneling as necessary. They could offer more such options within their apps. And they could definitely use clients for Linux and routers.
Taking the good and the bad together, NordVPN is an excellent choice for the average VPN user. Especially if you lock in the three-year price, you get nearly unbeatable value. Only specific users should stay away, and those are few and far between.