The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best VPN Service for Privacy, Security and Unblocking Content in 2023

A virtual private network (VPN) has become an essential tool for protecting your privacy and security online while accessing restricted content. With so many VPN providers available, it can be tricky to determine which one best suits your needs. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the key factors to consider when choosing a VPN for privacy, security and unblocking abilities.

Outline of the Article


  • Overview of what a VPN is and its key benefits
  • Factors to consider when selecting a VPN service

Evaluating VPN Providers

  • Server locations and number of servers
  • Speed and performance
  • Platform compatibility
  • Pricing and subscription plans
  • Privacy and logging policies
  • Security protocols and encryption standards
  • Ease of use and interfaces
  • Unblocking abilities
  • Customer support and reliability

The Top VPN Services for Privacy, Security and Unblocking

  • NordVPN
  • ExpressVPN
  • Surfshark
  • CyberGhost
  • Private Internet Access (PIA)
  • IPVanish
  • TunnelBear
  • ProtonVPN
  • Windscribe

VPN Protocols and Encryption Standards

  • OpenVPN
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • WireGuard
  • AES 256-bit encryption
  • SHA-2 authentication
  • Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS)

Advanced Privacy and Security Features

  • Kill switch
  • DNS leak protection
  • Split tunneling
  • Tor over VPN
  • Obfuscated servers
  • Double VPN
  • MultiHop
  • VPN over VPN

Unblocking Abilities

  • Unblocking streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu
  • Unblocking social media and VoIP services
  • Unblocking censored content
  • Bypassing geographic restrictions
  • Torrenting support

Using VPNs on Various Devices

  • Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS setup guides
  • Router installation
  • Using VPN on public Wi-Fi



In today’s digital world, online privacy and security have become major concerns. Connecting to public Wi-Fi, browsing the web, and accessing streaming platforms all pose potential risks of having your data intercepted by cybercriminals or surveillance agencies. This is where a VPN steps in to protect your information.

A VPN, short for virtual private network, encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a remote server run by the VPN provider. This hides your IP address and online activities, preventing tracking and monitoring. VPNs also allow bypassing censorship and geo-restrictions to access blocked content from anywhere.

With hundreds of VPN services on the market, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which one best suits your needs. Price, server locations, privacy policies, security protocols and unblocking abilities are just some of the factors to consider. This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know to choose the top VPN for protecting your privacy and security while unlocking restricted content on the internet.

Evaluating VPN Providers

There are several key criteria to evaluate when selecting a VPN service for privacy, security and unblocking abilities:

Server Locations and Number of Servers

A VPN with a large server network spread across different countries is ideal for consistently fast speeds and unblocking abilities. The more servers a provider operates, the less likely they are to be overloaded with users and cause slow speeds. Varied server locations also allow you to choose where to appear connected from.

Look for VPNs with servers in privacy-friendly jurisdictions like Switzerland and Panama to protect your data under strong privacy laws. Servers in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Europe are important for unblocking popular streaming sites and services restricted to those regions.

Speed and Performance

A VPN adds extra hops to your internet route, which can potentially slow down your connection speed. The most performant VPNs optimize their networks and servers to reduce this impact as much as possible.

Speeds largely depend on factors like your device, the VPN protocol used, and distance to the nearest server. Connecting to a nearby VPN server generally provides the fastest speeds. Ookla speed test results on various server locations can indicate the performance you can expect.

Platform Compatibility

The ideal VPN works across various devices and platforms like Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, as well as routers and gaming consoles. Before subscribing, ensure the VPN offers native apps for all your devices and step-by-step setup guides.

Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox are also useful for quick, temporary VPN connections in your browser without installing full apps. VPNs with router support help secure all devices on your home network.

Pricing and Subscription Plans

VPNs range from free to a few dollars per month for longer subscriptions. Free VPNs should be avoided as they can pose privacy risks and have data caps. Paid plans typically start around $5-10 per month, with the yearly subscription working out cheapest at $2-4 per month.

Multi-year deals of 2-3 years offer maximum savings. Consider the pricing structure carefully as cheaper plans may have caveats like lower device limits or slower speeds. Money-back guarantees allow testing a VPN risk-free.

Privacy and Logging Policies

Robust no-logging policies that prohibit recording any user activity or connection logs are a must for privacy. VPN companies based in privacy-friendly countries like Switzerland, Panama or the British Virgin Islands tend to have stronger policies. Independent audits by reputable third parties help verify no-logs claims.

Some VPNs do log basic technical diagnostic data like connection timestamps without recording actual internet activity. While acceptable, minimal logging is still preferable when choosing a VPN strictly for anonymity.

Security Protocols and Encryption Standards

Leading VPNs offer secure protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2 and the newer WireGuard, paired with strong AES 256-bit encryption and additional authentication through SHA-2 and RSA-2048.

Protocols using weaker outdated standards like PPTP, L2TP or 128-bit encryption should be avoided as they are easier to compromise. A VPN that enables Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) provides an added layer of encryption keys that refresh frequently.

Ease of Use and Interfaces

An intuitive user interface that makes connecting to the VPN quick and easy is ideal for a smooth experience across various devices. Features like one-click connect, auto-connect on startup, and switching between server locations add convenience.

Some VPNs have basic, dated interfaces while others offer sleek, modern apps packed with customizable settings and options. Additional useful features include split tunneling, kill switch and DNS leak protection.

Unblocking Abilities

The best VPN services can reliably bypass geo-restrictions to access region-blocked content anywhere. Look for VPNs proven to consistently unblock popular streaming services like US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+ as well as social media, sports and music platforms restricted to certain countries.

VPN servers located near company headquarters like in the US or UK generally have higher success rates unblocking sites targeted to those audiences. Some VPNs specialize more in unblocking than others.

Customer Support and Reliability

A VPN needs to provide responsive 24/7 live chat and email support in case issues arise during setup or use. Knowledgeable support staff shows investment in clients after purchase. Look for established VPNs with a proven track record of reliable service and positive customer reviews.

Refund policies in case you’re not satisfied with the VPN also offer a layer of consumer protection. Bonus features like free VPN servers for P2P file sharing indicate commitment to protecting users.

The Top VPN Services for Privacy, Security and Unblocking

Based on the criteria above, these VPN providers stand out as delivering excellent privacy, security and unblocking abilities:

1. NordVPN

With over 5,500 servers in 60 countries, NordVPN offers an extensive network for great speeds, unblocking and choice of server locations. It uses next-gen WireGuard or OpenVPN protocols with AES-256 encryption paired with a strict no-logging policy audited by PwC.

NordVPN has proven capabilities unblocking Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and more with dedicated streaming servers. Simple apps across all major platforms make for an easy, enjoyable VPN experience. 30-day money back guarantee gives ample testing time.


  • Large server network for speed and unblocking
  • Top-notch privacy and security standards
  • Consistent at unblocking popular streaming sites
  • Intuitive apps for all devices
  • Generous 30-day money-back guarantee


  • Higher price than competitors
  • Occasional slowdowns during peak times

2. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN has 3,000+ fast servers across 94 countries and 160 locations to choose from. It uses trusted OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec protocols paired with AES-256 encryption, perfect forward secrecy, and a no-logging policy. Unblocks a wide selection of streaming services, social media and music platforms.

Easy-to-use apps, reliable connections, and excellent customer support from a British Virgin Islands based company focused on the privacy niche. 30-day refund available if not satisfied. Overall an excellent all-round VPN.


  • Blazing fast speeds with large server network
  • Proven to unblock Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Spotify etc.
  • Intuitive apps for all major devices
  • Helpful 24/7 live chat support


  • Relatively expensive
  • Limited simultaneous connections (5 devices)

3. Surfshark

Surfshark stands out for offering unlimited device connections along with a large network of over 3,200 servers in 100+ countries. It uses the top-notch WireGuard and AES-256 encryption protocols. Based in the British Virgin Islands with a no-logging policy.

Great for unblocking streaming including Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Hulu. Intuitive apps and useful features like MultiHop, CleanWeb ad blocking and Whitelister. 30-day money back guarantee plus a long 3 year plan offers great value.


  • Unlimited devices at a great price
  • Excellent speeds with 3,200+ servers
  • Unblocks Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ etc.
  • Next-gen WireGuard protocol supported
  • 3-year discounted subscription plan


  • Smaller server network than top competitors
  • Limited payment options

4. CyberGhost

CyberGhost operates over 7,400 servers in 91 countries, providing terrific speeds and unblocking abilities. Uses AES-256 encryption paired with OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols. Based in privacy-friendly Romania with a no-logging policy.

Offers dedicated streaming profile and servers to successfully unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu and more. Apps available for all devices along with handy browser extensions. 45-day money-back guarantee for risk-free testing.


  • Huge 7,400+ server network
  • Great speeds for streaming & torrenting
  • Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, ESPN+
  • Apps for all major platforms
  • Generous 45-day money back guarantee


  • Slightly clunky interface
  • Struggles unblocking some sites like Spotify & YouTube

5. Private Internet Access (PIA)

PIA runs high-speed servers in 78 countries using OpenVPN and L2TP protocols with AES-256 encryption. No traffic or activity logs are kept with customers remaining fully anonymous. Provides reliable access to Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu.

Offers advanced privacy tools like split tunneling and WireGuard support. Competitively priced plans with free additional user licenses. 30-day refund plus dedicated P2P servers make it a great all-round choice.


  • Proven speeds and reliability
  • Successfully unblocks popular streaming sites
  • Secure no-logs policy and protocols
  • Helpful privacy tools and settings
  • Affordable multi-year subscriptions


  • Smaller server network than top VPNs
  • Interface lacks polish on some platforms

6. IPVanish

IPVanish operates 40,000+ shared IPs on its fast 1,600+ servers across 75+ sites. Uses OpenVPN and L2TP/IPsec protocols paired with AES-256 encryption and a zero traffic logs policy. Provides unlimited P2P traffic on all servers.

Reliably unblocks Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and other major sites. Easy-to-use apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Fire TV. 7-day money back guarantee plus cheap year-long plan.


  • Blazing fast 40,000+ shared IPs
  • Successfully unblocks Netflix & BBC iPlayer
  • Zero traffic logs policy
  • Unlimited P2P traffic supported
  • Cheap discount on annual plan


  • Short 7-day refund policy
  • Smaller server network than top competitors
  • Limited payment options

7. TunnelBear

TunnelBear operates servers in over 20 countries using OpenVPN and IPSec protocols with AES-256 bit encryption. Based in Canada with a strict no-logging policy and independent security audits. Unblocks popular sites like US Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, ESPN+.

The standout feature is TunnelBear’s user-friendly apps on all platforms – connecting to the VPN is super simple. Offers a free plan with 500MB monthly data cap to try out the service.


  • User-friendly and intuitive apps
  • AES-256 encryption with no traffic logging
  • Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ESPN+
  • Free version available to try
  • Independent security audits


  • Small server network in limited locations
  • Free plan has low 500MB data cap
  • Slow speeds compared to top VPNs

8. ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN benefits from a huge network of over 1,700 servers in 65 countries, bringing fast speeds and reliable unblocking abilities. Uses OpenVPN, IKEv2 and WireGuard protocols with AES-256 encryption. Based in Switzerland with guaranteed zero logs policy.

Capable of unblocking Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. Also offers advanced security tools like Tor over VPN, multi-hop VPN and split tunneling. 30-day refund policy.


  • Large 1,700+ server network
  • AES-256 encryption with IKEv2/OpenVPN protocols
  • Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Prime Video
  • Useful advanced security features
  • 30-day money back guarantee


  • Free plan has low data limits
  • Slightly confusing pricing structure
  • Rare connection drops

9. Windscribe

Windscribe runs 1,800+ servers in 63 countries using AES-256 encryption and WireGuard protocol. Based in Canada with a strict no logging policy. Can reliably unblock Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu.

Offers unlimited data connections and allows torrenting. Apps available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, browser extensions and more. Generous 1-month refund policy plus a free plan with 10GB monthly usage.


  • Unlimited data connections
  • Proven speeds for streaming & torrenting
  • Unblocks popular geo-restricted content
  • Apps for all major platforms
  • 1-month refund policy


  • Smaller server network than competitors
  • Fewer protocol choices (mainly WireGuard)
  • Free plan has low 10GB monthly limit

VPN Protocols and Encryption Standards

VPNs rely on various tunneling protocols paired with encryption to secure your connection. Let’s examine the main protocols and encryption standards used:


OpenVPN uses highly secure 256-bit AES encryption and supports PFS (perfect forward secrecy) for frequently changed keys. Offers the best balance of speed and security on most VPNs. Widely supported across platforms. Overall the recommended default protocol.


Internet Key Exchange version 2 is fast and secure. Uses AES-256 bit encryption with SHA-256 authentication plus optional PFS. Native support on iOS, Android, Windows makes it very stable. Not as widely supported on other platforms like Linux or routers.


A newer protocol using state-of-the-art cryptography like Curve25519 and ChaCha20/Poly1305. Offers great speeds and stability although not yet as widespread among VPNs compared to OpenVPN. Quickly gaining popularity.

AES 256-bit Encryption

The gold standard for VPN encryption. AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with a 256-bit key provides an extremely high level of security that would take billions of years to brute force. Essential for any VPN you choose.

SHA-2 Authentication

Secure Hash Algorithm 2 generates a unique fingerprint to authenticate every data packet on a VPN connection. Prevents tampering and ensures integrity. SHA-256 is common on VPNs for strong security.

Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS)

Enables keys used during a VPN session to be deleted after each connection. Any compromised future keys cannot decrypt past sessions, limiting damage. An important extra layer of protection for privacy.

Advanced Privacy and Security Features

Beyond core protocols and encryption standards, VPN providers offer additional tools and settings to enhance privacy and security:

Kill Switch

Immediately cuts off internet access if the VPN connection unexpectedly drops to prevent your IP address becoming exposed. A vital failsafe against short disruptions exposing your true IP and compromising privacy.

DNS Leak Protection

Prevents any DNS requests accidentally leaking outside the VPN tunnel and revealing your IP address or location. Routed through the VPN to maintain anonymity. Should be enabled for full privacy.

Split Tunneling

Allows you to route some apps like your browser through the VPN while excluding other selected apps from the VPN tunnel like banking tools. Useful for controlling which apps are masked by the VPN.

Tor over VPN

Chains the VPN tunnel with the Tor network for maximum anonymity online by hiding your IP address and encrypting traffic multiple times over. As secure as it gets for privacy.

Obfuscated Servers

Disguise and scramble VPN traffic to appear like regular HTTPS traffic, bypassing VPN blocking and censorship in restrictive regions like China and the Middle East

Double VPN

Links connections through two separate VPN servers for double encryption making it extremely difficult to trace the original IP address and location. Provides enhanced privacy and anonymity online.


Lets you route through multiple VPN server locations which adds extra steps to trace back the source. Useful for accessing geo-blocked content or enhancing privacy by bouncing your connection through various countries and jurisdictions.

VPN over VPN

Uses multiple VPN clients concurrently so your connection passes through two independent VPN provider tunnels for maximum privacy and encryption. Overkill for most but the most ardent privacy advocates.

Unblocking Abilities

A core benefit of choosing a good VPN is accessing websites, streaming platforms, and social media services normally geo-restricted to certain countries. Here’s a rundown of key unblocking capabilities:

Unblocking Streaming Services

The top VPNs allow you to bypass geographic restrictions to access popular streaming platforms normally only available in the US, UK or other specific countries:

  • Netflix – VPNs with US-based servers can successfully unlock the much larger US Netflix content library.
  • BBC iPlayer – Access this popular UK streaming platform from anywhere worldwide using a VPN.
  • Hulu – Unblock Hulu only available in the US by routing your traffic through a US-based VPN server.
  • Amazon Prime Video – Watch Prime Video exclusive shows by connecting through a VPN to the US, UK or other targeted country.
  • Disney+ – Unblocking Disney+ via a VPN also opens up much more content.

Unblocking Social Media and VoIP Services

VPNs help access blocked social media, messaging and calling platforms:

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  • Facebook, Twitter – Unblock if censored or restricted in your country.
  • Skype, WhatsApp – Access blocked VoIP calling services via VPN.
  • TikTok – Route through a VPN to unblock geo-restricted content on TikTok.

Unblocking Censored Content

Bypass government censorship to access full internet freedom:

  • News Sites – Read blocked news outlets and information.
  • Political Content – Get around restrictions on political material and commentary.
  • Social Media – Regain access to platforms like Facebook or Twitter if banned.
  • Repressive Regimes – VPNs counter internet censorship in countries like China, Turkey, Russia.

Bypassing Geographic Restrictions

VPNs allow you to appear located in a different country to circumvent geographic blocks:

  • Online Shopping – Access other country versions of shopping sites with different pricing and inventory.
  • Sporting Events – Get around blackout restrictions to stream games live from anywhere.
  • Music Services – Unblock country-specific music catalogs and streaming platforms when traveling.
  • Dating Sites – Appear in a different city or country to open up more potential matches.

Torrenting Support

Many VPNs allow P2P filesharing and torrenting by offering dedicated high-speed servers for large downloads. This provides more privacy and hides your IP address during torrenting. However, always check the VPN’s terms of service as some prohibit torrenting.

Using VPNs on Various Devices

Modern VPN providers make connecting across various platforms and devices simple with user-friendly native apps:

Windows and Mac

Installing the VPN client on a Windows PC or Mac computer is straightforward. Most VPNs offer dedicated apps for Windows and macOS with step-by-step setup guides for getting connected.

iOS and Android

Configuring the VPN on an iPhone, iPad or Android device is quick and easy. VPN apps are downloadable from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. One-click connect gets you up and running smoothly.


VPN support on Linux distros like Ubuntu or Mint may require manually configuring the VPN or using Terminal (command line) instructions supplied by your provider for installation.


Installing VPN clients on your home router lets you secure all Wi-Fi connected devices like Smart TVs and media consoles. Asus, Linksys, TP-Link and other popular routers are supported.

Public Wi-Fi Networks

Connecting to open public hotspots can pose risks from hackers snooping on your connection. Be sure to activate your VPN app before accessing any private info over public Wi-Fi.

Gaming Consoles

Certain VPNs provide custom apps to install directly on your console or ways to configure the VPN at your router level to cover game systems like Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best free VPN?

Free VPN services often have concerning privacy practices or very low data limits making them ineffective. ProtonVPN, Windscribe and TunnelBear stand out as the best free options with limited but usable monthly data caps and no concerning logging policies. For unlimited full-featured VPN protection, a paid service is highly recommended.

Does using a VPN really keep you anonymous online?

A VPN hides your IP address and encrypts your traffic to keep your online activities private from external tracking and surveillance. However, establishing full anonymity online depends on several other factors like avoiding linking personal info to your accounts, using anonymous payment methods, and disabling invasive scripts. A VPN enhances privacy but must be paired with other precautions for true anonymity.

Can a VPN protect me on public Wi-Fi?

Yes, enabling your VPN when accessing public Wi-Fi networks helps keep your connection encrypted and data secure from eavesdropping by hackers in the vicinity. A VPN masks your IP address and online activities over the insecure public hotspot. VPN protection is vital on any public Wi-Fi.

Will a VPN allow me to access more Netflix content?

Many top VPNs unlock the larger US Netflix catalog when you connect through a US-based VPN server, providing access to shows and movies normally geo-restricted. A VPN can get around this regional blocking since your traffic appears to Netflix as coming from the US server location. Not all VPNs work consistently with Netflix however.

Is torrenting safe with a VPN?

Using a VPN when torrenting helps keep your download activity private and secure by hiding your real IP address. This prevents copyright trolls from identifying your torrent traffic. Many VPNs even offer dedicated P2P servers optimized for filesharing. Always use a VPN when torrenting for privacy, but note some VPNs prohibit torrenting on their platforms.


Choosing the best VPN for your needs depends on how you plan to use it and your priorities – unblocking streaming sites, enhancing privacy on public Wi-Fi or circumventing censorship. This guide covers all the key factors when evaluating top VPN services for privacy, security and unblocking abilities.

Based on reputation, technical features and hands-on testing, NordVPN, ExpressVPN, Surfshark and CyberGhost stand as excellent all-round choices balancing speed, security and ease of use. Torrent-friendly VPNs like Private Internet Access and IPVanish also deliver private P2P downloads.

Start with a strict no-logging privacy policy and robust encryption protocols like AES-256 paired with OpenVPN or IKEv2 as bare minimum security requirements. Useful extras like kill switches, DNS leak protection and split tunneling enhance privacy further. Apps for all your devices ensure convenient use.

With your optimal VPN provider secured, you can browse, stream and download freely knowing your connection is locked down, secure and able to bypass restrictions. The right VPN allows accessing all the internet has to offer through an encrypted, private tunnel. Stay safe!

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