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Online privacy is a bigger concern today than ever before. Find out why VPNs can help, plus our five great VPN recommendations.

The need for greater online privacy is leading many people to start using a virtual private network (VPN) when browsing the internet. However, it can be tricky to know which ones are worth using.

Online privacy and security is becoming an increasingly hot topic as we begin our journey through 2018. Ad-blocking software is becoming an auto-install for many people when setting up new devices, the United States’ government is eliminating net neutrality in the country, and rarely a month goes by without news of a large scale cyber-attack. All these factors are leading more and more people to become increasingly aware of how their online activity is monitored, and how their data can be controlled, censored, analysed, stolen, or sold for the benefit of governments, criminals, and corporations.

VPN’s however, can give users a higher level of control on the security and privacy of their online activity. While still not 100% anonymous, VPN’s can increase a user’s privacy to an optimised level. The technology can protect your identity from government, hackers, and other organisations you may not wish to have full access to your online activity, such as an employer.

A VPN can also allow you to sidestep an attempt by your internet service provider (ISP) to throttle your internet speeds. Some users report a tripling of their streaming speeds when using a VPN on American ISP Verizon’s network – certainly something to think about given the proposed changes to net neutrality in that part of the world.

There are many, many VPN services available to choose from – both paid and free – but it can be a minefield to know which are worthy of your time. Here are five great VPN services we recommend which you can download right now for free.

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#1 TunnelBear

TunnelBear has a somewhat light-hearted design, but you shouldn’t take that to mean it offers any less protection. It’s easy to set up and well-suited to novice VPN users looking for a little extra protection. It has a free – and subscription-based model – with the free version limiting you to only 500mb of browsing data each month – although this can be boosted by promoting the service on Twitter.

TunnelBear provides a 128bit OpenVPN connection, and uses IPSec on iOS devices.

Key features include:

  • Private browsing – secures your data and hide your IP address.
  • Tracker blocking – blocks website trackers, including ads, analytics, scripts, and social buttons.
  • Bypass country censorship – allows access to blocked or censored websites.

Premium plans start at $4.16 a month, and gives unlimited data on up to five devices.

#2 HotSpot Shield

HotSpot Shield is a robust, easy-to-use, and feature-packed VPN, and will give you 500mb of browsing data on up to five devices for free.

Key features include:

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  • Website unblocking – Enables access to restricted or censored sites.
  • IP address protection – Prevent hackers and spammers from monitoring your online activities.
  • Anonymous web surfing – Enables you to browse without being tracked or spied on.
  • WiFi security feature – Offers extra protection when using insecure WiFi hotspots.
  • Web session security – Secures your data, online shopping, and personal information online with HTTPS encryption.
  • Complete malware protection.

The paid version starts at $5.99 per month and will give you unlimited data and the option to select one of 25 countries to tether your connection to – the free version chooses for you. There’s also a separate version available for Mac users.

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#3 ZenMate

ZenMate is a lightweight browser extension for Google Chrome which offers many of the features of a full VPN software solution. There’s no sign-up, and simply by handing over your email address you get a secure and private browsing service.

Once installed, a discrete green light in your browser informs that you’re protected. Browser traffic is routed through Switzerland by default, but the extension has options for Hong Kong, UK, US, and German proxies.

If you want faster speeds, more locations to choose from, and access to ZenMate’s Desktop Defender software, premium options start at £4.16 per month.

#4 Avira Phantom VPN

Brought to you by the same creators as the highly-rated and free antivirus software, Avira Phantom VPN provides the same solid service you’ve come to expect.

The free version gives you 500mb of browsing data per month across all your devices – both desktop and mobile – and a load of great features including:

  • Traffic encryption
  • Private surfing
  • Access to geo-restricted sites
  • DNS leak prevention
  • Auto-connect VPN for WiFi networks

Prices for the premium version begin at £4.30 per month which gives you unlimited data, and adds a fail-safe feature – which cuts the internet connection if the VPN drops off – and tech support.

#5 Radmin VPN

Radmin VPN is truly an excellent piece of VPN software. Easy to set up and lightweight, Radmin VPN is suitable for IT professionals and amateurs alike. Aside from the usual features you’d expect from a VPN service, Radmin VPN has a few surprises up its sleeve.

  • High speed connection – up to 100Mbp/s.
  • No user limit – meaning whether its for business or leisure, you can collaborate with others exactly as if you were connected via LAN.
  • Perfect for gamers.
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The best thing about Radmin VPN, however, is that the service is 100% free. There’s no premium version and no features are restricted or locked-off behind a paywall. The software you install is the full package. Of course, the lack of cost would be irrelevant if the software was also lacking – but with Radmin VPN this couldn’t be further from the case.

Final Thoughts

VPNs are a relatively new concept as far as the average internet user is concerned. However, as the internet becomes even more deeply ingrained in our everyday lives, we can expect to see VPN services such as the five present here become more ubiquitous.

Data is a valuable commodity, and it’s important to do whatever you can to protect yours when using the internet. Whether it’s corporations, governments, or criminals whose activities give you greatest concerns, a solid VPN service can go a long way towards allaying them.

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