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What is a VPN and should you use one?

VPNs, also known as Virtual Private Networks, are increasingly in demand these days, but not for the reason they were originally created. That reason was simple: to securely connect business locations over the Internet or to allow users to access their office network from home. Back then, user privacy was not the primary use for VPNs. Today, however, in the wake of ubiquitous tracking and aggressive marketing strategies, the need for additional protection is growing, and that's where AdGuard VPN comes in. AdGuard VPN creates an encrypted, secure tunnel between your device and a server on the Internet and also blocks unwanted websites.
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AdGuard VPN
for Windows

Use any browser or app and never worry about your anonymity again. The entire world is at your fingertips with AdGuard VPN.
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AdGuard VPN
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In just two clicks, select a city from anywhere in the world — we have 65+ locations — and your data is invisible to the prying eyes of corporations and governments.
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AdGuard VPN
for iOS

Boost your online protection by taking it with you wherever you go. Use AdGuard VPN to enjoy your favorite movies and shows!
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AdGuard VPN
for Android

Remain anonymous wherever you go with AdGuard VPN! Dozens of locations, fast and reliable connection — all in your pocket.
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AdGuard VPN
for Chrome

Hide your true location and emerge from another place in the world — access any content without speed limits and preserve your web anonymity.
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AdGuard VPN
for Edge

Get to a different location in one click, hide your IP, and make your web surfing safe and anonymous.
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Protect your privacy, hide your real location, and decide to where you need the VPN and where you don't!
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Why use a VPN?

  • Improve online security

    Don’t let anyone track your location and get information about your computer. Forget about scammers and geo-targeted ads
  • Protect your privacy

    Shield your data from being siphoned off by shady Wi-Fi hotspots, thanks to data encryption and a masked IP address
  • Stream safely

    Catch up on your favorite shows and movies while traveling abroad and check out what's hot in other countries, too
  • See fewer ads

    Reduce the amount of geo-targeted ads you see. Use our ad blocker for an even better experience
  • Сhange your IP address

    Use VPN to hide your real IP address — stay anonymous, encrypt traffic, and protect your data
  • Stay under the radar

    Use torrents without being logged, even if your ISP doesn't like BitTorrent. Just make sure you do it legally

VPN fun facts

VPNs predate the Internet. In the age of the telephone, companies used VPNs to connect their corporate telephone networks into a single network, so that employees could talk as if they were in the same place.
Initially, VPN technologies were only used by large organizations to allow employees to communicate and share confidential information securely.

How does a VPN work?

VPN uses encryption to create secure VPN tunnels

The VPN technology uses data encryption algorithms to create secure tunnels from your device (point A) to the destination server (point B). For example, you have AdGuard VPN enabled on your device and want to access YouTube:
You establish an encrypted connection between your device and a VPN server of your VPN provider, such as AdGuard VPN
Your Internet traffic is encrypted and routed through the established VPN tunnel to the VPN server
The VPN server partially decrypts your information at the transport and VPN layers. Your data, such as user credentials, cookies, payment details or viewed videos, remains encrypted at the protocol layer with TLS encryption and is unknown to the VPN provider
The VPN server connects to a YouTube server and forwards the request from your browser or YouTube app
The YouTube server responds with data to the VPN server
The VPN server receives TLS-encrypted traffic, adds the VPN encryption layer, and sends it to your device
Your device receives the encrypted traffic, decrypts it, and forwards it to the browser or YouTube app that initiated the request
In a nutshell, the VPN technology allows you to hide your online identity by routing your traffic through a remote VPN server with a different IP address, location, and other associated data. It also adds an extra layer of protection by encrypting your traffic.
Your ISP, advertisers, government agencies, hackers, and other third parties may try to monitor your traffic between your device and the VPN server. VPN ensures that your traffic is encrypted and observers can't extract any useful information from the encrypted data stream. Keep in mind, that even with a hidden IP address, your online activity can still be tracked through cookies and device fingerprinting.

VPN protocols and their types

A VPN protocol is a set of rules for allowed authentication and transport protocols and encryption methods. It determines how the connection is established between you and the VPN server. VPN protocols vary in speed, security, supported networks, and platforms.
Let's examine the most popular VPN protocols and describe their strengths and weaknesses.

IPsec

Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) is a secure network protocol that authenticates, encrypts, and establishes mutual authentication between two agents: host-to-host, security gateways (network-to-network), or a host and a gateway. The protocol provides security for Internet traffic through the following features:
Confidentiality: Only the sender and the receiver can access the unencrypted data
Integrity: Data packets have corresponding hash values that change when the data is modified. The parties calculate the hash value for each data packet to confirm that the data is authentic
Anti-reply: IPsec uses sequence data to avoid sending duplicate packets. Even if hackers capture the packet, they can't send it again
Authentication: Both the sender and receiver are authenticated, so they can be sure that the data is going to the intended party

OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)

One of the most popular free protocols is OpenVPN. By default, it uses UDP transport: all network packets are encapsulated into UDP datagrams and then sent to a VPN server. However, UDP traffic is often restricted on public networks. As a workaround, TCP encapsulation can be used, with some additional configuration on the server side. Many users praise the flexibility of its settings and its compatibility with different platforms. However, using this protocol requires some technical knowledge.

PPTP

The Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is one of the first such tools, released for Windows 95. It’s now obsolete and is not widely used because it has some protocol vulnerabilities and is easy to hack.

L2TP

Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), an extension of PPTP, is used to support VPNs or as part of ISP service delivery. The protocol encrypts only its control messages, not the content. It establishes a tunnel at the data link layer (Layer 2 of the OSI network communication model) that can be transmitted over a network layer encryption protocol, such as IPsec.

WireGuard

The lightweight codebase of Jason A. Donenfeld’s protocol provides good connection speed. It is easy to use and offers high security thanks to its clean design and modern elliptic-curve cryptography. However, because it doesn't support TCP, it may not work on networks that block UDP traffic. Also, unlike IPsec, you have to download a special app to use the protocol because it’s not natively supported by consumer operating systems.

SSTP

The Secure Socket Tunneling protocol was developed by Microsoft for Windows-based devices. If you are using Microsoft Azure, you need Windows 8.1 or later, which supports TLS 1.2 and has SSTP. As a proprietary TLS-based protocol, SSTP can penetrate firewalls, most of which leave outbound TCP port 443 open. SSTP provides a mechanism for transmitting PPP traffic over an SSL/TLS channel with protection at the transport layer.

Proprietary protocols

The primary goal of the protocols and related software described above is to provide private networks within organizations. They are not designed to bypass firewalls or port blocking, or to hide the fact that their clients are using a VPN. Their use within a commercial software may be limited due to licensing restrictions.
That’s why large public VPN service providers develop their own VPN protocols. This category includes LightWay by ExpressVPN, Hydra by Hotspot Shield, and our own proprietary AdGuard VPN protocol.
In particular, the AdGuard VPN protocol is designed to be fast, energy-efficient, and indistinguishable from regular HTTPS traffic.

Why do you need a VPN?

In this age of widespread digital transformation, your online activity is being monitored. Just as your home address is used to deliver mail, your IP address is used to determine where to send Internet traffic or to track the origin of a particular search query or website visit. And that is how the government, hackers, or other third parties can find you. Also, some websites may block certain locations from accessing their data.
How can a VPN help? A virtual private network allows you to avoid revealing your true IP address by proxying all your data through a secure connection to a dedicated server.
Here are a few reasons to use VPN:
To stay safe on public Wi-Fi. Using public Wi-Fi networks, especially those that are not password protected, puts you in a vulnerable position. Your traffic becomes an easy target for data miners. VPN solves this problem by encrypting all traffic and DNS requests
To hide your online activity from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). ISPs can track which websites you visit and what you do there. All your visits and clicks are stored and can be sold to advertising companies or given to intelligence agencies. With a VPN, your browsing history is hidden from your ISP
To avoid geographical pricing. Some online retailers set up prices based on the user's location. For example, the same shirt might cost $20 in India and $30 in the US. By visiting the site from an IP address in a different country, you will save money
To watch your favorite TV shows when you are in another country. Because your IP address shows where the traffic is coming from, site admins can easily block access for certain countries. With a VPN, you can pretend that your device is in your home region and access your usual content

Pros and cons of using a VPN

Pros

Your personal information is encrypted so you can avoid any threats and use the Internet safely
Many VPN providers offer free or demo versions of VPNs with some restrictions
VPNs are easy to use. All you have to do is download an app, log in, choose a preferred location, and turn on tunneling
You get access to content that is unavailable due to local restrictions
Your data is protected from ISP and government surveillance

Cons

VPN servers located far from you can increase network latency and slow your connection speed
You may need to purchase a VPN subscription if the free version doesn’t meet your needs, especially if you require constant use, large data transfers, high speed, or access to unavailable locations
Using untrusted VPN services from unknown providers can lead to privacy concerns as they may not have transparent privacy policies, potentially resulting in data leakage or sharing with third parties

VPN types

Two main types of VPNs you should know about

Commercial VPN

This is a commercial VPN service that creates a secure tunnel from your device to a remote server and routes your Internet traffic through it. It helps you hide your true IP address and real location.

Corporate VPN

This is an internal network that connects different locations within your organization. You use these VPNs to securely connect to your office resources from anywhere in the world without the risk of your data being stolen or compromised in transit. This VPN also reduces the possibility of third-party intrusion into a corporate network.

How to choose a VPN?

There are a lot of VPN providers these days, which makes it difficult to find the right one. Here are some important criteria to consider:
Number of servers and locations. The more, the better. The closer the VPN server is to you, the less impact the tunneling will have on your Internet speed. Also, you may need a VPN server in a specific country or location, and it's important that your VPN provider can offer you one
Shared or private IP addresses. A shared IP makes it difficult to track you by IP address. However, a shared IP address is used by a lot of users at the same time and is more likely to be included in lists of anonymous IP addresses or banned by government firewalls
Logging policy. Providers with no-logging policies don’t record your online activity. For example, AdGuard VPN has a zero-logging policy to ensure your privacy
Multi-device support. If you subscribe to a VPN service, you want to use it on multiple devices, both desktop and mobile. This is possible if your provider has mobile apps in the App Store and Google Play
Free trial. You always want to try it before you buy to make sure that the connection is reliable, the speed is good enough, and the security is strong. Look for providers that offer a free trial. For example, AdGuard VPN offers free 3 GB of traffic that renews monthly

How to install AdGuard VPN

Install the app
Log in and click Connect. All done!
Alternatively, install AdGuard VPN Browser Extension to use VPN in your browser, or generate credentials in your AdGuard account to set up AdGuard VPN on your router

VPN, Tor, or proxy?

A virtual private network is not the only way to make your device appear to have a different IP address. You can also try using Tor or a proxy.

VPN vs. Tor

Both a VPN and Tor use encryption to prevent third parties from reading your data.
Tor is an open source Firefox-based browser that implements anonymity on the Internet. It divides your data into encrypted packets and sends them through a series of random proxy servers. The other end decrypts and reads your data, but can't determine its source.
A VPN typically takes a more centralized approach. After you connect, VPN sends your traffic to a server owned by the VPN provider. The IP address of that server allows you to hide your online identity and activity, as well as bypass regional blocks and censorship.
Tor’s specifics mean that it’s hardly a tool for everyday use. Traffic fragmentation and multiple network hops, dramatically reduce connection speed and responsiveness. That’s why Tor is usually used when you need to be untraceable, for example, to access the darknet.

VPN vs. proxy

The main difference between a proxy and a VPN is that proxies operate at the application layer, while VPNs operate at the transport layer. These technologies work in completely different ways.
A proxy server handles a specific protocol, usually HTTP or HTTPS, that an application must support in order to use the proxy. Typically, these are browsers or torrent clients. Typically, users must manually set up a proxy within an app: enter a login, password, and other credentials in the proxy settings.
VPNs, on the other hand, can handle all kinds of protocols and traffic, transparently to the apps generating that traffic. For example, SMTP, SSH, and other application-specific network protocols, including proprietary ones. A VPN is typically set up on a per-device basis: users install a VPN app on the device and enable tunneling with a few of clicks.
Proxies typically don’t provide additional encryption between a client and a server. Therefore, they are not used to provide anonymity and an extra layer of security, but rather to change an IP address or a client's location, for example, for streaming or torrenting.
There is one exception. Secure Web Proxy, a relatively new feature in browsers, establishes an encrypted connection between a client and a proxy server and can also be used to hide traffic from third parties. It requires support from a proxy, but all the other drawbacks of proxies are still present: it still works at the application layer and requires some manual setup in the app. This technology is mainly used as a part of browser VPN extensions.
While a proxy can satisfy some of your needs, such as hiding your IP address or real location, it still doesn't provide the same level of privacy, security, and anonymity level as a VPN.
AdGuard VPN product video

FAQ

  • A VPN is a shield for everything you do online because it encrypts your incoming and outgoing traffic. It also maintains your online privacy and prevents others from snooping on your traffic and you. This is one of the biggest benefits of a VPN and the main reason why it is such a popular privacy tool these days.
    A VPN protects you from someone trying to monitor the traffic between you and your VPN provider. A properly set-up VPN should prevent anyone on the same wireless network as you from intercepting and reading your traffic.
    The downside is that the interceptor can easily see that you are using a VPN. But because your IP address is that of the VPN server, they cannot trace your real IP address or location. They may try other means, such as installing malware on your system or getting to you through other channels that you may have shared on Facebook or other social networks.
    The fact that you're using a VPN won’t stop people who want to track your certain online activities. For example, a VPN probably won’t stop a group like Anonymous — unless they happen to be on the same local network as you. But a VPN will protect you from more mundane online perpetrators like cookie stuffers, data collectors, or phishers.
  • If you are somehow of interest to experienced hackers or determined authorities, then yes, it is theoretically possible to hack a VPN just like any other software. In 99% of other cases — stay cool, there’s nothing to worry about. However, this is what can be attempted against your VPN:
    You can be de-anonymized and exposed through doxing
    Your IP address isn’t the only thing that identifies you online. Information can be found in other sources, such as social accounts
    If someone hacks your VPN provider, they will be able to see your real IP address and traffic
    It is possible to install hard-to-detect malware on your device without your knowledge. This malware will send your information to the attacker
    Hacking a VPN requires a lot of skill and experience. Finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in a VPN app or cracking the encryption key is no easy task. Just make sure you choose a secure and trustworthy provider and you are good to go. Without a VPN, you are exposed to far more online dangers, so having one can only benefit you.
  • Theoretically, traffic passing through a VPN can be monitored at the exit point of the VPN server (which may not be the same as the server), or on its way from the exit point to the final destination. Typically, the use of end-to-end encryption, such as HTTPS, solves this problem.
    Your ISP and anyone else on the path from you to your VPN server can only see that some traffic is being exchanged between you and the VPN server, but they cannot see what that traffic contains. The traffic patterns themselves could still be used to link you to your activity if someone were to record them. But realistically, they wouldn’t be able to decipher anything close to the traffic itself. You can start some downloads or an online radio to add some noise to your traffic patterns if you’re feeling particularly suspicious about what’s out there.
  • No, it doesn’t. Today, bank card information is encrypted and transmitted only over a secure HTTPS protocol. Therefore, in order to steal your sensitive banking information, either your device has to be hijacked or you have to enter your card details on a phishing website. VPN won’t protect you in either case.
  • A virtual private network (VPN) is an online privacy tool that allows you to access restricted websites and hides your data from ISPs, governments, and hackers. It changes your IP address and location for outside observers.
  • Using VPNs is legal in most countries. Some countries block VPN access, but this does not necessarily mean you are breaking the law. Here are two cases where using a VPN is illegal:
    VPNs are banned by your country’s government
    You commit an illegal act while using a VPN
  • The price of a VPN subscription depends on your VPN provider and is typically based on the following features:
    Number of devices to protect
    Existence of traffic caps
    Number of server locations
    Length of subscription
    Some VPN providers offer a free trial. Often, the connection speed and quality are low, and the number of available locations is limited. Keep in mind that VPN providers cover the server maintenance, traffic, and other costs of such trials, so the service can’t be completely free for everyone. Free VPN access is a compromise that is paid for by the revenue generated from paid subscriptions.
  • Yes, if you choose a trusted VPN provider.
  • The biggest risk is choosing the wrong VPN service. Many VPN providers log their users’ activity. In such cases, your personal data becomes vulnerable and can fall into the hands of third parties.
  • A VPN allows you to access blocked Internet content and also hides your online identity. This means that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can't see your browsing history, and governments or hackers can't trace the direction of your Internet traffic.
  • Because most traffic is sent over an encrypted HTTPS protocol, third parties, including your VPN provider, don’t have full access to your data. So, your chat, password, or bank card information should be safe.
    However, website domain names and certain other data aren’t encrypted and may be sold to third parties. Trusted VPN providers shouldn’t even log such data.
  • As per industry requirements, banking websites and applications use an HTTPS protocol to transfer data to and from their servers, and even if your VPN provider is compromised, hijackers cannot access your sensitive data.
  • In most cases, no. Most passwords are encrypted and transmitted over an HTTPS protocol and cannot be seen by a VPN provider.
  • Depending on the jurisdiction, a VPN provider may be legally required to log the websites you visit, your IP address, and the IP address of the server you are connected to. However, VPN providers operating in offshore jurisdictions and some European countries like Cyprus or Switzerland are not subject to such requirements and usually don’t log your Internet activity.
    Aside from logging, there’s also metadata logging, which is the logging of server addresses and ports leased to a user by their VPN service provider. This type of logging doesn’t reveal anything about users and can only be used to investigate service abuse.
  • Actually, yes. There are some countries that prohibit the use of VPNs. Global streaming services like Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, and the BBC tend to blacklist VPN services because they don’t want to be fined for country-licensed content if their viewers circumvent the restriction.
    Technically, VPNs can be blocked in a number of ways:
    By blocking DNS queries for the VPN domain names
    By blocking connections to the specific VPN endpoints by IP or port address. However, the blockers need to know exactly who they want to block and how their VPN client works
    A VPN service has a limited number of IP addresses. Because most VPN servers use the IPv4 protocol, it’s difficult to generate unique IP addresses, resulting in a number of subscribers using the same IP addresses for months or longer. Websites that blacklist VPNs use special online services to block IP addresses that have been used by multiple different users
    By forcing all traffic to go through a password-protected HTTP proxy. This is annoying because it also blocks other things like as Windows updates
    As a last resort, it is possible to block all other traffic, including DNS, since it is possible to encapsulate VPN traffic inside DNS packets. At this point, the connection speed would become frustrating for an average business user and unacceptable for a home user, as streaming or VOIP won’t be available
    Again, only serious corporations or government agencies will have the need, time, and resources to try to block an average Internet user. In most cases, you should be safe.
  • It depends on your VPN settings. Usually, all of your traffic is tunneled. Some VPN apps, such as AdGuard VPN, allow you to tunnel only traffic to specific networks or domains, and exclude certain websites, apps, or IP addresses from the VPN.
  • For free plans, VPN providers typically limit connection speed and traffic. For paid VPN users, there are usually no speed or traffic caps, but there may be limits on the number of connected devices.
  • When a VPN encrypts your data, it uses your device’s processor, which can drain your battery faster if the encryption is poorly implemented. Modern mobile devices encrypt data using special CPU instructions, such as ARMv8 Cryptography Extensions, and computationally inexpensive encryption algorithms designed for mobile devices, such as ChaCha-Poly1305. VPN app developers should take these methods into account when developing the software. At AdGuard, we focus on energy efficiency and ensure that our mobile apps are highly optimized and consume as little power as possible.

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Total app rating 4.7/5

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Excellent!
  • Max Fun

    Has all the features such as finding the lowest latency server, kill switch. Works well.

  • Craig Parker

    usually good connection and speed.

  • Israel Wilkins

    Does exactly what I want it to. I did have some issues with it at times, but nothing too problematic. Great app otherwise!

  • Igor Genshaft

    Very good VPN for smartphone, with a lot of locations. Fast enough for all of my needs. Still has certain bugs migrating from version to version, hope they will be resolved too. On Android TV the available settings are insufficient, especially misse1

  • Aleksandar Kovacevic

    Great. I ve ben using Nord VPN for last 5 years, got Ad Guard VPN today and didn't make mistake. It's fast, connects well, block all the ads, almost perfect.

  • Luke Fitzgerald

    Works just like it should. I love it👍Works very well with Adguard

AdGuard VPN
for Windows

Use any browser or app and never worry about your anonymity again. The entire world is at your fingertips with AdGuard VPN.
Learn more
Download
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement

AdGuard VPN
for Mac

In just two clicks, select a city from anywhere in the world — we have 65+ locations — and your data is invisible to the prying eyes of corporations and governments.
Learn more
Download
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement

AdGuard VPN
for iOS

Boost your online protection by taking it with you wherever you go. Use AdGuard VPN to enjoy your favorite movies and shows!
Learn more
App Store
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement

AdGuard VPN
for Android

Remain anonymous wherever you go with AdGuard VPN! Dozens of locations, fast and reliable connection — all in your pocket.
Learn more
Google Play
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement
Download
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement

AdGuard VPN
for Chrome

Hide your true location and emerge from another place in the world — access any content without speed limits and preserve your web anonymity.
Learn more
Install
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement

AdGuard VPN
for Edge

Get to a different location in one click, hide your IP, and make your web surfing safe and anonymous.
Learn more
Install
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement

AdGuard VPN
for Firefox

Protect your privacy, hide your real location, and decide to where you need the VPN and where you don't!
Learn more
Install
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement

AdGuard VPN
for Opera

Be a ninja in your Opera browser: move quickly to any part of the world and remain unnoticed.
Learn more
Install
By downloading the program you accept the terms of the License agreement
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