The most secure VPN should be at the top of most people's shopping list when it comes to staying safe online, but finding the best VPN for the job can be tricky – and, security and privacy are often confused.
Privacy is the act of keeping what you do to yourself. That includes stuff like websites or social media apps tracking you and harvesting your data. Essentially, if you’re trying to stay private, you’re trying to limit the ‘legitimate’ use of your data – marketing, advertising, consumer research and the like.
Security, on the other hand, is the process of protecting you and your data from malicious threats. That means you’re keeping your data out of the hands of cybercriminals who might try to intercept your internet traffic or steal identifying information – a rather more sinister prospect.
The most secure VPN is likely to be very private VPN too, but the opposite might not be true – so how can you tell?
What makes the most secure VPN?
First up, make sure your VPN has a quality no-logging policy. If a VPN doesn't keep any logs on its users, you can be fairly sure that whatever the situation – government investigation, server hack, data breach – your info will be safe because it was never stored in the first place.
All the best services use at least AES-256 encryption and offer a good range of protocols. WireGuard is becoming the industry standard due to its tight security and excellent speeds, and some providers like ExpressVPN have developed their own protocols – but many users still stand by OpenVPN for its proven reliability.
Perfect Forward Secrecy is a great addition – by changing your key on every login and at least each hour thereafter, even if one session is compromised, very soon the key will change and you’ll be protected again. A kill switch is essential, too.
Our top pick ExpressVPN fulfils all those criteria and more, and it's the one we use to protect our own data. However, there are a number of other reputable providers, and below we’ve got our top five for you to pick from.
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1. ExpressVPN – the most secure VPN today (opens in new tab)
We're not surprised that ExpressVPN turned out to be the most secure VPN in our testing, but the fact it combines impenetrable encryption and a verified no-logging status with such great usability is the icing on the cake. Plus, you can now get three months free with a 12-month plan.
2. NordVPN – the biggest name is super secure (opens in new tab)
Again, it's probably not a surprise that NordVPN (opens in new tab) features highly here. Renowned for its privacy and security, its encryption is rock-solid and it provides a great experience in the process. However, it's super fast, and offers great value, too.
3. Proton VPN – very secure and great for streaming (opens in new tab)
In our recent review, Proton VPN made some big changes and really upped its game. However, it's always been super secure, and with a clean track record and great apps for tons of devices, it's well worth considering.
The most secure VPNs today(opens in new tab)
If you’re looking for the most secure VPN to protect your data and browsing habits, ExpressVPN should be at the top of your list.
First up, ExpressVPN has undergone an independent security audit which has proven its no-logging claims. And, possibly more impressively, this has held up in practice – in 2017, a Turkish ExpressVPN server was seized by the authorities, but no data was either stored on the server or handed over by ExpressVPN itself. That’s what we call a good track record.
TrustedServer is another excellent addition to Express’s arsenal of security features. In essence, this means that all ExpressVPN’s servers run on RAM, not traditional hard drives. All data is wiped every reboot, and information cannot be stored by design. Servers that run on hard drives can be difficult to fully erase and pose a security threat.
However, possibly the best thing about ExpressVPN is the fact that while it incorporates state-of-the-art security features, for the user it’s as simple as selecting a server and tapping ‘connect’. While you can change tons of options behind the scenes, you can also just go with the recommended settings and feel safe.
As an overall package, ExpressVPN is both the easiest and most effective way of keeping yourself secure online. It’s perfect for newbies and experts alike, and that’s why it’s our top pick for most secure VPN.
Get three months FREE of the most secure VPN (opens in new tab)
ExpressVPN is the most secure VPN on the market thanks to a wealth of in-depth features, great configuration and ease of use. Now, Tom's Guide readers can claim three months free of ExpressVPN – that's 15 months for the price of 12.
Well known as a name to trust in the web security world, in our NordVPN review we found that the famous provider is a great choice if you want to keep your data private and secure.
With a big name often comes notoriety, so we’ll address the elephant in the room – 2018’s server hack, and Nord’s response to it. Not at all a good situation to be in (a cybersecurity company being hacked themselves), Nord’s initial response was somewhat slow. However, four years later the firm has undertaken two independent audits, demonstrating its servers’ privacy to be solid and its no-logging claims to be true.
We’ll let you decide if you want to hold the past against Nord, but we think the provider has taken substantial steps to rectify a bad situation.
In terms of specs, NordVPN delivers excellent encryption, and is one of the fastest VPNs that we'd still trust to keep even the most sensitive information secure. You’ll also have a kill switch to protect you if your connection goes down, and interesting features including Double VPN and Onion over VPN, which uses the Tor Onion network.
On the whole, NordVPN is a seriously secure VPN provider, and we’re quite satisfied that it’s taken steps to fix its mistakes. However, as a full package, it’s just not quite as good as ExpressVPN – so that’s why it sits at #2 on this list.
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In our Proton VPN review we found that the Swiss provider offered a huge amount of security for its users – which is only to be expected from the providers of the highly regarded anonymous email service Proton Mail.
With the recent rebrand, gone are the convoluted payment plans. There are no more tiers, and now any subscription will get you 10 simultaneous connects and, most importantly, access to Proton's Secure Core servers. These are ultra secure, underground servers in Sweden, Switzerland and Iceland, countries known for good data privacy laws.
Anyone connecting to a less secure location where the provider can't be 100% sure of the safety of the server can choose to head through a Secure Core first, ensuring activity can't be tracked back to the user even in the event of a breach. This is much like NordVPN's Double Hop, and for the security conscious it'll be a big draw.
Proton VPN is also impressive as a streaming VPN and Netflix VPN, though, so don't think that you'll sacrifice the fun and games for absolute security. However, while it does offer a very capable free VPN, it's a little more expensive than the competition – but for those who care, it's well worth it.(opens in new tab)
A staple of many of our best-of guides, Surfshark provides one of the most affordable yet secure VPNs. At less than $2.50 a month it's incredible value, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's some second-rate knock-off – our full Surfshark review found that the bargain provider is the real deal.
Surfshark provides a few features that you don’t often see together – especially at this price. That includes Multi-Hop (using two or more separate servers to further obfuscate your traffic), full 24/7 support, a kill switch, split tunneling, and ad blocking to name a few.
Surfshark has also addressed one of our major concerns by undertaking a full independent audit of its server infrastructure. Audits are becoming more and more important, and we're glad that Surfshark has taken the time to go through the process. For the price we really can’t fault Surfshark, and if you’re looking for a cheap VPN to keep you secure, it's a great option.(opens in new tab)
VyprVPN is a great wildcard choice if you’re looking for a secure VPN with impressive credentials, and in our VyprVPN review we found that it performed better than its numbers might suggest. While it doesn’t have the network size of bigger rivals, its 700+ servers are more than enough to be getting on with – plus, its Chameleon protocol helps evade VPN blocks in China, and can access Netflix and other streaming services without a hitch.
If you want to get seriously secure, you might want to set up a router VPN, and only VyprVPN and ExpressVPN offer dedicated apps to do so. That means there’ll be no chance of forgetting to switch your VPN on, and even your Alexa and Ring doorbell will benefit from it.
Like most previous providers, Vypr’s been independently audited as no-logging, although it’s been a while and we’d like to see another audit to keep those claims fresh.
Connection speeds are down compared to most, and the apps lack the polish of larger providers. Overall, though, VyprVPN is a very secure VPN that’s certainly worth checking out.
Secure VPN FAQ
What is the most secure VPN?
We rate ExpressVPN as the most secure VPN on the market (opens in new tab), thanks to its excellent encryption, wide protocol support, useful extra features and overall reliability and ease of use.
NordVPN is a close runner up (opens in new tab), with useful apps and excellent performance, and Proton VPN is also definitely worth considering (opens in new tab).
Why do I need a secure VPN?
A secure VPN is the first step in protecting yourself from cyberattacks including DDOS and Man in the Middle. By encrypting all your traffic, even if a criminal gets hold of your traffic, they won't be able to get any information out of it.
Even if you don't think you'll be at risk of this, by using a VPN you'll have permanent peace of mind that no matter where you are – and what networks you connect to – you'll be totally private, safe, and secure.