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The most secure VPN 2021

secure VPN
(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

When discussing the best VPN, privacy and security can be easily confused. Here, we're going to quickly run down what exactly a secure VPN is, what it means to you, and then explore the very best options on the market.

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 too, but the opposite might not be true – so how can you tell?

What makes the most secure VPN?

First and foremost, you should ensure your VPN has a quality no-logging policy. A core tenet of both private and secure VPNs, if the provider keeps no logs of you or your activity you can feel safe in the knowledge that in whatever circumstance – data breach, government investigation, server hack – your info will be safe, because it was never recorded in the first place.

Then, you’ll want to see what protocol and encryption options you’ll have available to you. All the best services use at least AES-256 encryption, and OpenVPN TCP support should be prioritized for security (UDP is useful for maximum speeds). WireGuard is new, fast, and generally regarded as secure, and some VPNs like our top pick ExpressVPN have developed their own protocols. These tend to be fast and effective too – but many 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.

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.

1. ExpressVPN – the most secure VPN today
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.
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2. NordVPN – the biggest name is super secure
Again, it's probably not a surprise that NordVPN 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.View Deal

3. VyprVPN – smaller network, but very secure
Perhaps a bit of a wildcard, VyprVPN is a very capable service that has security at its heart. With an audited no-logging policy, excellent encryption, and great performance in countries like China and Iran, it's a very viable alternative at just $1.67 a month.View Deal

The most secure VPNs today

ExpressVPN most secure vpn

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

The most secure VPN on the market

Verified zero logging: Yes
Own DNS servers: Yes
Money-back guarantee: 30 days
Protocols: OpenVPN TCP & UDP, L2TP/IPsec, IKEv2, PPTP, LightWay
Simultaneous connections: 5
Reasons to buy
+Military-grade encryption+Perfect Forward Secrecy+Verified no-logging+TrustedServer tech
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive, but absolutely worth it

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.

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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.View Deal

NordVPN most secure VPN

(Image credit: NordVPN)

2. NordVPN

Incredible encryption and usability

Verified zero logging: Yes
Own DNS servers: Yes
Money-back guarantee: 30 days
Protocols: OpenVPN TCP & UDP, IKEv2, SSTP, NordLynx (WireGuard)
Simultaneous connections: 6
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+Kill switch+Audited twice in two years+Incredible speeds on NordLynx
Reasons to avoid
-We still remember that hack…

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, two 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’s 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.

VyprVPN most secure vpn

(Image credit: VyprVPN)

3. VyprVPN

Small no-logging contender impresses

Verified zero logging: Yes
Own DNS servers: Yes
Money-back guarantee: 30 days
Protocols: OpenVPN TCP & UDP, L2TP/IPsec, L2TP/IKEv2, PPTP, WireGuard, Chameleon
Simultaneous connections: 5
Reasons to buy
+No logs + zero-knowledge DNS+Huge device support inc. routers+Chameleon protocol avoids VPN blocks
Reasons to avoid
-Not a huge number of servers

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 the previous two, 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 a little down compared to the very fastest, but only those with very fast base connections will notice – and, for the price, we reckon quite a few people would take the hit to save the cash. Overall, VyprVPN is a very secure VPN that’s certainly worth checking out, and any shortcomings are outweighed by its bargain price and excellent commitment to user security.

Surfshark most secure VPN

(Image credit: Surfshark)

4. Surfshark

Cheap, effective, and secure

Verified zero logging: No
Own DNS servers: No
Money-back guarantee: 30 days
Protocols: OpenVPN TCP & UDP, IKEv2, Shadowsocks
Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Reasons to buy
+Excellent value+Great encryption + selection of protocols+Kill switch+Double hop
Reasons to avoid
-Not fully audited

A staple of many of our best-of guides, Surfshark provides one of the most affordable yet secure VPNs. At just $2.49 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 Double Hop (using two separate servers to further obfuscate your traffic), the company’s own zero-knowledge DNS servers, full 24/7 support, split tunneling and ad blocking to name a few.

However, while Surfshark has undertaken an audit of sorts, the investigation only took into consideration its browser extensions – and it was almost two years ago, too. We’d really love to see a full audit soon. However, for the price we really can’t fault Surfshark too much, and if you’re looking for a cheap VPN to keep you secure, it's a great option.

ProtonVPN most secure vpn

(Image credit: ProtonVPN)

5. ProtonVPN

Swiss security through and through

Verified zero logging: Yes
Own DNS servers: Yes
Money-back guarantee: 30 days
Protocols: OpenVPN TCP & UDP, IKEv2
Simultaneous connections: 5/10
Reasons to buy
+Open-source apps + audit+Secure Core protects vulnerable servers+Cash payments+Great for streaming
Reasons to avoid
-Plus plans are pricey

In our ProtonVPN 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 ProtonMail.

Shell out for the Plus plan and you'll get access to a heck of a lot of security-based features, most impressive of which is ProtonVPN's Secure Core system. Proton has banks of 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.

ProtonVPN 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, the Plus plan is a little more expensive than the competition – but for those who care, it'll be well worth it.

Secure VPN FAQ

What is the most secure VPN?

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.

Mo is eCommerce Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees privacy and security content, and his product guides help his readers find the best software and products for their needs. When he's not testing VPNs, you'll find him working on his classic car or plugged into a guitar amp.