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IPVanish Deep Dive Review

Marc DahanIPVanish Deep Dive Review

Privacy is a hot topic in 2020. With all the data breaches and the improper use of personal information that have come to light in recent years, more and more people are turning to VPNs to gain some control over their digital privacy

But not all VPNs are made equal. Some of them will even put you in a worse position than sticking to your ISP’s connection.

In this article, we go over IPVanish’s offering in the VPN space. Can we recommend IPVanish? Read on to find out.

Short on time? 
Here's what matters most.

IPVanish logo

Our score: 

8.0/10

IPVanish presents themselves as secure, private, no-logging VPN service. However, they actively spied on their users in 2016, at the request of law enforcement, so trust will be difficult here. They are also rather expensive and offer far less than most VPN providers. On the plus side, their speeds are good and all of their plans come bundled with a free SugarSync account. Still, they should focus on improving their basic VPN service before throwing in bells and whistles.

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IPVanish Overview

[vpn vpn_1="IPVanish"]

IPVanish is a well-known player in the VPN space. They claim to offer a no-logging VPN service and take a strong stance on user privacy. 

They have native apps for all major platforms and allow for a generous 10 simultaneous connections. 

They use industry-standard encryption and can secure your more casual online activities while offering some convenience features, such as SOCKS5 proxy support.

About IPVanish

IPVanish was founded in 2012 by Mudhook Media Inc., in Florida. They started out with 32 servers and a single Windows client. They’ve since grown to support all major operating systems and now operate over 1400 servers in more than 75 countries.

Positives

  • Industry-Standard Encryption
  • Native Applications
  • SOCKS5 Proxy Support
  • SurgarSync Backup Included
  • Good Speeds

Negatives

  • No Ads & Trackers Blocker
  • VPN Kill Switch Only in Windows, macOS & Android
  • No Tor Over VPN Support
  • 2016 Logging Controversy

Things to Consider Before Signing-up to a VPN Provider

There are two elements that essentially constitute the DNA of a VPN service:

  • Privacy
  • Anonymity

And the best way to tick both boxes is to operate a no-logging service. It is the most crucial point to consider when considering a VPN subscription. A VPN provider that logs your activities does not deserve your trust.

The payment methods that the provider accepts is also of critical importance. The money trail you leave behind could compromise your anonymity. 

Cash or cryptocurrency payments should be accepted as payment methods for VPN providers who take privacy seriously.

Features Deep Dive

We will take an in-depth look at IPVanish’s offering. The review will be broken down into four main categories, which each contain multiple sub-points. The main categories are Anonymity, Security, Features, and Policies.

Anonymity

What Information Is Collected at Signup?

IP Vanish Sign-up

IPVanish’s sign-up process is simple enough. And they don’t require a lot of information form you. 

Setup a valid email address, choose a password to access the service, and select a plan

Easy-peasy.

Accepted Payment Methods

IPVanish payment methods

As we mentioned in the introduction, the accepted payment methods play a pivotal role in a VPN service’s privacy and anonymity.

Unfortunately, while IPVanish accepts payment methods, such as credit cards and PayPal, they do not offer cash or cryptocurrency payments.

This is too bad. We hope that in the future IPVanish will accept more private payment methods.


Security

Supported VPN Protocols

IPVanish supports: 

  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • OpenVPN
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • PPTP

The first two protocols on the list are robust and secure VPN protocols that have demonstrated their security.

The last two are not. Both L2TP/IPSec and PPTP are considered weak, compromised – and as far as PPTP is concerned, obsolete.

I don’t believe there is a real-world use case to justify the use of these protocols. And it is my opinion they should stop supporting them.

At least they don’t go out of their way to advertise PPTP support. You need to dig into their website a little bit to figure out it’s there.

Encryption Level & Supported Ciphers

IPVanish uses AES256 encryption on all of their connections. AES256 is an industry-standard cipher and contains no known vulnerabilities.

With IPVanish, you cannot use any other encryption scheme. 

This has the benefit of protecting users who may not understand everything about encryption and will protect them from misconfigurations. On the other hand, more advanced users won’t be able to customize their connection.

DNS Leak Protection

Pipe Leak

DNS leaks are a big deal when using a VPN. If your DNS requests leak, they end up back in the hands of your ISP, defeating the purpose of your VPN.

Like most VPN providers who take privacy seriously, IPVanish runs their no-logging DNS servers from inside the VPN tunnel. 

And their client apps are configured to automatically use their internal DNS servers, which also benefit from the tunnel’s encryption.

I tested IPVanish for DNS leaks, using ipleak.net, and I’m happy to report that my DNS was not leaking.

IPVanish DNS Leak Test
My DNS did not leak while connected to IPVanish's network.

VPN Kill Switch

lightswitch

A VPN Kill Switch protects you from traffic leaks if your connection to the server should ever drop. Without a Kill Switch, your traffic would go out to the Internet unencrypted.

IPVanish do include a VPN Kill Switch in their apps, but only in the Window, macOS, and Android clients.

We hope that in the future they will extend this feature to all major platforms.

In Which Jurisdiction is the VPN Provider Based?

US Flag

Again, we feel that the logging policy is the most critical feature of any VPN service. That’s not to say that jurisdiction doesn’t matter, however. Especially for dissidents in authoritarian countries. 

Common knowledge in the VPN space will tell you to avoid a VPN provider based in one of the 14 Eyes nations, to lower the probability of your data ending up in the hands of governments. 

But if the provider keeps logs, their jurisdiction doesn’t really matter anymore.

IPVanish is based in the United States – a Five Eyes nation, if I ever saw one… But the U.S. does not have, at this time, a mandatory data retention (logging) law. At least not yet. 

This means that VPN providers, in the United States, can operate a no-logging service.

For casual VPN users, IPVanish’s no-logging service is more than secure enough. 

There is one major caveat with IPVanish’s service that we’ll get into in the Policies section of this review. And it’s the reason I cannot recommend IPVanish to individuals who require a high degree of security and privacy.

For more information on the relationship between VPN providers, jurisdiction, and Intelligence sharing, have a look at our 5, 9 & 14 Eyes: What Does It All Mean For VPN Users? article.

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Do They Have a Warrant Canary?

Canary

A warrant canary is a frequently published statement that confirms that a service provider has not received a secret warrant and gag order from law enforcement. 

If the provider ever receives a secret warrant/gag order, it can take down the warrant canary and indirectly inform its user base that the service has, somehow, been compromised. 

It’s imprecise, as it won’t let the target know it’s a target. But it may be enough for those feeling concerned to take action.

As far as we can tell, IPVanish does not publish a warrant canary.

Do They Own or Rent Their Infrastructure?

Infrastructure

It is always better for a VPN provider to actually own its entire infrastructure. This has an obvious security benefit, because, technically, no third-party access to the servers can happen.

Renting infrastructure, on the other hand, while introducing a potential security hole, enables providers to scale their service and offer more server locations more easily.

IPVanish personally manages its entire infrastructure, according to its website. Does that mean they own and manage their network or rent and manage?.

Presuming that they do own their infrastructure, this gives IPVanish a definite point. This is more secure. But needs clarification.

Have They Ever Been Hacked?

Hacked

Obviously, a hack is going to be a big deal to a company that makes its bread and butter on privacy and security claims. So determining if a prospective VPN provider has ever been hacked is paramount.

As far as we know, IPVanish has never been hacked. This could well have to do with the fact that they own and control all their infrastructure. As this eliminates possible breaches by third-parties

But do read the Policies section below… You’ll understand why I’m recommending this…

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Features

Cost

IP Vanish Price Plans
IPVanish's different subscription plans.

IPVanish is on the expensive side when it comes to VPN services.

All of the NordVPN subscriptions include all of the features on offer, as well as a free SugarSync subscription (more on that later). IPVanish offers three different subscription terms:

  • 10.00 USD for one month of service
  • 26.99 USD for three months of service (works out to 8.99 USD per month)
  • 77.99 USD for one year of service (works out to 6.49 USD per month)

These prices are OK, but there are definitely some equivalent or better options out there that are much cheaper. 

All subscriptions are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Free SugarSync Subscription

sugarsync

Regardless of the plan, you choose to purchase, IPVanish will throw in a free subscription to the secure backup service, SugarSync. The included subscription gives you 250 GB storage space.

This is definitely nice to have, but it’s likely not the main reason people turn to commercial VPN services and is unlikely to sway many people to purchase a subscription. 

As I think you’ll agree further down, they could have put their efforts into more productive areas. 

But hey, it’s free, so we’ll take it.

Number of Devices That Can Connect Simultaneously?

IPVanish lets you connect up to 10 devices simultaneously. This is high above what most VPN providers allow.

You can also configure IPVanish on a DD-WRT compatible router and connect as many devices as you want to the router. The router only counts as one device.

Speed

Speed

I performed a quick speed test, while connected to IPVanish, using Ookla‘s speed test service.

I was using an Internet connection with 45Mbps download and 15 Mbps upload. My ISP connection averaged out at a little over 40Mbps.

ISP Speed

I performed the speed test three times, to make the results more accurate, and took the average of the three tests as the final value.

The server I chose is located in New York. This is close to where I am in Canada.

IP Vanish speedtest1
IP Vanish speedtest2
IP Vanish speedtest3

There was a small speed decrease, but nothing major. VPNs inevitably create overhead and will slow down your connection, to some degree. These results are adequate.

The ping time hardly changed. And neither did the upload speed. IPVanish is neither the fastest nor the slowest VPN we’ve seen. But so many factors can affect network speed and throughput that the same server could be much faster tomorrow.

Overall, speed is not really an issue with IPVanish.

The Number of VPN Servers Available?

IP Vanish Servers

IPVanish operates over 1400 servers, in more than 75 countries. Should be able to find a suitable location somewhere in there, right? 

And IPVanish (probably) owns and operate their entire network.

Do They Support Multiple Server Hops?

Bunny

A VPN that supports multiple server hops will bounce your traffic over two different VPN servers. 

This makes you harder to identify. The second server hop adds a second layer of security and anonymity to your traffic.

IPVanish does not supprt multiple server hops at this time.

Supported Platforms

NordVPN supports all major operating systems. And also support DD-WRT compatible routers. Good coverage.

For the complete list and setup instructions, visit IPVanish’s website.

Native Apps?

IPVanish's App
IPVanish's macOS native application.

NordVPN provides native applications for the following platforms:

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Fire TV
  • Chrome OS

IPVanish’s apps were easy enough to use. I had no problems navigating the app and finding what I wanted. Other reviewers have criticized their apps for being a little complex – maybe I’m just so used to VPN apps…

They have all major operating systems covered but don’t have any browser plugins available. Still, very complete coverage.

Blocks Ads & Trackers?

IPVanish does not support ads & tracker blocking at this time.

Torrenting / P2P Support?

Torrent

IPVanish doesn’t really mention torrenting all that much on their website. 

They do have support documents that refer to it. So it would seem that their servers are P2P friendly. But clarification on this point would be appreciated.

SOCKS5 Proxy Support

Their support documents cover a feature that they do support and that can be used for P2P file-sharing: SOCKS5 Proxy support.

A proxy server acts a lot like a VPN, in that your traffic is bounced over the proxy server and the proxy server appears to be the origin of the traffic, as far as the queried website is concerned. 

SOCKS5 is just a type of proxy server that supports more traffic types than an HTTP proxy, for example.

IPVanish’s SOCKS5 proxy can change your IP address while torrenting, for security and privacy reasons. But IPVanish claims it will be faster than using a VPN, as the SOCKS5 proxy does not encrypt the traffic, resulting in less overhead and faster speeds.

This can be a good option for some. But I would always recommend using a VPN, and the benefit of encryption, when engaging in P2P file-sharing.

Streaming / Netflix

Netflix Logo

IPVanish claim their service is streaming-friendly. And this is good because streaming over a VPN has a few advantages:

  • Circumventing geo-restrictions
  • Avoiding ISP bandwidth throttling
  • The security benefit of a fully encrypted connection

And Netflix?

As you probably already know, Netflix banned VPN use from its service in 2018. And it’s been a cat and mouse game, with Netflix blocking VPNs and VPNs unblocking Netflix, since then. 

We didn’t believe IPVanish would unblock Netflix, because we read other reviews that claimed this was not possible.

And as expected, it did not work. In fact, I couldn’t even log in. 

So if you’re looking for a VPN to unblock Netflix, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Tor Support?

TOR

Some VPN providers enable you to reroute your traffic from the VPN server over the Tor network, for added security and anonymity.

At this time, IPVanish does not offer Tor over VPN services.

Do bear in mind that Tor can drastically slow down your Internet speed.

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Policies

A VPN provider’s policies, relative to certain events and the management of the service, are at least as important as the features they offer.

Have they ever spied on their users at the request of law enforcement?

In 2016, TorrentFreak reported that IPVanish handed the personal information of one of its users over to Homeland Security. The individual in question was under suspicion of sharing child pornography online.

The information, which was handed over included the customer’s name, email address, details of his VPN subscription, his real IP address “as well as dates and times [he] connected to, and disconnected from, the IRC network.”

At the time, IPVanish stated in their privacy policy that they did not log any user activity. But one has to wonder how they could hand over that data while not logging user activity…

One possibility is that they truly did not have a logging system in place, but set up an ad-hoc logging system, targeted at this specific user, at the request of law enforcement.

But even if we make this supposition, they did not warn their user and actively spied on them. 

Now, of course, nobody is angry that a potential child pornographer was caught by law enforcement. But this is not the issue. It could just as well have been a political dissident or a whistleblower

Regardless of why IPVanish did it and which individual they targeted, it happened.  That makes it hard (perhaps impossible?) to trust their no-logging claims

Anyone who’s Internet activities could pose a threat to their life or liberty should look elsewhere for VPN service.

Would they warn users if/when compromised by law enforcement?

What do you think, given the above?

How do they respond to DMCA notices?

According to IPVanish’s DMCA Policy page on their website, they will comply with legally valid DMCA notices. The rest of the page goes on to explain the DMCA notice/counter-notice process.

Careful what you download!

Logging policy

IPVanish claims to be a no-logging VPN service, pretty much all over their website. They also address the question of logging in a support document. In that document, we find this:

“We are frequently asked questions like "What logs do you keep?", and "Do you monitor my activity? No. We do not monitor, record or store logs for any single customer's VPN activity. We have a zero log policy. Our users' privacy is our main concern. For complete details, please see our Privacy Policy." 

And in their privacy policy, they commit to not logging the following data points:

  • Connection Data
  • Traffic Data
  • Activity Data

We’d like to believe them. But…

Privacy Policy

IPVanish’s Privacy Policy is available on their website. It is clearly written and is easy to understand. They are transparent about what they collect as well.

The following quote sums it up pretty well:

“We care deeply about your privacy rights, and we do not log any traffic or usage of our VPN. We do not sell or rent personal information to others, under any circumstance. Your data is secured and rendered anonymous whenever you are connected to our Services. In order to provide you with our Services, we need to collect an email address and payment method to process transactions.” 

This is all fine and good. But you can write whatever policies you want. Unless you are bound to uphold them, they’re just words… 

There is a trust issue with IPVanish, unfortunately.


What Others Have Said...

IPVanish has been around since 2012. As such, it’s not very difficult to find other reviews online. We did a quick search and found several very quickly. These reviews, like ours, praise certain aspects of their service while criticizing others. 

Here are a few quotes that I felt summed up the situation pretty well:

pcmag.com

PCMage_small

“VPN service IPVanish secures your web traffic from prying eyes. It packs powerful features veteran VPN users will appreciate, and presents a good value overall, although its interface may intimidate the less experienced.” 

techradar.com

techradar

“IPVanish provides a reliable service at a reasonable price and while it doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking or truly exceptional, it does offer several features (like the SOCKS5 protocol) that make it appealing to a certain demographic of VPN users.” 

vpnmentor.com

VPN Mentor Logo

“It is a solid, reliable VPN that’s perfect for security-conscious browsing. However, it can’t compete when it comes to streaming and online entertainment. I was impressed with its speed and performance tests, but unimpressed by its inability to bypass VPN blocks. It has compatibility issues, struggles with geo-restricted content, and doesn’t offer the best value for money. 


IPVanish Alternatives

NordVPN Logo

Our score: 8.5 

Visit NordVPN

NordVPN is an excellent VPN service, based in Panama. They offer a great mix of security, privacy, and convenience. 

DNS leak protection, CyberSec, strong encryption, VPN kill switch have you covered on the security front. 

A strict no-logging policy, a thoughtfully written Privacy Policy, Bitcoin payments, and a Panama-based jurisdiction have your back for privacy

And dedicated P2P servers, native apps for every major (and not so major) platform, and up to six simultaneous connections (or more with a VPN router) make the service very user-friendly.

  • Industry-Standard Encryption
  • Native Applications
  • Strict No-Logging Policy
  • Ads & Tracker Blocker
  • VPN Kill Switch
  • Tor Over VPN

Surfshark is a VPN provider based in the British Virgin Islands, which was founded in 2018. 

They take a strong stance on user privacy and security, while still offering some very convenient features, such as background P2P routing.

Their sign-up process is minimalistic, in that it only requires a valid email address from you.

They only support IKEv2 and OpenVPN. And while this may seem restrictive, we commend Surfshark for not weakening their user's security by supporting insecure or obsolete VPN protocols. 

Surfshark offers a very good service with a strong focus on privacy. And at 1.99 USD per month, it’s the least expensive, serious VPN service we’ve seen.

  • Industry-Standard Encryption
  • Native Applications
  • Strict No-Logging Policy
  • Ads & Tracker Blocker
  • VPN Kill Switch
  • Passed Security Audit in 2018

IVPN is a Gibraltar based VPN provider. They are very much focused on privacy and security as their simple privacy policy makes clear. 

They do not log any user activity and they own and control all of their infrastructure. 

They support almost every platform available and offer helpful guides on setting up their service on all of their supported platforms.

  • Based in Gibraltar
  • Strict no-logging policy
  • Support Multihop servers
  • Accept cash and bitcoin
  • Blocks ads & trackers (AntiTracker)
  • Own and control their entire infrastructure

The Final Verdict

Our verdict is going to have to be a mixed bag. A VPN review will always essentially come down to the balance between security & convenience

And on both points, there are concerns.

Security:

We like what we see “on paper”: No logging, DNS leak protection, industry-standard encryption. This is all good. But when confronted to reality – at least with reality in 2016 – their no-logging claims are hard to swallow.

Convenience:

While a SOCKS5 proxy and SugarSync backup are nice to have, these are not the main reasons one shops for a VPN. 

And encouraging the use of a SOCKS5 proxy for torrenting, when you offer VPN services, is just… well, weird. 

An ads & tracker blocker would be more useful. Just as Tor over VPN, multiple server hops and a VPN Kill Switch would be. But we get none of that.

And with the sheer number of competitors, it’s just not that difficult to find a better VPN service. 

Their history plagues them in my book. And I just don’t see how I could recommend IPVanish to anyone who takes their digital privacy seriously. 

Dissidents, stay away. Journalists, stay away. Activists, stay away. 

But if all you really want to do is encrypt your traffic while using Starbuck’s WiFi, IPVanish should be fine for you.

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Further Reading

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