VPNs today are used for a wide variety of reasons. But their main reason for being is to safeguard your online privacy.
And on that front, not all VPNs are equal.
In this post, I review PureVPN’s service to see if I can recommend them.
The verdict: At first glance, PureVPN seems to be a solid choice as a VPN provider, with good privacy practices – but the caveats quickly begin to add up…
Short on time?
Here's what matters most.
PureVPN ticks most boxes, and on the surface, they appear to be a good choice for the privacy-minded. But do a little digging and that initial optimism soon fades away.
There are worse choices on the market. But we can’t really recommend PureVPN.
To give you a quick overview of their product, PureVPN has a strong feature set in regards to security as well as convenience: VPN kill switch, DNS protection, up to 10 simultaneous connections, split tunneling, a strict no-logging policy, and of course, strong protocols and ciphers.
Unfortunately, PureVPN harvested the personal information of its users and shared it with law enforcement, in the past. And it’s very difficult to recover from this kind of breach of trust – especially for a VPN provider.
PureVPN was founded in 2007, in Honk Kong, by staff members from Hong Kong-based GZ Systems. They started out with only two locations. But have since grown to offer over 2000 servers in more than 140 countries.
- Industry-Standard Encryption
- Native Applications
- No-Logging Policy
- VPN Kill Switch
- Strong Ciphers
- PureVPN was successfully audited
- No Ads & Tracker Blocker
- No Multiple Server Hops
- No Tor Over VPN
- Native Apps use many third-party analytics scripts
- 2017 Logging Controversy
What to Consider Before Buying a VPN Subscription?
As you probably already know, a serious VPN service will always have strong policies in place concerning:
And I’ll make my usual points here, that a strict no-logging policy is more important than jurisdiction.
I feel this is particularly important in regard to PureVPN. They are based in Honk Kong and they “boast” about being outside of the 14 Eyes alliance – which is true.
But with China’s new National Security law being imposed on Honk Kong, it remains to be seen how safe Honk Kong remains from Chinese authoritarianism.
Still, as long as it remains legal for them not to log, you should be good. But quite frankly, in this case, and in light of the new Chinese law, I’m not sure I would feel comfortable using PureVPN’s network.
There are just too many unanswered questions about how the new law will affect Honk Kong’s sovereignty and whether or not their legal right to not log will remain.
Another important point is the payment methods accepted by the VPN.
Your money trail you can come back to bite you. So a VPN provider that takes the privacy of its users to heart should accept cash and cryptocurrency.
Unfortunately, PureVPN accepts neither…
Features & Benefits
I performed a quick speed test over PureVPN’s network.
The tests were performed using a 100Mbps download and 30Mbps upload connection. When testing over my ISP connection, I’m getting what I pay for: 100 down and 30 up.
The tests were run over a VPN server located in New York, which is geographically close to where I am physically located.
The speed test was performed three times, for added accuracy. And I take the average of the three tests as the final value.
Tested on a 100Mbps (Download) and 30Mbps (Upload) network
Server: U.S.A., New York
Average Download Speed: 75.22Mbps
Average Upload Speed: 28.25Mbps
So the two first tests are really very good. And on the second test, the speed hit is practically non-existent. On the third test, however, my speed is more than halved.
And it’s that third test that makes the average value seem worse than it actually is.
And this is likely due to network volatility and if I kept running my tests, the speed would very likely go back up.
This is very good performance.
On the upload side, I’m getting the same bandwidth as what is included in my ISP package. This is very good. And this kind of upload performance would be great for online gaming.
PureVPN performs well on speed, in my book. Good stuff..
PureVPN is more expensive than most VPN providers around. But they do offer a 7-day full access trial for 0.99 USD
As far as subscriptions go, PureVPN offers three options:
- 1 Month – 10.95 USD
- 6 Months – 49.98 USD (8.33 USD per month)
- 1 Year with 7-Day 0.99 USD Trial- 77.88 USD (6.49 USD per month)
But the yearly plan is not advertised when signing-up. The 7-day trial is converted to the yearly plan unless it’s canceled before expiring.
These are not the best prices we’ve seen. Though the monthly cost on the yearly plan is reasonable.
All subscriptions are backed by a 31-day money-back guarantee (yes, 31…).
PureVPN is streaming-friendly. And streaming over a VPN provides the following benefits:
- The security benefit of a fully encrypted connection
- Mitigating ISP bandwidth throttling
- Circumventing geo-restrictions
Yes, we know, Netflix has been blocking VPNs from their service since 2018.
They are legally compelled to enforce the geo-restrictions content producers and publishers impose on their content.
Banning VPNs may be an extreme way to accomplish that goal, but it works.
Many VPN providers claim to bypass the ban. Some succeed, others do not.
PureVPN makes that claim and succeeds as well. They have a dedicated page on their website, including a video tutorial, explaining how to unblock Netflix, and it couldn’t be easier: connect the VPN, log in to Netflix, stream.
I tested Netflix over PureVPN and it worked perfectly.
Torrenting / P2P
PureVPN allows P2P file sharing over their network, using dedicated P2P servers. The list of P2P-friendly is massive. They only deny P2P access on servers in countries that are hostile to P2P: US, UK, Canada, Australia, etc,
Sadly, the P2P-friendly servers are not marked in PureVPN’s server list. But they are listed within the app, once you select the File Sharing category.
I tested P2P over PureVPN’s network, and it worked very well.Visit PureVPN (40% off)
PureVPN supports more platforms than most. They support:
- Amazon FireStick
- Microsoft Surface
- Boxee box
- Now TV Box
- Raspberry Pi
- Chrome cast
- Many routers
PureVPN provides native applications for the following platforms:
- Android TV
- Amazon Fire Stick
- Chrome & Firefox Browser Plugins
This coverage is again quite massive. Good show.
I found the native macOS app to be relatively easy to navigate and understand. What I liked less was the essentially empty security marketing and the PureVPN ad displayed in the app, as above.
Number of Devices That Can Connect Simultaneously?
The number of devices that can simultaneously connect to PureVPN’s network was five, but they have recently doubled this to ten simultaneous connections.
The Number of VPN Servers Available?
PureVPN offers over 2000 servers in more than 140 countries.
More than enough? I think so.
Do They Support Multiple Server Hops?
Bouncing your connection over multiple VPN servers before sending it off to the requested website adds another level of security to your connection. You are much harder to trace and identify in this scenario.
PureVPN does not support multiple server hops at this time.
Blocks Ads & Trackers?
PureVPN does not offer an ads & tracker blocking as part of its service.
We hope to see them add this feature in the future.
Tor Over VPN Support?
Some VPN providers support a feature that bounces your traffic over the Tor network after the VPN connection is established. This enables a higher level of anonymity.
PureVPN does not support Tor Over VPN at this time.Visit PureVPN (40% off)
Logs & Privacy
Let’s now take a look at PureVPN’s policies.
Have they ever spied on their users at the request of law enforcement?
As reported by The Register, in 2017, PureVPN confirmed to law enforcement that a man under suspicion of stalking, connected to their service using two different originating IP addresses.
They then handed over those IP addresses as well as the IP addresses of the VPN servers used.
It’s essentially the same story we saw with IPVanish, in 2016, and which I wrote about in my IPVanish review.
And I’ll repeat what wrote then, here.
Of course, criminals should be held accountable for their crimes. We all agree. But that’s not the point here. The point is that the individual in question could just as easily have been an activist, a dissident, a journalist, etc.
And if they were able to hand over that information, it means that they collected it, or had the technical means to collect it, to begin with.
Would they warn users if/when compromised by law enforcement?
PureVPN has a precedent here. They didn’t do it before. I do not believe they would warn their users going forward.
How do they respond to DMCA notices?
I wasn’t able to find anything specific on this topic.
PureVPN disallows P2P file-sharing on sensitive servers (UK, US, Canada, Australia, etc.). If you stay away from those jurisdictions, you should be fine.
But I wouldn’t count on PureVPN having your back if the Copyright Police come knocking.
PureVPN has a page dedicated to its no-logging policy on its website. At the top of that page, we find the following statement:
This is what we like to see, but it directly contradicts what they did in 2017.
You probably noticed that they start by stating that in 2018, they reviewed their policies to become a zero-log VPN company.
They even went as far as submitting themselves to a security audit by auditing firm Altius IT, which states:
“[We] did not find any evidence of system configurations and/or system/service log files that independently, or collectively, could lead to identifying a specific person and/or the person’s activity when using the PureVPN service.”
Good stuff. But they have a trust deficit.
It’s clearly laid out. It’s clearly explained. It’s transparent and it isn’t written in Legalese. This is all good stuff.
But again, PureVPN has a trust deficit, in my book…
Also, remember in the Native Apps section, when I wrote there was another thing I didn’t appreciate about PureVPN’s apps?
So, kudos to PureVPN for being transparent about this.
But should a VPN provider – a company making its bread and butter selling privacy – be embedding usage tracking scripts from the world’s biggest privacy violators in the world inside their apps?
No. They should not. A VPN provider should not be connecting to Google or Facebook or Firebase. Ever. Period.
Security and Encryption
Supported VPN Protocols
The only two protocols on this list that I would recommend are IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN. The rest of the protocols on this list are not recommended, either because they are insecure or obsolete.
I prefer it when VPN providers do not support insecure protocols.
By supporting these, they may be helping the fringe advanced user on his rare edge case, but they are putting their less technical users at risk.
We hope to see PureVPN drop support for all protocols except IKEv2 and OpenVPN. We would also like to see them provide support for WireGuard.
Encryption Level & Supported Ciphers
PureVPN only supports the AES-256 cipher, for all VPN protocols.
AES-256 is a very popular cipher. It has been around for a long time and has proven its effectiveness. AES-256 is very secure and contains no known vulnerabilities.
DNS Leak Protection
DNS Leak Protection is achieved by having the VPN provider run its own no-logging DNS servers from within the VPN tunnel.
A VPN provider that takes privacy seriously will default to this setup.
And PureVPN does just that. Your DNS queries are protected while on PureVPN.
VPN Kill Switch
A VPN Kill Switch stops traffic from flowing out onto the Internet if your VPN connection ever drops, for whatever reason.
This can be particularly useful in situations in which you need to leave your VPN connection unattended. In the event of a disconnect, you won’t need to worry.
All of PureVPN’s apps provide a VPN Kill Switch.
In Which Jurisdiction is the VPN Provider Based?
I say it every chance I get: a strong no-logging policy is more important than jurisdiction.
But with PureVPN being based in Hong Kong and China having recently imposed a draconian security law on the island, there’s no way to tell just yet how that will affect service providers in Hong Kong.
Before the law came into effect, I would have been cautious, due to their precedent, but open, thanks to the audit.
If you want more information on the 14 Eyes Alliance, check out our 5, 9 & 14 Eyes: What Does It All Mean For VPN Users? article.
On a side note, I would just like to affirm my solidarity with the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Do They Have a Warrant Canary?
A warrant canary is a frequently published document, stating that a service provider has not been served a secret warrant or a gag order from law enforcement.
In the event that such a warrant and gag order is served to the service provider, they can take the warrant canary down, and by doing that silently communicate hat they’ve been compromised.
Many VPN providers publish warrant canaries, but PureVPN does not, at this time.
Do They Own or Rent Their Infrastructure?
Owning your infrastructure is preferable from a security standpoint, as it (technically) rules out third-party access.
Renting your infrastructure may be less secure, but it scales much better than having to set up bare metal servers in each country you wish to be present.
I was surprised to learn that, apparently, PureVPN owns its entire network of 2000+ servers in 140+ countries.
From their website:
"PureVPN owns a self-managed global network of 2000+ Servers. Our server footprint covers 140+ Countries. As of now, PureVPN is the only VPN provider with this level of global presence.”
This is very impressive.
Have They Ever Been Hacked?
From what I was able to find out, PureVPN has never been hacked.
What Information Is Collected at Signup?
PureVPN’s signup process is straightforward.
The only two pieces of information required are a valid email address and a valid payment method (which does include your name).
Cash or cryptocurrency are not accepted payment methods, unfortunately.
Accepted Payment Methods
PureVPN only accepts the following payment methods:
- Credit card
No cash. No cryptocurrency.
I’m not surprised, really. But this could be better. Much better.Visit PureVPN (40% off)
PureVPN owns its massive infrastructure
This is definitely a standout feature. I know of no other VPN provider that owns such a large network of servers.
As I mentioned above, owning your own infrastructure is a great boon for security, as the access to the servers is completely under the control of the VPN provider. No third-parties.
While this is great, however, PureVPN has somewhat of a trust deficit, for their 2017 logging controversy and because of the draconian Chinese security bill that has just been applied to Hong Kong.
Time will tell how this pans out.
PureVPN also supports split tunnelling or selective routing.
Selective routing enables you to, for example, route your Internet traffic through the VPN, while keeping access to your local LAN network. This means that you could access any internal resources you have sitting on your LAN, like a file server.
Another use case would be to selectively route certain apps through the tunnel while routing other apps straight through your ISP connection.
There are many possibilities – split tunneling can be set up to accommodate almost any scenario.
We hope to see more VPN providers support split tunneling in the future.
What Others Are Saying
"PureVPN gives you a lot of functionality and is solid enough value, with an impressively wide variety of platforms supported. However, customer support is somewhat wobbly, and there are some worrying issues here which prevent this service from competing with the best VPN players out there.”
"PureVPN is easy to use, but disappointing overall. Although it’s well priced, its app caused significant problems with my device. This provider is also tough to talk to directly and did not deliver the level of customer support I expect from premium VPNs. Their representative didn’t read my question properly and worse still, chose to send me a link to an article rather than answering.”
Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access (PIA) is a U.S. based VPN service. They put a strong focus on privacy and security while offering a large number of features.
They also have a strict and proven no-logging policy.
They have over 3386 servers in 42 countries. They support many VPN protocols, including the obsolete and insecure PPTP protocol (unfortunately).
PIA is also one of the cheapest high-quality and secure VPN services out there.
- Based in the United States
- Strict no-logging policy
- Blocks ads & trackers
- SOCKS5 Proxy support included
- Over 3386 servers in 42 countries
- One of the least expensive high-quality VPN Providers
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.
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 users’ 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
So while PureVPN has some positive elements, overall, we still can’t recommend them. The main pain points are:
- The trust deficit, due to the 2017 logging controversy.
- The fact that they are located in Hong Kong and that China just imposed a draconian national security law upon the semi-autonomous region.
- All the tracking analytics found in their apps.
So, aside for casual streaming and perhaps protecting yourself while on the insecure WiFi of your local coffee shop (so long as you’re not doing anything mission-critical), I wouldn’t recommend signing-up to PureVPN.
PureVPN is not recommended. But that could change in the future.
For more information on PureVPN, have a look at our Does PureVPN Work With Netflix? article.Visit PureVPN (40% off)
PureVPN Review (Or Why We Can't Recommend Them)
By Marc Dahan
Last updated: July 13, 2020