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The best VPN service of 2021

Final Review Based on VPN Application Test Results

Updated: September 12, 2021 By Dean Chester

In recent years, VPN services have evolved from basic tools for masking an IP address into multifunctional applications that ensure complete confidentiality, protection of personal data, the ability to bypass geo restrictions and much more, while maintaining control with the click of a button.

Top 10 VPN

Image based on Shutterstock

This round-up presents the top 10 VPN services as measured by Cooltechzone. We have checked all the declared (and hidden!) technical characteristics of more than 180 VPN applications for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, as well as TV platforms.

We’ll compare VPN services by the most requested and important parameters, which will allow you to easily determine the most suitable VPN for your situation.

We will also talk about the more advanced features of VPN applications that hackers use to protect themselves.

You can set up a secure VPN in minutes and use it 24/7 without slowing down your internet or reducing battery life.

You’ll also receive additional discounts when signing up for a VPN using our links.

 
10  Best Free VPNs:
  1. ExpressVPN: Best overall VPN service with TrustedServer technology
  2. NordVPN: Powerful VPN software with Wireguard protocol support
  3. Surfshark: Low cost and professional VPN
  4. ProtonVPN: It's free to use this Swiss VPN
  5. CyberGhost: Largest VPN. Adapted for Streaming Sites
  6. VyprVPN: Most affordable solution for 1-2 months
  7. Hide.me: Simple but functional service. Use without registration is possible.
  8. IPVanish: Popular American VPN
  9. PureVPN: Most Affordable VPN for 1 Year Subscriptions
  10. PIA: Has the maximum number of connection settings for the most diffic

Our specialists have their own VPN research methodology, which has been refined over 5 years and involves repeated testing of applications for each platform. This ensures that only the best VPNs are in the Top 10.

Further you will learn:

  • Can a VPN be trusted?
  • How to choose a VPN so you don't have to change it?
  • Which service is better if you plan to use it continuously?
  • Can I subscribe to one VPN for my entire family?

How VPN Service Works

VPN - ingenious, secure and simple

You probably already know that VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts and redirects your traffic through a dedicated server.

In fact, this is true and not true.

VPN technology itself was designed to create private networks, which those networks might not even having a gateway to communicate with the rest of the Internet. Computers within the virtual network "saw" each other as if it were a physically isolated network.

This technology formed the basis for the modern VPN.

A tunnel is launched between the user's device and the VPN, which is additionally encrypted. In fact, a network of two devices is used, one of which is also a gateway to the Internet.

This scheme has 3 major advantages:

  1. Absolutely legal methods of data transmission are used, the age of which are only slightly less than the age of the Internet;
  2. With encryption (used today in 100% of cases), it is impossible to gain unauthorized access to the transmitted data between the client and the server;
  3. It is possible to transfer data directly to the VPN server, bypassing many intermediate nodes of normal data transfer, which can increase the connection speed.

Due to the fact that VPN services use the same technology necessary for the normal operation of state and many corporate networks, it is practically impossible to prohibit the Virtual Private Network at the legislative level (relevant for countries with Internet censorship).

Today, there are several reliable VPN tunneling protocols, on the basis of which VPN services software works. The most common are OpenVPN and IKEv2. The most technologically advanced and actively implemented is WireGuard.

These protocols also allow data to be encrypted inside the tunnel. The most common effective encryption standard is AES-256, which is used in the vast majority of VPN programs and applications.

AES-256 is recognized as the official data protection standard of the US government (see article on Wiki)

Thus, VPN is a legal, simple and effective technology that has been proven over time.

Not all VPNs are the same

The previous section outlined the technology. But the weak point of any protected system is in its final performance.

Of course, if you were to set up and configure your own open source VPN server then your system would be quite secure.

But can we trust a third party companies?

Can we be sure that they took everything into account, really applied encryption, implemented protection against leaks, and so on?

It's a difficult question. After all, if we’re just using a VPN to register another free account on a smartphone games, then it’s not a big deal.

But what if we use VPN all the time? Is our personal data or information that we want to hide from the Internet Service Provider (ISP)secure?

In this case, we need choose a VPN that we can trust.

A list of the main tasks you should think about when assessing the quality of a VPN service:

  • Location masking (IP addresses);
  • Protection of transmitted and received data, including in public WiFi;
  • Bypass geo-restrictions;
  • Unblocking websites;
  • VPN blocking bypass (in countries with strong censorship);
  • Increased streaming video quality.

Few VPNs can meet all of these objectives and it’s easy to make a mistake in choosing a service.

Error choosing VPN

What happens if you don't go into details and connect to the first VPN that comes along?

Let's take the example.

Recently, while we’re analysing reviews of VPN on Reddit, we paid attention to one comment to positive feedback about one of the major VPN providers. It said that VPN has a bad service as it didn’t bypass the geo-restrictions on streaming from the Hulu site.

At the same time, the service doesn’t have a specialization for bypassing geo-blocking by popular media materials. But he perfectly bypasses the Great Chinese Firewall and helps the residents of China to gain access to blocked sites outside the country.

So is it good VPN or bad?

The main mistake of inexperienced users is choosing a service at random, without delving into its capabilities.

In the next section, we will list the main characteristics to take in account when choosing your VPN, and in the chapter Top 10 VPN Test Results you will find experimentally obtained parameters to quickly select your VPN.

How VPNs Are Different

The main parameters of VPN services in 2021:

  • Number of platforms supported... It is better when applications are offered for all OSs.
  • Countries... A good indicator is 50 countries or more.
  • Number of servers... The more servers there are, the more evenly the load is distributed. The indicator can reach 6000. But there are services with less than 10 servers.
  • Speed... Average internet speed with a VPN connected (taking into account ISP capabilities).
  • Speed ​​stability... It can change at different locations and depending on the time of day.
  • Connection protection functions... For example, all good VPNs have a Kill Switch feature (read more at the end of the article).
  • Support for Netflix and other streaming services... Only large VPN providers can bypass the protection of such resources.
  • Torrenting support... Not all VPNs allow P2P uploads.
  • Protocols used... Providing the user with the choice of the tunneling protocol is a sign of a high-tech service. Software running on one protocol, as a rule, is not adapted for high performance and may not work in some networks.
  • Number of simultaneously used devices...
  • Logging policy... Most of the services claim that they do not record user activity, but only a few use specialized equipment for this, confirm this indirectly, or undergo an independent audit.

Best VPN overall

ExpressVPN - the best VPN

Image source - expressvpn.com

The latest testing, conducted in the second half of 2021, identified three leaders. It was difficult to single out the absolute leader, but given the large number of positive reviews and the use of expensive equipment by the service, which excludes the possibility of collecting and storing information about user activity, the best VPN overall is ExpressVPN...


Top 10 VPN Test Results

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN app


PROS
CONS
  • Maximum speed over 200 Mb/s
  • Support for all platforms and devices
  • Servers without drives (TrustedServer)
  • 94 countries
  • Proprietary Lightway protocol
  • Better streaming support
  • 12 years on the market
  • 5 devices simultaneously
  • No interactive map of locations

 
ExpressVPN Preview
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ExpressVPN was always one of the best, but in the last two years they have done even more to compete for the top spot:

  • Replaced servers with diskless technology... TrustedServer technology allows the system to operate without a hard drive. This excludes the possibility of logging.
  • Introduced ultra-performance Lightway protocol... Supposedly based on WireGuard technology, the Lightway protocol is 90% less complex than classic OpenVPN, thus avoiding increased CPU utilization. This increases the speed and there is virtually no additional load on the battery.

With a combination of blazing speed, 94 country vpns available and support for almost any streaming video service, including Netflix, ExpressVPN is #1 today.

ExpressVPN in a nutshell:

  • Jurisdiction: BVI
  • Speed ​​over 200 Mb/s
  • 94 countries
  • Support for all systems, including TV platforms, routers, Network-assisted storage
  • Torrenting allowed
  • Supports Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Video and more
  • TrustedServer technology
  • Performance Lightway Protocol
  • 5 devices simultaneously
  • Kill Switch (protection when the connection is broken)
  • Split Tunneling (choice of programs for connecting without/with VPN)
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Testing on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS was successful. The results of 20 tests showed that the average speed was 203 Mb/s. Also, during the week there was not a single case of spontaneous disconnection or connection error. No data leaks were detected even when artificial connection interruptions were simulated.

When you upgrade from Cooltechzone, you get an additional 20% discount on your annual subscription.

ExpressVPN Preview
Get Started with ExpressVPN
 

Learn more about ExpressVPN:

2. NordVPN

NordVPN app


PROS
CONS
  • Maximum speed over 150 Mb/s
  • Support for all platforms and devices
  • Some servers without drives
  • More than 5000 servers in 60 countries
  • NordLynx proprietary protocol
  • Excellent streaming support
  • Possibility of hidden work
  • Interactive map of locations
  • Occasionally, on some servers, the connection to websites may be lost

 
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In second place is the even more technically innovative NordVPN. It is the perfect VPN for permanent use, as it has perhaps the most user-friendly interface and full set of features required in 2021.

NordVPN is fast, has two anti-leak systems, and is capable of running even when VPN is blocked.

Briefly about NordVPN:

  • Jurisdiction: Panama
  • Speed ​​over 150 Mb/s
  • 60 countries
  • Support for all systems, including TV platforms, routers and game consoles
  • Torrenting allowed
  • Supports Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Video and more
  • High-performance NordLynx protocol (a variation of WireGuard)
  • Double VPN
  • Tor over VPN
  • 6 devices simultaneously
  • 2 types of Kill Switch
  • Split Tunneling
  • Multifactor Authentication
  • Additional software: Password Manager and Cloud Storage.
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

We should also tell you that the main researcher of Cooltechzone and the author of this article has been using mainly NordVPN for more than three years, so it comes with that recommendation too!

NordVPN Preview
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3. Surfshark

Surfshark app


PROS
CONS
  • Support for all platforms and devices
  • 3200 servers in 60 countries
  • WireGuard
  • Good streaming support
  • Possibility of hidden work
  • Unlimited devices
  • Antivirus
  • Low price
  • No interactive map of locations
  • There may be system service failures on Windows with a connection error

 
Surfshark Preview
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The next VPN is interesting because it is ideal for protecting multiple devices at the same time. Combining high speed and powerful functionality, Surfshark does not limit the number of devices used.

Moreover, it is significantly cheaper than most competitors!

In many cases, Surfshark is used to bypass VPN blocking in censored countries.

Briefly about Surfshark:

  • Jurisdiction: BVI
  • Speed ​​over 80 Mb/s
  • 60 countries
  • Support for all systems, including TV platforms, routers and game consoles
  • Torrenting allowed
  • Netflix support
  • WireGuard and Shadowsocks support
  • Multiple VPN
  • Unlimited devices
  • Kill switch
  • NoBorders (obfuscation)
  • Additional software: Antivirus, Protection against identity theft
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Testing has confirmed the accurate operation of all the declared functions. Only occasionally were there connection failures after an incorrect exit from the application.

Surfshark Preview
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Learn more about Surfshark:

4. ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN app


PROS
CONS
  • Nice free plan
  • Support for all platforms and devices
  • WireGuard
  • TUN/TAP
  • Split Tunneling
  • SecureCore (Double VPN)
  • 10 devices
  • Interactive map of locations
  • No email required to register
  • Many overloaded servers in popular locations
  • The full plan's long-terms subscription is pricier than competitors'

 
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ProtonVPN is the best VPN with a free plan, which makes it ideal for beginners. After familiarizing yourself with the basic features of VPN for free, you can upgrade to one of three paid options - Basic, Plus and Visionary.

Cooltechzone recommends choosing the Plus option for permanent use. It has a full set of VPN functionalities, differing from the top plan only in the absence of an email account.

ProtonVPN is characterized by having extra protected servers in a special data center in Switzerland buried a 1000 meters deep within the rock!

Briefly about ProtonVPN:

  • Jurisdiction: Switzerland
  • Speed ​​over 100 Mb/s (on servers with low load)
  • 55 countries
  • Support for all systems, including TV platforms, routers and game consoles
  • Torrenting allowed
  • Netflix support. Only available on the Plus and Visionary plans.
  • WireGuard support
  • Double VPN
  • 10 devices
  • Kill switch
  • Additional Features: Malware Blocker, Ad Blocker, Anti Tracker

Testing has confirmed the smooth operation of all functions, as well as good data protection when reconnecting mobile devices in public Wi-Fi networks. There were problems with speed on some servers, but changing the location to more unloaded ones (according to the indicator in the control panel) corrected the situation.

ProtonVPN Preview
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5. CyberGhost

CyberGhostVPN app


PROS
CONS
  • Support for all platforms and devices
  • 7200+ servers in 91 countries
  • Dedicated servers for streaming and torrenting
  • App Split Tunneling
  • Low price (for 2 years)
  • Uneven speed. Lots of slow servers
  • Modern protocols are not used
  • Few countries supported for streaming

 
 
Try CyberGhost
 

Do you trust large companies? Then CyberGhost VPN - For you. Not only is it the largest VPN by server count, it is also operated by Kape Technologies, which also owns two other major VPN services.

CyberGhost is a controversial service. On the one hand, it has a record 7200 servers in 91 countries and specializes in streaming content from popular regions, and on the other hand, it does not use progressive tunneling protocols and has a pretty poor add-on for browsers.

Далее список в сером акценте:

CyberGhost in a nutshell:

  • Jurisdiction: Bulgaria (management company: Israel, UK)
  • Speed ​​over 10-60 Mb/s
  • 7200+ servers in 91 countries
  • Support for all systems, including TV platforms
  • Torrenting allowed
  • Netflix support. Confirmed for 3 regions.
  • Split Tunneling
  • 7 devices
  • Kill switch
  • Additional Features: Ad Blocker
  • 45 days money back guarantee

Testing revealed both fast and slow servers. It also appears that streaming servers are not available for all countries. Three servers were able to access Netflix however Hulu and BBC iPlayer are not supported.

 
Get Started with CyberGhost
 

Learn more about CyberGhost:

6.VyprVPN

VyprVPN app


PROS
CONS
  • Support for all platforms and devices
  • 64 countries
  • WireGuard
  • Good streaming support
  • Chameleon technology
  • Low price (for 2 years)
  • Low average speed
  • Small server network considering the number of countries
  • Doesn't accept Bitcoin

 
 
Try CyberGhost
 

VyprVPN is an example of a relatively weak VPN service that is becoming one of the best. After revising its privacy policy, adding a performance protocol and focusing on streaming support, VyprVPN has been ranked 6th on our list.

The only drawback we identified is the relatively low speed stability. Most likely, this is due to the fact that the service has only 700 servers in 64 countries, and this negatively affects their load.

Briefly about VyprVPN:

  • Jurisdiction: Switzerland (known company Golden Frog)
  • Speed ​​over 20-110 Mb/s
  • 700+ servers in 64 countries
  • Supports all systems including Android TV
  • Torrenting is not prohibited (but there is no explicit permission)
  • Supports Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Sky Go, BBC iPlayer
  • Kill switch
  • WireGuard, Chameleon (obfuscation)
  • 30 days money back guarantee

Testing has proven to be highly effective in censored countries when using the Chameleon protocol.

 
Get Started with VyprVPN
 

Learn more about VyprVPN:

7. Hide.me

Hide.me app


PROS
CONS
  • Limited free plan
  • Support for all platforms
  • 75 countries
  • SoftEther protocol
  • Port forwarding
  • TCP/UDP
  • Low price (for 2 years)
  • Some servers with low speed
  • Outdated design

 
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Hide.me is one of the best VPN services with a free plan. But this is just one of its advantages. Overall, it is a technologically advanced and advanced VPN with support for the rare SoftEther VPN protocol developed by a Japanese university as an improved alternative to standard OpenVPN, IKEv2, and PPTP.

Hide.me is suitable for any purpose, including streaming, torrenting, bypassing censorship and unblocking sites.

Briefly about hide.me:

  • Jurisdiction: Malaysia
  • Speed ​​over 20-110 Mb/s
  • 700+ servers in 64 countries
  • Supports all systems including Android TV
  • Torrenting is not prohibited (but there is no explicit permission)
  • Supports Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Sky Go, BBC iPlayer
  • Kill Switch (Stealth Guard)
  • WireGuard, Chameleon (obfuscation)
  • 30 days money back guarantee

Testing revealed minor flaws in the free version and low speeds on some paid servers. Another small disadvantage is that the appearance and layout of the applications have not changed for several years and are in some cases outdated.

Hide.me Preview
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Find out more about hide.me:

8. IPVanish

IPVanish app


PROS
CONS
  • Convenient choice of servers
  • Frequent sales
  • 1300+ servers in 75 locations
  • Obfuscation
  • Optional antivirus
  • Inconvenient interface
  • WireGuard in testing

 
 
Try IPVanish
 

The first American VPN on our list is IPVanish. This service has been operating for 9 years and during this time has gathered a whole army of fans. It was up till recently the most popular VPN in the US, but has been replaced by the more progressive giants ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

However, it is a time-tested quality VPN. It is suitable for most tasks other than unblocking geo-restricted video streaming and torrenting

Briefly about IPVanish:

  • Jurisdiction: USA
  • The average speed is about 30 Mb/s, but there are servers with speeds over 100 Mb/s
  • 1,300 servers in 75 countries
  • Support for major systems and routers
  • Torrenting is discouraged
  • No support for unblocking streaming content
  • Kill switch
  • Full WireGuard support expected
  • 10 days money back guarantee

Testing revealed low speeds on some servers (less than 3 Mb/s) and an inability to bypass the protection of streaming sites.

 
Get Started with IPVanish
 

Find out more about IPVanish:

9. PureVPN

PureVPN app


PROS
CONS
  • Supports most platforms including Android TV
  • 6500+ IPs in 140 countries *
  • Netflix
  • Port forwarding
  • Virtual IP addresses
  • No modern protocols
  • Kill Switch problem

* Testing revealed that most countries are virtual. This means that the IP addresses provided are not physically located on servers in the specified countries.

 
Get Started with PureVPN
 

PureVPN is one of the most controversial VPNs out there today. Many people think it has a dubious reputation, but after running a number of tests, we believe it is reliable.

PureVPN does not have any special advanced features, but it can be indispensable in cases when you need to access IP addresses of almost any country in the world.

Briefly about PureVPN:

  • Jurisdiction: Hong Kong
  • Average speed about 40 Mb/s
  • 6500 IP addresses in 140 countries
  • Support for major systems and TV platforms
  • Torrenting allowed
  • Kill switch
  • Money back guarantee 31 days

Testing revealed incorrect operation of the Kill Switch when used in conjunction with another VPN. This is not a problem under normal conditions, but it indicates that this function is not working perfectly.

There were also some complaints regarding the function of bypassing the protection of streaming sites.

 
Get Started with PureVPN
 

Learn more about PureVPN:

10. Private Internet Access

PIA app


PROS
CONS
  • Finest parameter settings
  • 3300+ IPs
  • Extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera
  • WireGuard, Shadowsocks
  • App Split Tunneling
  • Port forwarding
  • No streaming support
  • 30 countries

 
 
Get Started with PIA
 

Private Internet Access (PIA) is suitable primarily in cases where you need to fine-tune the connection. The provider allows you to select not only the protocol and connection port, but also assign DHCP, Handshake in the DNS settings, and use socks5.

PIA is suitable for continuous use for any task except streaming.

Briefly about Private Internet Access:

  • Jurisdiction: USA
  • Average speed about 60 Mb/s
  • 1300 IP addresses in 30 countries
  • Support for major systems and TV platforms
  • Torrenting allowed
  • Kill switch
  • Progressive protocols WireGuard (contributed to its development) and Shadowsocks
  • 30 days money back guarantee

Testing shows good speed and the correct operation of all options. We failed to unblock any popular streaming service.

 
Get Started with PIA
 

Learn more about PIA:


Price Comparison

A modern VPN is quite affordable, but there are still many budget and premium services. At the same time, as our experience has shown, their technical capabilities may differ little.

We offer you a price comparison of all VPNs on our list in the same order as they were described in the previous chapter.

Comparison of VPN services prices (including all discounts, per month)


Service
1 month
6 months
1 year
2 years
$12.95
$9.99
$8.32 $6.67
$8.32 $6.67
$11.95
$11.95
$4.92
$3.30
$12.95
$6.49
$6.49
$2.49
$5-30
$5-30
$4-24
$3.29-19.96
$12.99
$6.39
$6.39
$2.25
$6.47
$6.47
$6.47
$2.50
$12.95
$12.95
$8.32
$4.99
$10.99
$10.99
$3.75
$3.75
$10.95
$10.95
$3.74
$2.91 $2.88
$9.95
$9.95
$3.33
$3.33

* There is also a free plan. Read more in the review free VPN...


How to get a discount?

Cooltechzone has made agreements with some VPN services, which allows our users the opportunity to get discounts and participate in hot offers.

Current discounts and promotions


Service Name
Additional discount
Conditions
20%
When subscribing for 1 year
1%
When subscribing for 2 years


Subtle But Important Features of a Good VPN

Bypass geo-restrictions of media content

In recent years, VPNs have evolved into feature-rich tools that literally break boundaries and limits. They are now not simply used for work, but for play as well.

With a VPN, you can virtually change your location and access video and audio content from Netflix and other geo-restricted video services and TV channels.

Video services try to block the IP addresses of VPN servers, so not all services are capable of fully working with popular streaming sites. This is especially true for BBC iPlayer, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Netflix. Choose only VPNs that have been tested with these video services. Read more in the review VPN for streaming...

Protection against leaks in case of violation of the VPN tunnel

VPN is designed in such a way that data protection occurs only inside the virtual tunnel. At the same time, for the user there is no difference in how the traffic flows - in the usual way or through the tunnel.

This is where VPN's weakness lies. You simply won't notice if the VPN goes down for some reason.

Even if it automatically reconnects, some of the data may have been sent without protection.

Leakage can occur through:

  • problems on the side of the VPN service
  • Unstable internet
  • Changing WiFi points
  • Automatic updates of VPN software
  • Change of location

But, fortunately, there is an effective way to protect against such leaks - Kill Switch technology. It blocks all traffic outside the VPN channel. There is also a Kill Switch variant that abnormally closes the specified applications. Read more in the review VPN with Kill Switch...


What to do if VPN is prohibited or blocked?

Is using VPN legal everywhere?

Countries with strong censorship may have laws or technical means that prevent anonymizers like VPNs from working.

We have compiled a list of countries and the specifics of their VPN countermeasures. If you are on one of them, it may not be possible or secure to use a regular VPN.

Use the following services to bypass blocking and mask your VPN connection:


VPN restricted countries
Peculiarities
 Service for circumventing restrictions
China
VPN services not controlled by the government are legally prohibited. Together with this, the so-called ‘Great Chinese Firewall’ operates in the country. It not only blocks IP addresses, but is also capable of detecting and blocking VPN activity.
ExpressVPN (not available in all provinces)
NordVPN (with obfuscation enabled)
Surfshark (with NoBorders enabled)
UAE
The degree of blocking is highly ISP dependent.
ExpressVPN
NordVPN
Surfshark
CyberGhost
Russia Belarus
There are laws that prohibit the use of a VPN to bypass site blocking. There are no known cases of their use.
Everyone except Surfshark
Iran Iraq Turkmenistan
Blocked IP addresses + DPI (Deep Packet Inspection)
ExpressVPN (not available in all provinces)
NordVPN (with obfuscation enabled)
Surfshark (with NoBorders included)
Turkey Egypt
Blocking IP addresses
Access to VPN sites is limited

DISCLAIMER:

Cooltechzone does not call for breaking the law. In cases where the VPN sites mentioned above are legally prohibited in your country of residence, stop using them. Otherwise, we are not responsible for the consequences.

Senior Researcher
Dean Chester
Cybersecurity and online privacy expert and researcher. He's been published on OpenVPN, EC-Council Blog, DevSecOps, AT-T Business, SAP Community, etc. Dean has been testing VPNs for 8 years.

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