What Is Port Forwarding in VPNs? Do I Need It?
Port forwarding enables you to remotely access your devices from outside your private or home network. The feature can also come in handy if you’re looking to speed up your torrent download speeds.
While typically used with Wi-Fi routers, port forwarding can also be used with VPNs, and in this guide, we’ll show you how and why.
A Quick Intro: What’s Port Forwarding
Port forwarding, also known as port mapping, is a network solution that connects you to devices on your Local Area Network from the internet.
Typically, when a NAT firewall is active, it’s impossible to initiate remote connections to a private network. Port forwarding goes around the NAT firewall and sends data to specific devices on specific ports. For example, you can use the feature to access media on your PC, watch security cameras, or seed a torrent when connected to a torrenting VPN.
How Port Forwarding Works
To understand how port forwarding works, you need an understanding of Network Address Translation (NAT). Your computer, smartphone, and any other device connected to your Wi-Fi network have individual IP addresses.
However, when your router’s NAT firewall is turned on, the IP is hidden, and all devices are assigned a single public IP. So, how does your router or VPN server know which data to send to which device? Using port numbers.
The router attaches a port number to outgoing requests, ensuring the response is sent to the correct device. On the other hand, unsolicited requests lacking a port number are automatically discarded. This effectively blocks unauthorized access.
When you need to make a request from outside your home network, port forwarding allows you to go around the NAT firewall and establish a direct connection. All you need to do is assign the specific device you need to access to a specific port on your router.
What Is the Purpose of Port Forwarding?
Port forwarding is typically used to connect to a home network remotely. On a VPN router, it allows you to:
- Allow remote access to your computer
- Manage IoT devices
- Directly connect to a gaming server
When used with a VPN, port forward enables you to improve torrent download speeds, seed torrents, and host online games if you have a dedicated IP address.
Why Use Port Forwarding With a VPN?
One of the main reasons why VPN users use port forwarding is torrenting. While you can download and seed files without port forwarding, your client will only communicate with the active nodes and not passive nodes. This can cause you to experience slow speeds, especially when downloading less popular torrents.
With Port forwarding enabled on your side, you become an active node and can connect to both passive and active peers. This improves the download speed as the file would be downloaded from a higher number of peers.
Is Port Forwarding Safe?
Port forwarding may offer many benefits, but it also comes with serious security risks. These include:
- Giving hackers access: Hackers and other malicious actors can take advantage of an open port to infect your entire computer and steal sensitive data, such as email and photos.
- Bypassing VPN security: A VPN works by encrypting your traffic and rerouting it through secure servers. However, when port forwarding is enabled, a VPN won’t protect the data transmitted through the open port. This significantly compromises your privacy and anonymity.
- UPnP breaches: Port forwarding through Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) leaves at an even higher risk. Since it’s automated, it’s easier for hackers to exploit. During the PewDiePie vs T-Series YouTube rivalry, hackers took over more than 65,000 Chromecast devices in a stunt to support PewDiePie.
That said, the security risks of port forwarding depend on the software that ends up listening to the open port. For instance, if you’re running an application like qBittorrent on the open port, you won’t have much to worry about as long as it keeps occupying the port.
Keep in mind that manually opened ports remain open until you manually close them. If the initial software is no longer running, another sensitive application may take over the port.
To stay safe, we recommend only using port forwarding when you need it and disabling it immediately after. Another way to protect yourself is to get a VPN that allows port forwarding.
The best providers set up different outgoing and incoming, and outgoing IP addresses on their servers. They also offer protection against Port Fail vulnerability making it impossible for attackers to unmask your IP address.
How to Set Up Port Forwarding on a VPN?
Many premium VPNs today come with a NAT firewall built in. When a VPN is connected, it will disable port forwarding and automatically close all opened ports.
However, that doesn’t mean the two can’t go hand in hand. VPNs can significantly improve your security when port forwarding, and a few providers support the feature.
For this guide, we will use PrivateVPN to show you how to set up port forwarding.
How to Set Up Port Forwarding With PrivateVPN
To use port forwarding with PrivateVPN, follow the steps below:
- Create an account with PrivateVPN and install the application. Next, launch the VPN client and click “Advanced View.”
- Select “Dashboard” on the left-hand side and note down the number in the “Port forwarding” section. Make sure your PrivateVPN connection is turned to enable the provider to auto-generate a port number.
- Now open your torrent client and go to “Connections.” Input the port number from PrivateVPN into the “Port for incoming connections” box.
Voila! You’ve successfully set up port forwarding on PrivateVPN to work with your torrent client.
Best VPNs for Port Forwarding
1. Private Internet Access (PIA)
|🥇 Overall rank:||#13 out of #32|
|📖 No logs policy:||Court-proven|
|💵 Price:||From $2.03/month|
|🖥️ Servers:||30000+ servers in 78 countries|
|🍿 Streaming services:||Netflix, YouTube, Hulu|
|🔥 Coupons:||PIA now 83% off|
Private Internet Access (PIA) is the best VPN we recommend for port forwarding. A mainstay in our top VPN lists in 2023, the service offers all you could want from a VPN. It’s fast and reliable and can unblock virtually any streaming platform in the world.
Additionally, PIA’s robust encryption and anonymity make it ideal for torrenting. And thanks to its port forwarding feature, the VPN allows you to connect to more peers and download files at faster speeds.
To activate port forwarding on PIA, simply go to the “Network” tab and check the “Request Port Forwarding” port. Private Internet Access will assign you a forwarded port which you can view on the home screen under your VPN IP.
PIA’s port forwarding works on both mobile and desktop clients. If you want to try the VPN, you can do so risk-free, thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee.
|🥇 Overall rank:||#6 out of #32|
|📖 No logs policy:||Unaudited|
|💵 Price:||From $2.00/month|
|🖥️ Servers:||200+ servers in 63 countries|
|🍿 Streaming services:||Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and more|
|🔥 Coupons:||PrivateVPN now 85% OFF|
PrivateVPN is an excellent all-around VPN that boasts lightning-fast speeds, impregnable security, and a strict no-logs policy. On top of that, the provider is one of the few that allow port forwarding on their servers.
With the VPN, setting up port forwarding is a breeze. Once your connection is up and running, the service will generate a random port that you can use securely. Best of all, the service is P2P-friendly.
PrivateVPN has servers in 200+ server locations spread across 63 countries worldwide. This allows you to unblock geo-restricted content and get low ping connections for uninterrupted gaming and streaming.
PrivateVPN works with all primary platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and routers. You can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously, and the service comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
|🥇 Overall rank:||#18 out of #32|
|📖 No logs policy:||Unaudited|
|💵 Price:||from $4.00/month|
|🖥️ Servers:||3000+ servers in 50 countries|
|🍿 Streaming services:||YouTube|
TorGuard is a powerful VPN that allows port forwarding. You can access the feature from your account dashboard under the “Services” tab.
From there, click “Manage” and then “Port Forward Request.” The provider will send you an email with the secure port number.
Besides port forwarding, TorGuard uses military-grade AES 256-bit encryption alongside best-in-class protocols such as OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, and Stunnel.
The provider also offers Stealth VPN, which makes your VPN traffic look like regular web traffic. This allows you to bypass Deep Packet Inspections and strict VPN blocks such as the Great Firewall of China.
The one drawback with Torguard is that its money-back guarantee is much shorter than the industry standard. You will need to send a request within 7 days of purchase to get a refund.
On the bright side, the provider allows up to 12 simultaneous connections on a single. They also offer direct human support, which is available 24/7.
Port forwarding enables you to reach a specific service or device on your home network by creating a tunnel through your NAT firewall. While undoubtedly useful, the feature is riddled with security loopholes that can leave you exposed if not properly handled. It’s advisable to use port forwarding with a VPN to secure your devices.