Private Internet Access Review
Private Internet Access VPN Review – Anonymous and Secure VPN
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|Maximum devices supported
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|Android, Chrome, Firefox, iOS, Linux, macOS,
As part of our review of VPNs, we will dissect Private Internet Access (PIA). As you already know, PIA is a popular brand in the circus. But there are also certain factors that make VPNs appeal to users. Of all these factors, keeping their promises is the most crucial.
As a VPN novice, you’ve probably stumbled across its online ads and wondered if the product is really bankable. As you continue to have racing thoughts, you’re suddenly at six and seven. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry, because we’re going to put the service in context to help you make the right decision.
Launched in London in August 2010, the Private Internet Access service is a product of the London Trust Media INC stables, an internet security accelerator. Basically, the accelerator invests in start-ups that focus on promoting privacy and security on the Internet. Whether they are online businesses or start-ups, London Trust Media INC identifies these companies and gives them the keys to their mission.
One of the technology products that is currently initiating profound changes in the industry is the Private Internet Access VPN. In December 2017, the company acquired a Cypherpunk VPN. The objective was to bring the new company’s team to work with the accelerator team to further develop the parent company’s product. Let’s take an X-ray of the technology product features.
Key Features of Private Internet Access VPN
Private Internet Access is a VPN service provider that targets a wide range of users worldwide. To achieve this, it has deployed 3,335 servers in 37 locations around the world. In reality, this number of servers is relatively small compared to those of high-end space-based service providers.
However, this distribution of servers is relatively correct because they meet the needs of AIP users. By placing these servers in strategic cities around the world, users can take advantage of the torrent and other P2P file sharing activities. In addition, they can unlock and stream georeferenced sites for their enjoyment. Another great feature of this VPN is that you can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously, which is really cool!
We cannot overestimate the importance of a VPN with a wide distribution of servers. It should be noted that a VPN with a wide distribution of servers offers its subscribers more advantages than VPN providers without one. First, subscribers are less likely to experience congestion where there are more distributed servers. Server congestion typically occurs when there are many users connected to a server. As a result, the high demand for the server will reduce speed.
In addition, a VPN with many servers will be able to effortlessly unblock many geoblocked sites. The truth is that there are many geoblocked services around the world. Most often you will need host country-specific IP addresses to access these geo blocked sites. For example, the servers that unlock US Netflix are those hosted in North America.
Since PIA has over 3335 servers worldwide, it’s safe to say that PIA understands the importance of a large network of servers. In the United States alone, PIA has 1,526 servers, making it the country with the largest server network. These servers are located at 14 sites across North America. The Netherlands is the second country with an extensive server network, while PIA has 548 servers in a single location in Europe. Canada is another country with a high distribution of servers.
Within North America, PIA has 245 servers in 3 locations, followed by the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, PIA has over 188 servers in 3 locations. If we look closely, we can deduce that most PIA servers are located in North America and Europe. While it has a few servers in the Middle East, PIA has no servers in Africa. There is no doubt that PIA has one of the largest VPN server networks in the world.
Security and Privacy
Make no mistake about it, most users subscribe to VPNs because they like to access the internet in a safe, anonymous and private way. To achieve this, a VPN provider integrates many security features. Let us look at the measures that PIA has put in place in this regard.
- Kill Switch
An Internet “kill switch” is a feature that automatically disconnects your traffic when your VPN fails unexpectedly. Although almost all VPNs promise 100% uptime, the possibility that the network may experience some technical problems cannot be excluded. In this case, you will quickly disconnect the traffic, preventing it from being exposed to prying eyes.
Yes, it is provided by default in the Private Internet Access section and can be used to prevent your data from being exposed. This way, your IP address and other information will not be disclosed.
- Encryption protocols
In accordance with the industry standard for encryption, PIA has built-in some of them. This is a deliberate effort to ensure the safety of its users when they go online. Well, PIA has adopted AES-256-bit encryption technology, which has evolved from an earlier 128-bit standard – thanks to the U.S. military, which has popularized the technology.
So 256-bit AES remains the industry standard because it is far more secure than 128-bit encryption. PIA has joined a list of VPN vendors that leverage the hard-to-hijack encryption standard to provide world-class privacy for its users worldwide.
For other encryption techniques, PIA has implemented handshake data authentication (RSA-2048) and SHA1 for recommended protection. There is an option called “All speed, no safety measures”, which you can choose for data encryption and authentication. This option includes an ECC-256k1 handshake.
However, if you are looking for maximum protection, you should choose data encryption (AES-256), data protection (SHA256) and handshake (RSA-4096). As far as VPN protocols are concerned, this VPN supports some of them, including OpenVPN, Ipse, IKEv2, etc. They are distributed on different devices depending on their operating system.
- Leak protection
We have performed the leak protection tests to see if PIA leaks DNS or IPv6. Already Private Internet Access claims to have a mechanism to protect against these leaks. Note that if a VPN allows DNS leakage, it means that your ISP can actually find out what you are doing online. If this is the case, then the very essence of using a VPN is defeated.
On the other hand, IPv6 leakage means that your IPv6 traffic (which supports audio and data) is exposed to prying eyes. Since this VPN is located in the United States, it is essential that such data is not disclosed. We have used very effective web-based tools to accomplish this task. In the end, we didn’t notice a single leak. So, yes, PIA passed the leak test.
- Ad blocker
One of the unique ways PIA protects its users from all the negativity associated with the Internet is to have a top-notch ad blocker. Also known as MACE, PIA’s ad blocker ensures that users are not exposed to annoying ads, malicious websites, spyware and malware. If you use a VPN that does not offer such a blocking capability, you will notice some random popups in the form of advertisements, making promises too good to be true.
The truth is that some of these ads are actually malware and trackers. Clicking on them will redirect you to a site where you will be exposed to the true intent of the sender. But then MACE blocks all ads, ensuring that you enjoy your Internet business.
- TOR compatibility
You probably know that TOR stands for The Onion Router. Basically, TOR is another network that allows users to securely access the Internet via its encrypted web browser. You don’t know how it works? Well, you can connect the PIA and TOR network to enjoy your Internet access more securely. To do this, you need to connect to the VPN and then to the TOR browser.
Although they are different networks, both TOR and PIA use encrypted proxy connections to protect the identity of users. Just as you will benefit from increased security when combining the two networks, you will experience a significant drop in speed. Either way, TPT compatibility is one of the measures PIA has put in place to enhance your security, anonymity and privacy.
- Split tunneling
In October 2019, the Private Internet Access service introduced “split tunneling”, one of the features that users will now benefit from. It has decided to label it “Application Exclusion”. Basically, split tunneling allows you to decide which applications will pass through the VPN and which ones won’t.
By doing so, you automatically increase the speed of your network because you can decide which application is tunneled and how it is tunneled. It is clear from the above that “split tunneling” serves both to facilitate speed and to increase security.
Logging is the act of monitoring and recording a VPN user’s online activities. If you are new, the logging policy is one of the criteria you should consider before deciding on a particular service. This is because many VPN providers enter into questionable agreements to cover their overhead costs.
Specifically, they sell your data to advertising companies just to make enough money to offset their bills and maintain their IT infrastructure. Based on our findings, they often collect data such as your name, email address, IP addresses, etc., which is then used to identify you. It is therefore essential to look for and avoid VPN providers that collect data, as this means that they are unreliable.
In addition to VPN services that store your data, you should also consider the location of each VPN provider before subscribing to their service. The reason why this should matter to you is that some jurisdictions are not favorable to the establishment of such companies. To be clear, there is an association known as the 5/9/14-Eyes Alliances.
Basically, member countries collect files on Internet users and share information among themselves. This means that if a member country is able to get its hands on your personal information, it will be shared among its members around the world.
There are VPNs that record certain details such as your login and logout times. However, the reason they do this is usually to improve their service. Beyond that, you should always look for a VPN that doesn’t record any information. If a VPN provider has a zero-registration policy, it simply means that they don’t record any of your data.
In addition, PIA is based in the United States, a leading member of all intelligence gathering alliances. Simply put, the country is not conducive to the establishment of a VPN company. On the other hand, we must state categorically that this VPN has specified the actual information it keeps.
In other words, you are safe when using this service if it does not store more than the data it says it stores. We must give this company the benefit of the doubt because nowhere has it ever been said that the Private Internet Access service disclosed user contact information to U.S. law enforcement.
Private Internet Access VPN Speed
Next, we’ll need to evaluate the speed of this VPN. In truth, one of the crucial factors to watch again at your ideal VPN provider is its speed. The reasoning is that you need speed to do everything online. From streaming to chatting, from uploading to downloading, from audio to video calls, all of these activities require good speed for you to enjoy them. In keeping with our tradition of always testing VPN speed, we used servers from 4 different PIA sites. We’ve listed them, but we’ll explain our findings to you.
As always, we started with the New York server. The server performed impressively with a download speed of 77 Mbps while the upload speed was 36 Mbps. The result is impressive because it is possible to do any of the online things we mentioned earlier. There is no doubt that subscribers who access the Internet from the server in New York will have an incredible experience doing so.
Then we did the same test on the Amsterdam server using the same parameters. Surprisingly, the Amsterdam server did much better than the New York server, with download speeds of 81 Mbps and upload speeds of 40 Mbps. Indeed, these performances are really excellent as they allow users to have an impressive experience when accessing the Internet from the European country.
The next stop was London, a European city. We noticed a drop in speed when we did the speed test. Despite the drop, it was not the case at all. In precise terms, we got 75 Mbps and 23 Mbps in download speed and upload speed respectively. There is no doubt that the speed is still quite fast despite the fact that it has lost a few bits.
Finally, we carried out our test on the Hong Kong server. Most often, the Asian city always shows a very poor speed performance when we tested its servers. But this was quite different, as we got a download speed of 70 Mbps, while the upload speed remained stable at 13 Mbps. Without a doubt, this shows that accessing the Internet through the PIA server in Hong Kong will be an extraordinary experience.
- Speed summary
In summary, we can easily deduce from these tests that PIA is ahead of the others in terms of speed. In fact, from New York to Amsterdam, from London to Hong Kong, PIA has never been judged insufficient on the speed front. This means that from North America to Europe and then to Asia, users are sure to have a lot of fun using this leading VPN provider.
If we compare the speed results with those we have collected so far, it is safe to say that PIA has above-average speed performance. In other words, you can unlock georeferenced sites, download movies and torrents at blazing speed.
Having said that, we need to be very clear about some of the facts about speed. You see, you will probably see a reduction in speed when you connect a VPN to your ISP instead of connecting directly to the Internet through your ISP.
In fact, this is very normal because VPNs usually slow down the speed of your entire connection as soon as a connection is established. However, what makes one VPN better than another is that the disparity between the speed before and after the connection is infinitesimal.
While it is essential that we mention this point, you don’t have to worry because we’ve done the speed test for you. You can go even further to find out more about speed by performing the before and after connection tests using the appropriate web tools.
In conclusion, other factors can affect the speed of a network, including the speed of the Internet service provider, the location of the user and the processing speed of the computer. In fact, private access to the Internet is exceptionally fast.
Customer Service of Private Internet Access VPN
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Just before subscribing to this VPN service, you should inquire about the effectiveness of its customer service. The fact is, you can’t do without it. Here’s why: Have you figured out who to talk to when your VPN starts to go bust? Chances are the question has never crossed your mind before. Either way, the answer is simply customer service.
With the customer service team, you’re sure to interact with well-trained agents who will help you through the painful points you sometimes face when using the encrypted network. Of course, you can tell them about any technical problems or questions you may have, and they’ll provide you with solutions at a moment’s notice. The next question you should ask yourself is: “How fast do they respond? You’ll find out later.
Since customer service and customer satisfaction are very important in the world of VPNs, any good VPN must-have helpful customer service. It is amusing to note that the majority of VPN providers in the industry today claim to have an effective help desk. Although they often claim to have helpful customer service agents, it becomes obvious that this is one of their marketing tricks when you put them to the test. All in all, there are criteria to measure effective customer service. These include:
- 24/7 availability
- Multiple communication channels (email, live chat, contact form, social media, etc.)
- Quick response to messages (questions and complaints).
To find out where PIA is located, we tested its customer service. Although we have summarized our findings, we will still explain them. With respect to 24/7 availability, which we consider to be one of the criteria that any effective customer service must meet, Private Internet Access has failed in this regard. We found that the VPN provider does not in fact do so.
We contacted them when it was already late in the U.S. to inquire about their money-back guarantee policy. We received a response a few hours later saying that they would honour it within 7 days. Of course, 7 days seems really commendable! In fact, we inquired around 11:00 pm (Eastern Time) and received a reply about 9 hours later. This just goes to show that there is no 24/7 customer service.
We then asked another question by email to find out if the communication channel was effective. After congratulating the team for their efforts to improve the network over the years, we asked if they offered a free trial period. We received feedback about ten hours later that they did not have a free trial period.
In addition, we don’t like the way PIA handles its live chat support. The reason is simply that you can only use the service if you are about to pay. In other words, it is not for those who only want to do research.
On the other hand, one thing we like about this service is that it always gives a detailed explanation. You can also contact the team via Twitter. However, you will need to follow the company on the microblogging site before sending a direct message. Their Twitter manager is always ready to answer your questions about the service.
However, we have not tested how long it takes the VPN provider to do this. Nevertheless, there is an FAQ page that answers most of the questions you can ask the agents.
Supported Client Software
In this segment, we will discuss some of the platforms supported by environmental impact assessment.
The PIA Client for Windows allows you to take advantage of all the benefits it offers. It is very easy to use and connect to this client. Simply press the big Connect button and start exploring the software. It also has a location selection function. In the Settings dialog box you can control how your VPN works. In addition, you can take advantage of VPN protocols such as OpenVPN.
However, it does not support IKEv2, L2TP and PPTP. You can choose the custom remote port (53, 1194, 8080 and 9021). As for the encryption used, it is provided by default with AES-256. In addition, it is equipped with a kill switch, which allows you to control your data. Again, MACE is a very useful tool for this VPN. We noticed that the customer crashed abruptly and restarted without help. As a Windows user, this client is a must.
In February 2018, PIA released its client for the Linux operating system, which means that the Linux family has a place in its network. Detailed installation instructions are available on the Private Internet Access website, and you can follow the step-by-step installation instructions to connect without any problems. It runs on Ubuntu 16.04+, Mint 18+, Arch and Debian.
After downloading the software to your computer, just click on the Connect button to start browsing the web anonymously. By developing this application for users of Linux distributions, Linux users can now unlock georeferenced sites, browse safely and do other exciting online activities.
The macOS family is not to be outdone since Private Internet Access has a client for them. Are you one of them? If so, PIA offers you the rare opportunity to stay one step ahead of the eavesdroppers around you. It runs on Mac OS X. From your macOS computer, you’ll appreciate its simple interface, numerous servers, robust security features, and more.
With over 10,000 downloads, it’s a clear indication that many users are joining the family. Installation is simple and easy. You can start by visiting the Apple Store from your computer to download the software.
What Windows means for desktops is what Android means for mobile devices – the world’s first mobile operating system. If you’re the proud owner of an Android device, PIA allows you to access the Internet anonymously, ensuring that all your activities remain secure. To get started, you need to visit Google Play from your mobile devices, such as tabs and smartphones.
Launched in February 2020, the PIA client for Android has recorded more than 1,000,000 downloads to date. Indeed, the high number of downloads clearly shows that the app remains one of the most sought-after VPN clients in the industry today. Version 3.4.1 is readily available and runs on a wide range of Android devices. When you download and install it. You can start using it with the clearly visible On/Off button. You can start by visiting Google Play from your mobile device to download and install the application.
iOS users are not to be outdone, as Private Internet Access VPN has a client that allows them to connect to the Internet anonymously and securely. This application is undoubtedly similar to the Android mobile client, especially in the way it works. You will see some features such as the list of locations, the simplified interface and the “Connect” button.
Thanks to all these features, you can effortlessly perform one or the other operation. In addition to all these features, you will have your MACE to control traffic. Not to mention that you have a plethora of VPN protocols at your disposal, mainly OpenVPN and IKEv2 via UDP or TCP connections. You can start by visiting the Apple Store from your mobile devices, including iPhone and iPad.
Although Private Internet Access supports routers, there are many limitations to these connections. Therefore, the VPN company does not encourage protected users to connect their devices using its VPN. To put it plainly, using AIP on routers leads to very slow speeds, which you would probably find annoying.
To avoid this, however, you could use AES acceleration hardware. Apart from the devices and modems in the mesh network, you can set up AIP on the routers. Just before you start, you need to install a custom router ROM/firmware on the device.
Since these are open source routers, DD-WRT and Tomato are compatible with PIA. Both open source firmwares support OpenVPN and L2TP. In addition, people rely on the routers to safely access the Internet when playing online games from their game console.
In addition to game consoles, you can connect Apple TV, Android TV, Kindle/Readers, and more. The reason for this is that there is no support for them. The reason is that they are not supported. In the case of PIA, you will usually find a very slow speed.
Not sure if Private Internet Access VPN has browser extensions? Well, it does. This VPN has extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. The browser extension protects your browser traffic, but it does not protect all applications on your smart device. Moreover, it is much easier to use than the regular application/software.
We tested them, and they worked well. We should point out that the application and the extension share many similarities, especially in their appearance. In addition, you can see the “Connect” button, the complete list of locations, etc.
You can also have access to the Bonus Privacy tools, which allow you to access certain places, the microphone and the camera. Most importantly, these tools will stop the WebRTC, which will ensure that your data will not be disclosed to prying eyes. PIA browser extensions provide you with many valuable features when accessing the Internet.
Since the extension only protects your online activities, it is best to combine the ad-on with the application to achieve tamper-proof online security while you are surfing the web.
Torrenting with Private Internet Access VPN
Here’s another reason why many people buy a VPN product. In other words, if a VPN service is not able to provide an excellent service in this area, many people would ask for a refund within hours of their subscription. If you need a good VPN that supports torrent and other P2P activities, public impact assessment is your best option.
When you use this VPN for such activities, you can be sure to have a great experience. With any torrent client, you can download whatever you want. Most importantly, you’ll have fun because you know your account will never be blocked.
Plus, when you practice torrenting with a Private Internet Access, you have the reassuring feeling that your connection won’t be strangled. On his site, however, he is conspicuously absent from the fact that he supports the torrent.
On the other hand, the site clearly states that the service supports P2P file sharing. It should be kept in mind, however, that over the years it has gained a reputation for providing users with a torrent-friendly VPN. As a result, subscribers who have used it in the past now know that AIP is an excellent choice for the torrent.
Private Internet Access VPN Netflix Access
If a VPN cannot unlock and broadcast georeferenced sites, it cannot compete favourably with other VPNs in the industry. In principle, a good VPN should be able to unlock US Netflix and other streaming sites. As far as the VPN for Private Internet Access is concerned, on an average of 5 servers, only one works well with Netflix.
After performing our series of tests on the servers to unblock the firewalls of the US streaming giants, we realized that some of the servers could not actually unblock the site’s firewalls. PIA servers in the United States (New York), the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Canada could not unlock US Netflix. However, when we tried with the server in California, it was able to unblock the site.
Cons of Private Internet Access VPN
So far, we’ve dissected the intricacies of this VPN, detailing the most critical features you need to know before placing an order. However, we will highlight some of its shortcomings.
- Customer service
Although this VPN offers relatively good customer service, the fact that there is no live chat for potential users who wish to ask questions remains a big drawback. Indeed, potential subscribers do not get a quick response to their messages, especially when they are about to press the “Order Now” tab. Although this service has its reasons for cutting them off completely, we strongly believe that this is not a good idea.
We do not claim that the Private Internet Access VPN base in the United States is not a cause for concern. To add insult to injury, this VPN admits that it collects certain data from its respective subscribers. Indeed, this can easily increase its user’s suspicion since it is based in a country that is a popular member of all intelligence gathering alliances. To put it bluntly, this is a setback.
- Defective router connection
We have to appreciate the fact that PIA has admitted that when you connect your smart devices via a PIA-enabled router, your network speed drops significantly. This is an obvious flaw that we need to point out. So you need to pay attention to it if you are looking for a VPN-enabled router to connect a plethora of your devices.
In conclusion, we must emphasize that this product offers a great way for beginners to join the ranks of VPNs. This is especially true because it is cost-effective, supports all common operating systems, delivers packets at lightning speed, allows users to unlock and stream sites, supports multiple VPN protocols, and offers great anonymity/security.
On the other hand, it still needs to improve its customer service, and the fact that it is based in the United States bothers many potential users. However, Private Internet Access VPN has addressed this problem through its “no log” policy.
The objective analysis of Private Internet Access VPN makes it a good product because it has most of the features that many users look for in their ideal service. It is comforting to note that it is affordable, making it a pleasure for beginners and people on low incomes. So we recommend it? Of course, it has our approval!