TunnelBear Review – Secure VPN for Unblocking Websites
|Number of servers
|Maximum devices supported
|Supported Client Software
|Android, Chrome, iOS, macOS, Opera, Windows
With each passing day, we always see a reason to strengthen our online security, privacy and anonymity. For example, there have been recurring cases of online predators haunting children on the Internet in the hope of using those impressionable children for some negative reason. When they are abducted, the parents of these children pay a ransom to free them from their abductors and others are recruited into terrorist organizations.
Overall, these online predators have been extremely successful. Unfortunately, this has become the case even though some of these events go unreported. While most of them make the headlines, a significant percentage of these cases have never caught the attention of the press. As a result, this negative trend is increasing. The cases are even more numerous.
Yet some content-rich companies are using firewalls to restrict access to their online platforms by people from a certain territory. This practice is generally common among streaming companies. At other times, they make their online resources available only to residents of a particular state or country, thereby cutting off the rest of the world.
Many say that this practice runs counter to everything that the Internet stands for. To address all these challenges, cybersecurity software companies have launched virtual private networks (VPNs).
The TunnelBear VPN is one such technology product that has taken the cybersecurity industry by storm. TunnelBear, based in Toronto, Canada, was founded in 2011 by Ryan Dochuk and Daniel Kaldor. The service also offers 2 versions, one is free with 500 MB each month and the other is paid. This VPN service provider offers three key benefits to its users: reliability, privacy and security.
For a growing list of VPN subscribers, these benefits are the most important of all. Looking closely at how this company achieves this feat, one would understand that the idea behind the VPN service prioritizes secure subscriber logs. Now let’s take a look at this technology product.
Key Features of TunnelBear VPN
With servers in 20 countries around the world, TunnelBear’s VPN has demonstrated a commitment to the quest to give the best to its growing customer base. To ensure subscribers get the most out of the VPN, it allows up to 5 devices to connect to it simultaneously. Many people might say that this number is infinitesimal.
With the help of GhostBear (what other companies call stealth mode), TunnelBear’s VPN is able to hide its protocol, bypassing the firewalls of many countries, including China. In other words, GhostBear makes sure that ISPs and governments view your data traffic as a normal browsing protocol, HTTPS. Please note that it does not support ISP throttling in place of OpenVPN traffic.
One of the elements to be monitored in every VPN review is the network of servers. When examining the server network, you should also consider the number of servers, the distribution, and the number of virtual servers available. As always, large VPN companies will always have more servers because they tend to offer more services than outsiders.
With over 1800 servers in 23 locations worldwide, we have to say that TunnelBear VPN has not done badly in the area of server distribution. However, it is still far from the number of servers distributed by the main VPN companies.
In general, some high-end services have between 3,000 and 5,000 servers worldwide. While TunnelBear has proven itself in North America, Europe and Asia, it has clearly ignored Africa, the Middle East and much of South America.
In addition to the fact that a large VPN company has a plethora of servers, it should be noted that subscribers of service providers with a wide distribution of servers are more likely to experience less congestion. This is because they do not have to share bandwidth.
Indeed, more subscribers will use the service because they will realize that wherever they are in the world, their VPN provider is there. That means they can bypass any geoblocked service anywhere in the world.
If we look at what virtual servers are, they are servers that are configured to perform the task of managing multiple servers in one physical location. Virtual servers can also be configured to behave as if they were in one location, but they are actually located elsewhere. As far as TunnelBear is concerned, its virtual servers mainly handle large requests.
Security and Privacy
For a large part of the global VPN user community, privacy, anonymity and security are the most important reasons to subscribe to a VPN service. That being said, we will dissect the security features that this VPN offers.
- Kill Switch
This is a feature that allows you to temporarily suspend your traffic when your VPN has technical problems. Note that when your VPN encounters problems, you may experience data loss, resulting in the exposure of your data and IP address.
So, what the Internet’s kill switch does for you is to suspend the flow of data until the problem is resolved, ensuring that your identity is not revealed. This is a key feature of TunnelBear, known as Vigilant. It is provided by default and you can always use it to enhance your privacy. It works on both Windows and macOS clients.
- Encryption protocol
One of the ways each VPN provider proves to potential subscribers that they are serious is by incorporating encryption technology. Today, the industry has moved from 128-bit to 256-bit encryption – thanks to the U.S. military’s popularization of it. 256-bit AES remains the industry standard because it is far more secure than 128-bit encryption.
TunnelBear has joined a list of VPN vendors that leverage the hard to crack encryption standard to provide top-notch privacy to its users worldwide. As far as VPN protocols are concerned, it also offers OpenVPN, IPsec (which it recommends to iOS users), and so on.
It has also added the SHA-HMA data authentication standard to its security architecture using the Secure Hash algorithm (160-bit). Finally, handshake encryption (TLSv1.2 certificate signed with SHA-256) is fully implemented in TunnelBear VPN.
- Leak protection
If your VPN does not have a leak protection mechanism, you are more or less similar to a person accessing the Internet without a VPN. This is simply because your ISP can easily find out what you are doing online. If this is the case, your privacy is already compromised.
When it comes to leak protection, there are two things you need to worry about: DNS and IPv6. While DNS leak exposes your DNS queries, IPv6 reveals your IPv6 traffic. However, we did a test on TunnelBear and found that this Canadian VPN offers leak protection. Yes, we used good web tools to perform the test, and it passed our test with flying colors.
- Ads blocker
You tend to enjoy your browsing experience when connected to a VPN that blocks ads, malware, spyware and malicious websites. If you are using a VPN that does not offer such a blocking capability, you will notice some random popups in the form of advertisements.
These ads make promises that are too good to be true. Most often, they are just scams, malware, spyware, etc. However, when you connect to the Internet via TunnelBear, you have a VPN that blocks them all.
- TOR compatibility
TOR stands for The Onion Router. Basically, TOR is another network that allows users to access the Internet securely through its encrypted web browser. In the past, you didn’t dare to use TunnelBear and TOR together, but not anymore. In an ongoing effort to improve usability, TunnelBear has improved its service, allowing users to connect the TOR browser and TunnelBear’s VPN.
Working with TunnelBear means you are adding a layer of security to your online activities. Please ignore any site that tells you that this VPN does not support the TOR network because we have confirmed this with their customer service agent. However, the downside is that the combination slows down the speed of the network.
- Split tunneling
TunnelBear does not offer “Split tunneling” at this time. Well, split tunneling allows users to route a certain amount of traffic through an ISP and a VPN. When you do this, it greatly improves the speed of your network. But the good thing is that you can actually do without these features. From what we can see, we can’t completely exclude the possibility that TunnelBear will integrate it in the near future.
If you’re new to VPNs, the registration policy is one of the criteria you need to consider before choosing a particular VPN. The reason is that many VPN providers enter into questionable agreements just 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.
But why does this concern you? That’s a good question! Well, it’s because any VPN company that sells the data of those it’s supposed to protect has compromised their security. It simply means that the company is unreliable. In fact, it’s even more worrisome if it claims not to collect such data.
In addition, the location of each VPN provider must matter to you. This is especially true because there are locations that are not conducive to hosting such companies. These are the 5/9/14-Eyes Alliances. Basically, the member countries collect files on Internet users and share information with each other.
As far as TunnelBear is concerned, its logging policy is very clear and very strict. Close examination shows that the company does not collect, record or store sensitive information, such as DNS queries, IP addresses, etc. So, if you are concerned about your privacy, you may be wondering if TunnelBear is a good VPN choice. You should read on to learn more.
You see, TunnelBear is based in Canada. And it would be interesting for you to know that Canada is a member of the 5-Eyes Alliance. This automatically means that Canada is NOT a good jurisdiction to set up a VPN business. In fact, Canadian law states very clearly that these companies are required to comply with the relevant regulations every time they are asked for information.
However, TunnelBear has had to continually allay people’s concerns by reassuring them that it does not keep their records. Simply put, if the Canadian government asks for subscriber information, TunnelBear will simply say that it does not exist. That is if the company says anything.
Speed of TunnelBear VPN
To give you an idea of TunnelBear’s speed, we have performed our usual tests by selecting 4 different servers in different cities around the world. As you already know, security and speed are the most critical factors to consider before choosing a VPN.
To shed light on speed, you need to have the excellent speed to download files, stream videos and music, make video and audio calls, and so on. So speed is very important when it comes to a VPN. Although we have compiled the result, we will still present it to you.
The server in New York was the place to launch this test. After performing a series of speed tests, the results show a download speed of 33 Mbps and an upload speed of 15 Mbps. Basically we can say that the download speed is very good because it will have a positive effect on everything you do online. On the other hand, the upload speed is pretty good, because most people spend more time downloading than they do download files from the Internet.
Well, we have made progress towards Europe with a stop in Amsterdam. The server in Amsterdam showed impressive speed, with the download speed being stable at 52 Mbps while the upload speed was 27 Mbps. There is no doubt that the download and upload speeds are a major improvement on the New York server.
When performing the speed test on its London servers, we found some speed inconsistencies. Indeed, while the download speed stabilized at 50 Mbps, the upload speed was 48 Mbps. Since London and Amsterdam are in Europe, we can compare the two speeds.
In other words, TunnelBear’s download speed has lost a few bits while the Amsterdam server has made the upload speed much better. Without a shadow of a doubt, the overall speeds of the two servers in the two European cities were excellent.
The final test was conducted on a server in Hong Kong. It is obvious that we have moved to a city in Asia. When we performed the tests, the download speed was 7.5 Mbps while the upload speed was 2.6 Mbps. So far, these are still the poorest results we have recorded.
But are they so terrible? Not really! The fact is that those who access the internet via the servers in the first three cities will enjoy a faster internet experience than subscribers using the TunnelBear server in Hong Kong.
- Summary of TunnelBear Speed
We made sure that we conducted extensive speed tests and recorded the results accurately. At this point, you can say that TunnelBear has some of the best VPN speeds. Here’s why: Of the 4 cities we used for sampling, 3 had above average speeds. Note that servers in Hong Kong are always known to have abysmal performance, so the poor results TunnelBear recorded during our tests were not unexpected.
In addition, you may notice a drop in your network speed the minute a connection is established. In truth, this is completely normal. Most VPNs slow down the overall network speed. To determine if your VPN is exceptional in terms of speed, the disparity between the speed before and after the connection should be negligible.
You can use the relevant web-based speed measurement tools to test the speed of your ISP and the final network speed. In this test, we found that TunnelBear’s speed is surprisingly resilient. In conclusion, certain factors influence the speed of the server. These include your network connection, your location and the processing speed of your computer. It is essential to keep this in mind. Again, TunnelBear is not really bad in terms of speed.
Customer Service of TunnelBear VPN
|Type of support
|Free trial period
|500 MB each month
Having looked into the issue, we maintain that outside of its jurisdiction, TunnelBear VPN has kept a blank sheet of paper. But effective customer service is another factor used to determine the quality or not of customer service. Here’s why: Have you imagined who to contact when your VPN starts to go off the rails? You probably haven’t! Well, the answer is customer service.
With the customer service team, you’re sure to interact with well-trained agents. You can tell them about your technical problems or questions, and they will suggest solutions. Since this is very important to the VPN ecosystem, every good VPN has a helpful customer service department.
While most of them pride themselves on having helpful customer service agents, it seems like they are just marketing gimmicks when you put them to the test. The good thing is that there is a yardstick for measuring good customer service. We’ve listed them below:
- Round-the-clock availability
- Multiple communication channels (email, live chat, contact form, social media, etc.)
- Quick response to messages (questions and complaints).
We have now evaluated TunnelBear using these criteria to find out where it really fell. The result was presented in table form. Get ready while we explain this interesting experience in detail.
According to the TunnelBear website, it offers 24-hour support, which means that you can contact the helpdesk at any time and get an answer in no time. That’s great! Since this VPN provider is based in Canada, we intentionally sent them a live chat at 7:38 pm local time. About 7 minutes later we received a reply to the message. Yes, that’s a plus!
During the chat, we tried to confirm if they were offering a free trial period, just to find out what the agent knew about their services. The agent answered us in the negative. That’s when we took the opportunity to find out if the service was compatible with the TOR network. For some reason, many critics are unaware that TunnelBear has started to offer this service. You can try it on your own and see how it works.
In the same vein, we sent them another message via their contact form just to see how fast the team responds to messages via this communication channel. In today’s virtual private network industry, there are a lot of low-quality support services that claim to respond to messages in a fraction of a second.
So the question we asked TunnelBear’s helpdesk was whether they had a money-back guarantee policy. We were surprised to receive an answer in about three hours, saying “No”. This is a clear indication that their ticketing system is working well.
While you may not like the fact that they don’t give refunds to unsatisfied users, you have to keep in mind that this is a free service. This means that you should try the free version before switching to the paid version if you are satisfied with its performance. When you use the free version, you get 500 MB of data each month.
As for other customer service features, TunnelBear has an FAQ page that answers many of the amazing questions you might have. Some of its subsections are “Getting Started”, “Billing and Payments”, etc. You may find it inconvenient that you have to create an account with TunnelBear before using its contact form.
In conclusion, we can say with authority that TunnelBear has a strong support team. This means that you have absolutely no reason to worry when you subscribe to the service and need to speak to an agent. Of course, they are always ready to help users.
Supported Client Software
Many potential TunnelBear users are expected to have devices with different operating systems, so it is ideal for a VPN to support a wide range of operating systems. Now let’s look at the platforms supported by TunnelBear.
The TunnelBear client for Windows allows you to take advantage of all the benefits it offers. Using the software, you can browse privately, block spyware and bypass local censorship. This version has 256-bit AES encryption and is speed-optimized. To get started, you need to download and install the software.
Then, you need to register on its website. The advantage is that you can take advantage of its free service that allows you to access 500 MB of data each month. If you agree with what you see after using it for a while, you can then switch to the paid version. You can also subscribe to its shared IP addresses, simply to protect your identity. It works with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10.
Although TunnelBear does not have a client for Linux yet, it does support the operating system. You will need to manually configure the settings before it starts working as the VPN provider is not yet ready to develop a client for it. To do so, you need to use Ubuntu or Fedora – which are distributions of the Linux operating system – from your desktop.
You need to download the latest OpenVPN configuration files to make it work. The step-by-step installation guide is available on the TunnelBear website. However, you need to be a technician to be able to configure it.
To continue, the macOS category is not forgotten because there is a client for them. If you are part of the family, it allows you to browse the web safely and confidentially. Moreover, speed is fully optimized. This VPN has AES-256-bit encryption by default. You can also use IPsec for your macOS because this VPN protocol is supported.
By using TunnelBear, you can be sure that your computer is protected. As with the Windows version, you will also benefit from the free 500 MB of data/month on the free subscription plan. It’s easy to install and use. You’ll need a 64-bit processor to speed things up anyway. Finally, it runs on macOS 10.10 and later.
You probably know that Android is the most widely used mobile operating system in the world. Therefore, TunnelBear has an application for its users all over the world. You can visit the Google Play store from your mobile device to install this application.
Launched in October 2013, the TunnelBear client for Android has registered more than 10,000,000 downloads to date. Indeed, the number of downloads shows that the application remains one of the most popular VPNs on the market. Version 3.1.3 is readily available and runs on a wide range of Android devices.
TunnelBear gives you much better ways to secure your iPad and iPhone, even if you seamlessly bypass geoblocked sites. We tried it and it worked without a hitch. Would you like to try it yourself? If so, why wait? You should start by visiting your Apple Store from your iDevice.
Note that the TunnelBear for iOS client is easy to install, so you don’t need to be a technician to do it. You can also use it on your iPod touch. Your iDevice must be running iOS 11.0 or later for the latest version to work without problems. In addition to English, it is available in French, Spanish, Dutch and 9 other languages.
Unfortunately, TunnelBear does not support routers and modems at this time. The reason is that TunnelBear has not yet provided OpenVPN configurations for routers and modems. Since it does not support routers, this means that users may have difficulty using devices that do not work with VPNs.
Typically, people rely on routers to safely access the Internet when playing online games from their game console. In addition to game consoles, you can’t connect Apple TV, Android TV, Kindle/Readers and Windows mobiles as well. The reason is that there is no support for them. If you are looking for a VPN for your router, you can try another VPN.
In what appears to be a concerted effort to compensate for its inability to support routers, TunnelBear has browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. We tested them, and they worked well. Note that when you use one of these browser extensions, it only encrypts your browser traffic.
On the other hand, the application or software secures your traffic because it is routed from the smart device you are using to browse. It’s even better to combine the ad and the application. If you spend a lot of time using your browser, your browser extension is required.
Torrenting with TunnelBear VPN
The question you will have in mind here is whether TunnelBear supports the torrent. The answer is simple: YES! In the past TunnelBear was not able to support this service. However, things are starting to move now. Unfortunately, the website did not give much information about how TunnelBear works with torrenting.
For those who don’t know, torrent is the term used to describe peer-to-peer file sharing via the BitTorrent protocol. Since this mechanism allows large volumes of files to be shared securely, it is becoming increasingly popular worldwide.
However, many content developers disapprove of this process because users continue to download copyrighted files without the consent of the legitimate owners of the files. They share music, software, movies, TV series, etc., without the consent of the legitimate owners of the files.
As a result, these content producers are working with the relevant government authorities to impose fines on offenders. However, this may not apply in your country. Therefore, you should find out about the torrent laws in your jurisdiction before getting into a fight.
Netflix Access with TunnelBear VPN
There are many business tycoons who travel all over the world. When they want to relax, they often settle for a blockbuster or an interesting TV show. Thanks to VPN, they can unlock streaming sites to follow their favorite programs. One of those sites they turn to when they want to relax is Netflix, a US-based streaming giant that is highly regarded for delivering geoblocked, on-demand high-definition services via smart devices.
While Netflix serves many different countries, the content varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Because it is headquartered in the United States, its U.S. catalog is the largest of all. As a result, many people are looking for the right VPNs to bypass Netflix’s firewalls and watch Netflix programs.
If you are one of them, you can do so using a VPN. However, TunnelBear cannot unlock Netflix. We tried several times but none of its servers could bypass Netflix firewalls.
Cons of TunnelBear VPN
We have briefly discussed some of the drawbacks of TunnelBear below:
Regardless of one’s claims, the location of TunnelBear will always be a concern. The Canadian government may collect sensitive information from a VPN company. But then TunnelBear has reassured potential subscribers that their logs are not maintained, so they are safe. We will continue to accept this with a pinch of salt because Canada is a member of the 5-Eyes Alliance.
- Unable to unlock Netflix
It is deeply discouraging that TunnelBear cannot bypass Netflix’s firewalls. Many VPN users subscribe to a VPN for this purpose. This is definitely a blow to the VPN service.
- No router support
Not being able to provide support for routers, TunnelBear has significantly excluded many devices from its service. In other words, many people use VPN-enabled routers to protect devices that don’t work with VPNs. Some of them are smart TVs and game consoles.
At the beginning of this article, we identified the main reasons why people get a VPN. In general, TunnelBear solves these issues in a significant way. That said, we can deduce that this technology product is good for beginners, as it is easy to use.
Maybe they can also take advantage of the free subscription plan that gives up to 500 MB per month. Although this amount of Internet data is not enough for streaming, the beginner can use it for things that don’t consume data.
Of course, we have made a concerted effort in this guide to connect to points, leaving you the power to decide whether or not to purchase this product. While we appreciate this VPN for its many advantages, it does have some drawbacks. Aside from Torrent and connection speed, this product does not support routers – this is something you may be concerned about.
So what’s our final take? Well, we can only encourage you to get this VPN based on your needs. We can’t pretend we don’t know it has a lot of flaws. But we must also congratulate the team for the impressive work they’ve done with this product.
As for the price, they made it affordable, which simply allows beginners to try it out. But then, if you compare it with the well-established VPN services that exist, you’ll find that TunnelBear still has a lot to do. Therefore, until these gaps are filled, this product will mainly serve amateur users.