TurboVPN Review

TurboVPN

TurboVPN is a free VPN service that has 4.7 out of 5 stars on the Google Play store. That is extremely high considering that the VPN has been reviewed nearly two million times. In this TurboVPN review, we will take a look at whether TurboVPN provides watertight digital privacy. In addition, we will check its performance to see if can compete with the very best free VPNs on the market.

ProPrivacy.com Score 4 out of 10
Summary

TurboVPN is a mobile-only VPN based in Singapore and China that has been downloaded approximately 50 million times. As is always the case with free VPN services, it is important to remember that VPNs cost a lot of money to keep up and running. For this reason, it is important to look closely at how the VPN creates a revenue stream. During our review, we discovered a VPN that serves adverts and shares data with advertisers in order to provide the free VPN service.

VPN Stats
Likes
  • Easy to use
  • No download limits
  • It's Free
Dislikes
  • Encryption unverifiable
  • Troubling privacy policy

Price

Although primarily used as a free VPN, consumers do get the option to upgrade to a VIP version of the service. A 7-day free trial of the VIP service is also available. Consumers can pay $11.99 per month or get a yearly subscription for the equivalent of $2.99 per month. However, for reasons I will discuss later in this review, I would generally recommend against paying for this VPN.

Free service

TurboVPN provides a free VPN service that can be used without limitations. It is a mobile-only VPN that cannot be used on desktop machines. The free cost of the VPN is truly superb. It means that people in locations where websites blocks are common can unblock the internet to regain access to news or online services they require.

While it is true that Free VPN services tend to be dodgy in terms of privacy (more on this later) - a free VPN can be extremely useful for people living in volatile political environments who require access to blocked news, apps, or social media services.

Unblock Netflix?

As is the case with most free VPN services, TurboVPN does not unblock Netflix US or BBC iPlayer. 

For anybody willing to pay for this service, the premium version does unblock Netflix US with its VIP US servers. In addition, it has a UK server that is able to unblock BBC iPlayer. 

Features

  • Servers in 9 countries (free) or 16 countries (VIP)

  • Mobile apps for Android and iOS (unverifiable security of these protocols)

  • OpenVPN, IPSec, or IKEv2 encryption

  • Free VPN use

  • Unblock Netflix (VIP only)

Speed and performance

This VPN is for mobiles only, which means we had to test this VPN using the online speed test tool (as opposed to our scientific server based speed test system). 

We thoroughly tested the speed performance of this free VPN and found it to slow down my connections about a half. I tested using a 50 Mbps Virgin Media connection in the UK, and found that the VPN slowed my connection down by around 26 Mbps. 

That is really impressive and means that consumers can use this VPN to stream content online and unblock geo-restricted YouTube videos or other streams from around the globe. It also means this VPN would probably work out fine for doing VoIP calls. 

IP Leaks

We tested for leaks on a Virgin Media IPv4 connection and found the VPN to have no IP leaks or WebRTC leaks. This is great. 

Sadly, however, the test site (ipleak.net) did discover 61 DNS servers in Belgium - all of which were Google DNS. It is possible that the VPN is proxying those requests, which would mean that Google never knows who is making those requests. 

On the other hand, it is also possible that Turbo VPN is not proxying those requests at all. If that is the case, Google will know exactly which sites you are visiting. A good VPN handles DNS requests with its own servers, or at least proxies DNS requests before sending them to a third party resolver like Google.

We attempted to contact the firm via its feedback email (it has no support) to find out whether it is proxying those DNS requests, however, we were unable to get any response out of the VPN. To be safe rather than sorry we must assume that Google is handling these DNS requests. 

Privacy

This Chinese VPN is registered in Singapore, which is generally considered good for privacy. However, its privacy policy gives it permission to send any data it collects back to servers based in China. This is somewhat troubling because the Chinese government is one of the most invasive jurisdictions in the world. In addition, Chinese VPN companies must have a license with the government, which allows the government to access the data on those servers. This raises serious concerns, especially for Chinese citizens. 

It is possible that by being a Singapore based VPN, TotalVPN does not need to extract data back to China. However, the fact that the policy states that data may indeed be passed back to Chinese servers is definitely a grey area.

Privacy policy

Turbo VPN claims to delete all usage logs at the end of each session. This is good because it means that this VPN is probably going to provide adequate security for most people’s needs. 

However, the rest of the privacy policy does raise some alarm bells, and it is true that you must trust that the VPN is actually deleting the logs it says it doesn’t keep. 

The privacy policy says that no personal data (such as IP addresses) is directly shared with advertisers. However, the VPN does admit that advertisers may be collecting data about users and that they may also inject cookies into your browser. That means that advertisers could realistically be tracking what you do online and gaining access to your IP address outside of the VPN itself. For this reason, we must assume that some level of corporate surveillance is happening when you use TurboVPN. 

Below you can see a screenshot of the kind of data this VPN logs. As you can see, timestamps are stored next to IP addresses. This means that it is possible to launch a time correlation attack on the users of TurboVPN. In addition, the VPN gives itself permission to collect massive amounts of invasive data about people’s devices, local network, ISP, advertising identifiers, device identifying numbers, and much more.

turbovpn privacy policy

That is a huge amount of data retention, which certainly allows TurboVPN to access much more data than you would hope. As a result, we find it extremely hard to recommend TurboVPN to paying customers. There are plenty of VPNs on the market that store either non-invasive connection logs; or no logs at all. With that in mind, paying for this service seems pointless.

On the other hand, if you are somebody who can't afford a premium VPN subscription, and, you would prefer the TurboVPN, advertisers, (and perhaps even the Chinese government), to know what you are doing online - rather than your own ISP and government - this free VPN may be able to provide you with some genuine advantages. 

However, it is possible that this VPN is not actually providing that privacy either.

Encryption

TurboVPN claims to provide OpenVPN on both Android and iOS. This seems extremely unlikely because the vast majority of iOS VPN apps do not provide OpenVPN encryption. According to its website, it implements AES-256 encryption. However, because it doesn’t have .ovpn files and it has no customer support - we have been completely unable to verify this. 

We have been unable to find out any information regarding the cipher, handshake, auth, or whether Perfect Forward Secrecy is implemented. Under the circumstances, I am left unable to confidently say that it implements OpenVPN encryption. If you use this VPN, you will be completely in the dark about what security you are getting. 

This means that it is possible that this VPN is not actually encrypting your data at all, which means that this VPN may be giving you a false sense of security - when actually your ISP is still able to track everything that you do online.  

Customer Service

The VPN’s website has no resources, it provides no useful information, it has no live chat support, and it provides no way of contacting the VPN directly. The Website basically serves as an advert, and, what is frustrating is that the Website clearly implies that customer support is available; it is not.

This VPN provides no troubleshooting guides for getting the VPN working, and, it has no information on how consumers can unblock content. A ticket system for asking questions that are answered via email would be Okay, but, sadly, the VPN provides nothing of the sort. 

Again, for free, this isn’t too much of a problem - because you aren’t paying for the service. However, this is yet another reason not to upgrade to the paid version of this VPN, which we genuinely would not recommend under any circumstances.  We even tried contacting the feedback email address in its privacy policy - but got no response.

User Experience

We tested both the iOS and Android version of the app and found them to work well for spoofing my location. Downloading them is easy, and you don’t need to hand over an email address or any other data. 

Android

In the Android app users can select between OpenVPN encryption and IPSec. Users can also choose to connect automatically as soon as the VPN is launched. 

We tested VPN speeds connected via IPsec to see if this would speed up my connections. They remained identical, which is somewhat surprising. We would have expected a change in connection speeds with a different encryption protocol, this makes me wonder if it is really changing the encryption settings. 

On Android, users can select between the 9 servers located in the UK, the USA (New York or San Francisco), Canada, India, Singapore, the Netherlands, France, and Germany. 

iOS

The iOS app can be downloaded via the iTunes app store. Turbo VPN downloads quickly and effortlessly. Users get to select between either IKEv2 protocol (default), OpenVPN UDP or TCP. To use the app users must agree to the privacy policy, but, once that is done, the experience is pretty good. It does serve adverts but I had no experience of being served any adverts I would suspect were being served due to my browsing habits. 

Unfortunately, iOS users are not given any server options. Users must connect to the server that it assigns them to automatically. For me, that was a server in Germany some of the time, and a server in the Netherlands most times. This does not give people the opportunity to unblock specific content. However, it will allow consumers to escape any localized censorship they are experiencing. 

Adverts are served almost every time you do something in the menu, and those adverts tend to force you to watch for around 5 seconds. We tested speeds while on the iOS app using IKEv2, and both the OpenVPN settings; like on Android we found changing the setting did nothing to my speeds. 

We find this highly suspicious, and it genuinely makes us wonder whether the settings on the app are just there for show. If that is the case, it is possible that this VPN is providing PPTP encryption on every single one of its settings. The fact that so few iOS apps on the market (even by leading VPN providers) implement OpenVPN encryption causes massive amounts of suspicion. 

Of course, we can hope that it is providing IKEv2, which would be excellent. However, under the circumstances, we have to say that there is just no way to say with certainty that the iOS or Android apps can be trusted for privacy purposes.

Final thoughts

As a free VPN that unblocks content, this VPN is certainly useful. The adverts that it serves do not appear to be targeted using people’s browsing habits. However, the privacy policy makes it clear that advertisers may be inserting cookies into your browser in order to gather data and perform corporate tracking.

Despite this, we found TurboVPN to be useful for unblocking content that I usually wouldn’t be able to access, yet sadly we are left wondering what kind of privacy this VPN is providing, and have to admit that it could be none at all.

A number of things about the VPN seemed too good to be true, and that certainly made us suspicious. For this reason, we would recommend this free VPN for unblocking content only rather than for privacy. On Android, speeds were a little slower than on iOS. However, iOS users are not able to select where they connect to; a feature that certainly makes the Android VPN more appealing. 

Due to its poor privacy, non-existent customer support, unverifiable DNS request handling procedures, and suspicious encryption options we can not recommend the paid version of this VPN under any circumstances. In addition, we would not recommend using this free VPN if you desire privacy from your ISP. However, if you want to unblock some content for free; this VPN will do the trick. 

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 4+ years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, Barrons, the Scottish Herald, ThreatPost, CNET & many more. Ray is currently rated number 1 VPN authority by Agilience.com.

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