5 Best VPN for Linux in 2019

If privacy has any part in why you use Linux, then you really should be using a Linux VPN. It will protect your data from hackers, your ISP, and most blanket government surveillance measures. In this article, we focus on what makes using a VPN different for Linux users to users of other platforms


Linux VPN

One of the main reasons for the popularity of Linux distros such as; Ubuntu, Fedora, Kali, Mint, OpenSUSE etc. is privacy.

Using a VPN for Linux will give you an extra layer of privacy. VPNs will hide your real IP from others on the internet, making it harder for Facebook, Google, and every website you visit to track what you get up to online and then target ads at you.

A VPN can also unblock streaming services from around the world and enable you to torrent safely! See below for a list of the best VPNs for Linux.

The best VPN for Linux: Comparison

The comparison tables below shows our experts’ pick of the best VPN services that cater to Linux users.

  1. AirVPN - Very Secure | Offers a Linux GUI client | Servers in 19 countries | $5.18 per month
  2. Mullvad - Excepts anonymous payments | Offers a Linux GUI client | Servers in 32 countries | $5.50 per month
  3. ExpressVPN - Fast servers | Offers a command line client | Servers in 94 countries | $6.67 per month
  4. PureVPN - Fast servers | unblocks streaming services | Servers in 141 countries | $2.88 per month
  5. CyberGhost - The cheapest VPN on the list | Great security features | Servers in 60 countries | $2.75 per month

Top 5 Linux VPN services

So without further ado, let’s examine our recommendations in the in-depth table below. In addition to providing details pricing information and technical specs for each provider, our summaries focus on what makes these providers so great for Linux users.

1. AirVPN

AirVPN is the best VPN for Linux due to it's excellent encryption and great Linux GUI client

  • Pricing

    From $4.64 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • Android
    • Mac
    • iOS
    • Linux
  • Features

    • Torrenting

AirVPN really cares about its customers’ privacy, and is the clear market leader when it comes to privacy technology. Its open source GUI Linux client (“Eddie”) is identical to the Windows and OSX versions (an Android version of Eddie is now also available).

This means that users benefit from a firewall-based kill switch and DNS leak protection, port selection, and more. In addition, AirVPN uses very strong encryption, permits VPN obfuscation using SSH and SSL tunneling, supports anonymous VPN use via VPN through Tor, and allows port forwarding.

Versions of Eddie are available for Debian (compatible with Ubuntu and Mint), OpenSUSE, Fedora and ArchLinux. You can also download the tar files and a stand-alone Mono version. The code is open source, so you can compile it yourself for any platform you want.

2. Mullvad

Mullvad VPN is an excellent choice for Linux users, it has a VPN GUI for Linux users and you can pay anonymously to ensure your privacy

  • Pricing

    From $5.5 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • Mac
    • Linux
  • Features

    • Torrenting
    • Money-back Guarantee

Mullvad is a Swedish provider really cares about its users’ privacy. It even accepts anonymous cash payments sent by post!

Mullvad provides Linux users with a full version of its GUI desktop client. This protects Linux VPN connections with a firewall-based kill switch and DNS leak protection, and allows port forwarding. In fact, the Mullvad client is the only VPN software I am aware of properly to route IPv6 DNS requests (even AirVPN only disables IPv6).

It hardly needs saying that Mullvad keeps no logs at all, and uses strong encryption. Once a small niche provider, Mullvad now runs bare-metal servers in 32-countries and is one of the fastest providers on our speed testing books.

Mullvad’s Linux client is available to download as for Debian (/Ubuntu/Mint), and Red Hat Linux. It is open source, so the code can be compiled for any platform.

3. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a high speed service with a command line client and great set up guides for Linux users

  • Pricing

    From $6.67 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • Android
    • Mac
    • iOS
    • Linux
  • Features

    • Torrenting
    • Netflix
    • Livechat
    • Money-back Guarantee

ExpressVPN is a popular VPN service thanks in large part to its great 24/7 customer service, easy-to-use software, and a 30-day no quibbles money back guarantee that actually does what it promises.

Although not an all-singing-all-dancing Linux GUI client, ExpressVPN does look after its Linux customers better than most providers. It offers a command-line client for Debian/Ubuntu/Mint. Although a little basic, this does feature DNS leak protection.

This is a major step up from configuring VPN settings manually in Linux, where the only way to protect against DNS leaks is to manual edit iptables rules. Disappointingly for a Linux app, though, the client is not open source.

ExpressVPN also offers manual setup instructions for Kali, Ubuntu Studio, Linux Mint, and Fedora, and Raspbian.

4. PureVPN

PureVPN is a fast service with servers just about everywhere

  • Pricing

    From $2.88 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • Android
    • Mac
    • iOS
    • Linux
  • Features

    • Torrenting
    • Netflix
    • Livechat
    • Money-back Guarantee

PureVPN is a service based in Hong Kong. It offers servers just about everywhere (although many of these are virtual servers), and it can unblock all major streaming platforms.

It also offers a command line client for Debian (etc.) and Red Hat Linux. Again, though, it is not open source. Unlike ExpressVPN’s client it does not offer DNS leak protection, but it does allow you to smart connect to a location PureVPN deems best, easily connect to a location of your choice, and change from OpenVPN UDP to TCP.

PureVPN provides manual OpenVPN, SSTP, and PPTP setup guides for Ubuntu and Mint, and PPTP setup guides for Debian, Fedora, Arch Linux, and CentOS.

5. CyberGhost

CyberGhost VPN is cheap and it has fantastic security features making it a great Linux VPN

  • Pricing

    From $2.75 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • Android
    • Mac
    • iOS
    • Linux
  • Features

    • Torrenting
    • Netflix
    • Livechat
    • Money-back Guarantee

CyberGhost does not offer any Linux VPN software, but is a great all-round VPN service with good manual setup support for Linux. Detailed guides are available for setting-up OpenVPN using either Terminal or NetworkManager in Ubuntu and Mint, and for configuring PPTP in Linux Chakra.

On other devices you will find CyberGhost‘s software is easy-to-use while also being very fully featured. It uses very strong encryption, and 5 simultaneous connections is generous. Being based in Romania and keeping no meaningful logs is also a big draw, and compliments the fact that ExpressVPN accepts payment in Bitcoin.

CyberGhost’s excellent logging policy, fantastic speeds, and fully featured software are a winning combination. And with a 7-day free premium trial plus 30-day no-quibble money back guarantee, there is zero reason not to give it a whirl.

Why are these the best VPNs for Linux?

Linux is great, but there is no getting away from the fact that it is a niche operating system. With this in mind, Linux is surprisingly well supported by the VPN industry, and most providers supply good manual setup guides for it (although these overwhelmingly focus on Ubuntu).

Fully featured custom Linux GUI clients, like the kind offered to Windows VPN and mac VPN users are very rare. The top two recommended providers (AirVPN and MullVadVPN) are the only providers that offer a full Linux GUI client.

ExpressVPN is also an excellent all-round provider which offers a command-line Linux VPN client. It has built-in DNS leak protection is not something to be sniffed at. Pure VPN also has a Command Line Installation Linux client.

Finally CyberGhost is a great VPN service, and although it doesn't have a GUI or CLI client, it does offers excellent manual Linux setup guides. 

Why should I use a VPN for Linux?

A VPN is a way to securely connect your Linux machine to a “VPN server” in order to protect your privacy when browsing online. Your Linux PC then connects to the internet via this VPN server.

VPNs are something of a Swiss Army knife, and should be part of every serious Linux user’s toolkit. They allow you to:

Protect yourself from snoopers

Although an ISP is still needed to connect your PC to the VPN server, it cannot see any data that passes between your Linux PC and the VPN server. It also cannot see what websites you visit beyond the initial connection to the VPN server.

On the flipside, websites you visit will see the IP address of the VPN server, not your real IP. They, therefore, act as an IP blocker, helping to keep your identity safe when surfing the web

Evade local censorship laws

When you connect to a VPN server in another country, then you’ll be able to access the full range of content available to citizens of that country.

Using a VPN in Linux is, a great way to evade censorship and access restricted websites – be it on social, religious, moral, political, or copyright grounds.

If VPN websites and/or the VPN protocols themselves are blocked where you are, please see how to Bypass VPN Blocks - a guide for more information. Both AirVPN and Mullvad offer obfuscation technologies in their Linux clients that can help overcome attempts to block VPN connections themselves.

Unblock content

If you connect to a VPN server in another country, as far as websites are concerned you appear to be in that country! This is a great way to access restricted websites that ban overseas visitors or which have regional restrictions on the content available.

This means you can unblock Netflix and watch BBC iPlayer abroad, as other streaming sites that aren't available in your country.

Protect yourself on public WiFi

A Linux-based VPN will protect you from hackers when using public WiFi hotspots, as your data is secure between your computer and the VPN server. Even if you connect to a fake “evil twin” hotspot, your data will be protected because it is encrypted.

Torrent safely

Using A VPN for torrenting will  protect you when peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing. Anyone monitoring a torrent will only see the IP address of the VPN server, not your real IP address.  Do be sure, however, to choose a provider that permits P2P use. Not all do.

Using a VPN for different Linux distros

By far the most popular consumer Linux distros are Debian and its derivatives: Ubuntu and Mint. It is therefore little surprise that most Linux VPN support is focused on these platforms. And especially on Ubuntu.

Linux VPN Distro

Ubuntu

Ubuntu receives at least some support from almost every VPN service out there. And, indeed, it has received a fair bit of love from ourselves! Please check out our Best VPN for Ubuntu article for a detailed look at using a VPN on the platform.

Good news for privacy heads is that the 2019 move from the Unity to GNOME 3 default desktops means saying bye-bye to Dash, the unified search bar that sent Amazon your search terms.

It also means moving away from Unity’s rather worrying privacy policy, which allowed Canonical to share a huge amount of personal information with companies such as Facebook, the BBC, eBay, Google (via YouTube), and more. As far as we know, GNOME 3 doesn't share any personal information with anybody.

Using a VPN with Ubuntu provides all the usual privacy and security benefits of a VPN, but it cannot stop Unity from handing over personal information to Amazon and it other partners. Fortunately, such issues are not a problem with GNOME, so we recommend also switching to the new desktop as soon as possible.  

Alternatively, different flavors Ubuntu such as Kubuntu (KDE Plasmas desktop) and Ubuntu MATE are also free from the problems associated with Unity.

Mint

Mint is based on Ubuntu (which is, itself, based on Debian). This is very handy for Mint users as any VPN software designed for Ubuntu will work flawlessly in Mint. Although other desktops can be used (MATE and xfce), Windows users, in particular, often feel more at home with the default Mint Cinnamon desktop than they do with Ubuntu.

Importantly, though, the backend of Mint is almost identical to that of Ubuntu – including NetworkManager. This means Mint users can use standard Ubuntu setup guides pretty much as written.

As with Ubuntu, Mint is designed as a desktop replacement OS for Windows and macOS. As such, it prioritizes day-to-day functionality and ease-of-use over privacy and security.

Linux Mint VPN

Using Mint (or Ubuntu) is much better for privacy than using Windows or macOS as your daily driver, but it is nowhere near as secure as using Qubes or as private as using TAILS.  As always, using a VPN improves this situation, but should be considered a vital part of your privacy and security armory – not a one-stop solution.

Kali

Kali Linux is another distro based on Debian but is not intended as a workhorse replacement. It is designed as a digital forensics and penetration testing tool, and is popular among amateur hackers - in large part thanks to its prominent use in the Mr. Robot TV show. Those serious about illicit activity prefer more secure Linux distros such as TAILS, WHONIX and Qubes.

Using a VPN with Kali provides the usual benefits, but given what Kali is designed to do, serious Kali users should instead consider using Tor. Tor is much slower than using a VPN, but can provide genuine anonymity in a way that VPNs can’t.

Using a VPN is much more practical than using Tor for day-to-day privacy, but Kali makes a poor day-to-day OS. TAILS and WHONIX route all traffic through the Tor network by default.

Debian

Although both more popular than Debian itself, Ubuntu and Mint are built on Debian. Linux purists, on the other hand, often prefer the more streamlined and fully open source Debian experience. And because Debian does not install any third-party closed-source elements by default, it is probably more secure.

The price for this is ease of use, because many of the drivers Ubuntu and Mint use to provide an easy and seamless user experience contains proprietary code.

Debian, Ubuntu and Mint software is interoperable, and the platforms share very similar backends (including NetworkManager).  So any app or guide designed for one of them should work just fine for the others.

Red Hat Linux (Fedora, RHEL, CentOS)

Fedora is based on Red Hat Linux (RHL), which reached the end of its life in 2004. It is the core RHL community-developed distro in current circulation. Fedora is sponsored by the company Red Hat, Inc., which produces a commercial distro of the operating system known as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

RHEL is not free and has a slower update schedule than Fedora, but it is more stable and comes with full support. It is therefore popular for corporate use, as its name might suggest.

CentOS is a free community-developed clone of RHEL. It is not as a bleeding-edge as Fedora, but as a basically a free (but unsupported) version of RHEL, it is more stable.

RHL-based software is interoperable, and the platforms should be close enough that setup guides designed for one will work fine for the others.

Linux VPN GUI

As has been mentioned earlier, very few VPN providers offer a full graphical user interface (GUI) Linux clients. This is understandable from a commercial viewpoint as Linux has a niche user base, but is frustrating.

For a start, most people are much happier using a mouse to navigate the visual cues provided a graphical interface, which also provides a wealth of easy to understand and digest information at a glance. Only hardcore computer masochists are not even slightly phased by having to face a blinking command prompt.

But such is the life of a Linux enthusiast. Arguably more important is that GUI clients feature a wealth of extra features that users of other platforms take for granted, but which are usually not available to Linux users. These includes kill switches, DNS leak protection, port selection, easy protocol selection, easy server switching, and VPN obfuscation tech.

Custom command-line clients of the kind offered by ExpressVPN and PureVPN provide more features than manually configuring a VPN connection using the command line or network manager, but still fall way short of the kind of features offered by AirVPN and Mullvad’s GUI clients.

AirVPN Linux GUI Client

ExpressVPN’s CLI VPN client does feature DNS leak protection, but AirVPN and Mullvad’s GUI clients also block WebRTC leaks.  The only way for most Linux VPN users to gain DNS leak protection and a kill switch is to manually configure their iptables firewall rules. Which is not a job for the faint-hearted. WebRTC leaks can be prevented by manually disabling WebRTC in your browser.

Linux VPN protocols

A VPN protocol is the set of instructions used to negotiate a secure encrypted connection between two computers. A number of such VPN protocols are commonly supported by commercial VPNs. The most notable of these are Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), OpenVPN, Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) and Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2).

Linux VPN protocol

PPTP

This is an old VPN protocol that hasn’t been considered secure for years. It should be avoided for all but the most casual tasks.

L2TP

This is almost always implemented with the Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) authentication suite (L2TP/IPsec). It is almost certainly not secure against the NSA, but for most purposes is generally regarded as being secure.

IKEv2

A new standard that is increasingly popular because it is both fast and secure. How secure it is against the likes of the NSA is unknown, however. Linux users on the go may even prefer it to OpenVPN thanks to its improved ability to reconnect when an internet connection is interrupted.

OpenVPN

This open source and now fully audited protocol is widely regarded as the most secure and versatile VPN protocol available (if well implemented). Our general recommendation is to use OpenVPN whenever possible. Be wary, however, about the much-advertised use of AES-256. This is indeed a gold-standard cipher, but it is in itself fairly meaningless as the devil is in the detail.

For more information on this subject please check out VPN Encryption: The Complete Guide, which is designed to be as layman-friendly as possible.

How to install a VPN on Linux

The instructions below all refer specifically to Ubuntu and use Ubuntu’s graphic user interface (GUI).  For instructions using the Terminal command line or different versions of Linux, please see the individual VPNs’ websites.

1. Register an account with your chosen VPN provider.
2. Download its Debian software.

Installing a VPN on Linux

3. When the .deb file has downloaded, click on it to open in Ubuntu’s Software Center. Then just click install! Admin authentication will be required.

Set up Linux VPN GUI Client

Note that whatever Ubuntu’s Software Center says, both AirVPN and Mullvad’s clients are open source.

4. Go to Show applications folder to open the app. You will be required to enter your account details.

Note: that at time of writing Eddie requires a workaround for Ubuntu 17.10, take a look at AirVPNs configuration guide.


For more information on setting up a VPN on Linux, take a look at our how to install a VPN on linux guide.

FAQs

Conclusion

If you care about your digital privacy, you should:

a) Ditch Windows and macOS and use Linux as your daily Operating System.

b) Use a good privacy-friendly VPN service (see our no logs VPN page for more details).

You should also do a bunch of other stuff, but this will get you off to a very good start. And if for some reason you are using Linux but don’t care about privacy, then a VPN will let you watch Netflix, unblock porn, and torrent safely just as well as it does on any other platform!

Written by: Douglas Crawford

Has worked for almost six years as senior staff writer and resident tech and VPN industry expert at ProPrivacy.com. Widely quoted on issues relating cybersecurity and digital privacy in the UK national press (The Independent & Daily Mail Online) and international technology publications such as Ars Technica.

17 Comments

  1. Not Given

    on November 21, 2018
    Reply

    Hi, Mullvad are dropping their 32-bit Linux client, so you shouldn't really list them in this article.

    1. PureVPN ? replied to Not Given

      on December 1, 2018
      Reply

      PureVPN Helped the FBI with Logs. In October 2017, a document related to US District Court of Massachusetts shows that contrary to the company's claims, PureVPN does log user IP addresses as it was able to provide this information to the FBI.

      1. douglas replied to PureVPN ?

        on December 3, 2018
        Reply

        Hi PureVPN?, Indeed https://proprivacy.com/privacy-news/fbi-solves-case-vpn-lies/ .

    2. Nerd replied to Not Given

      on December 4, 2018
      Reply

      Who even has 32bit only hardware? Give me a break. If you are still only using 32bit, go back to the 1990s.

    3. douglas replied to Not Given

      on November 22, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Not Given, Can you please point to a source for this? The latest stable version (from just last week!) update includes improvements to the Linux client (https://www.mullvad.net/en/blog/2018/11/15/update-your-app-new-stable-version-20185/ ).

  2. Louis A. Coleman

    on July 3, 2018
    Reply

    Virtual Private Network helps you to secure your connection.By the way thanks for sharing this informative article!.

  3. Richard G

    on May 18, 2018
    Reply

    Mullvad does support UK servers, it has 2 that I know of - one in London and one in Manchester

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Richard G

      on May 21, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Richard, Indeed, and thanks to pointing this out. The provider summary in this article is outdated (although I have just fixed this issue). As I clearly state in my full Mullvad Review, Mulvad does now support UK servers. We are currently working on a way to ensure summary details across our articles stay as up-to-date as possible).

  4. JorkanoFaln

    on February 24, 2018
    Reply

    Hi, You forgot about perfect privacy vpn in your review this vpn has a linux GUI client and complies with privacytools.io criteria. I don't understand why NordVPN is the second best VPN for Linux, if the latter doesn't even have a client for Linux. The VPN services, I know have a Linux client are: Perfect-Privacy (GUI), Mullvad (GUI), AirVPN (GUI), Private Internet Access (GUI) as well as Expressvpn (CLI). Could you also write an article on the best VPNs for hackers (white hat) and tech professionals?

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to JorkanoFaln

      on February 26, 2018
      Reply

      Hi JorkanoFaln, Yeah. I have raised this point with our team before. Our 5 Best lists are a group decision, and the team decided the overall advantages of NordVPN and CyberGhost outweighed the fact that they don't have dedicated Linux clients. Pefect Privacy and PIA are both good VPN services, however, so I will raise the issue again.

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