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What is Norton Secure VPN?
Norton Secure VPN is a Virtual Private Network that most people use because it comes bolted-on to their Norton 360 subscription. It is a service that is primarily advertised as a privacy tool for protecting your data while on public WiFi.
However, Norton VPN will also allow you to pretend to be in a different country and will ensure that your ISP cannot track your online habits. Since we last reviewed it, Norton VPN has begun providing access to Netflix US, which is definitely going to make this VPN popular with some consumers.
On the other hand, Norton Secure VPN is not as well rounded as other VPNs on the market - and it lacks some features you might expect to find on a VPN in this price range. For this reason, it is not a VPN we recommend investing in, unless it comes bolted onto your antivirus plan.
Alternative Choices for You
Norton Secure VPN is a reasonably priced service when you purchase it for the very first time. This is because the VPN provides a whopping 40% discount. An annual subscription for newcomers will cost $39.99, and will allow you to connect to the service using 5 simultaneous devices. That works out at just $3.33 per month - which is not a costly amount. However, please remember there are much better cheap VPNs on the market, meaning a subscription to Norton Secure VPN is probably still a bad idea.
The cost of a yearly subscription shoots up considerably to $79.99 once it renews automatically in the second year. That works out at $6.66 per month. Considering what you get with Norton Secure VPN, we must conclude that the price is much too high. As such, while purchasing Norton VPN for a single year might be a reasonable option, we would generally recommend against subscribing to it when the price goes up.
For those who need the VPN on many devices, the option is there to purchase a subscription that will work on 10 simultaneous devices. That will cost you $59.99 in your first year and $99.99 when the price goes up automatically. Again, on that face of it, that price seems fairly competitive. However, there are cheaper VPNs on the market that provide more features and the same amount of simultaneous connections. And some superb VPNs exist, such as Surfshark, that provide an unlimited number of simultaneous connections for a similar price.
Finally, subscribers wanting to give Norton VPN a trial run can opt to get a single month subscription. A single month on a single device will cost you just $4.99. We have to admit that this is a competitively priced one-month subscription. And, if you are somebody going on vacation who needs a VPN to unblock Netflix while you are away, then this will get the job done. If you want to use the VPN on 5 devices, a single month will cost $7.99 - which is a pretty good deal.
All of our approved VPNs come with a hassle-free money-back guarantee. Should you purchase one of the recommended VPNs via ProPrivacy.com and struggle to get a refund, contact us and we will do our very best to help you get your money back.
Norton Secure VPN offers subscribers a 60-day money-back guarantee on all of its year-long plans. This means that subscribers can test Norton Secure VPN for an extended period. This is pretty good when compared to other VPNs and is one advantage of purchasing from a security giant like Norton.
However, in our experience, getting your money back is a bit of a pain. Doing it via the Live Chat (which we presumed would make it fast and easy) resulted in us having to provide an order number from our PayPal receipt, our phone number, and our email; hardly ideal if you are somebody who values privacy. And, even then, they could not cancel the order directly. We had to wait for a call back to complete the refund request.
People who purchase a one-month subscription have 14 days to ask for a refund, which is a reasonable cancellation period in our opinion.
Finally, people who subscribe using Google Play (to the Android version) actually get a seven-day free trial. Confusingly, users have to use Google Play to 'buy' the app in the usual manner. However, no money leaves your account until seven days later. If you cancel before then, the Play Store doesn't charge you any money, which is pretty cool if you want to try out Norton in this way.
Supported Payment Platforms
Subscribers can opt to pay for Norton Secure VPN either using a debit or credit card or by using PayPal. Sadly, Norton does not accept Bitcoin payments, which is a shame. If paying for a VPN with higher levels of anonymity is important to you, then Norton VPN isn't going to be an option.
This privacy issue is compounded by the fact that making an account with Norton is mandatory before paying for the VPN subscription. Unfortunately, this requires you to hand over your phone number.
For the truly privacy conscious, this will probably be a deal breaker. After all, most people can easily be tracked down using their phone number, as well as their IP address.
We tested Norton Secure VPN to see if it would successfully unblock Netflix US. We were happy to discover that it did unblock the service both on the standalone Windows client and when connecting to its US server from inside the Norton 360 application.
Next, we connected to the UK server and attempted to watch BBC iPlayer. Unfortunately, this test was unsuccessful - so if you want to be able to watch British TV, you will need to shop elsewhere. The ability to unblock Netflix US is good and is impressive considering the price of the VPN.
However, there are options on the market at a similar price point that will unblock a wider range of streaming services. So, if streaming is your main reason for wanting a VPN, it is probably sensible to shop elsewhere.
Bare metal or virtual servers
1200 of the servers are virtual
Norton Secure VPN is a service that most people get bolted on to their Norton 360 antivirus plan. In that format, the VPN is a low-frills client that allows users to connect to a choice of servers in 31 countries. In addition, users can opt to use an ad-tracker blocking feature. Other than that, the VPN has no other features to speak of. You will find no kill switch, no obfuscated servers, no split tunneling, and no port selection options. However, it does successfully unblock Netflix US.
For consumers who purchase the VPN as a standalone service, the VPN has custom clients for Windows, Android, Mac, and iOS. No custom Linux VPN client is available at present. Despite only being a couple of years old, Norton VPN gives users access to a network of servers in 31 countries. This is a fairly decent amount of choice for unblocking content.
Admittedly, Norton Secure VPN doesn't provide the most location choices for its price range. Still, it will be more than adequate for most people's needs.
Finally, Norton VPN does not permit Peer-to-Peer connection on any of its servers, so if torrenting is a major requirement for you, this VPN will not be an option.
Speed and Performance
To find out how Norton VPN performs, we tested it on a UK Virgin Media 50 Mbps fiber internet connection. Below you can see that our internet speeds were not actually as high as they are supposed to be. Instead of the advertised 50 Mbps, on the day we tested, we were only achieving speeds of 37 Mbps:
It is worth mentioning that usually we always test VPNs using our scientific speed test method. That method uses a server-based system to test the provider's servers in four locations around the world daily. This allows us to get up-to-date max download speed results and averages. Unfortunately, Norton refused to give us a trial account that we could link up to our speed test system on an ongoing basis. Due to this decision, you will have to make do with these online speed tests instead.
First, we tested the UK server using speedtest.net. We discovered that the VPN reduced our internet speed from 37 Mbps to just 21.50 Mbps. This is pretty disappointing considering our close proximity to that VPN server. A drop of about 50% in speeds is above average and does not compete with the very best VPNs.
Next, we tested the US server. According to the speed test website, the closest server was in New York. We will take this as circumstantial evidence that the server is on the East coast. This is a revealing factor only because we were testing from the UK - which is closer to the US East coast, geographically.
According to Ookla, the VPN reduced our connection speeds to just 17 Mbps. This is a drop of more than a half - which is far from ideal. Admittedly, those speeds should allow you to stream, but it could cause buffering if you are trying to watch HD content.
Overall, we found the speeds we encountered using Norton Secure VPN to be a little disappointing. Considering the cost of the VPN, we would have hoped for speeds that were faster.
IPv6 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?
IPv4 leak detected?
To check that Norton Secure VPN is working as it should, we connected to its servers and checked to see whether it was suffering from IP leaks, DNS leaks, and WebRTC leaks. These kinds of leaks will ruin the privacy provided by the VPN, by leaking data to your ISP and the websites you visit.
We tested on an IPv4 connection and found the VPN to suffer no leaks whatsoever. Admittedly, anybody using the VPN on an IPv6 connection should test for themselves using our easy-to-use leak test tool. If you encounter an IPv6 leak, you will need to disable IPv6 on your machine to ensure you are connecting securely to the internet.
Our tests revealed that Norton Secure VPN handles DNS requests using its own DNS servers. This means that the VPN can be trusted to protect your privacy without leaking DNS request data to your ISP (or any other third party DNS resolver).
Finally, our tests revealed that Norton VPN suffers from no WebRTC leaks. Again, this is superb news, and means that the VPN can be trusted to provide a securely encrypted tunnel free from any problems.
Ease of Use
Norton Secure VPN has standalone clients for all popular platforms, including Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS. Unfortunately, it is not available for Linux (and cannot currently be installed manually using a third party OpenVPN client).
Norton Secure VPN bundled with Norton 360
It seems fair to say that the vast majority of Norton VPN users will own the VPN due to it being bundled with their antivirus plan. As a bolted-on VPN, we consider it a reliable and useable service. However, it is extremely low on options and features.
During our tests, the VPN was free of leaks and it provided average connection speeds. Admittedly, if you want robust privacy and the ability to torrent, you will need something with a kill switch. However, for browsing with added privacy, and with ad-blocking, this bundled VPN is a nice extra. And it even unblocks Netflix US.
If you get it bundled, you can use it to gain privacy on WiFi hotspots and for concealing your web habits from your ISP. However, bear in mind that Norton's privacy policies are lengthy and that the firm appears to harvest quite a lot of data.
Norton VPN on Windows
Norton VPN on Windows is a bare bones client that has none of the important VPN features you would expect to see from a premium VPN. The client suffered from no IPv4 leaks in our tests. However, it did suffer from IPv6 leaks when we tested it, which is far from ideal. Thankfully, you can revert back to IPv4 on your machine, and beyond that the VPN seemed to be working fine.
While the Windows client provides access to servers in 31 countries, users are not given the ability to pick their location within those countries. A lack of East and West Coast US servers will be a disappointment to many users who would prefer to connect to a server slightly closer to them, geographically (to reduce Ping).
According to Norton, the Windows client uses OpenVPN encryption with an AES-256 cipher. Unfortunately, we could find out very little else about that encryption. We can't be sure whether both the control and data channel are implemented robustly, and we can't tell you whether the VPN provides Perfect Forward Secrecy. Because of this, we would recommend against using this VPN for privacy purposes.
It is also worth noting that Norton VPN does not provide a kill switch on the Windows client. It also lacks DNS leak protection, port selection, and obfuscated servers. These are staple features with most of its competitors.
Overall, the lack of features rule out purchasing this VPN as a standalone service. There are simply too many better options available on the market at a similar or cheaper cost.
The Android app is very similar to the Windows desktop app because it is completely lacking of any advanced VPN features. One good thing about Norton WiFi Privacy is that it has an adblocker built in. This is an appealing feature on Android, where adblocking can be a trickier than on a desktop machine.
The Android software is very easy and pleasant to use due to its simple and colorful design. In addition, Norton VPN will automatically connect whenever you join an untrusted public WiFi network. As such, Norton WiFi Privacy is designed to be a reasonable WiFi security option.
However, in our opinion, the lack of features still rules out purchasing Norton as a standalone VPN. And, unless you got it bundled with 360, it seems a good idea to seek a better service.
macOS and iOS
Norton VPN is essentially the same across all platforms. It has no advanced features, and you don't get a kill switch. In addition, you cannot torrent safely on either macOS or iOS.
The only real difference between the clients is that the iOS implements L2TP/IPSec encryption with a pre-shared key. This is is arguably not secure enough (because it has already been cracked by the NSA according to the Snowden leaks).
macOS users get OpenVPN protection, however, we can't vouch for its implementation because we do not have the necessary details regarding how the data and control channels are secured individually.
Money-back guarantee length
Support for Norton Secure VPN is provided in several ways. 24/7 live chat support is available on the Norton website. However, this live chat is for all Norton products - not the VPN service specifically.
For this reason, the live chat support is very limited in terms of the VPN-specific questions it can answer. Live chat support with competing VPNs provides specialized support that allows people to get help with installing or using the VPN quickly.
The live chat support that you get with Norton is not of this nature. It is primarily designed to help people with accessing the various products that Norton sells. In our experience, the support staff knew absolutely nothing about the VPN. They could not answer simple questions about the encryption or the level of service the VPN provides.
The good news is that Norton is willing to take your phone number to get back to you with the details. Of course, those customers who value privacy may not want to hand their phone number over. Under these circumstances you will need to resolve your tickets via email. (And don't forget that the firm also asks for your phone number when you sign up for an account.)
The website itself is a little better. It has FAQs and a support community where fellow users can ask questions and get answers. It also provides various videos about setting up and using the service. Admittedly, this won't help you much with the VPN, but the VPN has so few features that you are unlikely to need much help using it, anyway.
In order to start an email support ticket, you will need to go on live chat to request that they send you an email. Using that email you can reply and start a support conversation. Hardly ideal, but at least it is possible. Overall, we found support with Norton to be cumbersome, tiresome, and overly difficult.
Being able to get a call back is pretty cool, if you don't mind giving away your number (you could use a Google Voice number to gain a little extra privacy if you prefer). However, with other VPNs, it is possible to ask VPN questions like: "How can I unblock the Open Tennis tournament?" And the VPN will usually be able to give you some advice (admittedly some VPNs will fob you off, but others like PureVPN will go to great lengths to help you access the stream you are after).
To be thorough, we went back to Norton with several questions to see if a different agent would know more. We found them to know nothing time and time again. In one of its blogs about VPNs, Norton says the following:
When in doubt, don't be afraid to email customer service and start asking questions. Companies that are more reputable are more likely to answer your questions promptly.
Sadly, it is pretty obvious that this something that Norton forgot to actually implement for its VPN service.
Privacy and Security
Norton is currently owned by Broadcom, which is based in the USA. This means that any data held on Norton's servers might be accessed by the US government because of the FISA and Patriot Act. The US can also enforce warrants and gag orders that force the VPN to keep logs, bringing its no logs promise into question.
Admittedly, this VPN primarily advertises itself as a service for gaining privacy and security while using public WiFi. For these purposes, the VPN will work as advertised. However, anybody with a desire for a proper zero-logs VPN is advised to shop for a provider that is transparent and has only one clear policy to worry about.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that Broadcom is in the process of selling Norton to the London-based company Accenture. Once that sale has taken place, subscribers will be exposed to the UK's surveillance regulations including the Investigatory Powers Bill. This requires VPNs to keep logs of their users browsing habits for 12 months.
Norton VPN comes with OpenVPN as standard on Android, macOS and Windows. Users do not get the option to use any other protocols. Finding out about Norton's encryption implementation is tricky, because the VPN fails to publish these important details.
The website states that the VPN implements the AES 256 cipher, which is ideal. However, it does not state what the handshake and authentication are - or whether Perfect Forward Secrecy is implemented.
Eventually, we managed to get some information from Norton. They told us that OpenVPN is implemented with RSA 1024 for the handshake. That standard is now considered insecure and too weak for security purposes, and has been for around 8 years.
At ProPrivacy.com, we consider a handshake of RSA 2048 to be a minimum standard for a VPN to be considered secure. For this reason, we cannot vouch for the security provided by the encrypted tunnel you get with Norton VPN.
This is problematic because as a result you must give Norton your phone number and agree to provide it:
Information about your computer or device, including browser type and settings, IP address and traffic data relating to your Internet connection.
In violation of any applicable laws or regulations, or to promote the violation of any applicable laws or regulations. To upload, post, or otherwise transmit content which you do not have a right to or which would otherwise infringe the intellectual property rights of any party. In a manner that infringes or violates any privacy, intellectual property, confidentiality, or contractual or other rights.
With that in mind, this VPN should not be used for torrenting.
Norton Secure VPN is a service that is massively overpriced considering its complete lack of features. Connection speeds are disappointing, though admittedly, we managed to unblock Netflix US and watch a show without issues.
In addition, we found customer support with Norton to be lacking. The support agents make you feel uncomfortable by asking you for personal information that you have already provided. The live chat portal even warns you not to hand over your financial information before the chat is opened (an ominous sign if ever we saw one). And, once in the chat, the agents are unable to actually help.
Customer support is an important component of a VPN service and there are several high quality VPNs on the market that would give you much better value for money. To conclude, Norton Secure VPN must be considered an afterthought rather than a genuine attempt to enter the VPN market competitively. Norton VPN is lacking, inadequate, and plagued with deal breaking problems.
As a free bolt on that can be used to gain privacy on public WiFi, the service is acceptable. However, we must recommend that you do not subscribe to this VPN as a standalone service. And, if you are thinking about purchasing Norton 360 because you need a solid VPN, then know that it is not what you are getting.