PrivateInternetAccess Review

PrivateInternetAccess

  • Pricing

    From $3.33 - $11.95
  • Available on:

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Android
    • Linux
    • iOS
  • Works with:

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

Private Internet Access VPN is a US-based provider that keeps zero logs, a claim it has proven in court. The VPN was recently acquired by Kape Technologies - a cybersec firm based in London whose primary aim is to help consumers gain protection online. PIA VPN has servers in 33 countries, it provides strong OpenVPN encryption, and is one of the most popular VPN services among Reddit users. It also has live chat support and access to Netflix US.

ProPrivacy.com Score 9.2 out of 10
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Summary

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a respected VPN service that has been around since 2010. It is a US-based VPN that provides high levels of privacy and reliability. The VPN has a zero-logs policy - which makes up for its US-base. PIA has apps for all popular platforms that provide strong encryption and a superb choice of servers around the world. PIA is also a cheap VPN service that performs well above its pay grade. Despite the budget price (if purchased yearly), PIA unblocks a decent amount of highly sought after content - including Netflix US. This is set to expand in the coming weeks to include BBC iPlayer and hulu.

Quick Stats

  • Jurisdiction USA
  • Countries 33 pcs
  • Simultaneous connections 10
  • ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 62.2 Mbps

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Price

Private Internet Access can be purchased in three different subscription plans. All those plans offer the same functionality and differ only in that the price becomes cheaper for those who commit for a longer period of time.

At $9.95 for a single month, this VPN can be considered an averagely priced service. This cost is neither cheap nor expensive - and it will allow people to make use of the VPN on vacation at a reasonable cost.

Where the VPN really starts to shine, is on the yearly subscription plan. At a cost of $39.95, the VPN works out at just $3.33 per month. That really is a shockingly good price considering the caliber of this VPN service. 

For those who prefer a six-month subscription, the option is there to pay the equivalent of $5.99 per month. However, because that price works out to $35.95 in total - we recommend that you pay the extra $4 to get the VPN for 12 months (it's a bit of a no brainer). 

PIA subscriptions can be purchased with a credit card, PayPal, and several online payment systems. Subscribers can also opt to pay with a variety of gift cards including Starbucks, Best Buy, and Walmart. This is great for paying with more anonymity (you could also sign up with a burner email). In addition, PIA accepts Bitcoins for those who prefer crypto.

If you like the sound of PIA and want to give it a test run, the firm provides a solid 30-day money-back guarantee period. This allows you to test the VPN risk-free for a whole month. This is a vast improvement on its previous 7-day trial period and is a big thumbs up to the new owner, Kape Technologies.

Overall, we can’t stress how cheap PIA is when purchased with a yearly subscription. Considering the improvements PIA has made in terms of unblocking content - the price is definitely a winner. (It is also worth noting that PIA sometimes has seasonal special offers that bring the price down - so it is well worth clicking through to the site to check what is going on right now).

Unblock Netflix?

In October 2019, PIA announced that it had decided to start unblocking major streaming sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. This selection is expected to expand in the coming weeks, with hulu and various other platforms on the cards.

This is great news for subscribers and means that PIA is now an excellent VPN for streaming. What's more, if you want a VPN for accessing restricted streaming sites like putlockers, 123movies, Viooz, etc - this VPN will protect your privacy and let you stream content for free all day long.

All in all, this VPN is definitely considered an outstanding option for anybody looking for a Netflix VPN. And, considering the cost of this VPN, it is a service that is definitely going to win over a lot of consumers.

Features

Port forwarding
Torrenting
Total servers 3500
Router Support
Port selection
Routers Supported DD-WRT, Tomato, PfSense, LEDE, Merlin, AsusWRT
Bare metal or virtual servers Bare metal
Countries 33
Simultaneous connections 10

Private Internet Access is a fully featured VPN that comes with a lot of outstanding features

  • No logs VPN
  • Apps for all platforms (Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS)
  • Browser extension (Chrome, Firefox, Opera)
  • P2P Torrenting permitted
  • 3,236 servers in 33 countries
  • Many encryption options inside the apps
  • OpenVPN encryption by default (apart from on iOS)
  • Auto-detect fastest server
  • SOCKS5 proxy
  • Shadowsocks proxy
  • 10 simultaneous devices!
  • Obfuscated servers/stealth VPN
  • Killswitch on all platforms
  • Port Forwarding
  • Split tunneling
  • Auto-connect feature
  • PIA Mace feature to block domains that serve ads, trackers, and malware

In addition, this VPN provides server counts, locations, and bandwidth stats on its website. Users can also select each individual VPN server and do a speed check to see how it is performing.

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Speed and Performance

We test VPN speeds three times a day using a scientific server-based speed test system. Our test servers test VPN IP addresses in Hong Kong, Australia, the UK, and the US for max speeds and average download speeds. Test results for the months of January through March, 2020, are displayed below.

Average downloads speeds of 88.4 Mbps are extremely fast, which is pretty monumental considering the price of this VPN. Again, we have to give kudos to Kape here. A year ago, this VPN had average download speeds of around 30 Mbps.

Those speeds weren't that bad, and would have been more than adequate for streaming. However, since Kape acquired PIA there has been a marked improvement in the connection speeds that consumers can expect. 

These download speeds will allow you to stream content in HD and do other data intensive tasks such as gaming or video conferencing.  Thus, PIA is now consistently one of the fastest VPNs available on the market. 

Leak tests

IPv4 leak detected?
IPv6 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?
Data limits
Bandwidth limits
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 254.93
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 62.2

We tested PIA for leaks using our industry standard VPN leak testing tool.  Our tests revealed that PIA is a solid VPN that suffers from no IPv4, IPv6, WebRTC, or DNS leaks. These are perfect results.

No leaks were discovered on Mac or Windows when testing on an IPv6 connection, and IPv6 was disabled automatically by the VPN software to ensure that there are never any leaks to worry about. 

It is also nice to see that PIA VPN has a kill switch on all platforms - making this VPN more than trustworthy enough for people who want to torrent.

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Privacy

Obfuscation (stealth)
IPv6 leak protection
WebRTC leak protection
Kill Switch
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Proxy

Being based in the US is not ideal for a privacy service. The US government enforces warrants and gag orders that can be used to force US-based companies to provide them with all the data that passes through their servers. 

To counteract this, PIA has a zero logs VPN, so it has no records about what its subscribers do when connected to the VPN. This means it has nothing to supply US authorities, even if it is approached. 

Admittedly, it is possible that the US authorities could serve PIA with a warrant and gag order to store logs. This might be a concern depending on your personal threat model. However, it is worth noting that PIA is one of the few VPNs that has proven its no logs claim in court; several times. In our opinion, that makes PIA a VPN provider that deserves trust and respect.

In addition, this VPN permits P2P downloading via BitTorrent, which is generally the sign of a VPN provider that is not concerned about having logs sequestered by the authorities.

Encryption

IKEv2
OpenVPN
Other protocols Cisco iPsec
PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP

PIA is one of the few VPNs that provides a large number of encryption settings in its clients. And we are happy that PIA has completely removed outdated protocols like PPTP from its clients. Instead, users must now stick to Open VPN or IKEv2 (on iOS).

Subscribers can toggle through many different cipher strengths for OpenVPN, giving them the power to make the security of the VPN tougher or weaker (to get better performance). The VPN provides everything from strong - to very strong OpenVPN implementation (meaning that it really has no weak settings). And a kill switch is available on all platforms to ensure privacy is maintained even when the VPN connection drops out.

Below we have included the maximum encryption standards for OpenVPN that are available in the clients:

  • Data channel: AES-256 cipher, with strong SHA256 for authorization and a handshake of RSA 4096. 
  • Control channel: AES-256 cipher with SHA384 authentication. Perfect Forward Secrecy is delivered with a DHE+RSA exchange for RSA handshakes, or ECDHE+ECDSA for ECC handshakes.

This is extremely robust encryption that will provide military-grade privacy and security for the VPN tunnel. Although having a lot of encryption options may be a trifle confusing for beginners, in reality, it is very easy to set this VPN up (because it comes preset to reasonable standards by default). We think having these extra setup options is one highlight of this service.

Customer Service

Money-back Guarantee
24-hour support
Live chat
Free trial No
Money back guarantee length 7

Customer service is one of the places where PIA has been criticized sharply in the past. However, it has released a live chat support service on its website that it claims will be 24/7 within the next few weeks. That is a vast improvement for the service, that will allow users can get instant support at any time of the day.

It is also worth mentioning that PIA has always been extremely reliable - and easy to set up. As a result, it is a VPN that few people require much support for. Despite this, if you do have any trouble using the VPN, you can rely on either the email (ticket system) or the live chat system. We found responses to arrive within a few hours of creating a support ticket, which is good.

In terms of customer support resources, PIA is outstanding. The website has an FAQ section and a blog that provides interesting news article surrounding privacy tech and legislation from around the globe.

To conclude, it would seem that from now on PIA subscribers are going to get the kind of support that subscribers get with VPNs that usually cost a little bot more. This is another win for PIA customers. 

User Experience

Windows
MacOS
Android
Linux
iOS
Windows Phone

We found the user experience to be fantastic from the getgo with this VPN. PIA is a provider that actually provides important information about the service on its website; this allows prospective subscribers to get a clear idea of the apps' features. This is a breath of fresh air in an industry where often important details are hidden away.

As far as its software is concerned, PIA has easy to use apps for all popular platforms including Android, Windows, Mac, iOS, and Linux. It also has guides for installing it on a selection of routers (DD-WRT, Tomato, PfSense, LEDE, Merlin, AsusWRT). And, PIA provides setup guides and tutorials for every single platform, which will help beginners to get the VPN set up.

A Shadowsocks proxy can also be configured within the clients to permit users to redirect the VPN connection through an additional location. And a SOCKS5 Proxy can be configured in the members area of the website and activated in the VPN client. These proxies are great for people living in places like China.

Windows app

The PIA Windows VPN app comes with a Killswitch to stop you leaking data to your ISP should the VPN connection fail. No dedicated obfuscation tech for getting around VPN firewalls is available (Obfsproxy, Stunnel, or XOR for example). However, users can opt to send their TCP traffic over port 443 to disguise it as regular HTTPS traffic. This will allow PIA users to bypass firewalls and/or conceal their VPN use in countries where they are frowned upon. 

Newly added to the app this year, users can also find split tunneling and port forwarding, which are useful extras. Split tunneling will let you send some traffic inside the tunnel and some outside of the tunnel. This permits you to use your real IP address for some tasks, while ensuring that the rest of your traffic is safely encrypted in the VPN tunnel at the same time.

Port forwarding is a fairly rare VPN feature that allows users to improve their torrenting speeds, remote access their PC while away from home, or access personal games or media servers set up on their LAN. The availability of these extra features is excellent considering the cost of this VPN.

Overall we found this VPN client to be stable and reliable. It provides strong OpenVPN encryption, a choice of encryption strengths, and both OpenVPN UDP or TCP.  We found speeds to be superb using this client, and it is definitely an ideal VPN for streaming more content, torrenting, or watching US Netflix.

Mac app

We tested the Mac VPN client and found it to suffer no leaks on IPV4 or IPv6. That means that the VPN can provide strong privacy and security straight out of the box. A kill switch is available, and this client provides obfuscation in the same way as its Windows counterpart. This makes the VPN ideal for torrenting, and great for people living in places like China and Iran.

As with the Windows client, the most recent PIA client for macOS provides a lot of customization and gives users access to advanced features such as the SOCKS5 or Shadowsocks proxies, split tunneling, and port forwarding. Port selection is also available to allow users to conceal OpenVPN TCP as regular HTTPS on port 443.

Overall, we found this to be an excellent VPN for Mac that has everything Mac users need to protect themselves both at home and on public WiFi. 

Android App

The Android VPN client is very similar to its Windows and Mac counterparts. It comes with all the same privacy features, including the killswitch and a wide choice of encryption options. The auto-connect feature is useful for people who want the VPN to connect every time they use the internet (great for people who move around and use public WiFi a lot, for example). 

Users can select between OpenVPN UDP and Open VPN TCP, though we would generally recommend sticking to UDP which provides faster connection speeds. We found the Android app to be stable and speeds did not differ from those experienced in the desktop versions.

We also like that this app has built in blocking that prevents connections to malicious domains used for ads, trackers, or malware. Other noteworthy features available on Android are:

  • Port Forwarding 

iOS app

The iOS VPN app provides a choice of either L2TP/IPsec or IKEv2 encryption. Of the two, we generally recommend IKEv2. This is a secure encryption standard that should provide more than adequate protection. For those who prefer OpenVPN, it will be necessary to set up the VPN manually using the third party OpenVPN connect ap for iOS.

PIA for iOS is generally an excellent app that comes with a kill switch to ensure you don't leak unencrypted data to your ISP. It works by blocking any traffic from leaving the iPhone/iPad if the VPN disconnects. Port forwarding is also now available on this platform, which is great.

Overall, we found this to be an excellent VPN client that is easy to use and is good for gaining digital privacy both at home and on public WiFi. 

Final thoughts

PIA is a highly subscribed VPN service that is often praised by privacy-conscious individuals on Reddit. It is a VPN with high-quality clients that can provide robust levels of privacy.

Being based in the US is not ideal for a privacy service, and, unfortunately, its new owner Kape Technologies has no immediate plans to alter its base. However, the VPN has a zero-logs policy, so it will provide ideal privacy levels for 99% of users. 

The VPN software is easy to use on all platforms, and it has all the necessary features to protect its users' data privacy. Customer care was previously criticized with this VPN. However, now that it has introduced 24/7 live chat, it should be much, much better. 

Where speeds are concerned this VPN has gone from OK to lightning fast. This is one of the many improvements that have been rolled out by Kape, and we have to say that the service really has improved since they took over. That is impressive because this is a cheap VPN that already came highly recommended. Needless to say, this VPN is perfect for streaming in HD.

PIA VPN now unblocks Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and many other streaming services. This means it is good for both privacy and unblocking. Also, if you want to watch free content (with peace of mind) on sites like putlockers - or by downloading torrents from the Pirate Bay - this VPN is perfect.

To conclude, this is an excellent VPN that is a real bargain considering the breadth of features it provides. Well worth taking for a test run using its 30-day money-back guarantee. 

Get PrivateInternetAccess

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. Ray is currently rated #7 VPN and #7 internet privacy authority by Agilience.com.

99 Comments

basso
on August 17, 2019
Reply
hi does pia safe for internet activities?
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/2020/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-default.png
Douglas Crawford replied to basso
on August 20, 2019
Reply
Hi basso. Yes. Despite being based in the USA, PIA is a no logs VPN service widely respected for keeping its customers "safe" on the internet.
Brad
on November 22, 2018
Reply
Hi, i get google dns entrys on some of the PIA Servers (mac os ; ios apps) if i check on dns leak sites. It´s definitely a PIA problem. I use other VPN´s too and get everytime dns entrys from the connected vpn server, only PIA shows sometimes google dns. Is this something concerning? Best regards
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/2020/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-default.png
douglas replied to Brad
on November 23, 2018
Reply
Hi Brad, Seeing Google DNS servers is not usually a problem, as many VPN leverage Google but proxy the results so Google can only see that the DNS request came from one of their VPN servers. Although we prefer that VPN providers perform their DNS translation, we do not really consider this much of a problem. PIA has confirmed with us that it uses third-party DNS servers, but proxies all DNS requests through its own servers first.
Brad replied to douglas
on November 23, 2018
Reply
Thanks for your quick response. What bothers me is that I asked the support several times regarding the issue and they responded that they definitely don’t use google dns. I would have no problem if they would be honest, but stating to use own dns server and then denying that they obviously use google is a no go for a privacy company in my eyes. Best regards
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/2020/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-default.png
douglas replied to Brad
on November 26, 2018
Reply
Hi Brad, Well... PIA has told us in clear terms that it uses third-party DNS servers (but proxies them). So it doesn't seem to be trying to hide the fact, in general. Maybe it was just a mistake o the part of the support staff member you talked to?
Brad replied to douglas
on November 27, 2018
Reply
I talked with 4 different customer support agents and everyone of them absolutely denied to use custom dns servers, proxied or not. They told me that they use only their own encrypted dns servers. I found this support page where the issue is described as well: https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/archive/forum/discussion/31148/dns-leak
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/2020/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-default.png
douglas replied to Brad
on November 27, 2018
Reply
Hi Brad, Hmm. All I can say is that when we asked, PIA told us that it uses third-party servers but proxies the requests... I have no idea why there is a discrepancy between what it told you and what it told us. If what PIA told us is correct, then it is concerning that it is not being 100% honest with customers, but on a technical level, there is no major issue. If what it told you is correct then you are experiencing major DNS leakage.
Brad replied to Brad
on November 30, 2018
Reply
Support answered me that they had a misconfiguration on some of there servers. It is fixed now and the leaks have vanished.
MarK M.
on September 9, 2018
Reply
ATTENTION: Since September 2018 Private Internet Access speeds are around 3-5 Mbps at BEST. Incredibly slow! Don't purchase this crappy service if you want a reasonably fast VPN for your internet download needs (video, audio, etc.). Like the old saying says - you get what you pay for. Best to pay more and get acceptable NOT CRAPPY speed.
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/2020/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-default.png
Douglas Crawford replied to MarK M.
on September 10, 2018
Reply
Hi Mark, Our always-running speed tests give PIA a global average 14.2 Mbits/s, with Max/burst speeds of 42.1 Mbs/s today...
Brad replied to MarK M.
on November 27, 2018
Reply
Thanks Douglas for clarifying. As you can see in my link from the PIA forum I´m not the only one who is experiencing such issues. I´m pretty sure that everything is setup correct from my side and as I said before other VPN´s work without any issues on my phone or mac. I use now another DNS resolver from another VPN company in the app settings (you can set custom dns resolvers) . If i do this, there are no leaks. Am I safe now, beacause my requests go now to another resolver, but should be encrypted through PIA? Or am i wrong? Thanks in advance!
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/2020/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-default.png
douglas replied to Brad
on November 29, 2018
Reply
Hi Brad, It depends on your threat model. It probably doesn't, but in theory your ISP can snoop on unencrypted DNS requests sent to a third-party DNS resolver. If this worries you then consider using DNSCrypt (if your chosen resolver supports it). Please see https://proprivacy.com/guides/how-to-change-your-dns-settings-a-complete-guide/#appendix for more details. The advantage of using your VPN provider's DNS resolution is that all requests are sent through the VPN tunnel, and are therefore already encrypted for your ISP can't see them (thereby making DNSCrypt redundant).
Tomas
on July 20, 2018
Reply
PIA has the worst customer support of any company I've ever dealt with, and I'm not just talking VPNs. I'm saying of every single company I've ever dealt with in my life PIA is the worst. And even that isn't the half of it. In the two years I was a PIA customer they've had one debacle after another. The biggest debacle of all is Andrew Lee's decision to recently appoint Mark Karpeles as PIA's CTO, the same Karpeles that headed up Mt. Gox, the biggest Bitcoin exchange. In 2015 Mt. Gox experienced the biggest heist of Bitcoins ever, $480million. The FBI discovered that at the same time as the Bitcoins vanished $2.3million mysteriously materialized in Karpeles personal Bitcoin wallet. Karpeles has been under arrest since 2015 in Japan and is awaiting trial there for fraud and embezzlement. At the very least Karpeles is one of the most incompetent and ignorant "security experts" the world has ever seen. At worst he's a thief who robbed his own customers, many of them of their life savings. Andrew Lee's decision to appoint such a man to oversee PIA's security is the most reckless and idiotic thing I've ever witnessed in corporate America. Subscribing to a VPN is all about trust. PIA isn't a company worthy of anyone's trust.

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