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R7000 (DD-WRT), RT-N66U Router, WRT1900ACS (DD-WRT),
Bare metal or virtual servers
SaferVPN offers the following additional features:
- 24/7 live chat support
- Automatic location selection algorithm
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) torrenting is permitted (Netherlands server only)
- WiFi protection
- Chrome extension
Servers are located around the world, with some in more unusual locations such as South Africa, Brazil, India, Australia, and New Zealand.
Automatic Location Selection Algorithm
This is a feature that SaferVPN appears very proud of:
"We have a diagnose fix feature that runs in the background and selects the best VPN protocol to be used based on the system configuration. In most cases, we use IKEv2 over IPSEC (AES 256) and falling back to OpenVPN (AES 256)."
IKEv2 is widely regarded as a secure VPN protocol and is particularly great when regularly switching between WiFi and mobile, or between different WiFi networks. We generally recommend OpenVPN, however, as it is a proven standard for keeping your data safe. If you prefer to stick with OpenVPN then its no big deal as Automatic Location Selection Algorithm is entirely optional.
Please see my VPN Encryption Guide for a detailed discussion on this subject.
Speed and Performance
All tests were performed on my Virgin Media UK 80 Mbps/5 Mbps fiber connection, using the OpenVPN protocol. I allowed SaferVPN to auto-select servers in a given location.
The graphs show the highest, lowest, and average speeds for each server and location. I have seen worse results, but meh.
DNS resolution was correctly performed by third-party servers. SaferVPN uses Google DNS for this, but the results are proxied to prevent Google from knowing who made them. Although not as good as a provider performing its own DNS resolution, I think this is fine.
Unfortunately, the other results are less encouraging. In Windows, I detected an IPv6 leak via WebRTC. Although WebRTC leaks are primarily a browser issue, many VPN services have tightened up their settings to minimize the likelihood of them happening. Even worse, the macOS client leaked my IPv6 address, not just through WebRTC, also as a regular IP leak. Anyone with an IPv6 connection is therefore strongly advised to disable IPv6 in their OS settings and block WebRTC in their browsers.
As is usual, the per-month price drops the longer you buy a subscription for. SaferVPN also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Payment can be made via credit/debit card, Paypal, or Bitcoin. More obscure payment options are also available courtesy of Paymentwall.
Ease of Use
SaferVPN offers custom apps for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android. The mobile apps use OpenVPN with the same encryption settings as the desktop apps. SaferVPN also provides good manual setup guides for Linux, Blackberry phones, Windows phones, numerous routers, and various media streaming platforms.
The SaferVPN Windows VPN client
The SaferVPN client is quite simple, but gets the job done.
It is not clear which protocol is used when the default “Automatic” is selected. Support was unable to tell me this, either.
The SaferVPN Windows client has a kill switch. I tested this by force-closing the app in Windows Task Manager, but found myself still connected to the internet.
This means that the kill switch is reactive – it shuts down the internet when it detects that the VPN has disconnected. It does not work, for example, if the VPN client itself suffers a crash. A firewall-based kill switch that prevents any connections outside the VPN would be better, but any kill switch is preferable to none.
I did notice that the client connects to VPN servers very quickly, which is nice. As we shall see, though, the client does not include any DNS leak protection.
I own an Android phone, so I downloaded the Android app from the Play Store.
SaferVPN has greatly reduced the number of permissions its app requires. The above list is now very reasonable.
The app also looks good, and I detected no IP leaks while using it.
Chrome and Firefox Extensions
SaferVPN offers browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. I was told that (and I assume this also applies to the Firefox add-on):
“We do not explicitly use the encryption within our Chrome extension. The Chrome itself (internally) use SSL as security layer on top on http protocol to secure a user session data from being stolen by “bad” people.”
I think this means it uses HTTPS, but am far from sure. If you want an encrypted connection then stick with using the full VPN client.
Money-back guarantee length
Other than the setup guides, support is primarily via 24/7 live chat. A ticketed email system is also in place. When I contacted SaferVPN’s support via live chat, responses were almost instant, and very friendly.
I do not consider it fair to expect front-line support staff to have in-depth technical knowledge, but I was a little annoyed to be repeatedly given “I can assure you that we use the best possible encryption” answers when asking for details.
More importantly, when my queries were escalated via ticketed email for attention by more knowledgeable staff members, I found the answers rather unsatisfactory. Good examples of this are when I asked about Chrome extension security, and when I unable to discover if perfect forward secrecy is deployed.
Privacy and Security
SaferVPN (and therefore Perimeter 81) is based in Israel, which has strong data protection laws that strictly and specifically limit the government’s ability to spy on personal data.
On the other hand, Mossad is a close ally of the NSA, and Israel is known for the robustness of its cyberdefense operations and for its cooperation with the NSA in its mass surveillance operations. On balance, though, Israel’s strong data protection laws make it a fairly privacy-friendly location.
On its home page, SaferVPN says,
“No Logging Policy! We value and respect your privacy — in and out of the web. We never log or monitor your VPN network traffic.”
Drilling down a bit more, SaferVPN does not keep any usage logs. It also does not log your IP address when you make connections, or but it does keep a fair amount of other connection (metadata) information:
"• date and time on which the Session began, date and time on which the Session ended,
• the amount of data transmitted during each Session,
• to which location (eg. USA East) (We do not hold servers’ IP addresses),
• and from which country you connected from (We do not hold IP addresses)."
SaferVPN uses the following OpenVPN encryption: AES-256 for data channel cipher, RSA-2048 for the Transport Layer Security (TLS) handshake, and SHA-256 for control channel hash authentication.
Support was unable to tell me any more details, so I will guess that SaferVPN uses SHA-1 is for the data channel handshake (which is fine). SaferVPN has now confirmed that it does use perfect forward secrecy (PFS) for all OpenVPN and IKEv2 connections.
This is a strong OpenVPN setup. The SaferVPN Windows and macOS apps also include DNS leak protection and a kill switch, but as we have seen, these are not always effective. SaferVPN's Android and iOS apps include a kill switch, which remains a very useful, if all too unusual, feature.
SaferVPN has made some major improvements, and is now close to being a great service. It uses excellent encryption, has plenty of servers in useful locations, allows five connections at once, and has a good logging policy. It also offers some very handy bells and whistles, such a Chrome extension and strong support for IKEv2. Only somewhat underwhelming speed performance and sub-par (but friendly!) customer support now holds SaferVPN back. IPv6 users, though, should take additional security precautions.
With a 30-day money-back guarantee, there's little reason not to check this highly competent service out for yourself.