TunnelBear Review

TunnelBear

  • Pricing

    From $4.17 / month
  • Available On

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Android
    • iOS
  • Features

    • Torrenting
ProPrivacy.com Score 8.5 out of 10
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Summary

TunnelBear is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) from Canada that has been around since 2011. It is a feature-packed VPN with software for all platforms that keeps only minimal, non-invasive connection logs about its users. The VPN software is ideal for beginners because it is super easy to use. In addition, this VPN provider has a well-written privacy policy that is up-to-date and transparent. The cost of this VPN is cheap (especially if you commit to a year), and the free subscription plan lets anyone try out the service at full capacity. However, the 500 Mb monthly data limit makes the free plan less feasible for testing the service and the company has sadly dropped its 30-day money-back guarantee. Overall, in this TunnelBear review, we found a service that while good, does not compete with the very best premium services in terms of value for money.

Quick Stats

  • Simultaneous connections 5
  • Jurisdiction Canada
  • Countries 22
  • ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 73.64 Mbps

Features

Torrenting
Total servers 1000
Simultaneous connections 5
Router Support
Port forwarding
Port selection
Bare metal or virtual servers Bare metal
Routers Supported -
Countries 22

TunnelBear Servers

TunnelBear VPN provides access to servers in 22 countries. This allows subscribers to pretend to be in any of those locations to bypass geoblocks and locally-enforced censorship. Paid plans give subscribers access to all of the servers. However, it should be noted that it is impossible to connect to the Australian server using the free plan.

Subscribers can use TunnelBear to connect to its servers using a desktop PC, laptop, smartphone, tablet, or even on a VPN-friendly router. And, because each premium account permits five simultaneous connections, you can connect using most of your devices at the same time.

VigilantBear (Kill switch)

A kill switch stops you from leaking unencrypted data to your ISP if the VPN connection accidentally drops out. To protect your privacy, TunnelBear VPN provides a kill switch called VigilantBear. For more information, you can read the privacy and security section later in this review.

Peer-to-peer (P2P)

TunnelBear is based in Canada, which used to mean the service was not considered suitable for Torrenting. Thankfully, TunnelBear has changed its official stance and now states that the service can be used both for downloading P2P and for accessing Tor. 

This change of heart comes with the much-needed reassurance that TunnelBear no longer keeps connection logs, making time-correlation attacks a thing of the past. It also means that the company has no data to hand over to the Canadian authorities, should they come knocking.

GhostBear

GhostBear is TunnelBear’s VPN obfuscation technology (sometimes also referred to as ‘stealth mode’). Obfuscation conceals OpenVPN traffic from your ISP and helps people to get around VPN firewalls in locations such as Iran and China. It does this by implementing a choice of TCP over port 443 or by using obfsproxy (users have the option of either). This makes VPN encryption less detectable by governments, ISPs, and businesses by making it seem like normal HTTPS traffic.

Leaving GhostBear disabled doesn’t really make you any less secure, but it is an excellent extra feature for people that need to disguise their VPN use from their ISP or for users that need to evade ISP throttling in places where VPN use is restricted or blocked by the government (China, Iran, etc). It is worth noting that GhostBear will potentially slow down your internet connection a bit more than using the VPN without it. 

Get Tunnelbear

Does TunnelBear unblock Netflix?

No, sadly TunnealBear does not unblock Netflix US, Netflix UK or even BBC iPlayer. The speed of the VPN is more than enough to stream content from your local providers, but the company has explicitly stated that it doesn't allow access to geoblocked content. This is pretty disappointing considering the cost of the VPN and largely leaves us recommending that you look elsewhere if you need a VPN that can unblock Netflix US.

Pricing and plans

TunnelBear VPN provides three different subscription options: 1-Month, 1-Year, and an exclusive 2-Year plan for ProPrivacy readers. The Free plan permits subscribers to download 500 MB of free data every month. Free users are given access to all servers apart from Australia (so 21 locations in total).

The paid plans can be purchased either for monthly or yearly use. The monthly plan will set you back $9.99 per month and it is recurring so you will need to cancel it manually if you want to stop paying to use it. If you’re willing to pay upfront, you save a substantial amount of money with the 1-year plan, which equates to $4.99 per month ($59.88 for the year) and the exclusive 2-year plan at $4.17 per month ($99.99 for both years).

Sadly, TunnelBear has dropped its 30-day money-back guarantee, instead opting for non-refundable purchases. In select circumstances, the company might grant a refund, but we would suggest trying the service using its free tier before committing to a purchase. 

Payment can be made via credit card or bank card, and Tunnelbear is very specific about how it handles payment info in its privacy policy (operating exclusively with PCI compliant payment processors). Unfortunately, PayPal is not accepted by TunnelBear VPN (yes we know that other VPN comparison websites say it is but they are wrong). On the plus side, however, users can opt to pay using Bitcoin if they wish.

Speed and performance

We test TunnelBear's connection speeds by using our scientific server-based VPN speed testing system. For more information about how our speed tests work you can read our full article here. Our speed test system is automatically updated 3 times a day, which means that we always have access to up-to-date speed data in real-time. 

During our tests, we found Tunnelbear to provide fast connection speeds, that are suitable for streaming in HD and doing other data-intensive tasks.

TunnelBear speed test

According to our tests, over the last six monthsTunnelBear has provides average download speeds of 40.8Mbit/s and Max Speed/Burst Results of 411 Mbit/s. These speeds put TunnelBear in amongst the very best VPNs on the market, and while it isn't the fastest VPN on the market it is an extremely well-performing service.

Leak tests

IPv4 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?
Data limits
Bandwidth limits
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 189.99
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 73.64

We tested for IP leaks and DNS leaks using ipleak.net. The good news is that we didn’t detect any IP or Domain Name System (DNS) leaks while using TunnelBear. We also detected no IP leaks on IPv4 or IPv6.

However, while using IPv6 we did detect WebRTC leaks on both Windows and Mac, which means that you will need to disable WebRTC in your browser (or use a WebRTC blocking extension) if you want to use this VPN securely. Alternatively, you could disable IPv6 connections on your device.

Tunnelbear claims to have a fix for WebRTC leaks under development, however, at the time of writing the problem persists.

Ease of use

Windows
MacOS
Android
Linux
iOS
Windows Phone

Signing Up

Signing up to TunnelBear VPN is an easy process all round.  To access the free version, users must enter an email address and password. Following that, the site automatically redirects users to the downloads page. At this point, users can select software for the platform they require. Subscribing to a paid plan will require additional payment via credit card or Bitcoin (PayPal is not supported anymore).

Once on the download page, simply download the TunnelBear client for the platform you need. The software downloads quickly and a setup wizard walks you through the process on installation without a hitch. Once installed, you can log in using your email and password.

After logging in, TunnelBear provides a quick walkthrough to explain the VPN's capabilities. Finally, it asks subscribers to check their inbox for an account confirmation email. As long as the account is verified, users can begin using the VPN software (free or paid).

The TunnelBear Windows VPN Client

The TunnelBear Windows VPN has been designed with great care. The client looks great and is fun to use: this is pretty rare. In keeping with its image, the software is filled with bear joes and amusing bear graphics. By default, TunnelBear connects to a random server situated close to you. If you require a specific location, then you will need to select it from the list of server locations and click connect.

In the upper left corner, users can access a drop-down menu where they can change the VPN's Settings. In "General", subscribers can elect to set TunnelBear to run when they start up their computer. In addition, they can ask the client to send them notifications about various things (disconnections, disruptions to service, and network status information).

In the Security tab, users can enable VigilantBear (the kill switch) and GhostBear (stealth mode) feature for bypassing firewalls. Using the kill switch is recommended at all times to stop data from leaking to your ISP: this guarantees your privacy. GhostBear is only necessary for people living in locations where VPN obfuscation is necessary (for getting around Firewall or bypassing ISP throttling). GhostBear is actually TunnelBear's implementation of Obfsproxy.

Under Trusted Networks, users can add known networks and enable TunnelBear to connect to a VPN server every time they connect to an unknown network (perfect for people who use random public WiFi hotspots regularly).

Finally, the Account tab can be used to manage your subscription, request support using the ticket system, or to log out of TunnelBear VPN.

Other Platforms

As well as Windows, TunnelBear offers an iOS VPN app. The iOS client provides L2TP/IPsec encryption instead of OpenVPN encryption, so if you require OpenVPN you will also need to use third-party OpenVPN connect software (TunnelBear can help you to get this setup). 

TunnelBear also provides an Android VPN app that uses OpenVPN, and is similar in design to the iPhone version. Tunnelbear will work as a Linux VPN, however, it is important to note that Linux user will require the third-party OpenVPN client. 

Overall the apps are very similar on all platforms, are easy to use and provide similar connection speeds across the board.

TunnelBear also has a browser extension that is free to download and can be used with either Chrome or Opera (but not Firefox). The browser extension is a nice addition, but remember that it is a proxy service as opposed to a full VPN service (it only proxies data within the browser). The browser extension is multi-platform (works with Linux, Chrome OS, OS X, and Windows).

Customer service

Money-back Guarantee
24-hour support
Live chat
Free trial Yes - 7 days
Money back guarantee length 30

TunnelBear has a dedicated Help page that can be found in the small menu at the bottom of any page. This resource consists of information regarding "Status Updates", "Getting Started", "Accounts & Payments", "Browser Extension Help", "Windows App Help", "Mac OS X App Help", "iOS App Help", and "Android App Help". These articles can be easily found using the page’s search button.

For anybody that can't find an answer on TunnelBear's help page, it is possible to contact TunnelBear directly. Sadly, the firm doesn't have a live chat feature, so you will need to use the online contact form. Subscribers and non-subscribers can use this feature to ask questions about the service.

To test TunnelBear's customer support, I sent their representatives a question about encryption on the platform to see if anything had been changed or improved since the last time I reviewed them last year. As was the case last time I  received an email telling me to expect a response within 24 hours.

My response arrived within 24 hours, but I did have to ask for clarification on one point which wasn't answered clearly. Despite this slight hitch, I found them to be very friendly and eager to help. What's more, I did get the details I wanted in the second response. Not the best customer support in the world, but not bad either.

Privacy and security

Obfuscation (stealth)
IPv4 leak protection
IPv6 leak protection
WebRTC leak protection
Kill Switch
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Yes

TunnelBear stores some minimal logs for a month. This is what TunnelBear says about having to comply with the authorities in Canada:

“In the event TunnelBear is required to comply with law enforcement where subpoenas, warrants or other legal documents have been provided, valid under Canadian jurisdiction, the extent of disclosure is limited to the Personal information you provided upon registration as well as the overall number of connections, overall MBs used that month.”

That is a fantastic privacy policy which means that no data about VPN usage, or a users IP address is linked to an account and can be used to mount a time-correlation attack:

Tunnelbear Privacy1

Tunnelbear Operational Data

The highly minimal nature of what is kept by TunnelBear means that subscribers really never need to worry about what they use the VPN for. Even if served a warrant by the authorities TunnelBear VPN would have very little to hand over of any real value.

TunnelBear Terms of Service

It is worth noting that TunnelBear is based in Canada, a country that is a part of the infamous Five Eyes Treaty. Canada has been found snooping on citizens several times in recent years, but this doesn't stop TunnelBear from protecting your data. 

While required to hand over data if approached by authorities, TunnelBear holds no connection logs or identifiable logs of any kind. As such, the most that the authorities should be able to get from the company is your name, email address and payment details. It is also one of the only providers to perform regular full system, code and infrastructure audits by trusted third-party firms, and publish the results.

However, it worth bearing in mind that TunnelBear does pretty much wash its hands of any responsibility for a number of things in its Terms of Service:

Tunnelbear Tos

As you can see TunnelBear absolves itself of responsibility for just about everything. In addition, TunnelBear clearly states that users can't:

Piracy Not Allowed

It also asks users to always abide by the laws of their own country and of the country that they tunnel into. All points that are definitely worth bearing in mind (especially because it is based in Canada).

Encryption Protocols

IKEv2
OpenVPN
PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
Other protocols -

When it comes to encryption, TunnelBear provides access to two different VPN protocols. The Windows, Android, and Mac OS X clients all implement OpenVPN.  iOS users get the choice of either L2TP/IPsec) or IKEv2. Thus, anybody wishing to connect via OpenVPN on iOS will need to do so using the third-party OpenVPN Connect software (which is free).

Strong 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption with SHA256 authentication is used across the platforms, apart from iOS 8 and earlier (which is encrypted with 128-bit AES encryption and uses SHA-1 for data authentication).

All this information is available on TunnelBear’s blog, which is a fantastic level of transparency. Also positive: TunnelBear does not provide Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) - an out of date form of VPN encryption that is now considered insecure and we always recommend against.

In addition to strong encryption and a strong privacy policy, last year TunnelBear invested in a third-party audit of its apps (but not server network). That professional security audit permits TunnelBear to confidently advertise the privacy and security provided by its software. 

It is also worth noting that TunnelBear has now released updated software that protects against IPv6 leaks, and we found this to work successfully (last time we reviewed the service these were in Beta).

Vigilant Bear


Final thoughts

In this TunnelBear review, we discovered a sweet looking and easy to use VPN service that is ideal for beginners. The free plan allows users to get a taste of the service, though 500 Mb per month certainly won't be enough to use the service for anything considerable (such as streaming movies with privacy).  The free version is useful for people living in conflict areas, or locations where heavy censorship is in place. It will allow them to access news websites and do other non-data-intensive tasks in times of need.

TunnelBear VPN has a good privacy policy and the trivial connection logs that the firm keeps are for internal use and cannot be used to interfere with subscribers' privacy. Apart from being in Canada, the only thing that concerns me is TunnelBear's Terms of Service, which denies responsibility for just about anything and everything. Overall, the paid plans are solid and provide well above average connection speeds. However, this VPN does not provide access to geoblocked content from important streaming services, and for this reason, it is possible to get a better VPN at the same price (and even less).

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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 #4 VPN and #3 internet privacy authority by Agilience.com.

38 Comments

  1. Cabbache

    on September 3, 2018
    Reply

    They say tunnel bear does not remember the ip associated with an account. But then, how did they know when to stop me from creating more accounts even after I changed the browser's user-agent and other things that identify my browser?

    1. Cabbache replied to Cabbache

      on September 4, 2018
      Reply

      I am sure that my cookies were cleared because I was using a custom modification of the tor browser. The only modification is that the connection is normal, so it is not routed through the tor network. This was done to prevent leaks that identify the browser, you could check through here: https://browserleaks.com/. After restarting the browser (the cookies are cleared) and changing my user agent to a custom one they still did not let me make more accounts. Then I tried using curl (https://github.com/curl/curl) to create an account. I usually use a custom script that works with curl to create tunnel bear accounts so I tried using it, but still, even changing the user agent from curl just returns: "Grrr? For security reasons we can’t create any more accounts. Please contact support.". I cannot imagine them not using my IP. They must be storing it at least temporarily, in fact after several hours later I could create more accounts.

      1. Douglas Crawford replied to Cabbache

        on September 4, 2018
        Reply

        Hi Cabache, Well, what you are saying does suggest that TunnelBear keeps IP logs temporarily, but that these are deleted "after several hours." It would be interesting to know if this applies only to free accounts, as it is easy to understand why it might do this in order to prevent such accounts being abused.

    2. Douglas Crawford replied to Cabbache

      on September 4, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Cabbache, Hm. Tunnelbear does indeed say the following in its privacy policy: "TunnelBear does NOT store users' originating IP addresses when connected to our service and thus cannot identify users when provided IP addresses of our servers. " I'm guessing that we are signing up for the free service, and therefore not providing any payment details. Have you cleared all cookies from your browser?

  2. Tom

    on August 15, 2018
    Reply

    "Lightning fast servers " Did they pay you to say that? Tunnelbear is broken, maybe McAfee broke it when the bought it, that also means it is not based in Canada any more. Speed dropped to 5-15mbps, connections drop frequently, terrible service. A year ago when I subscribed, it was faster and generally dependable. Enough of the cheer-leading for a terrible service.

    1. Ray Walsh replied to Tom

      on August 17, 2018
      Reply

      Sorry to hear that. this review is actually over a year old now, I have made note of your views and have scheduled the review for immediate re-review.

  3. karl

    on August 7, 2018
    Reply

    Extremely slow speeds, while my normal speed without TB is around 80-90mbps, my speed with TB is from 2mbps-25mbps, and I tested all the servers. For months, I have never come close to normal speeds, it certainly is not speedy.

  4. Andras4C

    on June 7, 2018
    Reply

    This is a comment

    1. Andras4C replied to Andras4C

      on June 7, 2018
      Reply

      Reply reply

    2. Me replied to Andras4C

      on June 7, 2018
      Reply

      And this is a reply.

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