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Bare metal or virtual 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.
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 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.
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 access 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.
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.
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.
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (max/burst)
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average)
WebRTC leak detected?
IPv4 leak detected?
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
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.
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).
Yes - 7 days
Money-back guarantee length
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
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.”
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:
As you can see TunnelBear absolves itself of responsibility for just about everything. In addition, TunnelBear clearly states that users can't:
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).
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.
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).
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.