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Secure VPNs in 2024


A secure VPN ensures that your personal information remains private and protected not only from malicious agents but also from government surveillance or your ISP.

Unfortunately, with the pressure to unblock more streaming platforms and offer better speeds, some VPNs are less and less focused on a secure experience. So, while a VPN should, first and foremost, enhance your privacy and security, not all providers can guarantee that.

In this article, I discuss what features ensure that a VPN is secure and which providers offer a truly private and safe service. For this purpose, with the help of our team of experts, I reviewed 42 VPN providers and their features, effectiveness, usability, price, and more. All to present you with a list of the most secure VPNs in 2024.

Most secure VPNs in 2024

inga_valiaugaite_author Nijolė Simaitienė copywriter at Cybernews sarunas karbauskas vincentas
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Recent updates
With the latest update in July 2024, I’ve updated the providers’ descriptions to include more relevant information about their features and benefits. I’ve also updated the information about how we test VPN providers when finalizing the most secure VPNs lineup.

What to look for in a secure VPN

You can recognize the best VPNs for security primarily by their protection and privacy features. The main feature to look out for is a no-logs policy. It ensures that your VPN provider is not storing your activity data. Of course, it’s best if the claims have been confirmed by an independent auditor as well. An audited no-logs policy ensures that the provider will not sell your data to third parties, for example, advertisers, nor will it disclose anything if government agencies requested logs of your activity.

Another feature that proves your VPN’s security is strong data encryption. AES-256 is the industry standard that ensures that your online activity is inaccessible to outsiders. Another increasingly popular and equally reliable encryption option is ChaCha20.

We must not forget about tunneling protocols either. WireGuard is the gold standard when it comes to VPN protocols as it ensures both top speeds and security. NordVPN and ExpressVPN also have proprietary protocols – NordLynx and Lightway – that are considered some of the safest and fastest. OpenVPN is another great tunneling protocol that trustworthy VPNs use.

A reliable kill switch that can cut off your device’s access to the internet in case a secure VPN connection is lost is a must. I also recommend choosing VPNs with RAM-only servers, as they can further ensure your privacy data is wiped from these servers frequently.

Finally, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the VPN’s jurisdiction. This will tell you if your VPN provider is legally required to retain data about you. For example, VPNs within the 14-Eyes alliance are more likely to be engaged in customer data sharing.

The best secure VPNs in 2024 – detailed list

With a team of experts, I tested 42 VPN providers to determine which ones offer the best security features, ease of use, and price. Below are detailed descriptions of VPN providers that ranked highest during security and privacy tests. To finalize the lineup, I looked at encryption, logging policies, leak protection capabilities, and the selection of security features.

1. NordVPN – the overall most secure VPN in 2024

NordVPN banner
Jurisdiction:Panama
Logging:No-logs policy (independently audited 4 times by PwC and Deloitte)
Encryption:AES-256, ChaCha20
Current deal:Get NordVPN, now up to 72% OFF + free travel data!

NordVPN is the most secure VPN on the market because of the most robust encryption technology, high-level security measures, and privacy-friendly jurisdiction in Panama. Additionally, it provides an excellent service for safe browsing, streaming, entertainment, and more for just $3.39/month.

One of the main reasons why NordVPN is so secure is its strict no-logs policy. Combined with being based in Panama – a privacy-friendly jurisdiction – you can be certain that NordVPN stores no activity data that could be shared with anyone. Multiple independent audits have confirmed the VPN’s no-logs claims, the latest one being conducted by Deloitte at the end of 2023. Although NordVPN has experienced one known hacking attempt back in 2019, no user data was compromised.

NordVPN also has two kill switches, which is unique, considering that most VPNs use one kill switch. The first NordVPN kill switch disables internet access when a VPN connection drops. The second kill switch is for apps – it quickly quits selected apps when you disconnect from the VPN server.

The VPN employs AES-256-CBC encryption, known for its reliability at keeping user data protected, dark web monitoring to scan for personal data leaks, and RAM-only servers to automatically delete information from server hardware. I particularly enjoy Threat Protection Pro, a feature that ensures real-time protection against malware, trackers, and ads. The tool also prevents you from downloading malicious files.

NordVPN Threat Protection Pro
NordVPN Threat Protection Pro setup

Encryption protocols are inseparable from a secure VPN service. They set up VPN tunnels for a safe transfer of data. NordVPN uses NordLynx, its own protocol that was built around the modern WireGuard and has produced the fastest connections out of all providers on this list during in-house testing. The VPN also offers OpenVPN and IKEv2.

Overall, NordVPN isn’t just a straightforward and user-friendly VPN. It’s a genuinely secure service that can protect your activity from prying eyes and your device from malware. The only downsides are that the VPN is slightly pricier than Surfshark or CyberGhost, and the number of simultaneous connections is capped at 10. While that’s still quite good, VPNs like Surfshark and IPVanish now offer unlimited simultaneous connections.

All in all, I appreciate NordVPN for its convenient interface and ability to unblock geo-restricted content, as well as 6400+ servers to choose from, and the included security measures definitely help me feel more secure online.

2. Surfshark – affordable and secure VPN

Surfshark banner
Jurisdiction:
The Netherlands
Logging:Audited no-logs policy
Encryption:AES-256, ChaCha20
Current deal:Get 83% OFF Surfshark + 3 months FREE

Surfshark is a secure and affordable VPN that is great at ensuring your online privacy. From a strict privacy policy to advanced security features, Surfshark might have all you need to be safe online. The best part is – you can protect all your devices thanks to unlimited device support.

While not as feature-rich as NordVPN, Surfshark still has quite a lot to offer in terms of security. Surfshark, too, has an audited no-logs policy, confirmed by Deloitte in 2023. This offsets the fact that Surfshark is based in the Netherlands, a country that is part of the data-sharing 9-Eyes alliance.

Surfshark also employs similar AES-256-GCM user data encryption and RAM-only servers. But, unlike NordVPN, it only has one kill switch. And when you’re connected using the WireGuard protocol, you get to use ChaCha20 encryption. Speaking of tunneling protocols, Surfshark relies on WireGuard, but you can manually enable OpenVPN, too. Both of these options ensure a fast and secure link.

One of the more unique Surfshark security features is CleanWeb – a tool for blocking ads, trackers, and malware. It works great as a web extension to safeguard your browsing.

Surfshark secure vpns new img
Enable CleanWeb via Surfshark's settings menu

The Surfshark Alert feature protects your sensitive data, like credit cards or emails, and after a recent upgrade, it now applies to 90+ countries worldwide, compared to the previous 3. Also, if you were to subscribe to a slightly pricier One or One+ plan, you would also get a Surfshark antivirus.

My greatest disappointment when testing Surfshark came with the macOS app – you don’t get many essential features, like Bypasser or the OpenVPN protocol option, when using this version of the VPN.

That said, while slightly less advanced than NordVPN, Surfshark still offers an impressive security suite. Knowing how simple it is to use and that the starting price is just $2.19/month, Surfshark is one of the best, most secure VPNs in the market today. Add an impressive 3200+ server network and the ability to unblock popular streaming content, and you have a VPN truly worth the praise.

3. IPVanish – secure VPN for unlimited devices

IPVanish banner
Jurisdiction:
United States
Logging:Audited no-logs policy
Encryption:AES-256
Current deal:Get 83% OFF IPVanish + 3 months FREE!

IPVanish is one of the top VPNs for security thanks to top-tier encryption and sophisticated security features.

IPVanish uses the same data encryption type as Surfshark – the reliable AES-256-GCM. And to reassure you about your data’s security, IPVanish’s no-logs claims are supported by an independent audit by the Leviathan Security Group, conducted in 2022. Thanks to this audit, it is fair to say that this VPN’s jurisdiction in the US – a founding member of the 5-Eyes alliance – does not affect user privacy.

One of my favorite IPVanish features has to be Threat Protection. It is similar to NordVPN’s feature, and not just in name – IPVanish Threat Protection also guards your devices against ads, trackers, and malware.

As for tunneling protocols, IPVanish has a great selection for customers to choose from, like the modern WireGuard or even a bit outdated IKEv2.

Just like Surfshark, IPVanish offers one kill switch. Thankfully, as I’ve observed during in-house tests, it’s reliable and customizable. In terms of customization, I appreciated that I could choose whether to enable or disable the trust of ethernet and cellular networks.

IPVanish-Settings-network-security
IPVanish's Network Security menu

So, to summarize, for the monthly price of $2.19/month, you get one of the best VPN services with 2400+ servers across 55 countries and good protection against various online threats.

For me, the smaller number of server locations – at least when compared to other VPNs on this list – is the biggest downside, especially when trying to access content from other geographical regions. That said, while not as widely dispersed, as feature-rich for the same price as Surfshark, or as advanced as NordVPN, IPVanish is still one of the best secure VPNs in the market.

4. ExpressVPN – secure VPN with a password manager

ExpressVPN banner
Jurisdiction:
British Virgin Islands
Logging:
Audited no-logs policy
Encryption:
AES-256, ChaCha20/Poly1305
Coupons:
Get ExpressVPN, now 49% OFF + 3 months FREE!

ExpressVPN is one of the safest VPN providers because of strong encryption, malware protection, and strong tunneling protocols.

Looking deeper, it appears that ExpressVPN has all the standard features. Your data is protected with AES-256-GCM data encryption, the same protocol that’s used by IPVanish and Surfshark. A reliable kill switch keeps your IP address masked at all times. A more unique ExpressVPN feature is its own tunneling protocol, Lightway. When I tested the VPN, the Lightway protocol was quite fast. Moreover, it has been independently audited and declared as secure.

ExpressVPN’s no-logs policy has been checked by an independent KPMG audit, conducted in December 2023. The no-logs policy has also been tested in real life – the VPN’s servers were seized by the Turkish authorities back in 2017, but no user data was available for analysis. ExpressVPN further ensures that users’ data is protected using the TrustedServer technology that ensures servers retain no sensitive information.

Furthermore, ExpressVPN employs the Perfect Forward Secrecy feature to ensure that none of the transmitted data is decipherable. In fact, the VPN uses the RSA-4096 cipher and the SHA-512 hash to ensure that your digital communications are completely private.

Just like IPVanish and NordVPN, ExpressVPN also offers its own Threat Manager. It works exactly the same, too – removes trackers and blocks malicious sites.

ExpressVPN-advanced-protection
Advanced Protection on ExpressVPN

My favorite addition, though, is the password manager, which is included with the VPN at no extra charge. It’s an extremely handy tool to safely manage your passwords and other login data. However, I’d say it’s probably best to leave password management for designated third-party apps for extra security.

I have to warn that ExpressVPN’s interface is not the most appealing or the simplest to use. Moreover, at the starting price of $6.67/month, it’s the most expensive option out of all providers on this list. That said, ExpressVPN offers a reliable and secure VPN with great content-unblocking capabilities in all locations across 105 countries.

5. CyberGhost – secure VPN with plenty of global servers

CyberGhost VPN banner
Jurisdiction:
Romania
Logging:
Audited no-logs policy
Encryption:
AES-256
Coupons:
Get CyberGhost VPN, now 84% + 4 months FREE!

CyberGhost VPN is one of the best private VPNs on the market. It’s a sweet pick for security seekers as it includes strong encryption and strict policies against security exploitation at a highly affordable price.

CyberGhost shares a few security similarities with NordVPN. They were both audited by Deloitte to confirm the no-logs policy, with CyberGhost’s latest audit being conducted in May 2024. They both also use AES-256-CBC encryption, and while NordVPN relies on NordLynx, CyberGhost uses the WireGuard tunneling protocol, upon which NordLynx was built. The difference between AES-256-CBC and AES-256-GCM is that CBC is slightly more secure. However, some people might argue that GCM is faster and, thus, better.

Other CyberGhost security features are pretty basic. It has RAM-only servers, so customer privacy is guaranteed. A kill switch is also included, as it is in all security-oriented VPNs; however, this is my least favorite kill switch out of all providers – it cannot be disabled on mobile apps and the macOS version isn’t the most stable.

Perhaps more interestingly, CyberGhost includes a content blocker. Similar to ExpressVPN's Threat Manager or NordVPN's Threat Protection, this feature blocks ads, trackers, and malware.

cyberghost-blocker-view
Enable content blocking via the CyberGhost Privacy settings

This VPN is based in Romania, which is another privacy-focused country. But that’s not all. CyberGhost employs NoSpy servers – this is my personal favorite out of all CyberGhost features. With these servers, the VPN provider guarantees that you can enjoy connections that are not only fast but also highly secure.

To sum up, CyberGhost certainly offers all the necessary security features for safe online browsing. Also, you have a massive network of servers to explore – over 11500 servers in 100 countries. The best part is that you get to enjoy all that for just $2.03/month.

Most secure VPNs compared

BrandRatingEncryptionNo-logs policyJurisdictionVPN protocolsSecurity featuresPricing
NordVPN
4.9
AES-256-CBC, ChaCha20✅ Yes, audited by Pwc and DeloittePanamaNordLynx, OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSecThreat Protection, kill switch, DNS leak protection, Dark Web Monitor, Meshnet, Cyber protectionFrom $3.39/month
Surfshark
4.7
AES-256-GCM, ChaCha20✅ Yes, audited by Cure53 and DeloitteThe Netherlands (part of 9-Eyes)WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TPCleanWeb, MultiHop, Alternative ID, Antivirus (Surfshark One package), kill switch, Bypasser, NoBordersFrom $2.19/month
IPVanish
4.5
AES-256-GCM✅ Yes, audited by the Leviathan Security GroupUnited States (part of 5-Eyes)WireGuard, IKEv2, IPSec and OpenVPNThreat Protection, kill switch, On Demand, customizable split tunnelingFrom $2.19/month
ExpressVPN
4.3
AES-256-GCM, ChaCha20/Poly1305✅ Yes, audited by Cure53 and PwCBritish Virgin IslandsLightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2Threat Manager, Network Lock (kill switch), TrustedServer, MediaStreamerFrom $6.67/month
CyberGhost
4.2
AES-256-CBC✅ Yes, audited by DeloitteRomaniaWireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2NoSpy servers, ad blocker, kill switch, Smart RulesFrom $2.03/month

How we tested the most secure VPNs

To determine the most secure VPNs, I joined a team of experts to investigate 42 providers using the standard methodology for testing VPNs. The testing process was conducted on a Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen2 device with Windows installed. I then evaluated the top 5 best-performing VPNs with most security features to determine their position on the list, all based on the following criteria:

  1. Encryption. It was vital for us to evaluate the encryption standards a VPN uses to ensure it keeps customer data indecipherable to outsiders. AES-256 is the gold standard, yet extras like the ChaCha20 cipher, are welcome as well. Naturally, VPNs with weaker encryption aren’t considered safe and, thus, were not included on this list.
  2. No-logs policy. I made sure to only consider VPNs with an audited no-logs policy. While any VPN can claim that it respects users’ privacy, not all of them have their claims tried and tested. An audited no-logs policy is important everywhere, but especially in countries that aren’t the most privacy-friendly, including the United States (IPVanish) or the Netherlands (Surfshark).
  3. VPN protocols. Secure VPNs rely on trusted tunneling protocols to ensure fast, efficient, and, most importantly, safe connections. The industry-standard, currently, is the WireGuard protocol. On this list, you will also find VPNs with proprietary protocols – NordLynx and Lightway – both of which have been proven to be reliable as well. Our team thoroughly tested connections with the best available protocols to ensure they were functional and safe.
  4. Kill switch. Testing the kill switch is pretty straightforward. First, I enabled the feature before connecting to a random VPN server. After that, I terminated the VPN process and observed if the kill switch does its job by disconnecting the internet connection to prevent IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.
Testing-Settings-kill-switch
NordVPN Kill Switch
  1. Other features. When reviewing secure VPNs, it is imperative to look into both basics and additional security features that can empower users to take even more steps towards advanced online security. At the very least, VPNs must offer kill switches, strong encryption, and secure tunneling protocols. Additionally, I was looking for ad blockers, DNS leak protection, digital threat protection, password managers, and other extras.
  2. Speed. While not essential to online security, connection speed influences whether the VPN is usable on a day-to-day basis. After all, no one will bother using a secure VPN if it severely slows down your internet connection. Therefore, I connected to VPN servers across various countries on different continents to measure the average speed retention rates worldwide.

What is the most secure VPN protocol?

The most secure VPN protocol is WireGuard, though some would argue that OpenVPN is just as good. The reason WireGuard is chosen over OpenVPN is because it is faster and newer. However, those aren’t the only protocols to consider.

Here’s how tunneling protocols differ from each other in terms of security.

VPN protocolSecurity
WireGuardVery high
OpenVPNMedium to very high (configurable)
IKEv2Medium
L2TP/IPSecMedium (outdated)
SSTPMedium (outdated)
PPTPVery low (outdated)

WireGuard

The WireGuard protocol is currently regarded as the most secure VPN protocol. This is mostly due to it being relatively new, open-source, and with very few vulnerabilities discovered. It also has a relatively low number of lines of code, which makes the auditing process much easier and more straightforward.

Moreover, there are already arranged implementations for a post-quantum era, which means that the current encryption cipher can be fairly easily changed to encryption that would hold up against quantum computers.

That being said, the security of a VPN protocol, including WireGuard, still mostly comes down to how well it’s been implemented.

OpenVPN

Despite being around for a much longer time, OpenVPN is still regarded as one of the safest VPN protocols. Truth be told, OpenVPN is often considered to be more secure than the WireGuard protocol. Because of the long time that it has been around, all its issues have already been solved and documented. But when our team compared the two, WireGuard was better in more categories.

OpenVPN is also very popular, highly customizable, and has two modes that can be used in a variety of different cases – UDP and TCP. The UDP mode makes OpenVPN fast but a little less secure because of additional data verification elimination. On the other hand, the TCP mode makes the protocol slower, but more stable and secure.

IKEv2

Together with WireGuard and OpenVPN, IKEv2 is one of the most reliable and popular tunneling protocols. It is relatively fast and stable, though falls a bit short compared to WireGuard and OpenVPN.

Just as WireGuard usually goes with ChaCha20 encryption, IKEv2 uses AES-256-GCM cipher – the same one that Surfshark, IPVanish, or ExpressVPN use. So, if your VPN has IKEv2 as an option, it should be reasonably fast and secure, but it would be even better if it offered WireGuard or OpenVPN as alternatives, too.

Tips to secure your VPN connection

Your online security isn’t wholly dependent on your chosen VPN provider. In fact, there are quite a few ways to additionally protect your VPN connection.

  • Sign up for a VPN service anonymously. This means using confidential payment methods like cryptocurrencies and inputting account credentials without personally identifiable information.
  • Enable the most secure VPN tunneling protocol available on the VPN app. Usually, it will be the default option, but it's worth double-checking.
  • Use your provider’s DNS settings. Once again, it’s most likely the default DNS settings are already set, but if you have changed them in the past, you might want to revert back.
  • Enable the VPN kill switch. This crucial feature usually isn’t enabled by default. However, if you turn it on, you can prevent potential IP address leaks.
  • Check for DNS leaks. To make sure that your VPN is working effectively, you can always employ third-party websites like dnsleaktest.com to check for DNS leaks.
  • Use double VPN servers (optional). Some providers like NordVPN and Surfshark support routing your connection through multiple VPN servers for added protection. However, this isn’t strictly necessary for most users and will also result in severe speed loss.

How do I check if my VPN is leaking?

When you are connected to a VPN, all your queries go through an encrypted tunnel and get inspected on a VPN server. But sometimes, DNS leaks happen, which means that your data is no longer encrypted and any third parties can see and track your online activities.

Thus, from time to time, it is important to check if your VPN is leaking. Here’s how to do that in a few simple steps:

  1. Find your real IP address (go to nordvpn.com/what-is-my-ip/, but don’t forget to disconnect from your VPN first)
  2. Reconnect to a VPN server, then check the IP address and name of your VPN server
  3. Open your browser and head to the DNS leak test website
  4. See if the displayed IP address and location match your real IP address and location – if that’s the case, your VPN is not working
  5. To check your full DNS status, choose the Extended Test
  6. Check whether the servers displayed belong to your VPN provider or your ISP – if it’s your ISP or any other server you don’t recognize, your VPN is leaking
  7. If your VPN is leaking, contact your provider’s support and explain the issue

Bottom line: Which VPN is the most secure?

NordVPN is the most secure VPN. From two kill switches and modern tunneling protocols to an independently audited no-logs policy and basic anti-malware Threat Protection, NordVPN essentially has all the components for a fully secure VPN.

The Basic plan covers all the basics for just $3.39/month. The Plus plan for $4.39/month provides anti-malware and browsing protection, an ad-blocker, and a data breach scanner. The Ultimate plan for $6.39/month further includes fraud and scam insurance.

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