Posted in VPNs by country

Five Best VPNs for the UK

Historically, UK was the cradle of liberal ideas. However, today it is in the forefront of all-round online and offline surveillance, total control and censorship. Thus, we shall focus our review of the top five VPNs for the UK market on the efficient evasion of such supervision. The main conclusion is simple and straightforward: for those who look for privacy any UK-based servers, products or companies are unacceptable. Still, this country is a very popular destination for the accommodation of VPN servers because of high-level media streaming, including 4oD TV catch-up sites and BBC iPlayer offered free of charge. These aspects shall be discussed here as well, but first of all we’ll review the best providers in the local market.

 

5 Best VPNs for the UK Summary

Rank VPN Grade Min price Review Link to site
1 airvpn-logo $7.74 Read review Go to website
2 express-vpn-logo $12.95 Read review Go to website
3 BolehVPN_Logo $9.99 Read review Go to website
4 mullvad-logo $5.40 Read review Go to website
5 VPNArea-logo $9.90 Read review Go to website

 

 

OUR CHAMPION

AirVPN 

airvpn-website

ADVANTAGES

  • Zero logging
  • No DRD thanks to Italian domicile
  • Transparency
  • Bitcoin payments accepted
  • Dynamic port forwarding
  • User and server stats maintained in real time
  • Tor over VPN is supported
  • VPN is routed through SSL and SSH tunnels
  • Excellent speed
  • High reliability
  • Open-source client featuring protection against DNS leaks and internet kill-switch
  • Free trial for three days
  • P2P allowed
  • Three concurrent connections

DISADVANTAGES

  • Rather sophisticated
  • Less than perfect user support

The founders of this Italian VPN service are truly focused on security and net neutrality matters and clearly demonstrate their commitment to exercise the users’ privacy rights. They provide very powerful AES-256 encryption in line with 4096-bit RSA key encryption and further promote anonymity with the use of Bitcoin payments and shared IPs. Server stats kept in real time ensures net transparency.

This company follows zero-logging policy and utilizes strong and unique tools to obfuscate VPN activities. There are VPN through SSH and SSL tunnels, as well as VPN over Tor for ultimate anonymity. The last but not the least is perfect reliability and fast speed.

There is only one disadvantage: AirVPN cannot be called ultimately user-friendly. It is primarily intended for advanced people who truly worry about their privacy. Thus, AirVPN can be safely recommended for those who are ready to dig into some technical details.

Superb VPN solution is available for you right now!

Free trial for three days

 

 

SILVER MEDAL

ExpressVPN 

Expressvpn_website

ADVANTAGES

  • Money-back guarantee effective for one month
  • Servers operate in almost 80 countries
  • Nicely-packed apps for iOS and Android
  • Excellent customer care
  • Zero logging
  • P2P sharing is allowed
  • Two connections (desktop+mobile device) can be maintained concurrently

DISADVANTAGES

  • U.S.-based
  • Keeps connection logs
  • Rather expensive

ExpressVPN can be safely named a perfect and versatile solution with a well-balanced scope of services suitable for almost every VPN user. ExpressVPN offers a convenient client for Windows and OSX, as well as nicely-packed apps for Androids (featuring, among others, a well-designed home-screen widget) and iOSs, maintains good speeds, and follows log-free policy (with the exception of certain connection logs). It’s a great tool to ensure internet connection privacy on the fly. You can safely try ExpressVPN thanks to money-back guarantee effective for 1 month.

 

 

BRONZE MEDAL

BolehVPN 

bolehvpn-website

ADVANTAGES

  • Zero logging
  • Client featuring DNS leak protection tools and VPN kill-switch
  • VPN over Tor
  • SmartDNS
  • Bitcoin payments accepted
  • Features DNS leak protection
  • P2P sharing allowed
  • Two connections are maintained concurrently

DISADVANTAGES

  • Negligent

BolehVPN is an offshore entity based in Malaysia, one of the top VPN providers in the South-Eastern Asia which is equally suitable for the UK market thanks to superb encryption and zero logging. BolehVPN’s servers are run in many European countries besides UK. Among other advantages we can mention P2P downloading options and fast speeds. Windows and OSX Mac client has DNS leak protection tools and inbuilt VPN switch. Perfect anonymity is ensured by VPN over Tor. SmartDNS services are offered free of charge which is a really valuable opportunity for overseas access to BBC iPlayer.

 

 

FOURTH PLACE

Mullvad 

mullvad-website

ADVANTAGES

  • Zero logging
  • Bitcoin payments accepted
  • Decent speed
  • Inexpensive
  • Open-source client featuring DNS and IPv6 leak protection, internet kill-switch, IPv6 routing
  • P2P allowed
  • Three connections can be maintained concurrently

DISADVANTAGES

  • Weak performance
  • Limited geographic distribution of servers
  • No servers in UK

Mullvad is a small team based in Sweden. This company is a reputable privacy advocate offering a full-featured scope of services. It follows zero-logging policy and welcomes anonymous payments (available options are, among others, cash by post and Bitcoins). Their open-source SW for Windows, Mac and Linux features IPv6 routing (which is a rather rare thing for a VPN provider), Internet kill-switch, port-forwarding options, IPv6 and DNS leak protection, and server load details. Encryption resources are decent, but limited geographic coverage of servers (with no servers in UK) can cause problems.

 

 

FIFTH PLACE

VPNArea 

vpnarea-website

ADVANTAGES

  • Zero logging
  • Bulgaria-based (no DRD)
  • Five devices can be maintained concurrently
  • Decent speeds
  • Superb Windows client
  • Perfect customer care
  • Bitcoin payments accepted
  • Money-back guarantee effective for a week
  • P2P allowed

DISADVANTAGES

  • Natural issues accompanying any start-up period

VPNArea’s team is based in Bulgaria. This is a newcomer company with a smart client based on Viscosity, offering such features like app-specific kill switch, DNS leak protection, server stats, and automatically changed IP addresses. Being a small firm, they nevertheless run a very friendly and competent customer helpline and propose free trials for one week, maintain many geographically distributed servers and excellent connection speeds. Disadvantages are not so significant and, hopefully, shall be resolved in the course of time, in line with further improvement of VPNArea’s services.

 

 

Problems

Surveillance

It’s not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight. They [GCHQ] are worse than the US.”

From Edward Snowden’s interview to the Guardian

Edward Snowden has opened our eyes to the activities of the National Security Administration’s UK peer called GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters). For more than a decade they actively investigated private communications of each man or woman in the Great Britain.

To name just few, billions of SIM cards were hacked, millions of text messages and phone talks were intercepted (in line with companies disclosing their customers data), lots of computers were malware infected, millions of private webcam images were collected (including evidently explicit), anti-virus tools were destroyed.

It can be asserted with confidence that the Government Communications Headquarters logs and records all e-mails, messages, phone calls or web searches of every UK citizen.

In practice, the GCHQ extends its surveillance activities beyond the residents of the country. They promoted UK as the Trans-Atlantic communication hub in order to monitor all web traffic that is transferred through the mainstream international fiber optic communication lines routed via the UK territory.

In the U.S. the National Security Agency and the government follow a defensive strategy to explain the necessity of large-scale surveillance applied to each and every citizen. In the UK the situation is somewhat different: the government simply made some legislative proposals to get a more extensive surveillance mandate (in fact, they want to make legal those activities which were carried out illegally in the past).

Among others, it is proposed that the government shall be authorized to request SW bugs to be introduced in encryption tools, and any disclosure of such bugs shall be subject to criminal responsibility.

Draft Investigatory Powers Bill is like a death sentence for the guarantees of liberty and privacy in the everyday life of the UK people. So far, no public debates over the issue were promoted.

Still, there are natural obstacles to such full-scale surveillance. We mean here that it is hardly possible to force international providers to comply with all these requirements. For instance, there is a real-life story of Apple‘s and Google‘s resistance in their home country.

 

 

Censorship

It appears that prophecies of George Orwell’s “1984” are fulfilled in the UK. Also, this country is one of the Western world leaders in terms of internet access restrictions.

These trends are largely explained by the readiness of the UK government to obey to the copyright lobby which is very well funded. They utilize many tools ranging from IP blockage and domain deactivation to extensive censorship. Today it amounts to hundreds of websites supervised for alleged piracy.

Law-enforcement agencies are so eager to identify copyright infringements, that they attack censorship circumvention tools, like Immunicity. Their rationale is quite simple: these tools can be used by pirates. Yes, they can be used, and most likely are used for such purposes, but these efforts are similar to prohibiting vehicles in order to avoid road incidents.

The situation is further aggravated by the porn filters utilized by the ISPs since recently in the UK market. There are, however, accompanying opt-out tools, meaning that the users who want to avoid censorship need to notify their ISPs in explicit form.

Such notifications can only be issued by the decision-makers who pay for the ISPs’ services. In addition to pornography, the filters block other content. Prohibited topics range from drug and alcohol abuse to attempted suicides, anorexia or sexual crimes to name just few.

Naturally, this paves the way to influence public opinion and introduce more extensive censorship in the future. And, which is truly sad, deprives less privileged people of the ability to seek advice or assistance in sensitive matters.

 

 

Enforcement of copyright laws

The government insists that a great number of web-sites actually or allegedly guilty of piracy must be censored, and that the ISPs shall report about the customers who infringe copyright laws.

ISPs managed to win one victory in this battlefield: the adopted Voluntary Copyright Alert Program is rather loose, and punishments are limited to warning notices.

However, it is still possible that the ISPs can adopt the practice of notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and, thus, open the way to speculative invoicing practiced in the States. These are penalties demanded by copyright holders and their legal representatives for privacy infringements.

 

 

Using VPNs

VPNs are great in evading all types of censorship and surveillance, as well as in protecting privacy of communications.

First of all, this is possible because web-connection is established via a VPN server. If it is beyond the UK borders, this is beyond the reach of national jurisdiction, including censorship, too. VPN servers hide IP addresses, and web activities, including, for instance, BitTorrent downloads are becoming scarcely traceable.

Non-UK VPN providers need not obey government data disclosure requests, even if their local jurisdiction prescribes customer data logging. Encryption is applied to all data transferred from/to PC, tablet or phone and VPN server. Thus, neither the ISP nor the government can trace your web activities, downloads or visited sites.

Still, even an efficient VPN service ensuring high levels of surveillance protection and privacy cannot guarantee genuine anonymity. Anyone who comes to the attention of authorities or law-enforcement agencies cannot rely on VPNs as a good protection. A better choice in this situation is Tor, though there are no absolute guarantees anyway.

 

 

TV broadcasts in the UK

TV in Great Britain is one of the best in the world. Major broadcasters offer catch-up services for the country residents on a free-of-charge basis. That’s why one of the popular ways to use VPNs is geo-spoofing to a location within the country. And this is the reason why all above-specified providers except Mullvad offer UK-based servers.

A while ago BBC iPayer introduced ranged blocking of IP addresses utilized by VPN providers, and, thus, this service becomes unavailable for many VPN users. AirVPN is OK right now, but the situation can change.

So far, streaming services in the UK, such like Channel 4 On Demand or ITV Player, worked fine with VPN. It might be worthwhile to use SmartDNS service rather than VPN to access iPlayer.

 

 

Summary

Admitting that Great Britain is a kind of the Western world’s anti-leader in terms of extensive censorship and surveillance, it is natural for the country residents to use VPN services.

It shall be remembered that all VPN providers in UK ban P2P sharing, that they are under the legal requirement to keep logs (notwithstanding the EU ruling thereunder this requirement is deprived of its legal effect) and disclose them upon request to law-enforcement agencies or to government.

Thus, it is safer to opt for overseas VPN services, avoid the FVEY countries and UK-based servers (thanks to the absence of log-keeping requirements, it is appropriate to consider Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg or Romania).

And, finally, in order to get access to streaming services in the UK, SmartDNS is a better choice.

 

Rank VPN Grade Min price Review Link to site
1 airvpn-logo $7.74 Read review Go to website
2 express-vpn-logo $12.95 Read review Go to website
3 BolehVPN_Logo $9.99 Read review Go to website
4 mullvad-logo $5.40 Read review Go to website
5 VPNArea-logo $9.90 Read review Go to website

 


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