VPNs are incredibly flexible tools that can be used for many things. Among their features include watching geo-restricted media, defeating state censorship, and preventing tracking by websites and commercial WiFi hosts.
For the majority of VPN users, privacy is their number one reason for subscribing to a VPN. Given that, the amount of logs that are details recorded on users and their online activity kept by a VPN provider is a crucial consideration when deciding which VPN service provider to go for.
Unfortunately, the term “no logs VPN” is often abused by service providers and is often misunderstood by customers. Almost all VPNs will state that they have a no-logs policy, but the truth is that most of these VPN providers can be quite sneaky.
Types of VPN logs
There are a few types of VPN logs that either an ISP or VPN service can keep about their users’ internet usage. These can be then broadly grouped into usage logs and connection logs.
Usage logs are basically a record of the websites you have visited. Some countries require your ISPs to retain this data for a set time limit on how long this data should be kept for each individual. On the other hand, no VPN services we know actually admit to keeping such usage logs, even when in contradiction to the laws of the country they are based in.
In the UK
ISPs (and VPN providers) are required by law to log this information and store it for 12 months in a way that is accessible to a wide range of government departments.
In the US
ISPs have successfully lobbied Congress to sell or share customers’ detailed web browsing history to advertisers and partner companies.
Above are among the few reasons why it would be best to avoid VPN providers based in the UK and US.
Connection logs are also known as metadata logs, although the UK government frequently abuses this term by classing web browsing history as “metadata”. A full set of connection logs would include the following information:
- The IP address the connection was made from.
- The time the connection started.
- The time the connection ended.
- How much bandwidth used while connected
The good thing is that they do not include the websites that you have visited. However, it does still provide more than enough information to compromise one’s privacy. One should not underestimate the danger connection logs pose. Every known case of VPN users getting caught performing criminal activities online was the result of the service providers analyzing connection logs and handling the data over to the police.
Note: Some VPN services claim to be “no logs” VPN because they do not collect usage logs. However, they do store a lot of connection information, which makes their no-log policy misleading.
All network systems including VPNs generate real-time logs as a simple byproduct of their operation. Even if these logs are immediately deleted (sent directly to a /dev/null file), they do exist for even a few milliseconds.
This means they can still always be monitored as they are created in real-time. Even the strictest no-logs VPN service will need to monitor logs in real-time whenever they notice their network being abused or an issue that needs to be resolved.
Generally, real-time logs are perfectly acceptable within reason. Keeping real-time logs for a few minutes, or deleting them the second a session has ended, poses minimal threat to users’ privacy.
Most VPN companies rent servers from third-party providers. So, even if the VPN provider does not keep any logs, it is likely that the server centers in which the VPN servers are located do. And unlike VPN companies, these server companies have no real obligation to protect users’ privacy.
Good VPN companies, however, who genuinely care about their users’ privacy, take great steps to mitigate such a problem. This is one of the reasons is why it is crucial to pick out a good and trustworthy service provider,
Although server logs can be an issue, it is mainly the logs kept by a VPN provider itself which poses the greatest threat to its users. Therefore, it is imperative to know where your VPN company is based as this has a big impact on a company’s ability to protect your privacy.
Best No-Logs VPN
Best all-round VPN, fast connection with no logs
ExpressVPN has over 3,000 VPN servers strategically located in 160 different locations to open up access to plenty of content. Based in the British Virgin Island (BVI), it is located in one of the safest countries for users’ online privacy. BVI does not have any kind of data retention laws, meaning the company is legally permitted to hide your online activity from the government.
With an AES 256-bit military-grade encryption to protect your connection, privacy will never be your concern anymore as it keeps all your online activity across all your devices undercover and undetected. The VPN providers do not collect or log of your activities and even accepts Bitcoin as subscription payment to ensure all your information is completely incognito.
ExpressVPN’s logging policy clearly outlines that they will never log:
- IP addresses
- Browsing history
- Any website you visit/Torrent you download
- DNS queries
Though the service does record some information when you connect, none of it is tied to your account. The information saved by the company includes login date, server location used and the amount of data transferred.
The VPN service provider features a kill switch which they call “Network Lock” to help users secure their data in the unlikely event of when their VPN gets disconnected suddenly without any reason. This service will protect all your internet traffic as long as your online security is not restored.
The company manages all your DNS requests through their own private servers that do not log queries when you access any site. Their Zero-Knowledge DNS feature will make sure that none of your online activities can be linked back to you.
ExpressVPN even offers a .onion version of its website to allow users the option to create a completely anonymous account with the VPN provider by using a throw-away email address. None of your internet activity will ever be traced back to you. That is how safe and reliable ExpressVPN promises to be.
The price plans for this provider may not be the cheapest on the block, but all its added benefits may be worth every penny. If you’re undecided, you can even test it out yourself with their 30-day full-service free trial with a money-back guarantee if you end up deciding it isn’t for you.
Device compatibility: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Chrome, and Firefox
- Super-fast connection speeds
- Well-encrypted, kill switch-protected connections
- Accepts Bitcoin as payment
- Offers .onion site
- Keeps no user logs
- More expensive
- No-kill switch protection on mobile devices
SurfShark is headquartered and operates from British Virgin Island (BVI) that has no data retention laws and is not part of the 5, 9, or 14 eyes countries. SurfShark started from humble beginnings with 100 servers to now more than 1,000 servers across the globe in just over a year.
The company has a no-logging policy that states they do not collect data from your connection which includes incoming and outgoing IP addresses, browser history, bandwidth, session information, connection timestamps, network traffic. The only information SurfShark will keep is your email address and billing information.
Surfshark does collect information regarding their app performance, however, all that information is completely anonymous. The service will only know that a malfunction occurred for a user and there is no way to trace that bug to a specific account.
Without a doubt, this is one of the most secure VPN available in the industry. This provider offers an unbreakable AES 256-bit encryption to keep you safe and secure. It features a CleanWeb function that ensures you can access the internet with no ads, trackers, nor malware.
SurfShark even has a Multihop feature that allows you to establish a chain of VPNs and take IP masking to a whole new level. You have the option to connect to two servers in two different countries simultaneously and virtually appearing in both locations without experiencing a speed drop.
They even have a Whitelister which lets you exclude specific apps or websites from connecting via the VPN. That is great if you prefer to secure certain sensitive apps and websites while excluding others that you might use for high-speed streaming and general browsing.
Their user-friendly app sports a new versatile design that makes it extremely easy to navigate. Everything is snappy and the options are conveniently kept in easy-to-find locations for a user-friendly experience.
SurfShark offers one of the most affordable VPN plans out there. In fact, the service provider offers three different package plans at amazing discounts. With their extensive 30-day money-back guarantee offer, you will be able to get a complete refund if you do end up not satisfied with its service.
- Unlimited device connection
- Multihop Feature
- Whitelister Feature
- Unbreakable military-grade encryption service
- User-friendly app
- Some issue with kill switch feature
Best balance of performance and affordability
CyberGhost is a Romania based VPN provider with more than 5,000 servers globally spread among 90 different countries. Romania is based far away from the reach of the Fourteen Eyes and does not share its users’ information to any other country.
The service provider does not keep any traffic or connection logs, it only tracks connection attempts and the success of each one. The information collected is also not connected to any individual accounts and is purely used to track the performance of their servers. On top of that, CyberGhost owns and manages its own no-spy servers on-site, meaning they are free of any third-party involvement and any potential risks associated with it.
CyberGhost’s desktop app offers one of the most secure VPN services in the industry. The protocols that this VPN service provider supports are L2TP, IKEv2, and OpenVPN. And as far as encryption goes, CyberGhost delivers military-grade encryption to protect all your critical information.
Other than that, the Kill Switch feature allows you to remain anonymous even when your VPN service suddenly stops working. If and when your VPN connection drops abruptly, your internet connection will stop as well. This is a win-win situation to ensure your privacy is safely secured.
One downside about CyberGhost worth mentioning is its ad-blocking feature. CyberGhost does not block advertisement pop-ups on HTTPS websites. However, the ad-blocking feature is workable on Windows, Mac, and iOS devices, which is more than sufficient for general users looking to stream content online.
Unfortunately, CyberGhost does not have a free trial and the monthly plan can be quite pricey. On the other hand, the VPN service provider does have a 45-day money-back guarantee and their longer-term plans are much most cost-friendly.
- Simple and free extension for basic usage
- Affordable subscription plans with streaming speeds
- Permits up to 7 simultaneous connections
- Great for first-time VPN users
- Free extension does not include security features
- Ad-blocking feature needs some improvement
Best for ad and malware-free browsing
Although NordVPN does not offer a free Chrome extension, their affordable subscription plans come with some major features including their CyberSec feature which is specifically designed to block out any advertisement and prevent malware. Their lightweight and user-friendly extension is just a few clicks away to make your browsing a more streamlined and safer experience.
With over 5,600 different servers spread out across 59 different countries, NordVPN is one of the largest server networks to unblock plenty of geo-blocked content. It allows you access to Amazon Prime Video, HBO, and restricted Netflix libraries with no time wasted on buffering.
Not only does NordVPN come with an impressively large amount of P2P and torrenting servers, but they even feature unlimited usage bandwidth, which makes it one of the best reasons to love NordVPN as you will never have to suffer through throttled internet speed again.
The VPN provider is headquartered in the data retention-free jurisdiction of Panama on top of employing a strict no-logs policy. In addition to their military-grade encryption, NordVPN routes your connection through two separate VPN servers to grant you double data encryption along with other major security protocols to ensure your online activity always stays protected.
Although it does not record your browsing activity, the company does collect some information like your email address and payment details. This is completely normal as any VPN service that accepts credit cards and PayPal.
With standard VPN encryption, your internet traffic travels through a single VPN server. However, with the Double VPN feature, NordVPN routes your traffic through two hops to grant you an extra layer of protection. While it does make your data much more secure, your internet speed could take a hit and suffer a bit.
On top of that, NordVPN offers two different kinds of Kill Switch, one for desktops and another for mobile devices. You can choose to activate either the app kill switch or the internet kill switch to disable your entire internet connection when anything goes wrong.
NordVPN offers 4 different plans, all of which are very reasonably priced especially for so many amazing features packed with it. Aside from the 7-day trial, the VPN service provider even has a hassle-free full 30-day refund policy in case you decide that it’s not the right fit for you.
- Double-VPN servers
- Fast connection speeds
- No-log policy
- Accepts Bitcoin as payment
- Speeds are sometimes volatile
- Unable to specify individual servers you want to connect to
Up and Coming
PrivateVPN is a small VPN provider that is based in Sweden. However, some digging revealed that Sweden is actually part of the five eyes alliance. Being based in Sweden makes PrivateVPN a whole lot less insecure as the Swedish government can demand the VPN service provider to hand over the data.
But! PrivateVPN has actually found a loophole within Sweden’s legal system that allows the company to not collect any personal data. So, even if the government were to seize all the data from PrivateVPN, they would not have any useful information to work on.
At the moment, PrivateVPN only offers slightly over 150 VPN servers spread over 60 different countries. Although this amount is a little less than what other famous VPN service providers are offering, we still think the average home users will be perfectly happy with that PrivateVPN has to offer.
Just like other service providers, PrivateVPN encrypts all your data to keep your privacy secured from third parties through their AES-256 encryption feature. Their wide range of VPN protocols includes OpenVPN (with TCP/UDP), L2TP, IPsec, PPTP, and IKEv2.
In case you were to have any questions or doubts regarding your VPN service, you can always turn to PrivateVPN’s official website where you’ll find a dedicated support section. Below are a few support channels that you can use to get more information:
- Live Chat Support – Unfortunately, this handy option is not enabled 24/7, more often you’ll be able to send a message and the company will respond to you via email.
- Installation Guides – The company has a series of nicely written installation guides that are easy to understand. They even have videos to guide you through a step-by-step process.
- Frequently Asked Questions – PrivateVPN has done a good job of coming up with commonly asked questions and providing additional support that is on-point and concise.
- Support Tickets – You can send an email to the VPN’s tech support and you can expect a reply within a day.
PrivateVPN offers three subscription plans with some attractive prices. It is also worth noting that the provider frequently gives out discounts, especially during certain holidays or celebrations. At times you can even see its annual subscription go as low as $2.00 per month. So, do check out their webpage for any latest promotion.
The company accepts credit card, PayPal, and even Bitcoin payment for that added layer of protection. All of its subscription plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee if you end up finding their services not up to par.
Device compatibility: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Kodi
- Fast connection speeds
- Zero logs
- Strong encryption
- Supports Tor-over-VPN
- Smaller server network
- Lack of global coverage
IPVanish has a fast and reliable connection that works flawlessly. It has 1,300 servers in over 75 locations to allow this VPN to deliver an impressive global coverage. IPVanish’s performs up to five times faster for short hop connections while long-distance shows an average increase of 15% in download speeds.
This popular VPN service is based in the US that is part of the 5-eyes country and is required to hand over your data to the US authorities. However, since the provider does not keep any usage logs plus, they feature some pretty good security systems like OpenVPN, IKEv2 Kill Switch, Private Check, and Password Generator, you can still count on IPVanish to secure your privacy.
This VPN service provider goes one step further by offering you a level of control over their OpenVPN setup. You have the ability to choose your OpenVPN port (1194 or 443) you want to connect to, or you can go for the “Scramble OpenVPN Traffic” option which significantly reduces the chances of your VPN tunnel being detected or blocked.
Their strict zero-logging policy will ensure your identity is always under wraps. They do not record any connection, traffic, or activity data accessed through their server in order to preserve your civil right to privacy.
IPVanish is even compatible with TOR that encrypts your traffic across different servers. Many use TOR along with their VPN to attain an additional layer of protection to improve their anonymity. With this, you can easily hide your original identity from online snoopers and ISPs.
IPVanish features efficient customer support with three different ways for contact:
- 24/7 live chat support
- 24/7 email support (email@example.com)
- Help section on the website for tickets
Regardless of your method of contact, you will receive a helpful response in a timely manner. Similarly, you may get some assistance on setting up the app, FAQs, troubleshooting and billing questions through their help section.
IPVanish offers a pricing plan that is a bit on the higher side. It has 3 different pricing plans that are rather expensive despite having good discount offers. Additionally, it also does not offer a free trial, but their plans do come with a 7-day money-back guarantee.
- Good security
- No logs
- Reliable connection
- Fast connection speeds
- No free trial
- Does not accept Bitcoin
Best for 4K Streaming
Working under an umbrella company called Golden Frog, VyprVPN is based in Switzerland that has a privacy friendly law. The company is not required to maintain customer data and it is not under the five eyes alliance. However, the company has its own data retention law and internet privacy regulations that may affect users’ privacy.
VyprVPN has been publicly verified by an independent audit firm to certify that the VPN service provider does not log any personally identifiable information. On top of that, the company also owns its own server to make sure no one outside of VyprVPN ever has any access to customer information.
The VPN service provider’s premium plan features OpenVPN and Chameleon protocols that are designed to avoid any deep packet inspection. These help to ensure your VPN connection does not get detected, throttled, or blocked.
Chameleon work to scramble packet metadata using OpenVPN 256-bit protocol to allow users to bypass DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) in countries with aggressive internet censorship, such as China, Russia, UAE, Turkey, and Syria.
Additionally, VyprVPN has a kill-switch function that blocks your internet traffic whenever your VPN connection drops. Similarly, they have a Cloud feature to allow users to access cloud servers with an additional layer of security.
You can give VyprVPN a 3-day test run to decide if it’s suitable for you. It’s a good idea to try it out first as the VPN service provider does not allow a refund after you’ve signed up. However, when it comes to subscription plans, VyprVPN has the best all-round choice that is billed annually. The Premium plan may be a bit pricey, but it comes with all the advanced features that will come in super handy.
- Fast streaming and download rates
- Premium plan features security protocols to prevent Deep Packet Inspection
- Not suitable for torrenting
ExpressVPN keeps no user activity logs of any kind, ensuring that there is no evidence of your online activities. This provider even takes extra steps to keep you undercover by accepting Bitcoin and offering a .onion website. Their 30-day money-back guarantee ensures there is no risk in giving them a try.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are VPN logs?
VPN logs are a record of users’ online activity used through the VPN service.
Although many VPN service providers have a no-log policy, it is actually impossible for a VPN to keep no logs at all. Even a VPN service provider with the strictest no-log policy will need some way to know when subscriptions have expired and require renewal.
What is a zero-logs VPN?
This question is frequently debated among many. Can a VPN truly call itself as no-logs if it deleted all logs a few minutes after the session ends? What about a VPN that logs timestamps and bandwidth without associating it with users’ IP addresses or account details? Does anonymized and aggregated usage statistics count as logs?
A consensus is that a no-logs VPN is a VPN service that does not keep any identifiable logs that can be tied back to the user and their internet activity through the service provider. Similarly, if some logs are kept, but only for a short time before the data is wiped out, we are happy to describe that VPN as “no logs”, as long as it does not compromise a user’s privacy.
Why should I use a no-logs VPN?
Your internet provider (ISP) actually keeps detailed records of all your online activity with its service. This completely exposes all your data and interactions on the internet. However, when you use a VPN, your internet provider is blocked from seeing the content of your data. The VPN service encrypts all your data and shields it from outsiders. This way, you get to roam about the internet without worrying about someone else watching and tracking your every move.
Your VPN provider, however. Can still see the IP addresses of individual web pages and contents of your data on sites that are not HTTPS protected. While most websites these days are already protected by HTTPS, your VPN provider can still see which websites you have visited.
Another great thing about VPN is that these service providers don’t necessarily need to hand over their logs to the government, unlike ISPs. Though almost every VPN service promises to protect your privacy, only a no-logs VPN can be fully trusted to keep such a promise. A company cannot be forced to hand over information that it simply does not possess.
Will a no-logs VPN make me anonymous?
VPNs provide privacy, not anonymity. VPN services can always start logging in order to match users with their internet activity. Some service providers are not entirely honest about the logs they keep and may even have stored some historical data on their users.
VPNs provide a high level of privacy against all sorts of blanket surveillance on the internet with minimal impact to your internet experience. They even work to keep you out of trouble when you’re torrenting, but you should not rely on them to keep you safe if you commit any criminal acts online.
Those whose life or liberty rely on true anonymity, such as journalists, political dissidents, and whistleblowers should use Tor instead.
How to be sure your VPN is a no-logs provider?
At present, we can only take VPN service providers at their word or pay attention to the increasing number of independent audits set out to test their policy out. We hope such audits become much more common throughout the industry to improve the level of transparency between companies and their customers.
Always read Terms of Service and Privacy Policies
Many VPN providers make bold and generalized “no logs” claim on their websites but are quick to qualify such claims in the small print under their Terms of Service and Privacy Policies. This is why it is important to take a good look and review each VPN provider’s ToS and Privacy Policies before deciding.
Warrants and court orders requiring companies to hand over customer details are usually accompanied by gag orders. This prevents the company from alerting its customers that something is amiss. In order to curb such issues and reassure customers, some VPNs operate warrant canaries.