Is it Safe? Our Guide Pros & Cons
NordVPN is one of the leaders in the world of VPN services, they pride themselves on their offering which aims to provide complete privacy, internet freedom, and advanced security features.
NordVPN describes a VPN as being an encrypted tunnel designed for online traffic, which is hack-proof and provides an extra layer of security and privacy for their users. With NordVPN, clients get peace of mind since their browsing history remains private. NordVPN also details how its services help hide the identity of clients, delivering online privacy.
Hiding your IP address can remove surveillance and censorship and protect activity online. It can also give you uninterrupted streaming free from bandwidth throttling and streaming. It also allows for securely downloading and sharing files with a P2P network or remotely from work. NordVPN points out that while proxies will change your IP address, they do not hide online traffic. This leads to the potential exposure of personal information.
Read on as we take an indepth look at NordVPN and find out if they really are one of the best VPN options available today.
History of NordVPN
NordVPN began in 2012 with a group of four childhood friends. They had spent time around the world and seen censorship and government surveillance. They were alarmed by the growth of these intrusions. The team started researching solutions to overcome these intrusions and restrictions. They set up their first VPN server and shared the prototype with friends. Following positive feedback, they expanded.
The name of NordVPN got its inspiration from Nordic values of trust, innovation, and confidence. These ideals translate into the value NordVPN places on customer freedom. Today, NordVPN serves more than 12 million clients around the world. It has been recognized by numerous influential experts in IT security. It enjoys a strong reputation among the most trusted of all security and privacy service providers.
Number of Servers & Locations
The quality of a VPN service strongly relates to the number and distribution of servers. More servers spread across the world translates into better reliability and speed. It also translates into more options for your VPN IP address. NordVPN is aware of this and has a truly impressive number of servers, more than 5,200. These are spread across 60 countries, so there is a very good chance there is a server nearby. The large quantity of servers reduces the load on each of them, translating into better speed.
You can view the full list of servers from NordVPN on the Server Location page. The servers are divided by region and then country. For each, you can view which features are available. These are displayed with checkmarks and include things like Double VPN, dedicated IP, P2P, obfuscated, and Onion Over VPN.
When you use NordVPN, the service’s smart algorithm will automatically choose the ideal server. This depends on your location, special requirements, and loads. You will also notice that there are some specialty server types, the features listed by certain servers.
Dedicated IP servers let you use a dedicated IP address you will not share with other users. Double VPN servers offer the Double VPN functionality from NordVPN. Similarly, Onion Over VPN servers offer the Onion Over VPN feature. Obfuscated servers are ideal for those in countries that have strong restrictions for internet access. P2P servers are optimized for sharing of a P2P nature. The standard servers are always ultra-fast and provide privacy.
When Are Dedicated IPs From NordVPN Useful?
The average NordVPN client does not need a dedicated IP address, but this is a key feature for certain situations. Those who access business servers can use this option to increase security. That would be done by adding your dedicated IP to the whitelist and knowing no one else can use it.
It is also good for online banking, preventing your bank from believing you are in different locations with each login. Constant location changes could be seen as suspicious, resulting in a blocked account.
Using dedicated IPs can also help you ensure you avoid a blacklist. This is a potential consequence of shared IPs since others using the address may engage in behaviors that cause blacklisting. You may also notice that if you use a popular shared IP, you have to deal with more CAPTCHAs. If this gets annoying, a dedicated IP address may make sense.
Of course, shared IPs do offer more online privacy since your history gets mixed with everyone else’s. There is also an additional fee for a personal static IP address from NordVPN.
Does NordVPN Keep Logs?
Unlike some VPN providers, NordVPN never keeps logs. This is because the company wants to ensure that no one is able to see their clients’ online activities. Since there are no logs on NordVPN, the company cannot be forced to share them. You cannot share what does not exist.
NordVPN provides further reassurance on the security of your personal information and online history. On its About Us page, there is a Warrant Canary section. This is a statement that NordVPN has full control of its infrastructure. This section further states that it has never experienced a data breach or compromise. It has not disclosed any information or private keys of users. Furthermore, it has not been forced to make modifications that would lead to data leakage or third-party access.
Below this statement, NordVPN makes three important statements supporting privacy. These are all valid as of the day listed on the website, which is the date you view it. The statements indicate NordVPN has NOT received gag orders, National Security letters, or warrants from government organizations. It concluded by reaffirming the NordVPN commitment to a zero-logs policy.
As mentioned, NordVPN has a strict no-log policy. The service will never track and collect or share private data. NordVPN prides itself on only collecting the bare minimum of information required to provide your service. This is very important because while your VPN hides information from your ISP, it can collect that data itself.
To better understand the no-log policy at NordVPN, consider some types of logs the company never tracks or collects. In terms of connection logs, NordVPN does not track the VPN servers you use nor the data quantities transferred. It also does not track the connection duration nor time nor the incoming or outgoing IP addresses. In terms of usage logs, NordVPN never tracks websites you visit, files you download, or software you use.
While other VPN providers claim to have no-log policies, they do not always do so to the same extent. Many will still collect connection logs. This is problematic since a third party could use the information in those connection logs to identify you.
Not only does NordVPN have a policy of no-logs, but you do not have to take the company’s word for it. One of the Big 4 firms in auditing has completed an audit of its no-log claims. This is an industry first and concluded that NordVPN’s fairly and accurately described its policy.
It is also important to note that NordVPN chose its base location to maximize privacy. Because NordVPN is not based in U.S. or EU jurisdictions, there are no legal requirements to collect personal data.
All that NordVPN knows about you is your email address, payment information, and the timestamp on your last session status. The company also has basic customer service information and knows how you use its website. Other than that information, your privacy prevails.
Key Features of NordVPN
Many of the key features of NordVPN relate to staying secure online. This includes features like double VPN, CyberSec, and military-grade encryption. The combination of features protects your activity from malware and hackers. It can also block ads and provide protection on public Wi-Fi.
Further security measures to protect your data include the strict policy of no logs and IP protection. NordVPN additionally has DNS leak production, Onion Over VPN, and an Automatic Kill Switch. NordVPN also works on any device, so you can use it at home, on the go, or anywhere else.
When you use NordVPN, you are able to enjoy the internet regardless of where you are. This means no concern about bandwidth limits or censorship thanks to numerous servers, SmartPlay, support for P2P, and lightning speed.
Block Ads & Malware with the CyberSec Feature
CyberSec from NordVPN is a piece of advanced tech that automatically blocks any websites that are suspicious. The result is that you do not have to worry about cyber threats like malware, or flashy ads. CyberSec regularly scans web addresses, comparing them to blocklists to prevent you from a cyber threat or phishing scam. The feature automatically blocks access to websites known for malware, spyware, trackers, and similar malicious software.
CyberSec also prevents botnet control. This means that even if your device already has malware, it will not participate in a DDoS attack. Instead, the feature detects then cuts communication between the botnet’s Command and Control server and your device. In terms of ads, CyberSec hides auto-play video ads, pop-ups, and other types of advertising. This can improve load speed and remove annoyances.
NordVPN’s Double VPN
The Double VPN from NordVPN essentially doubles your security and privacy online. With a normal VPN, your online traffic will go through the VPN server you choose. This encrypts the data you send and receive and changes the IP address. The Double VPN hides all the activity behind a second server.
When the traffic gets to the remote VPN server, it stays encrypted. It then goes through another VPN server for another layer of encryption. Thanks to the Double VPN, your data gets two layers of encryption instead of one. That makes it even harder for hackers to break.
The Double VPN also enhances security since the connections mix TCP and UDP protocols. Additionally, the second server has zero information about you since the first VPN changed your original IP address. This method delivers full privacy as no one can view your final web destination. Instead, they will just notice you use a VPN.
NordVPN points out a few categories of people who will find the Double VPN to be a significant feature. These include political activists, journalists, those looking to avoid government surveillance, and anyone protecting sources.
The Double VPN is not necessary for daily private browsing, in which case a normal VPN is enough. Double VPNs might also slow down connections, making it impractical when you need speed. You also do not need to use it with Tor browsing since NordVPN has a separate feature for this.
Double VPN is part of any NordVPN subscription. It is available for Windows, Android, and macOS with OpenVPN. You can enable and disable it as you wish.
What Is Onion Over VPN?
Onion Over VPN is an exclusive feature within NordVPN. It enhances Tor (The Onion Router) with a VPN tunnel’s extra security. This feature is very simple as you get routed via the Onion network with just one click. Alternatively, you can use it by connecting to NordVPN as you normally would when using your Tor browser.
Using Onion Over VPN will provide you privacy from authorities and your ISP. The ISP is typically able to tell you use Onion but cannot see what you do with it. With NordVPN, the ISP cannot even do that. There is also the added encryption from the encrypted VPN tunnel of NordVPN.
Using Onion Over VPN provides multiple layers of anonymity. You start by connecting with the Onion network via a random entry point. From there, you travel through various servers, surrounding your data in encryption as you do so. Later on, the encryption layers get removed individually. When you exit, the data gets decrypted before you exit via a random node and end up on the web.
If you were to use the Onion without NordVPN, then your ISP can tell that you use the Onion. This is risky for certain people, particularly those in countries with heavy censorship. There is also the risk associated with the fact that volunteers run the Onion servers. This means that someone with bad intentions could deploy compromised servers and track you. With NordVPN’s Onion Over VPN, this risk is eliminated.
NordVPN suggests Onion Over VPN as a particularly useful feature for journalists and political activists. It is also good for those who are in autocratic regimes where the government monitors and logs online traffic. It can also be useful for anyone who works with or accesses sensitive data.
NordVPN’s Military-Grade Encryption
One of the strong points in favor of NordVPN is its military-grade encryption. This encryption provides protection from prying eyes, such as those of hackers, internet service providers, and the government. Without encryption and a VPN, all traffic travels through an internet service provider (ISP). This allows the ISP to easily read the data. The ISP can then save this data and share or use it as they want. That may include giving it to authorities or selling it to advertisers. The government can even require it to share data.
Using a VPN with military-grade encryption prevents the ISP’s access to your internet traffic. All traffic will go through the VPN tunnel. This is an encrypted tunnel connecting your device to the web destination. This not only provides encryption but also hides the location and IP address.
NordVPN provides encryption by making an encrypted tunnel. All data sent online gets divided into packets. As such, NordVPN splits private data, encapsulates it, then passes it through this VPN tunnel. The data reaches the VPN servers where the outer packet gets removed. Then, the data gets accessed via decryption. The result is that even if someone managed to intercept your data, they could not read it.
NordVPN opts for military-grade encryption that is AES with 256-bit keys. This is what NASA recommends for classified information, even TOP SECRET data. The 256-bit key indicates the key size, with 256-bit keys featuring 1.1×1077 potential combinations. Supercomputers that cannot be built yet are necessary to break this encryption level.
How Does NordVPN Protect Against DNS Leaks?
NordVPN utilizes DNS leak protection tech to protect online privacy and technology. This tech comes into play if the DNS servers send queries that are unencrypted and not within the secure VPN tunnel. To understand this protection, keep in mind that DNS stands for Domain Name System. DNS translates domain names or URLs into the IP address that you connect to.
DNS leaks occur when the DNS requests do not properly travel through the VPN tunnel, meaning they are unencrypted. A DNS leak can happen if you set up your VPN manually or use a VPN service without sufficient protection. By protecting against DNS leaks, NordVPN prevents your ISP from finding leaked information related to your online traffic.
What Is NordVPN’s Automatic Kill Switch?
The automatic Kill Switch is yet another security feature of NordVPN’s services. This is a type of advanced security that prevents data from leaking out into the web. The Kill Switch constantly monitors to ensure you are connected to a VPN server. If this connection drops at any point, the Kill Switch will temporarily block your device from web access.
Essentially, the Kill Switch serves as a final line of defense if something happens and your connection to NordVPN drops. Without it, a drop in your connection to NordVPN could lead to your IP address and private data being visible. The Kill Switch will automatically deactivate, bringing your internet back, when the VPN tunnel gets restored. Alternatively, you can always disable this Kill Switch feature.
There are two separate variations of the Kill Switch with NordVPN depending on your device. On Windows and macOS, you have the option of fully disabling your internet connection in case of a server drop. Or you can set the Kill Switch to just block certain applications. Blocking everything is safer but blocking the apps you choose is ideal for more advanced users.
On NordVPN’s iOS apps, the Kill Switch will deliver a system-wide lock of the network when the VPN connection drops. For Android 7 and later versions, you can enable Kill Switch. You can find this in the native settings under wireless and networks and VPN.
Do You Need to Use the Kill Switch With NordVPN?
While NordVPN has numerous servers for reliability, other factors could lead to a connection issue. It is more common that your connection interruption will be due to unstable internet connections. This is particularly common if your network regularly disconnects or times out.
It is also possible that your antivirus program or firewall will block NordVPN so it cannot create a VPN tunnel. Until you add NordVPN to the exception list, the Kill Switch would be active. Sometimes, automatic updates may also lead to a rebooting without VPN protection. There is also the chance, however small, that something will go wrong on NordVPN’s end. Once, a cable was cut by a third party in a construction accident and that caused disconnections. This is the sole instance of NordVPN-caused disruptions so far, but the Kill Switch was useful at that point.
NordVPN strongly recommends that you keep the Kill Switch active whenever privacy is crucial. This means that those living in countries with authoritarian governments should always have it active. So should those who are political activists or journalists. Those who work with classified or sensitive information should always have the Kill Switch on while working. Everyone should at least turn the Kill Switch on before entering any data that could compromise privacy, such as passwords.
What VPN Protocol Does NordVPN Use?
NordVPN takes advantage of two VPN protocols to determine the formation of the VPN tunnel. IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange) works with the newest version along with IPsec (Internet protocol security). This combination enhances speed, stability, and security. It uses powerful cryptographic keys and algorithms that supercomputers cannot break. NordVPN opts for the Next Generation Encryption (NGE) with this IKEv2/IPsec. NGE is known for its high adaptability, so it can advance as cryptography breakthroughs occur.
The other VPN protocol is OpenVPN. This is a versatile security protocol that works on UPD and TCP ports. That results in the ability to use it with live streaming, gaming, and safe browsing. For sensitive data protection, NordVPN relies on AES-256-GCM encryption algorithm along with a key that is 2048-bit DH. OpenVPN has an open-source code, so anyone can review it, ensuring its quality.
IKEv2/IPsec is the default protocol when using NordVPN on macOS and iOS apps. OpenVPN is the default for Android apps, macOS, and Windows.
NordVPN provides speed as well as security. It is possible for VPNs to slow down your online browsing since your online traffic must take another step. NordVPN, however, uses ultra-fast servers so this is not a concern. The speed differences when using a VPN are typically not noticeable. The exceptions arise when streaming or sharing files. In those cases, the ultra-fast NordVPN servers become important.
NordVPN can also provide a speedy internet experience by bypassing ISP throttling. There are no concerns about ISPs slowing down your connection when streaming. Streaming becomes not only fast but secure as well. The quick service of NordVPN comes along with security, even when on public Wi-Fi.
Numerous factors influence the VPN connection speed, including encryption quality and internet speed. It also depends on the distance to the VPN server and the load of the server. It further depends on your antivirus or firewalls and your security protocol.
To maximize speed with a VPN, you can choose the servers carefully. Opt for a provider like NordVPN with thousands of servers. This gives you options and reduces overcrowding. You can also choose a server that is closer to you. NordVPN takes care of much of this for you via the Quick Connect button. This button will automatically choose the best available server at that moment.
Is NordVPN Good for Streaming? What Is SmartPlay?
NordVPN is very good for streaming content. Thanks to the ability to choose a VPN server, you can watch content only available in other geographic locations. This also means that you can access your home content when traveling.
There is also no or minimal buffering when you watch with NordVPN. Videos do not take forever to load since the ISP will not impose bandwidth throttling. Your ISP will not even know you are streaming. To top it off, you will get to take advantage of the military-grade encryption while enjoying your content.
One of the biggest advantages of using NordVPN for streaming is avoiding bandwidth throttling. It is common for ISPs to throttle bandwidth during heavy rush hours. It can also happen because of content prioritization or if you use too much data on P2P or streaming sites. There may also be bandwidth caps that your ISP uses to get you to upgrade.
To make streaming with NordVPN even better, the service offers SmartPlay. SmartPlay lets you securely access any content that you otherwise could not. It does so without any effort or action on your part. The SmartPlay feature combines VPN with Smart DNS tech. The VPN features provide privacy and security. The Smart DNS tech lets you stream more content.
With SmartPlay, there are no extra steps when streaming. You can also access content no matter where you are and do so securely. SmartPlay is particularly useful for streaming on public Wi-Fi, with bandwidth throttling, and when abroad.
Is NordVPN Good for P2P Sharing?
NordVPN prides itself on being the best VPN for those who want to engage in P2P sharing. Peer-to-peer networking is a convenient and quick method of sharing files among larger groups. Each person is both an uploader and a downloader, but ISPs discourage this. That is due to the negative reputation for file sharing in many cases. Despite this, file sharing is very much legal and useful. It is good for internally sharing vast quantities of corporate data and pushing software updates. It is also useful for publicly distributing free-access data.
Security, however, is a concern with P2P sharing. This is partly because everyone can see each other’s IP addresses. While it helps efficiency, it hurts privacy. Additionally, many ISPs will deny you access to the P2P sites or set a bandwidth limit to slow you down.
When you use NordVPN for P2P sharing, your IP address is secured, providing privacy. It also prevents your ISP from seeing that you are sharing files. That, in turn, prevents bandwidth throttling. To top it off, VPNs like NordVPN will encrypt all data and files you send. This protects your private information.
NordVPN Device Support & Apps
NordVPN is available for nearly any device that you use on a regular basis. Whether you have a Linux, Windows, or Mac computer, it will work. There are also specific applications for Android, iOS, and Android TV. NordVPN also offers encrypted proxy extensions for both Firefox and Chrome.
When using NordVPN on mobile devices, you get an easy-to-use and intuitive app for iOS or Android. The availability of mobile VPN services is crucial since it is more common to access public Wi-Fi on these devices. The mobile version of NordVPN has the same high level of security plus privacy.
At the same time, its design specifically targets mobile issues. For example, it will make automatic adjustments when you move out of coverage or between Wi-Fi connections. NordVPN mobile apps are optimized for wireless networks that have small bandwidth. They also have optimized speed performance and smaller memory tracks.
The proxy extensions that NordVPN offers for Firefox and Chrome are lightweight. These extensions let you change your IP address as the VPN does. They also let you access websites safely, whether or not they have HTTPS protection. This extension works on the browsers on Android or computers. The extension also lets you disable WebRTC protocol, which could accidentally reveal your true IP address.
When you sign up for a NordVPN account, you can use it on six devices simultaneously. Keep in mind that when you connect NordVPN with your router, this only counts as one of the six devices. At the same time, however, it will secure every single device that uses the router’s network. The coverage for six devices helps NordVPN stand out from competitors. This is also an important feature so that you are always protected, even when you use multiple devices.
How Do You Use NordVPN?
NordVPN was specifically designed to be very easy to use. All the applications have configuration options so you can start right away. You can just open the program and choose Quick Connect. This option has NordVPN’s system automatically choose the best server for you. Or you can choose the country you want to connect to a server from, then let the system choose. Advanced users can look at specific servers in the Servers tab. Here, you can select a server based on distance and load time.
There are also additional intuitive options in the settings menu. This includes switching from UDP to TCP ports with the OpenVPN protocol, or vice versa. Or you can enable obfuscated servers or set up auto-start and auto-connect. This is also where you will find straightforward configurations for CyberSec, the Kill Switch, and custom DNS servers.
What Plans Does NordVPN Offer?
As with many other VPN providers, NordVPN offers several plans with similar features. The main difference is that plans with longer terms have more savings. If you choose to pay month-to-month, the one-month plan costs $11.95. This amount is billed monthly. Going with a one-year plan translates into $6.99 per month, saving you 41 percent. This gets billed at $83.88 each year.
A two-year plan leads to savings of 66 percent per month, $3.99. This is billed as $95.75 every two years. The best deal is an exclusive three-year plan that is available for a limited time. It has 75 percent savings so you pay $2.99 monthly. This is billed every three years at $107.55 total.
No matter the plan you choose from NordVPN, you get the same great features. These include access to 5,1800 servers around the world and the ability to connect six devices at once. There is always a 30-day money-back guarantee and a no-logs policy. Keep in mind that it is possible to upgrade to a longer plan later on between billing cycles.
If you want a personal static IP address, known as a dedicated IP address, this comes with an additional fee. You can add this to your NordVPN plan in the section called My Services. It costs $70 a year and the IP address can be in the U.K., the U.S., the Netherlands, or Germany.
Is There a Free Trial From NordVPN?
NordVPN does not offer a free trial. You can, however, sign up for a plan and get a full refund within 30 days. This comes from the 30-day money-back guarantee.
NordVPN Payment Options
There are multiple methods of paying for NordVPN. These include credit cards, cryptocurrencies, PaymentWall, AliPay, and WeChat. You can also use Google Play or iTunes. Those living outside the United States may also be able to pay in cash. This can be done at certain stores, including Micro Center and Fry’s Electronics. You will see the full list of payment options when you go to make a payment.
NordVPN Affiliate Program
With the NordVPN affiliate program, you receive a commission for successful referrals to NordVPN. The program comes with a dedicated account manager for individual support. There are conversions for all types of traffic and geographical locations. The commissions are also generous, including lifetime revenue shares and among the best commissions in VPNs.
The specific commission rates depend on the plan your referral chooses and whether it is a new sign-up or a renewal. You get a 100 percent commission on new sign-ups for one-month plans and 30 percent for renewals. For six-month, one-year, or two-year offers, the commissions are 40 percent for new sign-ups. They are 30 percent for renewals.
NordVPN Customer Support
The NordVPN customer support provides award-winning customer service 24/7. Specifically, it earned the title of Best Customer Service 2018 during the BestVPN.com Awards. You can chat via the floating button in the bottom right corner of the page. Or you can contact them via the Help Center. The main methods of finding answers on NordVPN are live chat, email support, and the Help Center.
When you send an email, the NordVPN team will get back to you within 24 hours. The live chat provides live assistance. It will ask you for some basic information, like the topic, before connecting you. Then, you get redirected to an agent with the appropriate knowledge.
The Contact Us page on NordVPN also has information for contacting the company in other situations. There are specific email addresses for business development, VPN for business, press, and affiliate partnerships.
The Help Center from NordVPN is a collection of articles related to VPNs and the company’s services. The section is highly organized and includes tutorials as well. You can browse by category or use the search field. You will also see the most popular questions at the top for convenience.
Other VPN Providers
Some other providers we have covered before on Blockonomi are as follows:
NordVPN is among the leaders in the world of VPN services. The company has more than 5,200 servers across 60 countries. This allows for more geographical options and improved speeds due to no overcrowding.
A single NordVPN subscription lets you connect six devices, one of which can be a router with unlimited devices connected. NordVPN is strong in terms of security and privacy thanks to encryption and a no-log policy. This no-log policy has even been audited by a third party.
The money-back guarantee with NordVPN is also great, essentially letting potential clients try the service for 30 days. They are let down slightly by lack of a free trial which a lot of other providers now offer.
Overall, we feel that NordVPN is one of the best providers on the market so if you are looking for a very solid offering backed by a company with an excellent reputation then give them a go.