On our seemingly neverending journey to expand our database so that it becomes the most comprehensive source of VPN services (tested, reviewed and ranked ones, that is), we’ve stumbled upon BTGuard.
Now its name might not speak volumes, as you might not expect it to be exactly a VPN service and you’d be half-right. While BTGuard does provide you with VPN functionality, it primarily acts as a security solution that can anonymize your P2P file-sharing activities. Aka torrenting.
However, we’ll give it the standard treatment and try to find some stuff about the company behind the project, tell you all about their policies (especially those regarding logging), test their service, see if it leaks critical data, check to see how fast it can get and give it a rating.
We know what you’re thinking: won’t it be a long, tedious read? Well, most likely some of the terms will sound alien-like for inexperienced users, but we assure you that we’ll try to make it as pleasant and user-friendly as possible. Here, we even thought of your convenience and left this quick-access table of content, to help you skip right to the part that interests you most.
- Company information
- Canada Jurisdiction
- Terms of service analysis
- A quick introduction to BTGuard
- Creating an account
- Downloading OpenVPN and the configuration files
- Configuring BTGuard with PPTP
- Installing and configuring BTGuard with OpenVPN
- Connecting to BTGuard from your computer
- Cipher issues
- No configurable settings
- List of servers
- Services unlocked
- TOR and torrenting support
- Customer support
- Security check-up results
- Speed test results
- Pricing plans
The company behind the BTGuard project is called Netcrawled LLC and, according to their official website, they’re located in 151 Front Street West, Toronto, M5J 2N1 Canada. Therefore, Netcrawled LLC falls under Canadian jurisdiction, but we’ll get there soon enough.
Not much else can be said about the company that developed and supports BTGuard since their address is the only thing that’s related to it and available on their website.
Alright, so we’ve got that figured out: Netcrawled LLC is located in Canada and as a direct result, it’s subject to Canadian laws, but what does that mean and how does it affect us, regular users?
Well, for starters, using a VPN in Canada is perfectly legal, so you don’t have to worry about that. However, and this is a big “however”, Canada is a member of the infamous 5 Eyes Alliance. What does it mean, though?
Well, to put it simply, Canada’s intelligence agencies are empowered by the legal framework to access electronic data about Canadian inhabitants and share it with other nations that are members of the 5, 9, 14 Eyes Alliances.
Canada also has some ISPs that are authorized to block access to various websites, such as ones related to children pornography. Furthermore, there are strict policies for matters such as Internet neutrality, surveillance and data retention.
Terms of service analysis
We’re not going to lie, finding BTGuard’s Terms of Service documentation was an adventure, to begin with since we couldn’t for the life of us find any reference on the official website.
In this case, we called an old, trustworthy friend (Google) to help us check if this document really exists in the first place, and it delivered. We’re going to say this: BTGuard doesn’t have a lengthy, boring Terms of Service document, but we’re still going to read it, extract its essentials and bring them back to you.
- The first thing that you’re informed about is that your personal information will never be exposed to third parties without a court order;
- As for other similar VPN solutions, by using BTGuard and accessing its website, you become bound by the terms and conditions in the document;
- By using BTGuard, you also agree to be bound by any applicable law and regulation and that you’re responsible for compliance with any applicable local laws;
- It goes without saying that if you disagree with any of the terms and conditions, you’re not allowed to use BTGuard or access its website;
- You are allowed to download BTGuard materials (software or information) and use the service for your personal use only;
- You understand that Netcrawled LLC grants you a license to use their service and are not transferring you a title;
- You are not allowed to use the BTGuard service to perform hacking, DOS hacks, spam others or engage in any activity that has a malicious nature;
- You are not allowed to use the service for any commercial purposes or for public (commercial or non-commercial) display;
- You are not allowed to even attempt to reverse-engineer or decompile anything from the Netcrawled LLC website;
- You are not allowed to share your account with anybody outside of your immediate family or access point (router);
- You are not allowed to use the service to conduct any illegal activities;
- The license that Netcrawled LLC provides you with to access their services will automatically be terminated if you violate any restrictions;
- The license can also be terminated by Netcrawled LLC without the possibility of receiving a refund;
- You must understand and agree to the fact that you’re the only one responsible for what goes on on your account and also for the content that you might download or upload;
- You are the one and only responsible for any kind of damage that might occur while you’re using BTGuard, including but not limited to damages for profit losses and data losses;
- You are the only responsible for the functioning environment of BTGuard and that Netcrawled LLC won’t provide you with technical support for your hardware or its software;
- Anything on the Netcrawled LLC website is brought to you on an “as is” basis, so they’re not responsible for your failed expectations and/or disappointment;
- Netcrawled LLC state that they are not liable for any damages (such as damages for loss of data, profit loss, business interruptions) that might occur as a result of using their service or inability of using their service, not even if you notify them orally or in writing about the potential damage;
- Netcrawled LLC lets you know that the materials available on their website might include photographic, typographical or technical errors and that they don’t warrant that any material on their website is accurate, current or complete;
- While they might change the content on the website from time to time and without any notice, Netcrawled LLC does not make any commitment to perform these operations (update inaccurate or dated info, for instance);
- You understand that the terms and conditions in the Terms of Service documentation might be revised at any time without any prior notice;
- If you continue to use the service and the website after such modifications have taken place, it will be seen as your acceptance and agreement to those terms;
You might want to check the “Updated” date at the bottom of the document since it might be a good indicator that some service- or website-related modifications have taken place. Right now the “Updated” date is November 15, 2011.
Right from the top of the document, you can see their statement which says that Netcrawled LLC is committed to protecting your privacy, but let’s see exactly how they plan on doing that.
- Netcrawled LLC states that they won’t sell, rent or trade your personal information to/with other companies;
- Before or at the time of personal information getting collected, they claim that they will state the purposes for which said information will be collected;
- Netcrawled LLC states that they will collect and use your personal information only for fulfilling said purposes (the ones that they will inform you about) and for other purposes that are compatible unless they obtain your consent to do otherwise or if the law requires them to;
- Your personal information will be retained “as long as necessary” to fulfill those purposes;
- Netcrawled LLC claims to be collecting personal information by fair and lawful means and with your knowledge or consent when appropriate;
- The data you provide them with should be relevant to the purposes for which it is required, so you should always provide them with complete, up-to-date and accurate details about yourself;
- Netcrawled LLC claims that they will provide your personal details with protection by offering you “reasonable security safeguards” to prevent loss, theft, unauthorized access, disclosure, use, modification or copying of said information;
- They claim to be making information about their policies and practices regarding how they manage your personal information readily available for you;
Last, but not least, they claim that they don’t collect your IP address or activity details, as you can see below:
“Netcrawled LLC DOES NOT collect your Internet Protocol (IP) addresses or customer usage.”
A quick introduction to BTGuard
BTGuard advertises itself as a security and privacy solution for torrent users and enthusiasts, one that claims it can keep them safe and away from prying eyes by anonymizing their connections. However, there’s more to it.
BTGuard comes in two flavors: a proxy that’s compatible with uTorrent and Vuze and claims to be anonymizing your connection automatically whenever you download with your torrenting client, and a VPN service that can help you secure your entire Internet connection.
Obviously, we’re more interested in the VPN part of BTGuard, since it claims to be able to provide you with an anonymous connection for any Internet services you might be using on your devices.
Creating an account
It goes without saying that you will need to create an account if you ever want to use the BTGuard VPN service on your device since the service is a premium one and unfortunately doesn’t provide you with any form of a trial version.
That being said, we can embark on our account-creation journey, through which we’ll try our best to guide your steps, so you can create an account with minimum effort. Follow these steps to register a BTGuard account:
- Head to the BTGuard official website;
- Locate the “Join” button on the top menu;
- Click the “Join” button;
- From the “VPN” section, locate and click the “Join Now” button;
- Type your preferred username in the designated field;
- Type and confirm your password;
- Type your email address in the corresponding field;
- Choose a subscription type by using the radio buttons / dropdown menu combination;
- Hit the “Continue” button;
- Provide the website with your payment details;
And it’s done! You are now the proud owner of a BTGuard account and a VPN service subscription on top of that. We’ve also been able to find the Terms of Service page while creating an account, I’m sure you’ll spot it too if you put a little effort into it.
Downloading OpenVPN and the configuration files
Well, here’s where things get a little bit complicated. Mainly because BTGuard doesn’t have a standalone, dedicated client, so we’ll have to configure it manually by using either PPTP or OpenVPN, the main difference being that PPTP can be configured directly on your machine (Windows computer), while OpenVPN requires, well, the OpenVPN app to piggy-back on, obviously.
So instead of downloading a standalone VPN application, we’ll download OpenVPN and BTGuard’s configuration files and put them to good use.
- Log into your BTGuard account;
- Locate the “Setup VPN” hyperlink and click it; (check the screenshots)
- On the BTGuard wiki page, locate the OpenVPN category (to the right);
- In the OpenVPN category, click the “Windows Vista, 7, 8, 10″ button;
- From this page, we need two things: the OpenVPN client and the configuration files;
- Download the two required components on your computer;
Well, that’s it, you have OpenVPN and the configuration files on your PC.
Note: please use the OpenVPN official website instead of retrieving it from the BTGuard-recommended website, since it’s the latest version and BTGuard’s version is outdated.
Configuring BTGuard with PPTP
If you’re not a fan of using a third-party app like OpenVPN to be able to enjoy BTGuard, you can simply configure it directly on your computer by using the PPTP protocol.
Here’s how you can do that on Windows 10:
- Click the Start button and type “VPN”;
- Select the “VPN Settings” option;
- Click the “Add a VPN connection” button;
- Select “Windows (built-in)” from the “VPN provider” menu;
- Type “BTGuard VPN” as your connection name;
- Type “vpn.btguard.com” (without the quotes) as your server address;
- Choose “Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)” as your VPN type;
- Choose “User name and password” as your type of sign-in info;
- Type your username in the “User name (optional)” field;
- Type your password in the “Password (optional)” field;
- Check the “Remember my sign-in info” option;
- Hit the “Save” button;
That’s it, you’ve just configured the BTGuard VPN service to run on your Windows 10 computer by using the PPTP protocol.
Note: if you want to choose your server selection manually, you can use “ca.vpn.btguard.com” for Canada, “eu.vpn.btguard.com” for Europe or “sg.vpn.btguard.com” for Singapore.
Installing and configuring BTGuard with OpenVPN
Since we’ve only told you how to download OpenVPN and the configuration files, it’s time to tell you how to install it on your computer and configure it so you can connect to BTGuard.
- First thing first, install OpenVPN on your PC;
- Unpack the configuration files archive you downloaded from the BTGuard website (if you downloaded the ZIP version);
Copy them to the OpenVPN’s “Config” folder;
- Execute the BTGuard OpenVPN configuration files installer;
Note: using the executable copies the configuration files automatically to the correct location. If you’ve previously used another VPN’s service with OpenVPN, it would be a wise thing to remove all the old configuration files before attempting to connect to BTGuard’s servers, as they might conflict otherwise.
Connecting to BTGuard from your computer
Since there are two ways to “deploy” BTGuard on your computer, we’ll guide you through the process of establishing a tunnel connection by using both methods, whichever you find to be most appealing to your needs.
Method #1 (PPTP):
- Click on your network icon in the system tray;
- Select the BTGuard VPN item from the menu;
- Click the “Connect” button in the BTGuard section;
Method #2 (OpenVPN):
Note: This method will only work if you’ve followed the steps in the previous section and the BTGuard configuration files have been effectively placed on your computer in OpenVPN’s appropriate folder.
- Launch the OpenVPN client;
- Right-click the OpenVPN icon in your system tray;
- Choose your preferred server from the list;
- Hit the “Connect” button of your preferred server;
- When prompted, type your username and password in the corresponding fields;
- Set the app to remember your password or not, based on your preferences;
- Click “OK”;
That’s it! You should be connected to BTGuard’s VPN service by using the OpenVPN method.
Now you might find that the OpenVPN method is more convenient since you have a dedicated graphical user interface that lets you connect, disconnect, reconnect at your own leisure, but the truth is that PPTP is way easier to set up.
Note: when using OpenVPN, if you want to switch servers, please make sure that you’ve properly disconnected from the original server between attempting to connect to the second one. We’ve noticed that OpenVPN does connect you to the second server, but in reality, you’re still connected to the first one.
Well, if you’re a curious cat like I am, you probably went ahead and checked the connection log for the OpenVPN method and if you have a keen eye as I do, you probably spotted the cipher issues, as well. Well, it’s kind of hard to miss, since it’s written all in bright red.
Although the official website brags about 256-bit encryption, you can see that the BF-CBC cipher initializes with a less than 128 bit (64 bit) key. This is a major issue since, as you can see in the connection log by yourself, it creates a perfect environment for certain attacks.
Although our security tests are yet to come, this 64-bit key puts a huge kink in BTGuard’s proverbial armor, so we’re a bit biased towards how the results will come out.
No configurable settings
As one would expect from a VPN service that doesn’t come with its own, standalone, dedicated app and relies on third-parties like OpenVPN to run its business, there’s literally nothing you can do in the “Settings” department.
I mean sure, you can customize some of OpenVPN’s parameters, but it’s not like it will affect BTGuard’s functionality, since the only things you can change are some startup settings, log appendages, notifications, configuration file extensions, script timeouts and log files locations.
Yes, that also means that there are no kill switches that can help you sever a connection, no split tunneling, no leak protection toggles, no IPv6 disablers, no obfuscated traffic, just the basic server connection functionality is in play.
List of servers
Well, you know what they say: two’s company, three’s a crowd. So it’s not exactly a list of servers we’re going to describe in this section, as it’s more a “crowd”. Get it? Because there are only three servers that you can connect to.
Actually, the OpenVPN provides you with five servers, but one of them just connects you to the “fastest” server available, another uses the TCP protocol, and then there are the three location-bound servers.
That being said and as mentioned a few while ago, BTGuard only lets you connect to three locations around the globe: Canada, Netherlands, and Singapore. That’s it.
This is literally the narrowest list of servers that we’ve encountered throughout our VPN-discovery journey and we can only hope that their security is top-notch (which we know isn’t) or that they offer eye-watering connection speeds.
As you’d expect, BTGuard is unable to unblock any entertainment services such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Spotify and/or Amazon Prime Video and that’s probably a direct consequence of having such a narrow server park.
It’s a well-known fact that Netflix, as well as other major players in the entertainment league, have “waged war” against VPN services and their customers, determined to stop them dead in their tracks and prevent them from accessing restricted content.
One way to counteract this geo-restriction would be frequently cycling between a large number of IP addresses and use obfuscation so that those services don’t pick up on the fact that you’re using a VPN, but that’s not possible when using BTGuard, since their server list is narrow and they don’t even provide you with obfuscated traffic support.
TOR and torrenting support
We’re just going to say that from the top: don’t even consider using TOR in conjunction with BTGuard. One good reason for you not to use TOR over a VPN would be that your speed would drop to a very low value (almost unusable), and another, better reason would be that you could land on a malicious node, which could pass unencrypted traffic (easy to monitor). Given BTGuard’s cipher situation, that would even make things worse.
Torrenting, on the other hand, works. It’d be ridiculous if it didn’t since BTGuard even has it in its name (i.e. BitTorrent Guard). However, please make sure that you’re already connected to the VPN before firing up your torrent client. More so, please understand that it’s your responsibility to only engage in lawful operations and refrain yourself from shifting to the dark side. I mean piracy. Don’t do it. BTGuard doesn’t advocate piracy, and neither do we.
Notice that we didn’t say whether it works good or not, just stated that it works. Spoiler alert: you’ll see why in the speed tests section of our review.
BTGuard doesn’t come with live chat support if you were wondering, although you can get in touch with them by using their ticket submission system, which also lets you keep track of your tickets and their replies.
You can also access a knowledge base section on the support section of the BTGuard website, but you should know that it only holds 31 articles, most of which are actually FAQs. I mean brief questions and answers and not articles per se.
We’ve tried getting in touch with their support crew regarding the cipher issue, but to this moment we haven’t received a reply. Also, the “News” section of the support center feels a little deserted, since the newest (I mean latest) article has been added 6 years ago, in March 2013.
Security check-up results
It’s time to see what BTGuard is really made of. That’s right, this is where the security tests take place, so we’re going to connect to the Canada server and run our battery of security tests as described in this article.
The reason why we prefer using a single server is that we’re looking for any minor inconveniences as well, such as location inconsistencies, which would be a major indicator that BTGuard relies on virtual servers instead of physical, dedicated ones. That being said, let’s begin.
Conclusion: after running our security tests, we have noticed that our tunnel connection leaked DNS requests, which is a major issue with any VPN service, let alone BTGuard.
We’re actually surprised that 2 out of 3 tests didn’t pick the DNS requests, but if any single one of our tests could pick our ISP and location, it’s more than enough to put a huge red flag on BTGuard’s VPN services.
Speed test results
Coming up next, the speed test section, which is supposed to be fun, but we couldn’t even get excited about it knowing that there are only three servers to perform these check-ups on.
Yes, we have to do these tests on several servers, since we’re aiming to find out whether or not location affects speed and if it does, we want to know how much it does. The speed results are as follows:
|Location||Internet Speed||Latency||Upload Speed||Downloaded||Uploaded|
|Canada||6.1 Mbps||158 ms||161 ms||48 Mbps||20 MB||200 MB|
|Netherlands||28 Mbps||36 ms||44 ms||45 Mbps||20 MB||190 MB|
|Singapore||31 Mbps||40 ms||48 ms||41 Mbps||40 MB||180 MB|
Well, it seems that we couldn’t detect any location inconsistency during our security tests, but we did, however, noticed that connecting to the Singapore server actually lead us to the Netherlands one. The speed values were rather disappointing, but we didn’t expect any better. Again, we remind you to disconnect from the old server when switching locations.
BTGuard provides you with two types of services that you can sign up for: one of them enables you to anonymize only your torrent connection and the other one is connection-wide, as it covers every net service that you could be using. The price plans are as follows:
|Plan type||BitTorrent Proxy||VPN|
|Features||Simple download & install
No records of usage stored
256-bit AES encryption
Unlimited download speeds, 10Gbit servers
VPN includes OpenVPN & PPTP
Servers in Canada, Europe and Asia
We already know that the 256-bit AES encryption part is not exactly accurate, as we’ve detected 64-bit keys being used. The “Servers in Canada, Europe and Asia” claim is also misleading, as you can’t exactly connect to servers all around the continents mentioned there, but only in specific countries.
Finally, the price seems to be way too high for what BTGuard has in store for you. Even the discounts are not that generous, compared to other similar VPN services.
To wrap it up, BTGuard is a VPN service that’s oriented towards torrent users, given that it’s also in the very name of the service (BTGuard stands for BitTorrent Guard, so go figure). The service has been developed and supported by Netcrawled LLC, a company based in Canada.
Unfortunately, Canada is a member of the infamous 5 Eyes Alliance, so there’s a risk that if BTGuard collects personal data from you, this information might fall into the hands of intelligence agencies from other member nations.
The terms of service documentation seems to have a very straightforward “take it or leave it” tone, since on numerous occasions Netcrawled LLC have specified that they’re not responsible for anything that can go wrong, and if they claim to be responsible for some things, this responsibility is very limited. What perplexed us most was that they admitted that their website might hold false, inaccurate (misleading, perhaps?) information and that they aren’t making any commitment to correcting these inaccuracies.
Moving on, BTGuard doesn’t come with a standalone client, which forces you to choose between configuring a PPTP connection on your computer manually or rely on third-party solutions such as OpenVPN to be able to establish a BTGuard tunnel connection.
More so, the OpenVPN connection has some cipher issues, as no 256-bit AES cipher was to be found, but a 64-bit encryption key was used instead. The connection log and our screenshots speak for themselves in this matter. The server network is extremely limited, as you can only connect to three locations: Canada, Netherlands, and Singapore, but actually, the Singapore server still points to the Netherlands, so we have our reasons to doubt that.
Our security tests have shown that BTGuard leaks DNS requests, which is a major issue for a VPN provider that sells itself as a service that provides you with anonymous connections while torrenting. Speed tests weren’t so bright either, considering that there were only three servers to perform our assessments on.
BTGuard isn’t able to unblock various entertainment services such as Netflix or Hulu but can handle torrenting clients. However, our experience with torrenting was disappointing due to the fact that the connection speed was very low.
The customer support section on the BTGuard website only has a ticket submission system, which we’re not exactly sure works since we’ve submitted a ticket days ago and still have received no answer. Although there’s a knowledgebase available in the support center, most of the articles are actually brief question/answer combos and the latest additions of the “News” section holds entries with dates as old as 6 years ago.
Last, but not least, the prices for the BTGuard services seem exaggerated, considering that they are extremely poor compared to other similar ones. The discounts aren’t even generous for the larger plans and most of the features are misleading:
- “Simple download & install” – No. You have to manually configure everything and/or rely on a third-party app.
- “256-bit AES encryption” – No. We’ve picked up 64-bit encryption keys being used, which facilitate some dangerous attacks.
- “Servers in Canada, Europe and Asia” – That one’s theoretically correct, but there’s only ONE server/location per continent, and even that’s not entirely true since the Singapore server actually connects you to the Netherlands one.
Do we recommend BTGuard? Absolutely not. For what it’s worth, you can receive way better service from other VPNs (far better security, way greater speeds, and more) at even lower prices.
+ Works with torrenting; (3)
– Canada is a member of the 5 Eyes Alliances; (0)
– Terms of service are not user-oriented at all; (0)
– Can’t unblock Netflix; (0)
– Low speeds; (0)
– Flaws in security; (0)
– Using 64-bit encryption instead of 256-bit AES (as advertised); (0)
– High price for what it has to offer; (1)
BTGuard receives a 0.55/5 rating.