During our search for the best VPN provider that can help you protect your privacy by pulling a veil over your online identity, we stumbled upon IPVanish. IPVanish has a pretty suggestive name, don’t you think?
In order to promote their services, most services only have VPN in their names, but this one also gives you a bit of the inside scoop: it can make your IP vanish! Well, not really, but it can hide it pretty well if the need arises.
As you probably already know, we’re going to crack down on this VPN service provider in our quest of trying to understand how this service works, the way it can benefit you whenever you don’t want your tracks to be visible and exactly how reliable it is.
We shall begin with a little background information regarding the company and a bunch of its policy details. No VPN can escape our radar (nor do they need to if they’re clean) since whenever it comes to providing you with 100% transparent content, we try to do our best to deliver top-tier reviews and analysis results.
Okay, first things first, IPVanish has been developed by Mudhook Media Inc. back in 2012. Mudhook Media Inc. was a subsidiary of Highwinds Network Group in Orlando, Florida. In the beginning, IPVanish only provided its end users with as little as 32 servers and a Windows-based client, but after a while, it grew to include routers, Linux, Chromebook, Windows Mobile, Fire TV, Android, iOS and macOS among the devices that supported it.
Another fact worth mentioning is that the VPN has ownership and full control over a private optical fiber network of tier-1 servers. It also owns around 90% of its POPs (Points Of Presence), where they control the hardware and data center.
In the eye of the storm
A while ago, IPVanish stirred a bit of controversy when, during a trial, the company handed over a bunch of personal information about one of their customers, who was suspected of sharing child pornography on an IRC network.
The information they shared with the Homeland Security (HSI) back in 2016 enabled the law enforcers to identify their culprit since the data they leaked was pretty extensive. It consisted of the customer’s real name, his email address, the details of its account and VPN subscription, his real IP address, but also date and time logs for his online activity (whenever he connected and disconnected to and from the IRC network).
However, in 2017, the company, along with the service it provided (IPVanish) were acquired by StackPath. Lance Crosby (founder and CEO) claimed that, in 2017, at the time of the acquisition, there were no logs or logging systems available and there wasn’t any intention (whether previous, current or future) to start recording them. The story was pretty popular on the “r/privacy” subreddit on Reddit, where the court documents were posted for redditors to see.
Zero logging policy?
It is crystal clear that after an event like the one described above, users are more cautious when it comes to trusting the “Zero Logs” policy that IPVanish boasts directly on their homepage. Almost everyone takes it with a grain of salt.
Users should take into consideration the fact that when the leak occurred, the company and the VPN service had a different owner. However, at the moment of the leak, IPVanish had the same zero-logging policy that they insisted they were using, so that might be a reason why new users look at IPVanish with a raised eyebrow (aka suspiciously).
IPVanish: a few words
Okay, we covered the company information as we promised, gave you a little inside scoop and dug a little deeper to find that scandal back in 2016 with the data leaking incident, but now it’s time to focus on what matters the most: the actual VPN service.
You might be familiar with this from our other reviews, but VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and we’re going to keep reminding you that so that you won’t forget. IPVanish is a provider for such a private network, one that aims to cover your tracks whenever you go online and don’t want the whole wide world to know what you’re up to since most of your browsing activity can be made public at any time of day or night.
The concept of vanishing IP is strongly related to the fact that while you’re connected to this VPN, your online activity, along with any personal information, is craftily hidden behind a veil, which is the server that routes all your traffic. In this process, your real IP address is replaced by the IP address of the server you’re connected to, while any incoming and outgoing traffic is encrypted, to pull on the security knot even tighter.
Unlike many other popular VPN services, IPVanish doesn’t provide you with extensions for any browsers you might use, which might be a bit inconvenient. However, they cover pretty much all the devices that you might think of, so that’s a plus.
Encryption: how it’s made
We’ve learned that every VPN or, generally speaking, every data protection tool, must provide the end user with means of encryption. What does encryption help you with? Imagine that someone, somehow, gets a hold of your traffic data while you’re using the VPN, but instead of seeing actual information, they see scrambled bits of data that can’t be decoded unless they had the cipher.
The encryption that IPVanish provides you with is based on the OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec technologies, but you could also use PPTP or L2TP protocols if you wanted to. To be even more specific, IPVanish makes use of the AES (128- or 256-bit) specs, using the SHA-256 algorithm for authenticating and the RSA-2048 one for handshakes.
You can install and use IPVanish on up to 5 devices at the same time. That’s not a bad number, considering that other premium VPN services provide its users with 3 simultaneously supported devices, which is almost half the number of devices supported by IPVanish.
Bad news for a bunch of countries
Although the VPN service aims to help users both erase their tracks whenever they go online and also unlock a wide variety of services that are otherwise unavailable, IPVanish isn’t entirely accessible to just anyone.
The company claims that since they are based in the United States, they are forbidden to do business with certain countries. These are Burma/Myanmar, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. More so, even they have no embargo with the following countries, it appears that they are banning IPVanish’s services: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, China, and Kazakhstan.
However, it’s a laudable effort that they attempt to help any potential user from these countries (the second set of countries, the one that blocks their services) by providing them with a simple guide to bypass these limitations, which can be found here.
Retrieving the IPVanish installation package to your computer can be accomplished in a quick, effortless manner by purchasing a subscription plan, then simply navigating to the “Apps” category from anywhere on their website. The category is at the top of the page, so it’s really easy to see and even easier to access.
If you’re accessing this link from a Windows computer, you can click the “Download” button immediately after landing on the “Apps” page, since that will trigger the download and let you retrieve the setup package to your computer in a moment’s notice.
However, if you need to install IPVanish on another device, simply select it from the list of devices. Doing this will result in one of the following scenarios: you will see a direct download button that will send the setup package to your device, you will receive a Google Play or an App Store link, receive an APK (for Android devices) and even access a quick tutorial for some devices (routers, Linux computers).
Fortunately, these packages can be easily accessed even if you didn’t create an IPVanish account beforehand or purchased a subscription plan. However, actually using these applications on your devices to their fullest extent require you to register an account and purchase a plan.
Getting to the dashboard
After creating an account on the IPVanish website and logging into it, you’ll be briefly redirected to the landing page of your profile, which is commonly known as the dashboard. Generally, you can perform various useful actions in dashboards, mainly account-related operations, and IPVanish is no exception.
You can notice that the dashboard has been split into several categories, which can be easily accessed by clicking the designated buttons. If you want to jump to the Windows download section of the app quickly from your dashboard, you can do so by navigating to the “Server List” tab and clicking the “IPVanish VPN Software” hyperlink in the “Windows” category.
Installation and setup
After setting it up on your PC, you need to provide it with a username and a password so that you can use its services. There’s nothing much to set up, you fire it up and you’re presented with a list of countries, cities, and servers to connect to, but you can also view your almost precise location (we could) and IP address. This adds to the effect that you really need to protect your data, since others might be able to access these data bits, as well.
In the main window, you can also see a bunch of additional information, such as how much time has passed since you’ve connected to the VPN, the protocol you’re using, the server you’re connected to, data up and also data down values. After you choose your favorite country/city/server combo, just press the “Connect” button and you’re ready to go.
Effectively using the app
We’ve covered a bunch of steps upstairs, but the more important ones were left for a bit later. First, we need to discuss the basics of the application. Its interface is rather plain and unattractive, but what it lacks in terms of being visually appealing it makes it up for with intuitive features.
The main controls are organized in the right part of the screen, while the ones that let you navigate through the app freely are available in the left part of the window. The center, larger portion of the screen has a graph where you can quickly preview the values of your download and upload speeds as well as a real-time graph of these two parameters.
Now that we know how to do basic stuff like moving around the menus and what they let us access, let’s move on to the next chapter of our journey: connecting to a server and remaining secure.
Pick a server or let IPVanish pick one for you
As you log into the app and reach its main window, you’ll notice that the combo menus are set to a region already. Ours was set to the United States, maybe yours is different, but then again, it is the company’s birth location, after all, right?
The other two menus are not entirely blank, but they point to “Best City” and “Best Server.” Therefore, the app is able to point out the fastest and most reliable servers so that you don’t waste a lot of time searching for the perfect combo.
If you’re more sophisticated than letting a machine decide what’s best for your privacy, you can go ahead and browse the whole list of servers. While the number doesn’t even get close to what other premium services are offering for this price, the app provides you, after all, with a decent amount of servers that you can connect to (currently 1095 servers that cover more than 40000 IP addresses in more than 60 countries).
The United States has most of the servers (523), Europe takes second place on this list with 426 servers, while Oceania has only 65 of them, Central and South America 20 servers, Asia 47 and Africa and the Middle East come in last with only 14 servers.
List of servers:
Albania – Tirana (4)
Austria – Vienna (6)
Belgium – Brussels (3)
Bulgaria – Sofia (4)
Croatia – Zagreb (4)
Cyprus – Larnarca (2)
Czech Republic – Prague (14)
Denmark – Copenhagen (18)
Estonia – Narva (2)
Finland – Helsinki (7)
France – Paris (26)
Germany – Frankfurt (57)
Greece – Athens (2)
Hungary – Budapest (3)
Iceland – Reykjavik
Ireland – Dublin (2)
Italy – Milan (16)
Latvia – Riga (2)
Luxembourg – Luxembourg (3)
Moldova – Chisinau (2)
Netherlands – Amsterdam (98)
Norway – Kjevik (8)
Norway – Oslo (2)
Poland – Warsaw (5)
Portugal – Lisbon (6)
Romania – Bucharest (2)
Serbia – Belgrade (5)
Slovakia – Bratislava (3)
Slovenia – Ljubljana (2)
Spain – Madrid (6)
Spain – Valencia (4)
Sweden – Stockholm (14)
Switzerland – Zurich (5)
Ukraine – Kiev (4)
U.K. – Glasgow (2)
U.K. – London (89)
U.K. – Manchester (9)
U.K. – Nottingham
Canada – Montreal (3)
Canada – Toronto (20)
Canada – Vancouver (12)
Costa Rica – San Jose
Mexico – Guadalajara (5)
U.S. – Ashburn, VA (71)
U.S – Atlanta, GA (67)
U.S – Boston, MA (12)
U.S – Chicago, IL (69)
U.S – Cleveland, OH (6)
U.S – Dallas, TX (48)
U.S – Denver, CO (5)
U.S – Las Vegas, NV (10)
U.S – Los Angeles, CA (56)
U.S – Miami, FL (18)
U.S – Milwaukee, WI (4)
U.S – New York, NY (57)
U.S – Phoenix, AZ (22)
U.S – Salt Lake City, UT (11)
U.S – San Jose, CA (20)
U.S – Seattle, WA (41)
U.S – St. Louis, MO (3)
Brazil – Sao Paulo (10)
Brazil – Rio De Janeiro (8)
Australia – Melbourne (9)
Australia – Sydney (59)
New Zealand – Auckland (4)
Hong Kong (25)
India – New Delhi (2)
Japan – Tokyo (6)
Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur (2)
Philippines – Manila (6)
Singapore – Singapore (18)
South Korea – Seoul (2)
Israel – Tel Aviv (2)
South Africa – Johannesburg (7)
United Arab Emirates – Dubai
We kinda simplified your work here, but the application also comes with an effective filter that sorts its results by country, response time, load and whether you added them to your favorite list or not. You can apply the filter, perform a manual search in the dedicated field on the right, and access some additional features such as an interactive map that depicts the servers in the world.
Intuitive configuration section
If you feel like tinkering with the application’s settings, you can easily do so by navigating to the “Settings” tab, which is divided into three separate sections: “General,” “Connection” and “Diagnostics.”
The sections speak for themselves, as the first one lets you adjust a bunch of generic options, such as setting IPVanish to launch on system startup and also hide it in the system tray if you want to. Other generic settings include disabling the automatic connection, connecting to a favorite server, choosing what the close button does (it quits the app, hides it to tray or prompts you with a dialog), opting in for betas and getting support.
The second tab lets you choose the active protocol from the combo menu, auto reconnecting, enabling the kill switch, and toggling IPv6 and DNS leak protection options (which, in our opinion, should be enabled by default and not letting the users toggle them on and off freely). You can also choose the OpenVPN port, obfuscate OpenVPN traffic and install or repair the OpenVPN driver.
Diagnostics is just a fancy word for a log since all this section does is recording your in-app activity, timestamps it and lets you view it in an accessible manner. This can be really useful whenever you want to troubleshoot certain errors or issues that might arise.
Testing this service
As always, we’ve run some tests to decide whether this tool really protects you by erasing your online tracks or just leaves a trail of breadcrumbs for other malevolent users to pick up on and identify you without efforts.
We also wanted to check how many services does this VPN provider unlock since some users are interested in unlocking region-blocked contents rather than covering their online tracks. We were pleasantly surprised to notice that every service we tested against was unlocked. These services included Facebook, Twitter, various YouTube premium services, some Google features, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Spotify, Telegram, Kik, Snapchat, Instagram and vk.com.
The results of the tests
First things first, we’re gonna test against various security flaws that might expose our identity and other precious data to prying eyes. After connecting to a random server, we ran a security check on IPX and this is what we found out:
IP geolocation showed us in a different location than the server we connected to. But that must be a good thing, right? The service couldn’t even locate the actual VPN server properly, so that’s definitely a plus. The IP address was definitely the one the app assigned to us, it was identical. The ISP and domain name were also spoofed and the IP type was seen as Non-Residential (Data Center). No argument here, IPVanish is good at covering your geolocation and IP data.
Of course, the IPv6 info was not available since the spoofer option was activated. DNS data placed us in the same location as before, so there are no DNS leaks you need to worry about while using this VPN. WebRTC information was also kept private, Flash IP data was not available to read (a good thing).
The only pieces of information that the IPX tool could accurately detect about us were our battery information, whether it’s charging or not, the user agent along with a bunch of generic data and browser information such as cookie status, resolution and CPU cores, which are generic enough not to be relevant in an official or unofficial investigation. Bottom line, IPVanish is secure and really hides sensitive data. You can see the results here.
Speed-wise, we only picked a single server for each region, since we considered it would be enough in order to determine the speed values for servers located at various distances. The results were very good, actually, as you can see in the following list and also the attached screenshots:
- USA server: 24 Mb/s
- Europe server: 70 Mb/s
- Asia server: 2.8 Mb/s
- Australia server: 4.9 Mb/s
- Africa server: 1.2 Mb/s
- South America server: 3.2 Mb/s
These are the results of the tests we ran for security leaks and also the speed values for various servers around the world. The results are very promising and they show that IPVanish can be both reliables in terms of online security and also fast, compared to other similar services. As in most of the cases, the servers which were nearest to us were faster, but in this case, we were surprised to notice that the US servers also provided high-speed values.
Plans and payment methods
If you’re the type of user who wants to test the product before buying it, you’re out of luck, since IPVanish doesn’t provide you with a trial period or even a demo. Long story short, if you want it, you buy it.
The reason behind this is that, according to IPVanish, if you use a free VPN, you’re actually the product that’s being sold, as the company behind free VPN services find various ways to monetize their services, by either selling your data, manipulating traffic or bombarding you with advertisements.
While this is a valid point that we strongly agree with, there’s no reason not to offer at least a few days of trial to new users, but that’s not up to us. Even so, they’re offering a 7-day money-back guarantee, so if you’re not satisfied with their services, you can request a refund with no big efforts.
You can choose from three different plans, depending on your needs, as follows:
- 1 Month for 7.5$/month instead of 11.99$
- 3 Months for 6.75$/month, so you pay 20.24$ instead of 35.97$
- 1 Year for 4.87$/month, so you pay 58.49$ instead of 143.88$
Note that these are most probably temporary deals that might expire after a while.
As for the payment methods, you can choose to acquire their services by paying with your credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, JCB, Visa Electron and Delta) or process a payment through your PayPal account.
Considering everything that’s been presented to you in this review, IPVanish is a pretty reliable VPN provider when it comes to protecting your data against leaking, while also providing you with high-speed values even for servers that are far away from your physical location.
It doesn’t come with a trial period but offers you a 7-day money-back guarantee in case you change your mind. The subscription plans are rather accessible money-wise and the payment can be processed by credit card and PayPal.
+ No security leaks during testing; (5)
+ High-speed servers; (4)
+ Accessible subscription plans; (4)
+ Quite wide server network; (4)
– Has a history of logging real IP addresses along with other critical data; (1)
IPVanish receives a 3.16/5 rating.