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VPNBook Review: Slow and Insecure

Last updated: July 8, 2020 By Dean Chester

VPNBook reviewVPNBook is probably the freest of all free VPN services.

What do we know about it?

  • VPNBook is free.
  • VPNBook is unpretentious. 
  • VPNBook does not offer applications for any platform.
  • VPNBook keeps logs.

I have thoroughly tested this provider and I can confidently say what it is. Which of its statements are true and which are false, what it is good for and what is not.

I even tried to install it on Android and iOS. And I did it! But…

But first things first. Use quick navigation for convenience:

I am going to start my VPNBook review with its general features.


VPNBook Features

VPNBook is very different from other providers. It does not offer either applications or paid subscriptions. The only thing it provides is the configurations to set up the VPN manually. 

What do these settings include? 

  • PPTP VPN protocol
  • OpenVPN VPN protocol
  • 2 ports for TCP
  • 2 ports for UDP
  • 8 locations in 5 countries (US, CA, DE, FR, PL)
  • torrenting is allowed in DE and PL

VPNBook recommends using a free open source client from OpenVPN. It is easy to find and download. But in order to set it up, you need some computer and smartphone knowledge.

What does VPNBook promise?

Before the tests, I was skeptical about some of their statements. Looking ahead, I would say that I was right about a lot of things. But everything has its time. So, VPNBook claims:

  • High speed and high performance
  • No Restrictions
  • Strongest Encryption
  • No Bandwidth Limits
  • Smart CDN Fallback

100% Anonymity

  • Netflix support for the US and UK

In the next chapter, I will tell what is true and what is not. In the meantime, I want to mention one more VPNBook feature.

Although the provider claims that it is 100% free, it offers services that are very similar to a premium plan of other VPNs. Here is their “Dedicated IP” plan:

Dedicated IP plan

This plan, disguised as a separate service, has everything that paid providers usually offer. The plan includes the possibility of 5 simultaneous connections for devices, P2P, and a 30-day money-back guarantee. But is it worth paying $ 7.95 per month if there are good VPNs for $ 2- $ 3 per month that have applications for all platforms and a much more developed infrastructure?

That is up to you.


VPNBook pros

I divided the results of my research into 2 parts -  VPNBook pros and its cons. I will provide expertly proven information on the real characteristics and opportunities of this provider. In the end, I will give my conclusion on the cases, which worth using VPNBook and which are not, and provide some excellent alternatives.


1. Free VPN and nothing more

I have already mentioned that VPNBook, unlike many other VPNs, does not offer any applications. It only provides VPN servers and configurations for them for third-party OpenVPN “basic” software or Windows OS capabilities. And without its own applications, there can be no additional options that are often superfluous.

I like VPNBook for its “primitiveness” and simplicity. I clearly know what a Virtual Private Network can do and I know how it should work. And I do not have to reflect on how to change a protocol or port, except as provided by the application of a provider.

I have chosen two locations for the tests. The first one is in Europe (DE), the second is in America (the US).

DE and US locations for the research

 Two configuration files for testing

As you can see from the screenshot, a P2P is allowed for one of them (and they promise us a good speed), but this protocol is prohibited for the second location.

In the process of setting up the OpenVPN application for a PC, I found out that the manual is slightly inconsistent with how it has to be. This fact may confuse an inexperienced user.

The manual states that the configuration files downloaded from VPNBook should be unpacked in the C: \ Program Files \ OpenVPN \ config folder. This information is outdated:

Wrong way for launch VPNBook configuration files on a PC

It will be correct to unpack them in C: \ Users \ {username} \ OpenVPN \ Config, where {username} is the user name in Windows.

After installing the configuration files, I easily enabled the VPN via the icon on the desktop:

VPNBook Enable

No further actions are required. 

Everything is quite simple.

For mobile devices, the import of the configuration is carried out through the application and does not cause any difficulties.


2. Compatibility with various devices

For the same reason, you can configure the VPN on almost any device that allows a popular OpenVPN protocol.

Manual settings are particularly essential for routers. And there are not so many free VPNs that would offer such settings.

In addition to routers, I managed to configure and test the VPN from VPNBook on Android and iOS. Other devices are configured in the same way.


3. Reliability of Client; no IP leaks

Due to the use of reliable, well-tested software from OpenVPN, VPNBook on the client side is stable.

The tests on IP leaks that may reveal your real location did not show any threats:

IP Leaks Test is Passed

My real IP remained hidden in all problem areas.

For three days, while I was testing it on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, I did not have any complaints about the work of its client part. Although it has nothing to do with VPNBook. The truth is that I have a lot of complaints about the server side, but I will tell more about it in the VPNBook Cons.


4. No advertising

I want to note the complete absence of advertising when using VPNBook.

Most free VPNs use their software to display ads. Frequently, it is annoying and distracting.

VPNBook officially makes money from users` donations and providing a “Dedicated IP” plan. It simply cannot embed advertising in a third-party application.

As for user interaction, using the services of the provider is quite comfortable. Smartphone users can feel it better - the battery charge is spent much slower, unlike VPN applications with built-in ads.

Unfortunately, these are all the advantages I managed to notice when writing this review.

There are many more cons. Speed problems, connection errors, inability to open sites are not a complete list of VPNBook problems.


VPNBook Cons

1. Low speed and connection errors

This is the biggest VPNBook disadvantage. It is the most noticeable and the most unpleasant. Besides that, this VPN almost paralyze the Internet, the fastest UDP connection is not always available as well.

The normal speed of the present-day home internet is 20-50 Mbit/s. Even a mobile 3G can provide such speed, not to mention a high-speed 4G.

But what is going on if you use VPNBook? I tested the speed using the Speedtest by Ookla:

speed test US location

The extremely low speed on the US location

US: 1.28Mbit / s. This is too bad!

DE: 7.81Mbit / s but the upload speed is only 0.18 Mbit / s. This is also very slow!

And that is not all. When repeatedly trying (several hours later) to connect via UDP protocol to the DE server, the connection error took place:

The Error when connecting via UDP to the DE server

I managed to connect to the US server via UDP but my web browser refused to open sites:

Sites did not open on the US server via UDP protocol

I had to use the slower TCP protocol in order to connect to VPNBook.

So, low speed combined with connectivity issues makes using VPNbook too problematic.


2. No applications

The simplicity and transparency of VPNBook, due to the complete lack of applications, sometimes may be considered as an advantage. It is good for users who have some experience with a file system. 

But if we consider a VPN not as a scientific technology, but as a convenient and easy way to mask IP and protect data, then it is a serious disadvantage.

The fact that you have to download, unpack or copy something against the background of other VPNs that are activated by 1-2 clicks makes using VPNBook quite difficult. Moreover, in some cases, it may not be possible to configure the VPN, if an archive decompressor is not installed on the device or there are restrictions in the user rights.

If you do not want to carry out all these actions, I recommend free Windscribe VPN, which has similar characteristics (low speed and a poor choice of countries)


3. Unconfirmed features

I checked all the statements that VPNBook had published on the official website. Thus, I bring to your attention the report on each of the items.


Built for Performance: disproved

Built for Performance

The first statement, which the provider repeats many times, is that it has its own hardware, and the servers optimized for better speed and usability.

But if this were true, the speed would not be less than 1 Mbit /s, sites would open at any time, and establishing a connection via UDP would not be difficult.


No Restrictions: Confirmed

No Restrictions

That is true, VPNBook allows you to bypass some average restrictions. IP spoofing and the absence of its leaks ensure that any site you visit will spot only your virtual address and your real IP is hidden.

But if you encounter a professionally-made blocking and a visited site runs your IP through public databases, then it will not be difficult to identify the fact of using a VPN. For example, judging by the date of creating the configuration file for the US server, its IP has not been changing for 6 years. Hence, there is a 100% chance it got into all possible VPNs databases.

Date of configuration files creating 06.05.2013

The date of configuration files creating is 06.05.2013

VPNBook is not suitable for use in China for that reason and because there is no traffic obfuscation. You can find the VPNs for China review on VPN-Review.


Strongest Encryption: Confirmed

Strongest Encryption

Indeed, VPNBook uses unbreakable AES-128 and AES-256 encryption. In its configuration files there is such a setting:

Enabled AES-128-CBC

The US government chose AES-128 to protect sensitive data. Moreover, a more powerful version of AES-256 is used for the protection of classified data. That's pretty self-explanatory.


No Bandwidth Limits: formally yes, but ...

No Bandwidth Limits

VPNBook declares this statement is true not only for bandwidth but also for unlimited speed. That is supposed to allow you to watch movies and download torrents. But is it really? Do that bandwidth and the real speed of their servers allow you to get good quality video and acceptable torrents download time (even though only 2 servers in PL and DE are available for torrenting)?

It is not difficult to calculate that if you download a 4Gb (HD quality) movie, then at 7 Mbit/s it will take about 1.5 hours. There are some faster VPNs which can be used for free. 

So, VPNBook does not limit bandwidth or speed but it does not provide them as well.


Smart CDN Fallback: denied

Smart CDN Fallback

In order to confirm or deny this suggestion, you have to figure out the sights of CDN. First of all, the IP address of the VPN server, which is registered in the configuration will be different from that one at the output of the CDN (the final IP address).

So, what is written in the configuration file?

IP in configuration

51.68.180.4

I connect to this server and see what the IP verification service will identify:

The IP is the same as that one in the configuration

Also 51.68.180.4

So, I do not see that the traffic went on some route. It comes to the VPN server 51.68.180.4 and leaves it. I do not see any signs of CDN.


100% Anonymity: refuted

VPNBook is not anonymous

VPNBook declares that you're 100% anonymous! The only things we record are your location and when you used the VPN.

I cannot call it anonymity. Anonymous use of a VPN is not only the absence of registration but also the absence of logs. And if a provider with has such a poorly developed technical base stores personal data, then this is a direct threat to privacy. It can be hacked or subjected to force structure pressure. It will not be difficult to match the IP address on a site that you secretly visit with the IP and the visit time from the VPN server logs.

I hasten to add that a few years ago, the hacker group Anonymous published on Google+ a statement that the VPNBook logs were used in the investigation against them. So do they remove logs after 7 days as promised? I do not believe so.


Netflix is available on the US and UK locations: refuted

VPNBook Netflix

Can Netflix be at a speed of 1.28Mbit / s? This is ridiculous! But I denied this statement without even looking at speed. It took the US Netflix page more than a minute to load. I downloaded it, played a movie, but ...

VPNBook failed Netflix tests

Netflix identified that I used an unblocker and I couldn’t start watching the movie even in the worst quality.

Moreover, the provider does not provide any UK location. Perhaps it existed before, but the page of their site was not updated. This also demonstrates their inattention to details.

So, there are a lot of loud statements on the VPNBook website but most of them turned out to be an exaggeration. Moreover, there is out of date information that may confuse a user.


5. Dirty IP Addresses

Another important drawback I wish to focus your attention on is dirty IPs. I mean that their addresses are in the databases of malicious IPs.

Here are just some examples (the information taken from abuseipdb.com):

The list of criminal acts committed through the US server

The list of criminal acts committed through the US server

the list of criminal acts committed from the DE server

The list of criminal acts committed through the DE server

Do you want to go online using this IP? It is up to you.


Information about the owner

The VPNBook is supposedly based in Romania. But there is no information about who owns the domain of the official site, whether it is a company or an individual. 


Conclusion

VPNBook is not really honest, but a free VPN provider. It is slow and difficult to install, but it does not have unnecessary functionality and due to its simplicity it can be used on various devices with OpenVPN protocol.

So, what is VPNBook good for and what is not?

It is good for:

Unlocking websites without video content for users who have some experience with a file system and applications setup including non-standard devices.

It is not good for:

The list of tasks for which the VPN cannot be recommended is much wider:

  • If you need good privacy
  • Torrenting
  • Video streaming
  • Online gaming (due to low speed)
  • Bypassing censorship in countries with VPN blocking
VPN-Review - Chief Editor
Dean Chester
Cybersecurity and online privacy expert and researcher. He's been published on OpenVPN, EC-Council Blog, DevSecOps, AT-T Business, SAP Community, etc. Dean has been testing VPNs for 8 years.

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2 user reviews for VPNBook Review: Slow and Insecure

shady AF

I really wouldn’t trust a free provider like this

What if...

Do you think that VPNBook (and other services similar to it) can be just a honeypot to lure in people who are prone to, let’s put it this way, disregard the law to some extent, whether by performing hacking or DDoS attacks or by simply watching/downloading copyrighted content?