Disclosure: Top10VPN is editorially independent. We may earn commissions if you buy a VPN through links on our site.

NordVPN Cybersec (Threat Protection): Does It Block Ads?

Headshot of Top10VPN.com Site Editor Callum Tennent

Callum Tennent oversees how we test and review VPN services. He's a member of the IAPP, and his VPN advice has featured in Forbes and the Internet Society. Read full bio

Our Verdict

NordVPN does not block ads by itself, but it does include an ad blocking feature called CyberSec. CyberSec blocks in-game mobile ads and some browser ads, but doesn’t block ads on YouTube, Spotify, or Twitch. However, it does protect you from DDoS attacks, phishing scams, and other cybersecurity threats.

CyberSec (now part of NordVPN’s Threat Protection) is a security feature built into NordVPN that blocks ads and websites known to host malware.

Every time you visit a website, CyberSec checks a blacklist of dangerous domains and decides whether to block the page in real-time.

We’ve conducted a series of in-depth tests to determine whether NordVPN actually blocks ads and malware. In this guide, we reveal the full results of our tests.

SUMMARY: Does NordVPN CyberSec Block Ads?

We found that NordVPN’s CyberSec feature only blocks some ads. Instead of blocking actual ad content, it works by blocking individual domains, which means it doesn’t work well on embedded adverts or video ads on YouTube and Twitch.

Overall, we don’t recommend purchasing NordVPN just for CyberSec. But, if you’re already subscribed to NordVPN, we recommend using CyberSec and uBlock Origin at the same time to block as many ads as possible.

CyberSec’s main drawback is that it doesn’t block all ads, especially on streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch. We also found that it occasionally blocks downloads from Google Drive.

In February 2022, NordVPN launched Threat Protection — an antivirus and ad blocking security feature that will replace CyberSec.

A Beta version of Threat Protection is available on macOS, iPhone, and Android. Once Threat Protection is fully rolled out, we will update this guide with test results of how well Threat Protection blocks ads, trackers and malware.

EXPERT ADVICE: In addition to CyberSec (Threat Protection), NordVPN’s full application offers advanced security features such as a VPN kill switch, Double VPN, and IP/DNS leak protection. Enhance your internet security by trying NordVPN risk-free.

What Is NordVPN CyberSec and How Does It Work?

NordVPN CyberSec is an inbuilt technology solution designed to block dangerous websites, prevent botnet control, and skip annoying ads.

CyberSec is available on macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux. You can also enable CyberSec in NordVPN’s Chrome extension, and after installing NordVPN on a router.

Like many VPN ad blockers, CyberSec works by DNS filtering your online traffic. Its DNS server is configured to block access to domains or hostnames which are known to serve ads and host malware by blocking the website’s IP address.

Two windows are open. One shows NordVPN is connected to a server in the UK. The other is a Google Chrome window with a website blocked.

When CyberSec blocks ads, it looks like a network error.

If a web page passes the check, you’ll be able to view it. If it fails, CyberSec will block the URL and you’ll see a connection error message, like the one shown above.

DNS filtering is an effective way to block dangerous websites if the blacklist of domains is kept up to date. But it isn’t the most effective type of ad content blocker. This is because it doesn’t always remove the ad content from the web page you are browsing.

In comparison, browser extensions like uBlock Origin analyze the code on a web page. If it matches code that it knows is used to create an ad, the browser extension will hide the ad content on the web page itself so you’ll never even see it.

In the images below, we’ll show you how CyberSec blocks ad domains but doesn’t block ad content from showing on the page:

  1. With NordVPN CyberSec off, YouTube showed us an in-feed ad.

    Image shows two windows. One shows an ad on YouTube. Another is NordVPN, it is not connected to a server.

    YouTube showed us an in-feed ad from Three.

  2. After connecting to CyberSec, we were still shown in-feed ad content.

    Overlay windows with YouTube showing an ad and NordVPN connected to the UK.

    We’re shown an ad from Hello Fresh on YouTube.

  3. However, when we clicked on the ad, CyberSec successfully blocked the web page.

    After enabling CyberSec and connecting to a server, NordVPN blocks ad hostnames.

    NordVPN detected and refused connection to www.googleadvervices.com.

Does NordVPN Work to Block Ads?

We used two methods to test CyberSec’s ability to block ads.

First, we tested CyberSec’s ad blocking performance with an online ad block test. Then we manually tested CyberSec on the following websites and services:

  • Crunchyroll
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Spotify
  • Twitch
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

We found that CyberSec blocked 60% of ad hostnames. On the surface, this is a good performance, but it failed to block some Google and Amazon ads.

We’re disappointed to see it failed to block 83% of social trackers. These tools are often planted by social media companies to gather your data and develop personalized ads.

Bar chart showing CyberSec's ad blocking performance.

CyberSec only blocked 60% of ad hostnames and less than half of trackers.

In our VPN Ad Blocker tests, PIA VPN’s MACE outperformed CyberSec, blocking over 90% of ads and trackers in total.

Below are some tables with more information about which domains and trackers CyberSec blocked:

Ad Hostnames: 60% Blocked

Analytics Trackers: 33% Blocked

 

Social Trackers: 17% Blocked

 

We also found that NordVPN CyberSec blocks some, but not all, ads on YouTube, Spotify, Twitch, social media sites, and Crunchyroll. To completely block ads on these platforms, we recommend using a free ad blocker browser extension such as uBlock Origin.

CyberSec doesn’t work well to block ads on streaming services and social media:

  • Crunchyroll: CyberSec failed to block any ads on Crunchyroll.
  • Social media: CyberSec doesn’t block Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter ads on iPhone or Android. It doesn’t block these ads on desktop either.
  • Spotify: CyberSec doesn’t block all ads on Spotify. Connecting to VPN servers in some regions (such as Georgia and the Czech Republic) reduces the amount of third-party ads, but you will still receive Spotify’s ads for its premium subscription.
  • Twitch: CyberSec blocks pre-roll ads on Twitch but doesn’t block mid-roll ads. If this is a priority for you, there are much more effective ways to block Twitch ads.
  • YouTube: CyberSec failed to block in-stream ads, in-feed video ads, and masthead ads on YouTube. It only consistently blocked bumper ads.

Should You Use CyberSec?

Our NordVPN review found the VPN to be one of the fastest, safest, and overall best VPN services available.

Not only does NordVPN keep zero logs, it’s also affordable and user-friendly. But NordVPN doesn’t specialize in ad blocking and malware protection.

It’s not worth purchasing NordVPN just for CyberSec. There are free ad blocker browser extensions that block ad content and social trackers more effectively.

However, if you’re already subscribed to NordVPN, we still recommend enabling Threat Protection and CyberSec on your devices for an extra layer of protection. If you do experience any bugs, you can quickly disable it.

Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of using CyberSec:

PROS CONS
  • Easy to turn on and off
  • Protects you from DDoS attacks
  • Doesn’t slow down your internet connection
  • Blocks all mobile gaming ads
  • Doesn’t block a majority of ads on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
  • Sometimes blocks legitimate websites by accident
  • At risk from new cybersecurity threats

There’s better antivirus software out there, too. CyberSec has been known to cause issues for users by accidentally blocking sites like Google and Twitter.

CyberSec has also occasionally stopped users from sending and receiving emails in Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Apple Mail, and downloading files from Google Drive.

How to Use NordVPN CyberSec to Block Ads

Enabling CyberSec is easy. You just need to adjust the settings in NordVPN before connecting to a server.

Here is a video showing you how to turn on CyberSec in NordVPN’s app:

Here’s how to turn on CyberSec in NordVPN:

  1. Open the NordVPN app.​​
  2. Click Preferences on desktop, or the cog icon on mobile.
  3. Under General or Tools on mobile, set the toggle next to CyberSec to the On position.
  4. Connect to a server of your choice.

How to Turn Off Ad Blocking in NordVPN

Follow these simple steps to disable CyberSec in NordVPN:

  1. Make sure you are not connected to a server.
  2. Locate the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  3. Click Preferences, or the cog icon on mobile.
  4. Under General or Tools on mobile, set the toggle next to CyberSec to the Off position.
A screenshot with CyberSec turned off. The toggle is on the left side.

The settings window should look like this once CyberSec is turned off.

NordVPN CyberSec Not Working? Troubleshooting Tips

If CyberSec isn’t working on your device, follow these simple instructions to fix it:

1. Delete and re-download the NordVPN app

There are two versions of NordVPN’s Android app. One is available on the Google Play Store, and the other can be downloaded as an .APK from NordVPN’s website.

Only the version on NordVPN’s website has ad blocking. NordVPN removed the feature from the Google Play Store version to comply with Google’s policies.

To delete and reinstall NordVPN with CyberSec, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store app.​​
  2. In the top right-hand corner, tap on your profile icon.
  3. Tap Manage apps and devices > Manage.
  4. Tap on NordVPN > Uninstall.
  5. Open your web browser and browse to www.nordvpn.com
  6. Don’t tap on Download App. Instead, tap on the VPN APK version link.
NordVPN's page to download its APK file

Download NordVPN’s APK Android app to enable CyberSec’s ad blocking feature.

If you are not an Android user then you don’t need to worry about this extra process. Simply uninstall then reinstall the NordVPN app on whatever device you’re using.

2. Contact NordVPN customer support

If you’re having trouble accessing a legitimate website such as Google or Twitter using NordVPN, try connecting to a different VPN server.

If it’s still not working, the website might be mistakenly blacklisted by CyberSec. In this case, contact NordVPN’s customer support team and ask them to unblock the domains that shouldn’t be blacklisted.

In our experience NordVPN offers high quality 24/7 customer support. On NordVPN’s website, you can open the little support bubble and tap Chat to talk to a customer support agent at any time.

NordVPN CyberSec vs Other Ad Blocking Solutions

To help you find the best solution, we’ve compared NordVPN’s ad blocking feature to other popular ad blocking extensions including uBlock Origin, Adblock, and AdGuard Lite.

We’ve recorded how well each tool blocked ad hostnames, analytics, error trackers, and social trackers in our tests. On its own, CyberSec scored well for ad blocking – but uBlock Origin scored 23% higher.

Use the table below to compare the differences between CyberSec and other popular ad blockers:

CyberSec works by checking the website URL you are trying to access against a blacklist of domains it knows to host ads or malware. It can’t remove the ad content from a page.

In comparison, AdGuard Lite and uBlock Origin use a set of lists, not only for domains, but also lists for “technology”. This means they can look for strings in a page which match known code and then remove them.

Overall, uBlock Origin and AdGuard are much more comprehensive in their ability to remove ads on a web page. They can actually remove the ad content itself from the page, and not just block the website domains like CyberSec does.

Here’s a more detailed table showing ad blocking performance of each tool:

Should you use NordVPN CyberSec and an ad blocker together?

We tested a combination of CyberSec and ad blocker extensions to see if there were any benefits. We found that using CyberSec and uBlock Origin together gave us almost complete protection against hostnames with ads, social trackers, and social analytics.

For this reason, we recommend combining CyberSec and an ad blocking extension for three purposes:

  1. Block ad content on web pages. Combining CyberSec and uBlock Origin is the most effective way to block ads on streaming platforms, mobile devices, and online articles. This is because you use both DNS filtering and content filtering to ensure your page is completely ad-free.​​
  2. Block third-party trackers. Social media companies like Facebook and Twitter place trackers on their own and other websites to collect data on what you do online. Once this is collected, they can present you with personalized ads.
  3. Unaffected connection speeds. Our results showed that your connection speeds will not be affected whatsoever when using both CyberSec and an ad blocker extension

However, there are a couple of disadvantages to using CyberSec and a browser extension together.

With CyberSec enabled, you will still experience the occasional blocked legitimate website or action. For example, we found that CyberSec stopped us from downloading a file from Google Drive.

You’ll also lose the ability to whitelist certain domains in the browser ad blocker because CyberSec will still block the domain.

Nevertheless, these inconveniences can be easily fixed by disabling CyberSec when needed.

What Is NordVPN Threat Protection?

In February 2022, NordVPN launched Threat Protection on macOS. It’s also available on Android and iOS apps, but it’s not on Windows yet.

Screenshot of NordVPN's Threat Protection feature on iOS.

NordVPN’s new feature, Threat Protection, is available on iOS.

With this new feature, NordVPN has branched out of the VPN industry and entered the antivirus market. It offers an additional layer of security against cyber threats by blocking trackers and infected files – as well as malicious ads and dangerous websites, which were already included in CyberSec. When the feature is enabled, it will work even when you are not connected to a VPN server.

Threat protection mitigates three types of threats:

  1. Web trackers and malicious ads. Threat Protection’s predecessor, CyberSec, wasn’t the best at fending off ads, social media and other website trackers. So we’re interested to see how well Threat Protection performs in comparison.
  2. Harmful websites. Again, CyberSec also provided protection against phishing scams and dangerous websites by blocking the website’s IP address. In contrast, Threat Protection shows a warning prompt before the website has loaded so you can exit the site before your data is collected.
  3. Infected files. When enabled, Threat protection will scan any files you download for malware. If there are no threats detected, the file will be labeled as safe. If malware is detected, the file will be immediately deleted.

How to enable NordVPN Threat Protection

Follow these four simple steps to turn on Threat Protection:

  1. Open the NordVPN app.
  2. Click on the little shield icon on the left side of your screen.
  3. Screenshot of NordVPN's macOS app. Three sections are highlighted: a shield in the top left of the homepage, the toggle next to Threat Protection in Settings, and Settings button in Threat Protection.

    Enable and customize Threat Protection from its Preferences Tab.

  4. Toggle the Threat Protection switch on.
  5. Tap Settings and toggle on or off what you’d like to block.
  6. In Settings under Threat Protection, you can choose to enable ad block, tracker block, malware block and more.

    You can toggle features on and off in Threat Protection to customize your experience.

About the Author


  • Headshot of Top10VPN.com Site Editor Callum Tennent

    Callum Tennent

    Callum Tennent oversees how we test and review VPN services. He's a member of the IAPP, and his VPN advice has featured in Forbes and the Internet Society. Read full bio