Put simply, Opera VPN is not a safe or secure service to use. It doesn’t use a tunneling protocol, its logging policy is overly invasive, and it isn't strictly a real VPN. We don’t recommend you use Opera VPN to protect yourself online.
A trustworthy VPN is crucial for any privacy-conscious internet user to ensure a safe and secure browsing experience. However, using an unsafe VPN can often be more dangerous than not using a VPN at all.
Opera is the world’s eighth most popular web browser. Developed by Norwegian-based Opera Software, it claims to include a free browser-based VPN service that lets you surf the internet with enhanced privacy.
In this guide, we’ll review Opera VPN to see whether it is a safe and trustworthy service to use.
What Is Opera VPN?
Opera is a web browser available for Windows, Linux, MacOS, Android, and iOS. Unlike most mainstream browsers, it claims to include a free, built-in virtual private network (VPN), known as Opera VPN.
To activate the VPN feature, you simply need to open up the browser and navigate to Menu > Settings > Advanced > Privacy & Security > VPN and enable it.
An icon will appear in the address bar displaying your VPN status.
The app lets you choose between three vague server locations in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. There’s no further information on where exactly these servers are located or how many servers are in the Opera VPN network.
NOTE: When we tested Opera VPN’s servers, there appeared to be at least six different locations: Argentina, Germany, Singapore, Sweden, USA, and Vietnam. Often, however, the country we connected to did not fit the continental location we had selected. For example, we were assigned a Vietnamese IP address after choosing the ‘Americas’ virtual location.
When you use Opera VPN, only traffic from within the Opera browser will go through the VPN servers. Anything you do outside the browser – such as torrenting or watching Netflix via another app – will remain unprotected.
Opera’s service is therefore not actually a full VPN. A proper VPN encrypts and protects all of your internet activity, not just what is sent within the browser.
Instead, Opera VPN is more of a secure proxy service that spoofs your location by hiding your IP address. It’s better than most proxies because it actually encrypts your data, but it won’t offer the same kind of comprehensive privacy and protection that a full VPN offers.
So, given that Opera VPN isn’t really a full VPN, is it still safe to use?
Is Opera VPN Safe to Use?
Opera VPN uses the ultra-secure AES-256 encryption cipher to protect all of the data sent through the browser. This is the same encryption standard used by the US government, and is generally considered to be unbreakable.
Unfortunately, Opera VPN doesn’t pair this with a VPN tunneling protocol, such as OpenVPN or WireGuard, which you would expect from a typical VPN service.
Instead, Opera just uses the standard TLS encryption protocol that is used on all HTTPS websites. This means that, even though it encrypts your data in a secure way, Opera VPN provides no additional security over a free plugin like HTTPS Everywhere.
Also, because it is a browser-based service, it does not encrypt any traffic from outside of the Opera Browser, such as a separate email application.
EXPERT TIP:For this reason, Opera VPN is not safe for torrenting or P2P activity. It’s important to keep your IP address hidden when torrenting, but Opera VPN only protects traffic from within the Opera browser. Because downloading torrent files takes place in external applications such as uTorrent or BitTorrent, Opera VPN will leave you exposed.
To learn more about VPN encryption, read our beginner’s guide to how VPNs work.
No Data Leaks but Very Few Security Features
There is very little information given about Opera’s security features, probably because they are practically non-existent.
Not only does Opera VPN lack VPN protocols, it also lacks important security features such as Perfect Forward Secrecy and a VPN kill switch, which is designed to safeguard your privacy when the VPN connection drops. Opera VPN also appears to provide little-to-no protection against IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.
Despite this, our latest round of testing showed absolutely no data leaks while using Opera VPN. This is a good start, but we’d like to see Opera introduce a range of additional security features to make sure it remains leak-free.
Opera’s Invasive Logging Policy
Opera makes money by selling your data onto third parties.
This isn’t unusual, since many free online services make money by selling user information to third-party advertisers. However, using a VPN service is all about protecting your privacy, so Opera’s logging policy conflicts with that completely.
This would be encouraging if true, but we would like to see the service undergo an independent audit before we can trust such a claim. Other VPN services have submitted to these third-party audits, and it is an excellent way to build trust within the VPN community.
Based In a ‘Nine-Eyes’ Jurisdiction
For maximum privacy and safety, a VPN’s jurisdiction is also worth considering. Depending on where the service provider is located, it could be subject to extreme surveillance or data retention laws.
Opera Software is based in Norway, which is a member of the Nine Eyes intelligence sharing agreement. This means its jurisdiction is less than ideal when it comes to preserving internet privacy and anonymity.
That said, given Opera’s intrusive logging policy and minimal array of security features, its jurisdiction is somewhat of a moot point anyway. There are plenty of safer alternatives to Opera VPN which are still based in non-privacy-friendly jurisdictions.
NOTE: As with all VPNs, it is perfectly legal to use Opera VPN in most countries around the world. However, illegal online activity is still illegal, even when you’re using a VPN.
You Can Sign Up for Opera VPN Anonymously
One privacy advantage Opera VPN does offer is that you do not need to sign up to use the service. This means there is no need to provide your email address, payment information, or any other personally identifiable information before you start using it.
This is better than the vast majority of VPNs, where you need to create an account or register payment information in order to use the product.
Nonetheless, Opera’s intrusive logging policy means the browser collects information that can easily be used to trace your activity back to you. In reality, the lack of a sign-up process is a convenience and a small anonymity boost, but nothing more.
Opera VPN Pros & Cons
Anonymous sign-up process
No data leaks
Unblocks Netflix US
Very easy to use
Intrusive logging policy
Small server network
Only secures browser-based traffic
No VPN protocol
Doesn’t use a kill switch
Dangerous jurisdiction (Nine Eyes)
Use Opera VPN if:
You simply want to spoof your location so that you can watch US Netflix from abroad, and don’t care about the Opera browser tracking your activity.
Don’t use Opera VPN if:
You’re concerned about your privacy online. There are much safer and more privacy-focused VPNs available.
You’re trying to hide your IP address for activity taking place outside of the Opera browser. For example, P2P traffic from a separate torrent client or checking your email in a dedicated application.
The Bottom Line
Opera VPN is not a safe or trustworthy service. It is not even a full VPN, despite its misleading claims.
That said, Opera VPN does come with some positives. Aside from being free, it is easy to use, offers unlimited bandwidth, and can even works to unblock American Netflix. It also doesn’t throttle your connection speeds like many free VPNs do.
If you’re at all interested in protecting your privacy and safety, though, Opera VPN is not a good choice. It lacks critical security controls, makes money by logging your information, and doesn’t use an established VPN tunneling protocol.
Only information sent from within your browser window is protected by the VPN. This means you’re forced to use the Opera browser when you’re looking to spoof your location.