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NordVPN Review

 93.632% 
(245 User reviews)
NordVPN screenshot
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio

Ask Simon about NordVPN

Our Verdict

NordVPN is a superb VPN that excels in every area. It comes with fast speeds, secure encryption, and it allows torrenting on almost all of its 5,000+ servers. It also unblocks fifteen Netflix libraries, and its apps are easy-to-use. Overall, NordVPN is one of the best VPNs and offers terrific value.

NordVPN is one of the fastest, safest, and most reliable VPN services we’ve reviewed. It comes with encryption of the highest standard, an independently verified no-logs policy, and a wealth of advanced features including split-tunneling, double VPN, and effective leak protection.

It’s also one of the most popular VPNs in the world, surpassing 14 million users since its launch in 2012. NordVPN’s popularity is evident by the over 106,000 positive user reviews on the iOS App Store, and the almost 300,000 reviews on the Google Play Store.

NordVPN unblocks US Netflix, it works with Amazon Firestick, and it allows anonymous torrenting on many of its servers. The VPN has user-friendly, feature-packed apps that are ideal for both beginners and experienced users — all of which are available for just $3.71 per month on a two-year plan.

However, there are still areas it needs to improve. In October 2019, news of NordVPN’s server breach shook the VPN industry and put the service’s security into question. Although NordVPN has implemented many robust security measures since the incident, it’s still caused a slight loss of trust in the service.

In this NordVPN review, we’ll explain exactly how the VPN performed in our extensive tests for bypassing censorship, logging, connection speeds, and much more.

Compare NordVPN to its top rivals side-by-side.

NordVPN Pros & Cons

  1. Unblocks US Netflix, Hulu & more
  2. Very fast speeds across its server network
  3. Zero-Logs & no IP, DNS & WebRTC leaks
  4. Torrenting allowed on most servers
  5. Cheap price on long-term plans
  6. Good Firestick app for streaming
  1. Limited VPN protocols on Windows & Android apps
  2. Doesn't accept PayPal payments
  3. Small Finland server breach in 2018

NordVPN Key Summary

Data CapUnlimited
Speed93Mbps
Logging PolicyNo Logs
Data LeaksNo
JurisdictionPanama (Privacy Haven)
Servers5,394
IP Addresses5,394+
Countries59
US NetflixYes
TorrentingPermitted
Works in ChinaYes
Support24/7 Live Chat
Cheapest Price$3.71/mo over 24 Months
Official WebsiteNordVPN.com

Does NordVPN Work With Netflix?

Streaming & Torrenting

NordVPN is one of the best VPNs for Netflix. It always works, it has fast speeds, and it includes extensive support for Fire TV and Smart TVs. We were consistently able to stream geo-blocked content in HD without any buffering.

We tested over 100 US NordVPN servers and all of them worked with Netflix. We repeat these tests daily to make sure that the VPN is always capable of beating the site’s VPN blocks.

There are no dedicated streaming servers in the app because NordVPN’s SmartPlay does the hard work for you. You can choose any US server and it will unlock all your favorite Netflix content. This removes the complexity and means you can stay connected to a single server and unblock a range of streaming sites.

NordVPN American Netflix

NordVPN works reliably with US Netflix.

In total, we found that NordVPN unblocks 15 different Netflix libraries from around the world. The most popular of these include the UK, Japan, Brazil, India, and South Korea. All of these have different shows and movies, and we were able to watch each one in HD.

Our tests found that NordVPN works with these streaming services:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Disney+
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Prime Video
  • HBO Max

NordVPN also comes with a great app for Fire TV Stick that works reliably with the streaming platforms listed above. The only downside is that this app unblocks streaming libraries in four fewer countries than the desktop and mobile app, but the most popular libraries are still included. You can read more about the Fire TV Stick app later on in this review.

NordVPN is also one of few VPN services that include a Smart DNS proxy. Using this functionality, we were able to stream geo-blocked content on devices that are not VPN-compatible, like PS4 and Apple TV. You can find out how to use NordVPN on PS4 here.

SUMMARY

NordVPN is an excellent VPN for unblocking Netflix and other streaming sites. It has fast speeds for HD streaming, it always works with a wide range of libraries, and it includes apps for Fire TV Stick and support for PS4.

Is NordVPN Good for Torrenting?

NordVPN is a fantastic VPN for torrenting, with loads of fast servers optimized for P2P traffic, and plenty of advanced security features such as the VPN kill switch to keep your activity secure. NordVPN’s no-logs policy also makes it one of the safest VPNs for torrenting.

Not all the servers allow P2P traffic, but there’s still more than enough server choice to keep torrenters and Kodi streamers happy.

You can torrent while connected to almost every country on the server list. These optimized servers are super easy to find – they are listed under ‘Speciality Servers’ in the app settings – and work reliably.

Screenshot of NordVPN speciality servers, including P2P

However, P2P traffic is not permitted in the following countries:

  • Argentina
  • Costa Rica
  • Cyprus
  • Egypt
  • Georgia
  • Indonesia
  • Israel
  • Malaysia
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates

If you try to torrent while connected to a VPN server that doesn’t support P2P, the VPN app will simply re-route your traffic through a dedicated server located in either Canada or the Netherlands.

The apps detect P2P traffic using a “special algorithm” that NordVPN assured us didn’t affect its no-logs policy. This is likely a real-time analysis tool that detects traffic but doesn’t go on to store that data.

In addition to its P2P-friendly VPN service, NordVPN provides a SOCKS5 proxy which can be used alongside torrenting clients like BitTorrent. It’s faster than a VPN, but we still don’t recommend using it.

While this proxy spoofs your IP address, it won’t encrypt your traffic, which puts your online privacy and security at risk.

SUMMARY

NordVPN allows torrenting on over 85% of its vast server network. These servers are labeled as P2P-optimized in the app, and we measured a fast bitrate of 9.8 MiB/s in our tests. That said, torrenting is blocked on servers in fourteen countries, so there are more suitable VPNs available.

How Fast Is NordVPN?

Speed Test Results

All VPNs slow down your internet connection somewhat, but the best ones make it unnoticeable. Thankfully this is the case with NordVPN – we experienced average speed drops of just 2% on nearby servers.

In fact, our latest speed tests showed NordVPN to be one of the fastest VPNs available, both on local and international connections. NordVPN is incredibly reliable and more than powerful enough for HD streaming, smooth torrenting, and effortless browsing.

Local Speed Test Results

Before using NordVPN:

  1. DownloadMbps

    94

  2. UploadMbps

    99

  3. Pingms

    4

When connected to NordVPN:

  1. DownloadMbps

    93

  2. UploadMbps

    94

  3. Pingms

    8

We tested our internet speeds, first without a VPN and then again when connected to a NordVPN server in the UK. We used the results to calculate our average speed loss percentage.

  • Download speed without NordVPN: 94Mbps
  • Download speed with NordVPN: 92Mbps
  • Our download speed loss when NordVPN is running: 2%

As you can see, NordVPN’s short-distance speed test results were very impressive: just a 2% decrease in our download speeds and 5% in uploads – perfect for buffer-free Netflix streaming and fast torrenting downloads.

Ping times are also fairly low, so you should be able to play games with minimal lag, as long as you connect to a server close to your physical location.

Global Speed Test Results

Once we tested local speeds we looked into how well NordVPN performed over longer distances. These results were just as impressive, particularly connecting to a US-based server.

Here are the average download and upload speeds connecting out from the UK to NordVPN’s servers:

USA (New York):

  • Download: 74Mbps (21% slower)
  • Upload: 43Mbps (57% slower)

Germany (Berlin):

  • Download: 83Mbps (12% slower)
  • Upload: 94Mbps (5% slower)

Singapore:

  • Download: 63Mbps (33% slower)
  • Upload: 21Mbps (79% slower)

Australia (Sydney):

  • Download: 56Mbps (40% slower)
  • Upload: 29Mbps (71% slower)

Even in locations as far as Australia, NordVPN maintains incredibly fast speeds – well above what we typically see from other VPNs.

To test NordVPN’s speed performance across its server network, we also compared the speeds to different cities within the US – East Coast, West Coast, and Southern US. Here’s what we found:

  • New York (East): 74Mbps (download) & 43Mbps (upload)
  • Los Angeles (West): 62Mbps (download) & 36Mbps (upload)
  • Dallas (South): 76Mbps (download) & 28Mbps (upload)
  • Seattle (North-West): 67Mbps (download) & 47Mbps (upload)

NordVPN performed pretty consistently across all locations, which is great news for those who need city-specific access to content.

We make sure to test speeds often to give you the most up-to-date results as possible. NordVPN hasn’t always been this fast, but we are happy that its performance continues to go from strength to strength as its user base expands.

How Fast is NordVPN Compared to Other VPNs?

The graph below compares NordVPN’s internet speed loss to other popular VPNs while running on our in-house automated VPN speed testing tool.

Speed tests run automatically at six-hour intervals to account for speed fluctuations and anomalous results. Connection speeds are capped at 100Mbps to recreate a typical home internet connection.

VPN Speed Performance Comparison Chart

Use our Speed Test Tool to compare NordVPN’s speeds across different cities.

As the graph above shows, NordVPN has outperformed all other VPNs over the previous eight weeks.

In our latest short-distance test results, the VPN reached an impressive maximum speed of 92Mbps, while other top VPNs, like PIA and ExpressVPN, peaked at 86Mbps and 76Mbps respectively.

What’s most impressive is how fast and reliable NordVPN’s speeds were. Over the previous eight weeks, the VPN’s speeds never fell below 90Mbps, while ExpressVPN’s speed fell as low as 60Mbps.

However, what’s important for streaming geo-restricted content from elsewhere in the world is how a VPN performs on international connections — and NordVPN was also the fastest VPN when connecting to far-away locations.

When connecting to a London-based server from New York, our automated speed testing tool found NordVPN’s speed peaked at 84Mbps and fell to 77Mbps at its lowest point. This again beats out competitors like ExpressVPN, whose speeds ranged disappointingly from 72Mbps to 56Mbps.

NordVPN’s reliable performance means you won’t be left frustrated and confused by a sudden drop in your internet speeds. As a result, you can always trust NordVPN to keep your Netflix and Hulu streaming buffer-free.

SUMMARY

NordVPN is one of the fastest VPNs across every location. We recorded fast speeds on both nearby and far-away servers, making it a great choice for all web activities. Speed performance is even more impressive when using the NordLynx protocol, too.

NordVPN is a verified no-logs VPN

Logging & Jurisdiction

We examined NordVPN’s privacy policy in detail and found that it doesn’t log your traffic or store any VPN connection logs. This ensures that your personal data is kept safe, secure, and private.

In fact, NordVPN is one of only a few VPNs to have had its no-logs privacy policy audited by a third-party company. NordVPN has been audited twice by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), once in 2018 and again in 2020.

Both audits officially confirmed NordVPN’s no-log claims and verified that the VPN does not store the user’s IP addresses, connection logs, or browsing activity.

Screenshot of NordVPN's logging policy

NordVPN is an audited no-logs VPN service.

This makes NordVPN one of the most private and trusted VPNs available.

Some pieces of information are collected when you sign up for an account, though. These include your email address and payment data, which is a very common practice among VPN providers.

If you’d like to benefit from maximum security you can sign up with a new email address and pay via cryptocurrency.

Even if you don’t follow these extra privacy steps, NordVPN can’t link any of your online activities to you as an individual, nor can it disclose that information to any third parties. It would be able to prove that you have an account but not what you’ve done while using the VPN.

NordVPN also monitors server loads in order to maintain optimal performance and to recommend the most suitable servers to users. This information is aggregated, which means that figures like the total amount of data used and the servers connected to are combined from every single user. That means that it isn’t personally identifiable— many private VPNs do this.

Its Terms of Service state that: “To limit the number of simultaneous sessions of an active user, an algorithm keeps their username and the timestamp of the last session status while the session is active.”

We wanted to find out how that would affect user privacy, so we got in touch with NordVPN and a representative demonstrated how the algorithm works using the following diagram:

Screenshot of NordVPN's customer support reply about logging

The information is hashed using different dynamic components and temporarily held in separate and standalone databases around the world. This data is deleted 15 minutes after the session is terminated. This means that at no point can this information be traced back to an individual user.

While NordVPN’s efforts to keep users anonymous is one of its strongest attributes, we would like to see this section included in the company’s Privacy Policy rather than its Terms of Service.

Where Is NordVPN Based?

NordVPN operates under the legal jurisdiction of Panama, which is excellent for privacy

This puts the VPN beyond the reach of US and EU data retention lawsPanama does not require VPN companies to log or report any of their data, nor is it part of any agreements that compel it to share information with other countries. This makes Panama a ‘privacy haven’ and an overall great VPN jurisdiction.

Being based in Panama gives NordVPN the power to deny any data requests from foreign governments and law enforcement agencies, so there is absolutely no way that any of your online activity can be traced back to you.

NordSec, the umbrella name for all the various Nord products, also has offices in Cyprus, Lithuania, Panama, Switzerland, the UK, and the US, but that does not affect its jurisdiction.

NordVPN publishes a daily warrant canary to let users know that it hasn’t received any National Security Letters, gag orders, or warrants from any government organization, which goes to show that your personal data is in safe hands with this VPN service.

There’s one more thing you should know. In 2018 NordVPN was falsely accused by some other publications of not being headquartered in Panama.

When you purchased NordVPN in the past, the Seller was listed as CloudVPN INC. (a company registered in the US), and not Tefincom & Co S.A.

Screenshot of NordVPN payment receipt

NordVPN was wrongly accused of being based in the US.

But we found that CloudVPN INC. is a payment processor and NordVPN was simply using it to handle payments, similarly to how other VPN providers use payment processing companies to manage these types of transactions.

This has no bearing on NordVPN’s legal jurisdiction, so your personal data isn’t at the mercy of US data retention laws and surveillance practices.

All in all, NordVPN is a trustworthy, safe VPN with the ideal logging policy for private, anonymous browsing. We’d like to see more transparency regarding the leadership team behind the company, but this doesn’t take away from NordVPN’s proven commitment to privacy.

SUMMARY

NordVPN has both a verified no-logs privacy policy and it operates within a privacy-haven jurisdiction. This means that it is not possible to link any of your activity back to you, making NordVPN a great option if privacy is your number one concern.

How Much Is NordVPN?

Pricing & Deals

NordVPN Coupon

NordVPN Pricing Plan

NordVPN’s monthly plan costs $11.95, which is fairly expensive. However, the price drops dramatically by 68% to $3.71 per month on a two-year plan. This represents great value, especially since you can use NordVPN on as many as six different devices at once.

These huge discounts may seem too good to be true, but the only catch is that you have to pay the full cost of the plan upfront, which is common practice.

  1. Monthly

    US$11.95/mo

    Billed $11.95 every month
  2. 12 months

    US$4.92/mo

    Billed $59 every 12 months
    Save 24%
  3. 2 years

    US$3.71/mo

    Billed $89 every 2 years
    Save 68%

All plans have 30-day money-back guarantee

Payment & Refund Options

Credit CardYes
BitcoinYes
AliPayYes
UnionPayYes

NordVPN accepts several different payment options including:

  • Credit and debit cards
  • Direct debit
  • Amazon Pay
  • Bitcoin
  • Ethereum
  • Ripple
  • Alipay
  • UnionPay

Recently NordVPN stopped accepting PayPal so it could have more control over users’ purchasing experiences and to reduce security risks.

Instead, it now uses Adyen, which it claims offers a greater level of privacy for customers due to its self-contained nature.

Is There a Free Version of NordVPN?

Sadly, NordVPN does not offer a free version of its service.

NordVPN used to offer a free trial, but it stopped providing this in May 2019 due to “widespread abuse.”

Unlike TunnelBear, ProtonVPN, and other ‘freemium’ VPN services, NordVPN has never offered a fully free VPN service alongside its premium apps.

What NordVPN does offer in place of a free trial or free app is a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can cancel your subscription within 30 days by contacting the customer support team through live chat. You’ll have to go through a troubleshooting process first, but the refund should be processed within 10 business days.

Read our guide to find out how you can make the most of this refund guarantee.

Is NordVPN Safe?

Encryption & Security

Protocols

IKEv2/IPSec

OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)

WireGuard

Encryption

AES-256

Security

DNS Leak Blocking

First-party DNS

Supports TCP Port 443

VPN Kill Switch

WebRTC Leak Blocking

Advanced features

Double VPN

Smart DNS

SOCKS

TOR via VPN Server

Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.

One of the reasons we rate NordVPN so highly is due to its robust security offering. It offers top-of-the-range VPN protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2, robust encryption ciphers like AES-256 with perfect forward secrecy, and a wealth of useful extra features including:

  • VPN kill switch
  • Split tunneling
  • Double VPN
  • Onion over VPN
  • Ad-blocker
  • DNS leak protection
  • Obfuscation tools
  • WireGuard

That said, the service hasn’t always been as secure as it is now. As we’ve already explained, in March 2018 one of NordVPN’s servers was hacked, yet the company didn’t disclose the breach to users until October 2019.

The delayed reaction to the hack made us question how much we could trust NordVPN. But after talks with the team, we are confident that NordVPN is doing everything in its power to prevent future attacks and will ensure higher levels of transparency from now on.

Protocols & Encryption

NordVPN uses the best protocols and encryption ciphers available to protect your personal data from snoopers and hackers. The type of encryption depends on the app that you’re using, so we’ll break it down for you.

The MacOS, Windows, and Android apps use OpenVPN when downloaded directly from the website, which is our preferred VPN protocol.

OpenVPN provides the perfect blend of speed and security. NordVPN encrypts all OpenVPN traffic using the ‘unhackable’ AES-256-GCM cipher with a 2048-bit DH key. This unbeatable combination will keep your data super secure.

When downloaded from the App Store, the iOS and MacOS app also use OpenVPN, but they give you the additional option to connect through a newer protocol called IKEv2.

While IKEv2 doesn’t have the same reputation that OpenVPN has gained since its launch in 2001, it’s still considered secure and fast. IKEv2 is particularly good for mobile devices as it handles network changes (like going between WiFi hotspots) really well.

NordVPN’s IKEv2 connections use AES-256-GCM coupled with SHA2-384 and Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS). The use of PFS ensures that the VPN session keys won’t be compromised even if the private key is stolen.

It is possible to use IKEv2 with a Windows or Android device but it requires an extra download and some manual configuration. There are setup instructions available to help you through this more advanced setup on the website’s support pages.

NordVPN has also recently released a new technology called NordLynx that’s based on the WireGuard VPN protocol, which you can read more on in the section below.

All the above apps allow you to toggle between UDP and TCP, which are types of communication protocols used by OpenVPN. UDP is faster than TCP, but if you’re experiencing connection instability we recommend swapping over to TCP.

In summary, NordVPN’s level of encryption for both OpenVPN and IKEv2 is the best of the best  it will ensure that your data remains secure and private.

Here’s a quick summary of all the VPN protocols available and how secure they are:

Table of VPN encryption protocols and their security risks.

NordVPN also has a suite of extra security apps, all of which come under the NordSec banner. Nordlocker is a file encryption tool, NordPass is a password manager, and NordVPN Teams is its business VPN.

These are useful tools which show the company cares about digital privacy and security. They’re all totally separate from the NordVPN app as well, so you don’t have to worry about being signed up for anything you’re not interested in.

What is NordLynx?

NordLynx is a proprietary VPN tunneling protocol that’s built on top of WireGuard. NordVPN has added a few tweaks to make the protocol more private and secure.

The main benefit of NordLynx is that it is incredibly fast. In fact, we put it through our speed testing process and the results are very impressive.

From our base in London, UK, we connected to various locations around the world using both a UDP and NordLynx connection.

 You can view the full results in the table below:

As you can see, NordLynx is consistently faster than OpenVPN connections, particularly when connecting to a far-away server. This is particularly useful when streaming geo-restricted content from Netflix libraries and other streaming sites around the world. NordLynx will keep up with your baseline internet speed, so you can stream in HD and 4K.

But WireGuard is still very early into its development, so NordVPN has added some of its own technology to make the as-yet untrusted VPN protocol more secure. 

In short, NordLynx implements double NAT (Network Address Translation) on top of WireGuard, sidestepping a potential risk inherent in the protocol. Ultimately, NordLynx is more private than a pure WireGuard connection but retains the same level of incredible speed performance. 

The only disappointment is that NordVPN has not added these improvements to the open-sourced code, but have instead packaged it as a branded product — ultimately stifling WireGuard’s overall development. 

But while NordLynx and WireGuard are certainly exciting technologies, we still advise you to stick to UDP OpenVPN connections for now. Unlike WireGuard, OpenVPN has been improved over 18 years of open-source development, so it’s now well-established as the most secure VPN protocol.

Even so, we expect WireGuard to soon challenge OpenVPN as the best available VPN protocol. As a result, it’s encouraging seeing NordVPN embrace cutting-edge technologies and to give users more options.

Leak Test Results

When you use a VPN all your internet traffic should flow through a secure, encrypted VPN tunnel, but sometimes bits of personal data like your IP address can leak out. That’s why we completed our comprehensive testing process by checking for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks that can expose your private information.

When we tested NordVPN we were pleased to find no leaks whatsoever. It comes as no surprise because NordVPN runs its own DNS servers, and goes to great lengths to protect your online data.

Screenshot of browserleaks.com test results for NordVPN

NordVPN passed all of our leak tests.

This screenshot shows the results of our leak test when connected to NordVPN’s Windows app, but we found the MacOS, Android, and iOS apps to be equally robust.

Extra Security Features

One of the most important features the NordVPN apps come with is the VPN kill switch, which protects your IP address in the event of a connection drop.

This feature is available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Linux, and can be found within the app settings menu. For iOS, there’s no need to enable it as the kill switch is built into the app.

NordVPN actually provides two types of kill switch: an internet kill switch and an app kill switch. The internet kill switch works by blocking your device’s connection to the internet if the VPN connection drops suddenly, while the app kill switch – available for Windows and MacOS – allows you to apply to kill switch protection to selected apps only.

We recommend using the system-wide internet kill switch as it’s a safer option. You should have this enabled all the time, but it’s especially important if you’re in a high-censorship country or torrenting.

In addition to the basics, NordVPN also provides loads of extra security features.

Double VPN (also known as multi-hop) is an advanced tool that routes your internet traffic through two different servers and encrypts it twice to provide extra privacy. This will slow down your connection considerably, so only use it if you require super high levels of privacy.

You can also use Onion over VPN to route traffic securely through the Tor network, and obfuscated servers to mask VPN traffic in high-censorship countries like Turkey and Russia. Like Double VPN, Onion over VPN can be slow due to the multiple layers of encryption.

The Android app comes with split tunneling, so you can choose which apps to route inside and outside of the VPN tunnel. We don’t recommend using this unless an app requires access to local content.

There’s another NordVPN feature that we’ve found useful, and that’s Invisibility on LAN. This option will make you invisible on your local network. Be sure to disable this if you need to access devices on the local network, like wireless printers or a NAS.

What Is CyberSec?

All NordVPN subscriptions come bundled with the provider’s security software, named CyberSec. CyberSec is a comprehensive security tool that blocks ads, protects against malware, and prevents DDoS attacks.

A small number of other VPNs have integrated ad-blockers, and even fewer provide anti-malware and anti-tracking technology, so it’s great to see that NordVPN is offering these extras.

However, the effectiveness of CyberSec is under debate.

We know for sure that the ad-blocker works because we put it through our own tests. Take a look at this ad-filled web page before and after we enabled CyberSec:

NordVPN ad blocker CyberSec

Web page when CyberSec is switched off.

NordVPN ad blocker

Web page when CyberSec is switched on.

You can see that CyberSec effectively blocks annoying browser ads. Our tests also revealed that it removes ads on YouTube too.

In practice, however, NordVPN’s malware blocker isn’t as good as standalone anti-malware software. This is because it only blocks malicious sites that are already on the database, but in reality, new threats are popping up all the time.

According to AV-Test’s 2018 report, NordVPN’s app didn’t detect any of the 49 phishing or malware websites visited during its tests. Hotspot Shield, on the other hand, detected 15, while F-Secure Freedome picked up on 31.

As with all VPNs, you should not use NordVPN in place of effective anti-virus and anti-malware software, but it is certainly better than nothing.

NordVPN Vulnerability: Fixed

NordVPN is by no means perfect (no VPN is) and at Top10VPN we don’t just write reviews — we take an active role in encouraging VPN providers to continually improve upon their services. One way we do this is by flagging up potential security flaws with the VPN provider directly in order to keep our readers as safe as possible.

Recently, we discovered a potential vulnerability with NordVPN, so we got in touch with the team directly.

NordVPN provides instructions for MacOS and Windows manual configuration with the IKEv2 protocol, intended for users in high-censorship countries.

However, as part of this, it was recommending that users install a root CA certificate to their device, allowing full permissions, including SSL. This could have enabled a hacker to decrypt users’ traffic should they compromise NordVPN’s servers.

Clearly, these instructions needed changing to prevent users from exposing themselves to such a vulnerability, so we suggested some changes.

The team took our advice and improved its instructions for MacOS, removing the security issues.

Screenshot of NordVPN's updated instructions for MacOS IKEv2 manual set up

NordVPN changed its instructions to show permissions for IPSec only.

Unfortunately, NordVPN’s current infrastructure doesn’t allow for the same changes to be applied to the Windows manual setup. At least the instructions now come with the below warning message:

Screenshot of NordVPN's Windows IKEv2 manual setup disclaimer

We’re really pleased that NordVPN listened to our suggestions – it goes a long way to show that it really does care about the security of its systems and users.

NordVPN Server Hack

In October 2019 it emerged that NordVPN had been the subject of a hack.

The hacker managed to gain access to a NordVPN server, used as a VPN endpoint and based in Finland, which was hosted by third-party company Creanova.

Poorly-configured security on that individual server’s remote management system allowed the hacker to gain access to it. The hacker was then able to view the file system and, theoretically, retrieve any data stored on it.

NordVPN informs us that it was not aware of the incident until 13 April 2019, when it was shown a dark web post of the hackers responsible bragging about it, dated March 2018.

At this point it took that server, and all others hosted with Creanova, out of service, then ‘shredded’ (securely wiped all data) from the servers, and terminated its contract with Creanova.

NordVPN stresses three important facts about the hack:

  • No user credentials were affected. In other words, no one’s privacy or anonymity was compromised.
  • There are no signs that user traffic was monitored. No user-sensitive data could be read from the server itself, either, as NordVPN is a no-logs service. This means the server contained no information regarding user data or browsing activity.
  • The VPN tunnel was not compromised. This means that the service as a whole still worked as intended.

NordVPN claims that the hack was the fault of Creanova, as it had no idea that the method the hackers used to gain access was even a possibility. Creanova blames NordVPN, as it claims that the company was careless with its security.

None of that matters. While it may be NordVPN’s ultimate responsibility to rigorously check the security of its servers, what we believe matters most is how the company responded to the hack – and it responded badly.

We still believe that, from a technical standpoint, NordVPN is one of the most advanced, most private VPN services available. Hackers will always attempt things like this, and the important conclusion is that no users were harmed or compromised.

However, the huge delay from the hack being discovered to the public being informed is a big disappointment. We wouldn’t blame anyone for doubting NordVPN’s trustworthiness at the moment.

The provider has since made a number of concrete strides towards genuinely preventing another hack from taking place, and it’s certainly a case of ‘better late than never’.

Here’s how NordVPN has responded to the server hack:

  • Partnership with cybersecurity consulting firm VerSprite to carry out penetration tests and make NordVPN safer than ever before.
  • Bug bounty program to reward those that successfully identify vulnerabilities in Nord’s code.
  • Infrastructure security audit and vendor security assessment to prevent a similar breach occurring again.
  • A network of colocated servers exclusively owned by NordVPN to avoid any vulnerabilities caused by third-party providers.
  • Diskless RAM servers. This means that if someone seizes a server they are effectively seizing an empty piece of hardware with no user data or configuration files on it.

NordVPN is now, ironically, more technically secure than ever – but it will take some time for it to rebuild its reputation in our eyes. You can read more about these developments on the website’s blog.

If you’re still not convinced by NordVPN’s credentials, have a read of this independent security audit it commissioned to look into the Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android apps. The auditors did find several vulnerabilities, but NordVPN fixed them all.

SUMMARY

Despite a well-publicized server hack in 2018, NordVPN has one of the strongest security and encryption measures of any VPN. NordVPN uses the most secure VPN protocols, it operates a RAM-only server network, and it’s taken steps to wholly-own its server network. NordVPN can be trusted to keep your data private and secure.

NordVPN has over 5,000 VPN servers in 59 countries

Server Locations

Globe with a blue flag59Countries
Image of a city landscape90+Cities
Image of a pink marker5,394+IP Addresses

NordVPN provides 5,394 VPN servers with each server given a static IP address. This is among the highest number of servers provided by any VPN, which is impressive. The choice of 59 countries isn’t the widest server range we’ve seen, but it’s still enough to ensure there will be one located near you.

The server network covers popular locations like the UK, US, Australia, and Canada. It also serves less common countries such as Argentina, Albania, and Vietnam.

There’s plenty of choice in Europe, North and South America, and Asia-Pacific. While there are a few options in Africa and the Middle East, this region is lacking somewhat in comparison to NordVPN’s overall offering.

Screenshot of NordVPN Server List in App

And it doesn’t finish there. NordVPN gives its users city-level server choices in five countries:

  • Australia (five locations, 200+ servers)
  • Canada (three locations, 300+ servers)
  • Germany (two locations, 200+ servers)
  • India (two locations, 20+ servers)
  • The US (15 locations, 1,600+ servers)

This means that users in those countries can choose to connect to a server even closer to their exact location, which improves speed and allows you to access city or state-specific content.

NordVPN also provides a dedicated IP address service for those who need to stick with one IP address for prolonged periods of time. This comes at an extra cost, though, and it’s not as private as using the standard NordVPN IP addresses, which are shared by many users at one time.

Server Security

NordVPN’s network is wholly made up of physical, bare-metal servers — none of them are virtual. In addition, all the servers are physically located where you expect them to be. This is fairly uncommon, and many VPN providers choose to have at least a small percentage of virtual server locations – VPN servers that are not physically located in the country where their IP address is registered.

NordVPN is also working on building a network of self-owned servers. Owning servers is ideal for security and transparency and it will give the company full control over its physical infrastructure.

The recent hack proved that relying on a third-parties to provide VPN servers can lead to security vulnerabilities. Not many VPNs own all the servers in their network, so it’s very impressive that NordVPN is taking on this huge task to strengthen its service even more.

For the time being, NordVPN still rents some servers, but it is keeping data center providers to even higher standards than before to ensure that your personal data remains safe.

Does NordVPN Work in China?

Bypassing Censorship

Yes, our tests found that NordVPN is a reliable VPN for bypassing China’s strict censorship. While connected to NordVPN, we were able to stream YouTube videos, browse Instagram, and send messages using WhatsApp.

Unlike other publications, we manually test VPNs in China to guarantee that our claims are correct. To do this, we have developed a bespoke testing infrastructure specifically to test VPNs in China. We have remote PCs physically located in Shanghai, which allows us to make a real connection within China, anytime and anywhere.

Screenshot showing NordVPN unblocking YouTube in China

NordVPN unblocks websites in China.

For a more detailed look at how we test VPNs in China, read our research and testing methodology.

NordVPN provides a custom-built app for bypassing Chinese censorship, but there is a drawback. This app is only available for Windows and Android. Once you’ve installed this version of the app, make sure that NordLynx is enabled and CyberSec is disabled, then connect to a server using ‘Quick Connect’.

If you’re a Mac, iOS, or Linux user, you’ll have to manually configure the VPN on your device. NordVPN does provide some handy tutorials that aren’t difficult to follow, but it’s not ideal.

Sensibly, NordVPN does not have any servers in China but there are nearby servers located in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand. We recommend connecting to these servers for fast connections.

If you’re going to be connecting from China and other highly-censored countries regularly, though, you can read our recommendations for the best VPNs in China.

EXPERT TIP

The NordVPN website is blocked in China and cannot be accessed without a VPN. Make sure to download the NordVPN app before entering China.

Great apps for all devices & platforms

Platforms & Devices

Apps

Windows LogoWindows
Mac LogoMac
iOS LogoiOS
Android LogoAndroid
Linux LogoLinux
Router LogoRouter

NordVPN has a range of user-friendly native VPN apps for all major operating systems, including desktop, mobile, and TV devices. They’re all easy to set up and simple to use, with clean, intuitive interfaces.

You can buy a multi-device subscription directly from NordVPN’s website, where you’ll find download files for Microsoft Windows, MacOS, and Linux. You’ll also find links to the Google Play, App Store, and Amazon stores for Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire TV respectively.

Just be aware that you won’t benefit from NordVPN’s 30-day money-back guarantee if you buy a plan through the App Store.

In addition to the main platforms, you can manually install NordVPN on a NAS (Synology, Western Digital MyCloud, QNAP, and AsusTor).

What’s more, you can use NordVPN on up to six devices at the same time using just one VPN subscription. Although this is a generous allowance, you can extend your coverage further by installing the VPN on a router. This will protect everything connected to it while only counting as one device.

Games Consoles & Streaming Devices

AppleTV LogoAppleTV
Amazon Fire TV LogoAmazon Fire TV
Chromecast LogoChromecast
Nintendo LogoNintendo
PlayStation LogoPlayStation
Roku LogoRoku
Xbox LogoXbox

Many popular streaming devices, like Apple TV and PS4, don’t support VPN apps. Because of this, NordVPN includes Smart DNS functionality with all subscriptions. Simply put, Smart DNS allows you to geo-spoof your location without the need for third-party apps.

Despite the VPN’s website claiming the contrary, we found that NordVPN’s Smart DNS feature unblocks US Netflix with ease. We were also able to stream Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+ on our Apple TV.

An instructional image showing how to manually configure Smart DNS on an Apple TV, allowing you to stream US Netflix directly on the device.

NordVPN’s Smart DNS feature unblocks content on Apple TV.

Smart DNS is rare, even among top VPN providers, so we’re pleased to see that NordVPN has added it. That said, it’s not perfect.

The biggest drawback of Smart DNS is that it doesn’t encrypt traffic, leaving your activity on that device exposed. This is true of all Smart DNS services, though, and not unique to NordVPN. You’ll only want to use this feature when unblocking video, too, so encryption is not as necessary as highly-sensitive tasks.

Alternatively, if you want to secure all the devices in your home, you can install NordVPN at router-level. Not many routers are compatible, so we recommend buying one pre-flashed. This is a little expensive, but worth it if you want comprehensive coverage.

Amazon Fire TV Stick & Fire TV

NordVPN provides a fully-featured app for Amazon Fire TV Stick and Android TV, giving you the ability to unblock Netflix and Hulu directly on your TV.

The app is one of the most functional we’ve seen for Fire TV and Smart TVs. It includes split tunneling, protocol choice, a design tailored for TVs, and the kill switch is enabled by default.

You can also connect to NordVPN’s P2P-optimized servers from within the app, making it compatible with all types of Kodi add-ons.

NordVPN Firestick app

NordVPN’s Fire TV app is optimized for larger screens.

The only drawback is that the app is that it unblocks slightly fewer Netflix libraries than its mobile and desktop counterparts. The NordVPN Fire TV and Smart TV app stream 10 Netflix libraries compared to the usual 15. You still get access to popular libraries like Netflix US, UK, Canada, Japan, and France, though, so there’s still plenty of TV shows and movies available.

Overall, NordVPN is a great choice if you’re a regular Fire TV user. Its fast speeds will allow you to stream Netflix and Kodi without any buffering, and it includes a range of advanced security features that are rarely found on other VPN TV apps.

Browser Extensions

Chrome LogoChrome
Firefox LogoFirefox

NordVPN provides VPN browser extensions for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, which are very popular among NordVPN users. To date, the Chrome extension counts over 800,000 installs, while the Firefox add-on has over 80,000 users.

These VPN add-ons are similar to the desktop and mobile apps, but there’s one crucial difference: the browser extensions are proxies rather than true VPNs. This means they only encrypt your browser traffic, leaving email apps or torrenting clients unprotected. If privacy is your priority you should stick with the desktop application.

The browser extensions are useful for those seeking a lightweight alternative to a VPN, which may give them better speeds. You can access all the same countries that are available on the main apps, but you can’t drill down to city level or make use of NordVPN’s specialty servers.

It couldn’t be much easier to set up NordVPN’s browser extensions – just go to the Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox store and download the add-on to your browser.

Once you’ve logged on you can choose a server and connect.

Screenshot of NordVPN Chrome Extension

In terms of features, the Chrome and Firefox extensions are pretty much identical. They include an ad-blocker and in-built WebRTC leak blocker, which is an extremely useful bonus since a WebRTC leak gives away your true location. Both features can be found in the settings menu in the top right corner. Due to the way a browser extension works there’s no kill switch included.

VPN extensions for Safari, Edge or Opera browsers are not available yet.

Helpful 24/7 live chat support

Customer Service

24/7 Live chat supportYes
Online ResourcesYes

NordVPN can be directly contacted through an automated chatbot, 24/7 live chat, or via email. We found the representatives to be very helpful and resolved all of our issues promptly.

Live chat support can be initiated from the bottom-right corner of the support section of NordVPN’s website. You are initially greeted by the ‘NordVPN chatbot’, an automated chat agent that will attempt to answer your query.

We typically find chatbots, like Windscribe VPN’s Garry, to be unhelpful and a waste of time. However, after our tests, we discovered that the NordVPN automated agent is helpful and very good at interpreting what is being asked.

We tested the NordVPN chatbot many times to ensure it was on par with human support and it worked well without any major issues. The automated agent has a distinct advantage over human support, too, as all replies were instantaneous — so we were not left waiting for an answer to our questions.

NordVPN customer service

NordVPN’s automated chatbot is fast and helpful.

For those times when you do need human support, though, just type “get me a human” and you will be passed on immediately to a member of NordVPN’s customer service team.

Like most other top VPNs, NordVPN offers 24/7 live chat. We tested the live chat feature many times, asking questions about Hulu streaming, double VPN encryption, and about the company’s ownership. We were connected to a customer service agent within thirty seconds each time, which is very fast.

For all of our questions, the support agents responded quickly and were extremely helpful. Most of our VPN issues were fixed within a couple of minutes.

NordVPN live chat

NordVPN’s customer support agents are knowledgable and courteous.

For more detailed guides or technical information, NordVPN offers a large knowledge base with articles covering FAQs, general information, billing information, and connectivity troubleshooting.

Overall, NordVPN’s support is close to the very best. We were particularly impressed with how accessible its guides and information were, even when discussing complex technical topics. The automated chatbot is the best we’ve tested and its customer service agents are knowledgeable and quick to respond.

NordVPN Tutorials

How to Install

How to Connect to a Server with NordVPN

  1. How to Connect to a Server with NordVPN on Desktop

  2. How to Connect to a Server with NordVPN on Mobile

How to Change Settings in NordVPN

  1. How to Change Settings with NordVPN on Desktop

  2. How to Change Settings with NordVPN on Mobile

To install NordVPN, just download its apps directly from the website or relevant app store. The VPN also provides comprehensive VPN setup guides for whatever platform you’re using, as well as 24/7 live chat support if you need assistance.

Do We Recommend NordVPN?

The Bottom Line

NordVPN is one of the fastest, safest, and overall best VPN services we’ve tested, and has been so for several years now. It will encrypt your internet traffic with the highly-secure AES-256 encryption cipher while safeguarding your data with its strict, independently verified no-logs privacy policy.

There’s nothing you can’t do with NordVPN — it unblocks Netflix effortlessly, torrenting is permitted on the majority of its servers, and you can bypass geographic restrictions from over 90 locations worldwide. Its user-friendly, feature-packed apps also make it ideal for both VPN beginners and experienced users.

It’s very close to being perfect, but there are a few areas in which NordVPN could still improve. The company is slowly regaining user trust after the details of its server breach surfaced, and the damage will be lasting. That said, it has shown a real commitment to improving the security of its infrastructure to prevent future hacks. If anything, it’s an even safer product now.

NordVPN comes a close second to ExpressVPN, with one main advantage — it’s extremely affordable. If you want a bargain VPN, NordVPN is an excellent choice.

Alternatives to NordVPN

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is currently our #1 VPN, as it provides an ever-so-slightly better overall experience than NordVPN — but it's very close. Read ExpressVPN review

Surfshark

Surfshark

Surfshark is a great budget VPN, popular with streaming fans. It's available for a cheaper price than NordVPN, it unblocks 15 different Netflix libraries, and it works well on almost every device. Read Surfshark review

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano

    Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio


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