|Best VPNs for Linux|
|#1||ExpressVPN with [49% Discount]|
|#2||NordVPN with [70% Discount]|
As a group, Linux users tend to be more concerned with security and privacy than most computer users. While Linux-based operating systems are considered to be more secure against things like viruses and malware, that security is only one part of the picture. Even if your system is 100% secure against those kinds of threats, you still need to protect your communications with the rest of the world. This is why you need a VPN regardless of how secure your Linux system itself is.
We’re seeing the interest in VPNs for all operating systems, including Linux-based distros, spike in this brave new world of intense surveillance and social tracking. The trick of course is to find the best VPN for your unique circumstances.
As a Linux user, your choices are somewhat limited. There are fewer VPNs that support Linux than other top operating systems. And many of them provide at most minimal support, being hard to install and configure, as well as lacking some of the features that people on other operating systems enjoy.
So, as we have done with other operating systems, we’ve been testing popular Linux VPNs to provide you with information on the top virtual private networks that support Linux.
In this guide we’ve singled out what we consider to be the 5 best VPN services for Linux users. While they are all different, our testing has shown that they reliably provide strong security and excellent privacy protection. Unless you are planning on taking on the NSA or something equally crazy, any one of these options will protect you well.
Note: As a Linux user, you are probably used to doing at least some of your work in the terminal. That’s good, because Linux VPNs don’t come with the kind of simple installers that Windows or Mac users enjoy. You’ll need to be willing and able to use the command line to install and configure any of these top Linux VPNs.
What is the best VPN for Linux?
Our latest testing shows that the best all-around VPN for Linux is ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN has a reputation for being one of the fastest VPNs for Windows and Android. You won’t be surprised to discover that it is also one of the best Linux VPNs too. At the same time, it is very secure and has many useful features that work on their Linux clients.
We know you are anxious to check out the reviews, but before you do, here are the criteria we used to rank each of these Linux VPNs. Each one had to meet the following criteria:
- Passed all tests with no data leaks found (no IP address leaks or DNS leaks)
- Good performance throughout the server network (speed and reliability)
- Supports the OpenVPN protocol and strong encryption standards
- Offers a money-back guarantee
- Trustworthy and well-established VPN provider with a good track record
- Located in a safe privacy jurisdiction (outside of Five Eyes countries, such as the US and UK) to keep your data safe
Okay, now we’re ready to check out the best VPNs for Linux:
1. ExpressVPN – The top Linux VPN service
|Based in||British Virgin Islands|
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 Live chat|
ExpressVPN has earned the top of a Restore Privacy VPN recommendation list. Offering great performance along with extremely strong security and industry-leading access to streaming media services, ExpressVPN continues to impress across the board.
ExpressVPN delivers high, consistent speeds across their network, regardless of which operating system you are using. While they don’t support the ultra-fast WireGuard protocol (yet), their results using the industry-standard OpenVPN protocol are fast enough for almost any application.
ExpressVPN’s strong default security is built around an AES-256 cipher and a 4096-bit RSA key. Their support for the OpenVPN protocol extends to all their apps, including those for mobile devices. To prevent your personal data leaking to the Internet if the VPN connection fails, ExpressVPN apps also have a Network Lock kill switch that blocks all traffic if the VPN connection drops.
ExpressVPN is one of the few VPNs that have successfully completed a third-party audit of their system, which verified the no-logs claims. In 2019, ExpressVPN implemented TrustedServer, a diskless server design that is automatically wiped clean every time the server is powered off. Because the server stores all data in RAM and is reloaded from a read-only image every time it restarts, there is no way for user data (or any kind of malware) to persist on the server. ExpressVPN has installed TrustedServer on every server in their network, which would make seizing one for analysis even more futile than before.
Coming back to streaming media, we rate ExpressVPN as the best VPN for Netflix. They give you access to many of the best Netflix regions on the planet. But you won’t be limited to Netflix either. ExpressVPN’s streaming technology also works with BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, along with other popular streaming services. They provide 160 server locations in 94 countries that are optimized for streaming a huge variety of content.
Pros of ExpressVPN:
- Linux clients: CLI clients for major Linux versions (Linux clients include the Network Lock kill switch feature).
- Audited security: In 2019, Cure53, a respected German cybersecurity company, conducted a security audit that confirmed ExpressVPN’s security claims.
- Verified no-logs: ExpressVPN has had their no-logs policy and privacy protection measures verified by third-party audit, conducted by PWC AG.
- Speed: ExpressVPN gives you a fast connection and consistent results across the network.
- Browser extensions: The company offers open source browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. All their extensions include HTTPS Everywhere, which secures your connection to websites.
- Streaming & torrenting: ExpressVPN is known for their streaming media support. We rate them the best in the world at connecting to Netflix. They are also excellent when it comes to streaming and torrenting.
- Kill switch: Includes Network Lock kill switch.
- Safe jurisdiction: Based in the (BVI) British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN is outside the jurisdiction of Five Eyes and other international intelligence gathering organizations.
- Customer support: ExpressVPN gives you 24/7 support (including live chat), along with tons of videos and articles that can help you resolve issues yourself.
- Refund policy: ExpressVPN’s paid subscriptions all include a no-questions asked 30-day money-back guarantee.
Cons of ExpressVPN
- Split Tunneling: Split tunneling is not available on ExpressVPN Linux apps.
- Cost: ExpressVPN is more expensive than the competition, but for more savings, use the coupon below.
See our ExpressVPN review here.
2. NordVPN – A solid, inexpensive option for Linux VPN users
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 Live chat|
If you are old enough, you might remember the Hertz/Avis rental car war. It ran for decades, with Hertz almost always on top as the #1 car rental company, but Avis constantly nipping at their heels. Perhaps Avis’s greatest weapon in that war was their iconic slogan, “We try harder.” That slogan served Avis well, promising customers a better experience for nearly 50 years, until finally retired in 2012.
If ExpressVPN is the Hertz of the VPN world, NordVPN could resurrect Avis’s old, “We try harder” slogan to good effect.
I’ve been writing about VPN services for years, and even though ExpressVPN usually wins the “best VPN for whatever” ribbon, I’ve long been impressed by NordVPN. They innovate hard, have a huge, huge network of VPN servers, and rank at or near the top in almost every category of every review.
NordVPN delivers excellent security and privacy through solid apps that run on all the most popular devices. Their security uses an AES-256 cipher with HMAC SHA256 hash authentication, and DHE-4096 key exchange for Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS). You get your choice of VPN protocols, including the industry-standard OpenVPN, and NordLynx, a new protocol built around the new WireGuard protocol. NordLynx boosts the privacy of WireGuard without crippling its speed. NordVPN is a verified no logs VPN provider, having passed a third-party audit of their logging policies performed by PWC AG in Zurich, Switzerland.
Speaking of speed, even without using NordLynx, NordVPN turned in excellent speed results in our testing. They are definitely one of the fastest VPNs you are likely to find, especially if you use the WireGuard protocol via NordLynx. NordVPN also has a well-earned reputation as a great VPN for torrenting and watching streaming content.
On the innovation front (besides the impressive NordLynx protocol) the service includes specialized features like double-hop VPN and Tor-Over-VPN servers. Their obfuscated servers disguise the fact that you are using a VPN for even more privacy, such as when you need to use the VPN in countries that normally block such services. Then there is CyberSec, a technology that blocks ads, stops trackers dead, and prevents connections from malware domains.
The NordVPN Linux app functions great, with no leaks or bugs whether we were testing their standard OpenVPN protocol or the new NordLynx protocol. The company doesn’t rely virtual server locations like some of the competition. Each server runs on dedicated hardware. Even better, they are in the process of upgrading every one of their servers to diskless operation like ExpressVPN.
When it comes to price, you’ll want to consider a long-term investment in NordVPN. Their pricing is skewed heavily in favor of their multi-year subscriptions. The 3-year subscription comes in at $125.64, or about $3.49 per month, making NordVPN one of the best cheap VPN services.
Pros of NordVPN:
- Linux client: CLI clients for major Linux versions.
- Simultaneous connections: Supports six simultaneous connections.
- Private and Secure: Features include Tor-Over-VPN, CyberSec, and much more.
- Verified no-logs: Audited and verified no logs VPN provider.
- Speed: Fast connections across the network, especially with WireGuard.
- Browser extensions: Provides browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
- Streaming & torrenting: Good support for streaming and torrenting.
- Kill Switch: Built-in kill switch on Linux and all other VPN apps.
- Safe jurisdiction: Based in Panama, a favorite location for privacy services.
- Customer support: NordVPN offers 24/7 live chat support, email support, and an extensive FAQ and tutorials section.
- Refund policy: 30-day, money-back guarantee.
- Pricing: Excellent pricing on multi-year subscriptions.
- Pricing: Short-term subscriptions are expensive
- Router app: No dedicated router app is available, but all major router firmware is still supported
See our NordVPN review here.
3. Surfshark – Can they become the best VPN for Linux?
|Based in||British Virgin Islands|
|Support||24/7 Live chat|
Surfshark comes in at #3 on our list of the best Linux VPNs. Like our leaders ExpressVPN and NordVPN, Surfshark offers a native Linux client that you control from the command line. It is also a no-logs VPN service, although we haven’t seen any third-party test results that confirm this.
Like ExpressVPN, Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, giving them a good geographic location for privacy.
Like NordVPN, Surfshark is rich in advanced security and privacy features. We’re talking about things like CleanWeb, MultiHop, and Camouflage mode (similar to NordVPN’s CyberSec, double-hop servers, and obfuscated servers respectively). Surfshark’s WhiteLister is a split tunneling control similar to ExpressVPN. This is impressive tech for any VPN, much less one that launched only two years ago (in 2018).
The team that built Surfshark hasn’t neglected the streamers and torrenters either. With Surfshark you can access ten different Netflix libraries. Other streaming services they work with include BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more. They even offer a dedicated app if you want to use a VPN with Fire stick And unlike many services, which restrict or altogether block torrenting, Surfshark allows torrenting on all of their servers.
Surfshark also offers plenty of value. It isn’t quite as fast as either ExpressVPN or NordVPN. However, it is less expensive than both, coming in at only $1.99 per month with the two-year plan. Add in the fact that Surfshark supports an unlimited number of simultaneous connections, and it’s easy to see the value proposition.
Pros of Surfshark VPN:
- Linux clients: CLI clients for all major Linux distros.
- Unlimited connections: Supports an unlimited number of simultaneous connections.
- No-logs: Surfshark has a no-logs policy.
- Audited browser extensions: Surfshark has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. The security of these extensions has been audited by Cure53.
- Streaming & torrenting: Excellent support for streaming and torrenting.
- Safe jurisdiction: Based in the (BVI) British Virgin Islands like our top pick ExpressVPN.
- Customer support: Surfshark gives you 24/7 live chat support, along with a useful FAQ and Knowledge Base.
- Refund policy: Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Pricing: Incredible pricing for two-year subscriptions.
Cons of Surfshark:
- Speed: While quick with most servers, Surfshark is not quite as fast as our other top Linux VPN services.
- Kill switch: Linux app does not include a kill switch (if you want this feature, go with ExpressVPN or NordVPN instead)
See our review of Surfshark for more info.
4. VPN.ac – A solid choice for Linux VPN security
When VPN.ac describes itself on its website, you learn that the VPN is a service provided by Netsec Interactive Solutions, a Romanian cybersecurity company. Coming from that perspective, it probably isn’t surprising that this is a security-focused VPN that uses state-of-the-art encryption algorithms for the best security and speed. This heritage might also explain why they keep no activity logs and their network runs on dedicated bare-metal servers connected to their own self-hosted, encrypted DNS.
VPN.ac also gives you a basic split tunneling capability. By installing their SecureProxy browser extensions to Chrome, Firefox, or Opera, you can do a basic division of traffic. Activate the SecureProxy without activating the VPN itself, and all browser traffic will go through the VPN, while all non-browser traffic will pass outside the encrypted VPN tunnel. In our testing, VPN.ac was solid, with no leaks of any kind.
If you decide to give VPN.ac a try you will be venturing a bit deeper into the guts of Linux. That’s because VPN.ac’s Linux client is still in testing. As of right now, if you want to take advantage of what VPN.ac offers on Linux machines, you’ll need to do so using a stand-along OpenVPN client connected to the VPN.ac network using the Linux Network Manager tool. If you follow these instructions on the VPN.ac website, you’ll end up with a quality VPN running OpenVPN with AES-256 bit encryption and 4096-bit RSA authentication. VPN.ac also supports the WireGuard VPN protocol for even better speeds.
- Simultaneous connections: Supports six simultaneous connections
- Security: The third-party VPN protocol app (OpenVPN or a WireGuard app) connect to the VPN.ac secure server infrastructure. The network includes 22 double-hop servers, obfuscation, and a private, encrypted DNS.
- Speed: VPN.ac provides excellent connection speeds and maintains plenty of bandwidth to avoid slowdowns.
- Browser extensions: Provides browser extensions (SecureProxy for Browsers) for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
- Streaming & torrenting: Streaming and torrenting are allowed.
- Safe jurisdiction: Based in Romania, VPN.ac is outside the jurisdiction of the major intelligence alliances.
- Customer support: VPN.ac provides email and ticket-based support, along with configuration tutorials and a Knowledgebase.
- Refund policy: 7-day, 100% refund policy.
- Connection logs: Minimal connection logs (no activity, erased daily)
- Linux clients: OpenVPN use requires a third-party app or running the VPN.ac beta client. WireGuard is supported but requires a third-party app.
- Kill switch: No kill switch on Linux
Our VPN.ac review has more test results and info.
5. ProtonVPN – An interesting option from a well-known source
Switzerland-based ProtonVPN offers some great benefits for Linux users, but also some potentially large drawbacks. Whether this no-logs VPN is a good fit for you depends on exactly what you need from your VPN service.
You could say that ProtonVPN’s greatest strength is also its greatest potential weakness. This is because the capabilities that ProtonVPN provides vary with the plan you choose. At the most basic level, ProtonVPN offers what we consider a safe free VPN service. You will get far more than you paid for with this ProtonVPN plan, but the service comes with major limitations. As you move up through the paid tiers, your increased monthly payments earn you access to more servers and more features. To get access to everything that ProtonVPN offers (including multi-hop VPN servers, a kill switch feature, Tor-over-VPN, and 10 simultaneous connections) , you would currently have to pay 24 euros per month, which is a far higher price than other Linux VPNs.
The ProtonVPN team has recently released version 2 of their CLI Linux client. It supports most major Linux distros, but I found installing it to be clumsy and confusing.
This all makes ProtonVPN a balancing act. If you can get the features you need at a price that you can afford, this high-quality service could be a good choice.
Pros of ProtonVPN
- Linux clients: CLI clients for major Linux versions.
- Simultaneous connections: Supported simultaneous connections varies with the plan you choose, ranging from 1 connection to 10.
- Security: Secure, bare-metal servers, strong encryption, and Secure Core, ProtonVPN’s multi-hop server solution.
- No-logs: ProtonVPN has a no-logs policy.
- Streaming & torrenting: ProtonVPN works with some Netflix regions and other streaming / torrenting services but this is not the best choice if streaming or torrenting are your priority.
- Kill switch: The Linux CLI client includes a kill switch.
- Safe jurisdiction: Switzerland is known as an excellent location for VPNs and other privacy services.
- Customer support: ProtonVPN offers ticket-based support and a small knowledgebase.
- Price: The free tier of ProtonVPN is the best free VPN service we’ve seen.
Cons of ProtonVPN
- Usability: No GUI; you must use the CLI to manage the VPN client.
- Split tunneling: ProtonVPN Linux apps do not support Split tunneling.
- Refund policy: ProtonVPN requires you to contact support so they can try to resolve your issues before they will consider giving you a refund.
- Price: The service is expensive if you need access to the best features.
- Complicated setup: The installation and initialization of ProtonVPN on Linux devices is clumsier and more complicated than for any of the other products reviewed here
The ProtonVPN review includes more info and test results.
Why every Linux user needs a quality VPN
As a Linux user, you are already several steps ahead of the pack when it comes to security and privacy. But you still need Linux VPN. Here’s why:
No matter how secure your Linux distro is, and what additional steps you take to armor your system against viruses and malware, a standard Internet connection offers very little protection against today’s threats. Whether it is your ISP (Internet Service Provider), hackers, foreign spies, or your own government, there is a literal horde of people trying to extract personal information from your Internet connection. Your computer can’t protect you against these attacks. Only a VPN can do that.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) provides both security and privacy for your interactions with the rest of the world. A VPN creates an encrypted connection from your device to its servers. This encrypted connection is called a tunnel. The strong encryption applied by the VPN client gives you security because it makes it impossible for anyone spying on the tunnel to gather any useful information. Unless they can break the encryption, all they will see is gibberish.
A VPN provides privacy by hiding information (your IP address) that could be used to identify your device or your physical location. Only the VPN service knows your real IP address, which is why using a no-logs Linux VPN is so important. Without logs, it becomes impossible for anyone to know where you have gone and what you have been doing while connected to the VPN.
A VPNs ability to replace your IP address with one of their own is key for access to content that would otherwise be inaccessible from your physical location. This is why it is good to use a VPN with servers located in many countries around the world.
What can your ISP see if you don’t use a VPN for Linux?
Unless you take steps to protect your Internet connection, your ISP or mobile carrier will be able to log every website you visit. This can be disastrous if you live in a country that wants to control what you see and do online. Visiting the wrong website from the wrong country could result in your name showing up on some government list of troublemakers, or even a visit from local authorities.
Even if the knowledge of where you go online doesn’t result in a threat to your life and liberty, it can still lead to some unpleasant stuff. Many countries require local ISPs to keep records of everything you do online for months or even years. Why? They just want it in case they decide they need that information later. As much of the world descends into an Orwellian nightmare of surveillance and control, the idea that your past internet activity could be held against you by some future government should scare you.
Meanwhile in the USA, Internet Service Providers have the legal right to log whatever data about your online activities they can, then sell it. To whom can they sell it? Apparently to anyone they want, without even asking your permission. How long has this been going on? Legally, since 2017. But it would be no surprise if it has been going on for far longer than that. (We cover these issues more in our guide on the best VPNs for USA.)
One way an ISP can find out which sites you visit is by looking at your DNS requests. DNS is the system that translates human-readable Internet addresses (www.RestorePrivacy.com) into computer-readable Internet addresses (IP addresses, which look something like this: 184.108.40.206). When you use a typical ISP, they control your access to DNS. When your device sends a request to the DNS, the ISP logs that address, giving them a complete record of the sites you visit.
All of our recommended Linux VPN services encrypt DNS requests before your ISP can see them. VPNs send these requests to their own DNS servers, completely blocking the ISP from seeing where you go.
Are VPNs for Linux legal?
VPNs are legal most everywhere in the world. Businesses in particular rely on them every day to securely interconnect physical locations without the need to build physical infrastructure. Individuals use VPNs to protect online banking and other private activities. Even in repressive countries like China, VPN services are legal for basic privacy (but not to circumvent censorship efforts).
But you don’t have a completely free hand to use a VPN in some parts of the world. Referring to China again, while VPNs are legal there, not all VPNs are legal there. The country has banned VPN services that do not follow the government’s extensive censorship guidelines and receive official government approval to operate. See our China VPN guide if this is a concern to you. Russia also tries to force VPN services to work with their state censors. A few other repressive countries (mostly in the Persian Gulf region) have laws that explicitly ban using a VPN to evade their local censors.
Beyond that, VPNs are safe and legal to use throughout the world, but if in doubt, be sure to double check your own laws.
Note: We are researchers, not lawyers, so treat this as simply our opinion, not legal advice.
Is it safe to use a VPN for Linux?
The best Linux VPN services are indeed safe to use.
Tip: See our guide on how to be anonymous online.
Why you should NEVER use a VPN based in your own country
Using a VPN service based in a different country is a smart move. When it comes to what people are up to online, countries are naturally most interested in the activities of their own citizens. And VPN services are required to obey the laws of the country they are based in. Put those two facts together and you’ll understand why you don’t want to use a VPN based in your country.
Let’s say you are a citizen of Country A and the government of Country A wants information about your online activities. If you are using a VPN based in Country A, it will be relatively easy for the government to demand information on you.
If you are using a VPN based in Country B, it becomes much harder for the government of Country A to get the information they want. The VPN is controlled by the laws of Country B. Country A would need to persuade Country B to get the VPN to send over the data.
While getting data about you from a VPN in a different country is certainly possible, it isn’t particularly practical, making it safer to use a VPN based in a different country.
How do I set up a VPN for Ubuntu and other Linux distros?
Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based distributions remain the most popular for Linux. Fortunately, it is easy to set up a VPN for Ubuntu. Depending on the VPN you are using, the exact instructions will vary. Due to the popularity of Ubuntu, however, many services give specific instructions for setting up an Ubuntu VPN (see the video below with ExpressVPN, for example).
Setting up a VPN on Linux can be harder than setting up one on other operating systems. That’s because none of our top VPNs for Linux has a simple app with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) like you find on their Windows or Android apps. For Linux VPNs, you are stuck with a bunch of command-line interface (CLI) work in the Linux terminal. The process goes something like this:
- Download the VPN’s CLI app for your Linux distro.
- Find the VPN app file in your Downloads folder and double-click it.
- Log into the terminal.
- Follow the CLI instructions provided on the VPN’s website to install and configure the app.
- Activate the VPN using the command-line instructions given on the website.
- You will typically need to run a terminal command like, “sudo expressvpn status” to confirm that the VPN is connected and active.
However, if you go with one of our top picks, setup can be relatively simple. Here’s how to set up a VPN on Linux when using ExpressVPN:
Linux VPNs for international TV and sports
Geoblocking is a technique that controls the geographic regions where many international TV and sports streams can be viewed. While those streaming content have contractual reasons for geoblocking their content, you may want or need access to content that you are blocked from in your current location.
Geoblocking systems use your IP address to decide whether or not to give you access to the content. Part of the function of a VPN is to hide your actual IP address from the world. They do so by substituting the IP address of the VPN server you are using for your actual IP address. In other words, if you are in Berlin, and your connection is to a VPN server in New Jersey, it will look to the world as if you are in the United States instead of Germany.
Now imagine you want to connect to your US Netflix account, but you are currently in Berlin. If you try to connect normally, Netflix will block you. But if you connect to that VPN server in New Jersey, Netflix will think you are in the United States and give you access. Of course you’ll still need to have your account so you can log on, but you will have the access you need, and not be blocked because you happen to be somewhere else at the moment. The same concept applies to other streaming services, as well as sporting events.
Another use of the location-shifting ability of your Linux VPN is to watch sports and other content that is not available in your current location. You could connect to a server in the opponent’s country and watch the soccer match from the perspective of the visitors instead of your home team. Or you could log into a Mexican server and watch soap operas in Spanish to help you learn the language. Used creatively, a VPN can turn you into a virtual world traveler, something we can all use during these Coronavirus lockdowns.
Conclusion: Best Linux VPN services
And that’s it. We’ve done the leg work to bring you 5 great VPNs for Linux systems. Choose one and you will elevate your Internet security and privacy to a new level. You’ll also give yourself the gift of access to much of the best online content in the world.
However, installing a VPN isn’t a trivial decision. You got the summaries of the five Linux VPNs here, or read the respective VPN review for detailed analysis and test results.
Remember that all of our recommended Linux VPNs offer a money-back guarantee and give you anywhere from 7 to 30 days to evaluate their service, without risk.
We are optimistic that by the time you are done, you will have found a great Linux VPN for your unique needs.
Linux VPN Comparison Table
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