4 Best VPN for Linux: Our Roundup of Open-Source’s Best Options

article by Maria Perinic
February 17, 2020
Online security has been a huge point of discussion, with antivirus and antimalware software sales skyrocketing in the past few years. While users like to believe that their online identities are safe when surfing the net, hackers are finding it easier to hack into unknowing users’ accounts online. This leads to stolen sensitive information and the installation of malicious software into your device.

Linux users make up around 3% of desktop users, but often get overlooked when it comes to software, and VPNs are no exception.

In terms of security, both Windows and Linux users send and receive data on the internet in the same way. This means your data can collect a lot of information about where you go online, at what time, and for how long.

Although it’s fair to say that Linux users tend to be technically savvy, it’s just as important for Linux fans to equip themselves with a Linux VPN to protect their privacy online. Below is a list of the top VPNs for Linux.

If you don’t want to read the whole article, here’s our list of the best VPNs for Linux:

  • ExpressVPN – Consistently fast speeds and reliable connections at all times.
  • CyberGhost – Complete privacy guaranteed with an excellent zero-logging policy.
  • Surfshark – Affordable prices with unlimited simultaneous connections.
  • ZenMate – Simple to use, a perfect VPN solution for any beginner.
  • Proton VPN – Top-notch security features that go above and beyond protecting your online activity.

Our pick for Best VPN For Linux: ExpressVPN

Our Top Picks for the Best VPN for Linux

#1 ExpressVPN

Express VPN 210X100This is our top VPN for Linux due to its rich server selection as well as the speed it offers users. Your ExpressVPN Linux client has more than 3,000 servers around the world in 160 locations and a guaranteed uptime of 99.9%. You can see why.

ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands, a location that doesn’t have any data retention laws in place, making it great for user privacy. This is detailed within the ExpressVPN privacy policy.

“We do not collect logs of your activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries. We also never store connection logs, meaning no logs of your IP address, your outgoing VPN IP address, connection timestamp, or session duration.”

This VPN service provider is compatible with all major platforms, including Windows, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Amazon Kindle Fire, and most importantly, Linux. ExpressVPN provides support for 64-bit and 32-bit versions of:

  • Ubuntu
  • CentOS
  • Debian
  • Fedora
  • Raspbian (32-bit only)
  • Arch Linux

Security is very important which is why your Express VPN Linux client users a range of protocols including, military-grade encryption, OpenVPN, DNS leak blocking, five-party DNS, IPV6 leak blocking, webRTC leak blocking, as well as a Network Lock. The Network Lock will act as a kill switch, ending all your online activity should your VPN connection drop.

Your ExpressVPN Linux VPN client is very user-friendly and there are five simultaneous connections available. If you have any technical trouble setting up or using this VPN you can get instant help via the online chat platform which is available to users around the clock.

Want to know more about ExpressVPN? Check out our detailed review.

#2 CyberGhost

CyberGhost VPNCyberGhost offers a CLI-type or Command Line Interface application for Linux and currently supports Debian, Ubuntu 16.04, Ubuntu 18.04, Ubuntu 19.04 and Fedora 29, Fedora 30, but isn’t compatible with Linux Mint. There are also detailed instructions on the CyberGhost website showing users how to install CyberGhost for Linux.

This VPN is excellent as it has a rich server selection with more than 6,100 servers in around 60 countries available. It has jurisdiction in Romania, a country that doesn’t have any data retention laws.

“When using the CyberGhost VPN, the user’s traffic data such as browsing history, traffic destination, data content, and search preferences are not monitored, recorded, logged or stored by the Company. More than this, when using the CyberGhost VPN, we are not storing connection logs, meaning that we don’t have any logs tied to your IP address, connection timestamp or session duration.

We do NOT know at any time which user ever accessed a particular website or service We do NOT know which user was connected to our CyberGhost VPN service at any given time or which CyberGhost VPN server IP they used We do NOT know the set of original IP addresses of a user’s computer.”

CyberGhost is also a solid choice in terms of security, with various protocols on offer like 256-bit encryption, different kill switches, malware scanners, IPv6, DNS leak protection, and WebRTC leak protection.

Enjoy seven simultaneous connections and 24/7 live chat support.

This VPN service provider is used by millions of people all over the world, but if you aren’t happy with the service, you can always take advantage of the 45-day money-back guarantee.

Want to know more about CyberGhost? Check out our detailed review.

#3 Surfshark

Surfshark VPNSurfshark has a native Linux VPN client that is compatible with Ubuntu and Debian. Installation is quick and simple, with the user interface also easy to navigate. There is a step-by-step guide available on the Surfshark website complete with images to make the installation process that much simpler.

The Linux client uses secure encryption as well as OpenVPN protocols with users being able to select between UDP and TCP within the app interface. Surfshark has more than 1,000 servers in more than 60 countries around the world and is based in the British Virgin Islands. It promises not to “collect IP addresses, browsing history, session information, used bandwidth, connection time stamps, network traffic, and other similar data.” The great thing is that Surfshark is one of the few VPNs that has completed an independent security audit without any issues discovered.

One of the best parts of this cost-effective VPN option is that users have the ability to connect as many simultaneous connections as they wish and pay for their subscription anonymously with cryptocurrency.

Unlocking favorite streaming platforms like Netflix, ESPN, Hulu, CBS, Amazon Prime, and many others is a breeze, and Surfshark also supports P2P activity. There are also added features on offer such as the Multi-Hop feature that helps users maintain a more secure connection by connecting to more than one Surfshark server at a time.

Another fantastic feature includes CleanWeb, protecting users from phishing attacks and malware.

“Countless malware-infected websites put your computer at risk. CleanWeb blocks malware so you can surf in a clean cyber ocean. It actively prevents you from accessing any of these malicious websites. Our databases are updated continuously and currently contain over one million infected websites.”

Want to know more about Surfshark? Find out everything you need to know in our detailed review.

#4 ZenMate

 zenmate 210x100This is another top VPN for Linux, catering to over 43 million people around the world. ZenMate is a great choice of VPN for Linux Ubuntu but is it the best VPN for Linux Mint? It appears that it’s not the best VPN for Linux Mint as it isn’t available at the moment. With hundreds of Linux VPN servers around the world, this VPN is also compatible with iOS, Mac, Windows, Android TV, Amazon Fire Stick as well as Chrome, Opera, Firefox and even some Chromium-based browsers.

With jurisdiction in Germany, ZenMate has a solid privacy policy which ensures that your online movements will not be linked to your identity when using this client.

“We do not store or log your personal data which can be used to identify you or what you’re doing online. We do not monitor your online sessions. In fact – we can’t! Strict German privacy laws regulate our company’s use of your information. As we don’t store the data in the first place, this also means that we can’t be forced into giving away personal data to any government or sell it to any 3rd parties.”

You should be able to set up your Linux VPN client in just a few minutes, but if you have any issues you can always contact support by sending them a message. In terms of security, you can enjoy strong protocols on your computers, like military-grade protection, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch. Mobile users have 128-bit encryption technology, which is slightly less effective.

Want to know more about ZenMate? Find out everything you need to know in our detailed review.

#5 ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN 210x100 bgThe ProtonVPN Linux client is an excellent choice for the security conscious. Coming from the people that brought us ProtonMail, the world’s largest encrypted emailing service, ProtonVPN has a growing number of servers counting more than 500 in 42 countries at the moment.

This VPN operates out of Switzerland and must adhere to some pretty strict user privacy policies.

“ProtonVPN’s Secure Core architecture gives our secure VPN service the unique ability to defend against network-based attacks. Secure Core protects your connection by routing your traffic through multiple servers before leaving our network. This means an advanced adversary who can monitor the network traffic at the exit server will not be able to discover the true IP address of ProtonVPN users, nor match browsing activity to that IP.

Secure core servers are located in hardened data centers in Switzerland, Iceland, and Sweden, protected by strong privacy laws, and operated on our own dedicated networks.”

On top of that, ProtonVPN manages and owns its own servers, meaning that it connects to the internet using its own network. Security is tight for your ProtonVPN Linux client, using AES-256, highly secure IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN and none of the ProtonVPN servers use the less secure PPTP or IPSec. Secure Core is one of the best extra features which helped ProtonVPN make the list of best VPNs for Linux.

“ProtonVPN’s Secure Core architecture gives our secure VPN service the unique ability to defend against network-based attacks. Secure Core protects your connection by routing your traffic through multiple servers before leaving our network. This means an advanced adversary who can monitor the network traffic at the exit server will not be able to discover the true IP address of ProtonVPN users, nor match browsing activity to that IP.

Secure core servers are located in hardened data centers in Switzerland, Iceland, and Sweden, protected by strong privacy laws, and operated on our own dedicated networks.”

Interestingly, there is a freemium option available from ProtonVPN which allows users to connect to one device via three server locations counting the United States, Japan, and the Netherlands. The best part is that there are no bandwidth restrictions.

Want to know more about ProtonVPN? Find out everything you to know in our detailed review.

What is Linux and Why You Do You Need a VPN for it?

‘Linux’ refers to any operating system based upon the Linux kernel (operating system core) rather than any one platform. In fact, there are over 200 Linux distributions (or “distros”) available today, although Ubuntu is both the most popular and best-known.

So, why is it used? For one, unlike both Windows and Mac, Linux free. More importantly, though, both the Linux kernel itself and the operating systems built around it are completely open-source, which means that anybody is free to modify and develop their own version of the OS from a shared and openly accessible code-base.

Some of the most popular Linux operating systems include:

 

  • Elementary OS
  • Linux Mint
  • Arch Linux
  • Tails
  • CentOS
  • Ubuntu Studio

 

Elementary OS, Linux Mint, Arch Linux, Tails, CentOS and Ubuntu Studio are operating systems that make Linux a great platform for aspiring and actual developers who want to get their hands dirty with code as well as so-called ‘superusers’ that want to have complete control over every aspect of their system to optimize it for their individual needs.

A Virtual Private Network will allow you anonymity when surfing the web by tunneling your online data through to a completely different server location.

Although most people are familiar with VPNs as programs for circumventing geographical content restrictions, they provide plenty of other important functions, making choosing a good VPN for Linux of paramount importance for any responsible user.

While it’s technically possible to set up and run your own Linux VPN server, we recommend going with a mature commercial provider to maximize reliability and connection speeds.

Some of the functions that Linux VPN users can enjoy include:

  • Public WiFi: VPNs encrypt users’ browsing activity, making them a great solution for those conducting sensitive online activity, like banking, from Public WiFi spots.
  • Streaming: Accessing content that has only been made available to users in certain geographies is what VPNs are best known for.
  • Privacy: VPNs encrypt both download and upload traffic between connection endpoints and their servers – hiding browsing activity from both ISPs and network eavesdroppers. Encrypting traffic is, therefore, an important means of protecting privacy.
  • Bypass censorship: Because VPNs avoid tunneling traffic through Internet Service Providers (ISPs) they provide a useful means for bypassing any forms of censorship that the ISP might be imposing on connections.

How to Set Up a VPN For Linux

Setting up a VPN for Linux is usually a little more complicated than with Windows or Mac installations where programs come along with helpful graphical programs that make connecting to the right server a matter of clicking a couple of buttons.

No matter whether the initial installation process involves executing a Debian file or extracting a Tarball, there are generally two main methods for setting up a VPN on Linux:

Command-line tools: Certain providers, such as ExpressVPN and Windscribe, will provide command-line interface programs which can be used after running an installation script. These allow you to use simple syntax, usually documented online, in order to view available servers and initiate and disconnect from a server.

Network manager files: VPNs that are tailored specifically for Ubuntu will often work by providing Linux users with configuration files that can be imported into the network manager to begin a connection.

Other times, online setup guides will provide users with the necessary credentials needed to build the connection setup files – such as the CA certificate, user certificate, and private key – but leave it up to the users to create the connection shortcuts themselves. Unfortunately, a new connection has to be created for each location (server) that the user wants to connect through making this impractically time-consuming for those that want to jump around a lot.

Should You Get a Paid or Free VPN For Linux?

No matter what operating system you are using, we always recommend paid VPN services. There’s a simple reason for this: (generally) there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Some of the issues you may run into by using a free Linux VPN include:

Data reselling: Free VPN users may be recouping the cost of operating their network by selling your data to third parties. Monetizing the user in this way is often actually explicitly stated in the provider’s terms and conditions – which they know that few if any, users actually read.

Security: Free VPN providers often skimp on their overheads by offering only one – often an outdated – connection protocol to their users. By flagging yourself to those monitoring the network as a user using an insecure connection method, using an outdated connection protocol such as Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) may actually be riskier than not encrypting your data at all.

A reputable VPN company will not waste money hosting and maintaining a VPN server without expecting something in return. Usually, free VPNs will monitor your online movements, even selling your browsing history to the highest bidder.

There are VPN services such as itshidden that need to be avoided. This service only uses PPTP connections and also has a privacy policy that is one sentence long, but even in that one sentence, there are grammatical errors.

SecurityKISS is another free VPN for Linux. Unfortunately, this company stores not only your connection logs but also the IP addresses of its users. The free version also comes with a 300MB cap per day.

USAIP is one more free VPN for Linux which appears in search results. The latest Linux USAIP client only uses PPTP and doesn’t have its own DNS servers meaning that your internet service provider can still freely monitor what you do online. Also, it doesn’t disclose its logging policy.

Linux Privacy Issues

Generally, Linux is regarded as a great choice for security and privacy-conscious users.

Linux has always remained a small user-base on the desktop compared to Windows and Mac and there is therefore far less of an incentive for hackers to successfully exploit it.

Secondly, Linux’s strict separation between user accounts and administrators makes it far more difficult for malware and viruses to successfully embed themselves deep enough into the operating system to do serious damage. Nevertheless, Linux VPN users should be aware of the following blots on this otherwise stellar privacy record:

  • A search function built into an old version of Ubuntu was labeled ‘spyware’ by commentators after having been found to be routing users’ searches through Canonical’s servers. The company, which develops Ubuntu, has subsequently scrapped the feature.
  • The latest Long Term Support (LTS) version of Ubuntu, 16.04 (Xenial Xerus) contains a new package management system, called snap, that represents a potentially major privacy flaw according to open source expert Matthew Garrett. The commentator pointed out that programs could capture keystrokes from one another from within the operating system’s window rendering system, X11.

How We Selected the Top VPN for Linux

To find the best Linux VPN and the best provider overall, we assessed the platforms covered on the following basis:

Server network: Both the size and performance of the server network are important determinants of a VPN provider’s usability. Starting from our office’s baseline connection of roughly 40 Mbps, we used SpeedTest.net to measure the performance of several servers for each provider.

Setup and use: We placed a strong emphasis on how easy each platform was to get up and running on and whether the Linux VPN client offered is a graphical user interface (GUI) or command-line only interface was offered.

Logging policy: It’s important to know which jurisdiction a VPN company is headquartered in as well as what data – if any – it stores about users’ connections.

Pricing: Price is clearly an important consideration when choosing a provider – as is any money-back guarantee and refund policy offered for the service.

Conclusion

Linux users have historically had a hard time convincing developers to release a version of their program for such a small market. Too often, the tools that are released are cumbersome and difficult to use. Thankfully, that trend is changing – especially in the VPN world.

While many VPN services offer open-source clients for Linux, the best way to go is to choose a native app from a premium provider. It requires less configuration and comes with more features.