According to statistics from Net Market Share, over 3% of the world is now running Linux on the desktop – a significant jump from previous years. What’s behind Linux’s attractiveness?
For one, unlike both Windows and Mac, it’s 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. That makes it 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.
‘Linux’ actually 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.
Although it’s fair to say that Linux users tend to be technically nifty, it’s just as important for Linux fans to equip themselves with a Linux VPN to protect their privacy online.
Why You Need a VPN for Linux
VPNs are software packages that tunnel connections through servers located in different geographies.
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.
Get a Linux VPN
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.
In this review, we focused on trying to find a provider that makes connecting and disconnecting to the service as straightforward as possible. Besides that, Linux VPN users will want to choose a provider that offers a fast and broad server network in addition to having some useful extras such as unlimited bandwidth, a zero logs policy, and a reasonable pricing policy.
How We Selected the Best VPNs for Linux
To find the best free 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 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.
#1 NordVPN – The Perfect Match For Linux Powered Machines
Based in Panama, NordVPN gives its Linux users access to three connection protocols, including IKEv2. Nord’s Linux tool relies upon configuring OpenVPN connection files to work with the OpenVPN application. It’s a no logs provider that operates over 2,800 servers around the world and offers unlimited bandwidth to users.
- $11.95 per month.
- $3.29 per month on the two years plan.
For more information on NordVPN features, read our extensive NordVPN review.
#2 Cyberghost Pro – Fairly Priced, P2P limited
Cyberghost is a Romanian VPN provider that operates a network of over 1,000 servers, including options in far-flung locations such as Pakistan, Serbia, and Taiwan. Users of Debian-based systems, including Ubuntu, Mint, and Chakra (a fork of Arch) can connect by following its online tutorials and configuring the connecting settings through OpenVPN and PPTP.
- $11.99 a month.
- $3.50 per month on two years subscription.
For more information on IPVanish features, read our extensive CyberGhost review.
#3 ExpressVPN – Less Friendly on Linux But Super Fast
ExpressVPN ranked as the best VPN for p2p thanks to its reliable and trusted service. It is the fastest provider that we tested, with consistently high speeds, and boasts almost no downtime. The company also runs instant live chat support so that any problems can be resolved quickly and efficiently.
- $12.95 a month.
- $8.32 per month on the two years subscription.
For more information on ExpressVPN features, read our extensive ExpressVPN review.
#4 Windscribe – The Best Free VPN For Linux
Windscribe offers the only free VPN plus firewall combination for Linux making it probably the best free Linux VPN out there. It’s available for Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and CentOS (a downstream fork of Red Hat Enterprise Linux).
Additional features: Connecting to Windscribe is achieved through a CLI tool with a relatively straightforward syntax to master. Free users have their bandwidth capped at 10GB per month and are limited to eleven connection locations.
For more information on Windscribe features, read our extensive Windscribe review.
How to Set Up a VPN For Linux
Setting up a VPN for Linux is usually a little more complicated than with Window 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.
Linux Privacy Issues
Generally, Linux is regarded as a great choice for the security and privacy-conscious user.
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, 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.
Get a VPN For Linux
Linux users are a small but proud part of the personal computing world.
It’s just as important for them to take advantage of VPNs’ many benefits as it is for Mac and Windows users.
Thankfully, many providers have realized this and rolled out tools that could give other platform versions a run for their money in terms of both functionality and ease of use.
Choose one of the above to add a VPN to your Linux setup today.