FinjanMobile's VitalSecurityVPN is a feature-packed mobile browser with a bundled VPN.
The service sounds appealing. You get more than 20 locations, a free plan gives you 500MB a month of data – 1GB if you register – and the commercial plans support unlimited mobile devices for $3.33 (£2.66) a month over a year, or $5 (£4) a month to cover desktops as well.
Mobile users get the VitalSecurityVPN browser. Features include logon via a custom passcode or biometric authentication. Banners tell you whether pages are safe, suspect or dangerous. There's detailed information on trackers, and the browser can block any or all trackers and ads.
The mobile browser comes with a complete VPN which covers all other apps. Windows and Mac users can also install this, although they just get a VPN client – there's no browser.
- Want to try VitalSecurityVPN? Check out the website here
None of this is exactly revolutionary. Many of the browser features are available with other products, and the VPN isn't anything new: it's essentially Avira's Phantom VPN with a new mobile shell.
The most interesting element here is probably the provider. Finjan isn't just another internet startup: it's been around since 1996, developing and patenting some major technologies, including the behaviour-based security system which it licenced to Microsoft in 2005. This is a company which knows what it's doing, and that alone makes VitalSecurityVPN worth a closer look.
VitalSecurityVPN only provides a very general logging policy: "We do not keep any records or monitor your traffic and sites you visit." That's reassuring, but the best services give us a lot more detail.
Finjan is based on Avira's Phantom VPN, which does provide some extra privacy-related information on its own site. This isn't guaranteed to apply to VitalSecurityVPN, but it's a starting point.
Avira says that PhantomVPN doesn't log your real IP address (when you connect) or the virtual IP addresses you're allocated within a session, the websites you visit, or "any information that can link you to any action, such as downloading a file, or visiting a particular website."
PhantomVPN does log the amount of data you've used, whether you're a free or paid user, and – optionally – ‘diagnostic data’, which typically means details like program crashes or connection errors. There's nothing surprising in that, and many VPNs record considerably more.
VitalSecurityVPN installed without any difficulty on our Android device. We launched it with a tap and it fired up a very simple tutorial covering the basics.
Enabling the VPN is simple, and a couple of taps will connect you to the nearest location. Alternatively, you can choose from more than 20 locations across North America and Europe, along with Brazil, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.
The app connected quickly during testing, and it began to update in real-time to show the amount of data we'd used. If you're hoping to use the very limited 500MB/1GB free plan, that's going to be a very important detail.
There are no significant low-level VPN settings. You can't set ports, change the protocol or do anything else even faintly advanced. That could be a plus for someone who only needs the basics, but experienced users might be frustrated by the lack of control.
The browser's VPN interface is straightforward. Tap to connect, an icon lights up to tell you when you're online or if the connection drops, and you're able to switch back at any time to check on data use or close the connection.
Visit any URL and the browser accesses 60+ top databases of malicious, phishing and other dubious sites, then briefly displays its 'safe', 'suspect' or 'dangerous' verdict on a banner at the bottom of the screen.
Most of the time you don't really notice this – it's just a green notification which disappears within a few seconds – but if it indicates a problem, tapping the banner displays a VirusTotal-type report which tells you which engines flagged the site.
VitalSecurityVPN also highlights its anti-tracker feature, but this is turned off by default, and the app warns you that turning it on can "slow down the browser" and "in rare cases can cause a website to fail to load."
We enabled tracker monitoring anyway and visited a few ad-packed sites. A figure at the bottom right of the screen told us how many trackers were on the current page, and tapping this gave us details on the type of trackers (analytics, advertising and so on) and enabled some or all of these to be blocked.
Could this protect your privacy? Maybe, but there are plenty of other apps and extensions which do something similar, and the fact that it's turned off by default suggests even Finjan doesn't believe it's essential.
What's more important here is performance, and our regular benchmarks tests* showed mixed results. UK to UK download speeds were a reasonable 25 to 30Mbps, but connecting to Europe saw speeds drop to a disappointing 10Mbps or less in many locations. UK to US performance was much better at 20 to 25Mbps, and if you're on a mobile device this may all be good enough, but the best commercial VPNs will deliver more.
Fortunately, there was more positive news with our final privacy tests. VitalSecurityVPN passed with ease, concealing our IP, replacing our regular DNS and successfully blocking any identity leaks, keeping us safe from snoopers.
VitalSecurityVPN is really just a new shell for Avira's Phantom VPN, and although it's not a bad service, it's hard to see why you would pay for it. The free mobile browser is more interesting, though, with some useful security features and a 4.5-star rating on the app stores – it’s worth a look.
*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds, and then tested immediately again with the VPN turned off, to check for any difference (over several rounds of testing). We then compared these results to other VPN services we've reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.