Simply put, a VPN, or virtual private network, allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet - whether that be on Windows, Macs or, yes, with a VPN for LInux.
These days however, VPNs are popularly used for activities like bypassing Internet censorship, accessing region-restricted websites, shielding your browsing activity from prying eyes especially on public Wi-Fi, and more.
While Linux users routinely draw the short straw in terms of software support for their beloved OS, when it comes to VPNs, the situation isn’t so bad, with a decent amount of providers offering native apps for Linux. There’s no dearth of Linux VPN services out there, and in this guide we’ve selected some of the best ones to help you cut through the clutter.
Today's top 5 Linux VPNs
ExpressVPN is the best current VPN in the business, and it's no different on computers running Linux. The service also has excellent apps for Android and iOS and extensions for the Chrome and Firefox browsers on Linux.
Once installed you can use the CLI app to connect through automatically to the closest server near you or manually point it to any of the servers in more than 95 countries. ExpressVPN offers a network kill switch for Linux that’s enabled by default and will also alert you as soon as the VPN connection disconnects. If you find yourself running into any issues, we've found that the service's 24/7 live chat support tends to be up to the challenge, offering straightforward advice.
Express has a fantastic track record for unblocking restricted sites and apps. That's just one of the reasons that it has such a great track record as the best Netflix VPN, too.
The service also says it logs the bare minimum that’s required to operate the service, but doesn’t log any user activity, whatsoever (claims that have been independently audited).
We must admit to get this kind of quality, you do have to spend more than most competitors charge. While the service doesn’t offer a free trial as such, all plans longer than a month come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
NordVPN boasts of several interesting features, which Linux users will have to experience through a command-line app.
To bypass VPN blocks, the service offers obfuscated servers that hide the fact that you’re using a VPN to route your traffic. There’s also a Double VPN feature, which routes your traffic through two VPN servers, encrypting your data twice. Linux users also get a kill switch which prompts a system-wide network lock in case a VPN connection drops
You can use your NordVPN account on six devices simultaneously (although, in our view, its mobile apps are less polished than Express's). The service uses its own NordLynx protocol that’s based on WireGuard and is optimized for speed.
NordVPN has a strict no-logs policy that has been vetted by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The service has in excess of 5,000 servers in around 60 countries, though keep in mind that not all servers offer all the features.
Plans get progressively cheaper as you increase the duration, with NordVPN's multi-year plan offering some fantastic prices. The service also accepts cryptocurrencies and offers a 30-day money back guarantee.
Like its peers, Surfshark too has a command-line utility for Linux users. The service can be used on any number of devices at once, and will also block ads and malware thanks to its CleanWeb feature. Linux users can also use the VPN in obfuscation mode that makes your connection look like regular browsing traffic.
That said, some VPN features are not available to Linux users, such as split-tunneling. That seems a bit disappointing, that Linux users are short changed in this respect.
The service has servers in more than 60 countries (and rising) and assures its no-log policy doesn’t track your online activities. This isn't audited as yet, however.
But it's the price that really grabs the attention from Surfshark, coming in at less than $2.50/£2 per month if you decide to commit to a longer plan. Look around the web and you won't find many services that can beat it on cost - especially for such a high-quality product.
With servers in over 80 countries, Hotspot Shield uses its own proprietary Hydra VPN protocol and has been adjudged the fastest VPN service by Ookla in 2019. Our own testing last year agreed entirely, with Hotspot wiping the floor with all comers when it comes to pure server connection speed.
While you may have heard good things about Hotspot Shield's free VPN product, that isn’t available for Linux users. So if you want to put this service to the test, then you'll have to take advantage of its extended 45-day money back guarantee - one of the longest VPN free trials in the business.
Similarly, many of its features such as split-tunnelling aren’t available to Linux users. And while the service claims it doesn’t log any information to associate your personal identity with your VPN browsing activity, it hasn’t been audited by a third-party.
You can simultaneously use IPVanish on any number of devices. That's instantly a strong selling point if you're intending to use your VPN on mobiles, streaming devices and routers in addition to your Linux rig.
IPVanish supports the popular VPN protocols and has servers in over 50+ countries. The service claims it doesn’t log any traffic or usage of our VPN, but it hasn’t been audited by an external third-party unlike NordVPN, ExpressVPN and others.
Unlike many of its peers however, IPVanish is a standard VPN service and virtually all its interesting features aren’t available on Linux. This includes the kill switch, LAN blocking, and the OpenVPN Scramble feature to prevent firewalls from blocking VPN connections.
Linux VPN FAQ:
What is today's best Linux VPN?
Top of our list in the Linux VPN stakes is ExpressVPN. Much like most of the best Linux VPNs, it is CLI-based but still really easy to use. Server-wise, it has around 3,000 of the things shared between 90-odd countries. It's really string on unblocking geo-restricted content and banned apps, and we like that there's always a handy customer service operative at the other end of the live chat line.
What makes the best Linux VPN
What are some of the things you should consider when looking for a VPN service? First and foremost, the service must have native Linux clients, else you’ll not be able to use it with your favorite distro. Having intuitive mobile apps are a definite plus since they’ll ensure you are secured while on the go.
A good service will also offer a selection of servers from all over the world. You can connect through one that’s closest to you to ensure good connection speeds. Another important trait of a good service is that it’ll have a clear logging policy and will spell exactly what details they record about their users, along with the purpose that’s served by such logging.
Like all network services, occasionally your connection to the remote VPN server can disconnect. To handle such a scenario, many VPN services offer a kill switch that’ll automatically block all outgoing network data to ensure your computer doesn’t send them over an unencrypted connection. Many privacy advocates consider a kill switch an essential feature in a VPN service.
In addition to the above, you should also pay attention to the support options of the service. Getting instant chat support, whether offline or online, is an absolute minimum for a critical service such as this. Finally, a good VPN service should extend all these benefits through affordable multi-tiered plans that give users enough options to test the service before they commit for the long-term.
What is a Linux VPN for?
VPNs were originally used to allow remote workers to log in to the corporate network remotely over a secure connection.
In essence a VPN works by routing all your Internet traffic through another computer, which could be on the other side of the planet. For all intents and purposes, it’ll appear you are browsing the Internet through that remote computer.
We spoke to Linux User & Developer back in 2018 who explained to our readers all the pros and cons of VPNs on Linux.