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What is VPN Gate and should you trust it?

VPN Gate
(Image credit: VPNGate)

Created at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, VPN Gate is an open-source VPN project making secure VPN networks available to internet users anywhere in the world. Being an academic project, VPN Gate - sometimes stylized as VPNGate - is free to use.

It is also anonymized and private. Users do not have to sign up to use the service, and anonymous connections are accepted. This might appeal to internet users who want to increase the anonymity of their web browsing but who still want an open-source and free VPN solution. 

Why was VPN Gate created?

The team at the University of Tsukuba created VPN Gate in response to three problems they’d identified:

The first was that government firewalls often limit access to certain websites or streaming services - one of the reasons why using VPNs in China has become so popular.

The second was that internet users can be identified by their IP address when not using a VPN, creating legal liabilities for whistleblowers, dissidents, or people trying to access internet content unavailable in their country.

The third was the risks of cyber espionage or hacking when using an unsecured public network. 

How does VPN Gate work?

VPN Gate’s network infrastructure is completely powered by volunteers who allow their VPN servers to become a part of this global experiment. Without volunteers, VPN Gate would cease to exist. On the other hand however, it also makes it something of a security risk.

From a technical point of view, VPN Gate works with several VPN protocols including SSL-VPN, L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, and Microsoft SSTP. This is what enables VPN Gate to be used on iOS and macOS devices, as well as Windows and Android devices.

To use the VPN Gate platform, the user also needs to install the SoftEther VPN software. This open-source software is another University of Tsukuba project that enables users to connect to one of the VPN Gate servers located throughout the world.

However, if you’re planning on connecting with an iOS or macOS device, you’ll need to download VPN software specific to these platforms. OpenVPN is an obvious choice. Once you’ve downloaded a VPN client, you can follow the instructions found on the How To section of the VPN Gate website.

Should you trust VPN Gate?

On paper, VPN Gate seems fantastic. It is open-source and community-powered, is created by an academic institution and not a corporation, and it is free for internet users all over the world at the point of use.

But is it really as good as it seems, and should you trust the platform to protect you when online? In short, a tentative yes.

VPN Gate appears to be exactly what it purports itself to be, and there is no apparent commercial agenda or data harvesting operation.

However, the platform is not as secure and private as premium VPN services such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN. Our biggest security concern is that not all of VPN Gate’s volunteer servers may be trustworthy. When you connect to a server, that owner of that server will have access to your connection and usage logs (unless encrypted with an HTTPS protocol). Furthermore, you should be aware that some servers on the platform may be honeypots - i.e. a trap set up by a potential cyber attacker.

We’re also concerned that VPN Gate collects and stores connection logs for a period of three months. The team behind VPN Gate has said they do disclose this data to authorized law enforcement officials.

 What is VPN Gate and should you trust it - in brief

Ultimately, VPN Gate - or VPNGate - could be an ideal free choice for bypassing geo-blocking and ISP throttling, but not for much else.

While the team behind the platform certainly seems trustworthy and we love the concept, it isn’t entirely private and shouldn’t be used if you’re after highly secure, anonymized browsing that the overall best VPN providers out there can offer.

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