DefenceVPN review

The price is right. But what about the service?

Main
Image credit: DefenceVPN

Our Verdict

An underpowered VPN with more problems than plus points, and no sign at all that it has the expertise or resources to fix them

For

  • Low prices
  • Mobile and desktop apps

Against

  • Small network
  • Few features
  • Multiple app and website issues
  • Below average speeds

DefenceVPN is a young Canadian VPN service which offers a modest set of features for what looks a low price.

The network is very small at just 25 servers (5 torrent-friendly) in 16 locations, for instance (North America, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and South Africa). But the company says it manages its network "100% in-house to provide you with the fastest and most stable connection possible."

With apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, and OpenVPN support for compatibility, you should be able to run the service almost anywhere. (Whatever you're doing, the service supports connecting up to five devices simultaneously.)

The service is also P2P friendly, doesn't throttle your traffic, and seems to deliver on the fundamentals: OpenVPN and IKeV2 support, a kill switch, no traffic limits, 256-bit encryption and more.

Prices are cheaper than most, starting at $9.99 billed monthly, falling to $6.65 on a six-month deal, or an excellent $2.99 over a year. You can get similar deals with a few providers, but usually it involves much longer subscriptions. For example, you can get also get a NordVPN account for $2.99 a month, but only if you sign up for three years. The one-year price is $6.99.

Whatever plan you choose, you can pay by cards, PayPal, Bitcoin and more. There's some protection from a 7-day money-back guarantee, but beware - a catch in the small print says you won't qualify if you've transferred more than 5GB of data.

Privacy

DefenceVPN displays an emphatic ‘no logging’ statement on the front page of its website, but that kind of claim doesn't always mean what you might think. As ever, it’s worth checking out the small print for the finer details.

The Privacy Policy doesn't include much more information, unfortunately, but there is this paragraph: "DefenceVPN does not store or log any traffic or usage from its Virtual Private Network (VPN). We do log total data used during a session, stored by username. We do not keep traffic logs, incoming or outgoing timestamps, IP address's during a session. "

That seems to rule out any form of activity logging. There is some session logging, but it's related to the amount of data you've used, and we already knew the service must be logging data transfers to enforce its 5GB transfer limit for refunds.

Overall, it seems that DefenceVPN isn't doing anything that would compromise your privacy. But like most other small VPNs, the company hasn't had its systems audited for privacy or security, and so there's no way to say for sure.

Setup

Signing up with DefenceVPN looks simple and straightforward. Choose a plan, a payment method (card or PayPal), register with your email address and a welcome email arrives within a few seconds.

Unfortunately, life then got more complicated for us. There was an Activate link in the email, but it wasn't clickable in our client (Outlook). The email gave us a link to click, but that didn't work, either.

We quickly realized the most likely cause for our issue: the email address we had used was already associated with a DefenceVPN account. While we had made a mistake in trying to create a new account with that email, any other service we've ever used would just say 'that email is in use, please log in instead'. It's a little worrying that the DefenceVPN couldn't even handle that basic task, instead choosing to send an unnecessary activation email which didn't even work.

We tried to deal with this by retrieving our old account password, and found even more website issues, including an eventual warning that our account was locked. We gave up, informed support, they enabled it for us, and we could finally check out the service.

Apps

Image credit: DefenceVPN

(Image credit: Image credit: DefenceVPN)

Apps

The DefenceVPN Windows client has a basic and rather limited interface. Left-clicking the client's system tray icon displays a panel with a Connect button, a list of locations, and not a lot else. The panel isn't a real desktop window and disappears if you click on another app, annoyingly, which means you can't place it on your desktop to keep an eye on connection status.

The practical issues continued as we used the client. It didn’t list the servers in alphabetical order. The server list has no indication of server load. The 'fastest server' option gives unexpected results, for example connecting us, in the UK, to Chicago. And because the client displays your new VPN but not its country, there's no way to know what that is (when the client is set to connect to the fastest server) until you check separately.

We spotted some questionable development decisions, too. Should the DefenceVPN really store your username and password in plain text in the Registry, for instance? We'd rather it didn't. We noticed a Google Analytics client ID value in the Registry, too. How is DefenceVPN using that, and how might it impact your privacy?

The client does at least include a handful of settings, including a kill switch to block internet access if the VPN drops, and options to launch the client when Windows starts.

In our last DefenceVPN review we hoped that the company could address these issues and improve the client. Checking our current installation, though, the client's executable file hasn't been updated for more than 18 months, which suggests you're not going to see major changes any time soon.

Netflix

Unfortunately DefenceVPN was unable to unblock either US Netflix or BBC iPlayer in our tests (Image credit: Netflix)

Performance

DefenceVPN Windows connect times were relatively short, and our tests show the client uses OpenVPN UDP. The OpenVPN setup is just about as basic as it gets, but it works, and the default AES-256-CBC encryption does a good job of keeping you safe.

The kill switch gives some protection. When we forcibly closed the client's connection, it warned us via a desktop notification, and instantly blocked our internet access. The client doesn't try to reconnect, though, so you must do this yourself. And once you click Connect, the client fully turns off the kill switch, leaving your real IP address exposed to the world until it establishes a new connection.

DefenceVPN claims it allows you to 'kiss restrictions goodbye and access all your favorite sites from anywhere in the world', but that wasn't our experience. It succeeded with the least protected sites, like US YouTube, but we couldn’t access content from BBC iPlayer or US Netflix.

Performance

We test the performance of every VPN we review using OpenSpeedTest (Image credit: OpenSpeedTest)

Download speeds were inconsistent, but generally a little below average. UK locations averaged 40-50Mbps on our 75Mbps test line, US speeds ranged from 10-50Mbps, some servers refused to connect at all, others appeared to connect but then were almost unusable. We can't draw any firm conclusions from such a mixed picture, but this doesn't look good, and if you're tempted to sign up, be sure to run plenty of speed tests of your own.

The review ended on a better note as DefenceVPN passed our privacy tests, with no sign of any DNS leaks, but let's be realistic: that's not nearly enough to compensate for its other issues.

Final verdict

DefenceVPN seemed cheap, until we looked at its features, realized how few and how basic they are, and how the company hasn't even implemented these as well as we would expect. There are way too many issues here to recommend the service right now, and you'll be much better off elsewhere.