DefenceVPN is a young Canadian VPN service which offers a wide set of features for a very fair price. The company has around 20 locations, with most of them in Europe or North America, but there are also servers in Singapore, South Africa, Japan and more.
DefenceVPN provides custom apps for Windows, Android and OS X, and iOS is flagged as ‘coming soon’. With support for up to five devices, you should be able to install the service wherever you need it.
The service is also P2P friendly, doesn’t throttle your traffic, and seems to deliver on the technical details: OpenVPN and IKeV2 support, double data encryption, a kill switch, NAT firewall and more.
Prices are cheaper than most, starting at $5 (£4) a month paid annually. You’re not ripped off with shorter terms – a six-month contract costs $5.50 (£4.40) a month, and monthly contracts are $6 (£4.80) – and there’s a 7-day money-back guarantee. This won’t apply if you use more than 5GB of data, but that’s enough to check connections and get a feel for service speeds.
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.
It’s all a little too vague, and just leaves us with more questions. Does this mean there’s a log of every session from your account? Do these have timestamps? Do they have any other data attached, like incoming or outgoing timestamps? None of these issues are critical to your privacy, and many VPNs keep session logs of some kind. But the best providers are transparent and spell out this kind of detail, rather than simply saying ‘no logging’ on the front page, and “okay, there’s a bit of logging” somewhere else.
There are one or two other small privacy details. DefenceVPN collects some personal information when you sign up, and may use this “to contact users regarding products and services” or “to enhance users’ experience”.
There’s no information on what is collected, or whether you can opt out, or have your data deleted if you leave the service. But the company says it will never sell its database “for the purpose of marketing or mailing lists”, and won’t pass personal information to its business partners, so overall this works much the same as with other providers.
Signing up with DefenceVPN is 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 2016). We had to check the message source to find the link, then copy and paste it into a browser ourselves.
The email provided download links for Windows, Android and OS X clients. We installed the Windows build, tried to log in with the account details, but were repeatedly told “network error occurred during connection establishment”. Rebooting and temporarily turning off our firewall made no difference.
We tried to log in to our account on the website but were refused access. An authentication issue? We tried the reset password option, but this kept telling us “the password must be 8 characters or longer”, even though we were trying to use 16 characters. We took out the symbols: no difference. Combined two English words: no difference.
Eventually we just entered the same character 10 times, and that was accepted (there’s no password strength meter here). We were then able to log in correctly, and the misleading “network error” message disappeared.
There’s probably a very simple explanation for most of this, perhaps involving some errors in password validation. It does indicate a lack of testing, though, and you’re entitled to expect more from a company that wants to handle your most confidential communications.
The DefenceVPN app interface is compact and straightforward. You can connect to the fastest server with a click, or choose a preferred location from the list. The UI displays your new IP address and you can start browsing immediately.
The locations on offer left us confused. The website mentions 9+ countries in one place, displays flags suggesting more, and a blog post listing others. The client gives us yet another set of 20 locations, leaving out one or two mentioned elsewhere (we saw no Australian servers). Our guess would be DefenceVPN has forgotten to update the site, rather than trying to cheat anyone, but that’s still not much of an excuse.
The client has hardly any features, settings or options. The app won’t display your servers on a map, or show you their current load. You can’t change protocols, adjust ports, use custom DNS sets or do anything faintly complicated. Even the automatic kill switch turns out to be a single option – ‘Disable internet if VPN is not connected’ – which you can turn on or off only.
You need to be careful in your choice of server, as they don’t all support the same features. P2P is only available on two servers, both in Amsterdam. Double data encryption – a scheme where your traffic passes through two VPN servers for extra privacy – is also supported on two locations only, Vienna and Valencia.
If we selected one location while connected to another, the client didn’t switch immediately, instead displaying the following prompt: “You will be reconnected to your new selection.nnContinue?” We had to click Yes to switch.
In our tests*, performance was fractionally above average. Local connections between UK servers reached up to 30Mbps, nearby European connections were typically 20 to 25Mbps, while New York gave us up to 22Mbps. DefenceVPN doesn’t break any speed records, but it delivers very acceptable performance for the price, and should be fine for regular browsing and streaming. P2P could be more of an issue, especially as there are only two servers supporting it, but the trial gives you seven days and 5GB of data transfer to test this out for yourself.
DefenceVPN passed our privacy tests, too, with no sign of any DNS or WebRTC leakage. There was a small oddity in that DefenceVPN had given us a DNS server in Bulgaria, which might not help browsing performance, but the client delivered where it mattered: our identity was protected at all times.
DefenceVPN is reasonably priced and faster than most VPNs, but it’s a new service, and has too many issues to recommend right now. Check back in six months and it’ll probably be much better.
*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.