I’ll show you how to test a VPN to make sure it’s secure and fast. But to save you time and effort, I’ve shortlisted the safest 3 VPNs I found that have the highest connection speeds. My testing showed ExpressVPN is the best — its proprietary Lightway VPN protocol keeps you safe from hacking and gives you blazing-fast speeds. You can also buy ExpressVPN in confidence — it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. Protect yourself with ExpressVPN

1. DNS Leak Test

DNS is an organization system for the web. It takes domain names that you type into your web browser’s address bar and turns them into a numerical format called an IP address. Computers can easily read these addresses so that your browser takes you to the right website. This DNS translation is done by your ISP and reveals your browsing data, downloads, geographic location, and other information in the process. VPNs with DNS leak protection ensure that the encrypted tunnel doesn’t have any cracks that could reveal your personal information to third parties. To check for DNS leaks, connect to a VPN server outside your country and use an online tool like DNS Leak Test. This will either display your standard IP address or the virtual one from the VPN. If your actual IP address displays, you should contact your VPN provider to find out why your data is leaking.

2. IP Address Leak Test

Sub-par VPNs leak your IP address by having unreliable servers that drop your connection. A full IP leak means the encryption isn’t working and your device is completely unprotected. To see if you have an IP address leak you can use an online tool after connecting to your VPN. If it shows your real IP address, you have a leak. Top VPNs have a kill switch that prevents IP address leaks by shutting off the internet during expected network interruptions. For example, if your device goes to sleep, it could interrupt the VPN. Then upon booting your OS, the VPN might not be turned on anymore. A kill switch ensures that this wouldn’t result in your connection being unprotected.

3. P2P Torrent Data Leak Test

IP address, DNS, and other leaks can happen while you’re torrenting files. You can test for torrent leaks with standard IP and DNS leak tests after connecting to a top VPN. The most secure VPNs (like those on this list) never leak your data while downloading or uploading. Some leaks are caused by torrent trackers that P2P clients use to find peers that are sharing files. To avoid these, use a VPN with port forwarding. Port forwarding gives incoming torrent connections direct access to your P2P client. Without it, your router would block these connections and prevent you from getting high priority from seeds, which means slower downloads.

4. WebRTC Leak Test

WebRTC leaks happen during voice or video chats in web browsers like Chrome, Opera, and Firefox. These browsers use a communication protocol to connect you with your chat partner, and during this process, your data can leak through encryption on weak VPNs. One way to avoid WebRTC leaks is by disabling it in your browser’s settings. You can also use an online tool to see if you have a WebRTC leak. However, it’s even better to prevent data leaks by using one of the industry’s top VPNs. This gives you a much higher level of protection than changing browser settings can.

5. VPN Malware Test

Malware is a constant online threat, and it’s sometimes hidden in free VPNs. While there are some safe and reliable free VPN providers, scam VPNs embedded with malicious files are all too common in mobile app stores. That’s why I always recommend using a premium VPN and downloading it from its official website. To check if a free VPN contains malware, use a top antivirus like Norton 360 to scan your device. Another option is to upload your VPN to a browser-based virus scanner such as VirusTotal, though it may occasionally show false positives. I prefer Norton because it provides reliable real-time protection to detect an infected VPN before you open it. Some top VPNs even have built-in malware blockers to prevent viruses from harming your devices while you’re connected. PIA uses a feature called MACE to protect you from infected links, trackers, and malicious ads before they can load.

6. VPN Speed Test

You can use Ookla to measure your VPN speed. Run the test without a VPN, then connect to a server and do it again. ExpressVPN gave me speed drops of no more than 5%, which wasn’t noticeable even while I watched UHD YouTube videos on multiple devices. Unfortunately, most VPNs slow your connection too much for your favorite apps and websites to work properly. Aside from the quality of the VPN you choose, VPN speeds depend on the following factors:

Server distance — The farther a VPN server is from your real location, the slower the speeds. That’s because your traffic has to travel to be encrypted, which takes longer if the server is in a distant country. Overcrowded networks — You may get slow performance if too many people connect to the same VPN server simultaneously. Free VPNs are likelier to have overcrowded servers because they don’t have enough bandwidth to accommodate all their users. Low baseline speeds — Countries with less developed internet infrastructure will have slower internet speeds whether you use a VPN or not. Connecting to a VPN in one of these countries can reduce speeds further. Firewalls — Some firewall configurations interfere with VPN traffic, resulting in slower speeds. Encryption — A military-grade tunneling protocol takes longer to hide your traffic, slowing down your performance, but gives you the highest available level of security.

Keep in mind that you need at least 5 Mbps download speeds for HD video and 25 Mbps for UHD. Lag-free online games require 15 Mbps and a ping rate under 100 ms. “Ping” refers to how long it takes your device to communicate with the VPN server, so high ping means laggy matches. The only time a VPN might improve internet performance is when there are speed throttles. This is when speeds are capped due to customers exceeding data limits on internet or mobile plans, but throttles can be prevented by using a VPN to get a new IP address. This bypasses speed and data restrictions. Get the fastest speeds with ExpressVPN

Top 3 VPNs for Security and Speeds in 2023

1. ExpressVPN — Lightway VPN Protocol Gives You Next-Generation Security and Blazing-Fast Connections

Key Features: ExpressVPN’s proprietary Lightway protocol makes it the fastest and safest VPN I tested. Open-source and fully audited, Lightway kept my devices safe from cyberattacks using military-grade encryption. It also uses minimal code, which makes it more efficient and gives me the fastest speeds possible for streaming, torrenting, and other data-intensive online activities. During my speed tests, I got blazing-fast performance on ExpressVPN’s servers, including on nearby and distant locations. While many VPNs caused drops of over 30% on faraway networks due to the distance your data has to travel, ExpressVPN barely reduced my speeds — I could stream UHD content without buffering and play Call of Duty lag-free. For your data privacy, there’s a Network Lock kill switch that turns off the internet if something disconnects the VPN. For example, When I brought my laptop out of hibernation, ExpressVPN’s kill switch hid my data flawlessly by blocking all network connections. In addition, ExpressVPN keeps your devices safe and your data private with:

TrustedServer Technology — ExpressVPN’s 3000+ servers run on RAM instead of hard drives, so it’s physically impossible for them to store your data. Strict no-logs policy — With a location in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN isn’t required to store or share your information. It was even verified by PwC, a top audit firm. Split tunneling — The split tunnel lets you choose which internet traffic to encrypt while leaving the rest unchanged, so you can use local networks and the VPN simultaneously. Perfect Forward Secrecy — This feature regularly changes your encryption key to make your data even harder to hack or eavesdrop on. Threat Manager — On macOS, iOS, and Linux, this gives you an extra layer of protection by blocking websites and apps from tracking and sharing your information

An extensive selection of over 3000 optimized servers gives ExpressVPN remarkable unblocking capabilities to access global sites. VPN blocking filters can’t keep up blacklisting with so many IP addresses, which is why ExpressVPN keeps updating its network to stay ahead of anti-VPN algorithms. My connection never became unsteady even when I used ExpressVPN on 5 simultaneous platforms including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. To set up and use a VPN on your smart TV is slightly more complicated, but with PIA’s online guides it still only took me about 15 minutes. For even more device compatibility, ExpressVPN also has the MediaStreamer feature. This unblocks content on devices like the PS4 that don’t have a native ExpressVPN app. Just keep in mind that MediaStreamer won’t encrypt your connection, so it increases your speeds but doesn’t add the security of a full VPN. Your main support options with ExpressVPN are 24/7 live chat, email, and an online knowledge base with video guides. The easiest way to get help was the 24/7 live chat — I used it to get answers to a question about which protocol was best for secure web browsing. The support agent replied in under a minute. The 1-year + 3 months ExpressVPN subscription has the lowest price at just $6.67 per month. While it can be a bit pricey for budget-conscious users, ExpressVPN is worth the investment for its fully-audited security features and lightning-fast speeds. All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can buy ExpressVPN in confidence. I tested the policy first-hand by asking for a refund via 24/7 live chat, and got a reply in under a minute. I had my money back in just 4 days. Protect yourself with ExpressVPN

2. CyberGhost — Automatic WiFi Protection Keeps You Secure on Unsafe Public Networks

Key Features: CyberGhost’s WiFi protection keeps you safe even on public networks. Smart rules will automatically turn on the VPN before you connect to WiFi, protecting you from hackers even if your phone or laptop tries to use a compromised hotspot. In addition to wireless protection, CyberGhost encrypts your internet traffic with a military-grade 256-bit protocol and includes:

Perfect Forward Secrecy — This gives you a unique encryption key every time you do anything online (like send a message or click a link). Even if a hacker did the impossible and broke one encryption key, there would be almost no data to find. Built-in leak protection — The VPN prevents IP, WebRTC, and DNS leaks that reveal your data. Kill switch — With this turned on, you’ll stay anonymous even if your connection is unsteady. NoSpy Servers — A specialized network located in Romania, where there are no data retention laws for companies. They’re also owned and managed internally by CyberGhost, removing the security risks of outsourcing to data farms as most VPNs do.

Having multiple VPN protocols to choose from is another plus, as it gives you the flexibility to customize your security, privacy, and speeds. Choose from:

WireGuard — Gives you a balance of super-fast speeds and solid security and has no known vulnerabilities, but it isn’t as private as other protocols IKEv2 — Has the highest speeds, compromises slightly on security OpenVPN — Offers extra security at the cost of slightly slower speeds. However, I tested it with HD and UHD video and didn’t have any problems

Throughout my tests, CyberGhost gave me fast speeds for streaming, downloading, and other activities with high data requirements. The “Best Server” option connected me to an option in New York near my real location. This location gave me drops of under 5% from my baseline speed of 100Mbps. You can find my full results below: I was impressed by CyberGhost’s extensive network of 9633 servers and its optimized menus for streaming, torrenting, gaming, and privacy. I connected to a P2P server in the US and got 15% faster torrenting speeds than on a regular server in the same country. It also has a streaming menu for maximum speeds on global TV and movie sites. Connecting to the BBC iPlayer server instantly let me access the site and watch Seven Worlds, One Planet. Testing CyberGhost on 7 devices at once including Windows laptops, Macbooks, iPhones, an iPad, and an Android, speeds were similar as when I connected just 1 device. The VPN never disconnected unexpectedly. The one con to CyberGhost is that its 1-month plan has a much shorter money-back guarantee than ExpressVPN’s similar plan. However, its fairly-priced subscriptions make it a great value for its speed, security, and privacy features. I suggest getting the 2-year + 2 months plan since it has the highest discount of 83% and is only $2.19/month. Plus, it comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee to try CyberGhost risk-free. I redeemed the offer by contacting support via live chat and got a reply in just 2 minutes that my request was approved. I had my money back in under a week. Protect yourself with CyberGhost

3. PIA — MACE Malware Blocker Safeguards Your Devices from Viruses and Malicious Ads

Key Features: PIA MACE prevents malware and harmful ads from infecting your devices with trackers, trojans, and other common online threats. During my extensive tests, MACE blocked ads on news sites like Forbes and LA Times and also stopped annoying auto-playing videos from loading. While most VPNs default to military-grade 256-bit encryption, PIA gives you flexible security levels. 128-bit encryption is secure and gives you faster speeds, but you can choose 256-bit for extra security for activities like online banking. You get a range of other security and privacy features with PIA, such as:

Perfect Forward Secrecy assigns a unique encryption key every time you do anything like send a message or click a link so that hackers can’t keep up. A Kill switch ensures that your IP address remains anonymous even if the connection to the VPN server drops. Integrated split tunneling lets you encrypt internet traffic for some apps while still using the local web. Fully audited no-logs servers mean that PIA doesn’t store data or access your browsing history any time that you’re connected.

After my tests of 30+ servers located in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia, PIA prevented IPv4, IPv6, and DNS requests from revealing any of my online data. These common leaks can sneak past encryption on weaker VPNs. If you use PIA on Mac then leak protection is enabled by default, but it has to be turned on manually in Windows. My speed tests showed that PIA lags a bit behind competitors on this list, but it’s much faster than most of the dozens of VPNs I tested. Below are some speed benchmarks based on my results. Given its relatively low price point I was surprised to learn PIA has more than 35000 servers in over 84 countries, so it has one of the highest server counts I’ve seen in a VPN. I tested over 20 servers at different times of day and night to find out if they ever slow from crowding with too many users. With PIA’s huge global network, I never encountered slowdowns due to congestion like with cheap VPNs that have small server lists. You can use PIA’s easy-to-use apps on 10 devices at once and it supports all major platforms including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. It also works on some routers and has browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. Despite slightly slower speeds, its affordable prices make PIA one of the best month-to-month VPNs. I still recommend getting its 2-year + 2 months plan because it gives you an 82% discount. It also has the lowest price of $2.19 per month and includes some extra months for free. The best part is that you can try PIA’s security features without risk because it has a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans. I tested its refund policy myself and submitted my request via email — I got my money back in 7 business days. Protect yourself with PIA

What’s the fastest VPN?

I found ExpressVPN to be the fastest among the dozens of VPN providers I tested. The secret to ExpressVPN’s speeds is its less resource-intensive Lightway protocol, which delivers top performance without compromising security. ExpressVPN also has split tunneling, which improves your speeds by sending some internet traffic through your usual network if you don’t need it protected. That frees up bandwidth for the apps you want to route through the VPN and boosts performance.

Will using a VPN speed up my internet?

No, VPNs typically slow down your speeds because encrypting your data takes time. However, I’ve picked out the fastest VPNs that retain your usual network performance as much as possible. The only time when a VPN might speed up the internet is when an ISP throttles bandwidth. This usually happens when customers exceed the data limits on their plan. A VPN masks the customer’s IP address and prevents ISPs from throttling speeds.

Is it safe to use a free VPN?

Maybe, but most free VPNs aren’t safe. They lack state-of-the-art security features available in top VPNs. Worse yet, some are scams that can infect your device with malware and put your data at serious risk. Even VPNs with lots of positive app store ratings can’t be trusted since they pay for bots to buy good reviews that make them look legitimate. Since fully-secure VPNs like CyberGhost have money-back guarantees that make them free to try, there’s no point in risking your online safety with limited or risky free VPN apps. I tested CyberGhost’s security and speeds for a few weeks and then got my refund processed almost instantly via 24/7 live chat. Try CyberGhost for free

Final Thoughts

With so many VPNs claiming to give you perfect security and ultra-fast servers, I found that in most cases it’s too good to be true. This makes it hard to pick the right one, especially since even many paid VPNs lack the technology to keep your data 100% protected. Some have been caught in data-sharing scandals. I found ExpressVPN to be the safest and fastest because its proprietary Lightway protocol maximizes your security without compromising speeds. During my testing, ExpressVPN kept my devices secure with blazing-fast speeds for uninterrupted UHD streams, games, torrents, and more. You can also buy ExpressVPN in confidence since it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you decide to use a different VPN, you can easily get a refund.

More of the Best VPNs for Security and Speed in 2023