Virtual Private Networks (VPN) were originally conceived as a means to allow off-site workers to log in to corporate networks remotely but securely, over an insecure network connection – and it’s no surprise that Linux users are at the front of the queue looking for a Linux VPN.
In essence, the best 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.
However, besides enabling remote workers to securely access company resources, using a VPN has numerous other benefits as well. The first and the most important reason is security. While Linux is inherently more secure than other operating systems, there are several additional security benefits that come with using a VPN service.
Because a VPN routes all your data from your computer to the remote website through an encrypted channel, it ensures it can’t be intercepted by any intermediary, be it your company, or your ISP. This makes a Linux VPN especially useful for browsing the web over an unsecure, untrusted network like the Wi-Fi in a library or a hotel.
VPNs also enable users to overcome the geo-blocks and access content that may not be accessible in your region. For instance, with VPN you can access your favourite BBC broadcast even while travelling outside the UK.
As an increasing number of users switch to Linux for its security benefits, many VPN providers are ensuring that they support the platform, just like Windows and Mac. In this guide we’ll introduce you to some of the best Linux VPN services.
What makes a great Linux VPN?
When you’re out shopping for a Linux VPN service, make sure you look for the ones that have a native Linux client. A service might check all the right boxes in terms of features, but if it doesn’t have Linux clients it wouldn’t be of any use to you now, would it? Thankfully the services in this guide all treat Linux as a first-class citizen.
Once you’ve made your VPN service supports Linux, you need to make sure it has a transparent data logging policy. A good VPN service like our top pick ExpressVPN will clearly spell out the type of data it logs about its users, along with the retention period of all collection data.
Besides these, privacy advocates usually suggest sticking with services that offer a kill switch, which will automatically sever your connection to the Internet, instead of sending data over the unencrypted network, in case you get disconnected from the VPN service.
The best Linux VPN available today
ExpressVPN is our most-recommended service, and that doesn’t change even when it comes to Linux VPNs. Besides its app for your installation, the service also has extensions for the Chrome and Firefox web browsers that work on Linux. The Linux app will automatically connect you to the geographically closest server, but you can manually point it to connect through any of its servers in over 94 countries.
The service isn’t bereft of features for Linux and comes with a network kill switch that’s enabled by default. And despite being CLI-based, it’s client isn’t cumbersome to operate and ships with reasonable defaults.
The only real downside to the service is its cost, which is higher than its competitors, but it more than makes up for that with its list of features. The service doesn’t offer a free trial, but all its long duration plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
We’ll award the second spot to Surfshark, which will appeal as a bargain Linux VPN, with its longer plans costing only around $2.50/£2 per month. That said, even as a cheap VPN, the service has no paucity of features, and in our recent Surfshark review it certainly impressed.
Surfshark too has a CLI-based utility for Linux users that you can use to connect any number of devices all at once – cover your Linux, macOS and Windows devices as well as your smartphone, tablet, Smart TV or even router. Linux users can also take advantage of its CleanWeb feature to block ads and malware and can also use the VPN in obfuscation mode, which makes encrypted VPN track look like regular browsing traffic.
However, on the downside, some features such as split-tunneling aren’t available to Linux users, which is a shame – but for the price, it’s hard to complain.
Third on our list is NordVPN, which offers a great many features to its Linux users. In our NordVPN review we loved the the Double VPN feature, which for extra security, routes your traffic through two different VPN servers, encrypting your data twice. Linux users also connect through obfuscated servers that will conceal the fact that you’re using a VPN to route your traffic, to bypass any bans on VPN traffic.
The service relies on its homebrewed NordLynx protocol that’s based on WireGuard and is tuned for speed. In terms of limitations, NordVPN allows a maximum of six devices to share the same connection at any given time.
As noted in our Hotspot Shield review, this service relies on its custom proprietary Catapult Hydra VPN protocol, which has helped it win Ookla’s fastest VPN service award back in 2019, and the service still ranks among some of the fastest in our tests.
That said, while you can use Hotspot via its CLI-based Linux VPN client, keep in mind that you won’t be able to use many of the interesting features such as split-tunneling. Also not available to Linux users is Hotspot’s popular free VPN product, although you can test the service through its generous 45-day money back guarantee, which is longer than what’s usually offered by most of its peers.
Isn’t IPVanish generous – the US-based provider doesn’t put a cap on the number of devices you can connect through the same connection at the same time, which is a huge plus since it allows you to extend the VPN protection to all the devices in your house. The only other provider that does that is Surfshark.
In our tests for our full IPVanish review, the connections were stable and worked as advertised. The service also offers some of the lowest prices, especially on its short-duration plans.
However, unlike its competitors, IPVanish’s Linux VPN is a barebones service that doesn’t offer any of the interesting features that you get with its peers, such as the kill switch or the ability to obfuscate VPN traffic. As a simple service it’s reliable and fast, but it wouldn’t be our first choice on Linux.
Best Linux VPN FAQ
What’s the best VPN for Linux in 2021?
All things considered, if we had to pick one outright, we’d go with ExpressVPN. Sure, at first glance the service does appear more expensive than its peers, but the costs come down as you increase the duration. Furthermore, the service supports several popular use cases, such as streaming content without a noticeable drop in speeds despite the extra overhead.
If you are a long-time VPN user, you’ll be able to appreciate the quality and stability of the connections. While Linux users get a CLI utility they can pair it with the online server selection tool to connect through any of its thousands of worldwide servers.
Can you get a free Linux VPN?
If you look hard enough, you’ll chance upon a VPN service that’ll tempt you with a free offering. However, the risks of using such an offering far outweigh the merits of saving a couple of dollars a month.
For starters, these free services will definitely be a lot slower than any paid service. Forget streaming content too, and you might not even be able to enjoy a pleasant browsing experience with them. On top of it, there will almost certainly be a cap on the bandwidth with a no-fee VPN, which will be set to such a low level so as to make the service unusable for any practical purposes.
Another major cause of concern with free services are their privacy policies or lack thereof. They are not free from the goodness of their heart, and have to make money somehow. Collecting and hawking your private data is one of the most common ploys.