Best VPN for Mac

Best VPN Services for Mac OS X

Mac OS X is a vastly popular operating system that comes built-in with desktop Apple products. Although it has a substantially lower market share than its primary competitor from Microsoft, it nonetheless boasts millions of users globally.

But despite its reputation for strong security, recent hacks reveal that the system is still as penetrable as any other. Moreover, a secure OS alone will not protect its users’ internet traffic and ultimately privacy. And in order to secure it, it’s highly recommended to use a VPN service when online, especially when accessing the web from an unsecured network. Aside from enhancing privacy, a VPN will also enable the user to access geographically restricted content that is otherwise blocked in their region.

There are a lot of VPN providers to sift through when shopping for one. And it’s hard to know which one will work best specifically for you on your Mac computer. Which is why we have put together this handy guide to the best VPN services for Mac OS X.

Summary

Logo Name Links Monthly Price
ExpressVPN ExpressVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$8.32
VPN.AC VPN.AC Read Review
Visit Provider
$9
IPVanish IPVanish Read Review
Visit Provider
$10
VyprVPN VyprVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$9.99
HideMyAss HideMyAss Read Review
Visit Provider
$11.52
Private Internet Access Private Internet Access Read Review
Visit Provider
$6.95

Quick Links


Brief history of Mac OS X

Since their conception in 1976, Apple has become one of the largest tech corporations in the world today. Aside from Mac computers, Apple produce a wide range of electronic products, including the iPod MP3 player, the iPhone smartphone, the iPad tablet, and more recently the Apple smartwatch.

They also run several online services, including iCloud, iTunes, and their App store. At the end of 2014, Apple were the second largest tech company in the world with an overall revenue of $182.79 billion (Samsung took first place with $189.5 billion). Currently, Apple are the largest publicly traded corporation in the world with a total market value of over $700 billion.

On new devices, Apple currently run two operating systems: iOS and OS X. Mobile devices use the iOS operating system, including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, while Mac desktops and laptops use the OS X operating system. Apple also run various consumer software, including the iTunes media browser, the Safari web browser, and the iLife and iWork creativity and productivity suites.

Since superseding the last of the classic Mac OS’s, the Mac OS 9 in 2002, the Mac OS X has enjoyed widespread popularity and has become the second most widely used operating system after windows. As of April this year, Mac OS X holds over 7% of the market for desktops and laptops, with Windows securing a combined market share of over 91% (Linux has just under 2%).

Security Issues

NSA backdoor

According to documents obtained in March this year by the The Intercept, an online platform for reporting on the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the NSA attempted to exploit security flaws in Apple iPhones and iPads for almost a decade beginning in 2006. With backing from the US government, the CIA held numerous conferences in this period in an attempt to target security keys used to encrypt data stored on Apple devices. Once hacked, CIA researchers planned to implement malware that would determine vulnerabilities in iPhone and iPad encryption.

Apple NSA backdoor
Since 2006, the NSA attempted to install backdoors in Apple products for nearly ten years.

The documents also revealed strong ties with NSA officials and uncovered researcher claims that they had created a modified version of Apple’s software development tool, Xcode, which could open up a backdoor for surveillance purposes on any program created by the tool. Researchers also claimed to have created a modified OS X updater that would install a keylogger on Apple systems to retain passwords and other sensitive information.

This latest leak comes at a time when Apple and other tech corporations are facing increased pressure in the UK, US, and elsewhere to lower their security defenses in line with data retention laws. As things stand, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has strongly rejected reducing the security of Apple products for government surveillance, though as these security vulnerabilities demonstrate, Apple are far from impenetrable when it comes to malicious attacks.

General Security Breaches

It also came out in March 2015 that users of Apple and Android devices were at risk of hacking attacks for over a decade thanks to former US government policy. Ultimately, the policy enforced the sale of “export grade” computers, which had a weaker encryption than standard models and could therefore be hacked in a matter of hours.

The weak encryption put thousands of websites at risk, including governmental and corporate websites. Once hackers had breached systems they could steal passwords and personal data, as well as modifying website content or planting malware.

Hackers began exploiting the security flaw, that has been dubbed the “FREAK” flaw for Factoring attack on RSA-EXPORT Keys, in 1999, though many systems continue to use the weaker encryption and could be at risk of serious privacy violations.

Aside from updating your browser to ensure that available fixes are used to combat FREAK, using a VPN will strengthen your encryption against future breaches.

OS X and iOS Security Flaws

According to a number of credible sources, including the Mac security software company Intego and the technology experts InfoWorld, the OS X operating system is more vulnerable to security breaches than Windows. In 2014 alone there were 147 breaches against OS X, with 64 rated as “high severity”, and 127 breaches against iOS, where 32 were marked as the most severe.

Among the most notable of these was the revelation of an SSL security flaw in February. It was discovered that validation of SSL encryption on both the iOS and OS X systems had a coding error that bypassed a key validation step in the web protocol for secure communications. This meant that any communications sent over unsecured Wi-Fi hot spots could be intercepted and read while unencrypted, a flaw that could lead to the theft of personal data, including passwords and bank details.

Using a reliable VPN for your Mac OS X would protect your computer against such an attack since VPNs encrypt inbound and outbound traffic.

Last week researchers from Indiana University published details about serious security weaknesses on OS X and iOS. The researchers describe both operating systems as being susceptible to “cross-app resource attacks,” collectively known as XARA, which are due to weaknesses in application sandboxes. Essentially, XARA makes use of a malicious Apple app to gain access to the data stored in or communicated by a legitimate app. According to the research, these attacks target the OS X keychain and bundle IDs, HTML 5 web sockets, and iOS URL schemes.

By targeting these areas, hackers are able to gain access to credentials and communications between apps and associated services, allowing them to steal passwords and other sensitive data from a range of Apple-compatible apps, including iCloud, Gmail, 1Password, Evernote, and others.

Best VPN Services

VPNs make a wise choice for those concerned about security breaches largely because of the encryption of data. When connecting to an encrypted server, you will be able to enjoy optimal internet performance without a significant loss in your bandwidth. Below are our top six VPN providers for Mac OS X.

Logo Name Links Monthly Price
ExpressVPN ExpressVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$8.32
VPN.AC VPN.AC Read Review
Visit Provider
$9
IPVanish IPVanish Read Review
Visit Provider
$10
VyprVPN VyprVPN Read Review
Visit Provider
$9.99
HideMyAss HideMyAss Read Review
Visit Provider
$11.52
Private Internet Access Private Internet Access Read Review
Visit Provider
$6.95

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN Mac OS X application

In top place is ExpressVPN – a provider with an extensive server network and a strong reputation for providing fast speeds and reliability of service. ExpressVPN is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, which makes the company a favourable choice for those of you wishing to avoid providers that are subject to national data retention laws.

Their current application for Mac OS X computers has a very light interface and uses a compact window for establishing one-click connections. The app is really a tidy, no-thrills client that opens a separate window for picking out a VPN location. Within the location picker, the user can bookmark his/her favourite countries and regions. Although there is no official ping response test, the app automatically runs this process in the Recommended tab, which instantly displays the fastest three locations at the top.

There is also an Options tab, which, more than anything else, is dedicated to selecting the desired VPN protocol. Options in this section include automatic protocol selection, which according to the option’s description will prompt ExpressVPN to select the most suitable OpenVPN connection type based on the user’s network. Manual options include OpenVPN UDP and OpenVPN TCP – both of which use AES 256-bit encryption keys, as well as L2TP/IPSec and PPTP, which use 128-bit keys.

Monthly subscriptions cost a higher-than-average $12.95; six months are $59.95 and a one-year subscription is $99.95.

Pros

  • Good speeds
  • Strong encryption
  • Large server network
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Apps for all common platforms
  • Registered in BVI (no data retention)

Cons

  • Not cheap

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2. VPN.AC

VPN.AC

In at number two is VPN.AC, a small yet prominent provider that operates out of Romania. Despite ‘obligatory’ EU data retention laws, the Romanian parliament has voted twice against forcing telecoms companies to retain customer data, arguing that such rules would be unconstitutional. Undoubtedly, this is a major benefit for VPN.AC subscribers, at least for now.

Aside from not having to deal with data retention, there are tons of positives to draw from the service itself and the team behind the service. VPN.AC has a standalone, custom-built client for Mac OS X. The software is nearly identical to its acclaimed Windows-based cousin. For starters, the app enables the user to connect to multiple locations in the US, UK, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Australia, and elsewhere. In this list, servers optimised for torrenting are also clearly marked as “(P2P optimised)”.

Protocol options range from OpenVPN ECC (applying elliptic curve cryptography methods), OpenVPN XOR, plus OpenVPN with AES 256-bit or 128-bit encryption keys. L2TP/IPSec with 256-bit keys and PPTP protocols are also available within the client. Users can choose between several UDP and TCP ports when using OpenVPN, which is something that few other providers offer within proprietary VPN software.

Pros

  • Good speeds
  • Strong encryption
  • Based in Romania (no data retention law)
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Cheaper than average VPN

Cons

  • No iPhone/iPad app

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3. IPVanish

IPVanish Mac client

In third place is the major US-based provider IPVanish. It ranks among the top VPN companies for network size, and offers numerous features in addition to its speedy VPN service, including its custom-built client for Mac OS X systems.

Features include encryption protocol selection out of OpenVPN (UDP or TCP mode), L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP. Although, for security reasons, their support team would not confirm which encryption keys their clients use, we suspect that the Mac client implements 256-bit ciphers on both OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec protocols.

In addition to versatile encryption settings, the application has a fairly advanced section for selecting servers; within this section users can select automatically suggested nodes based on speed or those recommended for gaming/streaming purposes. Likewise, there is a detailed list of all the servers, which automatically displays ping responses for each endpoint. Alternatively, users can browse through available server clusters on the in-app interactive map. Furthermore, the app can be configured to automatically modulate the user’s IP address, based on a custom-set time range which is set in minutes. The client also includes multiple options for port selection.

In terms of its privacy policy, IPVanish states that it does not collect traffic nor connection logs. As the company operates out of the US, no official data retention laws apply to its business.

A one-month IPVanish account can be purchased for $10. Three-month subscriptions cost $26.99. A one-year plan is $77.99.

Pros

  • Lots of server locations
  • Good speeds
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Apps for all common platforms

Cons

  • No live chat support

Visit Provider


4. VyprVPN

VyprVPN Mac

At number four is VyprVPN, which is based in the US and is part of the larger company Golden Frog, which specialises in delivering various tools for enhancing online anonymity, including its VPN service in VyprVPN. The provider runs a large server range and offers many helpful anonymity features alongside its core VPN functions.

Its Mac client includes a bundle of options that enable the user to add somewhat of a “personal” touch to their VPN connection settings, without having to dabble with manual configuration. For instance, the app features an internet killswitch, a filter for adding and saving untrustworthy Wi-Fi networks, as well as the option to use VyprVPN’s private DNS server (VyprDNS) – exclusive only to its native apps, while users can also set any third party DNS server should they wish to use alternative domain name server addresses. Available protocols include OpenVPN (with 256-bit or 160-bit encryption), L2TP/IPSec (with 256-bit keys), PPTP (with 128-bit keys) and the Chameleon protocol – the provider’s own custom modification of OpenVPN, which implements 256-bit encryption and is optimised for bypassing deep packet inspection.

Connection logs, including IP address and timestamps of connections are kept for one month, however, Golden Frog’s privacy policy states that strictly no traffic logs are collected. As it is a US-based company there are no data retention laws to force it to retain data logs.

There are three subscription options, including Basic, Pro, and Premier. Basic costs $9.99 per month, Pro is $14.99 per month, and the Premier plan is $19.99. As with many other subscription services, yearly accounts are offered with significant discounts.

Pros

  • Large server network
  • Good speeds
  • Strong encryption
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Apps for all common platforms

Cons

  • Collects temporary connection logs (not traffic logs)

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5. Hide My Ass!

Hide My Ass! Mac client

Hide My Ass! (HMA) is a provider owned and operated by UK-based company Privax and comes in at fifth place. The service is one of the largest on the VPN market, priding itself on a mammoth-sized network and a universal set of service features that include its application for Macintosh computers.

According to its privacy policy, the company does not keep traffic logs, though it does store connection logs for two to three months. It’s worth noting, however, that this data is not stored in the UK and therefore avoids the otherwise obligatory twelve-month data retention period that’s imposed throughout most of the EU, including the UK.

Its Mac client allows users to choose between OpenVPN with 128-bit Blowfish-CBC encryption keys and PPTP protocols, though there’s also the option of L2TP/IPSec for manually configured connections. On top of country and protocol selection, the software also has other features like its automated IP address changer, Secure IP bind (an internet killswitch for individual applications), a speed guide, and proxy settings. In addition to Macs, HMA also has clients for Windows, iOS, and Android devices.

HMA costs $9.99 per month. Six-month subscriptions are $49.99 and one-year accounts are $78.66.

Pros

  • Enormous server range
  • Good speeds
  • Apps for all common platforms

Cons

  • No 256-bit encryption with OpenVPN
  • Keeps connection logs for 2-3 months
  • Not torrent-friendly

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6. Private Internet Access

PIA Mac client

In sixth place is Private Internet Access (PIA), a provider that is well-known for good speeds, strong encryption, and an overall no-nonsense approach. It’s this approach that has helped build a very positive reputation for the provider, which is owned and operated by the US-based company London Trust Media.

Its privacy policy outlines that the company collects no user traffic logs or connection logs. It states that when a customer registers with the service, information that is stored is minimal, comprising only of the user’s email address, PIA-generated transaction ID, and the last four digits of the card used by the customer to process the payment. Of course, it is worth adding that PIA also accepts anonymous payment methods through currencies/mediums such as Bitcoin and numerous others.

The PIA Mac OS X client comes without the fancy decorations and buttons offered by many other providers. Instead, it presents itself as a simple VPN client, equipped only with the necessary features that enable the user to customise and, thus, optimise their connection. Alongside the dropdown server selection list, the app has several options, including auto-launch, auto-connect, encryption settings, port switching, as well as forwarding, an internet killswitch, and IPv6 leak protection. By default, the app uses OpenVPN with AES 128-bit keys; users are able to enhance the encryption level to 256-bit keys. The OpenVPN connection type can also be toggled between UDP and TCP, with UDP set by default. On top of this, PIA customers have the option of using a SOCKS5 proxy, which is included in the subscription.

PIA is one of the cheapest ‘major’ VPN providers on the market, offering its service for $6.95 per month. Semi-annual plans cost $35.95, and the one-year subscription is not much more expensive at $39.95. An individual PIA account can be simultaneously connected on up to five devices.

Pros

  • Good speeds
  • Strong encryption
  • Up to 5 simultaneous connections allowed
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Apps for all platforms
  • Cheaper than average VPN

Cons

  • Live chat support requires 5-7 min. wait

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Glancing back at the curve.

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