LiquidVPN is a personal VPN service that came to prominence during 2014 and has recently been making plenty of noise on the VPN scene; it seems for all the right reasons too. The relatively small, but dedicated provider is based in Michigan, United States and since its founding, it has become a well-respected VPN of choice among many privacy advocates.
In a nutshell, the company distances itself from being tagged as a ‘one size fits all’ provider, instead laying out a very specific set of requirements on which the service and its core philosophy is based on. At the forefront of its main areas of focus is privacy, net neutrality, usage policy, hardware optimisation, redundancy, traffic, peering and bandwidth. Each of these have helped establish a benchmark for maintaining their data centres, and once this had been set, the provider set up a cluster of anonymous VPN servers through an open-source client control panel that lets users customise their own level of privacy and overall comfort. We took a closer look under the hood to find out how the service works on the user-front and to come to a conclusion on whether LiquidVPN is a trusted and quality virtual private network provider.
In many cases, most other VPNs that we have reviewed rarely bother to clarify how they handle user privacy in relation to their servers at the jurisdictional level, and there are two main areas of concern here. Potentially. First of all, when a provider leases international VPN servers (and the majority of them do), they have to adhere to the rules of the company who they are renting the nodes from and, most importantly, to the laws enforced by local authorities, including the company’s own jurisdiction.
Needless to say, LiquidVPN have a very tough no-log policy with respect to their customers’ net traffic. If you are raising an eyebrow over the fact that the company is based in the United States, it has to be noted that the country’s law does not require internet companies to retain or collect user logs, unlike in western EU; and the logs that the company does record are very basic connection IP timestamps, which is a common practise with every provider and one that does not reveal what the VPN user is up to online.
Liquid VPN offers PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN encryption protocols. Over PPTP, their servers are configured to use 128-bit keys, whereas L2TP implements 256-bit encryption. OpenVPN encryption varies, but can reach up to 2048 bit RSA. In addition to the protocols mentioned above they also have an additional measure of security known as LiquidDNS. This is LiquidVPN’s own domain name server that connects your computer to different websites and their respective servers. By using LiquidVPN’s own DNS will protect you from DNS leaks and many DNS specific attacks such as DNS spoofing, in which the attacker can re-route the IP address on the server to their computer, malicious website or server.
Shared and Dynamic IPs
The service gives all customers the choice of using either shared or dynamic IP addresses. Shared IP addresses are a standard for VPN providers and are normally offered across their entire server range; as is the case with LiquidVPN. The main upside of using one is to have your traffic mixed with that of hundreds, and, in some cases, thousands of other users. Essentially, the method of bundling everyone’s VPN tunnels under one shared IP umbrella makes it much harder for third parties to single out traffic belonging to one individual. However two things that this option is not recommended for is streaming videos or gaming, as both require low latency and, in parallel, a low number of incoming connections. Additionally, shared IP addresses often get blacklisted (blocked) by streaming services, because it is fairly easy to identify that many connections are being made from a single IP; hence why it is usually treated as abuse of service. Nevertheless, LiquidVPN accommodates for this by likewise offering users to connect to dynamic IP addresses. Unlike shared IPs, a dynamic IP circumvents port and NAT restrictions, avoiding latency issues and, thus, making this choice ideal for streaming, gaming, P2P and ViOP. In detail, this option assigns one user per public IP. Of course, in this case it is important to keep in mind that having your traffic individually associated with one public IP means slightly less anonymity on the user-side. But as we have mentioned before, it is possible to freely choose between dynamic or shared IPs when establishing a connection.
If that isn’t convinving enough, LiquidVPN offers yet another, very noteworthy internet protocol feature – IP modulation. Surprisingly, most other VPNs are yet to include something that’s analogous in their service, despite it being a very sought-after feature among privacy enthusiasts and IT-minded folk. Primarily, it has been introduced as an anonymity-enhancement setting, and it works by automatically changing your IP address during the same VPN session, removing potential of numerous tracking and interception methods implemented by hackers. Even better – along with increased security, LiquidVPN’s latest upgrade to IP modulation 2.0 also results in up to 500% better speeds, making it a win-win option for customers. This technology isn’t easy to find on the market, but definitely worth considering as it is something that all VPN providers should look into deploying. This video briefly demonstrates how this feature works:
Compatibility and Software
If you would rather avoid manually configuring each server connection, LiquidVPN offers the convenient third party Viscosity client as an option for automatically connecting your VPN. The client, developed by Sparklabs, is quite simplistic, much like most other custom-built VPN apps, and is fairly easy to setup once you follow the instructions on their Setup Guides page. But to make things a little more convenient, we’ve also published a step-by-step guide for Windows (similar steps apply for Macintosh users):
- Navigate to your Client Area
- Click VPN Management panel
- Click Management Actions and then Enable Viscosity (license is now enabled)
- Navigate back to Client Area and download the client to your desktop
- Open and extract downloaded zip file
- Double click VPNCLIENT.exe and follow install instructions
- When asked, click Select New License
- Go back to extracted folder and open license.lic
- This should open the LiquidVPN splash screen and Liquid Viscosity icon (containing server list) in your System Tray
- Click and choose a server location through the System Tray icon
- When prompted, enter your VPN username and password that you will have received by email
- Your VPN connection should now be up and running
The service is fully compatible and functional on Linux as well as iOS and Android mobile devices. On the latter two, it is possible to install and run the standard OpenVPN Connect client (third party), while Linux/Ubuntu will, of course, require manual configuration.
We tested three LiquidVPN servers for performance, bearing in mind that more than one factor determines the strength of a connection including how far the server is from the original location and how the ISP handles handles data packets via certain routes. Using a fibre optic broadband connection in the north of the United States; together with AES-256-CBC encryption and IP modulation we logged the following results through Los Angeles, Toronto, and Birmingham (UK):
1. LA, California (USA)
Through the LA-based server, we notched 55 Mb/s in download speed and 11 Mb/s for upload, with a ping response of 74 ms. This server would be ideal for Californians and users from other US states who need a California-based IP.
2. Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
Through one of their servers in Canada, our connection test achieved 33 Mb/s for downloads, 9 Mb/s for uploads and a fairly decent ping response of 59 ms. Not a bad result for a different country, though we suspect that our own ISP may have re-routed some of our packets through additional locations prior to them having reached Canada. In other words, there’s a likely chance of other users achieving better results through this server.
3. Birmingham (United Kingdom)
Our final test was run specifically through a European location to check how well the connection fared over a long geographic distance and to show what users living in UK or other European countries can expect when using LiquidVPN on the other side of the Atlantic. Our test result showed 33 Mb/s in download speed, 7 Mb/s for uploads and, as expected, a slightly longer ping response of 156 ms. Overall the result is considerably better than we expected, and should be much higher for local residents.
In essence, LiquidVPN has all the right features that a buyer should expect to see from a solid, up and coming VPN service. Although the service does not yet offer their custom-designed applications, we don’t really view this as a drawback, partucularly as desktop users are well accommodated with the exclusive Viscosity client (and license) or they can opt to set up their connections through open-source OpenVPN. That aside, what really struck a note about the service is their unique approach to delivering a transparent (to customers), yet very private service. Here, we are especially pointing out their admirable method of publishing all DMCA requests from third parties, along with their regular Warrant Canary report, which truly lets know whether the company had been involved in a shakedown by authorities. This is a sign of a service with customers in mind, and as our speed tests show, you’re promised very good server performance for your money. If you are not 100% sure within a seven day period, it is possible to claim a refund. That said, we doubt that you’ll feel the need to.
- No-log policy / regular transparency reports
- PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN (256-bit-CBC encryption)
- Secure DNS server instead of third party
- Shared and dynamic IPs
- Additional security via IP modulation
- Compatible with Windows & Macs (Viscosity license included)
- Compatible with all smartphones & tablets
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- No Speed Limit
- 7-day moneyback guarantee