If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s the susceptibility of Mac computers to suffer privacy and security breaches.
The number of malware attacks on Mac OS computers in 2017 jumped up to 80% as per Symantec, pushing people to search for solutions to enhance their cybersecurity and privacy on the web:
User concerns about the vulnerability of Mac systems led me to undertake an exhaustive review of over 124 Mac VPN apps in a market that today comprises of over 300 operational VPN services.
But out of 124 VPNs I have tested, there are only five services that passed my simple but strict criteria list for the best VPNs for Mac.
These criteria are:
- Jurisdiction – the location where a VPN is headquartered and the laws of the country it is legally bound to follow
- Logging policy – the types of data logs that the VPN keeps record of
- Leak tests – IP leak tests performed in ipleak.net
- Transparency – whether the provider has undergone third-party auditing or publishes transparency reports/warrant canaries etc.
- Speed – the speed of VPNs as tested on Ookla
- Overall features – the overall performance and value
But first I want to show you the state of security on Mac platforms and why exactly you need certain tools to defend against online threats targeting Mac users.
5 Best VPNs for Mac in 2019
I will now explain why exactly the VPN mentioned below meet the 6 criteria I defined at the start of the article:
|VPN Providers||Price ($)||Special Deals||More Info|
Best Affordable VPN
$2.95 Per Month
Exclusive Discount 1 year Plan
Best Budget Service
$1.99 Per Month
2 Years Deal
Best for Geo-Unblocking
$2.99 Per Month
3 Years Plan
Best for Streaming
$8.32 Per Month
No Exclusive Offer
Best for Private Browsing
$2.75 Per Month
3 Years Deal
Once you choose a VPN, you can learn how to set it up with a step by step guide here.
When considering top tier VPN providers, NordVPN just can’t be left behind. Its rock-solid privacy at dirt cheap prices simply make it one of the most desirable VPNs for Mac users.
If we consider privacy, there are hardly any competitors that do it better than Nord.
NordVPN is located in the Panama, which is one of the most privacy-friendly countries in the world and is far beyond the reach of the Five Eyes. For more information about what makes a country safe for your online privacy, have a look at our guide on Five, Nine, and Fourteen Eyes.
Our logging policy guide found NordVPN to be one of the select few services that don’t just claim the “no logs” mantra, but actually fulfill this promise.
IP Leak Test:
The IP leak test I performed through ipleak.net was successful on the first go with NordVPN. As you can see below, my connection to a German server is accurately picked by the leak test.
To improve transparency, NordVPN is one of the few VPNs that has recently undergone a third-party audit. Although the company is not permitted to disclose the details and results of the audit, they have called it a success.
This is a great step because VPN providers usually operate behind shadows and aren’t checked by third-parties for their transparency.
Since NordVPN offers a huge number of servers, it barely felt like I was connected to a VPN at all because of the excellent speeds I was getting, which is really impressive.
Overall Mac Experience:
NordVPN offers excellent features like AES-256-CBC ciphers encryption, kill switch, OpenVPN protocol and a huge arsenal of servers around the globe for ultimate coverage and uncompromised speeds.
However, the kill switch that NordVPN uses for Mac terminates applications when your connection drops, rather than shutting down your entire Internet for maximum protection.
NordVPN doesn’t stop there. It also has VPN chaining capability (Double VPN) and a built-in ad blocker which the company calls CyberSec.
For users that want to make it even more difficult for any unwanted party to track them on the web, the Onion over VPN feature of Nord can come in real handy.
You can also get past geo-restrictions in highly restrictive regimes like China and North Korea through specialized obfuscated servers of NordVPN, which is pretty good.
In addition, it offers an amazingly easy to install the client for Mac that’ll wow any minimalistic Apple user.
The interface is smooth and responsive, so much so that there are literally no lags or crashes in the Mac application.
Nord also offers an exceptional 24/7 email and live chat support along with the option to connect 6 devices simultaneously.
To top it off this provider also offers 30-day full money back guarantee and a three-day free trial with no credit cards required, so you can try out their service without any strings attached.
For all the reasons above, NordVPN is a good option for Mac users who want to elevate the level of their privacy on the web and attain greater online freedom.
- Ultimate discount deal [75% off], $2.99 a month – 3 year plan.
- [66% off], $3.99 a month – 2 year plan.
- [41% off], $6.99 a month – 1 year plan.
- $11.95 a month – 1 month plan.
Surfshark is a rather underrated VPN service that you might have never heard about. But its performance and ability to protect your privacy is as good as any.
Surfshark is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, which is a perfect place as far as data retention laws are concerned.
As a result, Surfshark has no obligation to store your data or hand it over to government authorities anywhere in the world.
With an excellent jurisdiction from the privacy standpoint and a zero-logging policy of the company, Surfshark deserves some applause for its commitment towards protecting the privacy of users, which is just what Mac users need today.
IP Leak Test:
Surfshark is packed with strong security which allows it to easily prevent issues like IP leaks. Notice the IP address in the test matches that reported by the Surfshark app on the right (see image below), which shows that your IP isn’t leaking.
Surfshark’s browser extension has undergone third-party code audit by Cure53, a German cybersecurity firm. The testers were impressed by the service and stated:
“Two members of the Cure53 team, who examined the scope in November 2018, can only conclude that the tested applications make a very robust impression and are not exposed to any issues, neither in the privacy nor in the more general security realms.”
You can read the full report here.
In addition to that, Surfshark has a warrant canary page, which discloses whether the company has been contacted by any security/government agency to release user information.
As of yet, the company has received 0 such orders, which is because of the excellent jurisdiction, putting it away from the reach of most surveillance-happy state agencies.
In terms of privacy therefore, Surfshark is as good as it gets. Mac owners that are concerned their privacy shouldn’t be overlooking this VPN.
Besides the cool features and server count, downloading speed is really where this provider shines the most.
In fact, when I performed a speed test on my Mac, I experienced less of a speed drop then I expected.
That is extremely impressive considering it is one of the cheapest VPNs in the industry.
Overall Mac Experience:
Surfshark packs some nifty features in its client for Mac, which makes it stand out from the competition.
There is a built-in kill switch for Mac which works basically as an insurance policy should your connection drop and reveal your real IP address.
Apart from this, Surfshark also supports split-tunneling through its WhiteLister feature, whereby you can exclude individual applications from the VPN connection which don’t require extra protection.
Users can also take advantage of MultiHop to bury yourself into a layer of multiple servers to upgrade your web security and privacy even further.
Surfshark’s Mac app has a very intuitive design. It automatically connects you to the most optimum server depending on your geographical location.
Apart from that, what I love about Surfshark is that it offers unlimited simultaneous connections per subscription.
Surfshark also offers a full 30-day money back guarantee. So if you’re not satisfied with their service, you can always get your money back.
- Ultimate discount deal [83% off], $1.99 a month – 24 months plan.
- [50% off], $5.99 a month – 12 months plan.
- $11.95 a month – 1 month plan.
ExpressVPN is the industry-wide leader in the VPN industry. Although not the cheapest option out there, its snappy speeds and one-click dedicated application definitely earns this provider a spot on my list.
Like its young counterpart (Surfshark), ExpressVPN is operating under the jurisdiction of British Virgin Islands.
It is thus recipient of the same privacy-enabling laws of the country which is one of the key USPs of ExpressVPN.
IP Leak Test:
ExpressVPN has its own IP leak test for user’s convenience. But I tested it on ipleaks.net to keep the test conditions same as all other VPNs, and also because it’s a neutral tool not owned by any VPN service.
The results, as I expected, came negative i.e. there is no problem of IP leaks with ExpressVPN.
The browser extension of ExpressVPN has also undergone a code audit and penetration test by Code53. The firm found a few security issues, but their severity was far from serious and were more related to inherent browser-related shortcomings.
Overall, the researchers expressed satisfaction with the VPN, stating:
“All in all, the impression gained about the ExpressVPN Web Extension is positive and the project complies with the major security and privacy standards.”
But the story doesn’t end here for ExpressVPN. The transparency and trust factor of the company shot up to the highest possible level when Turkish authorities seized the company’s servers to find details about a suspect involved in the assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov, but discovered nothing.
This confirms that ExpressVPN holds true to its claim of being a “no-logs provider”.
While most VPN providers in the industry get burdened down with encryption and tunneling protocols, Express VPN easily outperforms the competition with negligible speed drops.
The secret to this provider’s speedy performance is its strategically placed servers. Although not astronomical in number, its global coverage is impressive to say the least.
Overall Mac Experience:
The Mac OS ExpressVPN app has Network Lock (the company’s proprietary kill switch), to interrupt your connection and prevent your IP from leaking to the wider internet.
The split-tunneling feature for Mac gives the user complete control over which apps should use the VPN and which shouldn’t.
This comes in real handy if you want to limit VPN usage to only those applications where security and privacy is paramount (social media, torrenting etc.)
The Mac desktop client is a pleasure to use. It is simple, clean and provides instant access to all your favorite servers.
The provider offer 3 simultaneous connections on one subscription and offers a full 30-day money back guarantee.
Simply put, ExpressVPN covers all bases as a privacy and security tool.
- Ultimate discount deal [49% off], $6.67 a month – 15 months plan.
- $9.99 a month – 6 months plan.
- $12.95 a month – 1-month plan.
If you prefer a very bare bone yet efficient VPN for your Mac, then CyberGhost might just be the service you’re looking for.
CyberGhost is based in Romania, a country that protects online privacy of citizens. Although the country did have data retention laws as demanded by EU, these were repealed in 2014.
As such, a jurisdiction in Romania is quite safe from the privacy point of view.
CyberGhost does not log user traffic, browsing history, IP address, timestamps, or connection duration, as the privacy statement of the company mention:
IP Leak Test:
CyberGhost is a stranger to problems like IP leaks, as it amply proved when I put it through the leak test:
Transparency is the greatest strength of CyberGhost. In fact, the company is a veritable pioneer in the VPN industry, as it was the first VPN to release a transparency report back in 2011, a tradition it still continues every year.
However, since the provider prepares this report itself, its accuracy is a moot point. But other than this, CyberGhost was audited by QSCert in 2012, so the transparency of the company isn’t entirely self-reported.
In fact, the vast majority of VPNs don’t bother releasing transparency reports at all. For this, CyberGhost deserves a lot of appreciation from privacy-centered individuals like us.
Speed wise, this provider didn’t disappoint me either. It easily managed to score pretty decent upload and download speeds.
Overall Mac Experience:
CyberGhost offers powerful encryption protocols (PPTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN among others), a built-in kill switch and IP leak protection for ultimate privacy.
Moreover, it has plenty of servers in a multitude of locations that support both P2P and streaming services without any data logging.
CyberGhost Mac client is amongst the most user-friendly applications I have ever used.
It automatically tweaks itself to offer the best experience depending on what you intend to do with it.
You can connect up to 7 devices simultaneously on one CyberGhost subscription plan.
As always, it offers a full 45-day money back guarantee for ultimate peace of mind.
- Ultimate discount deal [77% off], $2.75 a month – 18 months plan.
- $4.99 a month – 6 months plan.
- $11.99 a month – 1-month plan.
PureVPN Mac, in my opinion, is honestly a nice choice for Mac OS because it does its basic VPN functions well.
Simply consider all the features, great applications, frugal prices and you will know exactly why it is a decent choice.
PureVPN is located in Hong Kong, which has no mandatory data retention laws nor is known to perform domestic surveillance of citizens.
This is why a jurisdiction in Hong Kong is favorable for the purposes of securing your privacy.
PureVPN, in keeping with the practice of the top-rated VPNs with excellent commitment to user privacy, does not keep logs of IP address, user traffic, user activities, timestamps, and DNS queries.
This is exactly what you should expect from a VPN provider that values user privacy.
IP Leak Test:
I connected to a Miami, US server for this test. PureVPN was able to prevent any IP leaks as you can see below.
The factor of transparency is one area where PureVPN doesn’t get any points.
The company doesn’t publish any transparency reports, has no warrant canaries, and hasn’t undergone any third-party audits.
As such, PureVPN has a lot of work to do to come clear as a transparent VPN company and reassure users that their trust isn’t misplaced.
Downloading speeds were pretty solid with PureVPN. When connected to the US server, I managed to only loose less than 1 Mbps on my 30 Mbps connection.
However, uploading speeds is where it definitely struggled; only offering 3.74 Mbps.
Overall Mac Experience:
PureVPN comes with privacy features like full 256-bit, OpenVPN encryption protocols, and a handy-dandy kill switch option for an added measure of privacy and security.
Although the Windows app of the VPN supports split-tunneling, this feature isn’t unfortunately available for Mac yet.
PureVPN has a very minimalistic MacOS VPN app and offers one of the finest user experiences in my opinion.
It is dead simple to use and the option to simultaneously connect up to five devices to one subscription makes it dirt cheap to afford.
If you don’t end up liking their service, then you can always get your money back with their 31-day money back guarantee.
- Ultimate discount deal [74% off], $2.88 a month – 2 year plan.
- [63% off], $4.08 a month – 1 year plan
- $10.95 a month – 1 month plan.
The Insecurity That Lies in Mac Systems
The idea that Macs are secure from malware and data breaches has existed as long as Mac itself and actually been repeatedly emphasized by Apple.
Just take a look at this advertisement from the early 2000s:
While it is true that Mac machines are more secure than their Windows counterparts, they are not immune to the exploits of cybercriminals.
In fact, experts now believe that Mac OS is just as vulnerable to data breaches and other vulnerabilities as Windows machines.
3ric Johanson, a security researcher, asserted:
“If you look at the number of published vulnerabilities in software and the number of users and compare Windows versus Mac OS you will discover that Mac OS has far more published vulnerabilities per user than Windows does so I think the data pretty much speaks for itself.” – [Source]
Statistics accurately support this assertion, as the chart compellingly illustrates below:
Source: AV-Test Security Report 2017/18
Another research by Cybersecurity ventures revealed that the world will receive a massive hit of approximately 6 trillion dollars by 2021 as a consequence of cybercriminal activities alone.
This calls for Mac users to take their web security seriously, ensure the installation of updated antimalware, and take preventive measures which primarily includes the use of VPN services.
Why You Need a VPN for Mac – Apple and the Illusion of Privacy
In spite of the insistence of Apple that Macs are perfectly secure from data breaches and vulnerabilities, the facts above reveal an entirely different picture.
The truth is, Mac has a rich history of being involved in violations of user privacy in more ways than one.
I mean who can forget the iCloud leaks that allowed hackers to obtain private photos of Hollywood celebrities is a glaring example of just how easy it is for hackers to breach your data that you uploaded through your Mac or any other Apple device.
Nor was this case an isolated incident. In 2014, a security researcher found that some of his personal files which he believed were only stored in his encrypted MacBook Pro disk were actually uploaded to the iCloud without his permission.
Another instance that reveals the clear disregard to user privacy in Mac apps is the case of the Dropbox app, which takes control of a user’s system with admin privileges, without even asking user permission.
Going further down the past, Apple intentionally left back doors in the older mac OSX which could easily allow an attacker to gain control of your computer.
These are only some of the stories that prove the false sense of privacy that Apple propagandizes.
It is difficult to trust your Mac with your privacy and confidential data when you know how easily it can obtain this information without even bothering to ask your permission first.
Knowing all that, VPNs enhance your privacy in three important ways:
- Changing your IP address (which makes it difficult for a hacker to specifically target your system for an attack)
- Encryption (which hides the content of your data packets traveling from your private network to the web)
- Substituting your ISP to a zero data logging provider (in the form of your VPN service)
The combined action of these features can give you just the boost you need to prevent falling victim to the next data breach targeting Mac users.
How About Using Free VPNs?
The above-mentioned best VPNs are more than adequate to level up your privacy and online autonomy on Mac. Although I do not recommend going the free route, there are a few very best free VPN services for Mac that you can try.
However, you should keep realistic expectations if you do decide to get a free VPN, as these almost always have bandwidth limitations and often don’t work as well for advanced tasks such as bypassing geo-restrictions.
Does a Mac VPN Work with My iPad or iPhone?
Since Mac and iOS are both two different operating systems designed for different platforms of the same company, you can’t just transfer a VPN from your Mac to your iOS and get it working that way.
However, most VPN providers offer clients for a variety of devices, including macOS and iOS. So, if a VPN is available for Mac, chances are it will also have an iOS version.
Since you might want to run VPN on a multitude of devices at the same time, you shouldn’t forget to check how many simultaneous connections a VPN supports.
The VPN providers discussed above all support multiple logins, allowing you to secure all of your devices simultaneously hassle free.
You May Also Like: Best VPNs for iOS in 2019
Mac Compatible Protocols
Before we look at some Mac compatible protocols, it is best that you understand what a VPN protocol even is.
Well, a VPN protocol is basically a set of instructions that are required by two communicating machines to establish a secure connection.
Mac OS supports several different VPN protocols, but not all of these deliver the same performance and reliability.
|IKEV2||A fast and secure VPN protocol||Reconnects upon interruptions||Very fast||Very reliable|
|L2TP||A very stable and widely used protocol||Yes||Fast||Very reliable|
|PPTP||An outdated and insecure protocol which is not secure to use||Yes||Slow||Not reliable|
|OpenVPN||Stable, fast, and secure protocol||Yes||Fast||Very reliable|
What Reddit Has to Say?
Although I’ve already covered some of the best VPN software for Mac earlier on in this blog, I decided to explore what Reddit had to say about this topic.
There’s no mistaking the fact that NordVPN is quite hot among actual users as the following comments show:
VPNs are becoming almost a necessity for online users; even operating systems that were once considered invincible are now suffering from hard-core vulnerabilities and breach of privacy attacks.
All of the VPNs mentioned above have made it into my list only after rigorous testing of IP and DNS leaks, speeds, and high standards of privacy.
I hope you found this blog informative. Do try the above-mentioned VPNs and let me know if they met your expectations in the comments below.