NordVPN Review 2019 – Can you still trust it?
NordVPN is an all-rounder affordable VPN service with around 5565 servers suited for P2P, Netflix, and overall security. However, the recent hacking controversy has compelled us to drop ratings from 4-stars to 2-stars.
NordVPN is advertised as one of the most reliable VPN in the industry. This VPN provider is headquartered in the data retention free jurisdiction of Panama and follows a strict no-logs policy.
In terms of performance, NordVPN is powered by 5565 servers and works flawlessly with torrenting, online gaming and Netflix streaming.
Despite offering a wealth of amazing features, NordVPN only costs $3.49/mo and can be used with 5 devices simultaneously.
On the surface, NordVPN looks flawless, but after the recent NordVPN controversy, I’ve revised the rating to 2-stars in this NordVPN review.
My Rating Criteria
To keep things plain and simple, I’ve tested and rated NordVPN through my straight forward rating criteria mentioned below:
- Jurisdiction -Is it located in a 5-eyes country?
- Security – Encryption, features & Logs
- VPN Leaks – Does NordVPN leak DNS, IP & WebRTC?
- Servers – NordVPN Specialty Servers Feature
- Speed – How fast is NordVPN?
- Streaming -Does it work with Netflix?
- Compatibility – Apps and supported devices
- Pricing – How much does NordVPN cost?
- Trustworthiness – NordVPN hacked, Trustpilot, Warrant Canary…
Jurisdiction – Is It Located Under 5 eyes, 9 eyes and 14 eyes?
NordVPN is headquartered in Panama, a country with no data retention laws. If you don’t know, Panama does not fall under 5 eyes, 9 eyes, or even 14 eyes intelligence-sharing countries.
Panama is not liable to share users’ information with any other country or authority if required. This is great since NordVPN doesn’t have to abide by any mandatory data retention laws.
Security – Encryption & Features
NordVPN has all the right bells and whistles to help you browse the web safely and securely.
In a world where you’re never too far away from a cyber-attack, it seriously pays off to have a reliable VPN by your side with tons of security features.
If we talk about encryption, NordVPN uses 256-bit encryption, which is the strongest cipher in the industry. 256-bit encryption is overkill and has around 1.1×1077 possible combinations. Unless anyone uses a supercomputer, your sensitive data cannot be decrypted.
Additional Security Features
Other than the basic security features like encryption, NordVPN offers other powerful features that are really hard to find in other VPN services.
To start off, let’s check out Double VPN…
Double VPN, Double The Privacy
Just like the name, Double VPN feature routes your traffic through two hops which grants you extra security. With standard VPN encryption, your internet traffic travels through a single remote VPN server.
It changes your IP address and encrypts all your data that gets sent and received over the internet. Simple, straight forward and just what most people need.
Double VPN encryption, on the other hand, adds an extra layer of protection. It does everything that a single VPN encryption does, but your network traffic twice by passing it through a second remote VPN server.
While it does make your data more secure, your internet speeds are going to suffer a bit.
Only a handful of good VPNs offer double VPN encryption, and NordVPN is one of them.
Malware Blocking (Securely Shop Online with NordVPN)
Did you know, that there are on average 23 fake websites for every online retailer? Luckily, NordVPN prevents your devices against phishing attempts from online hackers and cybercriminals.
There’s a feature called NordVPN CyberSec that blocks ads and malware. CyberSec works as a malware and ad blocker which makes sure you are protected from inadvertently opening malicious sites and other cybersecurity dangers lurking around the web. It is a great tool to have to add an extra layer of security to your web presence.
NordVPN Kill Switch
What is kill switch NordVPN? Well, NordVPN offers two different kinds of Kill switch, one for desktops (Windows & Mac) and others for mobile devices (iOS & Android).
The desktop version has two options. The first option is called “app kill switch” and the other is called the internet kill switch. The app kill switch restricts specified application, whereas the internet kill switch disables your entire internet connection.
The Mobile version of NordVPN’s kill switch is quite primitive. The mobile version doesn’t support selective app killing and is limited to only disabling your entire internet connection altogether.
Kill Switch feature is an absolute lifesaver. It works flawlessly and exactly as advertised. To test the kill switch feature, I simply closed one of the running NordVPN services from the task manager. As soon as the error message showed up, I immediately noticed that my internet connection got disabled.
NordVPN Logging Policy
Does NordVPN store logs? Well, no. In fact, NordVPN logging policy follows a strict zero-logging rule, ensuring none of the personally identifiable information of users is tracked.
NordVPN legitimately doesn’t retain IP address, connection timestamps, bandwidth, or your traffic. In fact, it is clearly mentioned on the policy page on Nordvpn.com.
I have to admit, after a quick conversation with NordVPN support chat support, I was convinced that NordVPN logs are pretty much non-existent. By that, I mean usage or connection logs.
If you don’t know what connection and usage logs are, I highly suggest you check out my in-depth VPN logs research guide. Anyways, the only things NordVPN logs are the Email address, Payment data, and server performance data to be exact. Don’t worry though, this type of information is pretty standard and wouldn’t actually compromise your true identity.
VPN Leaks – Does NordVPN leak DNS, IP & WebRTC?
I performed an IP, DNS, and WebRTC leak test on NordVPN and it passed with flying colors. A VPN leak occurs when your real IP address, DNS or WebRTC is disclosed despite using a VPN’s encrypted private tunnel.
A leaking VPN can be seriously frustrating and can be the reason for your exposed online identity. Here’s how I performed the leak test…
- I visited DNS Leak Test website (without NordVPN)
- Noted my Country and IP
- Visited the website again to see whether it leaks my IP
My DNS IP and Country (without NordVPN)
My DNS IP and Country (with NordVPN US server)
I also conducted a NordVPN IP Leak Test and I was quite happy to see that my IP wasn’t leaking when connected to NordVPN.
My IP (without NordVPN)
My IP (with NordVPN US server)
Servers – NordVPN Specialty Servers Feature
NordVPN offers around 5568 servers in 59 countries all over the world. These servers are divided into 6 different types and labeled as specialty servers available in the NordVPN application. Below is the list of specialty servers that NordVPN offers:
- Obfuscated server – Special servers to bypass powerful firewalls
- NordVPN torrenting & P2P servers – Optimized for torrenting
- Dedicated IP – Single IP address for a single user
- Double VPN – Double encryption for double privacy
- Onion Over VPN – Combines the power of TOR and VPN
- Standard VPN Server – Everyday secure servers for everyday use
While I was reviewing NordVPN, I couldn’t help but appreciate the abundance of features that I found under the ‘Specialty Server’ tab.
Each server type severs a different purpose, and I personally find it quite useful, especially when accessing Chinese websites.
Now let’s check out what each specialty server is good for shall we?
Obfuscation might sound like a mouth full, it is one heck of a powerful feature.
If you live in a region with heavy geo-restrictions, you might find Nord’s obfuscated server’s extremely useful.
China uses its super-powerful Great firewall to restrict VPNs and foreign content, while countries like Oman can impose heavy fines up to $1,300 just for using VPNs.
If you’re wondering how the obfuscation feature of NordVPN works, it basically camouflages encrypted VPN traffic to look like ordinary HTTP traffic.
Doing so, your VPN traffic can use port #443 and get past firewalls.
It’s truly a sophisticated technology and one that you’ll highly appreciate.
NordVPN P2P & torrenting servers
Does NordVPN allow p2p? Well, yes. In fact, one of the reasons why you’ll absolutely love NordVPN is because of the sheer number of P2P and torrenting servers this provider offers.
Out of 5565 servers, 4800+ servers are optimized for torrenting. Literally, no other VPN provider in the industry is currently offering this many P2P servers. Don’t believe me? You’re free to do your research.
In addition to a massive P2P server count, NordVPN has no annoying data limit or bandwidth restrictions that could throttle the speeds of your internet connection.
In my testing, NordVPN performed exceptionally well and I easily managed to download a large torrent file without any major speed drops or connectivity issues.
Dedicated IP/Private IP
If you don’t know what Private IP VPN is, it is basically a unique IP address assigned to a single user. This is a premium feature and it will cost extra over the standard VPN account you purchase.
NordVPN currently offers dedicated IP’s for only 5 countries in the following locations:
- United States – Los Angeles, Dallas, Matawan, and Buffalo
- The United Kingdom – London
- Netherlands – Amsterdam
- Germany – Frankfurt
- France – Paris
Dedicated IPs are great for online gaming and for accessing popular VoD services like Netflix that are prone to blocking shared IPs.
I’ve already covered this feature earlier in this review, however, just for a refresher, Double VPN encryption offers double-layered protection.
Once you enable double VPN protection, your traffic will get routed through two encrypted VPN servers as opposed to just one.
I particularly use Double VPN when I’m down at my local coffee shop. You never know who might be looking to steal your data.
Onion over VPN
If you’ve ever used TOR, you likely know what Onion over VPN means.
Tor over VPN is a foolproof strategy to ensure ultimate anonymity on the web.
If you just use TOR alone, your ISP can identify and potentially even block your TOR traffic.
However, by using NordVPN’s Onion over VPN feature, you can not only restrict the TOR browser from knowing your real IP but also deceive your ISP at the same time.
Frankly, Onion over VPN is one of the most innovative of NordVPN features.
Standard VPN Servers
This is probably the first thing you’ll notice when you first log in to the NordVPN app. Although standard servers are nothing special, however, when you actually check out the server count, you’ll be blown away.
At the moment, NordVPN’s server count is currently offering 5568 servers in 59 countries. Unlike PureVPN or PrivateVPN, NordVPN only uses bare-metal physical servers. I tested a bunch of their server locations and couldn’t find any virtual server.
Speed – How Fast Is NordVPN?
NordVPN performed quite fast in my speed test and managed to achieve 28.45 Mbps download and 18.61 Mbps upload speed on my base connection of 30 Mbps. Here are the speed test results of NordVPN for the US and UK servers.
US Server Speeds:
NordVPN’s US server hardly dropped any speed at all.
UK Server Speeds:
The UK servers similarly delivered excellent speeds with download speeds peaking at 26.07 Mbps and upload speeds peaking at around 6.00 Mbps. While speeds are decent with just a 20% drop, you might find better speeds with ExpressVPN.
NordVPN Streaming – Does it work with Netflix?
Yes, NordVPN can unblock Netflix. In fact, I was easily able to unblock the U.S library of Netflix and stream in Ultra HD picture quality. Below are performance results of my NordVPN Netflix test:
- Speed declined – 13%
- NordVPN speed (US server) – 27Mbps
- Avg U.S server speeds – 15Mps to 25 Mbps
Other than Netflix, NordVPN also worked impressively with BBC iplayer. As always, everything streamed in HD picture quality.
That said, NordVPN currently unblocks Netflix on mobile and Windows apps. Now you might be wondering, Does NordVPN work on Android box? In my testing, it doesn’t work with Android-based boxes, TVs, and Fire TV/Stick devices.
I encountered this problem when I was testing NordVPN Netflix servers on Windows and mobile Apps. When I tried to access Netflix with my Nvidia Shield for the review, it did not work.
I checked it with NordVPN support and there they confirmed that NordVPN is currently not working with Netflix on Nvidia Shield and other devices I mentioned earlier. To access Netflix on Nvidia Shield here are some of the working best VPNs for Nvidia Shield TV.
This should be technically considered as a con, but since you can access Netflix with NordVPN’s mobile and desktops apps, I’m still considering as a pro.
Compatibility – Apps and Supported Devices
NordVPN is compatible with almost every device you can imagine. You can use it on iOS, Mac, Windows, Android, Linux, browser and on a bunch of the other devices.
NordVPNs Windows App & Browser Extensions
Their Windows app has considerably improved since the release of their new updated app. The same is true for its browser extension and offers another convenient method to protect your browsing sessions.
In terms of overall performance, both their desktop and browser apps worked flawlessly. I experienced no connectivity issues or abrupt crashes during my testing.
NordVPNs iOS & Android Apps
The usability of NordVPN mobile apps is outstanding. Whether you’re an iPhone or an Android user, you’ll have no problem figuring out how to use the apps. In fact, the apps are extremely simple and easy to use.
It is pretty much self-explanatory when it comes to changing basic settings and making a connection to servers of your choice. As such, no user should have trouble figuring out how to use NordVPN.
In addition to offering support of mobile and desktops, NordVPN is also compatible with certain routers. However, the setup process can get a little too technical. If you’re new to setting up VPNs on routers, you might find this guide useful. Since NordVPN offers six simultaneous connections, you can protect multiple compatible devices at the same time.
Pricing – How Much Does NordVPN Cost?
NordVPN offers 4-plans, and each of them is quite affordable. The current pricing plans of NordVPN are listed below:
- 1-month – $11.95/mo (No discount)
- 1-year – $6.99/mo (Save 41%)
- 2-year – $4.99/mo (Save 58%)
- 3-year – $3.49/mo (Save 70% Off )
All of the above-mentioned plans except for the regular monthly plan comes with pretty hefty discounts. If you compare NordVPN with ExpressVPN, NordVPN’s cost is without a doubt a lot cheaper. If you want a dedicated or static IP, NordVPN charges $70.00 additional per year.
Now granted, you can find cheaper options on the internet, however, pretty much no VPN provider in the industry is offering the same number of features and servers as NordVPN.
Personally, I recommend opting for the 3-year NordVPN pricing plan. It’s much cheaper compared to other plans and I wouldn’t have to worry about my subscription expiring anytime soon.
If we talk about payment methods, NordVPN accepts visa, MasterCard and even anonymous cryptocurrencies. Best of all, NordVPN offers a hassle-free full 30-day refund policy.
If you encounter any issues with the NordVPN refund, you can go through their painless refund procedure and have your full subscription fee refunded within a week or so, at least that’s what I experienced.
Trustworthiness – NordVPN hacked, Trustpilot, Warrant Canary…
In terms of brand trustworthiness, I have mixed feelings about NordVPN. For instance, while I like their customer support, I hate the fact that NordVPN isn’t transparent about their company.
Update: It’s really hard for me to put my full trust in the service after the recent NordVPN hacked controversy.
On October 21st, NordVPN announced that one of their servers in Finland got hacked, however, no user data was compromised. While the issue might pass as an isolated incident, sources like TechCrunch and Twitter have disclosed shocking information.
For instance, the fact that security researchers have labeled the breach as a full remote compromise is quite alarming, to say the least.
Even more shockingly, a bunch of Twitter user has disclosed NordVPN’s expired TLS certs as well as the speculated way through which the NordVPN’s server might have apparently been hacked.
All and all, the breach has certainly tainted the reputation of NordVPN and it has become quite hard for people like me to trust the service again – at least for now.
Here’s the complete detail about the NordVPN hacked controversy if you’re interested.
NordVPN currently has a 2.5-star rating on Trustpilot. However, NordVPN used to have a 5-star rating before the Trustpilot controversy that surfaced on 6th August 2018.
NordVPN Warrant Canary
NordVPN has introduced warrant canary which is a statement that is regularly published confirming that they have not received a secret warrant, gag order, subpoenas, or national security letters from the government.
In the US and other jurisdictions that fall under 5, 9, and 14 eyes countries, the government can serve ISPs, companies, and VPN service providers with secret warrants. These warrants are designed to force companies to hand over any record or detail about a customer for investigation. At the same time, companies are forbidden to inform users about such a request.
This is where a Warrant Canary comes in to play. NordVPN has a 3 line statement published on their website which states:
- We have NOT received any National Security letters;
- We have NOT received any gag orders;
- We have NOT received any warrants from any government organization.
NordVPN hasn’t received any warrants so far as of July 3rd, 2019. You find this information at the very bottom of their about us page.
Even if they did, NordVPN promises NEVER to hand over users’ data because they have none. They are based in Panama where gag orders and warrants cannot be legally obtained.
NordVPN No Logs Audit Report
For even more transparency, NordVPN even offers an independent report of their company. The audit was performed by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG, Zurich, Switzerland, which is one of the world’s most renowned auditing firms. This makes NordVPN’s audit report 100% legit and trustworthy.
In order to read NordVPN’s Audit report, you’ll need to login to your user account on NordVPN’s website, as it is not publically available for everyone.
NordVPN App Security Audit
It’s not the first time the company has carried out a third-party audit. In fact, after the no-logs policy audit conducted last year, NordVPN carried out another audit on October 9, 2019, but this time for their apps.
An independent auditing firm by the name of VerSprite that specializes in finding vulnerabilities, risks, and threats in application software, performed penetration tests based on real-world attack scenarios on NordVPN’s iOS and Android apps.
According to Laura Tyrell, Head of Public Relations at NordVPN, the vulnerabilities pointed out by the auditing firm were addressed and few changes were made accordingly. This shows NordVPN’s commitment to maintaining a flawless VPN service.
Terrible transparency – Who Owns NordVPN, No One Knows
When it comes to disclosing the people running the business, NordVPN is anything but transparent. The only thing NordVPN publicly discloses is their jurisdiction of operation, that’s about it.
However, as far as the actual stakeholders or owners of the company are concerned, they don’t disclose anything about it. Unlike CyberGhost, NordVPN also doesn’t offer any transparency report. There’s no way of knowing whether they comply with law enforcement or not.
What’s even worse, when I shot them an email for my transparency guide, they didn’t felt the need to get back to me. The lack of transparency makes me wonder what they might be hiding from their users.
NordVPN Customer Support
One of the biggest gripes I have with most VPN providers is with customer service. Not only are they often time technically uneducated but also painstakingly slow.
Fortunately, I didn’t encounter any such issues with Nord.
NordVPN support can be contacted in two ways, either through direct Nord VPN live chat or Email ticketing system.
Either way, the support staff of the VPN is proficient and has firsthand knowledge of the brand.
Moreover, NordVPN chat support is actually 24/7. I tested in different instances of day and it was available every time.
Best of all:
Even if you ask a relatively technical question you’ll still get a human response as opposed to copying pasted answers.
Overall I was extremely impressed by their customer support.
Verdict – Is NordVPN worth getting?
No, NordVPN is not recommended as of now.
Although NordVPN delivers smooth performance, affordable plans and a wide range of excellent features, we can’t overlook the few flaws of NordVPN.
The fact that their server was reportedly hacked and have an unsatisfactory Trustpilot rating, I’m giving them a 2-star rating.
If you don’t wish to use NordVPN, you might want to use Surfshark. Check out the comparison if you’re interested.