In this article I will be looking at AirVPN, who are arguably one of the best VPN providers out there at the moment. I will also show the speedtest results that I got from testing various servers from each and every country that they currently have servers in. I will also be showing users how to set up their torrent client, in my example I will be using qBittorrent, so that they are properly protected from being tracked when downloading torrents. If you have any questions or suggestions, then please use the comment section below or use the AirVPN forums where staff are always on hand to give assistance. WebRTC leaks and DNS leaks will also be addressed.
DATA CHANNEL CIPHERS
AES-256-CBC with HMAC-SHA1 for authentication
CONTROL CHANNEL CIPHERS
AES-256-GCM with HMAC-SHA384 for authentication(*)
AES-256-CBC with HMAC-SHA1 for authentication
4096 bit RSA keys size
4096 bit Diffie-Hellman keys size
TLS Ciphers (IANA names): TLS-DHE-RSA-WITH-AES-256-CBC-SHA, TLS-DHE-RSA-WITH-AES-256-GCM-SHA384 (*)
TLS additional authorization layer key: 2048 bit
Perfect Forward Secrecy through Diffie-Hellman key exchange DHE. After the initial key negotiation, re-keying is performed every 60 minutes (this value can be lowered unilaterally by the client)
Some of the other great reasons for using AirVPN are:
- No traffic or time limits – You can stay connected indefinitely to the AirVPN servers if you wish without worrying about being forced off after a certain time period.
- There are no limitations on how many times you switch between servers.
- You can use your AirVPN account on up to 3 separate devices simultaneously. Eg. Have it running on your desktop, laptop and mobile phone at the same time.
- There are no maximum speed limits, although overloaded servers may affect this. However, given the amount of servers available, this shouldn’t be an issue
- All servers support OpenVPN over SSH and SSL as well as OpenVPN over Tor.
- You can use AirVPN with Tor, which adds an extra layer of security should you feel you need it.
Prices: (in Euro)
- Three Days (Trial available) – 1€
- One Month – 7€
- Three Months (save 28%) – 15€
- Six Months (save 28%) – 30€
- One Year (save 28%) – 54€
All plans include all features that are available to AirVPN users. Most of the standard payment methods are available including Bitcoin, (BTC) Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and a slew of other alt coins. (currently 40 alt coins are accepted as payment)
The ability for customers to pay for their VPN using Bitcoin (BTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is fantastic and only add another layer of security for people who choose to pay using bitcoin or another alt cryptocurrency.
AirVPN’s Client (Eddie)
Firstly I would like to start with the main thing that most users will want from their VPN, which is ease of use and complete protection from prying eyes like ISP’s, governments as well as companies that attempt to track people who use torrents for downloading various media. So with that, lets look at how to start using AirVPN.
You will first have to create an account (it’s free) and then log in. Once you have logged in, head to the Enter tab and select the device for which you would like to use AirVPN on. In my case it’s Windows (Windows 7 Ultimate x64) but there are packages for Linux, iOS, OS X and Android as well.
Installing is a very quick process and there are no hidden parts to the install to look out for. Once you have installed the AirVPN client (called ‘Eddie‘) open it up and log in using the details that you used to create your account at their site. Note that it won’t open automatically once the installation has completed, so you can find it in the All Programs section by selecting the Start button>All Programs>AirVPN (yellow folder)>AirVPN. Either just select it to open, or for ease of use, right-click on it and choose to either pin it to the Taskbar or to your Start Menu. Just makes it easier to get to in the future.
Now lets take a look at the client itself and I will try to explain some of the more basic functions. Firstly, when you log in, you may want to check the ‘Remember’, box so you don’t have to keep entering your info each time you use the program.
Next thing you will notice is the Active Network Lock.
This is a great feature that will prevent IPv4/IPv6 leaks should your connection to any of the AirVPN servers drop out. This means that if you are torrenting whilst using AirVPN and you lose connection, you will not be leaking any information that could lead to someone knowing your true IP address. This is also an invaluable feature for journalist or bloggers who operate in politically aggressive regimes, where discovery of their identity/location could be dangerous. For a more in-depth look at Network Lock as well what the various Modes for Network Lock do via Preferences>Advanced>Network Lock, then see the official information here. Once Network Lock is turned on and you have connected to an AirVPN server, it will automatically add its own DNS server to your Proffered Primary DNS server choice in the Windows properties of IPv4. The DNS server address for AirVPN is 10.4.0.1. Once you disconnect from AirVPN and Network Lock is off, your old DNS records that you had, will be put back again.
Once you have activated Network Lock, you will need to connect to one of AirVPN’s servers. Simply select the Servers tab, locate a server you wish to connect to, right-click on it and select Connect Now. Wait for it to connect and you can then start to use you connection as you normally would.
When it comes to connection to servers, it is best to try to select one that is physically close to your actual location. For example, if you live in the UK, select a UK server and preferably one with the lowest amount of current load and latency. Also, if you are wanting to select a server as you wish to access otherwise geo-restricted sites, then you don’t actually need to access a server in the country where the site is located. For example, you live in the US and want to access the BBC’s iPlayer. You can still access the iPlayer even if you are connected to a server outside of the UK. This is due to AirVPN’s DNS servers being neutral and do not discriminate on the location of the originating server.
Here is a quick look at some of the other features built into the AirVPN client.
There are currently 104 active servers spread across 17 different countries. You can check on the status of any of the servers here. Below is a list of the countries that AirVPN currently has servers located in:
- Canada – 16 Servers
- Czech Republic – 2 Servers
- France – 2 Servers
- Germany – 7 Servers
- Hong Kong – 1 Servers
- Latvia – 4 Servers
- Lithuania – 1 Servers
- Netherlands – 35 Servers
- Portugal – 1 Servers
- Romania – 2 Servers
- Singapore – 1 Servers
- Spain – 2 Servers
- Sweden – 9 Servers
- Switzerland – 2 Servers
- Ukraine – 2 Servers
- United Kingdom – 5 Servers
- United States – 12 Servers
In this tab you can either simply right-click on a server and connect to it, or choose to whitelist or blacklist any of them to suit your needs. You can also sort them alphabetically, by score, location, latency, load or by the amount of users currently connected to them. This is a real-time view of the servers and a great feature that most VPN’s lack.
Similar to the Servers tab, you are able to sort the countries by Name, Server count, Load and amount of current users
Here you can keep an eye on the server speeds (the one that you are connected to over a length of time) to check for up times and consistency. You can change the Resolution range of the graph from 1 minute to 30 days if you wish.
Here you can find a great amount of information on you current connection as well as your total upload and downloads whilst connected to AirVPN. You will also notice that your IP Entry and Exit addresses are different which is great. Also, if you double-click on the Generated OVPN section you will be able to see the type and strength of the encryption currently being used.
Here you can find all the available logs pertaining to your current connection to the AirVPN servers. You can also copy these logs to your clipboard should you wish, or save them for troubleshooting purposes to be sent to the AirVPN staff to look at if you are having issues.
To access your preferences within Eddie, simply use the drop-down menu at the top of the client and select Preferences. For the average user who just wants to know that they are able to surf the web securely and/or use P2P without the constant worry of someone tracking your every upload/download, then you can leave most of these options as they are. You may want to check the box next to Activate Network Lock at startup though, if you want the feature to be activated every time you start AirVPN up. Also, if you intent to use the VPN for each and every time you do anything online, including any programs that may start with your computer but don’t use the browser, then checking the box next to Connect at startup would be a wise choice.
More advanced users will be able to take advantage of the Protocols, Proxy and Routes tabs. After that you have the Advanced tab where you can create Events, white list certain addresses for Network Lock, which means that you can add trusted IP address to leak IPv4 data whilst it is turned on. You can also change the location of where any logs you decide to keep are stored, create your own custom OVPN directives. Note that any changes you make should be saved.
Access Hulu using AirVPN
As you would expect from a VPN, you will/should be able to access any geo-restricted sites that you may come across such as the iPlayer, Hulu or wherever. As I mentioned above though, when using AirVPN, you aren’t required to be logged in to a server for the country in which the site you are trying to access is located. (eg. a US server to access Hulu, a UK server to access iPlayer or a server in the country for the region of Netflix that you want to access) However, some sites really try hard when it comes to blocking access to their content and will actively seek to block IP addresses from VPN services, as many people are starting to use VPN services to view these. One example is Hulu who explicitly blocks connections from non-US residential lines. However, there is a workaround for accessing Hulu using AirVPN and that is to install the Data Saver (Beta) extension for Chrome. Unfortunately this is only for Chrome as far as I know, and there is no information on the extension regarding Privacy. That said, when it is installed to Chrome and you are connected to an AirVPN server, you are able to access Hulu and watch some of the free TV Shows and Movies that they offer. I have tested this and it works as of this writing.
One thing I have noticed about using the Data Saver app from Google is that if I am not connecting to AirVPN, (or any other VPN service) and the app is still enabled in the browser then some UK sites (iPlayer is fine) that are normally accessible to me like TVCatchup, (UK site for watching live TV) then it will state that I fall out of the geographic are for that channel. (ie. it believes that I am coming from outside the UK and presumably the US) This is due to the app using the Google servers, which I would assume are routing traffic via US based Google servers, hence the site in question believes I am located in the US, even though I am in the UK and using my standard internet connection.
In short, enable the app to access sites in the US like Hulu that still block even though you are connected to AirVPN or a US server. When you have finished, disable the app. Hope that makes sense.
Credit to @internet_user on the AirVPN forums for this tip.
Whenever I look at a VPN for review purposes, I like to include some basic speedtests on various servers that the VPN in question provide. As AirVPN have a lot of servers, I have decided to only test 1 server from each country. For the purposes of testing I used Speedtest.net as my testing tool. When choosing which server was to be tested, I always tried to find the server that had the least amount of current Load, lowest Latency and best score. Note that the further you are away, physically, from the server that you wish to connect to will increase the ping time. This is just simple physics. The only country that I was unable to test was the Ukraine as both available server were closed, and were still down 24hrs later. Note, if you do try to access a server that is closed for maintenance, you will be automatically re-directed and connected to a server that is working.
So with that said, lets see some of the results:
Firstly, I ran a speedtest when not connected to AirVPN. My ISP is BT in the UK, and the results I got were very typical of my normal speeds.
Now we have a baseline to compare to, I started up AirVPN and worked my way down the list of countries in alphabetical order starting with Canada and finishing with the United States.
Connected to Spica server in Toronto, Canada
Connected to Becrux server in Czech Republic
Connected to Marfic server in Paris, France
Connected to Tauri server in Frankfurt, Germany
Connected to Hadar server in Hong Kong. This was the highest ping of all the tests as well as the poorest performer despite having very low Load on the server.
Connected to Shaula server in Riga, Latvia
Connected to Baten server in Siauliai, Lithuania
Connected to Gienah server in Alblasserdam, Netherlands
Connected to Tureis server in Lisbon, Portugal
Connected to Ruchbah server in Bucharest, Romainia. Note that this is showing up as Frankfurt Germany though on speedtest.
Connected to Antares server in Singapore
Connected to Brachium server in Valencia, Spain
Connected to Pherkad server in Uppsala, Sweden
Connected to Kitalpha server in Zurich, Switzerland
Connected to Carinae server in Maidenhead, UK
Connected to Alkes server in Loas Angeles, USA
These were pretty standard tests, but when it comes to choosing a VPN, having some speedtests to look at before buying the product is a good thing to look at. The results from all the servers that I was able to check were all good, with the exception of Hong Kong’s which were very slow and the Ukraine whose servers were not available. I did test Hong Kong 24hrs later to see if the speeds had improved, and they had but not by a lot.
Connected to Hadar server in Hong Kong 2nd Test
The use of VPN’s for the purposes of torrenting is becoming increasing needed these days due to the constant tracking by certain companies working on the behest of organisations such as the MPAA, HBO, Warner Bros or the BMI as well as a slew of other nefarious organisations. This is why it is a very good idea for those who wish to continue torrenting to at least start to protect themselves from being identified. It should be noted that using a VPN doesn’t make you bullet proof, but it will give you some very secure means of going about your business without having to worry about who maybe tracking your IP address.
AirVPN does support P2P as well as all other protocols as they don’t discriminate. Unlike most other VPN services, you aren’t limited to only using servers in the Netherlands either, although it is preferred. There is an exception though, and that is that they do not support PPTP as it is insecure.
In this next section, I will be showing you how you can open a port within your torrent program, in this example qBittorrent, and remote port forward it to your client area in AirVPN so you will be able to receive incoming and outgoing connections without issue, with Network Lock engaged for security.
- Firstly, go back to AirVPN on the web and sign in to your account.
- Now, select the Client Area tab and choose Forwarded Ports on the left hand side.
- Either choose a port which is above 2048 (that one and below are reserved) or if you are unsure which port to choose, scroll to the bottom of the page and click View The Graph, under Suggest a range of sequential free ports.
- If you chose the Graph option, then you will be presented with a graph showing the available. Simply hover your mouse over any one of the green squares which will let you know the port number.
5. Now you have your Port number, in my example it was No. 5133, input it into the area provided at the top of the page. Leave everything else alone, just type in the number of the port and hit Add.
6. Now open up your torrent program, in my case qBittorrent and head to the Connection area. At the top, un-check both ‘Use UPnP/NAT -PMP port forwarding from my router’ and ‘Use different port on each start-up’, and change the port number to the one that you entered earlier in your Client Area over at AirVPN. Hit OK to complete.
7. Now head back to your Client Area>Forward Ports section on AirVPN and click on Check. (have your torrent client running as well)
If you have done everything correctly, you will have a green light appear.
The speeds that I get when downloading a torrent are very good and max out my line, which is what I would expect from a decent VPN service.
Another thing you will want to confirm, is that you are not leaking any information from your torrent client to the outside world. You should be perfectly fine if you are using AirVPN with Network Lock engaged, but it is wise to check these things.
Firstly, head over to ipleak.net and let it quickly scan your system. Now scroll down to where you see Torrent Address Protection, and click on Activate. Click on the blue link that says, ‘this Magnet link’. This will open up your torrent program, or add the file if it was already running, and check to see if ipleak.net can detect any leakage. It will auto refresh (you can choose to manually click the Refresh link) every 10 seconds approximately. You should hopefully only see the IP address of the AirVPN server that you are connected to and the port number that we forwarded earlier. ipleak.net is also the site that you should check whenever you are connected to a VPN as it will check for DNS leaks, WebRTC leaks as well as letting you know a slew of other valuable information.
Checking that AirVPN is not leaking any information
There are many various services available to check that you VPN provider is working as it should be, but one of the services that I like to use is ipleak.net as it makes everything very simple and does a great job in looking to see if you are leaking WebRTC information via your browser, if you have any DNS leaks, or your IP address is somehow being leaked. It is also great at checking whether or not you maybe leaking any information whilst torrenting that could get you caught/tracked by people you would rather not have knowing about you.
To run these test, simply make sure that your Network Lock is enabled and that you are connected to one of AirVPN’s servers. Now head on over to ipleak.net and simply let the site automatically scan for you. In my example below, you can see that I failed as I was leaking DNS information and although most of the servers were reading as from the Netherlands, there was enough of a leak to show my actual IP address was being detected due to a WebRTC leak. This was due to me not having Network Lock engaged in AirVPN
I then turned on Network Lock and ran the test again. As you can see I passed quite happily.
AirVPN is definitely one of the best VPN’s that I have tested so far and the features that it lets you use, especially for the more advanced user, are great. It has a very good selection of countries in which their servers are located which should appeal to most users. I also like the fact that if you are attempting to access geo-restricted site, you aren’t required to actually connect to a server of the country in the site is located. I also like the fact that they offer not only bitcoin (note that bitcoin is pseudo-anonymous, not completely anonymous due to the public ledger) as an alternative payment method, but that they also accept various other forms of cryptocurrencies. This is great for people who don’t wish to leave an obvious paper trail for services they buy on-line. Then there is the Network Lock feature that users are able to easily use, which does a fantastic job at preventing ipv4 and ipv6 leaks as well as WebRTC leaks. Although it would be wise for users of Firefox and Chrome to check that they have fixes for this already in-place.
All in all, I am pretty impressed with AirVPN and will continue to use their service if and when I need it. The prices are also pretty good compared to some of the other VPN services out there that don’t offer anywhere near the protection that AirVPN does.
If you are interested in getting or trying AirVPN out, then just follow this link and check out what they have to offer. They do offer a trial, so why not take a look.
I hope this article has been of use and wasn’t too drawn out, but I did want to make it as thorough as I could.