With an upsurge in nationwide (even global) internet monitoring and policing, and the recent laws passed by the Australian government that require internet service providers to maintain meta-data logs of all user activity, internet privacy has become more than just a niche concern.
Users had been employing proxy software to bypass restrictions for a while, but to combat a privacy invasion of this magnitude, a dedicated solution is needed. Enter the Virtual Private Network: a program written to make your online data traffic untraceable, so no one can eavesdrop on it and use it to incriminate you or restrict your access to specific websites.
Top VPN services Australia today are incredibly streamlined and efficient. Still, given their rising popularity, the market has also started getting flooded with fake VPN providers that claim to have the best VPN 2020, yet are offering nothing more than a Trojan-ridden piece of code. This guide will help you decide on the best VPN for Australia for your usage, with brief VPN reviews to give you a benchmark against which you can judge the products in the market.
Why use a VPN?
To protect your online privacy
As mentioned before, governments around the world have been using the spread of global terrorism as an excuse to clamp down on the freedoms of their citizens, and internet freedom is one of it.
The Australian government has also passed a law recently that stipulates the maintenance of meta-data logs on the part of Internet Service Providers.
While these meta-data logs don’t record exactly what you did – they are essentially a data about your data, i.e. which address you visited, the type of device you used, how long you communicated and so on.
This is a severe breach of democracy, which can, fortunately, be remedied by spoofing the location of your computer / internet-enabled device.
A Virtual Private Network utilises ‘virtual tunnelling’: it channels your communication through a network that terminates in a different part of the world so that to anyone on the internet, it appears that you are in the terminating country as opposed to Australia.
The Australian government has no jurisdiction in the other country, and hence your communication is completely free of any eavesdropping.
Note that this is an oversimplification of how VPNs function, the best VPNs utilise a variety of techniques to encrypt and secure your traffic.
Also note that the best VPN software is paid – because the service provider needs capital to ensure the continuity of their service, however, if you only want to keep your communications private some of the time, you can consider free VPNs (although there’s a significant risk of malware and adware in freebies).
To gain access to geo-restricted content
Certain services are only allowed to be accessed by people in certain parts of the world. A major geo-restriction example is of Netflix, which has divided its libraries according to different regions of the world. Only people whose location appears to be in a region are allowed access to that region’s Netflix library. This means that people in Australia have to watch the Australian Netflix library while the people in the US can watch the US Netflix library (which is considerably more extensive).
A Netflix Australia VPN can make your location appear to be in a US city, while you’re relaxing in your beach house in Sydney so that you can enjoy all the quality content present in the US library of Netflix. A similar example is that of Hulu Plus, which is again, exclusively for US residents.
Because the alternatives aren’t as thorough or convenient
Alternatives to VPN software do exist, namely, browser-based web proxies as well as DNS proxies.
The issue with browser-based proxies is that they only work great for websites that utilise text and local images. You’ll note that attempting to open a content laden website through an Australian proxy server (i.e. embedded images and videos) results in prolonged performance as well as complete failures to load.
This is because these proxy websites are mostly loading a webpage within a webpage. They’re also generally filled with ad-banners that are distracting and consume excessive bandwidth.
Smart DNS solutions are a newer alternative to traditional VPNs: instead of altering your IP, they rely on custom DNS servers for routing your traffic and will help you get past geo-restrictions.
However, the data itself is unencrypted and can be tapped into by hackers/government eavesdroppers. This means that they are unreliable from a security perspective.
You don’t have to worry about how to get a VPN like in the old days: Modern VPN software can be acquired simply by downloading the program/app to your smartphone and installing it. The configuration is also made quite easy thanks to comprehensive guides and support pages.
Choosing the right VPN
- The quality of connection: If you’re serious about security, you’ll be using a VPN for the majority of your online activity, including streaming, VOIP, video conferencing and – in some cases – downloading. Therefore it is essential to get a VPN that provides at least the speed offered by your ISP so that you can go about your online business as usual.
Furthermore, the service should be reliable: even the fastest VPN will be useless if the connection suffers from frequent drops.
- Server locations: For those who want to access geo-blocked content such as BBC iPlayer, Hulu Plus or Netflix US, having server locations in the intended country is essential. In general, the more server locations offered in the country in question, the better service you will enjoy since the load on each of these services will be better distributed.
You should expect the best Australian VPN to have several dozen server locations spread around the globe for maximum reliability and redundancy.
- Encryption protocols: Your chosen VPN must adhere to either the OpenVPN protocol or the L2TP/IPSec protocol for maximum encryption strength. Do not go for cheap VPNs that utilise weaker protocols such as simple L2TP or PP2P, because they have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers to eavesdrop on your activities.
Note that different encryption protocols require different VPN ports to be opened: you may need to keep this in mind if your computer/router requires manual port forwarding.
This is especially true for those who will be conducting sensitive communication or using the P2P torrent protocol for downloading. The best VPN for torrents would be the one which is based in a country with very strict privacy laws such as Switzerland or Denmark, so you can be certain that none of your activities is being recorded.
- Device compatibility: It is highly unlikely that a present-day internet user access it solely through their computer: smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, gaming consoles – all these digital amenities are internet-enabled. Therefore, be sure to pick a VPN that supports the device(s) that you will be using for accessing the internet.
The majority of modern VPNs support popular platforms such as Android, iOS, Mac OS, Windows, as well as gaming consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation. Smart TV devices with configurable network settings are also generally supported.
- Free vs Paid: A VPN Australia free may seem an attractive solution for temporarily gaining access to a blocked website or having an untraceable conversation, but you can be certain that it will lack essential privacy features like with Nord, as well as being severely limited in bandwidth/usage time.
Even the best free VPN Australia, will not be able to match the encryption strength, server diversity and bandwidth capability of an average paid service.
- Feedback from users: Next to trying it out for a few days yourself (which is allowed by many premium services by the way), the best way to ascertain the quality of a VPN service is from user feedback. Users will give you an authentic take on the aspects such as speed, reliability and location masking functionality, which cannot be gleaned from flashy advertisements.
A couple of good VPNs for Australians
CyberGhost VPN review
If you’re looking for a decent (as much as it can get) VPN free Australia service, you may want to consider CyberGhost: it offers a fully functional trial version that is great for desktop users who need a lightweight location masking solution (it has a restricted bandwidth quota).
However, if you wish to use the software on devices other desktops, you’ll need to spend cash. While the paid version of CyberGhost is highly secure and robust, its server locations are concentrated in Europe as well as North America, so it can serve as a Netflix Australia VPN for those who want to access Netflix US or BBC iPlayer from Australia.
Furthermore, it also has plenty of servers in Switzerland and Norway, countries that have excellent privacy laws; you can be sure that your online communication is completely secure from hackers if the need arises. CyberGhost also offers a free anonymous proxy server Australia if you want to access a restricted webpage quickly, and don’t want to subscribe to a dedicated VPN.
All in all, CyberGhost is an excellent free Australian VPN, as well as a fully functional paid service in its own right.
VPN Unlimited review
If you’re the type of person who connects to the internet through multiple gadgets simultaneously, VPN Unlimited, with its 5 parallel connection support, maybe the best VPN service Australia for you.
The software is easy to set up, and using it isn’t much of a challenge either, thanks to a walk-through tutorial. The VPN provider logs only trivial usage details such as bandwidth usage and session duration and grants its users with unlimited bandwidth, so you can enjoy as much geo-locked streaming as you want without any concern about your privacy.
The snag is that it has limited (around two dozen) server locations, and torrenting isn’t allowed on them all. There is also no specific information about its encryption protocol. However, it does have some of the cheapest subscription rates around, so if you’re on a budget and aren’t looking for paranoid-grade security, this is worth a look.
Express VPN review
ExpressVPN has developed a reputation for providing excellent fundamental online security as well as being user-friendly. It has a huge number of servers spread across the world, lightning-fast internet speeds, and intuitive programs for popular device platforms, which makes it great for even less computer literate internet users who want to secure their privacy or access location restricted content.
ExpressVPN also has a policy for keeping the P2P torrent protocol open, something that even certain paid services fail to offer. As far as encryption quality is concerned, ExpressVPN utilises the OpenVPN standard for maximum security.
It isn’t the least expensive VPN product in the market. Still, its robust feature-set, combined with comprehensive help pages that will guide you on setting the VPN up on a plethora of devices, makes it the best VPN Australia 2017 overall.
It goes without saying that unless there are radical changes in privacy laws on a global scale, VPNs are here to stay. Whether you choose a software that offers free VPN access or one that is paid, is up to your specific requirements and priorities, however, in an objective VPN comparison, the VPN best suited for security and privacy will be a paid one.
Hopefully, you will now be better equipped for finding the best VPN in Australia for your usage. Keep in mind that even the best VPN services won’t offer 100% protection for your information: some of the responsibility will always lie on your common sense.