A significant number of Internet users want privacy and security while browsing the Internet, and “Virtual Private Networks” (VPNs) provide them these features. Consequently, VPN services are very popular, and their popularity is growing.
Many VPN service providers have entered the market, therefore, choosing the right VPN provider that meets your requirements can be hard. BlackVPN is one of the several players in this market.
It offers privacy, security, reasonable speed, etc., moreover, it unblocks sites like Netflix and allows torrenting on most of its servers. However, does it address your specific requirements?
In this review, we explain our findings when we tested BlackVPN. We have reviewed many aspects of BlackVPN, therefore, we describe its advantages and disadvantages. Read on, so that you can decide whether to sign-up for BlackVPN.
Is your activity private with BlackVPN?
Privacy is probably your #1 decision-making criteria when buying a VPN. BlackVPN has fairly strong credentials here since the company maintains a “no-logs” policy. Your session related records are immediately deleted when you log out, moreover, BlackVPN collects no activity or connection logs.
The company was originally based in the US, however, it moved to Hong Kong to avoid pressures to maintain logs. This move also helped it to avoid warrants and gag orders. Given that the US is one of the “14 Eyes” countries that conduct mass surveillance, this relocation by BlackVPN from the US to Hong Kong is certainly good news for privacy.
BlackVPN enables you to keep your location and IP address hidden. The company operates its own DNS servers, which is another boost to privacy.
How secure is BlackVPN?
Most people shopping for VPN look for excellent security features, and you are likely doing the same. BlackVPN has a credible offering here since the company offers the OpenVPN protocol, which is highly secure. BlackVPN also offers L2TP/Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), which is another secure protocol.
Note that BlackVPN also offers the PPTP protocol, however, it’s an outdated protocol and we don’t recommend you to use it. This shouldn’t matter though since BlackVPN implements OpenVPN using a strict standard. BlackVPN has no IP or DNS leak issues.
BlackVPN scores very well as far as security is concerned since it uses AES-256 encryption, which is very strong. Another good news is that BlackVPN uses 4096 bit RSA certificates, which is highly secure.
BlackVPN is still developing its custom clients and most of them are in the beta testing phase. The company didn’t offer a killswitch earlier, which meant that your Internet connection would be exposed to cybersecurity risks if the VPN connection drops. BlackVPN is working on this, and the kill switches it offers in its beta-version clients are still work-in-progress.
The company claims to protect users from “Distributed Denial of Service” (DDoS) attacks. It also claims that you can use Wi-Fi hotspots without having to worry about cybercriminals.
What platforms are supported by BlackVPN?
BlackVPN supports Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux, moreover, it includes router support. Earlier, BlackVPN hadn’t offered custom clients, however, that’s changing. The company offers clients for Windows, Mac OS X, macOS, and Android.
Only the Android client is a non-beta one, and it’s available on Google Play. You can set up BlackVPN on Linux, moreover, you can set it up to support routers like DD-WRT, pfSense, and OpenWRT. Note that BlackVPN allows 7 simultaneous connections.
Can BlackVPN unblock streaming services?
BlackVPN claims that it unblocks streaming services, however, our tests show that it does so partially. The following are what we noticed:
· BlackVPN can’t always bypass Netflix mechanisms that deny connections to VPN users. The US West server enabled access to Netflix, however, the Windows client has limitations concerning this. You need to use the OpenVPN GUI client for this, which you can download from the BlackVPN website.
· The servers in the US East, Canada, the UK, and the Netherlands couldn’t unblock Netflix.
· The US East server unblocked CBC and NBC, however, ABC.com detected the connection attempt using a VPN and denied it. Note that this test also required the OpenVPN GUI client.
· The Windows beta client could unblock BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, and Channel 4.
· You need to buy the expensive plans to access the servers that unblock streaming services.
Does BlackVPN allow torrenting?
BlackVPN claims on its website that it enables P2P/torrenting on some of its plans and our tests confirm this claim. Its “TV” plan includes servers in the US and UK only, and the company doesn’t enable P2P in this plan.
Its “Privacy” plan claims to enable unrestricted P2P/Torrenting, and we could confirm this. A reminder - this plan doesn’t include the US/UK servers. The “Global” plan allows P2P in all servers except for the US/UK servers. Our tests found that BlackVPN offers reasonable speed for P2P/torrenting.
According to the customer support personnel of BlackVPN, the company doesn’t log activities of a user to detect whether he/she is using a P2P service in the US or UK. Instead, BlackVPN blocks access to P2P/torrenting services in these locations.
Can BlackVPN bypass internet censorship?
BlackVPN gives its users an option to activate VPN cloaking, and the company uses Stunnel for this, which is an open-source multi-platform application to provide a universal TLS/SSL tunneling service. This allows users to hide the fact that they are using a VPN, therefore, they can bypass firewalls in countries like China, Iran, and Egypt.
How much does BlackVPN cost?
As we have mentioned already, the 3 different pricing plans of BlackVPN offers 3 different sets of locations. These plans are as follows:
· “Privacy”: This plan costs €49 per annum if you opt for annual billing, and it excludes the US and UK servers. You can opt for monthly, quarterly, or annual billing. If you opt for monthly billing then it costs you €5 per month, whereas the quarterly billing option costs you €13 per quarter.
· “TV”: As mentioned earlier, this plan includes only the US and UK servers, and it’s good for streaming from the USA and UK. There are categories within this plan, therefore, you can choose USA-only, UK-only, or the USA-UK combined categories. The USA-only category costs you €49 per annum in the yearly billing option, whereas you need to pay €5 per month in the monthly billing option. The quarterly billing option costs you €13 per quarter. Your costs are the same if you choose the UK-only category. The USA-UK combined category costs you €75 per annum in the yearly billing option, whereas the monthly billing option costs you €7.50 per month. The quarterly billing option costs you €20 per quarter.
· Global”: The “Global” plan is a combination of the “Privacy” and “TV” plans, and it doesn’t allow P2P/torrenting in the US and UK locations. This plan has 3 billing options, and the annual billing option costs you €99 per annum. The monthly billing option costs €9.50 per month, whereas the quarterly billing option costs €27 per quarter.
BlackVPN accepts the following payment methods:
· Credit card;
· Bank transfer;
· Gift cards;
· Bitcoin and 40 other cryptocurrencies.
The company ensures excellent security of your payment transactions. BlackVPN offers a 14-day money-back guarantee, moreover, the company has a 3-day free trial period. Note that you can avail of the free trial on its Android app only.
The pros and cons of BlackVPN
Now that you have got a clear idea about the features that BlackVPN offers and its pricing plans, you will surely consider its pros and cons before making up your mind. Let’s summarize its advantages and disadvantages.
BlackVPN offers the following advantages:
· The company maintains a strict “no-logs” policy, moreover, its jurisdiction keeps data retention laws away. Located in Hong Kong, BlackVPN is also free from warrants and gag orders that countries like the USA initiate. Privacy is a strong point of BlackVPN.
· BlackVPN offers OpenVPN and IPsec protocols, which are very secure. It also has the less-secure PPTP protocol, however, you don’t need to use it. Therefore, it doesn’t impact security. AES-256 encryption and 4096 bit RSA certificates make BlackVPN further secure, which is a plus point. There are no IP or DNS leaks, which is definitely a positive.
· While 31 servers in 18 countries don’t quite match up to its competitors, the fact that these are all bare-metal physical servers in secure data centers is certainly an advantage.
· BlackVPN supports all key platforms like Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux, which is a plus point. The company has router support, which is also advantageous.
· This VPN provider unblocks streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, etc., however, there are some limitations.
· BlackVPN allows P2P/torrenting except in the US and UK.
· The company has a VPN cloaking feature for bypassing censorship, which its users can utilize to bypass firewalls in countries like China, Iran, and Egypt.
· BlackVPN provides excellent customer support that is fast and professional.
While the above-mentioned advantages of BlackVPN are helpful, there are also a few disadvantages, which are as follows:
· Though Hong Kong is currently administered differently from mainland China, the territory could conceivably come under pressure from the Chinese government. This could adversely impact the privacy-friendly policies of BlackVPN.
· While our tests detected no security risks in BlackVPN, we noticed an entry in the BlackVPN knowledge base that indicated that Windows malware was detected in the BlackVPN app.
· Earlier, BlackVPN didn’t have custom apps for the platforms they supported. The company had OpenVPN GUI clients, which you could download from its website and use for connecting to VPN. This does impact the user experience, and the company is currently working on this. They currently have an officially-released Android app in Google Play, however, the custom clients and apps for the other platforms are in the beta testing stage.
· Since BlackVPN is still developing its custom clients and apps and most of these are in the beta testing phase, the kill switches in these clients/apps are also not fully ready. The Android app doesn’t have a killswitch, which is a disadvantage. The Windows beta client has a killswitch, however, you can’t disable it.
· You might sometimes need to use 3rd party clients, which can be a disadvantage. E.g., the Mac VPN client of BlackVPN uses Tunnelblick, an open-source OpenVPN client for macOS. However, the version that BlackVPN uses has no killswitch. You would need to download the latest version of Tunnelblick if you need the killswitch.
· BlackVPN doesn’t quite offer the best speed when you compare it with the other market-leading VPN providers. DNS lookup takes longer than competitors, which adversely impacts the page load time. The connection speed was reasonable, however, it drops when you use its beta clients. The company has relatively fewer servers, and this has an impact on its speed.
· BlackVPN is a bit expensive when you compare with VPN providers like Surfshark, which offers more features at a lower price. The streaming services for the USA and UK are available in only the more expensive plans, which is another disadvantage.
A few quick facts about BlackVPN
It’s time we summarize a few quick facts about BlackVPN so that you can get a quick overall idea about this VPN provider. These facts are as follows:
· BlackVPN has been in the operations since 2009, and the company relocated from the US to Hong Kong.
· The relocation to Hong Kong keeps it away from data retention laws, warrants, and gag orders of the likes they could face in the US. Its strict “no-logs” policy, the ability to hide the IP address, a feature to hide that you are using a VPN, and own DNS servers make BlackVPN good for privacy.
· Secure protocols, robust encryption, secure keys, and the lack of IP/DNS leaks make it a quite secure VPN.
· The speed is reasonable, even if not the best of the lot.
· BlackVPN unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and a few more streaming services, however, there are some limitations.
· This VPN provider allows P2P/torrenting except in the US and UK.
· BlackVPN covers all key platforms, however, the company is still developing custom apps/clients for several of these platforms. This requires you to use 3rd party VPN clients in some cases if you need features like killswitch.
· The pricing plans are a bit expensive compared to several competitors.
Our leak tests of BlackVPN
BlackVPN takes pride in its security features, and this includes its claim that it doesn’t have IP or DNS leaks. We could confirm this during our tests.
Is BlackVPN easy to use?
The website of BlackVPN is very easy to navigate. It shows all the key menu options clearly, e.g., “VPN setup”, “Help”, “Buy Now”, etc.
Buying a BlackVPN plan is easy too since it involves just a couple of quick steps. You choose a plan and enter your email address.
As the next step, choose your payment method and agree to the terms and conditions. Complete the payment process, and you will receive an email with the information required to use BlackVPN.
The next step is to install the custom app, beta-version of the custom app, or the VPN clients as applicable to you. You need to expand the “VPN Setup” menu to access the set-up pages for each platform.
Using BlackVPN's Windows client
While BlackVPN provides its own VPN client it’s still in beta. While testing the service we did use their beta client but we didn’t run into any problems regarding the status of the program.
The application opens with the settings screen open and the full application can be accessed and checked out without logging in. Unlike the website, the client looks quite inadequate and features a very small amount of settings.
Still, you can’t start using the application just jet because first you have to log-in to the service by entering your own uniquely generated VPN username and an automatically generated password that was sent to you in an email when purchasing BlackVPN.
Right under the log-in fields, all the settings of the service can be seen. The VPN settings consist of changing the protocol between UDP and TCP and the selection between AES-256-CBC and AES-256-GCM. There are also some App settings like Auto-connect which automatically connects the VPN when the app launches, and there is an option to turn on or off the desktop notifications.
The application has a location selected by default, but we don’t think this is done dynamically, it’s just programmed to do so. Other locations can be selected by clicking the globe icon at the top of the window. Here the locations are grouped by continent, we have Americas which includes both South and North America here we can find Brazil, Canada, and 3 US servers. Under the Europe section, we get to choose between 13 different countries, and the last section is named Asia and Australia, here we can find Japan and Australia. We find it surprising that BlackVPN doesn’t feature a server in HongKong, where the company is based.
Problems with the service started appearing when we tried to connect to a server, and the connection indicator switched to connecting but nothing happened. After waiting for about 5 long minutes we still didn’t get connected, so we went on to try other servers. Our tests show that out of 20 servers 11 worked, and some of them are so slow that they are basically useless.
The features are limited to an internet kill switch that blocks internet traffic if the VPN connection becomes unstable.
Overall, BlackVPN’s Windows client can’t compete with other VPN providers. It would be nice to see a more feature-rich client with the unavailable servers removed. During the testing, we ran into some major security issues. The service leaked our IPv6 address and the killswitch didn’t work once.
BlackVPN on macOS
When you access the BlackVPN VPN setup macOS page, you will be able to download the following:
· The BlackVPN OpenVPN app;
· SSL tunnel set-up and configuration files.
This page also provides you with instructions on how to use IPSec/L2TP VPN protocol.
You will find it easy to install the files and use the macOS client.
BlackVPN on your smartphone
BlackVPN provides an application for Android and they have a blog post from 2017 claiming that they have submitted their app to the App Store but waiting for Apple’s approval.
Here is our test of the Android application. BlackVPN says on the website that they have a 3-day trial version on the mobile platforms, but when we tried to take advantage of this feature the application displayed an error saying No connection to the server. Try again later. After this the app bricked itself and became useless, we tried restarting the application but it only displayed the error mentioned above.
After reinstalling the app and taking care to avoid the free trial button, we entered our VPN Username and VPN Password that we got with our desktop subscription.
The main menu has a location selected by default with a nice picture of a famous landmark from that specific country as the background. In the top right of the screen, we have a connection indicator that reminds me of HAL9000, the AI from Space Odyssey. In the middle of the screen, there is a large connect button and at the bottom, we can find our favorite locations and All VPN servers.
While trying to connect to the service we run into the same problems as on Windows. About half of the VPN servers were unavailable. The servers are the same on all platforms, some of them support P2P, others are optimized for streaming, but we would recommend another VPN for either of these purposes. All servers run on “bare-metal” none of them are virtualized.
There are some options in the application, for example the choice between UDP and TCP and the option to select a VPN port manually. The application has an AutoConnect feature that can automatically connect to a selected server when the device starts or when the app starts.
Overall the Android app is a very basic and not well-featured application. We would like to see a client that has more options and security features built into it. While testing we had major problems connecting to a lot of servers and the service leaked our IPv6 address.
You can find the Google Play link of the BlackVPN Android app when you visit the Android page from the VPN setup menu option. This page also has the OpenVPN configuration files for the BlackVPN Android app. In addition to these, you can find the instructions for connecting with the IPSec/L2TP protocol.
At the time of this review, the BlackVPN iOS app is under review by Apple. When you visit the iOS page from the VPN setup menu option, you can download the OpenVPN configuration files for iOS. This page also provides the information you need to connect using the IPSec/L2TP protocol.
Does BlackVPN support Linux
BlackVPN doesn’t provide any kind of client for their Linux users; instead it makes use of the built-in VPN client of the operating system.
The setup process is made easier with a step by step guide and preconfigured files that the users just have to import.
First, add a new VPN connection in the network manager, select the option to import a saved VPN configuration then import one of the configuration files downloaded from BlackVPN’s website. The last step is to enter your VPN Username and VPN password that was sent to you in an email when registering for the service.
After clicking the connect button a desktop notification pops up saying that the VPN is connected.
Just like on Windows and Android about half of the servers worked, and almost all of the servers were slower than 100mb/s. We noticed no IPv6 leaks on Linux but this is thanks to the OS’s VPN client having disabled that protocol.
There are way better choices for people who want to use a VPN on Linux, and we would recommend against BlackVPN.
Using BlackVPN on your router
The “Routers” page from the VPN setup menu option provides the OpenVPN configuration files. It also has the setup guides for the routers that BlackVPN supports, which are as follows:
We tested BlackVPN on a router running AsusWRT firmware but the service claims to support any router compatible with OpenVPN.
Setting up a VPN connection on any router running AsusWRT is really simple, BlackVPN has guides for routers running DD-WRT or OpenWrt. We downloaded the OpenVPN configuration files from the website of BlackVPN and opened our router’s configuration interface. Then we navigated to the VPN tab where we added a new VPN client profile. After entering our username and password we imported the configuration file and selected the option to import the CA file manually.
After copying the ca.crt file and the ta.key file into the corresponding fields, we saved the configuration and tried to connect to the service. It loaded for a second or two then indicated that the connection cannot be established.
After a bit of troubleshooting, we came to the conclusion that the configuration files are missing some information that’s necessary to make a connection.
Setting up BlackVPN was supposed to be easy, even without any tutorials but we couldn’t get the service to work.
Is the customer service of BlackVPN any good?
BlackVPN offers excellent customer support, and its live chat, email, and ticket support modes are prompt. The support representatives are knowledgeable and helpful.
You can easily locate the “Help” option on their website.
BlackVPN has a comprehensive knowledge base, and you can easily find relevant information, e.g.:
· OpenVPN-related information;
· Information concerning routers;
· L2TP/IPSec-related information.
You can easily find the screen to submit a ticket.
In summary, BlackVPN offers you fast and professional customer support, backed up by good documentation.
Where is BlackVPN located?
BlackVPN had relocated from the US to Hong Kong, and this territory within the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) is administered differently from mainland China. Hong Kong doesn’t have data-retention laws like the US, moreover, BlackVPN can avoid warranties and gag orders in Hong Kong.
While all of these are positives for privacy-focused users, it remains to be seen whether this will change. If Hong Kong is subjected to Chinese pressures to introduce curbs on privacy, then that could potentially impact businesses like BlackVPN operating from there.
Does BlackVPN keep any logs?
BlackVPN follows its declared “no-logs” policy strictly and maintains no logs for user activities, connections, bandwidth, or DNS. Note that the BlackVPN website tracks your activities when you visit it, however, that has nothing to do with your browsing session using its VPN.
The company doesn’t log your connection timestamp, browsing history, or your real IP address. BlackVPN does collect the email addresses and payment records of its users, which they obviously need to do.
What encryption is used by BlackVPN?
BlackVPN offers both OpenVPN and IPSec, which are highly secure protocols. As we have already mentioned, BlackVPN uses AES-256 encryption and 4096 bit RSA certificates. Given these, the technical security of BlackVPN stands on a really strong footing.
Server Locations for BlackVPN
BlackVPN has a presence in 18 countries. The company has 31 servers spread across 20 VPN locations. The pricing plan you choose determines which countries and VPN locations are available to you, e.g.:
· The “Privacy” plan offers Australia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and Ukraine.
· The “Global” plan offers all the locations offered in the “Privacy” plan, moreover, it includes USA East, USA West, USA Central, and UK London.
· The “TV” plan offers the USA and UK VPN locations only.
BlackVPN claims that all of its 31 servers are dedicated bare-metal physical servers. The company emphasizes that these aren’t virtualized servers on the cloud, and each server runs in physically secure data centers.
Canada; United States
CENTRAL AMERICA & CARIBBEAN
Czech Republic; Estonia; France; Germany; Japan; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Netherlands; Norway; Romania; Spain; Switzerland; UK London; Ukraine
AFRICA & MIDDLE EAST
Our short conclusion of BlackVPN
Our detailed review of BlackVPN shows that this “no-logs” VPN provider has strong privacy and security credentials. It unblocks streaming services in most of the locations, however, there were a few limitations. Its speed is reasonable, and BlackVPN allows P2P/torrenting except for the USA and UK.
Since BlackVPN is still developing custom clients for most of the platforms it supports, the user experience could be slightly suboptimal, e.g., some of its apps/clients don’t have kill switches. BlackVPN causes no IP and DNS leaks, and its jurisdiction is privacy-friendly enough.
BlackVPN is a bit expensive, however, the company provides excellent customer support and comprehensive documentation. Overall, BlackVPN is a good buy, however, you could look at other market-leading VPN providers if you want better user experience at a cheaper price.