Unsolicited state surveillance became the standard in the United Kingdom after Royal ascent was given to the highly controversial IP Bill on January 1, 2017. Enactment of the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) or “Snoopers Charter 2” has left UK cyberspace at the mercy of British Security Agencies & MPs, rendering privacy a redundant word.
If cybercrime, routine data breaches, harassment, child abuse, censorship and online fraud were not your problem the government just took away all your online privacy privileges. This gives all the more reason for Britons to consider privacy software, the most effective of which is a UK VPN service.
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Most internet users’ bring up the argument that they do nothing illegal online, so why exactly does everyone need a UK VPN? Consider the following facts:
- The GCHQ (UK Government Communications Headquarters) can now snoop on all your online communications, by law!
- In 2011, a report by BAE Systems Applied Intelligence (formerly DETICA) authorized by the UK Cabinet Office identified that the annual cost of cybercrime in the UK was estimated at £27 billion. In 2016 businesses alone experienced loses of £11 billion due to cybercrime.
- Data of more than 50 businesses was breached in 2016
- A radical increase in Malware & Ransomware incidents has been reported since 2014. Even hospitals & schools are unsafe, the UK stood in fourth spot.
- Third party marketers are constantly collecting users’ browsing habits, social feeds and other sensitive information selling this data to the highest bidder for advertising.
Why Does Everyone Need a VPN in UK?
There are a number of very serious concerns surrounding United Kingdom’s cyberspace, especially after the government spent most of tax payer money to introduce a bill that snoops on ordinary Britons. Let’s quickly look over the reasons everyone needs a VPN in the UK.
1. “Legalized” State Surveillance
On 1st January 2017 the United Kingdom became the most severely monitored cyberspace in the world, let alone on the European continent. The Investigatory Powers Bill of 2016 was given Royal ascent in December 2016 and enacted on the first day of the new year making Great Britain an intrusive web of state surveillance.
Don’t fall for that innocent name, the IP bill is an amalgamation of authoritarian doctrines that only George Orwell could comprehend back in 1949. Sara Ogilvie of the Huffington Post analyzes the IP Bill in her November 6, 2016 article providing an in depth analysis of the legislation. So why do we need a UK VPN for the IP Bill? Let’s overview the much renowned IP Bill:
- Judicial Oversight
Requests to intercept communications remains at the mercy of senior Ministers rather than being monitored and authorized by a judge. Theresa May successfully paraded the “world leading oversight” slogan for us all to chew on, while authorization to listen on to our personal & sometimes sensitive communications fell in the hands of ridiculously unqualified & inept MPs (I hope most of you would agree).
In the case of the IP Bill Judges go through a routine rubber stamping exercise without having any say in this massive violation of basic human rights.
After releasing an elaborate definition of “state sponsored hacking” (when it was illegal) the UK government gave security agencies the license to snoop courtesy of the IP Bill. Spies & police are now officially allowed to hack into devices of ordinary British citizens, while compelling tech providers to assist through their “surveillance warrants”.
There never was any proper debate in the Parliament or any oversight recommended for this severe intrusion of online privacy. Surveillance hacks can now be conducted over a massive scale where smartphones, PCs, tablets and cameras can be turned into instruments of mass eavesdropping.
Even if you are happy with the government snooping on everything that you do online, consider the fact that the backdoor to your devices is now open. Hackers, cybercriminals, identity thieves and literally anyone with the right tools can now break into your devices. A VPN for UK can completely block off this backdoor securing your devices & data with a click.
- Mass Surveillance
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) February 16, 2016
The GCHQ’s mass surveillance regime was exposed by Edward Snowden back in 2013. Although the IP Bill is directed towards targeting suspected terrorists (remember the IP Bill does not target cybercriminals in particular), the vague nature of the legislation gives agencies the authority to:
- mass intercept internet histories
- collect online communications data on an industrial scale, and
- hack and retain databases at will
All surveillance data is available to various state security agencies including those from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Israel to name a few.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) March 2, 2016
The most intrusive part of the IP Bill dictates that technology providers must retain all records of online activities, making them available up to 2 years in some cases. This also includes all the apps you use on your smartphone & files uploaded on cloud storage services.
As Ms. Ogilvie summarizes, these weblogs are maintained irrespective of your involvement in crime & terrorism. As me move towards becoming an online society this massive retention of weblogs creates a detailed personal profile of who you are.
Ok, let’s say you trust your government (I wouldn’t), but the massive retention & storage of this very sensitive personal information in one place can lead to catastrophic incidents like the Talk-Talk hack, the CarPhone Warehouse hack and many others.
2. Malware & Ransomware
Beginning 2011, cyber-security corporations began reporting a massive increase in the number of malware, Trojans, ransomware, viruses and data breaches over the next 9 years. Cyber security giants including Trends Micro, Symantec, Panda Titanium, Sophos, Kaspersky and others all predicted an increase in mobile malware, an increase in Ransomware incidents plus a massive hacking campaign on Apple devices.
If you look at the infographic on the right, most incidents are the result of intrusive malware & ransomware that infiltrate user devices. 2016 was the year the UK’s National Crime Agency made an actual effort to collect cybercrime statistics, confirming malware and ransomware as the primary tools used by intruders.
The alarming rise in the number of malware & ransomware being used to hack financial details, sensitive personal data and communications all leads to one conclusion we need a UK VPN to secure our home networks & mobile devices.
In an interview with CBR (Computer Business Review) RES Software Ltd. Country Manager UK, Andy Buchanan, reported that RES research indicates 54% of United Kingdom businesses got infected with ransomware. 58% of the victims according to Buchanan paid the hackers to have their data unlocked.
Data breaches have become a frequent occurrence beginning 2013 something predicted and statistically projected by cyber-security firms in 2011. In the years that followed corporations & celebrities alike including Mark Zuckerberg, Apple Inc., The Pentagon, Twitter, Yahoo!, Google, Anonymous Hacktivists Group, the PlayStation Network and many others have been breached.
Take the latest RANSOM_NETIX.A ransomware identified by Trends Micro in January 2017 as an example. Trends Micro reports in its blog how the ransomware tends to offer unauthorized access to Netflix without paying the subscription. A “generate login” box appears as a diversion upfront while the ransomware takes roots on user devices in the background.
Once clicked, the ransomware has complete access to your system files encrypting all your data and displaying a very concerning message.
Data visualization website “Information is beautiful” provides one of the most detailed graphical presentation of data breaches dating all the way back to 2004. Data breaches are one of the primary reasons everyone needs to consider a UK VPN service.
Geo-restrictions are a very effective way corporations censor the internet, stripping away its freedom & openness. Consider the BBC iPlayer service which is inaccessible outside the UK. In case you are travelling, there won’t be any catching up to do as the BBC iPlayer website will display the following message:
Geo-restrictions have now become a norm for most online VoD streaming, music & radio, news, health and other services. Apart from BBC iPlayer, there are numerous services including Spotify, Pandora, ABC, Fox, food network, HBO etc. restricted to access outside their official regions.
A UK VPN in this case is the only solution for you to unblock geo-restricted services from all over the world.
- Child Privacy & Data Security
After giving under-age & negligent kids the privilege of having their own smartphones, tablets and PCs it is your responsibility to see that your child has ironclad security online. One of the silliest notions that I hear these days is that “children are good at handling their privacy online, since they’re so tech savvy”.
Although I have never met teenagers in my own country who have a clue about managing their Facebook or Twitter privacy settings, maybe teens & kids in other parts of the world are born privacy experts. The Library of Congress reports (2016) that a massive 43% of 9-12 year olds in the UK are active on Facebook completely dodging the 13 years old age limit imposed by the social network. But, this is not the concerning part!
The concerns come when we find out 25% these children are oblivious of Facebook’s privacy settings, while 20% of them publicly display their address, phone numbers and other personal information. Facebook has refused to take responsibility for children bypassing its primary age check. The issue is not that your child can use your credit card online, but the real threat comes from drug dealers, child sex offenders and identity thieves.
A VPN for UK can significantly reduce the risk of your child’s device being hacked, data & identity being stolen, and inappropriate advertising being delivered to their screens. Since UK VPN can secure your real IP address and hide your personal home network from the internet at the same time it’s possibly the most effective tools against snooping, hackers & cybercriminals, malware and many other online vulnerabilities.
Also check out this amazing Child Privacy guide from Comparitech.
How Does a UK VPN Service Work
As its name suggests, a Virtual Private Network creates a virtual connection through the public internet with a VPN server. You can also connect to a VPN server in the UK to secure your online activities while staying within British cyberspace. If you observe the diagram below:
Once you turn on your UK VPN service, it proceeds to create a secure “tunneled” connection (indicated by the two way blue arrow) with its requested VPN server. Simultaneously, the VPN also begins encrypting all data (indicated by the red line) passing through the secure VPN tunnel. Once your connection is tunneled & encrypted all data is now anonymous, plus it is converted into alphanumeric code (depends which cipher is used).
Once behind the UK VPN’s secure tunnel your IP address is hidden from everyone including your ISP. No one can snoop on your activities, retain data or hack into your devices & network. Although your ISP and government surveillance can see you are connected to a VPN server they have no idea what you are doing.
The VPN server then communicates with all websites & servers on your behalf. For example, if you request the website KickAssTorrents the VPN server will fetch the website for you using its own IP address and deliver the website to your browser.
VPN provider for UK also offer amazing security tools to fight malware & ransomware including Deep Packet Inspection, NAT Firewalls and Ad Blockers to name a few. Torrent fans and file sharing users will also love features including the Internet Kill Switch and the Auto Reconnect features that allow robust anonymity when using file sharing apps.
5 Best VPN Providers for UK
There are over a hundred reputable VPN for the UK offering leading edge privacy & data security services not just in Great Britain but across the world. We sorted through over 45 different providers ranking them in accordance to their base of operations, server network, security features and compatibility.
Hong Kong based PureVPN has 550+ servers across 141 countries. PureVPN is known for its ability to unblock a huge range of geo-restricted video streaming services including Netflix, HBO Now, and BBC iPlayer amongst others. Currently, PureVPN offers 62 VPN servers in the UK to secure your network while there are a large number of high speed servers available in USA, Netherlands, Germany, France, Sweden, Luxemburg and Singapore.
PureVPN also offers over 50 locations around the world for P2P file sharing & torrents. PureVPN can be used on 5 different devices simultaneously with one account. PureVPN also offers a long line of tunneling protocols to secure & encrypt your online activities including:
- Stealth VPN (New & Exclusive)
PureVPN is compatible with a huge range of devices including Windows, iOS, Routers, Mac, Android, Smart TVs and gaming consoles. Although there were superior performers compared to PureVPN we rank the service as our number one based on our 4 recommended factors.
The first reason PureVPN ranks top is simply because it’s based outside the UK. Second, PureVPN is a Zero Activity & Information Logs service and is complimented by the government of Hong Kong which demands tech providers to retain 0% customer information.
Third, PureVPN offers one of the largest VPN server network including their extensive VPN coverage with UK IP’s. Fourth and last, PureVPN is a very compatible service and is very easy to setup on over 25 devices.
- 5 simultaneous device logins
- Customer Support availability 24/7/365
- Offers 7 tunneling protocols
- Internet Kill Switch & Auto Reconnect
- Compatible with all major platforms and 25+ device manufacturers
- Dedicated IP Addresses available
- Does not offer a free trial
- Waiting times on servers during peak hours
ExpressVPN is a British Virgin Islands based UK VPN provider and is renowned for its turbo speed servers for streaming & torrents. Express VPN offers their new multi-login feature that allows users to use the service over 3 devices simultaneously. ExpressVPN is compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Routers (selected manufacturers), Apple TV and gaming consoles.
ExpressVPN is a users’ choice service known for its ability unblock US Netflix, HBO Now and hundreds of other geo-restricted services from around in the world. Not only is it a great choice for streaming, but also offers secure P2P & torrent servers in multiple destinations outside the US & UK for enhanced data security.
- Offers dedicated IPs for Netflix USA streaming
- Brilliant Referral program
- Excellent iOS app and manual setup guides available
- 30 Days Money Back guarantee
- Exclusive Turbo Speed servers
- Torrent supported severs outside US & UK
- Retains data even though it claims not to
- Expensive pricing plans
HideMyAss is a UK based VPN, providing services across 180+ countries through its massive network of 840+ servers. The service is compatible with the full range of OS including Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. HMA offers great support for streaming and managing FTP servers, so a great option for online streaming and file hosting fans.
HMA offers 83 VPN servers across the United Kingdom, with over 12,000 UK IP addresses to hide behind. Although HMA is a brilliant and top tier brand we rank it 4th in our countdown for two major reasons. First, HMA in no way is a “zero logs” privacy provider and maintains extensive data logs on all its users, including personally identifiable information.
- Servers available in 190+ countries
- Highest number of shared IPs in VPN industry
- Provides all available protocols for iPhones
- Logs user data, IP address and personal information
- Does not offer compatible app for iPhone
HotSpot Shield VPN
Possibly one of the most underrated UK VPN providers HotSpot Shield is a legend of the VPN industry. HotSpot does not mention an exact count of its servers for any location but it does offers a large server network across the UK. Other popular destinations include USA, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands and lots more.
Currently, HotSpot Shield is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS and Android providing both apps and manual configuration on all compatible platforms & devices. The HotSpot Browser Extension uses HTTPS to secure your connection, while the apps utilize OpenVPN tunneling protocol with AES-256 bit encryption to secure your data.
Word of caution here though, HotSpot Shield is based in Silicon Valley, USA and hence cannot be categorized safe when it comes to online communication and torrents.
- Servers available in 20+ countries
- Very easy to use with Apps & Browser extension
- Logs user habits and sells to marketers
- Based in Silicon Valley, USA
What to Look for in the Top UK VPN Service
Ok so we know there are over a hundred reliable VPN providers offering their services across the world. But what exactly are the pre-requisites of being “reliable”, especially for a country that has cyber-legislation like the UK just adopted? I took the liberty to list 4 most crucial factors that will determine the best UK VPN provider for you.
Base of Operations
The origin or base of operations of your UK VPN service is essential to know, because this country is where your data will pass through and some will be retained.
As you go through reviews & websites, most VPN services for UK are based in the US. Subscribing to a US based VPN is an invitation to get snooped on since the NSA continues its illegal surveillance of all tech services. Same is the case of the United Kingdom where the government is also demanding that technology providers loosen encryption or entirely remove it from their services.
Consider a VPN provider based in countries that have few or no data retention laws. This is a major caution for torrent downloaders & file sharing fans “you definitely don’t want that notice from a copyright troll”. Top VPN providers for UK would be ones based in Hong Kong, Panama, Seychelles, British Virgin Islands, Switzerland, Estonia, Norway and Austria.
Remember that even though a VPN service for UK claims it maintains no logs and does not retain your data, but is based in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Germany, etc. (check out the full list here) there is no question that if required by a warrant the provider will hand over your entire history & personal information in an instant.
Considering the speed of your UK VPN service is essential since most providers inform that you will experience slower bandwidth due to latency. The ideal way to test top UK VPN services is by either utilizing their free trial offers or utilizing their money back guarantees.
Remember that even the best UK VPN service will work differently for different users, even if in the same country. This usually has to do with your ISP, as many internet providers block certain tunneling protocols to disable subscribers from going incognito.
There are bandwidth 3 tests that you can easily perform while behind your VPN service in UK. These tests include:
- Flash based bandwidth tests – Ookla Speed Test, MegaPath, UK Broadband Speed Test
- HTML based Speed test – Speedof.me
- Torrent client testing – utorrent, BitTorrent, Vuze, BitComet etc. (hint: test by downloading a 100MB file)
- Streaming speed test – YouTube, Netflix etc. (hint: play a 1 hour video and notice buffering & pixilation)
In a Nutshell
I hope you now have an idea how the IP Bill, cybercriminals, your ISP, 3rd party marketers, malware and other malicious entities threaten your online activities & identity. Secure your-self & your family today with one of the best VPN for UK listed above.
Also go through the vast resources and learn about child privacy, security over social networks and how to stay safe from marketers when online. In case you have an issue or would like to leave feedback drop a comment in the section below.