ExpressVPN Review 2021: Why Our Experts Consider It to Be the Best VPN Overall

by
Frederik Lipfert
Dr. Frederik Lipfert Founder, vpncheck
Updated on 15 Sep 2021
Frederik is a serial entrepreneur that jumped into entrepreneurship after earning his doctorate in physics. Founding and running an analytics company got him into the online privacy and security space he's now contributing to with vpncheck. Read full bio

Expert Contributions

Alla Robert Aristakesyan
Alla Robert Aristakesyan Business Consultant
Brendan Filipovski
Brendan Filipovski Business Consultant
Cassandra Mackin UI / UX Designer
Cassandra Mackin User Interface Designer
Antonio Aguilar Cybersecurity Specalist
Antonio Aguilar Cybersecurity Researcher
Monika Lewko
Monika Lewko Privacy & Data Protection Lawyer
Michael Abiola Senior Network Professional
Michael Abiola Network Engineer
This review is based on the exclusive research, analyses, and tests our experts have conducted of ExpressVPN.

Our ExpressVPN Review for 2021 took the following key criteria into consideration: Secure web browsing, reliability, and overall performance. We know that since its inception in 2009, ExpressVPN has managed to offer a relatively dependable service. Fast forward to 2021, and we can honestly say that it should be your go-to VPN to unblock Netflix and other streaming services.

But there’s a catch! As the saying goes, “You have to pay the piper if you want to dance.” In the case of ExpressVPN, this piper does not come cheap. We also wanted to find out how it would hold up in other use cases besides streaming. So, we purchased a subscription and tested all the features for ourselves to find out how ExpressVPN’s overall performance justifies its price. Even better, we’ve reached out to industry experts to secure their opinions and ratings.

ExpressVPN... TL;DR

  • Streaming capability–With ExpressVPN’s wide coverage and killer speeds, you can access Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, DAZN, and other streaming services with ease.
  • Security–ExpressVPN keeps your connections secure by tunneling through numerous protocols including their Lightway protocol, using AES-256 encryption. 
  • Privacy–The service maintains a no logs policy, with servers running only on RAM storage, Private DNS, Kill-switch, and Onion over VPN support.
  • Apps and extensions–ExpressVPN provides user-friendly VPN client apps and extensions for various platforms and browsers.
  • Customer support–Step-by-step how-to guides are available, as well as direct email, and live chat support—not with chatbots—but with actual human ExpressVPN representatives.
  • Pricing–Monthly costs of ExpressVPN lean on the expensive side. There is no free trial or lifetime subscriptions, but ExpressVPN provides a no-questions-asked 30-day money-back guarantee for all user accounts.

ExpressVPN Performance: Satisfying the Need for Speed (and Compatibility)

Yes, with ExpressVPN, we can unblock multiple streaming services and watch a massive amount of movies and shows from all over the world. And, yes, it’s fast… said every VPN review website ever! While that may be the case (more on that later), we wanted to get the scoop from a true industry professional. Here’s what an actual Network Performance Expert had to say about ExpressVPN:

Our Expert Review and Rating of ExpressVPN's Network Performance

Michael Abiola Senior Network Professional
Michael Abiola
Network Engineer

When choosing a VPN, aside from the critical decision points such as, who truly owns the VPN service and servers, and do they log any user data, compatibility and functionality are also major considerations for both the average consumer and business use case.

If you are interested in finding a VPN solution that works with common apps you use or are trying to use, whether it is a video streaming service, external news source outside of your home country or you are trying to get access to an email service to reach family or friends across the world, it is important to review various vendor websites to see if they are compatible or read the information on the app you are trying to use as some are not fully compatible with specific VPN options, iPhone users most commonly run into this issue as Apple has a closed ecosystem on their devices and do not play nicely with 3rd party apps even in America for example.

For the business use case, anytime a company reviews options for their user base, they first look at the applications they use and websites their staff rely on to perform their duties and then review VPN software that will provide the necessary protections but at the same time, not hinder work their company performs day to day.

With respect to my review of ExpressVPN specifically, in my testing, it appears to function well on the most common platforms from Windows 10, Android, iOS and Mac OS and it boasts compatibility with other platforms. Its design is well thought out and is a lightweight agent that does not take up a lot of room on your device or hog a lot of processing power. With how geographically dispersed they have placed their servers, ExpressVPN does appear to be able to have a solution for everyone regardless of where you are accessing it from.

When it comes to upload and download speeds, many factors come into play including if you are on a wired vs. wireless connection, the VPN servers you choose to connect to etc. While testing download and upload speeds, I was able to get about 90 Mbps down in most cases, but I had varying speeds for the uploads. Keep in mind, when surfing wirelessly, you will never get the full advertised speed, such as if you are paying for 1 Gbps connection at a residence but only see maybe 700 Mbps or so from a wireless device. So keeping these factors in mind, I would still recommend the use of this VPN.

    9
    9

    If you’d like to know more about how our expert reached his verdict, based on actual research and years of experience, read more about the tests performed and conclusions reached at the end of this review.

    ExpressVPN’s Streaming Capability

    As you might already know, streaming services (e.g., Netflix, Amazon Prime) restrict their content based on the user’s location. This is where a VPN service comes in to make streaming services think a user is accessing them from a specific country.

    Netflix: Unblocked

    With an ExpressVPN connection set up, we were immediately free from any geoblocking imposed by Netflix. ExpressVPN provides a wide range of locations you can choose from to let you watch any movie or TV show with your date, your family, or your cat.

    We tested Netflix on multiple locations—namely US, Canada, Brazil, UK, France, Germany, Australia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya—and each of them displayed the region-specific Netflix catalogs, as well as played without delays or lags.

    ExpressVPN’s support for streaming services doesn’t quite end with Netflix:

    ExpressVPN Compatibility Overview

    Hulu: Unblocked

    With Hulu being one of the popular streaming platforms these days, it’s such a bummer that Hulu’s streaming service is restricted to US residents only. Still, we tried accessing it from a location outside the US.

    We were presented with the usual Hulu homepage, alright. So with fingers crossed, we tried to sign up for the service, only to get blocked with a somewhat ambiguous message saying it can’t verify the email address we entered. Not to mention, the Continue button wasn’t clickable either:

    Hulu signup process

    To bypass this, we followed ExpressVPN’s guide on how to stream Hulu. And voila! We were able to connect to an ExpressVPN server located in the United States, conveniently signed up to Hulu, and stream their videos.

    Hulu tv show brooklyn nine nine

    For best results, it’s important to choose a US ExpressVPN server that’s geographically closest to your current location.

    Note also that ExpressVPN simply addresses the geoblocking restrictions. You still need to pay for a Hulu subscription to access their videos. Similarly, if you’re planning to watch Hulu Live TV, you will need to pay for this add-on to your Hulu subscription.

    Disney+: Unblocked

    Disney Plus is relatively a new player in the market, having been launched only in 2019. Yet, it has earned popularity these days–especially among families. Unfortunately, Disney+ availability is still limited to a few countries. 

    Once again, we used an ExpressVPN connection to one of Disney Plus’ supported countries, and we were able to instantly access the whole catalog of their movies and shows after signing up for a subscription.

    Prime Video: Unblocked

    While Amazon’s Prime Video is currently available for a vast audience of more than 200 countries worldwide, it still comes with restrictions:

    • Geoblocking of Prime Video content in various countries.
    • A standalone Prime Video subscription can only be obtained by households in the US, the UK, or Germany. Users from all other countries will have to subscribe to an Amazon Prime membership where the Prime Video service comes bundled within a package of other Amazon services we’ll probably never end up using but still pay for!
    • For citizens of Australia, Canada, France, India, Turkey, and Italy, the service is provided through a dedicated primevideo.com site instead of Amazon’s main site URL, e.g., amazon.au, amazon.ca.

    Why go through all the hassle when we can simply use ExpressVPN to create a Prime Video subscription from any country and watch away?

    It’s also worth mentioning that an account with a valid address in the US or the UK would be required to stream Prime Video content reserved to these countries.

    BBC iPlayer: Unblocked

    Similar to Hulu’s US-only restrictions, BBC’s iPlayer featuring live BBC TV channels and loads of other VOD (Video on Demand) content is exclusively available to BBC iPlayer subscribers who are UK residents. Well, in that case, we secured a virtual tunnel with the help of ExpressVPN’s BBC iPlayer VPN access.

    First, we tried to access iPlayer from a non-UK location:

    BBC iPlayer tv show line of duty

    As you can see, we were restricted from playing our chosen content.

    But, we were able to circumvent geoblocking using ExpressVPN to connect to a UK VPN location:

    BBC iPlayer line of duty car chase

    DAZN: Unblocked

    When it comes to live and on-demand sports event streaming, DAZN holds a pretty solid name since its inception in 2016. So, we figured it wouldn’t be fair not to check out ExpressVPN’s performance with DAZN! 

    Following ExpressVPN’s DAZN streaming guidelines, we connected to each mentioned VPN location, i.e., Germany, Italy, Canada, US. And, sure enough, we were able to register an account with DAZN and stream some live NFL games without a single hiccup.

    Besides these services, ExpressVPN supports a broad array of other streaming services as well.

    Does ExpressVPN Stream Faster Than a Tortoise?

    When it comes to speed, the more appropriate question would be: Does using a VPN service affect your internet connection’s speed? (And in turn, make whatever video you’re streaming take forever to load?)

    In conducting our tests, while connected to an ExpressVPN location, we also tested its capability for Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video based on the site loading and content buffering speeds. And, the good news is, ExpressVPN excelled at loading each of these websites and their content at satisfying rates compared to other VPNs.

    Just out of curiosity, we thought of checking the broadband speeds with and without an ExpressVPN connection:

    ExpressVPN connection speed

    With an ExpressVPN connection

    No ExpressVPN connection speed

    Without an ExpressVPN connection

    We performed our tests with a 4G WiFi connection of 20Mbps; and as you can guess, we were definitely not disappointed. Connecting our VPN to the Smart Location suggested by the ExpressVPN client app gave us an impressive boost in speed resulting in greater ping and download/upload speeds compared to the test results without a VPN.

    Torrenting With ExpressVPN

    Many VPN services (both paid and free) tend to restrict P2P services, for instance, appointing only a limited number of VPN servers that allow BitTorrent connections within their Vservice.

    To our delight, ExpressVPN provides support for torrenting and even features a guide on how to use the uTorrent client with ExpressVPN.

    This incredible P2P support combined with unlimited VPN bandwidth makes ExpressVPN a top choice for torrenting.

    Compatibility and Servers

    All mainstream platforms (e.g., Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook, Android, and iOS) are supported by ExpressVPN.

    Beyond that, we found a handy device and platform compatibility list that ExpressVPN supports, detailing all the compatibility-related particulars. They have elaborate manual configuration instructions for their client apps.

    Access From Outside to High-Censorship Countries

    Due to Russian orders in 2019 requiring VPN services to block a regularly updated list of banned siteswhich would arguably forfeit the whole point of using a VPN–most VPN services including ExpressVPN opted to take off their servers from Russia. There is a  similar VPN apps ban in China as well. Hence, we would not be able to use ExpressVPN to access Russian or Chinese servers from outside the country.

    Just as a double-check, we contacted ExpressVPN live chat regarding this issue:

    ExpressVPN censorship response

    But, what if you happen to live in one of these high-censorship countries?

    Access From High-Censorship Countries

    Obfuscation is not necessarily in ExpressVPN’s vocabulary. Instead, as a work-around, ExpressVPN advises using their recommended server and recommended protocol on their client apps which would grant access to the web in high-censorship countries.

    Check out their own words about this:

    ExpressVPN China service

    If you happen to live in Russia, you’d easily be able to access the outside world connecting to other ExpressVPN servers! 

    Yet, you’d have to be a bit more careful when it comes to China since the ExpressVPN site is currently blocked in China and the citizen network traffic is heavily monitored by the authorities.

    So, unless a trip to a prison in China is on your bucket list, we strongly advise registering, installing, and setting up your ExpressVPN account from a different country!

    Locations

    At the time of writing, ExpressVPN maintains a wide range of more than 3000 servers scattered around 94 countries and 160 locations–all of which you gain instant access to an ExpressVPN subscription.

    Virtual Server Locations

    Imagine planning to watch the Super Bowl when it’s broadcasted live on American television? You’re outside of the US, but you’re ready with your VPN connected to a location in the USA. But once the game starts streaming, it seems to be lagging so much you’re not sure if you’re watching a slideshow of the game.

    This is due to a slow internet speed caused by huge traffic spikes over the country since you’d be joining hundreds of millions of game watchers in the US.

    Some VPN services (including ExpressVPN) counter this using their virtual server locations. This allows you to retrieve a connection with an IP address assigned to the country you want while the VPN actually connects to a server physically located in a different country capable of providing greater internet speeds. 

    As stated by ExpressVPN, currently less than 3% of their servers take this form while the rest is entirely located in the country they claim to be in.

    ExpressVPN UI/UX: “Modern, Sleek, and Is Updated Often”

    When it comes to actually using ExpressVPN’s applications, some VPN reviews on the Internet either just tediously ramble on about how secure ExpressVPN is and how great it is for streaming and torrenting, or simply state that the whole process of setting it up is “easy.” Somehow, this earns it a perfect 10/10 without much insight into the pros and cons of using the app. 

    However, we still wanted to find out how it really feels to use ExpressVPN… From the application’s settings, to its overall appearance, our UI/UX expert went through it all to support her professional opinion on the design of the ExpressVPN app.

    Our Expert Review and Rating of ExpressVPN's UI/UX Design

    Cassandra Mackin UI / UX Designer
    Cassandra Mackin
    User Interface Designer

    In general, ExpressVPN’s design is very easy to navigate and simple to use. Menus are where you would expect them to be, and various options are easy to find. They keep things simple for those who are not equipped to delve into intense VPN settings, while providing more advanced settings for power users.

    Likewise, ExpressVPN uses modern, common language whenever possible and doesn’t overuse jargon, and whenever it does use jargon (which is almost mandatory when it comes to VPN settings) the verbiage is explained to users who are less tech-savvy.

    ExpressVPN’s notifications are minimalistic and unobtrusive, but they will pop up over full-screen games and movies if you have that option allowed in your default OS settings, so be sure to check your native notification settings.

    The desktop and mobile apps each allow quick access to the default optimized VPN with one click. Changing to a different server — even one in another country — requires just a few clicks and is intuitive and easy.

    Both the website and apps use color in a way that is both on-brand and suggests a pleasant, freeing experience, and they don’t overuse any particular colors. Their front page design is modern and sleek, and is updated often.

    They have plenty of support articles that are direct and include screenshots for most devices.

    Their biggest markdowns came from:

    1. not defining ‘Smart Location’ concretely, despite this being their default VPN option,
    2. not adhering to accessibility standards in terms of font size options, though they do have narrator support on Windows,
    3. not having gaming or p2p server options, and
    4. not having quick Check for Updates or Update Now options in their app menus.

    Based on my opinion as a User Experience and User Interface Designer, I rate ExpressVPN's user interface and user experience design

      8
      8

      If you would like to know more about how our expert arrived at her opinion, you can click here to navigate to her research on the design and usability of the ExpressVPN app.

      Device Compatibilities

      Ease of Use

      Now, let’s walk you through the steps to get your Windows PC/Mac set up with an ExpressVPN connection.

      First, head over to ExpressVPN’s sign up page and complete the signup steps:

      ExpressVPN sign up page

      Upon payment, you should be redirected to a setup page with links to download your VPN client, and also an activation code that you’ll need when setting up the client.

      Next, download and run your ExpressVPN client setup file to install it on your PC. 

      Thirdly, open your freshly installed ExpressVPN app, and click Sign In:

      ExpressVPN mobile sign up

      You should now be asked for an activation code. This is where you can enter the code previously displayed in the first step:

      ExpressVPN mobile activation screen

      Note: If by any chance you lost your activation code, you can always locate it at the ExpressVPN setup page on https://www.expressvpn.com/setup.

      Finally, you’re ready to connect your device to your ExpressVPN:

      ExpressVPN connect screen

      Here, you can manually choose your location or opt to leave it as it is in the Smart Location setting.

      Clicking the Power ON button should get you connected to the VPN in a matter of seconds!

      ExpressVPN successful connection

      Devices: ExpressVPN Limitations & Work-Around

      An ExpressVPN subscription allows you to log in to your account on any number of devices and access any platform it supports.Note, though, that ExpressVPN only allows five devices to be connected to a single subscription at the same time.

      Windows

      ExpressVPN provides support for Windows 7, 8, and 10 through their client apps. But, that’s not to say they’ve forgotten our good-old Windows XP and Vista, which we can manually configure using the OpenVPN protocol for Windows or the L2TP/IPsec manual setup for Windows 10.

      Mac

      The following Mac OS X versions works with ExpressVPN:

      • OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) or OS X 10.11 (El Capitan).
      • macOS 10.12 (Sierra), macOS 10.13 (High Sierra), macOS 10.14 (Mojave), macOS 10.15 (Catalina), or macOS 11 (Big Sur).

      However, just like with legacy platforms on Windows, if our device is on OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) we can manually configure tunnelblock for OpenVPN on OS X or set up VPN on mac OS X with L2TP/IPsec and we’re good to go!

      Android

      ExpressVPN provides device support to Android version 5.0 upwards to Android 11. But, what about that rusty old Android running Honeycomb or ancient Gingerbread you keep for sentimental reasons? Well, you can count on some manual L2TP/IPsec VPN configurations on Android to ExpressVPN-ify your network connection.

      iOS

      Be it an iPhone, an iPad, or an iPod, for iOS devices running iOS 10.0 or later, ExpressVPN has you covered! And, what if you haven’t updated your iPhone since you graduated like a decade ago? No worries! You can always set up ExpressVPN through a manual L2TP configuration on any and all versions of iOS.

      Linux

      For the tech geeks using Linux, ExpressVPN lets any device running any of the following Linux distributions:

      • 64-bit and 32-bit versions of Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Arch.
      • 32-bit version of Raspberry Pi OS.

      And although not officially supported—meaning we’re on our own if something goes wrong—ExpressVPN can perform in loads of other Linux distributions!

      And as usual, we can manually set up our ExpressVPN connections using OpenVPN for Linux.

      Home Router

      ExpressVPN provides a fancy work-around to the aforementioned ‘just five devices at once’ limitation. This entails setting up ExpressVPN directly onto your router firmware as instructed in their guide: ExpressVPN Router Setup Tutorial. You won’t even have to install ExpressVPN on any of your devices. You could simply connect all your devices to your router through WiFi and access the internet from a single ExpressVPN subscription.

      ExpressVPN recommends these routers to connect with its services:

      • Linksys WRT3200ACM
      • Netgear R6700v3
      • Netgear R7000

      Additionally, ExpressVPN lists the following as its supported routers:

      • Asus RT-AC56(U/R/S)
      • Asus RT-AC68U
      • Asus RT-AC87U
      • Linksys EA6200
      • Linksys WRT1200AC
      • Linksys WRT1900AC(S)
      • Linksys WRT3200ACM
      • Linksys WRT32X
      • Netgear R6300v2
      • Netgear R6700v3
      • Netgear Nighthawk R7000
      • Netgear Nighthawk R7000P

      Since these models are subject to change with time, we recommend you check the updated list of recommended VPN routers for home Wi-Fi networks on ExpressVPN’s official website.

      Even if you happen to own a router that’s not particularly recommended or supported by ExpressVPN, you will find guides to manually set up a collection of other routers. These include models like D-Link, DD-WRT, Netduma, Sabai, Tomato, TP-Link, Xiaomi.

      Other Devices

      Device support of ExpressVPN doesn’t seem to end with those. Instead, they’ve specified a pretty long list of devices that you can use either through the ExpressVPN client app or manual configurations.

      Apps and Extensions

      ExpressVPN provides client apps for a wide selection of platforms. An ExpressVPN subscription gives you immediate access to all of them!

      Windows Client App for ExpressVPN

      ExpressVPN has a user-friendly VPN client app for Windows

      It features a large VPN power-on/off button at the center of the app followed by another button showing the currently selected ExpressVPN location. Lastly, ExpressVPN Windows client app developers have also been mindful to include a horizontal quick access bar to hold apps you would frequently use with your VPN:

      ExpressVPN Windows Client

      Clicking this ‘Current Location’ button will lead you to a country selection screen like this:

      ExpressVPN VPN Locations

      In the same way, heading over to Options will provide you with a nice interface holding a range of customizations you could perform:

      ExpressVPN Protocols

      ExpressVPN conveniently provides a video tutorial showing the steps on how to set up the ExpressVPN app for Windows.

       

      ExpressVPN Client App for Mac

      Same as for Windows, ExpressVPN has a VPN client for Mac as well.

      In addition to a video tutorial on ExpressVPN for Mac, the ExpressVPN team has also outlined a step-by-step guide on how to set up ExpressVPN on your Mac.

      ExpressVPN on Android

      If you’re an Android enthusiast, you might get tempted to set up your VPN by yourself. But, taking the plethora of options that ExpressVPN provides within its app into account, it’s certainly advisable to let their app handle its VPN configurations by itself.

      ExpressVPN brings a decent Android app letting you effortlessly connect to its VPN servers.

      Legacy Support

      Imagine your parents coming over. We’re not judging, but if your mom or your old man uses an Android, chances are it’s a legacy device running on a pretty ancient Android version. The terrific news is, they’re not left out of your ExpressVPN connection either. 

      ExpressVPN gives you an L2TP manual configuration guide in video and written format, letting you manually configure a VPN connection on devices running Android 4.4 or older.

      ExpressVPN on iOS

      In the case of iOS, ExpressVPN presents an iOS app supporting iOS 10 or higher:

      ExpressVPN iOS Connection

      You can take a look at their video tutorial on ExpressVPN app setup for iOS (iPhone, iPad, or iPod). Alternatively, you can follow the step-by-step text tutorial on how to set up ExpressVPN on iOS 14, 13, and 12 on their website.

      ExpressVPN on Linux

      The ever-so-popular free platform Linux thankfully hasn’t been overlooked by ExpressVPN. 

      ExpressVPN has a list of Unix-like (Linux) VPN setup tutorials covering Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and more. Additionally, you can also check out their relevant video tutorial: Linux ExpressVPN app setup tutorial.

      Browser Extensions for ExpressVPN

      You can also make use of browser extensions for easier access to ExpressVPN services. Currently, they provide support for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Brave, and Vivaldi browsers.

      ExpressVPN Browser Extension

      As you can see, even the Smart Location feature is accessible directly through the browser extension.

      But keep in mind that these extensions only work as a remote control to our ExpressVPN desktop app already installed on our system. ExpressVPN extensions alone won’t be able to get us connected to a VPN connection.

      Likewise, ExpressVPN says they require one or more of the following ExpressVPN apps to be running in our device backgrounds in order to use their extensions:

      • ExpressVPN Mac app (Version 7.1 or newer)
      • ExpressVPN Windows app (Version 6.9 or newer)
      • ExpressVPN Linux app (Version 2.0 or newer)

      ExpressVPN Security: As Secure as a Regular VPN Can Be

      While VPNs provide a layer of security, they are not intended to serve as a tool to protect your identity or data. Similarly, the ExpressVPN service is NOT completely invulnerable and does NOT guarantee that none of your data will be saved, or used in the event that the authorities have asked ExpressVPN to hand over whatever data they have on you having accessed their servers. Remember, “no logs” does not mean they do not have user/access details (such as your email address).

      So, is ExpressVPN safe to use? It’s true that they provide some of the best security you can get from solely using a regular VPN, but what are the cybersecurity experts saying about ExpressVPN?

      Our Expert Review and Rating of ExpressVPN's Security

      Antonio Aguilar Cybersecurity Specalist
      Antonio Aguilar
      Cybersecurity Researcher

      ExpressVPN was evaluated on a Windows 10 test system due to Windows holding the largest market share in operating systems. Split tunneling was disabled by default within the Windows app, and DNS traffic to “expressapisv2.net” was visible during the initial handshake which means that an attacker could detect the user was establishing a VPN session prior to the session being established. However, DNS traffic was no longer visible once the connection was established.

      Authentication was completed using a username and password protected with TLS v1.2 and Diffie Helman. Multiple VPN protocols were supported (Wireguard, OpenVPN, L2TP, and proprietary) using both TCP and UDP. The Windows app, by default, picks the “best” protocol for your network so it is possible a user could be downgraded to a less secure protocol without knowing this was happening. A user can only pick one location to connect to; there is no support for multi-hop. 256-bit AES encryption is used, and there is a kill switch.

      I found no record of ExpressVPN having been breached, and did find a record of government authorities not being able to obtain their logs after seizing a server in Turkey. They have a no-logging policy which has been confirmed by a third-party audit, but no “canary” on their website. They are based out of the British Virgin Islands so they are not part of the “Five Eyes” but there is some chance that they could fall under British legal authority to some extent.

      A subscription can be purchased anonymously using Bitcoin but an email address must be provided, so there is some loss of anonymity based on what email is provided. Multifactor authentication cannot be implemented for the website, but an authentication code sent to email is required to fully log in. Once logged in, your current IP address is displayed indicating that Express VPN does collect this data, as well as your email address and your payment method (last four digits of a credit card if a credit card is used).

      The primary issues I see are logging your current IP when accessing the dashboard and potentially downgrading you to a lower security protocol.

        7
        7

        Read our cybersecurity expert’s full review here to see just what he found when he personally tested ExpressVPN.

        Security Protocols

        ExpressVPN puts their customers’ privacy and security as their top-most priorities by implementing two crucial VPN concepts:

        Tunneling

        ExpressVPN encapsulates each data packet you send inside another packet before it reaches the internet, in turn securing the original content from public view; this process is called VPN tunneling

        ExpressVPN uses several VPN tunneling protocols to aid its tunneling process:

        • Lightway is a VPN tunneling protocol created by the ExpressVPN guys themselves. In their own words, it was created to deliver a “VPN experience that’s faster, more secure, and more reliable.” Not taking their word for it, we took it for a run comparing its speed with other protocols’. And, sure enough, Lightway showed a close to one-third speed increase passing its closest competitor OpenVPN by a 37.5% margin.
        • L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol)/IPsec
        • OpenVPN, ExpressVPN provides us a choice between TCP and UDP.
        • PPTP (Point to Point Tunneling Protocol)
        • IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange Version 2)
        • WireGuard
        • SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol)

        Encryption

        Another VPN concept that goes hand in hand with tunneling is encryption—which is about scrambling the data you send so that only you and the VPN that holds the key could decipher it back.

        And once again, as we expected, ExpressVPN encryption shines by providing AES-256 encryption standard with 256-bit keys (used by authorities and security gurus) right off the bat for its users.

        For a simplified explanation of tunneling and encryption by VPN services, take a look at this animation by ExpressVPN on how a couple securely exchanges cat pictures (yes, the video is quite family-friendly): How VPNs use tunneling and encryption

        ExpressVPN also provides the following:

        • Private DNS – Private and encrypted DNS on each of its servers.
        • Kill Switch – Automatic network lock when VPN connection drops.
        • Onion over VPN support – Connect to Tor over a VPN connection for added security. This way even the ISP wouldn’t know we are using Tor.
        • Inbuilt tools to let ExpressVPN help us check for various security leaks:

        ExpressVPN Tools

        ExpressVPN IP Address

        ExpressVPN DNS Leak Test

        As you can see, the DNS leak test we performed on our ExpressVPN connection confirmed no DNS leaks took place.

        Moreover, ExpressVPN has a bug bounty program in place as well to reward any researchers who could find bugs on their platform.

        ExpressVPN Reliability: Should You Trust ExpressVPN?

        In the first paragraph of ExpressVPN’s privacy policy is a statement written in bold as follows:

        We do not collect logs of your activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries. We also never store connection logs, meaning no logs of your IP address, your outgoing VPN IP address, connection timestamp, or session duration.

        It’s easy for a company to make such a claim, but why should you take their word for it? Yes, you could spend your time reading through their privacy policy to get a basic understanding of what they’re saying (unless you’re a lawyer). But, to save you some time and probably a few Google searches, we’ve actually asked a regulatory lawyer to delve into ExpressVPN’s privacy policy to get a better idea of what is really going on behind the carefully-worded terms.

        Our Expert Review and Rating of ExpressVPN's Data Privacy Protection

        Gillian Carrington Lawyer
        Gillian Carrington
        Privacy & Data Protection Lawyer

        ExpressVPN offers a well-drafted privacy policy that, despite a few pitfalls, follows the international data protection standards pertaining to such policies.  

        The positive aspects of the privacy notice include (i) complying with the data minimization and purpose limitation principles, (ii) communicating in a clear, intelligible, and transparent manner, (iii) providing detailed information about the types and purposes of personal data collected, (iv) ensuring organizational and technical security measures, and (v) providing users with an opportunity to access and manage their personal data. 

        ExpressVPN also commits to safeguarding users’ privacy by not logging and storing users’ connection or behavioral data. 

        Nevertheless, our review has discovered some shortcomings that need to be addressed, the main ones being (i) a lack of information about the controller (none of the legal documents contains ExpressVPN’s registered address), (ii) absence of details regarding international transfers of personal data and safeguards taken to secure such transfers, (iii) no description of the data retentions periods, and (iv) cookie management practices that rely on the opt-out approach rather than opt-in consent for non-essential cookies.

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          You can read more about Gillian’s research into ExpressVPN’s privacy policy by clicking here to navigate to her full review.

          Customer Support

          No matter how brilliant their VPN is, it won’t be worth a dime if you’re left abandoned the moment something goes wrong, right? Thankfully, ExpressVPN doesn’t fall short in customer service either.

          Step-by-Step How-to Guides

          ExpressVPN hosts quite an extensive collection of step-by-step guides in both text and video formats; these guides range from ExpressVPN installation to its usage on each of your devices.

          Direct Email

          If the guides are a bit too generic for you, you can always contact ExpressVPN directly through their customer support email address: support@expressvpn.zendesk.com

          Have a Chat

          If your issue is urgent, a live chat with an ExpressVPN representative is possible. Look for the ‘Chat with us’ button at the lower right corner of ExpressVPN’s Support section:

          ExpressVPN - Support

          We tested the live chat function to see if it’s just a bot trying to sound human. And, according to our results, unless the chat is controlled by a highly intelligent AI, you definitely get connected with a human assistant each time you initiate an ExpressVPN live chat:

          ExpressVPN - Live Chat

          ExpressVPN’s Business Structure

          We know ExpressVPN presents a relatively clear privacy notice, as well as solid customer support, but how about their business practices? Here’s what an experienced business consultant had to say about the company after doing some digging into ExpressVPN’s history and business structure:

          Brendan Filipovski
          Brendan Filipovski
          Business Consultant

          ExpressVPN is a pioneer in the consumer VPN space and remains a premier choice. It is singularly focused on a subscription VPN service and has no known connections to other VPN companies. So as a customer you have their full attention. Little is known about its ownership except that it was started as a private company and remains so. Given media interviews in 2020, it appears that the founders are still involved. Both are US business graduates although Peter Burchhardt has experience managing software at Microsoft. There is no evidence of large changes in ownership over time. Its headquarters are in the British Virgin Islands which offer protection from information requests from other jurisdictions but the operational headquarters is not known. It has a distributed team across 15 countries. A distributed team is not unusual for a VPN company but 15 countries is a lot. 

          Based on my opinion as a business consultant I rate ExpressVPN 6/10 in terms of its business structure. There are no red flags and ownership appears to be stable but greater transparency is needed for a higher score.

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            Click here to read Brendan’s complete review on ExpressVPN as he answered some interesting questions surrounding their business structure.

            ExpressVPN Pricing: What’s $$$ Got to Do With the Price of a VPN?

            Well, at the time of writing, ExpressVPN offers three payment plans as follows:

            1 month
            $12.95 /month
            6 months
            $9.99 /month
            12 months
            $8.32 /month

            As you can see, ExpressVPN is far from being a cheap VPN. Additionally, they don’t offer a free trial period! Want to know more stuff they don’t give? Well, they’ve disclosed neither will they ever provide a lifetime subscription of ExpressVPN, nor a dedicated IP to their users.

            The good news is, they actually provide—as weird as it sounds—a paid trial. In other words, ExpressVPN offers a subscription with a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can cancel your subscription within that period for whatever reason, and ExpressVPN will refund the total amount you paid with no questions asked.

            But what does this mean in terms of the value you’re getting as a consumer? What kind of pricing structure can you expect and how does it compare to the rest? Our Pricing expert had the following opinion:

            Brendan Filipovski
            Brendan Filipovski
            Business Consultant

            ExpressVPN provides a basic pricing structure for private individuals. There is no business pricing as it does not offer a business service. Discounts are provided for six month and 1 year subscriptions. While the monthly price is comparable to other VPN providers, the discount for longer term plans is not as generous as other providers, with some even offering discounts for two years. There is no free trial but a 30 day money back guarantee is offered. It can be cancelled via live chat or email, which is more convenient than a phone call but less than being able to cancel it through your personal settings. A wider than average range of payment methods is available, including Bitcoin for those wanting to limit private information provided.

            Based on my opinion as a business consultant I rate ExpressVPN 6 / 10. The range of payment methods is to be commended as is the pseudo-anonymous option of Bitcoin. But the lower discounts for longer term contracts compared to its competition does stand out, as does the lack of a free trial.

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              Want to know more about ExpressVPN’s pricing structure? Click here to read more about our expert’s research on the costs of subscribing to the ExpressVPN service.

              Extra Features

              Now, before we give our final verdict on the viability of ExpressVPN, we thought we’d go over these bonuses that come with an ExpressVPN subscription. And ExpressVPN doesn’t disappoint when it comes to these extra features and options.

              Smart Location

              You can make use of a neat Smart Location tool provided by ExpressVPN to ensure you’re always connected to the most optimal server the VPN can provide for you. This tool uses its algorithm to pick the fastest and the most reliable VPN location based on your location.

              Smart Location supports all main platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS) and on the app for routers just as well.

              ExpressVPN - Smart Location

              Furthermore, you can check out the full list of ExpressVPN server locations to get an idea of how the VPN servers are placed around the world.

              Split Tunneling

              Imagine you’re streaming a movie (secretly?) through a VPN on your office PC. Just as the movie is about to climax, your boss comes over and orders you to print an urgent list of documents only accessible through the corporate network. Do you have to choose between the movie and office work now? 

              Well, not quite. VPN split tunneling comes to your rescue allowing your devices and/or apps to either access the internet directly or through the VPN, simply based on a toggle you place per device or app.

              ExpressVPN provides the split-tunneling option through its VPN client apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and also for its app for routers:

              ExpressVPN Split Tunneling

              ExpressVPN Router App

              Exclusions

              Although ExpressVPN’s split-tunneling supports macOS, it’s currently not available for macOS 11.

              Likewise, whilst the split-tunneling feature is available for ExpressVPN’s Android client app, the same is not true for iOS, at least for the time being.

              Last but not least, Linux users seem to be deserted this time around since there is no mention of an ExpressVPN split-tunneling feature for Linux.

              ExpressVPN Kill Switch

              ExpressVPN includes a Network Lock mechanism that automatically locks the network if a VPN connection drop occurs. This feature is provided through the client apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, and also over the app for routers. 

              ExpressVPN’s Network Lock is enabled by default for all devices. But, while this kill switch feature can be manually disabled from almost all devices, it cannot be disabled from the ExpressVPN app for routers.

              Mobile Devices

              Android doesn’t support ExpressVPN’s Network Lock, per se. But, starting from version 7.4, the ExpressVPN Android client app features an Internet Access option which more or less provides the functions of a Kill Switch sans the name:

              ExpressVPN Network Protection

              Found inside the Network Protection menu, this Internet Access option blocks network traffic when the device’s VPN connection fails to connect or reconnect.

              iOS doesn’t support ExpressVPN’s Network Lock either. And, as of yet, ExpressVPN’s iOS client app doesn’t offer an Internet Access option just as well. 

              As an alternative, iOS users would have to resort to setting up their routers with ExpressVPN. This would subsequently provide all the Network Lock features to any iOS device that connects to it.

              Volatile Servers

              All ExpressVPN servers run only on RAM storage, thus making all server data be wiped clean on each reboot. This in turn lets no private data of users be stored inside their servers—either intentionally or unintentionally—unlike if non-volatile forms like hard disks were used.

              Dark Mode

              For night owls out there who hate glowing, bright, white colors when browsing the internet, ExpressVPN has added a snazzy dark mode extension exclusively for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.

              Operational Blog

              ExpressVPN maintains a very active blog featuring articles on various topics related to the internet and the freedom to access it.

              Sports Streaming

              Together with their blog, ExpressVPN guides us on how we can watch live sports streaming with a VPN. It’s noteworthy to mention that they also provide an updated calendar on all mainstream sports events happening around the globe.

              You can take a look at the ExpressVPN features documentation on their official website for further details.

              ExpressVPN Pros and Cons

              Pros
              Solid performance maintained throughout most of their servers
              Wide range of 3000+ servers scattered across the globe
              Privacy-focused platform with high standards of security
              Top-of-the-line VPN feature support
              Compatibility among a diverse range of platforms and devices
              User-friendly interface on all VPN client apps
              Great customer support and a feast of support options
              Cons
              Leans a bit on the expensive side
              A limited number of devices allowed to be connected at the same time
              Browser extensions rely on the ExpressVPN client app
              Offers little transparency in terms of business practices and background

              How Our Experts Conducted Their VPN Check

              Network Performance - Michael Abiola

              Overall Network Performance

              To get a proper evaluation of ExpressVPN’s overall performance, I made sure that the basic setup and tools in my device are in place. Using Windows 10 Pro as my operating system, I installed the ExpressVPN Client software, along with dig, speedtest cli, and Wireshark. I set my location (London, the UK) and started testing my internet speed using Speed Test’s services. The result showed that my Download / Upload direct internet speed was near 100Mbps / 100Mbps.

              ExpressVPN Speedtest

              Analysis

              Next, I proceeded to determine whether we were getting the same internet connection through the VPN, I checked whether the DNS queries were intercepted or changed, if the certificates presented on HTTPS queries were the correct ones, and if running HTTPS queries against a collection of websites – by using different VPNs – yielded different HTTP responses.

              Findings

              DNS Queries were not Intercepted or modified when using direct internet or when using the ExpressVPN (the test was carried out using the nslookup and dig tool on Windows). SSL Certs presented on HTTPS sites are the correct ones and the Certificate issuer and common name (CN) defined are both the same when using direct internet access and when using ExpressVPN, which indicates there is no SSL interception. All HTTPS queries yield the same HTTP response using various VPN Locations.

              Comparison of data from inside and outside the VPN from the same DNS server

              Method

              With the basic data in front of me, I further checked for discrepancies in the results from inside and outside the VPN using the same DNS server. 

              Results

              When connected to the VPN, ExpressVPN assigns a DNS server to the client which is the only DNS server queries are allowed to by default. This appears to be a way to ensure there are no DNS leaks. A simple test carried out whilst connected to the VPN indicates that an attempt to use another DNS server apart from the one assigned by ExpressVPN would yield a DNS request timeout. This behavior can be disabled on the advanced settings on the ExpressVPN client software to allow the use of another DNS server apart from ExpressVPN DNS servers. When disabled, the result of DNS queries is generally the same except for instances where Geolocation decisions are made on DNS queries to ensure clients are connected to the closest resources.

              Infrastructure

              Criteria 

              To check this area of ExpressVPN’s network capabilities, I looked into their servers (how many, in which country and continent, what types, what programming languages and technologies are used in running the VPN infrastructure a.k.a. “technology stack,” the nature of their hosting).

              Findings

              Number of servers Over 3000 servers across the globe
              Number of servers per geographical location Exact number unknown 

              • ExpressVPN claims it has 160 VPN server locations in 94 countries. 

              • Looking at the VPN server location list on the ExpressVPN website, only 149 VPN server locations are listed.

              Type of servers Technical specifications not officially known 

              • Sources online claim they use RAM-only servers which ensure no logs or data are retained on the servers once they are rebooted.

              Technology stack  Lightway; OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec are also supported

              • It is worth noting that not all the VPN protocols or technologies are available or supported in all VPN server locations. 

              Data centers hosting ExpressVPN’s servers  Limited Information

              • Like any VPN service provider, one of the main selling points for ExpressVPN is its privacy/security policy which would then explain why there are little to no information online regarding which datacenters or hosting providers they use. 

              • Scanning through several IP addresses, it’s likely ExpressVPN is using a collection of small providers and/or colocations to host and run their VPN servers across the globe.

              Speed & Connectivity

              Method

              To check for ExpressVPN’s impact on my internet speed and connectivity, I performed speed tests for 23 different VPN exit nodes while connecting to the best & fastest speedtest server. 

              Results

              My tests yielded the following results for multi-connection and single-connection:

              Multiple Speed Tests

              Method

              Delving deeper into this important section of ExpressVPN’s network performance, I further performed speed tests for 5 different servers:

              1. close to the VPN server
              2. in the next big city
              3. at the other side of the country
              4. in another major city on another continent
              5. picked another interesting location

              I then documented the ping, download, and upload results to see if there would be any surprises. Furthermore, I check the traceroutes for these tested servers.

              Results 

              All tests across 5 different speedtest servers show a couple of interesting facts:

              • The further away from the VPN server, the higher the latency/ping response; the Lower the Download speed, the Upload speed shows a relatively higher value
              • Speed and performance from VPN exit nodes within the same continent as the client are much better than outside the continent for the most part. 

              Traceroutes from various VPN servers appear to be hitting some firewalls along the path however the test carried out shows the further the VPN server, the more the hops along the path and consequently the higher the latency. This is a behavior that would be expected across most VPN providers so it’s not a surprise to see the results with ExpressVPN. The Higher the latency the more the impact on applications like video streaming as seen from the test carried out with Youtube / Netflix.

              It should be noted, though, that ExpressVPN has a built-in Speedtest that can be used to test download speed and latency across all their servers. This feature is particularly useful to have a quick overview of the performance of all servers in one dashboard. The Speed Test Tool only measures the Download speed which is what most users would be interested in.

              Streaming Experience

              Method

              Having investigated the technical side of it all, I thought I’d look into the quality of actual user experience from a streaming point of view. This required testing for watch and buffering issues in various video resolutions: 720p, 1080p, 4K and 8K. I opted to test for YouTube and Netflix as these are two of the most commonly used streaming platforms nowadays.

              Results

              YouTube Streaming Experience Using ExpressVPN:

              ExpressVPN Youtube Streaming

              Netflix  Streaming Experience Using ExpressVPN:

              ExpressVPN Netflix Streaming

              Wire-Level Privacy Performance

              Method

              To get an accurate picture of the wire-level privacy performance, I ran WireShark and performed a packet capture on my physical internet facing network interface. I used these tests to see if ExpressVPN could fulfill basic but important criteria, which you will find below.

              Results

              What VPN protocol is in use?
              Can I see any traffic not been transmitted via the VPN tunnel?
              Can I see any DNS traffic in the packet capture?
              ExpressVPN Uses a proprietary protocol called Lightway with options for UDP (Recommended and faster) as well as TCP (for stability). It also supports OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPsec.
              All Traffic (apart from layer 2 packets like ARP) are routed via the VPN once the VPN is established. ExpressVPN has a feature called split-tunneling, which allows the user to determine which traffic should route via the VPN and which traffic should use the local internet.
              No DNS traffic is seen from the Wireshark capture which indicates there are no DNS leaks.

              ExpressVPN Wireshark Results

              To answer the following questions, I used BrowserLeaks.com and watched out for any out-of-the-ordinary results.

              Does my IP's location information match the requested VPN location?
              What is my connection type?
              Are there any IPv6 Leaks?
              Are there any DNS leaks?
              Are there any WebRTC leaks?
              Yes
              Residential
              No
              No
              No

              ExpressVPN Browser Leaks

              Design & Usability - Cassandra Mackin

              Overall Design And Impression

              Criteria

              I began my review of ExpressVPN’s design and user interface by going through the basic design elements such as the design style and color scheme to determine the overall ‘feel’ of the platform. I also checked for any recent updates made on their interface to indicate that the service is constantly innovating to improve user experience.  

              Findings

              The design style is a mix of flat and skeuomorphism: most buttons and UI are flat, but starting the VPN requires clicking a ‘power’ button, which is a form of skeuomorphism.

              ExpressVPN Connect Button

              The color of the main logo is bright red and much of their other colors rely on that. Copy and icons are dark blue or nearly black blue. Primary buttons are either neon yellow or green/teal, secondary buttons are nearly pure white. Background is light beige. They also use purple/violet, neon green, forest green, neon yellow, light blue-gray, and light beige-gray for accents and graphics. The website design was recently updated on January 18, 2021.

              The overall feel is that of trust and freedom as though they want you to feel a sense of freedom and security by using the VPN.

              Native Interface Components And User Actions

              Criteria

              This step in my review involved looking at the type of design used in ExpressVPN’s native interface components, such as buttons, navigation bars, tab bars, among others, for each of the following operating systems: iOS14, Android 11, MacOS Big Sur, Windows 10. That is, if native interface components are being used at all or if they’re using some hybrid cross-platform software with unique interface components (thinking of Java, React, Cordova, etc. here).

              On top of the interface design, it is equally important to check for user action experience. For this, I took into consideration the app’s loading time, the number of clicks it takes to connect to the fastest / nearest / recent / gaming / peer-to-peer server, the availability of an auto-connect option, as well as one-click quick connect option.

              Findings

              ExpressVPN has its own design that it uses across all systems with the exception of system pop-ups, eg. permissions, and preferences in MacOS, which uses the native MacOS design.

              User Actions Based On Operating Systems

              Criteria iOS Android MacOS Windows Linux
              How long does the app take to load? 2 2 7 5 1-2
              Is there an auto-connect option? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
              Is there a button to connect to the fastest VPN server? The fastest and closest is the default. The fastest and closest is the default. The fastest and closest is the default. The fastest and closest is the default. The fastest and closest is the default.
              Is there a button to connect to the nearest VPN server? The fastest and closest is the default. The fastest and closest is the default. The fastest and closest is the default. The fastest and closest is the default. The fastest and closest is the default.
              Is there a one-click quick connect option? Yes Yes Yes Yes Terminal: expressvpn connect
              How many clicks/taps to connect to a recent server? 1 1 1 1 Terminal: expressvpn connect
              How many clicks/taps to connect to a server in another country? 2 2 3 3 Terminal: expressvpn connect “Germany”
              How many clicks/taps to connect to a gaming server? Not native, must manually find and select. Not native, must manually find and select. Not native, must manually find and select. Not native, must manually find and select. Not native, must manually find and select.
              How many clicks/taps to connect to a p2p (torrent) server? Not native, must manually find and select. Not native, must manually find and select. Not native, must manually find and select. Not native, must manually find and select. Not native, must manually find and select.

              User Actions Based on Browsers

              Criteria Chrome Firefox
              How long does the app take to load? 0 0
              Is there an auto-connect option? Yes Yes
              Is there a button to connect to the fastest VPN server? The fastest and closest is the default. The fastest and closest is the default.
              Is there a button to connect to the nearest VPN server? The fastest and closest is the default. The fastest and closest is the default.
              Is there a one-click quick connect option? Yes Yes
              How many clicks/taps to connect to a recent server? 1 1
              How many clicks/taps to connect to a server in another country? 2 2
              How many clicks/taps to connect to a gaming server? Not native, must manually find and select. Not native, must manually find and select.
              How many clicks/taps to connect to a p2p (torrent) server? Not native, must manually find and select. Not native, must manually find and select.

              Overall User Experience and Accessibility

              Criteria 

              In qualifying a good overall user experience, I looked into the ease of the sign up and installation process, connection time, the number of clicks or taps it takes to connect to a VPN server, notification types and software updates. I also considered any accessibility features that were available for differently abled users. I had to see if the app offers support for vision impaired people, meaning does it support the accessibility features provided by the operating system, like increasing font sizes, inverting colors, etc.? Are the font-sizes used inside the VPN software responsive to the user’s system settings – i.e., does changing the system font size also change the font sizes inside the software to make it easy for people that have a hard time reading? Is the software set up correctly to support screen-reading for blind people?

              Findings And Overall Impression

              In terms of support for vision impaired people, the system setting does not provide an option to change font sizes. However, Windows Narrator does work, and they have set up the basic options and connect/disconnect power icon with proper narration to support screen-reading for blind users.

              Now for the user experience, I tested my criteria against the iPS, Android, MacOS, Windows, and Linux operating systems and then against Chrome and Firefox browsers.

              User Experience Based On Operating Systems

              Criteria  iOS Android MacOS Windows Linux
              What are the steps to installing the software and connecting to the VPN for the first time? Search in App Store, click Get. Open app, Sign In, continue through prompts and choose whether or not to send reports. Click to allow VPN. Click the power icon to connect. Search in Play Store, click Install. Open app, Sign In, continue through prompts and choose whether or not to send reports. Click to allow VPN. Click the power icon to connect. Download for Mac, continue through basic install including putting in Mac password. Open the app, click Sign In, paste your activation code (from your account on their website), click Sign In. Follow the prompts to set up VPN and choose options like starting automatically and sending reports. Click the power icon to connect. Download for your version of Windows (32-bit, 64-bit, etc.). Click Sign In, enter activation code, choose whether to launch on startup, choose whether or not to send reports. Click the power icon to connect. Download for your version of Linux (32-bit, 64-bit, etc.). Install using GUI or command line, whichever you prefer. Authenticate with your Linux password. Open Terminal and run ‘expressvpn activate’, then paste your activation code. Next, run ‘expressvpn connect’ to autoconnect to your smart server. (Full instructions here.)
              How many minutes to connect the first time? 2 2 3 3 4
              What’s the start-up time of the software? (In seconds) 2 2 4 5 1
              What’s the least amount of clicks/taps that’s necessary to connect to a VPN server? 2 2 2 2 open Terminal, type ‘expressvpn connect’
              Do I need a subscription to connect or is there a trial or free version? 7-Day free trial, 30-day money back guarantee 7-Day free trial, 30-day money back guarantee 7-Day free trial, 30-day money back guarantee 7-Day free trial, 30-day money back guarantee 7-Day free trial, 30-day money back guarantee
              Is there a free version? No No No No No
              What’s necessary to sign up for a subscription? What are the steps? How long does the overall process take? Click ‘Start 7-Day Free Trial’. Enter email, choose a plan, confirm, click OK. Agree and Continue, then follow normal install. Signup takes about 1 minute. Click ‘Start 7-Day Free Trial’. Enter email, click Start Free Trial, click Buy a Subscription. This will take you to the browser. Choose plan, confirm email, setup payment information, click ‘Join Now’. Return to app and sign in, follow normal install. Takes about 5 minutes total. In app, click ‘New to ExpressVPN?’ at bottom. This will open your default browser. Choose a plan, enter your email, and setup payment information. Click ‘Join Now’. Return to app and sign in, follow normal install. Takes about 3 minutes. In app, click ‘New to ExpressVPN?’ at bottom. This will open your default browser. Choose a plan, enter your email, and setup payment information. Click ‘Join Now’. Return to app and sign in, follow normal install. Takes about 3 minutes. You can’t signup from the app since it’s not a GUI. You have to signup online in your browser first by going to expressvpn.com and clicking ‘Get ExpressVPN’. Choose a plan, enter your email, and setup payment information. Click ‘Join Now’. Once it gives you your activation key, copy it, then follow normal install. Takes about 5 minutes.
              What types of notifications are there? Are they obtrusive/too much? None, just a ‘VPN’ indicator next to the wifi symbol while you are connected to VPN There is a persistent notification while you are connected to VPN Updates, connected to VPN, disconnected from VPN Updates, connected to VPN, disconnected from VPN Updates in Terminal, connected to VPN, disconnected from VPN
              Are there automatic software updates? Yes Yes There is a prompt when there’s a new update There is a prompt when there’s a new update There is a message in Terminal when there’s a new update

              User Experience Based On Browsers

              Questions Chrome Firefox
              What are the steps to installing the software and connecting to the VPN for the first time? Login in the browser and choose ‘Setup’, then ‘Google Chrome’. Click ‘Add to Chrome’, ‘Add’. Click the extensions icon in your bookmarks bar, then ExpressVPN. Continue through the menus, choose whether or not to send reports. Click the power icon to connect. Login in the browser and choose ‘Setup’, then ‘Mozilla Firefox’. Click ‘Add to Firefox’, ‘Add’, then choose whether or not to run it in Private windows and click ‘Okay’. Click the ExpressVPN plugin icon in your bookmarks bar, continue through the menus, choose whether or not to send reports. Click the power icon to connect.
              How many minutes to connect the first time? 2 2
              What’s the start-up time of the software? (In seconds) 0 0
              What’s the least amount of clicks/taps that’s necessary to connect to a VPN server? 2 2
              Do I need a subscription to connect or is there a trial or free version? 7-Day free trial, 30-day money back guarantee 7-Day free trial, 30-day money back guarantee
              Is there a free version? No No
              What’s necessary to sign up for a subscription? What are the steps? How long does the overall process take? Follow the Windows or MacOS instructions for signing up, then activate with the desktop app to activate the browser extension. Follow the Windows or MacOS instructions for signing up, then activate with the desktop app to activate the browser plugin.
              What types of notifications are there? Are they obtrusive/too much? None. The ExpressVPN icon gets a checkmark while you’re connected to VPN Connected to VPN, disconnected from VPN
              Are there automatic software updates? Yes Yes

              Overall, the design is very clean and easy to use. They have simple and helpful links to check server statuses, update your account, etc. They use non-jargon to explain jargon whenever possible, such as in their Protocols tab (picture below). My only concern is that they don’t have a quick ‘check for updates’ button anywhere easily accessible, and VPNs require such high levels of security that this seems like an oversight.

              ExpressVPN Protocols

              Security Protocols & Authentication - Antonio Aguilar

              Protocols & Authentication

              Criteria

              In conducting my initial tests, I used a checklist to test my criteria against security issues that may pose as concerns for VPN users. This included the default authentication protocol, how ExpressVPN protects the authentication credentials, what kind of authentication, network protocols, and VPN protocols are supported, along with other information that are relevant to these protocols. 

              Findings  

              I found that ExpressVPN makes use of TLSv1.2 DH RSA SHA256 while the authentication is password protected. It was also interesting to note that ExpressVPN uses both UDP and TCP network protocols and supports Wireguard, OpenVPN, L2TP, and proprietary protocols for the VPN. The VPN protocols are also both open source and closed source.

              VPN protect authentication credentials Default authentication protocol: TLSv1.2 DH RSA SHA256 
              Default authentication method Password               
              Network protocols supported UDP and TCP
              VPN protocols supported Wireguard, OpenVPN, L2TP, and proprietary
              Is the VPN protocol open source or closed source? Both open source and closed source
              RFC published for the protocol  NA, multiple protocols supported
              Is the VPN protocol using the latest protocol version? NA, multiple protocols 
              Release date of the protocol in use NA, multiple protocols 
              Is there an IEEE implementation standard for the protocol? NA, multiple protocols 
              Protocol listed on the iana.org website NA, multiple protocols supported
              Known vulnerabilities or Active CVE [Address CVEs based on version] NA, multiple protocols supported
              Does the VPN support multi-hop?  No

              Analysis

              Method

              I downloaded Wireshark and performed a packet capture to determine whether there was any traffic not transmitted via the VPN tunnel.

              Results

              Split tunneling was turned off by default. DNS traffic was seen only prior to the tunnel being established. I also found that my DNS traffic was going to expressapisv2.net.

              Additional Questions

              Method

              To complete my cybersecurity check of ExpressVPN, I made further research based on a set of questions as follows:

              • Has the VPN provider been exploited in the past? 
              • Does the VPN provider have a No Logging policy? Have they been audited by a third party confirming this? If they do log, what’s the retention policy? 
              • Do they have a canary on the website? 
              • Is the VPN provider based in one of the following locations: UK, USA, or EU? If they are located in the UK, US, or EU, are they compliant (e.g., GDPR, CCPA)? 
              • Can you purchase a VPN subscription anonymously? 
              • What personal information must you provide to purchase a subscription or begin a free trial? 
              • Can multi factor authentication be implemented? 
              • What is the level of encryption used? What encryption cypher is used? 
              • Do the VPN apps have kill switches, in case the VPN connection drops? 
              • What country is the VPN based out of (where is the company located)?
              • What is the likelihood of the vendor sharing data with governments? 
              • What data does the vendor collect on VPN users? 
              • Does the vendor share any customer data with third parties?

              Results

              I didn’t find any reports of ExpressVPN being exploited in the past. In fact, it has been audited by a third party confirming that it follows a No Logging policy. Up to this date, the company has never been subpoenaed by any government agency nor has it been issued a warrant canary. Still, there is a moderate likelihood that the vendor shares data with governments.

              Because the VPN provider is based in The British Virgin Islands, it doesn’t need GDPR or CCPA compliance as opposed to companies based in the UK, USA, or EU. So, to answer the question as to whether or not you can purchase an ExpressVPN subscription anonymously, the answer here is: kind of. Their VPN subscription requires an email address but then they also accept Bitcoin. 

              A multifactor authentication cannot be implemented. The encryption cypher used is 256-bit AES encryption. In case the VPN connection drops, a kill switch is available. 

              Email, payment information and IP location during login of VPN users are collected. These customer data are not shared with third parties.

              Data Privacy Protection - Gillian Carrington

              Jurisdiction

              Method

              To properly assess the extent of data privacy protection that ExpressVPN provides its subscribers, the first step of my review required establishing the scope of jurisdiction that governs the organization. This involved looking into the country location of its business operations, the country’s data privacy laws, and international laws that can be used to protect the data of subscribers based outside the business’s country of operations.

              Results

              Where is the company headquartered?  Express VPN International Ltd is located in British Virgin Islands (BVI).
              How does the company’s location influence the privacy of its customers? There is no formal legislation enacted in BVI that governs data protection. 

              • It is very likely that the country does not adhere to internationally recognized privacy standards. 

              • Nevertheless, taking into account that BVI is a British Overseas Territory, it uses certain aspects of English common law. It means that BVI courts recognize the common law duties of privacy and confidentiality. 

              Is the jurisdiction of the country where the company is located known for working/not working with law enforcement? BVI is involved in international law enforcement cooperation by providing mutual legal assistance upon request (mostly, criminal matters like money laundering and drug trafficking). 

              • A large number of companies that are registered in BVI have no connections with BVI other than registered offices and local agents. Therefore, the sharing of information regarding these companies and their trading practices is very challenging. 

              • According to ExpressVPN, BVI responds to foreign governments’ requests when the crime under investigation is punishable by at least a one-year prison sentence under BVI law (dual criminality provision).

              Are there international laws in place to provide data protection outside of the country? Yes, there are international treaties, namely:

              • UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988)

              UN Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (1999);

              UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (2000);

              UN Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial

              Matters (1970) and 1970; and 

              UN Convention Against Corruption, 2003.

              Privacy Policy

              Criteria

              Having established the data privacy laws that can be applied to ExpressVPN’s operations, the next logical step was for me to look into their privacy policy as published on their website. The most important aspects that I considered were the last update made on their privacy policy, how frequent they update, what personal information they collect, and if this information is mandatory to purchase a subscription and use the VPN service. What is their logging policy? Is their privacy policy GDPR and CCPA compliant?

              Findings

              URL: https://www.expressvpn.com/privacy-policy#changes-to-the-privacy-policy (last access: 24 June 2021, 13:00 CET).

              How current is the privacy policy? No effective date is specified.
              How frequently is the privacy policy being updated? “From time to time”

              • The changes are unilateral, without prior notice to the user.

              When was the privacy policy last updated? No amendment date is specified.
              Does the company inform its customers when the privacy policy gets updated? No
              What identifiable personal information is being collected (according to the privacy policy)? • Email address

              • Payment information

              • Records of correspondence

              • Cookie-related data (although Express VPN argues that cookie data is not personal data)

              Is any identifiable personal information shared with any of the VPN’s partners, data processors, or similar? Yes 

              • Payment data is shared with third-party payment processors (PayPal, BitPay, or Paymentwall, depending on the payment method chosen by the user). They also use Zendesk for emails and support tickets and SnapEngage for live chat.

              Is any identifiable personal information mandatory to purchase a subscription and use the VPN service? Yes 

              • Email address is required for account creation purposes and payment data for payment processing purposes. 

              Is the privacy policy GDPR compliant? Not entirely
              If personal data is being collected, what justification in accordance to GDPR is being given for the collection of identifiable personal information? The justification given is in order to provide the ExpressVPN services to the user. (GDPR Article 6(1)(b). 

              • Personal data is used to establish an ExpressVPN account, email the user, send marketing information, collect payments, and respond to support queries that the user initiates. 

              • Cookie-related data is used to save language preference, attribute marketing channels, and show account-specific information. 

              Is the privacy policy CCPA compliant? Not entirely
              Does the privacy policy address “logging” of identifiable personal information? Yes
              Are access logs being kept? No

              ExpressVPN states that they do not collect logs of users activity (like browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries).

              Terms of Service

              Criteria

              I checked ExpressVPN’s terms of use as the next area to consider in their data privacy protection policy. This mainly entails looking into other types of traffic (e.g., Torrenting, Tor Network, etc.) that may or may not be allowed in the use of their service.

              Findings

              URL: https://www.expressvpn.com/tos  (last access: 24 June 2021, 13:30 CET)

              According to ExpressVPN’s terms of service, their VPN service cannot be used for breaching any applicable laws, regulations, and policies. Express VPN specifies the following prohibited use practices:

              • Send or transmit unsolicited advertisements or content (i.e., “spam”) over the Service.
              • Send, post, or transmit over the Service any content which is illegal, hateful, threatening, insulting, or defamatory; infringes on intellectual property rights; invades privacy; or incites violence.
              • Upload, download, post, reproduce or distribute any content protected by copyright or any other proprietary right without first having obtained permission from the owner of the proprietary content.
              • Upload, download, post, reproduce or distribute any content that includes sexual or explicit depictions of minors.
              • Engage in any conduct that restricts or inhibits any other Subscriber from using or enjoying the Service.
              • Attempt to access, probe, or connect to computing devices without proper authorization (i.e., any form of “hacking”).
              • Attempt to compile, utilize, or distribute a list of IP addresses operated by ExpressVPN in conjunction with the Service.
              • Use the Service for anything other than lawful purposes.

              Leaks

              Method

              Finally, I searched for any and all published information of instances where ExpressVPN has provided a government agency or other organisations with customer information or data.

              Results

              So far, there have not been known instances of customer information leaks or reports that ExpressVPN provided a government with customer information or data although there were investigations (e.g., with regard to the assassination of Andrei Karlov in Turkey, 2017). 

              ExpressVPN uses specific strategies to avoid issues concerning privacy data leaks: They inform law enforcement that they do not possess logs of connections or user behavior that could associate a specific end-user with an infringing IP address, timestamp, or destination. They respect subpoenas and court orders originating from the BVI government or made in conjunction with BVI authorities. [Source: https://www.expressvpn.com/trust/cdt-trust-questions]

              Business Structure - Brendan Filipovski

              Company Background

              Method

              My research on ExpressVPN’s business structure started with a background of the company – their registered business name(s), founders, owners, and head office. To check their employees’ profiles, I gathered information via LinkedIn.

              Results

              Trading name ExpressVPN Limited
              When it was founded 2009
              Where it was founded British Virgin Islands
              Main headquarter British Virgin Islands
              Workforce distribution Employees are distributed over several cities worldwide from over 15 different countries.
              Founders Dan Pomerantz and Peter Burchhardt. Both are still listed as Co-Founders. 
              Founders’ educational background and/or expertise Peter Burchhardt: Wharton Business School; Program Manager at Microsoft (five years)

              Dan Pomerantz: Wharton Business School

              Are the founders still running the company? Assumed
              Do they own more than one VPN? If so, what are the names of the other VPNs? No, just ExpressVPN

              Trademarks

              Method

              Next, I accessed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Electronic Search System to find out about ExpressVPN’s trademark registration details – that is, if they own one.

              Results 

              ExpressVPN is owned by ExpressVPN (Isle of Man). International Registration Number: 1265562. It is a service mark. https://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4801:wr3mzy.2.2

              Financing

              Method

              To find information about ExpressVPN’s financial profile, I used Crunchbase.com to see how the company is funded (e.g., bootstrapped, venture capital, or private equity); who currently owns the company; if it is owned by another company and if so, what is the holding company’s mission and what other companies they own, etc.

              Results

              ExpressVPN is a private company and continues to be so to this day. The exact owners are unknown. No other information came up in my research.

              Status

              Method

              To check how many people work at ExpressVPN – how many engineers, marketing and sales, support agents – I looked at their published company data, as well as their LinkedIn profile.

              Results

              ExpressVPN claims to employ 501 to 1000 workers. Unfortunately, I could not find any other specific information.

              Business Model

              Method

              I also researched on ExpressVPN’s business model to see if they are a SaaS company or grows their business out of one-off sales, who their target customers are, and any financial information made public about the company’s performance that I could gather.

              Results 

              ExpressVPN is a SaaS company that earns its revenues from subscriptions only. Their target customers are private individuals. No other financial information is publicly available.

              History

              Criteria

              To determine the company’s financial history, I had to check if there ever was an exit event for the company such as a sale or IPO. If so, how it has developed since then and other pertinent information about employee, revenue, and user growth.

              Findings 

              ExpressVPN never had an exit event – started private and is still private. No other relevant information is publicly available.

              Company Structure

              Criteria

              Lastly, I wanted to see what the company structure looks like. Are there multiple companies in their corporate structure, and if so, where are these companies’ headquarters located? Who are the beneficial owners of these companies? How much do they own?

              Findings

              Based on my research, ExpressVPN’s company structure is not clearly defined. However, they are known to be a single company based in the British Virgin Islands. There was also an Isle of Man company, but that is now inactive. No other relevant information is publicly available.

               

              Pricing - Brendan Filipovski

              Personal/Professional/Family Plans

              Method

              In evaluating ExpressVPN’s pricing plans, I looked at the types of subscriptions they offer and compared their features, limits, and subscription length. I checked the affordability of their price ranges, savings options and cancellation policy. Information on their payment methods and the currencies they accept were also gathered.

              Results 

              Subscription types 3 subscription options based on the number of months
              Pricing plans • 1 month:     $12.95
              • 6 months:    $9.99 (23% savings)
              • 12 months:    $8.32 (35% savings)
              Purchase outlets • Website
              • Android – same as website.
              • iOS – same as website
              Prices in different currencies Seems to be the same in each country
              Available payment methods Credit cards

              PayPal

              Bitcoin

              UnionPay

              Ideal

              Klarna

              WebMoney

              Giropay

              Yander Money

              Mint

              BitPay

              PaymentWall, and more 

              Option to pay anonymously Bitcoin
              Free Trial period None
              Money-back guarantee 30 days
              Cancellation policy and procedure Cancellation by 24/7 livechat or email
              Under what circumstances will they release my billing info/ID to third parties? Does not sell personal information to third parties
              Does ExpressVPN offer any bundles that include the VPN? No

              Enterprise Plans

              Method

              I also searched for information on their website and anywhere available online if team/enterprise plans are available. And, if so, what the additional features are when compared to their standard plans, costs, payment plans, user limits and permission/admin settings for remote users.

              Results

              ExpressVPN does not offer an enterprise plan.

              vpncheck ExpressVPN Offer