Macworld (USA)

TUNNELBEAR VPN: AN OPTION FOR OCCASIONAL VPN USERS

- BY SÉAMUS BELLAMY

Unsure if you’ll use a VPN often enough to warrant paying for it, or only occasional­ly require the security that using one provides? Tunnelbear ( go.macworld.com/ tnbr) could be the service that you’re looking for.

Based in Toronto, Canada, the company has a strict no-logging policy that pertains to user IP addresses, DNS queries, or informatio­n you accessed online while connected to its servers. However, Tunnelbear is obliged by Canadian law to hand over user names, email addresses, the amount of data used while accessing their servers, and credit-card informatio­n should law enforcemen­t or a federal agency come knocking. Also, because Canada participat­es in the Five Eye program ( go.macworld. com/5eye), this informatio­n could be accessed by American agencies, too. That said, most people will have little to fear from these circumstan­ces. (On March 8, 2018, Mcafee announced that it aquired Tunnelbear for an undisclose­d amount [ go.macworld.com/bytb].)

SECURITY, SOFTWARE, SERVERS, AND

SPEED

While Tunnelbear’s website states that they operate servers in 20 different countries, they’re not forthcomin­g on exactly how many servers are in their network. This makes it difficult to give a complete assessment of the company’s services and for you, the end user, to know whether subscribin­g to Tunnelbear is the best use of your money. When connecting to their servers, Mac users can expect their informatio­n to be protected by industry-standard Aes-256-bit encryption, and OPENVPN is Tunnelbear’s connection protocol of choice.

You should know that Tunnelbear doesn’t support torrenting. If you want to hide your peer-to-peer file sharing from your ISP, use a different service. It’s also worth nothing that multiple reports online state that the company’s servers aren’t

great for watching Netflix content streamed in a country other than your own. But this has more to do with Netflix’s being good at region-locking their content than Tunnelbear being bad at VPNS.

Tunnelbear’s macos app is whimsicall­y bear-themed. Despite this, the software is straightfo­rward and easy to use. Once installed, the app lives in your Mac’s Menu

Bar. The options to connect, disconnect, or change servers are all controlled through a dropdown interface. The interface can also be expanded to a larger window, making choosing a server or tinkering with the service’s settings a little easier. The company also provides client apps for IOS,

Windows, and Android hardware.

During testing, connecting to Tunnelbear’s servers resulted in the following upload/download speed reductions versus connecting to the Internet without a VPN.

PRICING

Tunnelbear offers unpaid users up to 500MB of data for free, every month. That’s not a lot of web traffic, though, so if you require a more robust plan, the company provides two different pricing tiers. Users can opt to pay $10 a month contract-free, or sign up for a year’s worth of service for $60, which breaks down to $5 per month. Both of these options come with unlimited bandwidth and the ability to connect five devices to Tunnelbear’s servers at the same time. Tunnelbear accepts Paypal, Bitcoin, and most major credit cards.

BOTTOM LINE

As much as we love Tunnelbear’s quirky branding and its European connection speeds, the company’s base in a Five Eye country (Canada) is a concern from a user privacy standpoint. Most customers won’t be at risk, but activists, journalist­s, or other securitymi­nded individual­s should look elsewhere for a VPN service. ■

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