F-se­cure Free­dome: A VPN with some built-in an­tivirus fea­tures

Just make sure you’re okay with that pri­vacy pol­icy.

PCWorld (USA) - - Reviews Dell Xps 15 9570 - BY IAN PAUL

There are a few VPN ser­vices that of­fer their own an­tivirus, one is Avira Phan­tom VPN Pro ( go. pcworld.com/avph), which we looked at pre­vi­ously; Fin­land-based F-se­cure is an­other. The com­pany’s Free­dome VPN is a premium ser­vice that of­fers 22 coun­try lo­ca­tions around the world and ex­tra free­bies like tracker and ma­li­cious-site block­ing.

Free­dome on Win­dows of­fers a large, ex­pan­sive in­ter­face that makes it easy for new users to nav­i­gate. The pri­mary dash­board fea­tures a big but­ton in the cen­ter that says ei­ther “ON” or “OFF.” To the left of that is the amount of band­width you’ve used, and to the right there’s a count of the harm­ful sites and track­ers Free­dome has blocked.

Be­low that is a rec­tan­gle show­ing your cur­rent coun­try lo­ca­tion tar­get. Click it and a list comes up show­ing all the var­i­ous coun­try lo­ca­tions or­ga­nized by con­ti­nent. Pick the coun­try lo­ca­tion you want, and Free­dome should start con­nect­ing right away. If it doesn’t, re­turn to the main dash­board, click

the but­ton, and you’re away.

Over­all, it’s a very good start­ing point for new and ex­pe­ri­enced users. For most peo­ple, this is the only part of the app they’ll ever need.

For those who don’t want Free­dome block­ing ma­li­cious sites or track­ers, the two left rail op­tions, Brows­ing pro­tec­tion and Track­ing pro­tec­tion, can turn those fea­tures off; they are turned on by de­fault.

Be­low those two op­tions on the left rail is the Tracker Map­per. This is an ed­u­ca­tional tool for those who want to see just how much they’re be­ing tracked on­line. The fea­ture is sim­i­lar to Mozilla’s Light­beam project ( go.pcworld.com/ mzlb) in that it shows all at­tempted track­ing in an in­ter­ac­tive vi­su­al­iza­tion.

Ac­ti­vate this fea­ture by click­ing Show Tracker Map­per, which launches a sep­a­rate win­dow. Click Start a new log in the new win­dow and the fea­ture logs all the track­ers you come across while brows­ing on­line.

You’ll know it’s work­ing when you see a red record­ing but­ton at the top of the log win­dow and in the left rail of the main dash­board. The log takes a full 24 hours to pop­u­late.

The fi­nal sec­tion of Free­dome is Set­tings in the left rail, which is very ba­sic. If you’re an ad­vanced user you won’t see op­tions to change your VPN pro­to­col or any­thing like that. There are op­tions to start au­to­mat­i­cally at boot, ac­ti­vate the in­ter­net kill switch, and con­nect au­to­mat­i­cally at boot, but that’s about it.

In my tests, Free­dome didn’t help you ac­cess Net­flix over a VPN, though it may work for other in­ter­na­tional ser­vices.

Free­dome is avail­able for PC, Mac, An­droid, and IOS. The ser­vice costs $50 for one year cov­er­ing three de­vices, $60 per year for five de­vices, and $80 for seven. Those prices are about av­er­age, with most VPNS cov­er­ing five de­vices for about $60. It’s nice that Free­dome of­fers a lower-cost op­tion for those wish­ing to cover fewer de­vices.

PER­FOR­MANCE

Free­dome per­formed in­cred­i­bly well in our speed test. It didn’t quite rise to the speeds we saw with Hotspot Shield ( go.pcworld. com/htsh), but it was still pretty great. Over­all, based on five dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions around the world, Free­dome re­tained nearly 51 per­cent of the base speed. All coun­tries, in­clud­ing far-flung places like Ja­pan and Aus­tralia, were well above 30Mbps. The base speed on the day of test­ing was 90.47Mbps.

PRI­VACY, ANONYMITY, AND TRUST

When you sign up for an F-se­cure ac­count, you start with a free, five-day trial. If you want to con­tinue us­ing Free­dome, you pay at that point and then F-se­cure sends you a prod­uct code. You don’t have to cre­ate an ac­count or give F-se­cure your name or email ad­dress.

F-se­cure ac­cepts pay­ments via credit card, Pay­pal, wire trans­fer, Payn­earme, and money or­der.

F-se­cure’s pri­vacy poli­cies for the VPN are in­ter­est­ing. It doesn’t read your web traf­fic, but it does an­a­lyze said traf­fic in or­der to fil­ter ma­li­cious files, and it also scans the URLS you

visit for fil­ter­ing ma­li­cious ac­tiv­ity. URL scans are checked via rep­u­ta­tion lookups, and that data is not stored, F-se­cure told me. If you de­cide to turn on the Tracker Map­per fea­ture, how­ever, the URLS are logged, and au­to­mat­i­cally deleted af­ter three days.

File scan­ning hap­pens as a part of F-se­cure’s “Se­cu­rity Cloud” fea­ture. It only scans files sent over HTTP (not HTTPS) for safety. This ser­vice does not col­lect per­sonal data, but files are stored for a time. This fea­ture, while not typ­i­cal for a VPN, is com­mon for an­tivirus pro­grams.

The ser­vice pre­vents P2P traf­fic, port scan­ning, and the use of un­en­crypted SMTP—A typ­i­cal de­liv­ery vec­tor for spam email. F-se­cure will also “process” your band­width vol­ume, coun­try lo­ca­tion, and IP ad­dress. These logs are stored for 90 days and then deleted.

For more de­tails check out the Free­dome Pri­vacy Pol­icy ( go.pcworld.com/frpr).

F-se­cure is a highly trusted name in se­cu­rity and a well-known com­pany. Its head­quar­ters are lo­cated in Helsinki, Fin­land. F-se­cure’s Pres­i­dent and CEO is Samu Kont­ti­nen and the CTO is Mika Ståhlberg.

VER­DICT

F-se­cure is a very ca­pa­ble VPN with great speeds and a good, although not out­stand­ing, num­ber of coun­try lo­ca­tions. Any­one who doesn’t like the idea of traf­fic log­ging and anal­y­sis may want to stay away as there are other VPNS that re­tain far fewer logs. If, how­ever, you are look­ing for a se­cure VPN for ev­ery­day brows­ing and on­line ac­tiv­ity then Free­dome is a fine choice.

Free­dome’s Tracker Map­per gives you a look at what tracks you on­line dur­ing a 24-hour pe­riod.

Free­dome’s de­fault view the first time it starts.

Free­dome’s coun­try list.

Free­dome’s Track­ing Pro­tec­tion.

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