ProtonVPN offers a new feature to VPN designed to protect the end user by helping to defend against timing attacks. This form of attack seeks to reveal the users identity with a compromised entry/exit VPN server possibly located in a hostile jurisdiction.
ProtonVPN has a Secure Core mode to improve user privacy and data security by mitigating some of the risks from a compromised VPN server.
A common method to expose VPN traffic is by compromising the server that handles your traffic. This risk is particularly acute when the server is located in a high risk jurisdiction. To mitigate this risk, ProtonVPN employs a technique called Secure Core. This article provides an overview about the attacks that Secure Core mitigates, how it achieves higher VPN privacy, as well as instructions on how to activate Secure Core in ProtonVPN.
ProtonVPN does detail their Threat Model. Threat modeling is a process by which potential threats can be identified, enumerated, and prioritized, from a hypothetical attacker’s point of view.
ProtonVPN does not store users logs. This statement can be located here:
ProtonVPN respects its users’ privacy and enforces a No Logs policy. This means your VPN connections remain private and we do not store information about your connections or the websites you visit.
For the purpose of securing your account and making sure it’s you who is signing in, we store a single timestamp of your accounts most recent login. Here again, we do not store any information about where you signed in from, how long you were logged in or where you logged in from.
Protonmail does not fall under the Swiss surveillance law and it exempts companies like ProtonMail and ProtonVPN which are not major telecommunications operators. More on this can be read here on the Impact of Swiss surveillance laws on secure email. ProtonVPN does explain what data is logged:
Data PtotonVPN retains from ProtonVPN sessions:
Each time a user connects to ProtonVPN, we only store a timestamp of the last successful login attempt. While it is stored indefinitely, this gets overwritten the each time you log in.
Taking a look at ProtonVPN
Signing up for the free service you can get a free 7 day trial of their Plus service package. This is a no strings option, you do not have to enter payment information to get the free trial. We we will be looking at the options available to users of this package. ProtonVPN pricing is located here.
As we mentioned earlier the Secure Core option can be turned on in the user control panel. Once this is selected, you can then select your VPN route. Secure Core is optional but is highly recommended.
The User Control Panel
On the left pane you can scroll through the available VPN routes. ProtonVPN supports double hop VPN routing as seen in the image above we selected the double route of Iceland as our entry node and the Netherlands as our exit node. The two hop VPN are static routes in various countries and jurisdictions. In comparison to the IVPN service, you could create your own double hop route with this service you cannot. In addition ProtonVPN offers traffic over the TOR network so you can access TOR hidden services. This is also a feature availie with NordVPN we reviewed here. Their complete servers list can be found here.
Accessing the Tor Network with ProtonVPN
ProtonVPN is integrated with the Tor network and provides users a simple way to route their entire connection through the Tor network with a single click. In this article, they explain how to connect to the Tor network with ProtonVPN and how you can then access hidden services without the need of the Tor browser. While ProtonVPN is a free VPN service, Tor integration is a feature reserved for paying subscribers.
By clicking on the three bars in the top left hand corner of the user control panel you are given the following options as seen above. I think the most important option here is to click and enable the VPN Kill Switch. This assures all internet traffic will be shut down in the event your VPN service were to quit or disconnect risking revealing your real IP address.
The subscription tab will allow you to maintain and view your current subscription to the ProtonVPN service.