What Your ISP Can Learn About You & How to Protect Yourself
If all the news stories about internet service providers (ISPs) spying on users have you worried, we wish we could tell you that there’s no cause for concern. Unfortunately, the reality might be even worse than the rumors.
Everything you do online is saved on a server somewhere. That means that every bit of data that passes through your router is collected and stored by your ISP.
Your ISP knows exactly what websites you’re browsing, what apps you use, and what you’re reading. ISP bots know what videos you’ve watched and for how long, along with every other detail of your internet activity.
Over time, your ISP uses your surfing and search histories to create a profile that includes private, personal information – information you would never willingly share.
The best way to prevent ISP data harvesting is to protect everything you do online with end-to-end encryption, also known as tunneling. And the best way to get that encryption is to use a good VPN.
Best VPNs to Protect You from ISP Spying – Quick List
It’s important to know that not all VPNs are dedicated to protecting your privacy. Many free services actually store what you do online and share your data with third parties, just like ISPs do.
That’s why we’ve tested hundreds of VPNs and studied their privacy policies to find the best services to protect you from ISP spying. These VPNs do not store any information that links your traffic to you, and have no history of privacy breaches.
Advanced security, a user-friendly interface, smooth streaming, and easy torrenting are just a few of the reasons why NordVPN tops our list. Throw in a huge network of 5,143 servers in 62 countries and a strict no-logs policy to ensure complete anonymity, and you have a VPN with virtually no flaws.
Launched by German engineers, CyberGhost chose Romania for its headquarters because it’s the most privacy-friendly country in Europe – in fact, Romania’s courts openly defy EU data retention laws.
This ultra-fast VPN does not sacrifice privacy to achieve its industry-leading speeds. In 2016, Turkish authorities tracked an assassin’s IP address back to an ExpressVPN server. They gained access to the server’s data logs, and do you know what they found? Nothing! That’s a no-logs policy you can trust.
With a server network that covers a whopping 190 countries, HMA is one of your best choices to shield yourself from ISP monitoring. Its apps are simple and intuitive, and include a Freedom Mode that automatically routes your traffic through the nearest server in a country with free speech.
PrivateVPN uses 2048-bit encryption with AES-256 to mask every piece of info exiting your router – info that would normally end up on your ISP’s servers. It’s easy to install and use on any platform and offers impressive speed.
What Information Does Your ISP Gather About You?
Your ISP can see and analyze all unencrypted traffic that goes through your router. That data includes every URL you visit, all the content on the pages you’re reading, how long you stay on any site, and what devices you use.
ISPs sell the information they gather to marketing companies, and those companies in turn feed you targeted ads. In countries with data retention laws, ISPs also store your data for possible review by law enforcement authorities.
Privacy advocates worldwide are fighting daily to reduce or eliminate ISP data harvesting, but ISPs are fighting just as hard to maintain their power to use and abuse your information.
In fact, ISPs in many countries want to expand their reach and collect even more information about their users. They put intense pressure on governments, and lawmakers too often obey their commands.
Former US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler pointed out that American ISPs can paint an accurate picture of your private life, including even “a chronic medical condition or financial problems.”
In response, the FCC proposed rules requiring ISPs to ask your permission to share your data with third parties. But ISP lobbyists persuaded the US Congress to reject the new privacy rules.
Several US states, including Delaware and Minnesota, have rebelled by enacting their own laws protecting citizens’ privacy. However, most internet users in the US – and throughout 14-Eyes territory and far beyond – remain completely exposed to ISP spying.
In short, some governments require ISPs to respect your privacy choices, but far too many don’t. And that’s the way ISPs want things to stay.
What If I Don’t Put My Personal Information Online?
Perhaps you avoid putting personal data on your Facebook profile, and use Chrome’s incognito mode so Google doesn’t store your browsing history. Unfortunately, these strategies won’t keep your ISP out of your data or your life.
Unless your data is encrypted before it leaves your router, your ISP gets it ALL.
They store it, they categorize it, and they sell it. And even if they don’t sell it, ISPs in many countries are required to turn everything they know about you over to authorities or intelligence agencies if they’re asked to do so.
The most convenient, affordable way to protect yourself from these constant privacy invasions is to encrypt all your activity by using an excellent VPN service.
What to Look For in a VPN to Prevent ISP Monitoring
There are hundreds of VPNs out there, and many of them claim to have the same features. However, only a handful of them offer the security and privacy protection you need to shield your activity from your ISP.
You’ll want a VPN with a strict no-logs policy, meaning that it does not store any data from your browsing sessions. Military-grade encryption is essential, along with the highly secure OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols.
Another critical feature is an automatic kill switch, which stops all your traffic anytime you lose your VPN connection, preventing any leaking of your data onto your ISP’s servers.
Speaking of servers, you’ll also want a VPN that has a vast server network to give you stable connection speeds no matter where you are. The overloaded servers on small VPN networks will slow your surfing down to a crawl.
Best VPNs to Keep Your Traffic Hidden from Your ISP
Taking into account network security, privacy safeguards, and overall performance, our experts have prepared a list of VPNs you can trust to keep your ISP out of your internet business.
NordVPN has earned its place as the most popular VPN service worldwide by doing everything a VPN should do and doing it well. It gives you advanced security features, stellar speeds, and the largest server network of any premium VPN.
NordVPN is so invested in keeping you safe that it offers DoubleVPN, a feature that sends your network traffic through two servers and two rounds of encryption.
NordVPN’s key features include:
- 2048-bit encryption with military-grade AES-256 keys
- An automatic kill switch
- Support for OpenVPN, IKEv2, and several additional tunneling protocols
- Double VPN available
- Protection for up to 6 devices at once on one subscription
- Access to over 5,000 servers in 62 countries
- 30-day money-back guarantee and 3-day free trial
In 2009, the Constitutional Court of Romania declared the EU’s Data Retention Directive unconstitutional, at the cost of large fines assessed on the country. The court did it again in 2014.
Why is this important? Because CyberGhost chose Romania for its base of operations specifically to take advantage of the country’s commitment to internet user privacy.
CyberGhost’s users appreciate its verified zero-logs policy, along with AES-256 encryption and a kill switch to ensure that you can travel the internet as a virtual ghost.
You’ll also find CyberGhost is incredibly user-friendly, with a visual interface that even first-time VPN users navigate with ease.
CyberGhost offers excellent defense against ISP spying with features like:
- Over 3,000 servers in 60 countries, with further expansion coming soon
- Zero-knowledge servers that don’t record who or where you are, or where you go on the web
- Anonymous torrenting
- Preset profiles for accessing popular streaming sites like Netflix
- 7 simultaneous device connections per subscription
- Free trial for Windows and mobile apps and a 45-day money-back guarantee
Science says that strong encryption of your data will slow down your connection, but ExpressVPN apparently didn’t get the note. In spite of its military-grade AES 256-CBC encryption, this VPN shines in our speed tests time after time.
The provider never keeps any logs of your use, and offers servers in close to 100 countries.
Users rate ExpressVPN as one of the best VPN options for streaming, torrenting privately, or Tor browsing. The service costs a little more than our other top VPNs, but its combination of speed and security is hard to beat.
If you find it more convenient to connect to some sites directly, ExpressVPN has you covered. Its split tunneling feature allows you to choose which traffic you send through the VPN tunnel and which you send through your normal ISP connection.
ExpressVPN offers a 7-day free mobile app trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee for all subscribers.
Name any country, and it’s a safe bet that HideMyAss! (HMA) has a server there. This VPN puts user privacy above all else, with strong encryption and preset modes that ensure your anonymity.
For example, to safely bypass government censorship in your country, simply switch on Freedom Mode to reach a server in the nearest country with free speech. To immediately connect to the fastest available server, choose the Instant Mode.
HMA’s vast network gives you ultra-fast, stable connections that are great for streaming, and you can connect up to 5 devices at once.
HMA acknowledges that it does keep partial logs. However, the limited data recorded for diagnostic purposes, such as connect/disconnect times and bandwidth usage, would never enable anyone to trace your activity back to you.
In other words, your ISP will have no idea what sites you visited, what movies you watched, who your contacts are, or anything else about what you did online.
See what HMA can do for you with a free 7-day trial, or subscribe with confidence thanks to a 30-day money-back guarantee.
PrivateVPN is another great option to keep your ISP off your trail on off your back. The provider combines 256-bit and 2048-bit technologies to encrypt everything you do, all while giving you impressive speeds and unlimited bandwidth.
PrivateVPN users love that one subscription allows up to 6 simultaneous connections and that the provider doesn’t keep any logs of their activity.
PrivateVPN’s apps are simple to use, and setup is as easy as it gets thanks to the Remote Help Team Viewer, which directly connects you to a tech team that installs the software for you.
Although PrivateVPN’s array of 100 servers is small compared to our other top VPN picks, the network spans 57 countries. A fast, secure connection in almost any region you want to reach is just a click away.
All subscriptions to PrivateVPN are backed by a 30-day refund policy.
Where your data goes and who can access it should be your choice, not your ISP’s. Yet most of us live in regions where ISPs hold all the power. A quality VPN is the best tool available to blindfold your ISP whenever you’re online.
Awareness of the huge problem of ISP data harvesting continues to grow around the world. We believe this awareness will ultimately lead to new laws that prevent your ISP from storing and/or sharing your data without your consent.
For now, however, ISPs continue to win lobbying battles and expand their power, making online privacy virtually nonexistent. The only thing we can do is to take matters into our own hands by using trustworthy VPNs.
To help you do that, we always give you access to the best current deals offered by VPN providers.