Bitdefender VPN Review 2020 - Dodgy Permissions Requests

Kristin Hassel | Cybersecurity Researcher
Published on 23rd October 2020

Bitdefender is known for its powerful security suites but it doesn’t specialize in VPNs. Honestly, there may be a good reason for that.

While Bitdefender VPN offers lightning-fast servers powered by Hotspot Shield, it requests unnecessary permissions and is fairly basic considering its offered by a company known for security software.

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Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings:

  • Unblocks several Netflix libraries, including Netflix US.
  • High-speed servers for P2P/torrenting activities.
  • Kill switch available on mobile apps.

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Can It Unblock Netflix?

Yes, Bitdefender VPN can unblock Netflix libraries worldwide. I was also able to access Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.

Speeds

I was expecting lightning-fast speeds on Bitdefender’s servers since it utilizes Hotspot Shield’s server network and I wasn’t disappointed. My speeds were blazing to begin with, but didn’t take too much of a hit once I connected to the VPN.

Original speeds - Bitdefender VPN

Results of a speed test before connecting to Bitdefender VPN.

  • Download: 125 Mbps
  • Upload: 95.7 Mbps
  • Ping: 5

As you can see my base speeds are excellent for streaming, gaming, browsing, torrenting, and anything else I’d like to do on the web.

Speed test LA - Bitdefender VPN

Speeds while connected to a server in Los Angeles, California.

  • Download: 81.5 Mbps
  • Upload: 86.7 Mbps
  • Ping: 64 ms

I connected to a US server first and only had a 34% drop in download speed, and my upload speed barely suffered at all. I expected ping to increase significantly the further I got from my true location, so the steady increase with each new connection wasn’t unusual.

Speed test Moscow - Bitdefender VPN

Speeds while connected to a server in Moscow, Russia.

  • Download: 87.4 Mbps
  • Upload: 74.2 Mbps
  • Ping: 49 ms

Surprisingly, the Moscow server gave me faster speeds than the L.A. server. The download speed only dropped 30% from my base speed, and once again upload speeds barely dropped at all.

Speed test Sydney -Bitdefender VPN

Speeds while connected to a server in Sydney, Australia.

  • Download: 94.8 Mbps
  • Upload: 76.4 Mbps
  • Ping: 209 ms

Australia is known for having slower internet speeds, so I was truly interested to find out if I would notice a significant drop. Nope! Again, my speeds were better than the last Bitdefender server I tested. The drop from my base download speed of 125 Mbps was only around 24%, and upload speeds held fairly steady at 76.4 Mbps.

Speed test Hong Kong - Bitdefender VPN

Speeds while connected to a server in Hong Kong, China.

  • Download: 87.5 Mbps
  • Upload: 70.8 Mbps
  • Ping: 226 ms

Even the Hong Kong server I connected to offered incredibly-fast download speeds, and upload speeds were consistent with the other available Bitdefender VPN servers I tested.

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Security

Since Hotspot Shield provides the servers for Bitdefender VPN, user data is protected with military-grade AES 256-bit encryption.

For its part, Bitdefender’s app provides a kill switch for iOS and Android, public wifi protection, and an auto-on feature to connect the VPN the moment you start your device.

Privacy

While connected to the server no logs are kept by Hotspot Shield, but Bitdefender does keep some user logs. Keeping some logs isn’t unusual, most VPNs keep non-personally identifiable data to fix glitches in the system or develop upgrades that benefit users.

Still, it requires extensive device permissions that I believe are unnecessary.

Bitdefender Android Permissions

Bitdefender App Permissions

If you aren’t paying attention and don’t disable the ability to read phone status and identity, you may put yourself at risk. Since Bitdefender doesn’t explain why it needs the information, it’s best to disable this permission.

Apps can use this permission to get your IMEI and a ton of personally identifiable information along with it, including but not limited to: name, phone number, and address. Please note obtaining this information isn’t easy and I don’t want to make it seem easy in any way, but it can be done and we want our readers to be informed of any unusual practices.

Just to show how unusual it is for a VPN app to request access to this information, I checked the app permissions for ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Hotspot Shield. Not one of these providers requested the ability to read phone status and identity, even if a free version of the service was used.

 

When I contacted live chat support to ask why this specific permission was necessary, I wasn’t reassured. Instead, I found out it doesn’t offer support for non-paid versions (even the 7-day free trial), not even enough to answer a question from someone who wanted to “buy a subscription.”

 

Permissions inquiry Bitdefender VPN
Live chat support wasn’t helpful at all.

Torrenting – Allowed On All Servers

With high-speed servers provided by Hotspot Shield, you’re free to torrent on any available server. The kill switch feature is a nice addition to the Bitdefender mobile app and helps protect your true location if the VPN fails.

Features Details
Number of countries with servers 30
Number of servers 1300
Does VPN keep logs? No
Does VPN include a kill switch? Yes
Number of devices per license 10

Ease of Use

4.0

Bitdefender VPN’s main user interface is easy to use, it offers the option of Automatic connection or the ability to choose a server location.

Main UI

The main user interface for Bitdefender VPN.

Once you connect to a server the Virtual Location information will change. I found that connecting to the server was fast and easy, just a couple of clicks and I was connected to a US server.

You may also notice that Bitdefender VPN has a convenient free-trial countdown indicator in the upper left-hand corner of the user interface. That way there’s no guessing how many days you left on your trial!

Bitdefender US Server

Connected to a US server.

Simultaneous Devices

For Android and iOS, free users are allowed one device connection. Users on any of the premium plans can have up to 10 simultaneous connections. The one exception is Bitdefender’s Family Pack plan, which offers 15 simultaneous connections.

Device Compatibility

Bitdefender VPN offers its free VPN built-in to its security software for Mac and Windows users. Users can upgrade to premium for unlimited use, and to bypass the 200MB per day data cap of the free plan.

The VPN used to be available exclusively through Bitdefender’s security software like its line of suites, but that isn’t the case anymore. Android and iOS users can download the VPN from their designated app store, and get all of the same benefits that Mac and Windows users enjoy.

Setup and Installation

Setup for Android was simple, just download the app and connect. You can choose between the free VPN at that point or sign up for a 7-day free trial of Bitdefender VPN premium.

From the settings interface, you can choose to turn on the kill switch and auto-connect options. The app also allows you to choose light or dark mode, which is a nice added feature.

Settings interface Bitdefender VPN

Main Settings interface for Bitdefender VPN.

You can also view the Privacy Policy, opt-out of notifications, and review FAQs about the service.

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Pricing

4.0
1-Year Plan
$3.33 /month
1-Month Plan
$6.99 /month

Bitdefender VPN offers a monthly and yearly plan, that both come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can also get a 7-day free trial and test all of the features before you buy a subscription.

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Reliability & Support

3.0

Don’t expect any help for the free version, it only offers chat and email support for paid subscriptions.

Bitdefender offers support for its services via email, live chat, and community forum. Users can also browse the FAQs on its site to find information about the VPN.

Bitdefender customer support

Bitdefender VPN support options.

You’ll need to search for information on the VPN using the search bar on the Support page though, no information about the VPN shows up automatically.

The Bottom Line

If you want the same features without the dodgy permissions requests, plus advanced features, you could just use Hotspot Shield. 

Bitdefender VPN offers users a clean interface, basic VPN features, and lighting-fast servers via Hotspot Shield’s network.

Unfortunately, it requests mobile permissions that other VPN’s don’t, and it could potentially put your personally identifiable information at risk.

Money Back Guarantee (Days) : 30
Mobile app :
Number of devices per license : 10

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