Norton is one of the biggest names in internet security, and when I discovered it also launched a VPN, I had to see what it’s about. I wasn’t expecting more than online security, but is that enough to declare it a great VPN service?
Norton Secure VPN doesn’t have the most features, but it’s safe. It has a relatively small server network, its speeds are slow on both local and international servers, and it doesn’t support torrenting. On top of that, it couldn’t bypass most of the streaming platforms I tested and doesn’t stand a chance in bypassing the Great Firewall of China.
Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings
- Unable to unblock most streaming platforms. Norton Secure VPN only unblocked Netflix and UKTV. Since it wasn’t designed to bypass geoblocks or firewalls, this is not shocking — take a look at my full analysis below.
- Slow speeds on both local and international servers. Norton Secure VPN couldn’t provide me with fast enough speeds for streaming or gaming. I tested its speeds and gaming performance so you can get a better idea of it.
- Strong security features to keep your identity safe. The VPN uses some of the best encryption protocols, and its connections are genuinely secure. You can take a look at my security analysis here.
- Straightforward and easy-to-use apps. Norton’s apps are incredibly intuitive, and you’ll have no problem working with them. I tested all its apps, so take a look at the results.
Norton Secure VPN Features — Tested in March 2021
|Number of countries with servers||30|
|Number of servers||3000|
|Does VPN keep logs?||No|
|Does VPN include a kill switch?||No|
|Number of devices per license||1|
Norton Secure VPN only unblocks a couple of streaming platforms, so it’s not a good choice if you want to watch international movies and shows. Before I started testing, I looked at Norton’s policies to see what I should expect and concluded that Norton didn’t put any effort into making a VPN to unblock streaming platforms.
I could unblock UKTV and Netflix from its UK and US servers but nothing more. The other platforms I tested either recognized the VPN or didn’t notice a change in my location.
Unblocked: Netflix and UKTV
Norton Secure VPN could only unblock UKTV and Netflix, which is a little disappointing. The good part is that my connection was fast enough to stream shows on these platforms without lag or buffering.
Even though Netflix has strong geo-restrictions, Norton Secure VPN managed to get around them. I was impressed by this because this VPN is only supposed to protect you from hackers and data leaks, not for watching Netflix.
UKTV was very easy to unblock too. I connected to a UK server, and I had full and limitless access to the platform. On top of that, the connection was great. I didn’t experience slowdowns or changes in quality.
Blocked By: Hulu, HBO Max, HBO Now, Disney+, ESPN+, Amazon Prime, and BBC iPlayer
Norton Secure VPN was blocked by Hulu, HBO Max, HBO Now, Disney+, Amazon Prime, ESPN+, and BBC iPlayer. I’m fine with Norton not being able to unblock these platforms, but HBO Max and HBO Now blocked me for being outside the licensed region, not for using a VPN — it looked like Norton Secure VPN was not even trying to hide my location.
The situation changed a little with Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime. These platforms blocked me from using a VPN — obviously not ideal, but at least Norton Secure VPN tried.
ESPN+ and Disney+ didn’t even load with Norton Secure VPN. I was stuck in an endless loop, taking me back to the login screen every time.
Norton Secure VPN is not a good choice for unblocking foreign streaming platforms. It couldn’t bypass most geoblocks, and it has a small server network. This means that streaming services can block its IP addresses, restricting your access completely.
Norton Secure VPN is one of the slowest VPNs I tested. It’s normal to experience a slight drop in speeds once you turn a VPN on, but the difference was huge with Norton. If my connection was just a little slower, it would have been impossible to stream any movies or access interactive websites.
To test Norton Secure VPN’s speeds, I used Ookla’s speed test tool and measured my:
- Ping — measures the time to get a response from the website or app you’re connecting to
- Download speed – measures the time you need to download files and information from the internet
- Upload speed – measures the time you need to send files, such as messages and videos
Norton Secure VPN has incredibly slow speeds on local servers. I used its auto-select feature, and it found a server that’s close to my location, which was supposed to provide me with the fastest connection.
I started with a 35.37 Mbps download, 36.76 Mbps upload speed, and a ping of 8 ms. After connecting to the Romanian server Norton recommended, my download speed dropped to 9.44 Mbps, which is a 75% decrease, upload speed decreased by 58% to 15.72 Mbps, and the ping increased to 14ms.
These differences are huge, and I only had enough speed to browse the internet because I started with a high speed. If your network is not very fast, it will be impossible to do anything with Norton Secure VPN.
Speeds without a VPN (Bucharest, Romania):
- Ping: 8 ms
- Download: 35.37 Mbps
- Upload: 36.76 Mbps
Connected to Norton Secure VPN’s Fastest Server:
- Ping: 14 ms
- Download: 9.44 Mbps (75% decrease)
- Upload: 15.72 Mbps (58% decrease)
I don’t recommend Norton Secure VPN for regular browsing or streaming on local networks. Its speeds are very slow, and if I didn’t already have a good connection, it would have been impossible to watch any shows or even continue with my regular browsing.
Norton Secure VPN’s long-distance speeds are just as slow as the local ones, which is a little unusual. In general, the local servers are a little faster than the international ones, but distance didn’t make a difference with Norton’s VPN.
The first server I tested was in the US. My download speed was 8.87 Mbps, which is a 75% decrease compared to my original one, upload speed decreased by 64% to 13.50 Mbps, and ping stood at 159. These results are terrible — I could hardly continue with my regular browsing with these numbers.
Speeds without a VPN (Bucharest, Romania):
- Ping: 8 ms
- Download: 35.37 Mbps
- Upload: 36.76 Mbps
US Server Location:
- Ping: 159 ms
- Download speed: 8.87 Mbps (75% decrease)
- Upload speed: 13.50 Mbps (64% decrease)
The decrease is massive, and if my connection was just a little slower, I couldn’t do much with Norton Secure VPN.
I then moved to Norton’s UK servers — the UK is a little closer to me, so I hoped for better results. My download speed was at 10.50 Mbps, 14.09 Mbps upload speed, and ping stood at 51 ms. A 61% decrease in download speed is huge — with other VPNs, I didn’t encounter such a significant loss. This makes it almost impossible to stream any movie on slower networks, which is inconvenient.
Speeds without a VPN (Bucharest, Romania):
- Ping: 8 ms
- Download: 35.37 Mbps
- Upload: 36.76 Mbps
UK Server Location
- Ping: 51 ms
- Download speed: 10.50 Mbps (61% decrease)
- Upload speed: 14.09 Mbps (62% decrease)
I don’t recommend Norton Secure VPN. After I connected to its servers, my speeds decreased a lot. It’s normal to experience a loss in speed when you connect to a VPN, but not more than 20%. Because of this, I suggest looking into other options before you make a choice.
Are Norton Secure VPN’s Speeds Fast Enough for Gaming? Only if Your Initial Connection Is Fast Enough
Norton Secure VPN is definitely not a good choice for gaming. Its speeds are slow on both local and international servers, making it impossible to establish a good connection. I tested its gaming performances using Nvidia GeForce Now, which measures:
- Bandwidth — measures the amount of data transferred in a given amount of time
- Packet loss — measures the percentage of data lost during transfer
- Ping/Latency — measures the time needed to get a response from the server
In order to successfully stream a game from Nvidia’s servers, I need 25 Mbps, and if it’s an online game, I need at least 30 Mbps.
On the local server I tested, these metrics were within the required intervals — it’s not ideal, and I still experienced a great deal of lag. However, the bandwidth stood at 24 Mbps, I had no packet loss — meaning that I could still load CS:GO maps without problems and the ping was 52 ms, which is higher than the minimum of 40 ms to play an online game. On a faster initial network, gaming would be possible with Norton Secure VPN, but that’s not the case for most people.
The next step was to test an international server, and I chose Norton’s US location. The connection was even slower than before, making it impossible to stream any game.
The bandwidth was slow, at 24 Mbps, I had a packet loss of 1.4%, meaning that I wasn’t receiving all the data from the server, and the ping was 240 ms, which is way too high to play any multiplayer game — my character would always be left behind, and I’d lose every fight.
I can’t recommend Norton Secure VPN for gaming. Unless you have a base speed of over 50 Mbps, it’s going to be impossible to establish a proper connection with the server and play a multiplayer game without lag.
Server Network — Small but Secure Server Network
Norton Secure VPN has 3,000 servers in 30 countries. A small server network is not ideal, as IP addresses can get blocked, and the VPN won’t be able to access many pages. You can only choose the country you want to connect to, and Norton Secure VPN will automatically assign you a server.
Norton Secure VPN has secure servers that will keep you safe during your regular browsing. I ran a few DNS and IP leak tests to see whether my information was visible to anyone on the internet, and I didn’t find anything unusual. Norton uses AES-256 encryption, which is the strongest around, so there’s no doubt about its security.
Norton needs to maintain its reputation, so it can’t have any security issues or data breaches. Its VPN is great for people who only need to protect their identity. However, if you’re looking for more than browsing and you also need to download torrents or bypass geoblocks, I recommend checking out other VPN services.
Norton Secure VPN has great security features, but they’re not available on all the supported devices. I tested its kill switch, split tunneling, and WiFi security on a Windows laptop, Macbook, Android phone, and iPad. Even though each of these features worked great, I couldn’t use them all on a single device. This is incredibly inconvenient and makes the VPN limited.
I did like that I couldn’t identify any DNS or IP leaks on any of the servers I tested. DNS and IP leaks can expose your information, making the VPN completely useless. Fortunately, this was not the case with Norton Secure VPN. All my information was safe and encrypted behind Norton’s servers.
Norton Secure VPN has a kill switch — but only on Android devices. The kill switch helps you maintain your anonymity by blocking your internet connection in case the VPN fails. This means that if you’re downloading something and the VPN can’t cover you anymore, it will shut your internet connection down. This is a feature you may want to use when you’re downloading torrents, but since Norton Secure VPN doesn’t support torrenting, you may not find it incredibly useful.
I tested Norton Secure VPN’s kill switch on my Android device — to activate it, you need to access the settings menu and click on the checkbox next to the kill switch. The process was fast, and Norton seems to be doing a great job here.
Norton’s split tunneling feature is only available on Windows devices, which, again, is inconvenient. Split tunneling lets you route certain apps and websites through the VPN and keep the rest on your regular network. This is very useful when you only want to route your torrent client or a browser to watch an international show.
To test this feature, I brought up my Windows laptop and set it up to only route apps, but not browser traffic. This was the easiest way to test this feature — I ran a quick IP leak test and Nvidia’s connection test, and everything matched. Nvidia GeForce Now was tunneled, but my browser wasn’t, which was the exact result I was hoping for.
The inconvenience is that split tunneling is only available in Windows clients, so you can’t use it on macOS, Android, or iOS devices.
As another exclusive feature, Norton Secure VPN made WiFi Security only available for Android and iOS devices. WiFi security provides you with information regarding the security of your network. It didn’t give me a warning on my home server, but the moment I connected to an unsecured mobile hotspot, Norton let me know that something was off.
This feature would have been awesome to have on my MacBook. If you like visiting coffee shops and working from there, you’ll want to know whether the network is safe or not. Unfortunately, that’s not the case as you can only use this feature on mobile devices.
Encryption and Protocols
Norton uses AES-256 type encryption, which is advertised as “bank-grade encryption,” and it’s the strongest one out there. When the data is sent to and from your computer, it is encrypted using a special key. That data can only be decrypted using the same key or by cracking it — which would be impossible using today’s computers, as they don’t have enough power.
As for protocols, Norton Secure VPN uses the OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec protocols in its clients. OpenVPN is the industry-standard and the most versatile protocol out there. It offers 256-bit encryption, and it works in UDP and TCP modes — TCP is a slower protocol that checks every file for integrity, while UDP is faster but doesn’t perform these checks. On top of that, OpenVPN is continuously being improved by developers all over the world. Only Norton’s Windows, macOS, and Android apps use this protocol.
The L2TP/IPSec protocol used on iOS devices is a little slower than OpenVPN but just as secure. It also uses 256-bit encryption, making every bit of encrypted information impossible to crack. The main difference between the two is that L2TP/IPSec uses a more complicated build, so it can fail a lot easier.
These protocols implemented in Norton Secure VPN assure secure browsing, so you don’t have to worry about having your information stolen.
I couldn’t identify any DNS or IP leaks on Norton Secure VPN’s servers. These tests allow me to see if the VPN would leave my information exposed. Its purpose is to hide my IP address and location and block IPv6 requests from my network.
Depending on the browser you use and its configuration, your IP address may still be visible — which is the exact thing you want to avoid. Besides, some VPNs have trouble blocking IPv6 requests, leaving sensitive data uncovered.
To start, I used ipleak.net on Norton Secure VPN’s US server, and it was secure! It couldn’t identify any leaks, IPV6 was blocked, and my information was completely hidden.
I then moved to test Norton’s Netherlands, UK, and Germany servers, and the connection was safe every time. I was impressed with Norton’s performances. The problem is that most of its apps don’t have a kill switch. This means that if the VPN fails, your information may be exposed after all.
Norton Secure VPN has great security features, but the lack of compatibility is very inconvenient. Most VPNs implemented the kill switch and split tunneling in all the apps because they’re irreplaceable. Unfortunately, if you choose Norton Secure VPN, you’ll be limited to using the features available on your devices — and exposing your data.
Norton Secure VPN keeps as little information about its users as possible, but there are a few security policy gaps. I read the documentation from top to bottom to see what kind of information it collects, and everything looked pretty standard. My only problem is that Norton’s headquarters are in the US, so it may be required to keep and share data about its users with the government. On top of that, I couldn’t find any concrete information about the disclosure of this data.
Norton’s headquarters are located in the US, or the heart of the Five-Eyes Alliance. Naturally, this thought is not very comforting because the government can force Norton to gather information about its users, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that.
For your information to be 100% private, Norton would need a strong (and real) no logs policy — this means no IP, no email, device, country, or any other data the government could use to identify you.
Norton Secure VPN Keeps Logs
- Member Information — Norton collects your contact details, such as name, mailing address, phone number and credentials, shipping and billing details — including your credit card or other payment data, transaction history, and any official documents you submit. All this information helps Norton manage its business relationship with you as a customer.
- Administrative Data — Norton collects this data to maintain its business records, and it consists of license keys, IDs generated by Norton, and device ID.
- Provisioning Data — this category includes your device model, browser type, system information, IP address, OS, and network type. This type of data is retained to deliver products and services.
- Security Data — Norton keeps this data to protect you from fraud or identity theft. It consists of your transaction and location data, credit alerts, and diagnostic, usage and preference information, and third-party data.
- Diagnostic Information — this category includes all the data Norton needs to troubleshoot the system. All your conversations with them are recorded, and all the crash reports are sent directly to them.
Usage and Preference Information — for marketing purposes, Norton keeps information from your cookies and client settings.
- Third-Party Data — whenever you receive a malicious email and Norton scans it, it will have access to the sender’s IP address and email.
Ad and Tracking Blocker
Along with the VPN, you also get an ad and tracking blocker. It’s integrated into the VPN, and you can turn it on and off whenever you need it. While I tested Norton, I kept it on the entire time, and it really did find a lot of ad trackers — but it didn’t block all of them. I accessed forbes.com, which has a reputation for a tremendous amount of ads. I still saw a few ads, but no annoying pop-ups, which is nice.
This one is not necessarily a feature of the VPN, but it comes with Norton 360 which is mandatory to use any of Norton’s services. You can set it up to start the VPN once you open your computer. I didn’t find this feature extremely useful, as the entire Norton 360 suite really slows my entire computer down.
Norton made it very clear that it doesn’t support any type of torrenting. Even more, the VPN won’t work at all if it detects torrent traffic. The moment I opened Transmission, my torrenting client, Norton Secure VPN gave me an error and cut the connection.
If you’re looking for a VPN you can torrent with, Norton Secure VPN is not it. There are many other options, some of which even offer specialized servers for torrenting.
Norton Secure VPN doesn’t work in China at all — it doesn’t even have servers there. I messaged Norton’s support team to see where they stand on this matter, and the agent confirmed it — it doesn’t work in China.
In all fairness, I was expecting this answer. Norton’s purpose is not to help you unblock specific regions of the world. Instead, it sells a VPN that will only hide your location in countries where VPNs are legal.