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Don’t Use NordVPN, Use These Instead

If you’ve spent any time researching VPNs, you’ve probably heard of NordVPN. It’s basically in every top VPN review list. However, is it really as good as the marketers claim? We discuss the pros and cons of NordVPN, based on our own experiences, so you can make an informed decision.

Please note that, as of the time of this writing:

  1. As of the time of this writing, we have no affiliations with any VPN provider
  2. We have neither been paid, nor requested by anyone to write any portion of this post

The Good Side of NordVPN

Let’s start out on a positive note. NordVPN, despite its faults (below), has a lot going for it:

  1. Features: NordVPN is feature-rich, including clients on many platforms
  2. Reliability: We’ve had very few connection or other reliability issues with this service
  3. Price: NordVPN is reasonably-priced, especially if you get a longer-term plan
  4. Reputation: Despite a few blemishes, NordVPN has a pretty good reputation

The Ugly Side of NordVPN

Closed-source Clients

The NordVPN clients are closed-source, which is extremely disappointing. An application that’s intended to protect your privacy and security should be open-source so the community can verify that it’s living up to its claims. Otherwise, all you have is the company’s promises. A tech company’s promises are worth about as much as a politician’s. Remember when Zoom lied to customers for years, claiming their service used end-to-end encryption when it didn’t? These are the prizes you win when you play with closed-source software.

The sad thing is that a VPN client is actually rather simple – it’s just an interface to the VPN service. In our opinion, there’s no conceivable reason to make a VPN client closed-source unless you’re trying to hide something from your users. This doesn’t bode well for NordVPN users, not to mention there are other VPN clients that are open-source.

NordVPN: What’s your excuse? Show us your source code, not your marketing claims.

NordVPN Seems to be Cozy with Google

Here is a perfect example of why the closed-source nature of NordVPN clients hurts the credibility of the service. As of July 28, 2022, when you open the NordVPN iOS app, it makes connections to Google Analytics. We can’t confirm what data is sent to Google, but we can confirm that Google’s business model is bad for your privacy. After all, doesn’t the P in VPN stand for private? It’s likely that this happens on other clients, but we cannot confirm that at this time.

We should also mention that the app also used to make connections to Firebase (app-measurement.com), which is also owned by Google. However, we can no longer confirm this.

NordVPN’s website has Google Tag Manager embedded in it. Interestingly, despite NordVPN’s cozy relationship with Google, they’ve posted an article called “What does google know about me?” Well, if you use NordVPN, Google now knows a little bit more about you.

NordVPN: In case you haven’t received the memo, one of the main reasons why consumers want a VPN is to protect their privacy from companies like Google.

Analytics on by Default in Windows Client

The first thing we do when we install any new app is go through all of the settings and disable anything that isn’t needed. In the NordVPN Windows app, one of the settings we disabled was their analytics, which were on by default. This is a very slimy move for an app that’s intended to protect users’ privacy.

We were shocked to discover, on several occasions, that analytics were turned back on in the settings. Eventually, we realized that the regular updates were turning analytics on. If you use NordVPN, be sure to check this after each update.

NordVPN Makes it Difficult to Take Your Business Elsewhere

One of the biggest red flags a service can show is putting up barriers to prevent customers from leaving. This is akin to the Berlin wall being erected to prevent people fleeing from east to west Germany. When you use a reputable service like Proton Technologies, you can close your account by clicking a button.

When you want to cancel your NordVPN subscription, close your account, or even change your email address, Nord makes this difficult. So much so that Wittels McInturff Palikovic is “investigating numerous complaints regarding NordVPN’s potentially illegal practice of making it difficult and confusing to cancel their automatically renewing memberships to prevent consumers from stopping recurring payments to NordVPN.”

Perhaps things have changed since we’ve canceled our subscription, but we can confirm that the process was indeed frustrating. Deleting your account is also frustrating. If you want to delete your account, this should be a button click. Instead, NordVPN makes you fill out a ridiculous customer request form (see Figure 1 below). In addition to providing payment information, they also require a “reason” for deletion. NordVPN: We have some feedback for you:

  1. The reason we want to delete our account because your business practices, including this ridiculous form, are downright shameful.
  2. We’re not going to bother with this process. You can keep our account and pretend as though we’re still a customer.

NordVPN doesn’t even let you change your email address without contacting customer support through an obnoxious form (see Figure 2 below). Why would a customer need to contact customer support in the first place, let alone provide payment information? This is completely bizarre.

Figure 1: Completely insane customer contact form to delete your Nord account (as of July 28, 2022)
NordVPN - Nord Account - Change Email Address - Ridiculous Customer Request Form
Figure 2: Completely insane customer contact form to change NordVPN email address (as of July 28, 2022)

Many Other Issues

During our extensive testing, we encountered many other issues with NordVPN. Here are just some of them:

  1. We found extensive logs on our Windows system. We were shocked to see how much info was in these logs, as well as how far back they went. Why do this?
  2. The iOS app signed us out of our account many times for no apparent reason
  3. The Windows client would hide certain server types (e.g. Double VPN) depending on your encryption settings. This led us to falsely believe (for months!) that the functionality was removed.
  4. Nord Security used so many domains that we couldn’t even keep track of which ones were even theirs or what they were used for. At one point, they switched the login system from simply logging in through the app to this bizarre web login with an equally bizarre domain name. This was so strange that we had to peruse the internet to see if this was even legit of if they or we had been hacked. Here are just some of the domains we believe NordVPN was using throughout our testing:
    1. nordvpn.com
    2. ndaccount.com
    3. nordaccount.com
    4. nord-for-apps.com
    5. nord-apps.com
    6. nordcheckout.com
    7. auth.zwyr157wwiu6eior.com (what is that!?)

If NordVPN is so Bad, Why is it so Popular?

We painstakingly evaluate software and services so our clients don’t have to. One of the most consistent themes we have learned over the years is the inverse relationship between marketing and the quality of the product/service. Inferior services, like NordVPN, rely heavily on marketing. The better services do very little marketing because the services sell themselves and many VPN marketing practices create perverse incentives.

When you search for the best VPN services, the majority of the results are not the best VPN services. The results you see are the VPN services that pay the most to affiliate marketers and influencers. This is why the likes of NordVPN are almost always in these lists and recommended on review sites. If you actually do your own research, you’ll see that NordVPN doesn’t stack up to their more ethical counterparts that don’t participate in these shady marketing schemes.

Read what IVPN and Mullvad, more reputable services, have to say on the matter. Compare this to NordVPN in Figure 3 (below). Now, is it any wonder why marketers push NordVPN so heavily?

NordVPN - Affiliate Marketing Program - Shady Marketing Practices
Figure 3: NordVPN affiliate marketing material (as of July 28, 2022)

Use These VPNs Instead

We’re not in the business of telling people what to do, but we’ll present three good alternatives to NordVPN. Although we encourage you to conduct your own research, we firmly believe you’ll be better off with any of these alternatives.

All of the following VPN providers share these attributes:

  1. Client apps are open-source. This allows us to verify they aren’t doing shady things like making connections to Google!
  2. They are honest about the strengths and limitations of a VPN
  3. They don’t do affiliate marketing or pay influencers to write reviews
  4. Customers can easily delete their accounts
  5. Client apps don’t opt you into analytics as far as we know
  6. They provide all of the general features you would expect (many servers, no-log policy, killswitch, encrypted DNS, etc.)

We would like to reiterate that we’re not being compensated nor asked in any way to make these suggestions. Also note that the following VPN providers are listed in no particular order.

IVPN

IVPN is based in Gibraltar and has been operating since 2009. Some people enjoy this fact because Gibraltar is not part of the Fourteen Eyes surveillance alliance. They don’t collect your personal information on signup (not even email). However, they will obviously see your real IP address, as any VPN will, so keep this in mind. You can review IVPN’s source code here.

Mullvad

Mullvad is based in Sweden and has been operating since 2009. Some people have reservations about this because Sweden is a member of the Fourteen Eyes surveillance alliance. However, we believe it to be naive to rely on governments refusing to cooperate with each other to protect you. Like IVPN, Mullvad collects no personal information during signup (not even email). Other than minor concerns about being in Sweden, we hear nothing but good things about Mullvad. You can review Mullvad’s source code here.

Proton VPN

Proton VPN is based in Switzerland. Some people enjoy this fact because Switzerland is not part of the Fourteen Eyes surveillance alliance. However, we take that with a grain of salt because Switzerland seems to be aligning more and more with western powers as time progresses. If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because this is made by Proton Technologies, the same company that makes Proton Mail.

Proton VPN has a generous free tier, but its paid plan is also great. One thing that some users complain about is that ProtonVPN requires an email address during signup. However, making a new Proton Mail address for this purpose isn’t a big deal. You can review Proton VPN’s source code here.

Final Thoughts

NordVPN isn’t a terrible service – you could certainly pick a worse one. In terms of closed-source VPNs, it’s actually one of the more trustworthy ones. However, we’re blessed with a variety of VPN providers to choose from. You don’t need to put up with a provider that has shady business practices as there are better options.

Please do your own due diligence, but we firmly believe most users are better off with IVPN, Mullvad, or Proton VPN. Reach out to us at the contact form below if you would like any further assistance.

Bonus

Acknowledging this is a tangent, we feel compelled to express that many of these issues plague NordPass and NordLocker as well. Most notably, these apps are also closed-source. As with VPN service, there are better, open-source alternatives for these as well.

Support Us

We’re an ethical company that puts our community first. You won’t find us injecting targeted ads or trackers into our website, peddling sketchy products/services, or selling our visitors’ data to 3rd-parties. As a result, our visibility and resources are rather limited.

Please consider supporting us to help keep our mission going. There are several ways to make a difference – from cryptocurrency contributions to simply sharing our content. Every bit of support is greatly appreciated and helps us make the world a more private, secure, and prosperous place.

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