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POJCHEEWIN YAPRASERT PHOTOGRAPHY / Moment / Getty
Very fast connection
Extremely easy to set up and use
It’s a proxy, not a VPN
The encryption is very weak
Very few servers
Truth is, Opera VPN isn’t really a VPN. It’s a simple web proxy. The service is completely free, and it’s very easy to use, so if you’re already using Opera as a web browser, there isn’t much reason not to give Opera VPN a try.
Opera VPN isn’t going to keep you safe online or protect your privacy, but it may help you bypass a firewall or content filter. That’s probably its best practical use.
Maybe you’ve heard that the Opera web browser comes with a free VPN, or perhaps you’re already a fan of Opera and just want to know how their VPN service stacks up. Either way, you’re probably going to be disappointed to learn the Opera VPN isn’t a VPN at all. It’s more like a proxy that's masquerading as a VPN.
The servers that Opera uses are owned by a Canadian VPN company, but everything else about the connection more closely resembles a basic web proxy rather than a full-fledged VPN.
With all that out of the way, the question remains: is Opera VPN still worth using? The answer isn't a simple yes or no, so make sure to take a look at our testing and impressions to decide for yourself.
Opera VPN is embedded in the Opera web browser. Install the browser, and you’ll get the VPN. You do need to activate it through the advanced browser settings, but there's really nothing more to it. The VPN is available in Opera browsers across multiple platforms, including mobile.
Opera VPN is embedded in the Opera web browser. Install the browser, and you’ll get the VPN.
When you bake a VPN proxy connection directly into a web browser, with the goal of adoption by everyday users, it needs to be simple and easy to use. On those points, Opera VPN absolutely delivers. Even though there isn’t much of a dedicated interface for the VPN, since it’s just one small part of the larger browser, it’s still clean, well-integrated, and almost as intuitive as it could possibly be.
The one issue is that the VPN is activated through the advanced browser settings instead of a prominent button or switch. Turning the VPN on is very easy, but it's something that a lot of users will have trouble finding.
To turn Opera VPN on through the Opera browser’s settings, you’ll have to locate the controls under the Advanced Settings in the Privacy and Security tab. Once you have activated the feature in the advanced settings, you'll see a VPN icon to the far left of Opera’s address bar. Clicking this icon reveals the full VPN menu.
In the VPN menu pane, you can easily enable and disable the VPN connection with a switch. Below that, you’ll find your bandwidth usage for the week and a menu to select a location to connect. At the very bottom, Opera will show you your current IP address through the VPN.
Opera VPN is one of the faster VPNs out there. In testing, the loss in total speed with the VPN, as opposed to without it, was relatively minimal. Every VPN causes some loss in connection speed. The key is always to minimize that loss. With Opera VPN, that doesn’t appear to be a concern at all. We were able to measure a top speed of 302 Mbps on our 1 Gbps internet connection, which is right in line with some of the fastest VPN services we've tested.
There may be a less-than-ideal reason for Opera VPN’s minimal losses in speed: it uses weak encryption. Opera VPN’s connection is secured with SSL encryption, the same type that’s used for visiting websites over HTTPS. Even though HTTPS is great for what it is, it’s not a strong enough encryption standard to protect a VPN connection.
How does that impact speed? Encryption is one of the factors that slow down a VPN’s connection. It takes time to encrypt and decode traffic, and the stronger the encryption is, the longer it usually takes. So, weak encryption speeds things up, but it comes at the price of security and privacy.
Privacy and security are two of the most important reasons people look for a VPN, but unblocking region-locked streaming content isn't that far behind. As a free VPN that's little more than a web proxy, Opera isn't able to get that particular job done. We didn't have any trouble streaming video on sites like YouTube and CNN, but Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and others all detected the proxy immediately.
Earlier in the very same privacy statement, Opera admits to logging browsing data to provide targeted ads and news recommendations. Even though they claim that the data is only tied to a randomly generated ID, it’s not hard to put it all together. If the browser is tracking you, so is the VPN, and the service isn’t really private.
If you needed another reason not to entirely trust Opera’s statement, the VPN company that Opera relies on for the VPN is based out of Canada, a Five Eyes country. The chances that your data isn’t being logged or tracked in any way are fairly slim.
Opera VPN encrypts your traffic using SSL encryption and bounces your connection from their server to your destination.
There really isn’t a lot of information available about Opera’s security features. Search around their website, and you’ll be hard-pressed to turn up anything other than marketing.
Unlike dedicated VPN services, Opera VPN doesn’t employ industry standard VPN protocols like OpenVPN, perfect forward secrecy, or any of the typically trusted methods of keeping your data safe. Instead, they offer encryption via HTTPS/SSL. Since it's a browser-only VPN, only data passed through the Opera browser is encrypted.
Without a real VPN protocol working behind the scenes, or features like perfect forward secrecy, it's difficult to trust the overall security of Opera VPN.
Opera VPN is built into the Opera browser, and it only protects data that passes through the browser. That means nothing else is secured, including peer to peer applications like bittorrent. If you want to run bittorrent through a VPN, you'll have to look elsewhere.
The Opera browser includes a built in ad blocker, but it isn't integrated with the VPN and doesn't provide the level or protection offered by real VPN services that include DNS-level ad blocking. It's a nice feature to have available right out of the box, but it's another area where this free software stumbles a bit in terms of security.
We were unable to locate any specific customer support options for Opera's VPN service, and finding support information for the browser itself is also convoluted. Opera's support site directs you to a bunch of troubleshooting information, but there is no option to contact support or even fill out a support ticket.
If you navigate to Opera's contact page, you'll find a general customer support contact form.
Opera VPN is completely free to use forever. There is no trial period, sign up, or exchange of payment information. It’s just free. So, if you need to obscure your IP quickly and for no cost, Opera can be a good option. That said, there are other free options that provide much more protection.
When you’re talking about free VPNs, there aren’t many that have a great reputation. The whole notion of a free VPN is on the shady side to begin with. After all, if you’re not paying them, how are they making their money. The answer usually isn’t good news for you.
That said, there’s a newer name in the marketplace that’s already earned plenty of respect: ProtonVPN. If you’re familiar at all with e-mail security, you’ve heard of ProtonMail. These are the same people behind ProtonVPN. In fact, you can even bundle the services with some of their paid plans.
ProtonVPN does have a free plan that allows one device connection on a limited number of servers. That free connection benefits from ProtonVPN’s full set of security measures, including military-grade AES256-bit encryption and leak prevention.
ProtonVPN is available on a full range of platforms, including mobile devices, and it protects the entire device, not just the web browser like Opera. So, if you wanted to use ProtonVPN with the Opera web browser, you absolutely could.
There is one area where Opera beats ProtonVPN, and that’s speed. ProtonVPN is a true VPN service, meaning it’s not going to be quite as fast as a proxy. The maximum download speed we were able to achieve through ProtonVPN was just 162 Mbps, with several servers topping out at less than 50 Mbps. The free plan from Proton is even more limited on speed, since you only have a few servers to choose form.
Altogether, if you’re looking for real security, there’s no contest. Go with ProtonVPN.
If you want a true VPN, you might want look at another option.
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