Ranking VPNs: Our Methodology
While looking for the best VPNs in Korea, we focused first on which VPN options had the most servers in Korea to ensure that we’d have a strong connection and high speeds. That being said, we leave no stone unturned when we’re testing VPNs—after all, hackers are looking for any little inroad they can find. Rest assured that we’ve tested everything you can think of!
The whole point of a VPN is to provide security, so we carefully examined the pros and cons of each solution’s approach. The key flaws we want to watch out for are DNS leaks, which expose the sites a user is visiting, and WebRTC leaks, which expose the user’s IP address. Since protecting web traffic and IP addresses is the main point of a VPN, problems in those two areas are a big deal.
We looked for Domain Name Server (DNS) leaks using DNSLeakTest.com, where we could see exactly what DNS address came up as we browsed the web and check them against our own. If a VPN is working, our DNS will never be exposed. Keeping that information protected is a major privacy and security concern, so this is a really important test for us.
We tested for WebRTC leaks using ExpressVPN’s tool (yes, it belongs to one particular VPN provider, but it still gives us the objective information we need to determine if there was a WebRTC leak or not). Like with the DNS leak site, we simply checked the IP addresses that were being pinged out there onto the web against our own to ensure that our real address was not public.
Privacy policies are also something we look at carefully; in our view, VPN providers should only need the account information that keeps us connected and is necessary to maintain our subscription. If the company is keeping any data they don’t need to operate our account—really, anything beyond our email address and payment information— then we do some additional poking around. We’re especially concerned if they log any kind of browsing or traffic data. Finally, a few additional features provide additional peace of mind. These include double-hop or multi-hop VPNs, which use multiple servers to ensure that our data is encrypted multiple times, and kill switches, which close our internet activity if our connection is disrupted to ensure that it isn’t exposed.
While VPNs do slow down internet access, there’s quite a range of how much they impact it’s speed, and that kind of nuance can make or break your ability to watch Netflix or even just check your work email in an airport lounge. To assess a VPN’s speed, we run speed, upload speed, and ping (latency) tests using SpeedTest.net. We connect directly to both our private Optimum network and the VPN and compare the results, finding the percentage difference between the two. While we use one device at a time, we test on both a PC and a Mac because the two types of devices already have different speeds and because VPNs can impact them differently. As a rule, we want to see VPNs slow down web traffic by no more than 40 percent in any of the three categories.
Let’s be honest—we love using VPNs for Netflix, as certain popular shows like Parks and Recreation and Criminal Minds aren’t available on Netflix in Korea. However, by using a VPN and connecting to a U.S server, it’s possible to access U.S Netflix options without leaving Korea (though, of course, this is never guaranteed since Netflix is actively trying to stop the practice). We also check out VPNs compatible with torrenting.
Tied back to speed, we also like to see a VPN effectively use split tunneling, which means that both the VPN and the public network are being used at the same time. Sometimes using both together can slow down the computer, but VPNs with the best split tunneling systems keep speeds higher since only some of the traffic needs to move through the VPN.
We can’t put a price on security—but let’s face it, we’d all like to get that security as cheaply as possible. VPNs range quite a bit in price, though most land somewhere around $4 a month with a longer-term subscription, depending on factors like the number of devices covered. Generally speaking, we’ve found that purchasing an annual or even two-year subscription saves significant money over a month-to-month plan, though we like to see VPNs that offer multiple options. We are also big fans of the trial period, so that’s always a bonus—and, in fact, we’ve even made a list of the best free VPN trial options. There are some decent free VPNs out there, but they often come with data caps and other downsides, so if you use public Wi-Fi even somewhat frequently, you’ll be better off with a paid version.
Pro Tip: Committing to a two or three-year contract gets you the best VPN rates, often bringing costs under $3 a month, which for some companies means a savings of 75 percent or more.
It’s hard to find good customer support for tech products these days, but most of us end up needing it sooner or later. While not many VPNs offer over-the-phone support, we like to see multiple additional options, like online chat, emails, and support tickets, for getting help when we need it.
Protecting your security while browsing on your phone is just as important as it is on your laptop, so in our opinion, a VPN needs a strong app to really be top-of-the-line. In addition to testing the apps on multiple types of phones ourselves, we check out the reviews for both the iPhone and Android apps for each VPN to make sure that most users have a positive experience.