Throughout my career in China, I’ve gone through a handful of different VPN services to evade the Great Firewall. Starting with a free VPN from my alma mater to making my own on Amazon Web Services to the volunteer-supported VPNGate, every free option was eventually blocked by the GFW. I eventually broke down and subscribed to Astrill, and other popular paid alternatives include PandaPow and StrongVPN.
Now a new contender has entered the fray, boasting greater security and privacy than all its competitors. VyprVPN uses a new proprietary protocol called Chameleon, developed by Switzerland-based Golden Frog. Chameleon “scrambles OpenVPN packet metadata to ensure it’s not recognizable via deep packet inspection” and is specifically “designed to mask Internet traffic to defeat VPN blocking in restrictive environments like China.”
However, for an extra fee, many VPN companies offer comparable added layers of protection on top of the commonplace open-source protocols to prevent snooping, similar to Chameleon. Astrill’s premium StealthVPN, for instance, offers a similar service, but Golden Frog’s Sunday Yokubaitis says VyprVPN has one major advantage over competitors: it owns its own servers. Most VPN providers rent server space from multiple companies around the world, which vary in their levels of compliance with snooping governments, ISPs, and corporations.
Golden Frog owns and operates clustered servers in over 30 countries. China is VyprVPN’s biggest target market.
A poisonous price point
Unless you’re concerned about airtight privacy, it’s difficult to recommend VyprVPN. Both the basic (without Chameleon) and Pro (with Chameleon) packages cost more than competitors, but speeds and reliability are about the same as what I get on the cheaper Astrill in Beijing. Astrill’s desktop client connects and disconnects instantly, while on VyprVPN I’m forced to wait a few seconds for the authentication process. Astrill’s basic package also lets users connect two devices at the same time, whereas VyprVPN’s only allows one.
On mobile, VyprVPN and PandaPow both offer iOS and Android apps. When I tested VyprVPN on my Android phone, I had problems connecting to servers outside of my time zone, but this might just be an isolated case. StrongVPN and Astrill only have Android apps. These can still be used on iOS, but they require manual setup, which is a pain.
So who is VyprVPN for? Enterprise customers and business travelers who access sensitive information should definitely consider it. VyprVPN also might be suitable for iOS users who want something a little less elementary than PandaPow, which has limited security and features.
VyperVPN fills a void in the current spate of VPNs tailored for China, but average consumers in many cases will favor a quick connection and a low price tag over impenetrable privacy.
(See also: Here’s a list of websites blocked in China)
(Editing by Josh Horwitz)