Avira Phantom VPN encrypts your connection, enabling you to evade hackers on public WiFi hotspots. It also keeps your web interactions private and bypasses geo-restricted content so that you can enjoy your favorite shows anywhere you are. Be unhackable, untraceable, uncensorable with secure WiFi connections, anonymous surfing, and unrestricted access to your favorite web content. Your financial info, passwords, and other private files are secure: they cannot be intercepted nor read by third parties. Prevent advertisers and eavesdroppers from tracking you. As far as they can see, you’re an anonymous user from an ever-changing location. Bypass geographical restrictions by setting your internet connection to appear as if you’re somewhere else.
When a VPN is active, it creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and a server operated by the VPN company. Your data flows through the tunnel, protecting you from hackers on the network and shielding your activities from ISPs’ prying eyes. Because your web traffic appears to be emanating from the VPN server, anyone watching sees the server’s IP address instead of your own. Since a rough position on Earth can be divined from your IP address, this effectively hides your true location.
Journalists and activists have long used VPNs to circumvent restrictive internet policies. By connecting to a VPN server outside of the country in which they are operating, they can effectively tunnel beneath censorship. A VPN, however, is not true anonymity. For that, you need a more heavy-duty solution, such as Tor.
As a mature technology, there are several ways to create a VPN connection. I prefer services that use the OpenVPN protocol, which has a reputation for speed and reliability. It’s also open-source and has been picked over for vulnerabilities.
Avira Phantom VPN uses OpenVPN for its Windows and Android clients. The company uses the older and less secure IPSec for its MacOS and iOS apps. This isn’t too surprising, as Apple requires developers to jump through more hoops if they want to use OpenVPN on iOS. Still, I’d like to see Avira make the effort.
One exciting tidbit is that Avira is working to implement WireGuard, the new hotness in VPN protocols. Avira’s implementation is not currently available to the public, but it shows the company is looking forward and embracing new technologies.
More server locations not only means more opportunities for location spoofing, but also generally means better speeds—because you’ll be more likely to connect to nearby servers. The more server locations there are, the more likely you are to find one nearby, wherever you go. The number of servers is often a function of the number of subscribers a VPN service has, but more is usually better here, too. The more servers are available, the fewer people will be in each server, giving you more bandwidth.
For the price of your subscription, you get access to Avira’s 100 servers across 28 countries in 39 locations. In general, Avira covers the US and Europe heavily, with light coverage through Asia. I’m happy to see the inclusion of India and Mexico on the list, but Avira completely ignores Africa and South America. I’d like to see it expand in these areas. While it offers servers in Hong Kong, Avira doesn’t cover areas with repressive internet policies, such as Russia, Turkey, and Vietnam. ExpressVPN does an excellent job of covering the globe, supporting servers in 94 countries.
When you use a VPN, you’re routing all your web traffic through its systems, potentially giving the company enormous insight into your online activities and personal information. It’s important that you can trust your VPN to use that access responsibly.
The company does track the volume of data used by customers, which Avira says is necessary for setting prices. Avira also collects diagnostic information, but this is entirely voluntary. An Avira representative says that the company only generates revenue from subscriptions, meaning your data won’t be mined or sold for profit.
Avira Holding GmbH & Co. KG is based in Tettnang, Germany, a country which enacted new data retention laws, according to reports from 2016. This means that the company may be required to hold on to identifiable data in order to comply with local law. We prefer when companies work under more friendly legal frameworks, such as NordVPN operating out of Panama. Avira argues that being based in Germany means it’s protected by strong privacy rules.
When asked how it would respond to legal requests for information, the Avira representative responded that because the company does not track non-anonymized user behavior, Avira would have nothing to share. That’s great.
As of this writing, Avira has not released third-party audits of its product or practices. Other companies are moving to release more information to assure customers of their due diligence. TunnelBear, for example, has committed to releasing annual evaluations of its product. Avira also has not responded to the Center for Democracy and Technology’s VPN questionnaire, but has provided me with much of the same information.