TunnelBear (review) offers its users a free and paid VPN service. However, the free version is limited to a bandwidth of 500MB / month.
Your VPN software, to be honest, uses the industry-standard (strong) OpenVPN protocol, as well as AES 256-bit encryption.
Still, an honest choice compared to the opposing VPNs out there?
Let’s determine during this TunnelBear review.
General Information on TunnelBear
|OVERALL RANK:||#30 out of 78 VPNs|
|LOG FILES:||No logging|
|ENCRYPTION/PROTOCOL:||256-bit AES/OpenVPN, IPSec & IKEv2|
TunnelBear can be a provider of free and paid VPNs.
It has been around since 2011 when Ryan Dochuk (Corporate Bear) and Daniel Kaldor launched it (Quantum Bear).
They need experience at Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, RIM, and a mobile security startup between the two of them. So they’ve definitely made their mark in the technological world.
The company is based in Toronto, although its more than 350 VPN servers are spread across 22 other countries around the world, including servers in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
TunnelBear does not explicitly collect, store or record subsequent data:
- IP addresses that visit our website
- IP addresses in the service connection
- DNS queries while connected
- Any information about the applications, services, or websites that our users use while they are connected to our Service.
Image from: https://www.tunnelbear.com/privacy-policy
It’s great news for privacy-conscious users. It means that they are not selling any of your data that when law enforcement knocks on the door, they have nothing interesting to offer you.
They will release the private information they have collected, as required by Canadian law (such as WindScribe). (Canada is not an honest jurisdiction for a VPN provider.)
They do not store your full Mastercard number, although they will access it through their PCI-compliant payment partners.
No Leaks Detected
An easy-to-use interface and strong encryption make this leak-free VPN a solid option.
TunnelBear uses OpenVPN by default, along with the most advanced and indecipherable encryption standard on the market at AES-256.
Tunnelbear repeatedly claims that his browsing activity is “protected by a bear,” employing a whimsical-looking cartoon bear, for example, this time over and over again.
Fortunately, TunnelBear held its own throughout our testing process.
Check it out for yourself:
Their installation software also persevered, delivering flawless results.
Free Plan & Works on Multiple Devices
However, it is limited to 500MB (only).
Although TunnelBear’s free plan is extremely small, it allows you to inspect the application and do a couple of speed tests on your own.
They provide applications optimized for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. There is also a browser extension for Chrome and Opera, and a tracker blocking extension that complements all of their services (or is often used on its own).
Extremely Safe and Secure
Of course, regardless of how cheap the VPN is, you would like to understand that it is secure.
On Windows, Mac, and Android devices, Tunnelbear uses the industry-standard OpenVPN protocol.
OpenVPN may be a recommended option by default.
Recent versions of iOS get IPSec / IKEv2 and older versions get IPSec (not recommended).
All in all, it’s the encryption you’d expect.
256-bit AES encryption is provided by OpenVPN and IPSec / IKEv2, while 128-bit AES encryption is provided by the IPSec protocol. Because the US government uses AES 256-bit encryption to protect data, you should be confident that this is a reliable protocol.
The service also provides strong data authentication and secure Diffie-Hellman key exchange to make sure you’re connecting to a TunnelBear server and not a mean man in the middle.
One of the interesting services that TunnelBear offers is called VigilantBear; This function protects you while connecting and disconnecting. If your WiFi goes down, otherwise you move between access points, there is a possibility that some of your data will be left on an unsecured connection. This is not the case with VigilantBear (acting as a kill switch).
In January 2017, Hackernoon delved into the TunnelBear source code to see what they could uncover. If you want to read the whole thing, you can, but it gets pretty technical. In short, they discovered no significant flaws or surprises. They were even more impressed by TunnelBear’s ability to detect DNS and IPv6 leaks, which is excellent for maintaining privacy.
There have been no substantial security breaches or proof that TunnelBear’s encryption has been cracked. All indications point to TunnelBear being incredibly safe to use.
One thing to note is that the Diffie-Hellman key exchange method can have some flaws. While desktop VPNs, Android, and iOS 9+ use 2,048-bit DH pools, which are considered secure, earlier versions of iOS use a 1,024-bit DH pool. And some powerful attackers at the national level may be ready to compromise that key exchange.
TunnelBear comes bundled with some great features, like:
- Anonymous IP
- Kill switch (VigilantBear)
- 5 simultaneous connections
Some websites block traffic that appears to be coming from a VPN. It is annoying and a continuous battle between VPN providers and people’s websites to realize the advantage.
For example, I recognized that TunnelBear’s GhostBear feature does its best to cover the very fact that you are using a VPN. This may fool some companies and governments, but not all.
Before using GhostBear, it is a good idea to determine if you will connect to your desired location through the quality TunnelBear connection. If you can’t, GhostBear is worth a try. Hiding the mere fact that you’re using a VPN will hamper your connection a bit, so I don’t recommend leaving it on all the time.
Easy to Use
TunnelBear’s mission is to make VPN use easy for everyone.
And, in my opinion, they have done so. The application is very straightforward and simple to use. It doesn’t have all of the advanced settings that a high-end VPN would, so it makes encrypted browsing a lot easier if you’re just getting started.
By default, it only shows you what you would like to see: where you are, the tunnel you are using, and where you appear to be navigating from.
There are additional settings that you will find, but if you don’t want to try them, you will just enjoy the simple and clean interface.
Allowing and forgetting about browser extensions works in the same manner. It is not easier than this.
Independently Audited for Security
There has been a lot of bad press for some VPNs in recent years.
Selling bandwidth, data logging, over-the-top security … it all erodes trust in VPNs. This is why TunnelBear has an independent organization that audits your VPN for security.
This is something quite rare within the industry, and it takes a lot of humility for TunnelBear to try. They posted the audit results and you will read them online.
TunnelBear claims that it is the main and only VPN service in the world that provides it, and it is definitely the only one I have come across. However, it should be noted that the last audit period was in July 2017 and therefore the company has yet to update it again.
Allows Torrenting and TOR
TunnelBear used to be a service that didn’t allow torrenting. that each one seems to own recently changed.
While there isn’t much information about torrent services on their official website, I did get information from a TunnelBear representative through their customer service department.
They confirmed that their service allows both torrenting and use of the TOR network. This is usually a huge change since we first reviewed TunnelBear. Back then, his stance on P2P file-sharing was a hard no. We are pleased to hear that you have joined us today and embraced one of the key services people want to use a VPN for.
TOR stands for The Onion Router, and it is a personal and encrypted browser. tons of users want to use a VPN in conjunction with TOR to maximize their anonymity. Some VPNs don’t allow the service to be used in the slightest. Tunnelbear allows you to use TOR, but the rep I spoke to warned me that I could see greatly reduced speeds while using it.
Responsive and Thorough Customer Support
Another service we didn’t like the first time around was TunnelBear’s ticket-based customer network.
Unfortunately, TunnelBear does not offer any live chat yet. This is how we usually evaluate ticket systems:
- How long would you like to visit me again?
- Will you answer my question thoroughly and completely?
I was very impressed by these two factors. TunnelBear’s new commitment to customer service ranks alongside my favorite of all the ticketing systems we’ve tested.
First off, check out that adorable cartoon bear with the little headphones on! I’m going to “kick” so you can appreciate it.
Do you enjoy that pun? Well, buckle up, because your customer service department is full of them.
I asked about the torrenting and file sharing feature, also like TOR and Netflix.
Before I dive into the particular answer (and all the delicious puns it contains), I’d like to talk about how long it took to get it on.
They make you a 48-hour period as a standard. I sighed and prepared myself to despise this department. In less than two hours, I got a response.
That’s insanely fast for tickets!
Now for the answer itself.
It is complete, it is personality and it has links to help me. I couldn’t invite anything more than one customer service department … (besides live chat).
But little bear steps …
You can’t tell you to have a good day without smiling.
Speed Problems (Slow)
Everything was going very well with TunnelBear until it was time to check the speed of their servers.
Some users have reported good download speeds. But in our test, my 100Mbps connection dropped to 52.26Mbps once I was using the EU servers.
That is a huge drop.
These are some of the results I achieved with a 100MB connection:
US Server (New York)
- Ping: 120ms
- Download: 33.38 Mbps
- Upload: 15.04 Mbps
EU Server (Amsterdam)
- Ping: 39ms
- Download: 52.26 Mbps
- Upload: 27.20 Mbps
Asia Server (Hong Kong)
- Ping: 345ms
- Download: 7.54 Mbps
- Upload: 2.63 Mbps
UK Server (London)
- Ping: 44ms
- Download: 50.10 Mbps
- Upload: 48.36 Mbps
You should always expect to lose some speed. However, this is usually a big drop that will affect your browsing experience.
Unfortunately, Netflix is bouncing back all the time by blocking VPN.
They have successfully blocked many larger VPN providers (including PIA) with more servers in additional locations around the world.
TunnelBear support told me that many users have had success unblocking Netflix.
But sadly, none of the servers we tested worked properly.
If you want a VPN to unblock Netflix geo-restrictions, here is an inventory of the top 100% working VPNs for Netflix.
No Router Installation
TunnelBear does not support installing your VPN software directly on your router. If you weren’t planning on doing this anyway, it’s no big deal. But if you are considering using a VPN in this way for added protection and ease of use, you will have to look for another provider.
TunnelBear Pricing, Plans, & Fact
Tunnelbear pricing and plans are as simple as its application:
It is always good to determine a free option, as you will use it to verify the application and therefore the service. However, the bandwidth you will be using is only 500MB per month.
The first paid plan, Giant, will cost you $ 9.99 per month for unlimited data.
The largest plan, Grizzly, is an annual plan. Therefore, you will pay $ 59.99 upfront for 12 months of unlimited VPN service.
In each plan you buy, you will spend up to 5 protected devices. So if you are trying to find a VPN that covers your entire family, TunnelBear may be a good bet.
In general, this one is pretty cheap. However, some, like the deal we have from NordVPN, have been ready to get over it.
Unbelievably, TunnelBear doesn’t offer refunds either. So there are no money-back guarantees here. Instead, they allow you to use their free version. Better be sure before updating.
- No logging: Yes.
- Ease of the VPN software: Its application is somewhat simple and straightforward.
- Hidden fees & clauses: There are no refunds.
- Upsells: No upsells.
- Instant access after payment: Yes.
- DNS leaks: None.
- Jurisdiction: Canada
- Tunneling Protocols: OpenVPN, IPSec, and IKEv2
- Kill-switch: Yes.
Regarding payment options, TunnelBear allows you to pay with major credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. They also accept PayPal and Bitcoin, a type of digital cryptocurrency that is 100% untraceable.
They also claim that they just accept jars of honey … but we’re pretty sure it’s a joke. I think…
Do We Recommend TunnelBear VPN?
So is TunnelBear worth using?
It depends on what you would like a VPN for.
If you just want something to protect your privacy while browsing without getting in your way with complicated options and interfaces, this is a great option.
It may suffer a touch on the speed side, but there is no question that it is very easy to use and offers solid security.
But if you want that, you will probably want to go for another VPN.
I was impressed by their better customer service and thus the new torrenting capability. They took many of our top complaints and corrected them.
But its mediocre speed means that I can’t recommend this as an option for everyone.
So if you’re trying to find more, go ahead and buy NordVPN ($3.49/month) instead.
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