Reviews

Private Internet Access VPN Review

By March 6, 2020 August 7th, 2020 No Comments
PIA Homepage

Private Internet Access Overview

3.60/5
Rated #12 VPN / 39

Devices

Unblocks

Pros

  • 3000+ servers
  • Military-grade encryption
  • Fast speeds

Cons

  • Based in US

Take a look at How We Rate VPN Providers!

 

Private Internet Access (or PIA for short) is a very popular VPN provider, and while the company does have a controversial history, everything has been “business as usual” as of 2020. 

So if you’re looking for a 100% honest Private Internet Access VPN review, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s dig in!

How PIA Compare to the Competition

Price$3.49/mth$6.67/mth$2.75/mth$2.69/mth
Rating
Servers5572300064343338
Multiple ConnectionsUp to 6Up to 5Up to 7Up to 10
Speed 93 % 79 % 79 % 82 %
LoggingNo logsNo logsNo logsNo logs
Support24/7 live chat24/7 live chat24/7 live chat24/7 live chat
Killswitch
Refund30-Day Moneyback Guarantee 30-Day Moneyback Guarantee 45-Day Moneyback Guarantee 30-Day Moneyback Guarantee
Devices
Unblocks

Located in a 5 Eyes Jurisdiction

Getting into the usual nitty-gritty of our reviews, let’s open with the fact that PIA is based in one of the worst countries for online privacy: the US, or Denver, Colorado to be specific. 

PIA Location

We rarely recommend VPNs based in a 5-Eyes jurisdiction, though exceptions are made. Let’s find out if PIA is one of those exceptions. 

Strict No-Logs Policy

Plenty of VPN providers promise not to keep logs, but their actual policy and/or actions prove otherwise (take a look at PureVPN, for example).

But PIA’s Privacy Policy is actually very favorable and they do have a proven track record:

PIA Privacy Policy

None of this is out of the ordinary and it’s practically impossible to run a website or online service without this kind of information.

PIA hasn’t been independently audited to prove their actions match their words. But a 2016 FBI subpoena regarding a fake bomb threat and a 2018 FBI subpoena regarding a news outlet hacking case proved PIA’s privacy policy can be trusted.

For the time being, we’re willing to agree with PIA in making an exception to our “no 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes VPN providers” rule.

Military-Grade Encryption and the Best VPN Protocols

Now we finally get to a few areas where the acquisition isn’t likely to have any effect: the encryption and VPN protocols PIA uses.

As far as encryption is concerned, PIA has been using 256-AES GCM (Advanced Encryption Standard, Galois-Counter Mode) since March 2019. We’re glad to see this, as it’s considered the most secure encryption standard currently available and is used by the military as well.

PIA Encryption

We can also confirm PIA uses OpenVPN, IPSec, L2TP, WireGuard, and PPTP are available to all users (iOS users were originally limited to IPSec).

We strongly recommend only using OpenVPN. IPSec should be your begrudging second-choice (we’d prefer IKEv2).

Never use L2TP or PPTP, as these are highly unsecure.

Kill Switch, Split Tunneling, DNS Leak Protection

PIA Kill Switch

PIA also does well when it comes to the implementation of other important security features.

For starters, the kill switch offers 3 settings:

  • Off – if your connection to the VPN server is interrupted, your device will still exchange data with the internet via an unsecured connection
  • Auto – as long as your VPN is on, the kill switch will prevent your device from connecting to the internet if the connection to the VPN server is interrupted
  • Always – even if your VPN app is closed, your device will be unable to connect to the internet

We strongly recommend using the “Always” setting to make sure you never use an unsecured connection.

If you do have any apps you want to bypass the VPN (even when connected to a PIA server), you can create an exception with the split tunnel feature.

PIA Split Tunneling

We’d prefer to see an option for excluding websites instead (unless, like us, you have more than one browser installed, in which case you can create an exception for one and use it to access websites you don’t want to run through the VPN connection).

As a general rule, the split tunnel feature should only be used by advanced VPN users.

We couldn’t find any information as to whether the feature is also available for mobile users, unfortunately.

Finally, PIA also uses its own DNS servers and blocks IPv6 to implement DNS leak protection.

TOR Capability

TOR Browser

One of the browsers we have installed is The Onion Router (TOR), which creates a proxy connection and routes internet use through 3 remote servers.

Long story short, it helps obfuscate our location and partially encrypt our connection.

There are issues with using TOR, but in the absence of a Double VPN feature, it’s a fairly good substitute. But that’s only if you use the TOR-over-VPN method by connecting to the TOR network after first connecting to a VPN server.

For that to work, your VPN also needs to be TOR-compatible. Some VPN providers actively prevent users from using the TOR-over-VPN method, which is always a red flag for us as it usually means the provider is logging user activity.

PIA doesn’t have a Double VPN feature, unfortunately. But we’re happy to say PIA actually encourages users to use the TOR-over-VPN method and is fully transparent about its pros and cons.

Thousands of Server Connections

PIA currently has “3,266 VPN and Proxy servers in 49 locations across 47 countries.”

PIA Server Network

We’re not overly thrilled about the inclusion of proxy servers, but the fact there are more than 3,000 servers in PIA’s network means we’re generally happy.

Ultimately, PIA’s server network is big enough that you should be able to avoid network overload.

Speed

Testing a VPN’s server speeds is always a tricky business. Your device, the distance between yourself and the VPN server, your internet connection, and even the time of day are just a few examples of the different factors that can affect results.

For that reason, we always use the same devices on the same internet connection to test VPNs for our reviews. We also test the same server locations and do so a couple times a day.

Even so, bear in mind you might have slightly different results when using PIA:

No VPN 

PIA No VPN Speed

US Server

PIA US Server Speed

UK Server

PIA UK Server Speed

Device Compatibility and Connections

PIA Device Compatibility

PIA does well with its device compatibility:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Linux
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Chrome (browser extension)
  • Firefox (browser extension)
  • Opera (browser extension)

While routers aren’t mentioned  here, we did find this FAQ that includes setup guides for getting PIA onto your router.

PIA is very generous by giving users 10 simultaneous connections as is. But if you have even more devices you want to protect, PIA says using your router (rather than connecting via the device’s app) will only count as 1 connection.

Subscription Plans and Pricing

There are the usual 3 subscription plans available:

PIA Pricing

This makes PIA one of the most affordable premium VPNs available. You can even pay with Bitcoin or major brand gift cards for anonymity.

However, PIA has a 7-day refund policy, no exceptions.

Streaming and Torrenting

PIA Streaming

Streaming and torrenting are two of the most popular reasons users want a VPN in the first place.

There aren’t any specialized streaming servers, so we tested a few US- and UK-based servers for Netflix and BBC iPlayer. The good news is that PIA does unblock Netflix! Unfortunately they do not unblock iPlayer or Disney+ which we have raised directly with them. 

Torrenting was a different story.

Again, there aren’t any specialized P2P/Torrent servers available, but we were able to establish a P2P connection without any issues!

Usability and Support

Overall, we found PIA’s usability to be top-notch.

PIA Interface

The app was easy to install and just as easy to use.

PIA Connect

VPN beginners and advanced users alike will appreciate the interface layout and design.

PIA Settings

Support, unfortunately, is another matter.

As mentioned earlier, PIA’s live chat feature didn’t work on any of our browsers no matter what time of day we tried.

The email ticketing form is also very, very invasive and requires a lot of personally identifiable information in exchange for a long wait and friendly (though not particularly helpful) answers.

PIA’s Knowledgebase is fairly extensive at least, but we’d prefer to have the live chat feature working 24/7.

08/07/20 EDIT: As of August 2020, PIA’s 24/7 live chat support is working! We suspect the issue was solely on our side and will thoroughly test PIA’s support team when we revisit this review in its entirety. 

How to Cancel PIA and Get Your Money Back

Private Internet Access is a good VPN with the potential of being great.

However, if you’d like to cancel your PIA account, here’s what to do:

  1. Log into your PIA Account
  2. Click “Cancel Subscription” at the bottom
  3. Provide a reason when prompted and click “Complete Cancellation”
  4. Open a Support Ticket requesting a refund and provide the information requested by the support agent

Please remember PIA only issues refunds within 30 days of your order.

FAQs

 

How much does PIA cost per month?

PIA costs $9.95 per month on a standard monthly package. However on longer subscriptions the average monthly cost can be reduced.

How do I use Private Internet Access for Netflix?

When you login to PIA’s VPN you will be presented with a list of servers. Simply choose the server in the country you wish to access Netflix in and then login to Netflix. This is why PIA make our list of the best VPNs for Netflix.

Is private Internet access trustworthy?

Yes, though there are some concerns regarding the Kape Technologies acquisition.

Is private Internet access a good VPN?

Yes, PIA ranks #12 in our full list of VPNs.

Does PIA hide my IP address?

Yes, PIA will replace your IP address with that of the VPN server you connect to.

Does PIA charge monthly?

Yes, though you can also get slight discounts with the 6-month or 1-year subscriptions.

Does private Internet access keep logs?

No, PIA has proven itself to be a zero-logs VPN.

Can you cancel PIA anytime?

Yes, though please be aware PIA only issues refunds if requested in the first 30 days.

Is PIA safe in China?

No, users in China and other restricted jurisdictions have complained that PIA does not work reliably for them.

Mandee Rose

Mandee Rose

Mandee Rose is the editor and lead writer & researcher at TheVPNShop. A technical writer and blogger with 6+ years of experience in the cybersecurity sector. During her college years, she chased the dual-major of Cyber Security and Journalism while simultaneously offering freelance services online. As a result, Mandee was able to combine both of her passions by writing for companies like LatestHackingNews, BestVPN, Tactical Engine, Hoxhunt, AI Jobs (Medium Blog), and more. Today, she continues sharing her technical knowledge via investigative writing on topics like VPNs, programming, data breaches, artificial intelligence, and other infosec concepts.

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