Ivacy VPN review: A competent VPN that doesn't mind cryptocurrencies Credit: Ivacy
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Ivacy VPN review: A competent VPN that doesn't mind cryptocurrencies

Ivacy in brief:

P2P allowed: Yes

Business location: Singapore

Number of servers: 459+*

Number of country locations: 55

Cost: $40 (billed annually)

VPN protocol: IKEv2 (default)

Data encryption: AES-256-CBC

Data authentication: MS-Chap v2

Handshake Encryption: SHA-II

* Includes virtual server locations

When you look at VPN services for regular users, you don’t often see purpose-based server recommendations, such as “use this server for streaming and this one for downloading.” Ivacy VPN, a 10-year-old service officially based in Singapore, stands out by doing just that. (It’s not the only service to take this tack—CyberGhost has a similar purpose-based approach—but it’s still rare.)

ivacy1 IDG

When I first opened Ivacy’s Windows app I was struck by its cleanly designed interface, which is somewhat reminiscent of HotSpot Shield. Both apps use a theme that relies on various shades of blue and very clean icons and text.

The Ivacy app’s left rail has seven options for navigation. The primary VPN options are Smart Connect, Secure Download, Streaming, and Unblocking. There are also options to access your account, the program’s settings, and a help and support section.

Smart Connect is just a basic VPN connection. You can choose your locations by country or drill down to specific cities within each country. There are 12 city locations to choose from for U.S. connections with one to three options for most other countries.

ivacysecuredownload IDG

Ivacy’s secure downloading option with integrated security scanning at the server level.

Secure Download is for peer-to-peer downloads as well as just general file and program downloading. This section has a security option that applies malware scanning at the server level to help avoid any problematic downloads. I didn’t have the chance to see how effective this secure download option is.

Streaming lets you choose your connection by country or by activity—dubbed “channels.” The latter has an option called US TV Watching that goes through Venezuela to work. That suggested (and I later confirmed with the company) that Ivacy is using virtual server locations. This is a not an uncommon practice, where a server claims to be in one physical location but is actually somewhere else. An Ivacy spokesperson told me that out of its 459 servers only 26 are spoofing their location.

ivacystreamingchannel IDG

Regardless of where the US TV Watching servers are based, in my tests the feature didn’t work particularly well. I wasn’t able to watch anything on the major networks—ABC, CBS, and NBC—though it looked like AMC might have worked if I had a cable account to sign in with. YouTube Red worked just fine on this server, but Netflix did not. Ivacy says its service works with Netflix, but in my experience it never worked and I tried U.S. servers in all parts of Ivacy’s app.

Finally, we have Unblocking, which is a service designed to get around corporate and national firewalls that might be preventing you from viewing certain content.

Note: This review is part of our best VPNs roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.

Features and services

Ivacy for Windows doesn’t have very many options to tweak. You can decide to launch Ivacy when Windows starts, and you can also auto connect to the VPN when Ivacy opens. It also supports IPv6 leak protection, and an internet kill switch that disables all internet traffic from your PC when the VPN connection drops.

ivacysettings IDG

Ivacy’s Settings on Windows.

Ivacy offers apps for Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows. There are also instructions to run Ivacy on a router, Kodi home theater software, and to connect consoles like the Xbox to the VPN via another device. An Xbox over a VPN is a nice option if you happen to play games with online competitors that like to DDoS your connection to mess with your ability to play.

Ivacy also has a “split tunneling” option that allows you to run certain applications through the VPN and others through your regular IP address. The company says it was the first to introduce this feature to consumer VPNs back in 2010.

Ivacy is priced at $40 per year and supports up to five simultaneous device connections.

Performance

As far as performance goes, Ivacy scored middle-of-the-road speeds overall. Ivacy retained about 36 percent of the base speed on average across five different country connections. The UK connection was particularly good and Japan was surprisingly zippy. Australia, Germany, and the United States were about what you’d expect: good enough to do some 1080p streaming or gaming, but not exceptionally fast.

Privacy, anonymity, and trust

Ivacy puts the business address for its parent company as PMG Pte. LTD, 38 Beach Road #29-11 South Beach Tower Singapore 189767. Once again we’ve got a VPN with an exotic address. There aren’t many Ivacy employees on LinkedIn but those that are appear to working for the company out of Pakistan.

ivacylogo Ivacy

It’s not uncommon for VPN services, even small ones, to employ people in various countries around the world. But Ivacy is yet another service that prefers to remain secretive about who’s behind the company. Ivacy’s website only lists its CEO as “Mr. Saad,” and there’s no formal team listing for top management in the company.

I asked Ivacy about this and a spokesperon told me that Mr. Saad’s full name is Saad Khan, and he is one of the co-founders. “Ivacy VPN was built by Russian natives [and] was acquired by Singaporean firm PMG Pte Ltd,” an Ivacy spokesperson told me via email. “The team of executives work remotely from different locations and remain undercover for privacy reasons.”

Ivacy’s privacy policy and terms have all the right options that privacy advocates want including a strict no logging policy for traffic or session data. In other words, Ivacy says it’s not logging your web browsing or other online activity. Ivacy does track login attempts, which the company says it uses for “service enhancements, troubleshooting methods, and payment modes.”

The only information Ivacy wants from you is your email address, and the email addresses are dumped after 12 months of inactivity.

Ivacy allows payments via a wide variety of methods including standard credit card and PayPal options. It also offers Bitcoin payments via BitPay, as well as a variety of other cryptocurrencies via CoinPayments—this payment service does not operate in New York or Washington State.

Conclusion

Overall, Ivacy is a competent service. The fact that some servers aren’t where they claim to be may bother some users, while others won’t be troubled by it.

Pricing for Ivacy is good at $40 per year, speeds are about average, the addition of security scanning for the download service is nice, and split tunneling is a handy service if you want to watch Netflix on Firefox but tunnel the rest of your internet traffic through the VPN.

But longtime readers will know I’m not a fan of company leadership that prefers to remain in the shadows. That may be necessary in some cases, such as running a VPN out of China and Russia while actually living in those high-risk countries. That may in fact be the case here.

Still, so many VPN services are up front about who they are, and in my opinion this is always better since private VPNs are a business that’s dependent on user trust.

If Ivacy’s features, such as support for Xbox and the no-logging policy, appeal to you, then this service may be for you. But if it bothers you that the leadership of the company isn’t public about who they are then you’d probably do better to look elsewhere.

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