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NordVPN Review—Can It Help Secure Sensitive Data?

Ashley Ferraro, Product
Jun 6, 2024
 • 
10
 Min Read

In an era where data breaches are becoming increasingly common, the importance of online security cannot be overstated. Virtual private networks (VPNs) have emerged as a popular tool for enhancing online safety. Among these, NordVPN stands out, with over 14 million users worldwide entrusting their cybersecurity to it [1]

If you’re interested in this service, this NordVPN review will help you decide whether it can meet your needs by answering the following questions:

  • How does NordVPN work?
  • What are its key features?
  • How does NordVPN measure up against other VPN services?

If you’re concerned about the safety of your sensitive information, this article will also introduce an effective method for boosting the security of your financial data online beyond using a VPN.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this review is accurate and up-to-date as of March 2024. Please keep in mind that the features and performance of NordVPN may vary over time due to updates and changes made by the provider after the publication of this review.

How NordVPN Works

A MacBook Pro on a white surface showing a connected status on a VPN app, with a potted plant to its right
Source: Stefan Coders

Like other similar services, NordVPN operates on the principle of creating a secure, encrypted “tunnel” between a user’s device and the internet. There are five main parts of this process:

  1. Connection initiation—When a user activates NordVPN on their device, the software connects to one of its 6,300+ servers spread across 111+ countries, allowing users to choose the server location that best suits their needs[2].
  2. Data encryption—Once the connection is established, all the data that the user’s device sends over the internet is encrypted. The service uses three different encryption protocols, one of which includes the AES-256-GCM algorithm with a 4096-bit DH key, ensuring that even if someone intercepts the data, they won’t be able to read it[3].
  3. Secure browsing—As the user browses the internet, all their activity goes through the encrypted tunnel to the VPN server. The VPN server then sends the user’s requests to the website they are browsing, receives the responses, and sends them back to the user through the secure tunnel.
  4. IP masking—When the user’s data reaches the destination website, it appears to come from the VPN server, not the user’s device, helping protect the individual’s online identity.
  5. Session termination—When the user finishes browsing, they can disconnect from the server. At this point, the user’s internet connection returns to normal.

An Overview of NordVPN’s Key Features

To enhance their customers’ online sessions, NordVPN provides a comprehensive suite of features. Four notable aspects of this service are:

  1. Privacy and security measures
  2. Speed and performance
  3. Server network
  4. Device support

Privacy and Security Measures

NordVPN operates on a no-logs policy, which means it doesn’t monitor or record data about its clients’ connections or sessions. The VPN’s commitment to privacy and security is seen in the use of three security protocols[4]:

  1. OpenVPN—the most stable and versatile protocol
  2. IKEv2/IPsec—the most security-focused option
  3. NordLynx (a protocol built around WireGuard)—the best choice for speed-based online activities

The following table describes other privacy and security features offered by NordVPN:

Feature Description
Double VPN Also known as multihop, Double VPN is an advanced feature that routes the user’s internet traffic through two servers instead of one[5].
Onion over VPN It allows the user to access the Onion network (also known as Tor) while connected to the VPN, which routes your internet traffic through multiple volunteer-operated servers, making it harder to locate your real IP[6].
Threat Protection Also called CyberSec, this feature blocks ads and trackers, prevents any malware from being downloaded, and scans URLs, blocking your access to the website if it detects any security threats[7].
Dark Web Monitor This feature provides instant alerts if NordVPN discovers that a user’s account has been compromised[8].
DNS Leak Protection NordVPN sends all Domain Name System (DNS) queries over an encrypted tunnel and resolves them on the same VPN server the user is connected to, ensuring the DNS requests do not accidentally leak out of the VPN tunnel[9].
Meshnet Meshnet allows the user to connect multiple devices to each other via one private network, enabling direct and secure communication between them[10].

Speed and Performance

Even though the NordLynx protocol can help streamline the user’s experience because it is lightweight and simpler than other protocols[11], using any VPN can potentially slow down internet speed to some extent.

However, independent testing[12] showed an average speed of 341.5 Mbps and a 10% slowdown with NordVPN compared to the users’ regular speeds without VPN, making it the fastest VPN service among those tested.

Server Network

NordVPN provides a vast server network, with over 6,300 servers spread across more than 111 countries as of March 2024. This extensive coverage allows users to find a server near their location, which can improve connection speeds.

The VPN also offers servers optimized for specific purposes, such as P2P sharing, which allows users to share digital content with each other directly.

Device Support

With NordVPN, you can connect up to ten devices simultaneously. NordVPN is also compatible with a wide range of operating systems, offering flexibility for users with different preferences[13]. The following table lists some of the commonly supported operating systems:

Operating System How To Set Up NordVPN
Windows
  1. Download the NordVPN app from the official website

  2. Follow the installation process.

  3. Log into your NordVPN account.

macOS
  1. Get the NordVPN app from the App Store.

  2. Complete the installation.

  3. Sign in with your NordVPN account.

Android
  1. Download the NordVPN app from the Google Play Store.

  2. Install the app.

  3. Sign in to your NordVPN account.

iOS 
  1. Get the NordVPN app from the App Store.

  2. Follow the installation instructions.

  3. Enter your NordVPN account details.

Linux 
  1. Download the NordVPN app from the official website.

  2. Install the app using the terminal.

  3. Provide your NordVPN account credentials.

User Experience With NordVPN

NordVPN is known for its user-friendly interface that caters to both beginners and advanced users. Upon launching the app, users are greeted with a world map that visually represents server locations, allowing users to select their desired server with a simple click.

The app also provides a ‘Quick Connect’ button for those who prefer an immediate and automatic connection to the best available server[8], which can be useful for individuals who prioritize speed and convenience.

Comparing NordVPN With Other VPN Services

A hand holding a tablet that’s displaying a VPN app interface with a world map
Source: Dan Nelson

While NordVPN is popular for its balance of speed and security, there may be some other features you’re more interested in. Here’s a comparison that highlights the features of some common VPN services:

VPN Service Special Features
NordVPN
  • Next-generation encryption

  • DoubleVPN

  • Threat Protection

  • Private DNS & leak protection

  • Meshnet

  • Kill switch (blocks your internet access if you disconnect until your connection to the VPN is restored)

  • Onion Over VPN

  • Dark Web Monitor[5]

Surfshark VPN 
  • GPS spoofing (masks your real GPS location)[14]

  • Unlimited device connections

  • CleanWeb (ad, tracker, malware, and phishing attempts blocker)

  • Bypasser (allows specific apps & websites to bypass the VPN)

  • Kill switch

  • Private DNS & leak protection

  • Camouflage Mode (hides your VPN traffic from your internet provider)

  • NoBorders mode (allows the use of the VPN everywhere)[15]

ExpressVPN
  • Support for up to eight devices at once

  • Password manager

  • Tracker and ad blocker

  • Unlimited bandwidth & traffic

  • Network Lock (kill switch)

  • Private DNS

  • Lightway protocol (a type of protocol that helps preserve battery life and allows you to connect to the VPN almost instantly)[16]

Norton VPN
  • Ad and tracking blocker

  • Malware protection

  • Kill switch

  • Split tunneling (choose which apps you want to run without VPN while it stays active)[17]

Proton VPN
  • DNS leak protection

  • Kill switch

  • Unlimited bandwidth

  • Split tunneling

  • VPN Accelerator (boost the VPN speed regardless of the server location)

  • NetShield Adblocker (block ads, online trackers, and malware)[18]

Mozilla VPN
  • Unlimited bandwidth

  • Kill switch

  • WireGuard™ protocols for enhanced speed

  • Connection to up to 5 devices at once

  • Over 680 servers in 44 countries[19]

  • Support for custom DNS (lets you use any DNS server you prefer instead of the default one provided by the VPN)

  • Multihop (allows you to route your online traffic through two servers instead of one)[20]

Security Risks That May Concern NordVPN Users

A laptop on a white surface with a card positioned next to it, alongside an open wallet with US dollar bills
Source: Sora Shimazaki

While NordVPN has some of the most robust security measures, its systems aren’t immune to cyber threats. Some potential risks the service might not eliminate are:

  • Third-party risks—NordVPN uses third-party services for its operations[21]. If these services are compromised, it could affect NordVPN users. If you conduct a financial transaction while connected to a compromised third-party server, your financial data could be exposed.
  • Advanced persistent threats (APTs)—APTs are sophisticated cyber threats in which an unauthorized user gains access to a network and remains undetected for a long period[22]. If an APT gains access to your device, it could potentially access sensitive information, including financial data, even when you are connected to NordVPN.
  • Zero-day vulnerabilities—Some software may have vulnerabilities that are unknown to the developers and can be exploited by hackers. If a zero-day vulnerability exists in NordVPN’s software, it could potentially be exploited to intercept your data[23].
A combination lock placed on a white computer keyboard, with two gold-colored credit cards beside it
Source: Towfiqu barbhuiya

How To Make Your Online Transactions More Secure

While NordVPN takes comprehensive measures to protect users’ online activities, it cannot guarantee the legitimacy of the sites users visit. If you willingly provide your financial information online, that information may be at risk despite being shared through a VPN. Strategies that can help reduce those risks are:

  • Enabling two-factor authentication (2FA)—With 2FA activated, even if someone manages to get your password, they won’t be able to access your account without the second verification step, which is typically a code sent to your phone or an authentication app.
  • Being cautious of phishing scams—These scams often come in the form of emails or messages that appear to be from legitimate entities, like your bank or credit card issuer, asking you to confirm your account details or click on a link. Always mark such messages as spam and report them.
  • Using virtual cardsVirtual cards can be a great way to add an extra layer of security to your online transactions. They replace your actual card numbers with random numbers at checkout, keeping your card details safe even if the merchant’s website gets compromised. 

While you can get virtual cards from major issuers and banks like American Express® and Capital One®, independent virtual card providers like Privacy offer dedicated services, more customization options, advanced security, and more control over spending.

Protect Your Financial Information With Privacy Virtual Cards

A hand positioned over a laptop keyboard and holding a credit card, while the other hand is navigating on the laptop
Source: Kindel Media

As a BBB-accredited provider, Privacy offers virtual cards with the same level of security as your bank. It employs a variety of strong security measures, including two-factor authentication (2FA), transaction monitoring, and regular third-party audits.

Privacy offers two types of virtual cards: 

  1. Merchant-Locked Cards—These cards are tied to the first merchant they are used at, meaning that even if compromised, they cannot be used anywhere else.
  2. Single-Use Cards—They become invalid shortly after the first transaction, making them useless even if potential hackers gain access to them.

With Privacy, you can set spending limits on your virtual cards. If the charge goes above the preset limit, Privacy will automatically decline the transaction. This feature can help protect you from sneaky merchants and allow you better control over your spending. 

Additional Convenience Features

With the Privacy mobile app, available for both iOS and Android, you can create and manage your virtual cards wherever you are. You can also choose to receive notifications whenever your virtual card is used or declined, allowing you to quickly spot potentially unauthorized transactions and report them. 

Privacy also offers a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Safari for iOS (for mobile users), and Edge. When checking out on an e-commerce site, the extension can autofill the payment fields with your virtual card details, preventing you from having to memorize your card numbers when shopping online. 

You can also pause or close your Privacy Card card at any time, which can be useful when you are in the process of stopping a subscription, for example.

How To Get a Privacy Virtual Card

All you have to do to get a Privacy Card is:

  1. Visit the signup page
  2. Enter the details required to verify your identity
  3. Provide a funding source, such as your bank account or debit card
  4. Request and generate a virtual card

These cards can be used at most vendors and websites that accept Visa® or Mastercard®. Privacy currently offers three monthly plans. Here’s a detailed breakdown of what each plan entails:

Plan Cost per Month Key Features
Personal Free for domestic purchases
  • Up to 12 virtual cards per month

  • All card features

  • Browser extension and mobile app

Pro $10
  • All Personal plan features

  • Up to 36 virtual cards per month

  • 1% cashback on eligible purchases (up to $4,500 monthly)

  • No foreign transaction fees

  • Priority customer support

Premium $25
  • All Pro plan features

  • 60 virtual cards

References

[1] NordVPN. https://nordvpn.com/press-area/, sourced March 20, 2024
[2] NordVPN. https://nordvpn.com/features/fastest-vpn/, sourced March 21, 2024
[3] NordVPN. https://nordvpn.com/features/next-generation-encryption/, sourced March 20, 2024
[4] NordVPN Support. https://support.nordvpn.com/hc/en-us/articles/19482810153745-Which-NordVPN-protocol-should-I-choose, sourced March 20, 2024
[5] NordVPN. https://nordvpn.com/features/, sourced March 20, 2024
[6] NordVPN. https://nordvpn.com/features/onion-over-vpn/, sourced March 20, 2024
[7] NordVPN. https://nordvpn.com/features/threat-protection/, sourced March 20, 2024
[8] NordVPN. https://nordvpn.com/features/dark-web-monitor/, sourced March 20, 2024
[9] NordVPN. https://nordvpn.com/blog/dns-security/, sourced March 20, 2024 
[10] NordVPN. https://nordvpn.com/meshnet/, sourced March 20, 2024 
[11] NordVPN Support. https://support.nordvpn.com/hc/en-us/articles/19564565879441-What-is-NordLynx, sourced March 20, 2024
[12] CNET https://www.cnet.com/tech/services-and-software/fastest-vpn/, sourced March 20, 2024
[13] NordVPN. https://nordvpn.com/features/vpn-for-multiple-devices/, sourced March 20, 2024
[14] Surfshark Support https://support.surfshark.com/hc/en-us/articles/360011723459-What-is-the-GPS-override-feature-and-how-to-use-it, sourced March 20, 2024
[15] Surfshark. https://surfshark.com/features, sourced March 20, 2024
[16] ExpressVPN. https://www.expressvpn.com/lightway, sourced March 20, 2024
[17] Norton. https://us.norton.com/products/norton-secure-vpn, sourced March 20, 2024
[18] ProtonVPN. https://protonvpn.com/features, sourced March 20, 2024
[19] Mullvad VPN AB. https://mullvad.net/en/servers, sourced March 20, 2024
[20] Mozilla. https://www.mozilla.org/en-GB/products/vpn/features, sourced March 20, 2024
[21] Malcolm Higgins. NordVPN. Third-party logins come to Nord Account. https://nordvpn.com/blog/nord-account-third-party-logins, sourced March 20, 2024
[22] Davey Winder. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/daveywinder/2020/01/13/us-government-critical-security-alert-upgrade-vpn-or-expect-continued-cyber-attacks/, sourced March 20, 2024
[23] Sibilė Šimkevičiūtėord. NordVPN. Zero-day vulnerabilities, exploits, and attacks: All you should know. https://nordvpn.com/blog/what-is-zero-day/, sourced March 20, 2024

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