If you’re browsing the internet from the Islamic Republic of Iran, you may regularly come across restrictions which impact the sites that you can visit and the content that you can stream. This is because the Iranian government implements limitations on the material that is available in the country. In theory, this is to make sure that politically sensitive content which the Iranian government would rather that its citizens did not see is unavailable. In practice, however, all sorts of content are swept up by the net of the country’s filtering software. This includes almost 50% of some of the most popular sites including Facebook and YouTube. This makes browsing the internet in Iran a slow and frustrating experience for the majority of users, especially those who have experienced the freedoms available to internet users in other countries.
The best way around these types of restrictions is to use a VPN service. These work by redirecting your internet traffic, so that your ISP and the government, are not able to detect which websites you are browsing. They also grant their users access to sites which may be blocked in their country, by making it appear as though their internet connection is located in another country. VPN services were once tricky to set up and use, but things have become a lot easier recently, and it’s now a simple matter of downloading some software and getting started. We’ll explain all of the steps that you will need to take with each of the VPN services that we cover later on in this article, to make sure that things are as straightforward as possible for you.
The Iranian government has been known to look at the internet browsing activities of people in the country, and to compile dossiers on what people look at and use these files in court. Even if you’re not looking at politically sensitive content which might provoke the ire of the Iranian authorities, it’s still worth protecting yourself to avoid getting swept up in the country’s net. Even if the file collected on you and your internet activity is never used in court, there may still be a massive database of everything you have looked at on the internet sitting on an Iranian government server. This sensitive information could easily be leaked at some point in the future or otherwise fall into the wrong hands.
By using a VPN, your internet browsing activity becomes undetectable to the state authorities. This is because the connection between your computer and the VPN server will be protected using the latest 256-bit encryption, (all of the VPN providers which we cover in this article offer this level of protection to their users). This means that the data is scrambled, and the government is not able to check the sites that you look at. It also means that the government is not able to control the websites that you can view, as the data is encrypted by the VPN server before it is passed on to your computer. This means that all sorts of websites that are usually blocked in Iran will become available to you again, once you start using a VPN.
The other significant advantage of using a VPN is that it will give you access to content which providers don’t usually choose to make available to web users in Iran. This includes popular streaming services such as Netflix, which are restricted in Iran due to American government sanctions. It also means that you will have access to other streaming services such as the BBC iPlayer from the UK and Hulu and HBO Go from the US, using your VPN.
The first thing we have considered when ranking these VPN services is the security features. All of them offer 256-bit encryption of the data, which is sent between the VPN server and their users. They also provide kill-switches and other features that will help to protect your information; we’ll cover these in more depth in each individual review.
We’ve also taken a look at the countries which each individual provider has servers in. This is important if you are looking to access particular content using your VPN. All of the services that we look at have at least 50 servers, but some have a presence in locations that others don’t, and we will let you know which these are in the individual reviews.
Finally, we have taken a look at the ongoing price of the service. Most VPNs charge a similar amount on a month-to-month basis, but some offer more substantial discounts for those who pay for a significant amount of service in advance than others. We’ll let you know which options are available in the review.
This is probably the best choice of the VPN options if you are looking for an all-round provider which ticks all of your boxes and delivers an easy to use VPN service at a reasonable price. While some specific VPN services perform better than NordVPN in particular areas, few of them offer as good an overall package for such a low cost, particularly to users who are willing to pay for a significant amount of the service upfront.
The first area in which NordVPN shines is when it comes to the ease of setup. The company offers apps for Windows, macOS, and Linux on the desktop and for Android and iOS on mobile platforms. This means that most devices can benefit from the protections of the NordVPN service without the need for the users to spend time reconfiguring settings or getting into other complicated bits of their network setup. If you do want to use NordVPN with a device such as a Smart TV or smart speaker that does not support the company’s software, then your best option is probably to reconfigure your router to run the NordVPN software. This is a slightly complex task and is best left to people who have a good understanding of how computers work. NordVPN does offer routers that come with its software preinstalled, but getting one of these through Iranian customs, either in the post or in your own luggage may prove to be something of a challenge.
The security features offered by NordVPN are genuinely second to none. Every connection benefits from high-grade encryption and the company’s software also include a facility known as a kill switch. This works by always keeping an eye on the state of your connection to the VPN server. If it detects a problem which could impact the security of your connection, such as your link to the server dropping, it will shut off your internet connection entirely, until the secure connection can be re-established.
NordVPN is also very vocal about its ‘no-logs’ policy. The company is based in Panama, a place which is far beyond the judicial reach of the US, the EU, and Iran. This means that obtaining information about the activities of NordVPN users via a court order would be incredibly difficult. The company goes one step further by running what is known as a ‘no-logs’ policy. This means that it does not track any information about the websites that individual users visit, or the servers that they connect to, in a way that could be linked back to the particular user. In a nutshell, this means that even in the highly unlikely event that someone was able to obtain a court order that required NordVPN to hand over data about its users’ browsing history, the company would be unable to comply, as it simply does not collect this information.
The selection of servers offered by NordVPN is also substantial. While it does not provide the most comprehensive coverage of any VPN provider, there’s certainly more than enough choice to satisfy almost every potential user. At the time of writing, NordVPN had over 1000 servers located in more than 80 countries around the world. This means that it’s possible to access almost every streaming service and geographically restricted website using a NordVPN server. New servers are being added all the time, and the companies offer additional features, such as IP address scrambling which make it easy to access services that have tried to block VPN based connections in the past.
NordVPN’s monthly price is $11.95. This is relatively standard for a VPN service and puts the company around the middle of the pricing league table. Things do look a little bit different however, if you are willing to pay for an extended period of service in advance. The company offers a sliding scale of discounts to users who are eager to make this commitment, which can go as high as a discount of 75% for users who pay for three years of service in advance. The company offers a money-back guarantee for the first 30 days of service. This means that users who do commit to a long period of service, and then decide that NordVPN isn’t for them, can get a full refund during the first month.
This company is a relative newcomer to the world of VPNs, at least compared to NordVPN. However, it has quickly managed to build itself into a formidable rival for the service and offers one of the cheapest deals in the VPN world to users who commit to a long period of service in advance. The good news is that it offers these low prices with all of the security and user experience pluses of some of the longer established operators. The only major downside is that the list of available servers is not as large as for some other companies, but it is quickly growing.
Like most other major providers, SurfShark offers a range of applications which make setting up and using its VPN service as easy as possible. Accessing its website in the Islamic Republic of Iran can be a problem however, so we’d recommend that you sign up for, and set up the service, while you are traveling abroad if that is possible. Once you are set up, using the service is a simple matter of selecting the server that you would like to connect to and pressing connect. As soon as you do that, you’ll be browsing the internet with all of the protection that is afforded by a VPN.
The security features on SurfShark are as good as you would expect. As well as an always encrypted connection between you and the server, you will also have the protection of a kill switch built into the SurfShark software, plus IP address scrambling. The company also operates a no-logs policy, which means that no information about your web browsing history or other activity will be recorded, so there is no chance of this type of data falling into the wrong hands at a later date.
The selection of servers offered by SurfShark is slightly smaller than for some other services, but should still be more than enough for the vast majority of users. All of the major markets are covered, so you’ll be able to access all of the big streaming media services using your account.
Pricing for SurfShark on a month-to-month basis sits at the standard $11.95 per month level. Things get more interesting though if you’re willing to pay for a significant amount of the service in advance. If you are, you’ll be able to save as much as 80% on the total cost of a three-year subscription. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee if you change your mind about the service in the first month. Just contact the support team via the live chat facility to let them know that you want to cancel.
As you may be able to imply from the name, CyberGhost is a VPN service which is specifically aimed at customers who take their privacy very seriously. Over the years, though, it has become easier to use and, despite the fairly nerdy branding, is now a VPN service that everyone should consider.
Software is available for all of the common platforms, but CyberGhost goes one step further than some of its rivals and offers extensions to the Chrome and Firefox browsers which allow users to use its VPN service without having to install any software. This is useful if you’re using a work computer that restricts your ability to install software from external providers. Do keep in mind however, that if you do use this feature, only traffic that is sent to and from your web browser will be protected by the VPN. Any other apps that you have on your computer will use your standard internet connection.
You also have the option of reconfiguring your router to connect directly to the CyberGhost server. This is useful if you have a device which doesn’t support its software or if you don’t want to go through the process of installing the software on every device in your house. Keep in mind that you’ll still need to install the CyberGhost software on your phone if you want to be protected when you are out and about.
All of the standard security features which you would expect are there. The company behind CyberGhost is based in Romania. This is a fairly safe jurisdiction, but because of the country’s EU membership, it does not put it quite as far beyond the reach of US and European law-enforcement agencies as some of its rivals. In an attempt to combat this apparent shortcoming, CyberGhost operates a strict ‘no-logs’ policy. This means that there is no information for the company to hand over to anyone else about the activities of its users, even if they were to come and ask them to do so.
Overall, CyberGhost is a solid choice of VPN service but is slightly lacking in features compared to some of its rivals. There is no one feature where it lands a solid knockout blow on any of its competitors, but it could still be worth considering if you can find a good offer. Like most of its rivals, the company offers significant discounts to users who commit to more than twelve months of service in advance, and this could tip the balance in CyberGhost’s favour if an outstanding offer is running when you come to compare your options.
Overall, browsing the internet with a VPN should be a no brainer for any internet user in Iran. It allows you to escape the restricted walled garden environment which the authorities in the country have tried to put in place and to enjoy all of the freedom and information that the broader internet has to offer. Now that services are cheap and reliable, and far easier to set up than they ever were before, almost any internet user can take advantage of this protection for a great price. Services are only likely to improve and prices to fall in the coming years.
Head of content