NordVPN Review – We Tried the Desktop and Mobile App

NordVPN Review

NordVPN Review – Desktop and Mobile App Installation and Review of NordVPN

You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to realize that many of the apps on your smartphone are tracking your location, online shopping habits, contacts, and interactions. Apps that track user behavior include Facebook, web browsers, Google Maps, and even YouTube. Many banking apps also track you to curtail payment card fraud.

It’s important to understand and limit the permissions that apps request and not allow unnecessary access. For example, an app that manages your photos does not need access to your contacts or messaging history.

Apps use data tracking to improve their products, but many apps also track behavior and location so they can sell that data to advertisers. This is invasive invasion of user privacy. Have you ever visited a website and then a day later started seeing advertisements for that very same website or similar? That happens because websites download small files to your device called cookies which track your behavior on the internet.

One way to hide your online identity is to use a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN is an app or software that’s downloaded to a computer or smartphone. When activated the VPN encrypts your website traffic and blocks tracking.

NORDVPN

Many people think that VPNs are for hackers or for corporate employees. But VPNs have many uses including stopping tracking across websites, blocking advertisements, and ending annoying pop-ups. They’re extremely useful and many times required for enterprise employees to access corporate networks when they’re out of the office VPNs are especially useful when you’re traveling, and you need to use shared WiFi like that found in coffee shops, airports, stores, and hotels.

NordVPN Review

We downloaded and installed NordVPN, a global VPN app used worldwide. NordVPN connects to over 5,000 servers to reroute and disguise internet traffic to protect your privacy, your data, and your money. Note: I was given a free 30-day trial to work on this review.

NordVPN is available for home, office, and enterprise customers. It works on Linux, Windows, and iOS machines. It has apps for iOS, Windows, and Android mobile devices.

Installation

The installer download package was a quick 12 MB download which we installed on two Windows machines – one running Windows 10 and other computer is running Windows 7.
Although we didn’t need it support, is available 24/7 via live chat.
During the installation process, both Windows users were prompted to turn on a feature called CyberSec.
I wanted to see what CyberSec was about first but was hit with an overlay ad to upgrade to a paid subscription before I could ever open the information page. Closing that advert caused another pop-up in the lower left screen.

NordVPN Installer

Optional CyberSec Protection

According to NordVPN’s website, CyberSec offers three benefits to further protect subscribers.

  • Blocking Malicious Websites –
    When enabled, CyberSec stops users from visiting malicious websites. NordVPN maintains a database of blacklisted websites that are current with known spoofed domain names, phishing sites, malware downloaders, or other scam websites.
  • Blocks Botnets –
    CyberSec can protect your computer from being used in a botnet or distributed denial-of-service cyber attack (DDoS) by halting communications running in the background.
  • Ad Blocking – CyberSec hides pop-ups including ads and sign-up forms. Videos will no longer play automatically either. Note, this can cause some websites to not function fully or diminish your user experience.

NordVPN Mobile App Installation Review

My trial subscription includes protection for mobile devices. The NordVPN app can be downloaded from the Google Play store or the Apple Store. Be sure to always use an official app store or the app’s developer site to help protect your mobile devices from malware or copycat apps.

I downloaded the app from the NordVPN website so I could use it to block all ads on my phone.

NordVPN Specifications

NordVPN does not retain log files of your activity online this is a major feature of any VPN app. Not all VPNs have a no log policy be sure to read the terms of service.
NordVPN is available for

  • Windows 7, 8 and 10 computers – We used it versions 7 and 10. We were never able to get it running on Windows 7
  • Android devices – The mobile app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or users can download the APK file from the NordVPN website. I downloaded the APK file to a Samsung Galaxy 8 phone for testing
  • macOS – IKEv2, macOS 10.12 or later can be downloaded from the App Store. ) OpenVPN, macOS 10.10 or later are available for direct download
  • iOS for iPhones
  • Android TV – NordVPN can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or from the Amazon Appstore
  • For Linux users – DEB and RPM is available
  • Web Browser add on – NordVPN is also available as a browser extension for Chrome or Firefox

I use Firefox every day and switch to Chrome occasionally for websites that don’t work well on Firefox. For Firefox users like me, users can connect to VPN servers in over 60 countries and hide their IP address. This is useful for watching geographically blocked content (like sports matches) or for viewing censored content.

The NordVPN extension encrypts your Internet traffic even if the website is not using HTTPS for security. I wouldn’t input payment information into a website that’s not secure. But for email signup forms, the VPN offers more security to prevent social engineering attacks.

Just like the desktop and mobile app, CyberSec can be used with Firefox to block malicious websites, pop-ups, and ads. Firefox does have this blocking functionality when security is set to high.

NordVPN

VPN Speed Testing

Speed is a major concern when using a VPN. Slow connection speeds deter people from protecting themselves. I tested my connection speed over WIFI, with and without NordVPN running.

Speed Before NordVPN

Upload speed: 53 MB
Download speed: 102 MB

Speed After NordVPN Set Up

Connected to a United States server
Upload speed: 62 MB
Download speed: 88 MB Down
With 25 second latency

NordVPN offers connection options for dedicated IP, double VPN, Onion over VPN, and P2P. Onion over VPN limited me to servers in Switzerland and the Netherlands. Both connections were noticeably slow when used with Firefox. Tor Browser was not tested. Netherlands Onion 2 was crawling very slowly.

NordVPN Mobile App

The Mobile was the better installation expereince and my favorite for ease of use.

The Android mobile app was much easier to install and understand than the desktop installation. To circumvent Google’s Play Store policies about ad blocking, I downloaded the Android .APK file from NordVPN website. Because I installed an app without downloading from Google Play, I had to override a setting on my Android phone and stop my OS from checking on the app. This is not an advisable security setting for every app especially from untrusted sites. But since this is a VPN from a reputable company, I did take the download from outside of the app store

NORDVPN_Package installer

How Can I tell if My VPN is working?

  • For desktop users, go to NordVPN.com and check the status bar at the top of the page. The status bar will state that you are Protected if NordVPN is enabled
  • Use WhatisMyIP.com to check your IP address in a web browser before and after connecting they should be different
  • On the mobile app it’s more obvious if the VPN is running. It shows in your phone’s status bar and in the app

Use NordVPN to Monitor Mobile Data Usage

When the mobile app is running, you will see the NordVPN logo appear in your phone’s status bar. You will also be able to see it in your pull-down menu along with data usage and total connection time.
This is useful if you want to monitor and control how much background data your phone is using.

Screenshot__NordVPN-TIME

Pluses

  • Access to almost 6,000 servers worldwide
  • No logs policy
  • Connect 6 devices simultaneously
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Mobile app is easy to install and use
  • Mobile app lets you monitor data usage and connection time

Pricing varies from just over three dollars per month to about twelve dollars monthly depending on the term. Subscribers can use crypto currencies to pay

Negatives

  • Android version from Google Store does not block Google Ads ( this is a Google policy)
  • Does not accept PayPal
  • Installs Desktop shortcut with without asking during the installer process
  • CyberSec was turned on automatically for both Windows installations. It was not enabled on the Android app
  • During Windows 10 installation, NordVPN set to turn on automatically on startup
  • Notifications were turned on as well
  • All features were easy to adjust in the settings panel

Remember your ISP or Internet service provider knows that you are using a VPN although they cannot see the data transmitted NordVPN is a quality VPN app for both desktop and mobile devices. There is a no logs policy meaning that NordVPN is not retaining your activity. This is an important feature to shop for when searching for a VPN, especially if you are using it in a country with censorship.