As the Internet grows more widespread and entrenches itself deeper into our daily lives, one concern people have is the ability to remain secure and private. As devices and appliances become more connected to the Internet, it gets easier for your information, activity, and patterns of browsing to become visible to others.
Identity theft is just one of the consequences of someone getting access to your network traffic. Someone could access your network and use it for illegal activity, they could remove your bandwidth, or they could find out some information that would help them rob you. OF course, there’s another reason you’ll want to keep your network traffic obscured: advertising.
Every time you conduct a search using a search engine, the servers store the query and potentially sell your data to advertisers. You might begin seeing ads based on recent searches, or get pop-ups based on your Internet habits. This trend can be disquieting, and it has led to many users abandoning social media platforms altogether, as well as Senate inquiries.
Luckily, you have a way around it, and the other dangers of an open network, provided you’re willing to pay a modest fee: a virtual private network, abbreviated as a VPN. A VPN acts as a method of encrypted data transfer that routes data packets through a proxy server, encrypts them, and sends them to their destination. A VPN helps to mask the original location of a signal.
Free options for VPNs exist, but as with many products and services, you get what you pay for. In other words, free services won’t have as many features or as much security as a paid service would give you.
Getting a VPN is usually just a matter of picking out a service, signing up and getting a username and address for your server. Depending on what you’re willing to pay, you can find yourself with an entirely different set of services. First, there are a few concepts you need to know about.
The whole idea behind using a VPN is to keep your data secure. Even ‘normal’ networks use encryption, but Avast SecureLine has the potential for even heavier encryption. So what is it?
Encryption is nothing more than the coding of messages. Whenever your computer sends a signal to another computer, it has to convert the data into packets that are sent over the network, either wirelessly or through a wired connection. If these packets are intercepted, a malicious hacker can potentially find out critical information about you or your computer.
The software adds additional information to each data packet, making it substantially larger than its original size. The extra information contains data letting the recipient system know that the data is encrypted, rather than garbled signals, which it would likely disregard. The packet also includes the decryption code for the host computer.
Different levels of encryption exist. The one you’ve most likely heard of is 128-bit encryption, seen on SSL websites. SSL websites, like what you see used in banking applications, use 128-bit encryption employs a 128-bit key to safely encrypt files and data. Generally, most IT professionals see 128-bit encryption as unbreakable. For all practical purposes, this is true.
The more encrypted your data is, the less likely it is that someone can access it. If you’re dealing with sensitive information, you should consider using even tighter standards. For example, the AES-256 protocol uses a data key that’s 2,048 bits long.
Next, we’ll talk about bandwidth. Bandwidth refers to the amount of data traffic used by a given utility When you’re sending data on a network, it has to take up a certain amount of bandwidth, or traffic space. Think of it like a car driving along a road. High traffic on a low bandwidth path is like driving down a two-lane street during a traffic jam.
Meanwhile, think of low traffic and high bandwidth as driving down a six-lane highway with no one else around. The more bandwidth you have, the faster and more likely your data will get through to its destination without dropping packets. Dropped packets can lead to missed files and corrupted data.
Safety When Using a VPN
When you’re using a VPN, the biggest thing to watch for is that your port number for whichever protocol you’re using isn’t something that can easily be hacked. There are certain well-known port numbers:
If a would-be hacker tries to use these port numbers to access your computer, it’s easier than if you set these ports to something else. By default, this software uses 443 TCP and 553 UDP.
Avast SecureLine VPN Information
Now that we’ve talked about some basic concepts, we’ll tell you about Avast SecureLine VPN. In our option, it’s a solid app with some decent features that makes it a good choice for beginners to using VPN services.
First, let’s look at the supported platforms. At this time, Avast does not support Linux with a VPN.
However, this could change over time.
The Avast SecureLine VPN works as a standalone utility or as a component of the larger Avast antimalware software. However, you have to have a paid license to activate this part of the software. Without it, you can’t use it.
The program is easy to set up and to use. By accessing the Privacy tab in your Avast user interface, you can then click on the VPN tab and follow the prompts to log on and begin browsing the Internet. You can choose to connect through a different hub, but to ensure the highest possible speed you should connect to the one closest to where you are.
Avast Secureline has VPN tunnel locations all over the world, so it doesn’t matter where you are when choosing a location. The original server, along with Avast’s headquarters, is located in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
To those in the know about international affairs, the idea of a VPN being based in the Czech Republic might sound a little off-putting. The reason is that the Czech Republic has some ties with the Five Eyes. This is a term used to describe an alliance of intelligence-gathering nations: the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
This isn’t to suggest any kind of conspiracy theory, but for people who use VPNs specifically to get away from government oversight, knowing that your physical traffic is being routed ultimately through a server based in the Czech Republic can be concerning.
Secureline has 55 servers spread across 34 countries. This isn’t a lot compared to some of the other companies, but it isn’t an automatic deal-breaker.
What Logs are Kept?
You don’t necessarily have to worry about detailed logs being kept. Avast SecureLine keeps basic logs, such as when you logged in, your bandwidth usage, and the time you stay logged in. It doesn’t keep track of what websites you visit or what you do. This policy is in place to protect your privacy.
Setup and Use
As far as setup and use go, you can’t get much more basic. All you have to do is log on to the VPN and select your location. This shows where you want your connection to appear from the rest of the world. Avast SecureLine has servers all over the world, so you have no problem with picking one.
Once you pick your server, just connect, and you’re ready to start browsing. Disconnect when you’re finished. You can also set up this program to run automatically when you start your computer or another device.
One problem we found with this VPN is that it doesn’t support routers at this time. It’s only intended for use on simple connected devices, which makes sense because otherwise, it would get around the licensing agreement of only having five computers per subscription.
Avast SecureLine’s payment structure works differently than similar VPN services, and it’s a point against it in our opinion. Where many VPNs charge subscription fees based on the time you spend using the service, Avast varies its fees based on the platform. This is an odd choice. For example, a Windows 10-compatible VPN subscription runs currently at $79.99 per year.
You can get a money back guarantee if you decide within 30 days that you don’t like the service, but you have to be careful: there is a caveat. According to the refund policy, users that make more than 100 connections or transfer more than 100 gigabytes of data cannot get a refund and are stuck with the subscription for the remaining time.
Quick Note: Avast offers its pricing based off the platform that's being utilized rather than a monthly or annual based subscription.
Therefore, you need to watch what you’re doing during your trial period. There isn’t any way to find the exact data, but you can somewhat guess if you know your average traffic statistics based on a normal network.
To minimize the number of connections, do everything you need to do for the day in a single online session, then make sure that once you’re done, you don’t reconnect. The best thing to do is to make sure you only use the VPN service when necessary during the trial period unless you are sure you’re going to keep the service.
However, the upside is that by purchasing a license, you can activate up to five devices on a single Avast SecureLine subscription. If you want to change them, you’ll have to deactivate one or two you don’t use and then add your new devices. Most VPN services only allow you to use one or two systems.
Letting you use five is a plus, especially if you find yourself switching between a gaming desktop, a laptop, and two different smartphones often. You deserve to have safe, private Web browsing and Internet traffic on whatever device you want to have.
Other Features We’d Like
One feature we wish was present is the existence of a kill switch. A kill switch instantly severs the connection if you feel it has been compromised in any way. However, since Avast SecureLine is a basic service, functionality like the kill switch isn’t present. Other, more advanced VPNs do include this feature; sometimes safety is your top priority.
You can pay for Avast Secureline using all major forms of payment, including check, money order, ad most major credit cards. Embracing the wave of the future, Avast also may come to accept a major form of cryptocurrency: Bitcoin. Bitcoin is used as a completely anonymous and untraceable currency that’s perfectly in keeping with the privacy of a VPN.
If you have Bitcoin, you can use it to purchase Avast SecureLine VPN as a standalone service. Otherwise, you can get Bitcoin or a similar cryptocurrency by creating an account at Coinbase or another trading app. Be warned: if you lose access to your Bitcoin, it’s gone permanently.
Other Functionalities of Avast SecureLine
Streaming seems to work reliably on Avast Secureline, as well as downloading large video files. Netflix, however, seems to be the exception. Netflix has had a stormy relationship with VPN services since its inception because the streaming platform doesn’t want users to access the site from areas that may have blocked it, or access to get shows they didn’t pay for.
Currently, there are no plans to add Netflix support to this VPN service. If you’re not a Netflix subscriber, this isn’t an issue, but support for streaming can always change.
Although we can’t provide precise speed measurements because these tings fluctuate, we can tell you that our tests yield significantly faster results than other VPNs. There was a png response time of about 50 milliseconds, as compared to 39 milliseconds when not using a VPN. Traffic is always going to be slower than normal when using this service.
This is because the program has to encrypt each packet before sending it out and decrypt any received information. You can check your speed by opening up a command prompt window and typing “ping <IP address>. You can also use a speed test utility that’s included within Avast.
The three measurements of speed include ping, download time, and upload time. Ping refers to how long it takes to send and receive a response from the server. Download and upload speeds are obvious, and upload is always going to be faster than download because it uses a slightly different protocol.
Should you encounter a problem with Avast SecureLine VPN, you have two main options: you can call the customer service number, or you can post on their social media profile. The former option can cost money depending on where you’re located due to phone charges. However, if you’re willing to accept the charges you can get a customer support ticket.
If you want to take the DIY approach, you can access Avast’s knowledge base, a series of articles and tutorials on various subjects.
The latter option for customer support sounds better in theory, but the main social media outlet the company uses is Twitter. Twitter has a 280-character limit, so if you have a complex issue, it may not be the best platform unless you’re typing a series of tweets.
Some Lack of Privacy
We did find one big issue with SecureLine’s privacy: although the whole point of a VPN is to protect your from intrusive spying and tracking, Avast itself reportedly has adware embedded in the installation files of the VPN client.
Although it protects you from others, there’s no guarantee that the adware won’t target your system and start having you be targeted with ads whenever you’re supposed to browsing anonymously. The whole point of a VPN is not to have to worry about spyware and adware.
Pros and Cons
To sum up, here is our list of pros and cons:
If you’re new to using VPN services, the Avast SecureLine VPN is a decent choice to get started. We give it a rating of 3.7 out of 5. Although its simplicity works in its favor, there is still less functionality than someone who’s used to VPNs or who wants more customization would expect. We also don’t like the addition of adware into the files.
These factors aside, you could do considerably worse than using this product for your Internet browsing privacy needs.