TunnelBear VPN Review

Hackers, Internet Service Providers, advertisers, and even the government are all very interested in what you do when you’re online. Some people want to collect your data and sell it, some parties wish to steal your information or hold it ransom, and some entities want to control what data you can access.

With so many potential landmines everywhere in cyberspace, the best option to protect your internet activity is to get a VPN. A VPN is a virtual provider network that encrypts your web traffic and protects your IP address and online identity.

Since so many companies are aware of how big of an issue internet privacy, censorship, and hacking is, there are a lot of VPN providers to choose from. But one that is a little different from your standard blah programs and adds a touch of color and, dare we say, cuteness, is TunnelBear VPN.

In 2018, TunnelBear became part of McAfee (while still operating separately), so they’re definitely in the cybersecurity big leagues.

TunnelBear VPN Overview

When you use a VPN, your activity is processed through a tunnel that is encrypted to the VPN provider’s server. TunnelBear has taken the popular term “tunnel” that is used to describe a VPN and incorporated it (and bears) into their name and almost every aspect of their service.

TunnelBear hides your IP address from ISPs, advertisers, and hackers, and lets you access websites with a spoofed IP address so that your internet browsing and location are not tracked. They use AES 256-bit encryption to shield your connection which is especially useful if you’re using a public Wi-Fi network when you’re out and about.  

TunnelBear has about 1,800 servers in 22 countries that you can connect to so that it looks like you have an IP address at any of those locations. They don’t have servers in most of South America, the Middle East, or Africa, which could be a deal-breaker if you would like to stream content from those countries or if you travel there and want to protect your devices while in those areas.

You can use TunnelBear VPN on any of the following devices:

  • Mac
  • Windows
  • Android
  • iOS

You can also install TunnelBear directly onto your browser if you use Chrome, Opera, or Firefox. The browser extensions only protect your traffic for each specific browser, unlike the full application which covers any app you use that goes online like games and streaming music services.

Regardless of what platform you choose to use TunnelBear on, they also allow you to use up to five devices with one license.

Once you download and install TunnelBear, you’ll see a sliding switch at the top of the interface which displays a map of where you are. The switch is set to disconnected, and you have to slide it over to connect and enable TunnelBear. You’ll then see a bear tunneling on the map from your current location to what will be your spoofed location, or you can select to tunnel to the country of your choosing.

vpn illustration

​Image Source: Pixabay

Features

​TunnelBear uses Auto Tunnel to automatically connect you to the tunnel with the quickest connection to ensure your information is transmitted over the shortest distance.

Vigilant Bear is a feature that is used to protect your data and location in the moments while TunnelBear is connecting or if it has to reconnect because you lost connection to Wi-Fi or were out of range to a network. Vigilant Bear, which is like a kill switch, can be used on all platforms that run TunnelBear except for iOS.

Split Bear is an option you can use on your Android device that uses Lollipop 5.0 or later. With Split Bear, you can select which applications you want to encrypt and which apps you trust. From the interface, choose options from the sidebar menu and pick Split Bear to bring up the feature. It will populate a list of the applications on your phone that you can choose for TunnelBear to ignore or exclude.

Some ISPs and websites slow down traffic or block activity that looks like it could be using a VPN and that’s where Ghost Bear comes in.

Ghost Bear helps to combat censorship by ISPs and governments by making your VPN usage and encrypted information on your network less recognizable so that it can’t be barred. Ghost Bear can’t be used on iOS but is available for macOS, Android, and Windows. You should only use Ghost Bear if you’re unable to connect to a service or site with TunnelBear first.

TCP override can be used on Windows and macOS if you think your ISP is throttling your traffic because you’ve noticed slower streaming speeds when you connect to TunnelBear. This setting makes TunnelBear use TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) rather than UDP (User Datagram Protocol), which is a little slower but is a reliable protocol to get stable performance.

If your home network is a trusted network, you can mark it as safe for TunnelBear to disable the service. Once you connect to another network or leave your trusted network, the VPN automatically kicks in to protect your web browsing.

TunnelBear does allow peer-to-peer sharing of files and torrenting, although they do have a disclaimer in their terms of service warning that you can’t use TunnelBear for getting around copyright laws.

TunnelBear For Teams allows you to set up the VPN to be used for offices with remote workers so that your team can work from anywhere through the VPN’s network of protected and encrypted servers. You can use it for all of the employees’ computers, laptops, cell phones, and tablets, and you’ll have a dedicated customer support team.

android ang laptop vpn

​Image Source: Pixabay

Privacy and Logging

Although TunnelBear is committed to internet privacy, the service’s offices are in Canada, and it operates in accordance with Canadian laws. Canada is one of the countries in the Five Eyes alliance, which actively monitors and collects intelligence from internet usage, including access to encrypted information.  

TunnelBear’s privacy policy explains that the only data they collect is stored in Canada even though they have servers in other countries. So what information do they keep?

  • Account data such as your email address, Twitter handle, whether you’re a paying subscriber or using the free program, and your account’s expected expiration date.
  • Operational data such as what version of the program you’re using, if you’ve been active for the month, how much data you’ve used for the month, and events like when you created an account or made a payment.
  • Personal and financial information like if you paid with a credit card, the last name on the card, the date you used the card, and the last four digits of the card number.
  • Cookies from third-party services that are stored in your browser.

Many people read third-party and immediately think that their information is going to be handed off to an outside party when you’re relying on a VPN to keep that from happening. However, TunnelBear’s privacy policy clarifies that any information shared with a third-party is to support their infrastructures like billing or customer service and they don’t sell that data.

​What information don’t they track?

  • IP addresses of visitors to their webpage
  • DNS queries made while you were connected
  • Information about the sites or apps you visit while using TunnelBear

If they receive a warrant or subpoena regarding your web activities, they only disclose the basic account information that they track.

If you’ve been shopping around, it may sound like TunnelBear is not as committed to protecting your privacy as some other VPNs. However, their detailed privacy policy should make you feel more at ease than some of the other providers generic “we don’t log anything” promises because they give you the breakdown of exactly what information they collect and why.  

TunnelBear even has a page with the results of an independent security audit that they conduct annually to ensure your VPN service is completely encrypted and secure which means that they deliver on their promise that your internet activity is your own.   

Customer Service

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Image source: Pexels

TunnelBear has a support page you can visit if you find that you’ve encountered an issue or have questions that need answers.

Under the “Announcement” section, they have links to the latest update to ensure that you’re running the most current version of the VPN.  You can find the update that is specific to your platforms, like Windows or Mac.

In the “Getting Started” portion of the help center, you’ll find more information on TunnelBear’s privacy and security policies and practices, a Frequently Asked Question section where you might find the answer to your question, and a feature list detailing the available features and how to enable them.

The support page also contains information for billing and payments, troubleshooting, and TunnelBear for Teams information. If browsing around the different sections of the help center did not solve your problem or answer your question, then you can click “Contact Us” which will take you to a page where you have to log in and submit a trouble ticket to customer support.

Unfortunately, there is no phone number to speak with someone directly or the option to initiate a live chat, and you’re given a time frame of up to 48 hours to receive a response. It can be frustrating to experience internet issues and then have to wait up to two days for a resolution, so it’s something to keep in mind when considering whether or not to sign up for TunnelBear’s service.

What Does It Cost?

TunnelBear does have a free version, but you’re only allowed to use 500 megabytes of data month. They do offer to increase your data cap to 1 gigabyte a month if you tweet about the company on Twitter. You do have to tweet every month to get the deal.  

Although it might not seem like a large data allowance, it should provide you with enough opportunity to take the VPN for a test drive. The free plan can be useful if you’ve never used a VPN before and want to familiarize yourself with how it works or to help you decide if TunnelBear is the right provider for you before you sign up for a paid subscription.

If you do enjoy TunnelBear, you can choose to pay for a month at a time for about $10 every month. Or you can save about 50 percent by signing up for a year’s subscription which breaks down to $5 a month, but you will have to pay $60 in one shot.

TunnelBear accepts payments made with:

  • American Express
  • Visa
  • Mastercard
  • Bitcoin

Paying via Bitcoin further helps to protect your online anonymity. TunnelBear For Teams is billed annually and costs $69 for each person on the team.

How TunnelBear Does It Stand Up to Other VPNs?

TunnelBear lets you use one license on five devices so that you can use it on your laptops and cell phones at the same time. However, if you find that limiting, other VPN providers do allow usage on more devices, like IPVanish that lets you use your account on up to 10 devices. Avira Phantom VPN doesn’t restrict how many simultaneous connections you can have.

Some VPN providers give you the option of installing the service directly onto your router or sell routers with the VPN already installed so that you can cover every device that’s paired to your network. However, TunnelBear doesn’t offer that capability yet.

Other VPN services work on the same platforms at TunnelBear, but you can also use them with Linux, smart TVs, and gaming consoles so that whatever you watch or play is kept private because, believe it or not, even your smart TV is watching you.

With 1,800 servers in 22 countries, TunnelBear does have an extensive network, but other VPN services have more servers in more countries.

For example, NordVPN costs about $12 a month and has over 5,000 servers in 62 countries. ExpressVPN costs $13 a month and has about 3,000 servers in more than 90 countries. Although they are both pricier than TunnelBear, it stands to reason that the services with more servers in more countries can provide you with access to more content that you can’t get to due to your geographic location.

Also, when a VPN service has more servers, they have more capacity for users which means their servers don’t get bogged down and you shouldn’t suffer slow connection speeds, buffering, or lagging from the sites you’re trying to visit.

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​Image Source: Pixabay

​Having more global servers could also be useful if you’re someone who travels and needs to find a server in a location nearby. Typically, the closer the server, the faster the connection. Also, with other VPN providers, you can usually open a list of server locations to choose where you want to “be,” and they give you information like ping and load time.

However, with TunnelBear you have to scroll around the map interface to select which country’s server you want to connect to which could be a little more time consuming than typing in a country’s name in a search bar or selecting it from a list.

Some VPN services also have more features that could appeal to you if you’re willing to pay a higher price for your subscription. For example, NordVPN has CyberSec, which can detect if a website has malware and it will prevent you from accessing that webpage so that your devices don’t become infected.

Also, NordVPN offers double encryption that shields your web traffic through two servers which gives you an extra layer of privacy and anonymity. Double VPN might make your browsing slower since it’s traveling through two VPN servers.

Tunnelbear has split tunneling for Android, but Express VPN offers split tunneling for routers, Mac, and Windows. If you plan on using your VPN mainly on your computer and want to use that feature, you’re not going to get it with Tunnelbear.

As for customer service, unlike Tunnelbear, there are a lot of VPN providers where you can receive assistance on the spot. If you visit ExpressVPN’s support page, you can initiate a live chat at any time. With Avast VPN, you can call tech support at a toll-free number.

ipad vpn

​Image Source: ​Pixabay

​The Bottom Line

There are other VPN services with more countries, more servers, more platforms, and live customer service, so if these are options that you use to decide which VPN to subscribe to, then TunnelBear will probably come up short.

TunnelBear is very user-friendly, and the interface is incredibly simple to use, making it perfect for beginners. You might not be able to use it on as many platforms as some of the more high-end VPNs, but if you’re looking for something basic but efficient that can protect you when you’re outside your home network, TunnelBear could be a good choice.

​Featured Image Source: Pexels

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