Is NordVPN Safe to Use in 2022?
NordVPN has consistently ranked among our top VPN providers, and while it ranks second in ExpressVPN, it’s still a great service (see how the two stack up in our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison). After a breach in 2018, many are still wondering if NordVPN is safe to use.
As a virtual private network, we like NordVPN very much. It’s ranked among our best VPNs for Netflix because it can beat the Netflix VPN ban, and NordVPN is a solid choice when it comes to torrenting (read our best VPN for torrenting article). We still need to highlight the security breach and answer the many questions surrounding it.
In late 2019, NordVPN confirmed that it had a security breach in early 2018. According to the article NordVPN cleaned up about this issue, it started on March 5, 2018, before removing the malicious user on March 20, 2018.
Although the user was quickly removed, NordVPN did not announce the incident until a year later when a user on Twitter started posting images of the VPN server’s configuration.
The attack decreased when an 8chan user discovered a vulnerability in one of NordVPN’s server configuration files. With a datacenter account, the attacker had full access to all traffic that passed through that server, outside of standard HTTPS encryption (read our description of the encryption). However, NordVPN says there is no evidence that anything has been monitored.
In short, the hack wasn’t directly NordVPN’s fault, but rather the fault of the data center it chose to include in its network.
However, there is a lot of confusion about when this attack occurred. NordVPN claims it was on March 5, 2018, but the 8chan date where this vulnerability was discussed is May 3, 2018. This means that the vulnerability could have been exploited once the server was up and running, all the way until March 20, 2018, when the user account was removed .
Regardless, the practical impact of this breach is minimal. The attacker gained access to TLS keys that could, in theory, allow them to set up a fake NordVPN website (read our SSL vs. TLS guide to see how this works). However, these keys expired in October 2018, and we haven’t seen any fake sites.
It is possible that the attacker could monitor the unencrypted traffic flowing through the VPN server as well. There is no way to know for sure if this happened. NordVPN says, at least, that it’s unlikely because the configuration file has remained unchanged.
If this happens, the attacker will not be able to see any personal information, such as the user’s IP addresses. If they manage to snoop – which NordVPN says isn’t possible – all they can see is your internet traffic.
Is NordVPN Safe After It Has Been Hacked?
The NordVPN hack received a lot of press, and rightfully so. However, while many stories focused on the negative effects, very few people cared about how NordVPN responded. Immediately upon realizing the problem, NordVPN started an internal audit of all servers in its network.
Now NordVPN is more responsive. First, I signed up with VerSprite for penetration testing, source code analysis, and more. I also started a bug bounty program that rewards cybersecurity experts for finding bugs in NordVPN. Furthermore, it is scheduled to begin a full third-party audit of its infrastructure, hardware, source code, and internal procedures this year.
The hack was a big deal in theory, although it didn’t hurt any NordVPN users outright. However, NordVPN responded by overhauling its entire infrastructure and security practices. Sure, it was probably a reaction to the massive negative coverage the hack has received. Regardless, NordVPN has dedicated a lot of resources to fixing the problem, and for that, it should be commended.
Is NordVPN Really Private?
With the way hacked, let’s talk about NordVPN as a VPN service. It’s a no-logs provider, which means it doesn’t know if you’re browsing streaming services or downloading a torrent while connected to its network (read our guide on why NordVPN shouldn’t work if you’re having trouble). NordVPN also includes a range of specialized servers, such as “Double VPN,” which add an extra layer of protection (Windscribe has this feature as well).
NordVPN is really private, at least as far as we can test it. Furthermore, NordVPN plans to update every server in its network to work out of RAM only. This means that servers will run out of the central infrastructure that NordVPN provides, and nothing – not even the operating system – will be stored in long-term storage.
Is NordVPN Safe to Use?
Despite the hack, NordVPN adheres to best practices in VPN security; It is free of DNS leaks, has multiple protocol options and provides a kill switch. As the world’s largest VPN provider, NordVPN has received a lot of heat for its breach, and rightfully so. Now that the dust has died down, we can say with confidence that NordVPN is safe to use.
In fact, we gave NordVPN a perfect rating for privacy in our NordVPN review, with security closely lagging behind (NordVPN works in China too). Privacy and security are not an issue, and your data is safe. However, if you choose not to support NordVPN, this is a fair choice. After all, it’s not the fastest VPN out there. If you signed up for NordVPN but changed your mind, read our guide on how to cancel NordVPN and get a refund.
ExpressVPN is our top choice, and with a 30-day money-back guarantee, there’s not much risk to try. For those on a tight budget, CyberGhost and Private Internet Access are the best options, so be sure to read our CyberGhost review and our Private Internet Access review to learn more about them.
Planning to use NordVPN now that the hack has happened? Or is it still too close to comfort? Let us know in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading.
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